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?

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

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.

How to ferment 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.

What you’ll need:
1 quart wide mouth mason jar
plastic lid
sea salt
water

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.”

Serves 8-10     adjust servings

How to ferment vegetables

Preparation 96 hr Prep Time
Cook Time
Total Time Total Time

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

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. 

49 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
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  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
  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
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    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
  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

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