How to Make Lacto-Fermented Vegetables

Ali Segersten Feb 13, 2012

Lacto-fermented vegetables are cultured vegetables. You've probably heard of sauerkraut, kim chi, and sour dill pickles, right? These are all forms of lacto-fermentation. Many people use whey as a starter but it is not necessary given you use enough salt. Making your own lacto-fermented veggies is so easy that once you start you'll be hooked!

Traditionally, lacto-fermentation was used to preserve the harvest and store vegetables for the winter. If you have a garden full of cabbage, cauliflower, beets, carrots, and green beans and don't know how to store them all, consider making a few batches of lacto-fermented vegetables. These veggies can be stored in your refrigerator for months....if they last that long!

Lacto-fermented vegetables provide a viable source of probiotics (at a cost well below most supplements) to heal and maintain a healthy gut. These beneficial microorganisms attach to receptors in our guts that send a signal to the immune system that says everything is okay, no need to overreact to foods and other things entering the gut, let's keep everything calm. If you are dealing with multiple allergies, chances are your gut is out of balance and is in need of a daily dose of beneficial microorganisms. These crispy, sour, salty vegetables are highly addicting and an easy, economical way to maintain a healthy gut. These vegetables are also important to include daily if you are following our Elimination Diet.

Use your lacto-fermented vegetables to top cooked quinoa, beans, and chopped leafy greens. Serve them atop grilled fish or chicken. Serve them with scrambled eggs for breakfast. Serve them as an appetizer for a holiday meal. I like to add them to salmon or chicken salads made with mayonnaise. And try to restrain yourself from eating the whole jar in one may be a little too much salt all at once! You can also whisk some of the leftover brine with olive oil, a squirt of dijon mustard, and a dash of honey for a probiotic salad dressing! 

Tom graciously helped me make a video for you on how to make lacto-fermented vegetables! After many video takes (with Tom behind the camera recording me), my postpartum baby brain could not quite deliver the message as succinctly as I wanted, so he stepped in, and in one take we finished this video (even though he had never made lacto-fermented veggies before)!


What a cool video guys!! thank you for sharing!!! TOM, that hair!! You're starting to look like my husband! Really enjoyed the tutorial. I've done this several times with cabbage, but never with other vegetables.. looking forward to trying it out!

Thanks for the tutorial, I am a visual learner and love to see it rather than read it. I am wondering if the cabbage leaf on top is required? Is there a substitute I could use as I don't care for cabbage?

Thank again,

this is wonderful! I have been wanting to try lacto-fermenting my own veggies for a while, but all the other recipes online seemed confusing or daunting. Thank you for such a straightforward, easy post. I can't wait to try it!

I've always wanted to do this but have been too intimidated. Thank you for making this simple! Looks so good!
Heather Gerard

You mentioned in the newsletter fermenting without the salt, using Lemon Juice what might that look like in terms of lemon juice to water ratio. Also what do you think about using actual fermenting type products such as Body Ecology. I have used it with really good success but have been hesitant to do salt. I like the idea of Lemon Juice!

I'd like to know how the lemon juice to water ratio too as my kids complain about my veggies being too salty. Thanks!

Great video!! Thanks for making it so clear, so beautiful, and so smart. Roxanne Sukol MD "Your Health is on Your Plate"

wonderful post! and love the video! just a question: i thought either cabbage or cucumbers had to be included in the fermented veggies in order for the proper bacteria to grow...can you clarify this?

This is great, I've fermented cabbage before with mixed results. It comes out different everytime. I'm going to give this a try. I was wondering where you purchased your containers, I've been looking for a good fermenting container.

Karen - The cabbage is there to serve as a "weight" and hold down the veggies so they stay submerged in the water (and also offer some beneficial bacteria). It is not meant for eating. Once the veggies are done, you remove the cabbage leaf and compost it. If you really don't want to use it you can place a smaller plastic lid on top of the veggies with a boiled rock or some other weight to keep the vegetables submerged.

Tasharuu, Rochelle - I have not tried the lemon juice method with this type of lacto-fermentation so not sure if it could work. I was referring to the type where the majority of the vegetables used are finely ground cabbage. There isn't a brine as the juices from the cabbage are enough to cover the ground vegetables. I may need to experiment now and see if it works!

Jennifer and Jaclyn - Lactobacilli are found on all vegetables and fruits in varying amounts. Cabbage and pickling cucumbers have a lot. I've fermented all sorts of veggies, even without the cabbage leaf present, and they all work.

J - Those are just wide-mouthed quart jars which you can buy practically anywhere...your local food co-op, grocery store, etc. I also have a Harsch Fermentation Crock which I purchased through Azure Standard (free shipping).

Thank you, thank you! This is my new obsession and your video will be helpful. We made fermented veggies for the first time that were ready yesterday and the only problem was that we ate half the quart immediately!

This is great Ali, and awesome job with the video Tom!

I have wanted to try this for awhile now, but seeing your pretty photos and easy recipe is much more inspiring. Thank you!

I was wondering about the green beans. In traditional canning we are warned about them producing dangerous if not lethal toxins if not processed properly. Is this an issue with lacto fermation as well?

