How we tested
In Italy, giardiniera refers to pickled vegetables that are typically eaten as an antipasto. But here in the United States, it’s most recognized as a combination of pickled cauliflower, carrots, celery, and sweet and hot peppers that is served alongside sandwiches or other lunch fare.
On a trip to Chicago to research recipes, we were impressed by that city’s devotion to this spicy condiment. We tracked down three regional Chicago brands of jarred giardiniera and tasted them against five national brands. While tasters were impressed by the “spicy complexity” and “pleasant bitterness” of one of Chicago’s brands, we wanted a larger variety of vegetables (the Chicago giardinieras are mostly peppers). Our favorite was praised for its “sharp, vinegary tang” and variety of vegetables in the pickle.