Homemade Ćwikła: Beet Horseradish

Ćwikła z Chrzanem

Ćwikła (pron. chveek-wah) is a Polish-style hot relish made of shredded beetroots. Literature often calls it a salad, but it’s more of a condiment. 

Thanks to biting, pleasantly tingling horseradish, Ćwikła goes straight up the nose. It brightens up any dish – especially meats. It works for almost every occasion: Easter breakfast, weeknight meal, Sunday roast, a summery BBQ with grilled kiełbasa…

For the full list of ingredients & detailed instructions, please see the recipe card at the end of this post. But before you scroll, there’s important stuff to know below.

Ćwikła is spiced up with grated horseradish and seasoned with sugar, salt and a squeeze of lemon juice. Some traditional recipes call for vinegar, sour cream, caraway, red dry wine, apples or cloves. 

Beet Horseradish has been present on Polish tables for centuries. In 1567, Mikołaj Rej lovingly described it in “The Life of the Honest Man” (“Żywot Człowieka Poczciwego”). Yes, that’s over 450 years ago!

Good to know: Ćwikła is also a colloquial, shortened name for ‘burak ćwikłowy’, meaning: a common red beetroot.

Do you need any special ingredients to make this Beet Horseradish?

For one 16 oz (450 ml) jar of Beet Horseradish, you’ll need one large red beetroot and a chunk of horseradish root. It’s worth doubling or tripling the recipe and canning the excess for later.

🇵🇱 In Poland, beetroots (‘buraki’ pron.: boo-racky) are available throughout the year, but they’re at their tastiest from September to November. They’re on sale in supermarkets, farmer’s markets and produce stalls.

Fresh horseradish (‘chrzan’ pron. hsh-un) is trickier to find, but it becomes more available in the summer (for cucumber season; for souring) and immediately before Christmas.

🌍 Internationally, beets and horseradish may be tricky to buy. In general, if you can’t find them in supermarkets, try produce stalls and farmer’s markets.

If you can’t find horseradish root anywhere, try getting a jar of grated horseradish (but not a sauce!). Check the label, ideally it should be just horseradish and maybe a tiny bit of oil and vinegar for preserving. 

If you have a garden, I hear that horseradish is very easy to grow (apparently, even impossible to get rid of) – so it might be something you would like to look into.

Equipment-wise, a regular box grater (or a food processor) is more than enough. You’ll need one 16 oz (450 ml) glass jar with a lid (or more if you’re multiplying the recipe). 

A pair of disposable gloves would be useful too, beetroots tend to stain quite a bit.

What could you serve with Ćwikła?

Beet Horseradish pairs beautifully with:

  • meats served hot – such as roasts, cutlets, kiełbasa, ham hocks
  • meats served cold, charcuterie in general (ham, bacon, sausages, pâtés, aspic dishes…)
  • sandwich spreads 
  • herring and herring salads
  • boiled eggs, pastes for deviled eggs 
  • vegetable salads and veggie pâtés and more

Ćwikła works as a spicy dip too, for fresh veggies, crackers and chips.

Can you make this Beet Horseradish another way?

Yes, here are the things you could do differently:

  • You can swap raw horseradish root for a store-bought grated horseradish from a jar.
  • Depending on the sensitivity of your tastebuds, you can up (or reduce) the amount of horseradish in the recipe. 
  • Some Ćwikła recipes mention adding a grated apple. Others add a spoonful or two of sour cream to make it milder. While these practices may improve the flavours, they’ll most likely shorten your Ćwikła’s life-span. 

What diets is this Beet Horseradish suitable for?

Ćwikła is suitable for vegans. It’s also gluten free and paleo / keto friendly (just skip the sugar).

How long can you keep Ćwikła in the fridge?

Once served, don’t leave it at room temperature for more than 3-4 hours.

Refrigerate Ćwikła in a container with a lid (a glass jar is perfect for this) for up to 2 weeks. It tastes best cold, so you can serve it straight from the fridge. 

Can I freeze Beet Horseradish?

No, but there’s no need to freeze it.

If you need it to last longer than 2-3 weeks – pasteurise it. For more information on how to do this, have a look at this cool canning guide PDF from Virginia Cooperative Extension. Remember to label the jars with a date and a description. If preserved correctly, Ćwikła will be safe to eat for up to a year (or more).

Smacznego!

Ćwikła - a Polish-style beetroot horseradish in a jar, served with crackers
Ćwikła - a Polish-style beetroot horseradish in a jar, served with crackers

Ćwikła: Polish Shredded Beet Horseradish

Yield: 16 oz (450 ml)
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Today, I’m sharing a delicious and easy recipe for beet horseradish relish that will be the perfect accompaniment for all those meats you are going to serve to your family and guests.

This recipe makes one 16 oz (450 ml)  jar of Ćwikła.

Ingredients

  • 1 large beetroot (roughly 12.5 oz, 350 g)
  • 2 tbsp grated horseradish root; substitute with 2-3 tbsp grated horseradish from a jar
  • 1 tsp fine sugar
  • salt and pepper, to season
  • 2 tbp lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Wash the beetroot thoroughly, but don’t peel it. 
  2. Fill a cooking pot with water, bring to boil and drop the beetroot in. I usually cook a whole pot of beetroots at the same time (to make a few jars of Ćwikła or something else). Cook for 1 hour until beetroot is tender, but still holds its shape.
  3. Once cooked, leave the beetroot to chill. You can peel it now, it should be easy to remove the peel at this point. It’s worth putting on disposable gloves at this point, beetroots can stain your hands quite a bit.
  4. Time to grate the beetroot. You can use a food processor, or just a regular box grater. Shred half using the smallest holes, and another half using the larger ones. This way the texture is more verified and interesting.
  5. If you’re using fresh horseradish, peel it and grate using the finest holes. [Do it outdoors if you can, it tends to be strong]. 
  6. Add two spoonfuls of grated horseradish (either freshly grated or from a jar) to our shredded beetroot. Add a teaspoon of sugar and combine together with a spoon.
  7. Season with a solid pinch of salt and a solid pinch of ground black pepper. Add a generous squeeze of lemon juice. Combine again with a spoon.
  8. Have a taste. If the flavour is too acidic for your liking, you can add a little bit more sugar or add a little bit of grated apple.
  9. Move Ćwikła to a jar and close with a lid. Chill in the refrigerator for a few hours before serving.
  10. Serve with meats, sandwiches, boiled eggs.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 20 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 5Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 42mgCarbohydrates: 1gFiber: 0gSugar: 1gProtein: 0g

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Polish name:
Pronunciation:
Cuisine: Polish
Region / Subregion: all-Polish
Other traditional or regional names:
Also known as (including misspellings):