How To Ferment Vegetables


Fermenting vegetables is an ancient form of food preservation and one of the easiest to pull off. As a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator, I am super excited to walk you through – step by step – how to ferment a selection of common vegetables: cauliflower, carrots, beans, and radishes with garlic and chillies, to create a delicious and nutritious side that may support a healthy gut.

What is lacto fermentation?

Lacto-fermentation of foods is an ancient art. It’s been practiced for thousands of years as a way to preserve different foods. The process breaks down many vitamins and other nutrients into more easily digestible forms. Additionally, lacto-fermentation might increase the palatability and nutritional quality of food.

The majority of lacto-fermented foods are produced from raw veggies without the use of heat. Lacto-fermentation may appear complicated and perplexing to those who are unfamiliar with it. It’s really not! And no, it has nothing to do with dairy.

Lactic acid is the acid produced by lactic bacteria. On the surface of all fruits and vegetables, there are good bacteria such as Lactobacillus. These bacteria convert the sugars in food into lactic acid in an anaerobic (oxygen-free) environment.

It’s this compound that inhibits harmful germs while also acting as a preservative, which protects the vegetables from spoilage. In other words, lacto fermentation is the culturing of foods with lactic acid bacteria.

How To Ferment Vegetables

Fermenting Vegetables

Everyone is familiar with the tried and true pickle, or tried sauerkraut, both of which are fermented vegetables. But fermenting goes way beyond cucumbers and cabbage.

Almost any vegetable can be fermented, and fermenting farm-fresh produce is a great way to provide good nutrition year-round! Fermenting one vegetable alone or creating a mix of many different vegetables, along with herbs and spices, can create a great variety of cultured foods. Below is what you’ll need to get started fermenting.

How to Ferment Vegetables

While fermenting vegetables does not require a lot of specialized equipment, using the appropriate equipment can make all the difference when getting started. From a good chopping knife to the right fermentation vessel, you’ll want to pick equipment to fit your needs.

What you’ll need to ferment vegetables:

  • 1 quart wide mouth mason jar
  • plastic lid
  • sea salt
  • water

You can literally ferment whatever vegetables you like. If you ferment cabbage you get red cabbage sauerkraut!

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.

I do the same with pickled garlic scapes – another vegetable that transforms into a tangy delight once fermented/pickled.

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.


  • sliced or chopped vegetables (anything will do, I really like broccoli, radishes and carrots)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon coarse 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


  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!)

Our Favorite Fermented Vegetables:

Lots of vegetables make great fermented treats, but some are better suited to the fermentation process than others. Check out our fermenting recipes for some specific ideas. But in general, these vegetables tent to turn out the best during the fermenting process:

  • Cabbage
  • Green Beans
  • Carrots
  • Tomatoes
  • Hot Peppers
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Beets
  • Cauliflower

But don’t limit yourself to this list! Almost all vegetables can be fermented. Just do a little experimentation and see what new discoveries you can turn up!

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