How To Ferment Vegetables

An easy homemade tutorial on how to ferment vegetables in a mason jar.

You’re probably thinking I’ve caught the hippie train straight out of here with this post but hear me out.

Do you like pickles? Yes? (note -you should check out this post on how to make simple homemade pickles and spicy garlic dill pickles if so).

Ok then, you’re going to like fermented vegetables. 

So read on.

How to ferment vegetables

Unfortunately, I had to be on antibiotics 3 times over the last 6 months. I absolutely hate taking them and believe me, if there was a way I could’ve avoided it, I would’ve. I’m a huge proponent of probiotics so while I was filling prescriptions in the drug store these past few months, I was simultaneously buying some kick ass probiotics to try and help keep some good bacteria in my system.

And let me tell you, the *good* probiotic pills, yeah, well they’re costly. 6 times more costly than the antibiotics in fact. So when the second round of antibiotics came around, I decided that instead of spending $30 on probiotic pills and $4 kombucha bottles every time I ventured into the hippie-mart (my loving name for the local natural foods store), I should probably look into this whole lacto-fermented vegetable thing.

Lacto-fermented vegetables

Lacto-fermented…it sounds crazy, right? First thing I thought was “wait, there’s milk in this?” Um, no. Lacto, in this case, doesn’t refer to milk, it refers to lactic-acid. The naturally occurring bacteria on fruits and vegetables is called lactobacillus. When they’re placed in an oxygen free environment, the bacteria convert sugar into lactic acid which is what gives fermented foods their characteristic tangy/sour flavor.

So now that the science lesson is out of the way, here’s the cool part: vegetables + water + salt + a few days = a probiotic powerhouse of tangy vegetable deliciousness. Bonus: it doesn’t cost $30 and they’ll last in the fridge for months.

How to Ferment Vegetables

What you’ll need to ferment vegetables:

You can literally ferment whatever vegetables you like. They’re perfect for snacking on or adding to your meals for a probiotic boost. I’ve been adding them to salads, on top of my protein with lunch or dinner or, just picking at them throughout the day when I’m bored. Yeah, a lot of that.

And this is where I’m going to sound like a total nerd, but every time I eat them I silently say “take that, antibiotics, you bitch.”

Kimchi is an Asian version of fermented vegetables so if you like that, you’ll definitely like these fermented vegetables.

Also make sure to try out this bulgogi kimchi rice plate and this kimchi potato hash.

Yield: 8-10 servings

How to ferment vegetables

An easy homemade tutorial on how to lacto-ferment vegetables in a mason jar.
Prep Time 4 days
Total Time 4 days

Ingredients

  • sliced or chopped vegetables (anything will do, I really like broccoli, radishes and carrots)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 quart wide mouth mason jar
  • plastic lid (not necessary, but if you're going to do this often, the regular metal lids will corrode from the acid)
  • any spices or herbs you like (peppercorns, dill, basil, bay leaf, etc.)
  • 1 small cabbage leaf

Instructions

  1. Place vegetables and any spices/herbs you're using in the mason jar right up to the bottom of the neck, there should be about 1 inch of space to the top.
  2. Stir the salt and water together until dissolved.
  3. Pour the salt water over the vegetables until it reaches just below the top of the jar. There should be about 1/2 inch of room left.
  4. Fold a small cabbage leaf and press it down on top of the vegetables so that it keeps the vegetables submerged in the salt water. This isn't necessary, but helps make sure the vegetables are submerged. Feel free to skip this step if you don't have cabbage on hand.
  5. Close the lid on the jar tightly and place the jars out of direct sunlight in a relatively moderate temperature (68-75 degrees).
  6. You will start to see some bubbling around day 2 or so. After day 2, over a sink (in case it leaks/drips), gently loosen the lids to let some of the gas escape once or twice a day.
  7. The vegetables are ready anywhere from day 4-10. The longer they sit, the more tangy they'll be. Taste them starting on day 4 to figure out your preference. I like them best around day 5 or 6.
  8. Once you decide they're the level of sourness you're looking for, place the the jar in the refrigerator where it will keep for a couple of months (not that they'll last that long!)
*Some links are affiliate links in this post. 

filed in: Guides
featuring:

89 Comments

    1. Running to the Kitchen Post author

      yes! I want to do fruit next :) Can’t get pickled peaches out of my mind…

      Reply
  1. Alison Z

    When you put the fermented veggies in the fridge, will the cold stop the fermenting process where it is? They look super yummy, thanks! (Also, made portobellos with the pickled jalapeno hash last weekend, delicious!)

    Reply
    1. Running to the Kitchen Post author

      It doesn’t stop it entirely but it slows it down A LOT. You’ll still hear some gas release when you open the jar after being in the fridge.

