While fermentation might seem intimidating, it is one of the oldest and most dependable forms of food preservation in the world – this ancient technique uses bacteria to naturally preserve foods and is responsible for many popular and healthy beverages and foods around the world.
Whether you want to incorporate more fermented foods into your diet for the health benefits associated with them or you’re just looking to experiment with some new flavors and ethnic foods from around the world, fermented foods have a lot to offer.
Here are some of the best fermented recipes, ranging from main dishes to classic fermented drinks, you can make to incorporate more probiotics into your daily diet.
1. Homemade Yogurt
Yogurt is one of the oldest foods on the planet, with shepherds in Turkey making it as a dietary staple as far back as 3000 BCE. It is a calcium-rich and delicious snack that is high in both protein and lactic acid, a chemical that promotes healthy skin. Yogurt is also famous for its probiotics that can contribute to digestive health and a strong immune system.
2. Sourdough Bread
It’s surprisingly easy to make sourdough at home that rivals the great artisanal bakeries of the world. The secret is in the starter, which takes some time to ferment, but is quite simple to make with a little patience. In fact, the hardest part of baking fresh sourdough is waiting 1-2 hours for it to cool completely!
3. Fermented Pickles
While many kinds of traditional pickles are preserved with vinegar, pickles can also be preserved using fermentation from the bacteria present on the surface of the cucumbers. It’s that same tanginess, just from a different source. Throw in some dill, chiles, garlic, and whatever else you like to give your creation a unique flavor.
Kefir is a fermented drink made of cow or goat’s milk that has a consistency and flavor similar to liquid yogurt. Along with simply drinking it on its own, kefir is also a great ingredient in smoothies, salad dressings, popsicles, and ice cream. Be aware that if you’re using kefir for its probiotic properties, cooking with it will reduce those some of those properties by killing off beneficial bacteria with heat.
Sauerkraut is a type of spiced and fermented cabbage that many people may be familiar with as an important component of German cuisine. The signature sour flavor of sauerkraut is a result of the bacteria that preserves it. Along with this beneficial bacteria, sauerkraut also has high levels of vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants.
Kombucha is a type of sparkling fermented tea with a small amount of alcohol and caffeine. Despite its recent popularity in the West, kombucha is actually a beverage that has been around in China for thousands of years. Kombucha is prized for its health properties due to its high levels of vitamin B and folic acid, which aid the human body in cellular regeneration.
Miso is a type of fermented bean paste that is popular in Asian dishes as a way to add umami (or savory) flavor to cooked dishes. Miso is created with fermented soybeans, salt, and a type of mold known as koji. Miso is especially popular in Japan, and you’ll have no problem finding tons of delicious recipes that incorporate it.
Like miso, tempeh is a type of Asian food created from fermented soybeans that have been pressed into a block in a technique similar to the creation of tofu. Tempeh is very popular in vegetarian and vegan dishes as a protein substitute for meat. This Indonesian soy product has a naturally earthy and nutty flavor, but like tofu, tempeh is also good at absorbing the flavor of sauces and marinades.
9. Beet Kvass
Beet kvass is a traditional medicinal tonic from central Europe that has a lot of essential minerals such as iron, magnesium, potassium, calcium, and manganese. The process of making kvass is super simple, requiring only beets, salt, and water, but a starter culture can be useful in jumpstarting the process.
10. Ginger Ale
Ginger ale is a carbonated soft drink made from fermented ginger that has a spicy and sweet taste. It is commonly mistaken for ginger beer, but ginger beer has a much stronger ginger flavor. Modern ginger ale that is produced commercially is carbonated manually with carbon dioxide, but traditional fermented ginger ale is carbonated via fermentation.
11. Hot Sauce
The possibilities are endless when fermenting your own hot sauce. You can use any combination of peppers you like, so long as some add a little heat. From there it’s up to you – make it more garlicky, sweet, or downright painful! It’s recommended to go easy on the habaneros and serranos your first time.
Whether you want to master kombucha or make tempeh for your own vegan main courses, learning how to effectively ferment foods can be a great way to enhance the nutritional profile of your diet. With just a little practice, you can create delicious foods that are full of the vital nutrients your body needs.