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10 Relish Tray Ideas

Updated on May 29, 2012

Curry Relish Tray

A relish tray can also be a great way of adding side dishes
A relish tray can also be a great way of adding side dishes

What is a Relish Tray?

Before we dive into our list of the 10 great relish tray ideas perhaps we first address the questions - just what is a relish tray? After all they seem to have fallen out of favor in recent decades (even if they are making a comeback now).

A relish tray is a tray made for, well, relishes. That may be a little over simplified but at heart that is the case. If you have ever been for a curry (especially in the UK) and order a poppadom and 'chutney tray' starter you will know what I mean.

My Kind of Relish Tray

The concept is simple - it's a tray for a collection of various relishes that people can choose from to eat as they will. It can be dips for vegetables (such as carrots or celery), or to go in breads or poppadoms.

They are rarely used these days, but I still love them and use them from time to time when it comes to entertaining friends. They are a great way of getting an easy starter. You can, of course, make your own relishes (mind you I cheat, and don't stick strictly to the idea of relish) or you can buy relishes from the supermarket.

In my experience these relish trays can make a great starter, or pre starter, with everyone sitting around chatting (ideally with a glass of wine or 10) and dipping in as they do so. Works very well when you have a main course that simply is heating in the oven so you, as the host, can join in!

More Common Relish Tray

What I just described was my kind of relish tray. There is a far more common kind. Using this method it can be thought of as a 'condiment' tray - a collection of sauces and mustards that can accompany a meal.

Think of things like cranberry sauce, French Mustard or tomato sauce and you are on the right lines...

Relish Tray Idea 1 - Sauces and What Not

Complicated title for a complicated idea. OK, not at all in fact. This simply means gathering everyones favorite sauces together on to one tray so that they can add them to a meal if they wish. Things like

  • Tomato sauce
  • Mustard
  • Mayonnaise
  • Salad Cream
  • Brown Sauce

You get the picture...

Relish Tray Idea 2 - Chutneys for Curries

Stealing straight from the traditional accompaniments to poppadoms here. Mango chutney, lime pickle, onion relish - any 'additional' sauces that work well with indian food (or on a poppadom) are welcome here.

Serve with Indian food, poppadoms or Nann bread

Vegetable Relish Tray

Relish Tray Idea 3 - Vegetables and Dips

Another 'traditional' relish tray this. Here you gather a bunch of dipping vegetables into one place (carrots, olives, celery, pretty much anything can work) and then have a collection of dips to dip the vegetables into.

Dips like

  • Hummus
  • Sour cream and chive
  • Soft cheeses
  • Salsa

and more works. Pretty much any dip you like the taste of!

Relish Tray Idea 4 - Chips and Dips

Working on the same lines as the vegetable dips here, this type of relish tray means dips that you can use with chips. Popular options include salsas, guacamole, chilli sauces and others.

Relish Tray Idea 5 - Indian Side Dishes

One of my favorite ways of using the relish tray is to store side dishes that I cook to accompany a main Indian meal. So I would, for instance, cook a Vindaloo (I like things spicy) and nann bread which I give out to everyone, and then some side dishes which people can help themselves to

Dishes such as

  • Saag aloo
  • Onion Bhajiis
  • Garlic mushrooms
  • Fried rice

and plenty of other options.

Spanish Tapas

Some Spanish tapas relish tray ideas
Some Spanish tapas relish tray ideas

Relish Tray Idea 6 - Spanish Tapas

I don't know about in the USA, but here in the UK Spanish tapas is becoming very popular, especially during the summer months.

The idea is a simple one, a collection of tasty food items on a tray, each unique that you can often eat with your fingers. Fish tends to be especially common.

Such things as

  • Squid Rings
  • Stuffed mussels
  • Bravas Potatoes
  • Cured Meats
  • Anchovies

Take a Google for Spanish Tapas for some great ideas

Relish Tray Idea 7 - Accompany Roasts

Here in the UK roast dinners are something of a tradition - a weekly one in fact. A Sunday roast is a popular dish in many households. The issue is not everyone likes the same things.

So rather than serving everything at once we tend to put it out on trays for people to eat. The usual food items have their own trays of course - roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, etc, but a relish tray can be useful for the small sauces and less popular foods.

In our house we usually have

  • Applesauce
  • Horseradish sauce (or wasabi sauce if we are feeling adventurous)
  • Cauliflower cheese
  • Extra gravy
  • Mustard
  • Brussel sprouts

I'm sure plenty of other British homes have their own version.

Relish Tray Idea 8 - Barbecues

There is little better, in my opinion, than a barbecue in the sunshine, with friends and family present. A few beers, some good grilled food - and a tasty relish tray.

Here sauces are again popular, with all the traditionals such as mustard and tomato sauce present. But also look to some extras, various pickles, relishes and the like can go very well with barbecued meats.

Zesty relishes always tend to be popular at such gatherings. Don't forget a few extra items like fried onions, picked gherkins and the like as well...some people like all sorts in a burger!

Relish Tray Idea 9 - With a Cheese Board

This is the relish tray I remember most when growing up. My parents loved their stinky cheeses (and now so do I) and we would regularly have some relishes to go with it.

The most popular in our house were

  • Squeezy cheeses (such as Primella)
  • Branston Pickle (do they do this outside of the uk?)
  • Sweetcorn relish
  • Beetroot relish (often homemade)
  • Pickled onions
  • Pickled gherkins
  • Mustards

And a few more that slip my mind. Stinky cheeses and a good collection of relishes and pickles on a relish tray is my idea of heaven,

Relish Tray Idea 10 - YOU Decide

Alright, you may think it a cop out, but this should have given you an idea of what a relish tray can do. It's not just about keeping a few relishes on, or for having with bread for supper (and if you want idea 10, jams and preserves with bread for supper works).

You now know what relish trays ideas are all about, so get out there and try things. They can add additional flavors and touches to meals that will set them apart from the everyday. I love using them to experiment with things and they always go down well at dinner parties, barbecues and the like.


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