      Reply
  2. Sloane @ Life Food and Beer

    I’ve had multiple infections this year too and took 3 rounds of Antibiotic but kept having problems and even more problems from taking the meds. I started researching “hippie” medicine and started taking probiotics and eating lots of yogurt. It’s actually helped a lot. I’m really excited about this post, though. I’m SO TIRED of yogurt! I’ve also read about the benefits of raw garlic for bacterial infections.

    Reply
  3. Pingback: Fun Five Friday

  4. holly

    question – I have never done this before but lots of recipes I have seen before are using some sort of probiotic starter or something. is this necessary or can you just use water and salt?

    Reply
    1. Running to the Kitchen Post author

      I’ve seen it too. It’s not necessary though, just water and salt will work just fine :)

      Reply
  5. holly

    Hi there, it’s me again. I am on day 3. I let off some gas as instructed (should have done it yesterday). One of the jars let off quite dramatically and I lost some liquid, taking it under the veg so I topped it up. Was that the right thing to do? Also, I tried to press the veg down with a big round slice of apple (didn’t have any cabbage) and it worked when I first put it in the jar but the apple turned a brown and green colour so I took it out and replaced it with some baking paper. (I was really worried about mould, especially after I had to fully open the jar and top up the liquid. What’s the deal on any veg not being fully immersed? Will it spoil the whole jar or what?

    Sorry to be a pain, I am very interested in doing this and really like to understand how things work and get them right.

    Thanks in advance.

    Reply
    1. Running to the Kitchen Post author

      If you lose liquid when you let the gasses escape, just add a little water until the vegetables are covered again. If they’re exposed to air, they might form some mold. Honestly, it’s nothing to freak out about. Just scrape it off as best you can and you can still eat the fermented vegetables below it. This is pretty common actually, especially in warm weather.

      Reply
      1. Holly

        Hey there,

        Thanks for your last reply. You are so good at responding! Today was day 5 and I tried the veg. The good news is that they are definitely edible but quite salty. Does that mean I need to leave them longer? They’re not very tangy at all.

        Reply
        1. Running to the Kitchen Post author

          Hmm…did you use a quart size mason jar? Just want to make sure the water to salt ratio is right b/c at 1 1/2T of salt, they don’t seem particularly salty to me. I’m surprised there’s no “tang” to them yet after 5 days. You can let them sit longer as they should just get more tangy each day.

          Reply
      2. Helen X

        Hi. Been reading the comments and I’ve used baking paper to push down the vegetables instead of cabbage too. Will any nastiest leach out of the paper

        Reply
  6. Lisa

    Does it matter whether it’s tap water or bottled water? I’m inclined to use the Ozarka speing water.

    Reply
    1. Running to the Kitchen Post author

      It doesn’t although I would use the best available water you have at your disposal. I use tap water but we have a basic filter on it where it enters the house from the well.

      Reply
  7. Pingback: 85 Ways to Eat More Fermented Foods -

    1. Running to the Kitchen Post author

      Have you loosened the lid a little and heard the gasses leaving (like you would if you opened soda)? If not, try that and see. If you hear something, even if faint, you’re good.

      Reply
    1. Running to the Kitchen Post author

      I got them off amazon. I linked to it in the post and in the recipe, just click on the plastic lid link (it’s in that teal/green color) and it will take you to the ones I bought on Amazon.

      Reply
  8. Jacinda

    So should I heat the water so the salt dissolves? And then let the water cool before adding it to the veggies or no?

    Reply
  9. Connie

    While shopping to make some fermented veggies, I wondered how “leafy” veggies might do. Have you ever tried this? I was thinking about mustard greens, cilantro, swiss chard etc.

    Reply
  10. Beki

    I see in most recipes that the Jarvis only filled to the neck. Yet it’s suppose to be an oxygen free environment. Is the space between the end of the fill at the neck and the jar lid an oxygen issue?

    Reply
    1. Sia

      If the veggies are all below the brine then the veggies are in an anaerobic environment. If you have problems with the veggies floating, you can get pickle weights to hold them under.

      Reply
  11. Billy

    This is great! I really want to try fermenting my own stuff at home so I don’t have to buy anything from the grocery store any longer. I don’t really know how much I spend but I can guarantee its probably much easier and cheaper to just make my own! I’ll definitely give this recipe a try, thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  12. Kathy

    OK followed the recipe exactly. They bubbled and squirted like crazy. I was so excited it worked, But…. I went to taste the vegetables and they were Soooooo salty. What did I do wrong?

    Reply
  13. Jane Buie

    I did this with a friend and I misunderstood and did not tighten the lid down. The fluid in the jar has turned cloudy and I’m afraid to eat it now that I read your blog about tightening the lids !

    Reply
  14. Ivory

    Everyone please use distilled water. And if it’s too salty, use less salt. Did you mean to put 1 1/2 tsp, instead of tbsp?