Star - I think you are referring to the botulism toxin. Green beans and other low-acid vegetables need to be pressure canned to destroy botulism. Botulism grows in low-acid, anaerobic environments. When you ferment fresh vegetables you encourage the growth of bacteria that produce acid. The acidic environment does not allow for botulism to grow. It is only something you need to be concerned about when canning, not fermenting. :)

If you ever come up with a way to make Natto at home I would love to see a tutorial. I loves me some Natto.

This is such a helpful post because I am on the Elimiation diet right now and needed something to give my Phase 1 meals a little extra kick. However, I was hoping you could clarify why some of the items not allowed in Phase 1 are not reintroduced lated in a subsequent phase. Specifically vanilla, vinegar, buckwheat, and mushrooms. I have noticed that this question has come up before in the comments list and I was hoping for a confirmation that they are ok after Phase 1. Thank you so much for all the work you have put into this website--it, (along with your cookbook), has been an incredible resource for me.

Wow you make it sound so simple and stress free. I've wanted to make these for so long but my fear of "canning" and poisoning everyone in the house keeps me rooted to my chair!!!

You inspire me to just try it!!!

I'm trying this tonight!! I've made two jars so far. Do I need to scoop off "scum" before eating? Some other blogs say to do that, especially when adding cabbage in with the other veggies or can I just eat it right away? Thanks!!!

amazing!! what a wonderful post.
I adore fermented veggies.
peace & raw health,

I've been lurking on your site for quite awhile. I love your recipes and I can't wait to try this. I've been wanting to try fermenting at home and really appreciate the video!!

Thank you! I have been looking to try making lacto-fermented veggies but have always been put off by the need for whey in recipes. Now I have a way! Can't wait to try it!

Just checked on my first batches of fermented veggies. They are on their seventh day and are definitely on their way to being very tasty. They're tasty now but need at least three more days.

I tried one batch with lemon juice (4 tablespoons juice per 2 cups of water). They did NOT turn out. BLEAH! More lemon juice will be needed if this method is to be successful.

Besides making dressing with the brine, is there anything else that can be done with it? Can I use it again to pickle more veggies?

This is great! I'm getting together with some friends this weekend and trying it together ;).

I never thought about fermenting cauliflower! I love it pickled so I'm sure I'll love it fermented. Can't wait to try it.. thanks

Just another positive comment here on how easy this looks now! I have also been wanting to try this for a while and have been daunted by the details. I may just pick up some veggies and plastic lids on the way home from work today and get started. Thank you!


Thanks everyone for the comments! I am glad this post and video are helpful. Some things just have to be demonstrated by video. We are hoping to do more of this, time-permitting! :)

Lindsay - You can check our elimination diet FAQ page to answer those questions:

Anon - Yes, if you find a little scum floating on the top, just scoop it out.

Jacob - Thanks for experimenting with the lemon, I didn't think it would work, nice to hear you confirm this. As far as using the brine over....I have heard people doing this, however, you need to be careful about diluting the brine. Vegetables contain water, so your ratio of salt/water would be thrown off. You can add a few tablespoons of leftover brine to "start" your next batch. I've also added it to bowls of soup (a few tablespoons) for flavoring and nutrition.

I just tasted my first batch, they are fairly salty. Are they supposed to be that way? I used 1.5 tbls of sea salt. It has been 5 days. Thank you for sharing such a helpful video, we've been wanting to make these for some time but I've been a little to scared to try!!

Cecile - I would suggest screwing the lid back on and letting them ferment for a couple more days. When you are tasting predominately salt and not sour it means that they have not fermented long enough. Sometimes it takes 10 days depending on the temperature in your home. The cooler your house the longer it will take. Also, using more salt slows down fermentation. A couple of days from now they will be tangy and delicious! :)

Thanks for the video! Been reading about "ferments" here and there and hadn't had a chance to do any research. Your video jump started my understanding.

Would you say that your list of veggies is fairly inclusive of what can be used? Maybe the better question is what veggies CAN'T be fermented? Is there this type of can/can't list out there somewhere?


Wow!!! first batch ready to eat and my veg are all fizzy!!! Taste's soooo good! I think fizziness is normal?? Fantastic 'recipe', especially the 10 mnth old love´s her cucumber this way. she smiles all over when she feels the tingle on her tongue :)

Hello I have a quick question about the Fermented Veggies. I made a batch of rainbow color betters and black radishes. I put them on the top of the fridge like but they received some sunlight this weekend. I live in Minnesota and we have not gotten sunshine until this weekend. Should I discard the veggies? I am afraid of food-borne illness. I am appreciated of your work. I love the cookbook! It sits on my kitchen console, when people come over they ask about the cookbook and I don't hesitate to pass along nothing but good reviews. Than you!

Allie - Most veggies can be fermented. As far as I know, potatoes, mushrooms, and winter squash are not good for fermenting. I don't know of any lists but you could check this site for more info on ferments:

Monifah - Fermented foods are so great for older babies, thanks for sharing how much your baby enjoys them!

Lili - I wouldn't worry about a little sunlight at all. I had 2 jars on the counter once that I forgot to put up on the fridge, they had about 2 days of sunlight before I realized it. They turned out perfectly fine.

