Christmas in Venice: Salsa di Cren (recipe)

Cren, is the Venetian word for horseradish. The name probably comes from the period in which the Triveneto (the three regions of Italy that were once the Venetian Republic: Veneto, Trentino-Alto-Adige, and Friuli-Venezia-Giulia) was occupied by the Austrian, since in Austria horseradish is called kren.

A piece of fresh cren or horseradish. (Rafano in Italian.)

Salsa di cren is eaten all over the Triveneto as an accompaniment to meat, but is most popular in Friuli-Venezia-Giulia and in the provinces of Padua and Treviso, right next to Venice. It can be very hot and spicy which is unusual for Italian cooking in general.

There are two varieties of salsa di cren, one creamy, rather like British horseradish sauce, and one sweet and sour. I prefer the sweet and sour version and it’s the recipe that I am giving you. Rather like the recipe for mostarda I’ll be telling you what to eat this with later. But as it needs to sit in the fridge for at least a week before eating, here’s the recipe now.

Grating cren is going to make you cry.

This is a very simple recipe for which you need a fresh horseradish. Be careful as you grate the horseradish since it has the same effect on your eyes as chopping onions.

Ready to go in the fridge for a week.

Bon appetito!


Salsa di cren
Yields 2
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Prep Time
15 min
Prep Time
15 min
  1. 400g / 14 ounce piece of horseradish
  2. 2 teaspoons salt
  3. 40g / 1 1/2 ounces sugar
  4. white wine vinegar
  1. Wash and peel the horseradish with a potato peeler.
  2. Grate the horseradish.
  3. In a bowl, mix the horseradish with the salt and sugar.
  4. Place the mixture in clean jars.
  5. Fill the jars up with white wine vinegar.
  6. Put the lids on tightly.
  7. Place in the fridge and leave for at least a week before eating.
Chestnuts and Truffles

2 thoughts on “Christmas in Venice: Salsa di Cren (recipe)

  1. I adore horseradish, especially the spicy stuff with some texture to it rather than the creamy type. I grew up on a farm back in the early 70s and we grew some horseradish. The first year we harvested the stuff we grated it up with one of those old fashioned hand-cranked food grinders. It was early in the year, as soon as the ground was soft enough to get the roots out of the ground, so it was still very cold. we had to open all the doors and windows in the house in order to do it. One of us would go in, crank for a few minutes until our eyes got too irritated to go on, then another person would hurry in, grate some more, and repeat the process until we were done with the batch.

    It was the best damned horseradish I ever had in my life. It is a golden, shining moment of horseradishness in my tastebuds’ memories. I’m not sure anything else will ever match it.

    Living in Trieste, we get some pretty good stuff here, but yeah. That will forever stand out.

    Thanks for the recipe!

  2. I love horseradish, the stronger the better. This cren looks delicious, and would be perfect with a peppercorn steak. I think I tried grating horseradish once and gave up because of all the tears and snot – sorry if that’s too much information. 🙂 Love your Christmas posts so much – they are definitely putting me in the holiday spirit.

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