How to Ferment (Almost) Any Vegetable (& 4 recipes!)

Ferments are great, guys. This is one of my most favorite kitchen experiments. Plus, if you just call them "pickled vegetables" and place them lovingly next to some delicious cheese and crackers, dinner guests get really super impressed.



Three Friendly Benefits:

1) gut-healthy probiotics

2) no water-boiling or breaking out all the canning gear

3) no energy use

Basically, we are just leveraging a naturally occuring biological process called "lactofermentation". All vegetables have a natural layer of "lactobacillus", an non-harmful bacteria that also lives in our guts. This good bacteria multiplies in a non-oxygen, acidic environment which becomes more acidic as it produces acid. All of this acid and non-oxygen keeps all the bad stuff away (mold, botulism, etc). Here's a good article.  You'll need a way to keep oxygen out.

Here's a super cute, cheap and good fermentation lid I recommend.




Ok enough of the 10th grade bio lesson. Recipe time! 



This is the basic ratio of salt-to-water for most fermented veggies. Of course, you could use a little more for safety. Salt and clean equipment are the KEYS to safety. There are almost no CDC reports of food-borne illness from home-fermented veggies. Home-canned products, yes, but fermentation, no.  Just smell your final product. If it doesn't smell appealing, then don't eat it...If there's visible mold, don't eat it. Throw it out and start again. I usually prepare a whole bunch of little ferments at once just to experiment. You can also just do one large batch of something if you have a ton of produce. 


Basic Salty Brine

2 TBSP Pure Sea Salt (my favorite found here) 

2 C distilled water



That's it! Specific recipes are below! 







Dilly Carrot Sticks 

Salty Brine

Fresh dill


carrots washed and sliced into sticks 

1 grape leaf or 1 oak leaf (optional; helps keep the crunch)













Curried Cauliflower Florets 

Salty Brine

1 head cauliflower washed and broken down into florets

1tsp peppercorn

1tsp turmeric

1tsp curry powder 

1/4 tsp dried chili flakes

2 whole cloves garlic 

1 grape leaf or 1 oak leaf (optional; helps keep the crunch)










Zesty Dill Cucumbers

Salty Brine

3-4 pickling cukes sliced to 1/4 inch thick

1tsp peppercorn

1 tsp mustard seeds

1 head dill seed (or baby dill leaves) 

1/4 tsp dried chili flakes

2 whole cloves garlic 

1 grape leaf or 1 oak leaf (optional; helps keep the crunch)








Bread & Butter Cukes (Also called Sweet N Sour Pickles) 

3-4 cukes washed and sliced into 1/4 inch rounds

1/4 onion (any kind) sliced 

2 tablespoons whole celery seeds

2 tablespoon mustard seeds

Salty brine PLUS:

1 tbsp white sugar (dissolved in brine using microwave, 1min)

1 tbsp brown sugar (dissolved in brine using microwave, 1min)

1 tbsp white vinegar

1 grape leaf or 1 oak leaf (optional; helps keep the crunch)









Pack veggies and grape leaf in jar.

Pour over brine, making sure there is at least 1.5 inched of brine over the top of the veggies.


In order to submerge them you will need a glass ferment weight, a Kraut Source ferment lid (which comes with a pusher-downer thing), or the free version is you can cover the veggies with a cabbage leaf and "tuck" them under the brine. With a kraut lid you can basically screw on the lid, pour extra brine on, and forget it for 2-10 days. If you use just a mason jar lid, you will need to "burp" the gases out every few days or else you risk a jar explosion from pressure building up. If you think you will forget or you are going out of town, just get a fermentation kit. Also, ferments work faster in higher temperatures. 


How do I know when its ready?


Good question! That depends on temperature, brine ratio, vegetable choice and your own preference. I like mine a little crunchy, so I start checking around day 2 in the summer and day 5 in colder temps. Saurkraut (cabbage ferments) can go 30-50 days! It really just depends on your preference. A Cloudy ferment with gases coming out is how you know its "working". Cloudy brine is a good brine! You also might get white sediment on the veggies. This is totally normal and safe. 


Try any of these other  veggies in your next ferment! Mix and match! Blend to make a sauce after its done!  There are so many things you can do to experiment. 


  • peppers (people really get into their own pepper sauces!) 

  • Asparagus 

  • whole tomatoes (salsas are a big hit!)

  • red onions (they go great on fish tacos!) 

  • garlic 

  • kale or chard or broccoli stems 

What do you think? Are you ready to start trying your own ferments or are you still apprehensive? Comment below! 







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