How to Ferment Vegetables (11 steps + recipe)

So you want to know how to ferment vegetables!? Well to ferment anything you must trust your instincts, after all, fermentation is just controlled food decay…and the result is a probiotic rich, tangy new food! 

Let me share with you my 11 top tips to successfully ferment any vegetable, everytime! 

Prepare to ferment vegetables

1. Choose Fresh, High-Quality Vegetables: Start with fresh, high-quality vegetables free from bruises, mold, or signs of spoilage. Wash them thoroughly to remove any dirt or contaminants. Fermentation does NOT bring produce back to life, actually quite the opposite, so don’t “salvage” spoiled food here. 

2. Sanitize Equipment: Clean and sanitize all utensils, jars, and fermentation vessels to prevent the introduction of harmful bacteria. Just use hot, soapy water, no need for bleach. We’re not surgeons (or maybe you are) but not while fermenting… 

3. Prepare Vegetables: Cut or slice the vegetables into uniform pieces to ensure even fermentation. Depending on personal preference, you can leave vegetables whole, slice them, shred them, or whatever you choose, the sky’s the limit. 

Some popular choices for fermented vegetables include cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, peppers, and radishes.

4. Add Flavorings: Enhance the flavor of your fermented vegetables by adding herbs, spices, garlic, or other aromatics. These additions not only contribute to the taste but also provide additional antimicrobial properties.

Shredded and chopped fermented carrots & ginger

Packing vegetables

5. Create Brine: First, determine if you’re going to dry salt or brine your veggies. 

  • Dry Salt: this method is good for higher water content veggies or shredded pieces that have more surface area, thus creating their own brine. Examples are cabbage/sauerkraut or for spicy fermented shredded carrots.
  • Brine method: this method is better for chopped foods or those that won’t create enough liquid to fully submerge themselves. Examples are chopped carrots, cucumbers, or whole brussels sprouts.

A brine solution is prepared by dissolving non-iodized salt (such as sea salt) in water. The typical ratio is about 3 tablespoons of salt per quart of water, but exact proportions vary.

A general rule to figure out your salt ratio without a food scale.
Dry Salt: 1.5 – 2 tsp per pound of veggies, roughly 2 cups of veggies
Bring Method: 3 tbsp per quart of water, roughly 2 cups of veggies

Plants release water when salted, depending on the vegetable, the water may be sufficient to keep your vegetables submerged. If not, you will need to add enough liquid to keep them fully submerged. 

6. Pack Vegetables in a jar: Place the prepared vegetables tightly into clean fermentation jars, leaving some headspace at the top. Press down firmly to eliminate air pockets and ensure the vegetables are submerged in the brine.

7. Weight: Place a fermentation weight or a clean, food-grade object on top of the vegetables to keep them submerged in the brine. This helps prevent mold growth and ensures an anaerobic environment.

*Check out my diy fermentation weight post for tips!

8. Cover: Cover the jar with a lid or a breathable cloth secured with a rubber band to allow gas to escape during fermentation.

Fermentation

9. Fermentation Time and Temperature: Allow the vegetables to ferment at room temperature, ideally between 60-75°F (15-24°C), out of direct sunlight as sunlight can diminish nutrients. Fermentation time varies depending on factors such as temperature, vegetable type/cut, and desired flavor. 

Start tasting after a few days and continue fermenting until the desired level of tanginess is reached, typically between 1-4 weeks.

10. Monitor Fermentation: Check the ferment regularly for signs of mold, yeast, or off odors. Skim off any surface scum or mold if it appears. It’s normal for bubbles to form during fermentation.

11. Storage: Once fermentation is complete, remove the weight, secure the lid tightly, and transfer the fermented vegetables to cold storage (refrigerator or cool cellar). Fermented vegetables will continue to develop flavor but at a much slower rate in cold storage.

Fermented Salsa packing into jar with wooden rolling pin

That’s it! You’ve got yourself a homemade fermented vegetable for a fraction of the cost of those $7/jar supermarket ones! Plus, if you’re using your own garden veggies and have great soil, you have a fresher, more nutrient dense veggie to start which means a better fermented veggie to enjoy! 

Don’t let fermenting vegetables intimidate you. Regardless of the veggie, the method is relatively similar, and quite easy, just trust your gut! (pun intended) 🙂

Shredded Fermented Carrots & Ginger with pH strip for testing pH of fermentation

Fermented Vegetable Recipe

Learn how to ferment (just about any) vegetable with this simple guide. All you need are fresh veggies, non-iodized salt, water, and a clean jar. Follow these 11 simple steps to preserve your vegetables, enhancing their flavor and nutritional value through natural fermentation. *The only preservation method that actually enhances nutrition.
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Course: Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Harvest, Make Ahead, Summertime
Allergen: Dairy Free, Gluten Free, Vegan
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Fermentation: 7 days
Total Time: 7 days 15 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories: 78kcal

Equipment

  • Chefs Knife
  • Glass bowl
  • Fermenting jar & lid
  • Wooden spoon, or Pickle packer
  • Measuring spoons and cups

Ingredients

Dry Salt Method

  • 2 cup fresh, shredded vegetables
  • 2 tsp non-iodized salt, *see blog
  • 1 tbsp fresh herbs or spices, optional

Brine Salt Method

  • 2 cups fresh, chopped vegetables
  • 2 tbsp non-iodized salt, *see blog
  • 1 tbsp fresh herbs or spices, optional

Instructions

Dry Salt Method

  • Prepare your veggies, and shred.
  • Place the shredded veggies into a glass bowl and sprinkle with salt and massage. Let sit for 15 minutes.
  • Then funnel into the fermenting jar (pint sized) and press down with a pickle packer or wooden rolling pin/spoon.
  • If you cannot create enough brine to cover the veggies, add 1 tablespoon of water at a time until all the veggies are submerged in brine.
  • Cover with a fermentation weight. Let sit in a cool, dry space, out of direct sun for 5-7 days, or until the pH is less than 4.6 and the taste is desirable.

Brine Method

  • Prepare your veggies, and cut as desired.
  • Place directly into a quart sized fermenting jar.
  • In a measuring bowl, add the salt and water to dissolve the salt. Pour over the carrots.
  • If this isn’t enough brine to cover the veggies, add 1 tablespoon of water at a time until all the veggies are submerged in brine.
  • Cover with a fermentation weight. Let sit in a cool, dry space, out of direct sun for 5-7 days, or until the pH is less than 4.6 and the taste is desirable.

Notes

  • For larger, more dense veggies, like carrots I suggest the brine method. 
  • For smaller, shredded veggies or more water dense ones (like greens or cabbage) the brine method will work well.
  • With either method, it is imperative that you can fully submerge your veggies in brine. 
  • See blog posts for more details on salt ratios.

Nutrition

Calories: 78kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 0.1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.04g | Sodium: 3158mg | Potassium: 265mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 0.01g | Vitamin A: 6274IU | Vitamin C: 14mg | Calcium: 34mg | Iron: 1mg

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