The 14 Best Veggies to Ferment, and Actually Eat!

So you want to ferment veggies? My first tip, choose veggies you like in their raw state to begin your fermentation journey. The chances you’ll enjoy them fermented is much better. 

Pro Tip: Fermenting vegetables turns a fresh veggie into a softened, muted, slightly tangy version of itself. Since our American diets are not used to sour flavors, it’s a good idea to introduce yourself to fermentation by using familiar foods that you enjoy raw.

List of the best (and easiest) vegetables to ferment

Before we get into the details; here’s a list of some of the best veggies to ferment, which means they’re both good to eat (AKA your gut reaps the benefits), and easy! Cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, radishes, bell peppers, cauliflower, green beans, beets, garlic, onions, turnips, jalapeños, asparagus, Brussels sprouts.

This list is based on my experience and personal preferences, I bet you’ll find your favs differ a bit.

1. Cabbage (for sauerkraut and kimchi): a cruciferous veggie that tends to be harder to digest and makes a very tasty, easy way to snack on more veggies! This is one of the best vegetables to ferment when getting into the world of fermentation. I’ll put this one out there with the caveat that it does require a longer fermentation time which means more room for things to go wrong, but I like it because it’s such a familiar one! 

2. Carrots: a great veggie to create some unique flavor combinations with. I love this one because it’s already a well loved veggie in our home. The carbohydrates add some sweetness, and you can create variety by chopping into sticks, shredding or cutting into ribbons or coins – it’s super versatile! 

3. Cucumbers (for pickles): an obvious, and very simple choice, add some grape leaves (thanks to their tannins) to keep them crunchy! 

4. Radishes: makes a beautiful crunchy snack, not just traditional radishes either, but daikon radishes and watermelon radishes, the sky’s the limit!  

5. Bell peppers: add it to fermented salsa, literally one of the easiest, best tasting fermented recipes I make. I love adding fermented salsa to my eggs in the morning. 

6. Cauliflower: a sulphuric veggie that tends to be harder to digest. So fermenting this one, is a great choice for those suffering from digestive symptoms.

7. Green beans: dilly beans, the first fermented recipes I ever made with my husband years ago! This one doesn’t even have to be chopped!

8. Beets: one word, just beautiful…(or two)…I LOVE beets and when you start fermenting a food you already love, you’ll be more apt to enjoy the fermented version. Beets pair great with eggs, apples, carrots – just to name a few.. 

9. Garlic: a great addition to many other ferments, as well as on its own. Use this garlic in things like pesto and sauces to avoid heating the microbes.

10. Onions: SO good! Check out my recipe for these rosemary onions. I love having these on afternoon salads, if you’re low on other veggies you don’t really miss it because they pack such a flavor punch. Plus, fermented onions are easier to digest than raw. If you love pickled onions this is a great, healthier cousin! 

11. Turnips (for sauerruben): since turnips have a few carbohydrates, this ferment has a hint of sweetness, along with the sour. 

12. Jalapeños: makes a good salsa, or condiment.

13. Asparagus: this one is similar to beans, they are grab and go and really help get more veggies in your day. 

14. Brussels sprouts: I find, brussels tend to require either cooking or shredding to enjoy. So fermenting adds a quick and easy way to enjoy them, and they are similar to cabbage, which is usually a familiar ferment! 

These are some of the best veggies I enjoy fermenting and snacking on. They’re also easy veggies to incorporate into your diet. 

Factors that affect the fermentation of veggies 

  • Sugar content: Vegetables with higher natural sugar content ferment more readily because sugar is needed to fuel the fermentation process. For example, beets and carrots contain more sugars compared to vegetables like cucumbers.
  • Water content: Vegetables with higher water content create a more conducive environment for fermentation. Cabbage, tomatoes, cucumbers, and bell peppers are examples of vegetables with high water content.
  • Texture: Vegetables with a crunchy texture tend to retain their texture better during fermentation. Crisp vegetables like cabbage, carrots, and radishes are commonly used for this reason.
  • Microbial activity: Younger plants have higher bacterial concentrations (like lactic acid) than mature ones, even more of a reason to choose plants at their peak. Plus soil health can alter the microbial composition. THIS is why plant diversity is so important to our human health! 
  • pH level: The initial pH level of the vegetables can affect fermentation. Vegetables with a slightly acidic pH, such as cabbage or tomatoes,, initiate and ferment quicker. A short ferment time is helpful when you’re starting out. 
  • Presence of inhibitors: Some vegetables contain compounds that inhibit fermentation or affect the taste of the final product. For example, vegetables high in sulfur compounds, like broccoli and cauliflower, can produce off-flavors during fermentation. This dissipates with time but can be hard to get accustomed to.  

Overall, I’ve found these characteristics to be some of the most significant in determining their suitability for fermentation and the quality of the final product.

If you’re new to fermenting, check out my easy to follow post on the steps to a good ferment; 11 simple steps + 2 ingredients. Just good water and salt make for perfectly fermented veggies.

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