Hibiscus roselle relish or chutney is a gorgeous bright red, tangy treat that can be eaten as a standalone side or topping. Come find out how to make it — and maybe have a homegrown alternative to cranberry relish!
Using dried roselles from Hibiscus sabdariffa
At the end of summer, we usually have a giant bag of homegrown, dried roselles. Roselles are the edible fruit-like calyxes of Hibiscus sabdariffa plants.
Never heard of them? If you’d like to learn more about how to grow and use edible hibiscus, check out our Hibiscus sabdariffa guide.
We primarily use our dried roselles to make tea throughout the year. Roselle tea is a gorgeous bright red color.
The flavor is tangy, approximating citrus and cranberries… Hence one of their many common names: “Florida cranberry” (aka something red that tastes similar to a cranberry, but can be grown in warm climates).
However, roselles shouldn’t be relegated solely to tea-making in your kitchen. They can also be used in a wide variety of sweet and savory food dishes.
And one of the best ways to put the flavor and color of roselles on full display is with this hibiscus relish or chutney recipe. You might even decide to use this recipe as a replacement to cranberry relish during holiday meals!
Relish vs chutney:
We’re calling this recipe both a relish and a chutney because:
a) nobody agrees on exactly what a relish or a chutney is or what distinguishes between the two, and
b) depending on whose definition you use, this hibiscus recipe could be categorized either way.
However, for simplicity’s sake, we’ll simply call this recipe hibiscus relish from here on.
How do you eat hibiscus relish?
Here’s how we enjoy eating hibiscus relish:
- standalone side dish similar to cranberry relish;
- on top of cheese and crackers (so good!) or baked brie;
- on a charcuterie plate;
- on top of white meats (chicken and fish).
Do you have to use dried calyxes? Can you use fresh?
You can use either fresh or dried calyxes to make this recipe. If using fresh calyxes, you’ll need a little longer cook time since you’ll have more water to cook out of the ingredients.
Here are a few things you should consider before diving into this recipe:
1. Texture preferences: chunky or jam-like?
We did multiple trial runs on this recipe:
- a raw version (which tasted great, but was too watery even after sitting for 36 hours in the fridge);
- multiple cooked versions, which allows you to remove excess water and concentrate the flavors.
Cooked hibiscus relish yields the best results, but you have a question to consider upfront: do you want a smoother, jam-like consistency or a slightly chunky consistency with your relish?
If smoother, you’ll want to put your dried or fresh hibiscus roselles into a blender or food processor as a first step.
If you want a chunkier hibiscus relish, cut or break your roselles into smaller pieces before starting. If you’re using dried roselles like we did, they should easily break into smaller pieces when you smash them with your fingers.
We don’t recommend using whole roselles for this recipe – they’ll be too big to make a good relish.
After tasting both relish versions, our personal preference is for the version made from roselles broken into smaller pieces, NOT the relish made from powdered roselles.
If you’re using dried roselles, you’ll need to add a liquid. You could just use water, but that’s no fun.
We have blood oranges just starting to ripen on our potted tree, so we opted for fresh orange juice. Fresh squeezed blood orange juice provides great flavor, comparable color, and even more vitamin C! (Roselles are loaded with vitamin C, too.)
A tablespoon of this finished roselle relish is probably more than your daily recommended allowance of vitamin C.
While we’d recommend fresh squeezed organic orange juice, you can just use store bought orange juice as well.
3. Baby ginger vs mature ginger vs powdered ginger
Additional flavors in this recipe include cinnamon and ginger. We just harvested our ginger, which is considered “baby ginger” since we live in climate zone 7b, which doesn’t have enough growing months to produce mature ginger rhizomes.
Baby ginger is tender and non-fibrous compared to mature ginger, but it still packs the full flavor of mature ginger.
Freshly grated mature ginger can be used 1:1 for baby ginger, but it will be more fibrous.
Alternately, you can use ginger powder/ground ginger. However, since ginger powder is much more concentrated than fresh ginger, the typical substitution is 1/4 tsp ginger powder per 1 tablespoon fresh ginger.
We only use 1/2 tsp fresh ginger in this recipe, so you’d just use a pinch of ginger powder.
4. Honey as sweetener
We have a giant bucket of honey from a hive in our backyard, so we frequently use honey as a sweetener in recipes. You can substitute alternatives like maple syrup or sugar-free options like stevia.
We use 3 tablespoons of honey in this recipe, which might not be sweet enough for your tastes. Add more as you see fit.
5. Cooking and serving
You’ll be cooking the roselle relish ingredients in order to:
- soften and tenderize the roselles;
- concentrate and bring the flavors together;
- cook out excess liquid to achieve the ideal final consistency.
Use a small sauce pan and cook the relish for about 20 minutes (see detailed instructions in recipe card at bottom).
There should be just a small bit of liquid left in the bottom of the pan when your roselle relish is done. If you use our ingredient quantities, you’ll end up with a little less than 1 cup of relish, but you don’t need much per serving.
This hibiscus relish recipe is great served warm or cold, depending on how you’re using it.
Cheese & cracker topping or charcuterie plate? Serve cold. Side dish relish with your Thanksgiving meal? Serve warm.
Store your roselle relish in a glass jar in your fridge. It will last for a few weeks or longer thanks to the high acidity.
Don’t store the relish in plastic or anything that’s likely to leach.
Recipe: Hibiscus roselle relish or chutney
Hibiscus roselle relish or chutney (from Hibiscus sabdariffa calyxes)
A tangy and delicious relish made from hibiscus roselles! With a taste and color similar to cranberry relish, this recipe makes a great homemade (and potentially homegrown) alternative to traditional cranberries for people living in warmer climates.
- 12 grams dehydrated hibiscus roselles/calyxes (a little over 1 cup measured dried and whole / if using fresh calxes, use about 2 cups)
- 1/2 cup fresh orange juice, preferably blood oranges (~2 oranges)
- 3 tbsp honey, or to taste (you can always add more honey at the end if desired)
- 1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger, preferably baby ginger (or pinch of ginger powder, which is more concentrated)
- 1/8 tsp cinnamon
- pinch of salt
Break or cut roselles into smaller pieces (don't leave whole)! See picture in article for size reference if you want to make a chunkier relish, which is our preference. Alternately, for a smoother, jam-like consistency you can blend your roselles (fresh or dried) prior to using.
Add all ingredients to small saucepan over medium-low heat for first 5 minutes with lid on. Then turn heat to low, set lid slightly ajar, and let cook for an additional ~15 minutes, stirring ocassionally to make sure ingredients don't stick. See pictures in article for final relish liquid content.
Serve warm if using as a side dish akin to cranberry relish. Or serve cold if using as a topping or charcuterie plate addition.
Store in covered glass jar in your fridge for up to 2-3 weeks.
Let us know what you think of your hibiscus relish — or chutney — once you’ve had a chance to taste it!
Related articles you’ll want to chew on:
- How to grow and use edible Hibiscus sabdariffa
- How to grow organic ginger and turmeric in any climate
- How to grow potted citrus in cooler climates