In Memory Of Karen Nicole Smith, 1972 - 2016

Mother In Law As A Condiment?

trinidad mother in law recipe (8)

My first encounter with “Mother In Law” was about 7 years ago when we had some relatives here on vacation during that summer, from Trinidad. My aunt had a huge pot of pelau bubbling in the back yard (love cooking in the outdoors during the warm months) and my other aunt who was visiting, raved that we must try her “mother in law” as a condiment with the pelau. I learned that day that “mother in law” was the name given to a sort of crunchy salsa, that’s packed with flavour and heat from extremely hot peppers. We’ve perfected the art of eating spicy foods, peppers and hot sauces in the Caribbean and this is yet another example of how creative we can get with our cuisine and word association.  So where does the name come from? (don’t quote me on this) I believe it’s because like this hot sauce/salsa, a person’s mother in law is notorious for being heated, spicy and finds a way to leave an impression on you (negative or not) without much effort.

Once you adjust the heat level on this one, you’ll find that like me, this will be your favorite “hot” condiment. I learned on that summer’s day, with a steaming plate of pelau in hand,  that I could actually love my “mother in law” 🙂

You’ll Need…

1 large carrot (diced)
1 medium onion (minced)
3 cloves garlic (minced)
4 hot peppers (I used habanero)
juice from 2 limes or lemons
1 teaspoon salt
1 medium green mango (diced)
1 caraili (bitter melon) -optional – I dislike this so I didn’t use it.
2 tablespoon white vinegar
4 leaves of shado beni (chopped fine)
fresh black pepper

Notes: I didn’t have fresh shado beni, so I opted for 3 table spoons of chopped cilantro. Normally caraili (bitter melon) is used for this recipe, but since I don’t like this vegetable I left it out. If you can’t get caraili or you’re like me and don’t like caraili, you can use a medium sized cucumber. I recommend leaving the skin on the cucumber if using this instead (for a bit of crunchy texture).

trinidad mother in law recipe

The key here is to dice/cube everything the same size and if you’re not using a food processor, it can be a bit time consuming. I love working with my hands so I used a sharp chef’s knife. Peel and wash the carrot, then cut it into 2 main pieces, then jullien and finally dice into very small cube like pieces (see pics below)

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Wear gloves for this step – chop the hot peppers the same size as you did the carrot. For maximum heat I recommend keeping the seeds. But if you’re a wuss, do remove the seeds to control the heat.

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Now peel the mango, give it a rinse under cool water and dice the same as you did with the hot peppers and carrot. When shopping for a “green” mango (one that’s not ripe), you’re looking for one without any blemishes, very firm (hard) and with be a bit shiny and dark green or a reddish green depending on the variety you get. A ‘green’ mango will be very tart in taste and crunchy in texture.

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Add all these ingredients to a large bowl and get ready to assemble everything. I assume you’ve done the same to the onion and garlic (try to get the garlic a bit more fine). Don’t forget to chop the shado beni or cilantro as I did and dice the cucumber if you opted to use that.

In the bowl with the onion, garlic, carrot, shado beni… etc, add the salt, fresh ground black pepper, juice of the lime or lemon and vinegar. Give this a good stir, cover and allow it to marinate in the fridge for a couple hours. Obviously I’m greedy and started on mine seconds after making. The fresh scent of the lemon juice, coupled with the cilantro and hot peppers was just too alluring for me to show any sort of restraint.

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This can last for a couple weeks in the fridge if you’re wondering (glass bottle), but the longer it stays in the fridge it will have the tendency to get less spicy.

I have to ask… do you know why it’s called mother in law? Was my explanation close? BTW, I was told there’s one that’s even more spicy… guess what it’s called – Daughter In Law!

You’re invited to join our group on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook image on the upper right side of this page. you may also see in the same area, a link to all the cooking videos I’ve shared so far. While I have your attention I’d like to ask that you leave me a comment below – even if it’s just to say hello. It’s appreciated.

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  1. Errol Haughton
    December 2, 2021 / 1:27 am

    Hi Chris, thanks for sharing your recipes the ones I tried were awesome. Keep them coming.

  2. Peter A. Forte
    May 4, 2021 / 4:11 pm

    Hey Chris
    Sad to learn of your dislike of “caraila” (Guyanese misspelling) a.k.a. bitter melon. You’d be doing yourself and all of us fans a huge favour if you researched “?calounji?” and then did a video on your twist of the dish. It’s caraila, halved and inner seeds and pith replaced with ground meat or shrimp and cooked in coconut milk. To die for!

  3. Diane Dwarka
    April 16, 2021 / 11:43 am

    I am allergic to mango. What can I substitute for mango in the Mother in Law recipe?

    • admin
      April 17, 2021 / 8:25 pm


    • NAB
      July 17, 2021 / 11:03 pm

      Also check out white radish. It’s very good in this.

  4. Dianne
    April 13, 2015 / 8:02 am

    HI Chris love all your receipes they are to die for keep them coming
    Thanks a lot

  5. anthony campbell
    February 16, 2015 / 10:36 pm

    hi chris,that was culantro

  6. anthony campbell
    February 16, 2015 / 10:33 pm

    hi chris,
    just made your mother in law dish put everything you made yours with. (caraili) also,while reading your reviews I found the shadow-beni like crystal said at the Asian market and its called cilantro.loved it keep up the good work.

    • admin
      February 17, 2015 / 8:14 am

      it should have been called culantro.. cilantro or coriander is a bit milder and different in shape (leaves).