    Reply
  15. Julie

    So excited to find youre extremely informative post on fermentation. I think I must have gotten on the same train as you. Haha. I had trouble finding a recipe that didnt involve buying a bunch of gimmicky products. Just a good old mason jar like my grandma used!!!
    THANKS ALOT!!!

    Reply
  16. Pam

    I tried making sauerkraut with Cutting Edge cultures and it was so nasty! I want to try veggies using the salt method. Is Himalayan salt okay, and can I use a silicon lid with a specially designed slit to allow the gas to release on its own?

    Reply
    1. Papricat

      Himalayan salt is great for fermented veggies ;) (also for sauerkraut and fermented polish cucumbers kiszone)

      Reply
  17. Todd

    I am also seeing some cloudy liquid – did that other post about the cloudy ever get answered? Still smells ok, and is bubbling like mad

    Reply
    1. Papricat

      Cloudy liquid is normal if smell isn’t off, even some mould on top is ok, you just should wash mould covered veggies before eating. Both are coused by fermenting bacteria.

      Reply
  18. txgrandma

    I’ve been fermenting for a while and this is the best article I’ve come across. It’s clear and short. Thanks for the great tips!

    Reply
  19. Paulpato

    Do you ever add any sweetener, sugar or honey, to make sweet-sour fermented veggies. If yes, which veggies and how much sweetener?

    Reply
  20. Alex

    Hey,

    Thank you for being so concise. It’s less intimidating and I feel like I can start this right now – unlike everywhere else I searched. So thank you for your brevity and simplicity.

    Alex

    Reply
  21. Mary Gilbert

    I’ve just started making kombucha which is similar but as a drink. I am so excited! I can’t wait to try your recipe with vegetables!

    Reply
  22. michael werboweckyj

    Thanks for the info ! I’m 65 male , exceptional shape and health , every fall I was the slave , hand shredding and salting bushels of cabbage and carrots to fill a 60 gallon oak barrel , canning everything under the sun and mincing crazy amounts of pork to fill 2 – 10 gallon crocks with sausages . We had a pretty large cold room in the basement , we never bought canned or processed food . I started working heavy construction at 14 and have rarely been to a doctor ! I’m getting more back to consuming what I grew up with and I can really feel the difference ! Processed at home Is best ! Thank You !

    Reply
  23. Kathy Jackson

    I just tried sauerkraut with a recipe from another site and it turned out WONDERFUL. My husband even likes it and he isn’t a fan of sauerkraut. Now, I’m hooked and can’t wait to make some of these veggies! Thank you for the simple recipe…I’ll repost after I’ve tried it!

    Reply
      1. Running to the Kitchen Post author

        Not sure what you mean – the recipe to make the fermented vegetables is at the bottom of the post.

        Reply
  24. Brigitte Krug

    Hi Gina
    Do I have to stirilising jars and lids and what would be the best method to do so ? Thanks for your posts love it
    Brigitte Australia

    Reply
    1. Running to the Kitchen Post author

      You don’t have to go through the sterilizing process like you would if you were actually canning something.

      Reply
  25. Pingback: Real Food is Real Medicine - Part 2- Giant Steps Towards Healing

  26. Jerry Oliver

    Chlorine and fluoride prevented my first batch from fermenting for over a month, first time.
    Thereafter I use only distilled water. Begins fermenting 1n 30 hours.
    Any veg is now my fave for snacking. Try Chinese mustard greens!

    Reply
  27. Fiona

    I want to start fermenting vegetables, but different sites are giving different information on how to do it. For cabbage, another site said that just cabbage and salt, and not adding water. The idea is that the salt draws the water out of the cabbage, and after several hours there is supposed to be enough liquid to submerge the cabbage. But you recommend making a brine with water and salt. Not sure which directions I should follow.

    Reply
    1. Tobias Brennvik

      Don’t need water for cabbage, just make sure something is pushing it down and water will computer of the cabbage naturally :)

      Reply
  28. Katie C

    I am excited I found your post! Last year my family had a brutal
    Cold and flu season. I finally found master tonic, which I feel really gave us the immunity boast we needed. I want to take it one step further and make it with fermented veggies! Thanks so much!!!

    Reply
  29. SH

    Recently I learned that you dont have to add water if you salt the veg and let it sit overnnight so the juices escape. Then you jar it up juice and all. if you need to add water to completely cover, go ahead.

    Doing the salt brine in the beginning is simply a time saver. In this case salt is optional as its just for flavor. (see John Bergman on you tube, he has a video tutorial on this).

    Reply
  30. Donna Linke

    Someone above asked what to do with the brine after the veggies are consumed. It is FULL of probiotics, too! I love to take a swig or two of it from the jar as I snack on the veggies…it’s delicious! I’ve been making sauerkraut for years. Whatever juice is left in the crock after the sauerkraut gets jarred up gets saved in its own jar & we drink it up a few sips at a time. Yum!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *