Curtido (sometimes spelled cortido) is a Salvadoreña (from El Salvador in Central America) version of sauerkraut. The word encurtido means pickle in El Salvadorean Spanish. In its native country, the full name of this recipe is encurtido de repollo (pickled cabbage) or encurtidos de vegetales (pickled veggies). It can take on many variations, similar to how kimchi means pickled veggies in Korea also has hundreds of varieties!

It has been shortened to just curtido or cortido in English. Most of the recipes I found use vinegar, but this combination of veggies lends itself well to a natural, wild fermentation!

The balance of herby aromas and onions (they mellow after a few weeks of fermentation) make this a unique spin on plain ol’ cabbage and salt (not that there’s anything wrong with that)!

Recipe type: Fermented vegetable
Prep time: 
Fermentation time: 
Yield: About 4 quarts/4 liters
  • 5-6 lbs./2.5 kg red or green cabbage (about 2 medium heads)
  • 3 Tablespoons/45 mL sea salt
  • 1 medium white onion
  • 3 medium carrots
  • 3 to 4 sprigs fresh oregano (about 1 ounce of leaves)
  • 1 sprig fresh marjoram
Prep & Season Veg
  1. Clean vegetables to wash dirt off. Remove any dark green tough outer leaves from cabbage and compost or use for another purpose.
  2. Slice a cabbage head in half lengthwise, so that stem keeps each half together. Shred each half into ¼” ribbons using v-slicer, mandoline, or chef’s knife.
  3. As you shred, add to a large mixing bowl, and add ¼ of the salt (about 2 teaspoons). Let sit while shredding the next half. Brine will form as salt draws water from cabbage. Repeat until all cabbage has been shredded.
  4. Slice the onion into ⅛ to ¼" rings (using a chef's knife or on mandoline) and cut rings in half (semicircles) and add to bowl.
  5. Pluck leaves from oregano and marjoram stems, and dice leaves. Add to bowl.
  6. Peel or grate carrots and add to bowl.
  7. Squeeze the mixture with clean hands to break more cell walls and encourage more water to come out of vegetables.
  8. Add veg to a gallon-sized or larger glass jar or ceramic crock (food-grade plastic containers are also acceptable.) Make sure to get every last drop of brine that has formed in bowl!
  9. Pack down contents so that surface is even and flat.
  1. Place a plastic lid (or ceramic plate) that fits inside container. Add a weight such as a glass bottle filled with water.
  2. There should be enough brine to completely cover the contents when weighed down.
  3. Cover container with a dish towel or tea towel to keep out flies and dust. Secure with a rubber band, twist ties or elastic strap. Stash it in a cool, dark place– a cellar, under the stairs, or under the sink in the kitchen.
  1. Check on it after 5 days. Mold may form on the surface. Remove weight and lid, and wash them with warm soapy water. Scoop out any surface mold, getting as much as you can. Don’t worry if you don’t get it all. Then stir the contents and re-pack the surface. Any residual mold will quickly be killed in the acidic environment of the brine. The contents are safe under the brine.`
  2. We like it fermented for between 14 and 20 days! (southern California/Mediterranean climate)
  3. When you like the taste and texture, move to the refrigerator (aka "fermentation pause button"). Cortido will last in the refrigerator several months.