  7. December 9, 2013 / 2:24 pm

    Oh boy luv mother-in-law. tasty

  8. Dennis
    March 18, 2013 / 5:08 pm

    Hi Chris, these recipes are awesome! So far I did the pelau and curries to excellent results, I'd like to know how long this mother in law will last, in the fridge or if I can leave it out so the heat stays.
    Thanks, keep the recipes coming.

    • Dennis
      March 19, 2013 / 7:27 pm

      Hi Chris, didn't see the ''this could last a couple of weeks' part in your blog. Thanks lots for the recipes. Adapted the chicken pelau to a beef one a couple of days ago and doing another pot right now, the peeps waiting with belly in hand right now!

  9. arleen
    January 15, 2013 / 9:17 pm

    I roast all the vegetables when making this. Its delish!!!

  10. kathy ann fletcher
    October 18, 2012 / 10:16 pm

    the best hot spicy salad !!!!!

  11. cheftony
    October 18, 2012 / 6:42 pm

    Make this with roasted peppers ah real killer.

  12. Shazze
    October 18, 2012 / 12:11 pm

    Thanku for sharing your awesome recipes with us…;0)) xxs

  13. den
    May 13, 2012 / 11:11 am

    i want this. even though i don't know what some of these ingredients are. lol. shado beni? caraili? doubt i can find these in west virginia. haha. thanks.

    • crystal
      March 21, 2014 / 10:41 am

      Chadon Beni (pronounced shadow-beni) is also known as recao or culantro and can be found in most west indian/hispanic supermarkets. It is a flat leaf, green seasoning. Trinis use this in most dishes for seasoning and flavor.

      Caraili also known as bitter melon is exactly that, a bitter vegetable beloning to the melon family. Most Asian markets sell them.

      I’m sure you if you go to your local, caribbean neighbourhoods, you will find these ingredients.

  14. Dianne
    April 25, 2012 / 9:50 am

    Just want to say, great website!. Am really enjoying looking through your recipes & the photos & videos are great. well done & can't wait to get a hold of cook book-when its available in uk…..hopefully soon 🙂

  15. Ruth
    March 24, 2012 / 7:01 pm

    Hi Chris, thank you for this receipe – it was so easy to do and I loved it! I was just wondering when I lived in Trinidad they used to sell jars of mother in law but it had other vegetables like cauliflower etc they were cut small but not diced. Would this work? Or do you have an alternative receipe? Many thanks. Ruth (Sydney Australia)

  16. Candice
    January 19, 2012 / 2:20 am

    What is morai called in the USA

  17. Candice
    January 19, 2012 / 2:19 am

    what is moray in the USA ?

  18. Doonwati
    June 19, 2011 / 10:43 pm

    What Trevor called Mori is Horseradish and we Trinidadians say Moorai. Bye now.

    • roberto
      December 18, 2011 / 4:36 pm

      Sorry Chris but morai is not the same as horseradish. It is called Daikon or white/chinese radish and can be found in Asian food stores if you live in the USA.

  19. Doonwati
    June 19, 2011 / 10:36 pm

    Hi Chris,
    I've made this so many times using Karaili, Hot Peppers, Lime Juice, Carrots, Garlic and Onions but never mangoes. I'll sure try the mangoes when I'm making it again because It looks so very good. Thanks Chris, keep these lovely recipes coming and God Bless!

  20. trevor
    May 24, 2011 / 7:33 pm

    Hey see if you can get mori (like a large white carrot related to radishes) i think the international name is mooli works wonders in this as well. I too use cucumbers instead of carali. In a rush for my rice and dahl i simply use cucumbers, carrot, scotch bonnet or congo, lime juice and salt and ah done.


  21. Fast Fred
    May 7, 2011 / 10:48 pm

    I brought a bottle of mother-in-law back to the USA from Trinidad. Bought it from a roadside vendor near the Pitch Lake, LaBrea. Your recipe seems to approach that delectable condiment, as near as possible. Thanks for posting it.

  22. praim
    April 21, 2011 / 3:27 pm

    Chris do you have a recipe for Trinidad's pepper shrimp

    • natalie stewart
      April 21, 2011 / 7:14 pm

      do you have a recipe for pepper sauce?

  23. basdai gopaul
    March 13, 2011 / 5:42 pm

    this is mouth watering

  24. Island girl
    January 17, 2011 / 1:00 pm

    Wow, definitely will try this. From just the name of the dish I thought that the plant called mother in law could be incorporated in to a dish, but this sounds much better.

  25. Renata
    January 16, 2011 / 5:29 pm

    Oh wow, never had mother in law with the mango until two years ago, it was soo good!!! i had it with wedding food: curry duck, channa with aloo and dahlpourie. It was sooooooooo GOOD!!

    thanks for the recipe. I haven't had it since.

  26. January 16, 2011 / 4:43 pm

    Oh gosh, I just love Caribbean food and the creative names. This is the first time I am hearing of the "mother-in-law"

    • reina
      May 15, 2011 / 5:09 pm

      The entire name is actually 'mother-in-law's tounge'.
      It's hot, spicy, peppery and could get you into trouble just like a 'mother in laws tounge' 🙂

  27. Bernice
    January 13, 2011 / 6:07 pm

    Just read and my mouth starts watering already! Definitely Will make it .

  28. Gemma
    January 13, 2011 / 4:01 pm

    we usually put morai an mince garlic

  29. Geeta
    January 13, 2011 / 3:45 pm

    Nice… My mom makes it with Caraili instead of the Mango. I like that idea better. Thanks Chris,

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