Thanks so much for this post. I am very excited to try it!

I was am super excited about this! I made up a jar about 4 days ago, but I have a question. Is the liquid suppose to get cloudy or did I do something wrong? I started three more jars yesterday and I would really hate to have to throw all of them away if I am doing something wrong.

Tina - Cloudy is perfectly fine. Most of my ferments get cloudy...a sign of a healthy culture! There is natural sediment that can form during fermentation and when the jar is moved, the water can get cloudy.

Thanks for the reply! So excited for them to be ready!

Other sites talk about mold have you had any issues with mold growing on them?

Anon - we have not had any issues with mold. Here are some reasons that mold can begin to grow:

-not enough brine covering the vegetables.
-check after 3 days to see if you have enough brine, add more if needed
-ratio of salt to water is off (veggies that contain a lot of water can throw the balance off)
-if you are experiencing mold, use 1 1/2 tablespoons salt instead of 1
-using chlorinated water can kill beneficial microorganisms trying to establish themselves.
-Always use filtered water.

Ali - My favorite fermented veggies so far are carrots (with rosemary). Even my two-year-old loves them.

I've used a couple of Tbsp of the brine as a starter on a couple of jars (thus dispensing with the cabbage) and things have turned out fine. I've even tried reusing just the brine for a batch and that worked out, too. Seems like you can get at least two batches of veggies out of a jar of brine.

Here's something interesting that I've noticed. And this might be of interest to those people fermenting their veggies who are turned off by the saltiness. After I fermented the veggies for a week, I put them in the fridge. After being in the fridge for three or more weeks, the salt seems to fall out of solution and collect at the bottom of the jar. This leaves the veggies with a much less salty taste (just the tang of the fermentation). It's hard to wait this long, but the flavor can be worth it. I've duplicated this a couple of times.

So if we are off yeast for 28 days during the elimination diet how can we have fermented veggies in phase 1? I'm sensitive to baker's and brewer's yeast and I can't eat anything fermented. I'm very confused.

Little Monkey- Lacto-fermented vegetables are different that other fermented foods not allowed on an anti-candida diet, like wine, beer, and certain types of vinegar. These vegetables are teaming with beneficial bacteria - just the thing you want to be eating daily to overcome yeast overgrowth. The addition of the garlic and onions makes them especially beneficial for getting rid of candida. Raw sauerkraut and kim chi are also great! Enjoy!

where do you get those cool lids for pickling? do they fit on Mason jars?

I made these 2 days ago and they are bubbling away on the counter. I can hear them releasing bubbles from across the room! Does this mean they are ready to be transferred to the fridge, even though it's only been 2 days? If I move or shake the jar, there are tons of bubbles. It's not particularly not in my house. I used 1.5 T of salt. They seem very active. Just not sure if you can over-ferment on the counter by leaving them out too long - once they start bubbling?
Thank you, Candice.

Quick question - are you supposed to wash and peel the vegetables before fermenting? (I'm wondering about beets and cucumber, specifically) I read somewhere that washing can remove some or most of the good bacteria...

Hi Ali! I LOVE your cookbook and love, love the fermented veggies I just made from your recipes here. My question is that I am wondering if fermented foods, using this sea salt method also contain natural yeasts. My son does not do well on these beneficial yeasts, such as S. Boullardi. I have been hesistant to give him the ferments, b/c of this. Also, are any of the "strep" strains naturally occuring in these lacto ferments? We are also avoiding the strep strains with him. Thanks so much!

I have a jar of baby carrots lacto fermenting on the counter. They are submered, no exposure to air. I put a plactic baggie of brine on top to weight them down.

I read in the comments if the liquid gets cloudy (mine is after 4 days), it's OK. However, mine has also developed a white foam next to the plastic bad on the top sides (it isn't toughing the carrots). Have you ever had this happen?

I used 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt and I have after 4 days, I have mold on the top. I have read from other sites to scoop the mold out and it is fine to eat. Your thoughts? I am allergic to mold.

Ok, sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you all here.......

Amy - those plastic lids can be found here:

Candice - It really takes at least 5 days to properly ferment vegetables so make sure to do it at least until that time, but sometimes it can take up to 10 days, even if you are seeing a lot of bubbling at 2 days. I sometimes ferment my sauerkraut for 4 to 6 weeks (which is most preferable for cabbage).

Mork - I peel beets before fermenting but not cucumbers. I usually rinse off any dirt on veggies before fermenting.

Angela - I believe that vegetable ferments do contain some beneficial yeasts as well as lactobacilli. I am not sure about the strep stains though, sorry!

Lynn - I've never seen white foam on any of my ferments that I can recall. It may be fine, just scoop it out before consuming.

Kelly H - If you are seeing mold then your vegetables are not properly fermenting. It may also be (see above comment for more reasons) that you have too much oxygen getting into your container. Oxygen allows mold to grow. If you see mold then I would compost your veggies and start over. Using a ceramic fermenting crock can produce better results. I love my Harsch crock! They are worth the investment. You can also use the Pickle-It jars to keep mold from growing: . Hope this helps!

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