Sayward’s Seven Favorite Fermented Foods

December 12th, 2011 - filed under: The Food » Food and Health

Ahh, winter. The season for sturdy boots, books by the fire, boardgames and blankies . . . and dietary indulgences! No matter your religion or geography, between Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Solstice, Christmas, New Years and more, you’re probably partaking in some winter festivities. You might be traveling and you’ll most likely drop your daily routine. Almost certainly, you’ll be eating different – and more decadent – foods. And that’s just as it should be! But still, the sudden switch can really do a number on the ol’ insides.

Probiotics are important year-round, but during times of digestive stress, they can be downright lifesavers. So if you’re looking for an easy way to fight “celebration belly” (ha!), my best suggestion is to eat some fermented foods each day. Here are a few of my favorites:

1. Tempeh
Tempeh is made of whole soy beans, and sometimes whole grains, which are pressed into a patty and then cultured with a special fungus. This process bestows tempeh with a higher protein and vitamin content than other forms of soy. It also gives tempeh that unique, earthy flavor. I have high hopes of making my own tempeh in 2012, but until then I’m still doing store-bought. I like Trader Joe’s for super cheap organic goodness, or LightLife for a gluten-free variety.

Tip: Lightly steam your tempeh (just 5-10 minutes) before you use it. This will cut down on some of the bitterness that newbies may not enjoy. After steaming, use just as instructed.

2. Coconut Yogurt
You can culture any plant-milk to make a yogurt, but coconut is by far my favorite. It’s rich and creamy and tangy and DANG, it’s just so! delicious! I like to make my own, but the commercial stuff (called, wouldn’t you know it? So Delicious) is pretty good. They even make a Greek-style now!

Tip: Use plain unsweetened yogurt in place of sour cream for any savory dish, like tacos or tofu scramble. Or, pop it in the freezer for some homemade frozen yogurt!

3. Sauerkraut
It’s not just for kielbasa! Sauerkraut is an amazingly healthful treat, salty and savory and yum yum yummy. I like to eat a forkful all by itself while I’m browsing the fridge, but that’s just me. You can also put it on sandwiches, veggie burgers, not-dogs, salads, savory grits, and anything else your mind can imagine. I make my own, but commercial brands such as Bubbies are pretty widely available. Just make sure it says “unpasteurized” or “live cultures” on the jar.

Bonus!: Sauerkraut is super high in vitamin C, so eat a bit each day for a super immunity boost!

4. Kombucha
My very first fermented love. How I adore thee, sweet mushroom tea. ♥ ♥ ♥ If you don’t already make your own kombucha, it’s pretty easy to find pre-bottled brew these days. GT Dave’s is everywhere, and smaller artisan varieties are popping up up all over the place. Kombucha is nice because you can drink it discreetly and your relatives won’t give you the side-eye.

Tip: To keep it even more incognito, use kombucha as the liquid base of a smoothie. You’ll get the probiotic punch and the super smoothie nutrition all in one!

5. Miso
Miso is easy to use and as a soup it’s pretty familiar, so you may even be able to serve it to your relatives. It’s purchased as a paste, usually made from fermented soy beans, though these days you can often find chickpea or other soy-free versions. Light miso is a best bet for beginners. Cooking instructions will depend on the product, but they’ll be on the package so don’t worry.

Tip: Miso adds a salty, umami quality to any sauce or spread. Throw a tablespoon into salad dressings, dips, or other homemade condiments.

6. Pickles
Cucumbers are the most common variety, but any vegetable can be pickled using traditional lacto-fermentation techniques. Gingered carrots, spiced beets, or any other amazing combination you can imagine! Pickled veggies are easy to make at home, but they can be harder to find in stores (most “pickles” are vinegared, not fermented). Again, Bubbies is a reliable brand, or check your local health food store, Farmer’s Market, or craft fair for artisan offerings.

Bonus!: Pickling vegetables makes them taste great – salty and crunchy and totally unique. A lot of kids who may shun veggies that are cooked or raw, often like them in pickled form. And the best part is, pickling actually increases vitamin content!

7. Apple Cider Vinegar
Real raw unpasteurized ACV is one of my all-time favorite fermented foods. It’s similar to kombucha actually, and making it is also high on my list of 2012 projects! But for now, I go store-bought. Make sure that your bottle says “unpasteurized” or “living food”. Bragg and Solana Gold are great brands; the Trader Joe’s ACV is pasteurized.

Tip: ACV is easy to slip into many dishes. Try replacing half the vinegar in salad dressings, or half the lemon juice in hummus dip. I think it tastes great!


So there it is, the very best of fermented fabulousness! And with that, I hope you have an awesome and indulgent winter season, my dears.

Now you tell me – what’s your favorite fermented food??

  • Kiinake

    Oo yes hapukapsas is good ;)

  • Christine

    “Celebration belly” ! I love it!

  • erosan

    ACV! why am not making my own yet! you are posting a DIY tutorial right? right?

  • Angela

    I love pickled/fermented foods. One way I like to eat sauerkraut is on potato leek soup. It gives it some crunch and the tanginess adds an extra level to the flavor. Thanks for the tips on how to make your own fermented foods!

  • GreenFeatherHerbs

    Great post! My list is very similar to yours. I like fermenting herbal infusions…but I add whey.

  • Monika {windycityvegan}

    You said umami. :)

    I’m getting ready to go on a fermented foods frenzy, so the timing of this couldn’t be better! I will probably set several jars out to percolate while we’re in Chicago.

    Plain unsweetened yogurt is my ‘secret’ ingredient in garlic mashers – so good!

  • Schapacon

    I FINALLY got Sandor Katz’s book “Wild Fermentation” this past summer and it has been ON ever since. First a little shout out – I love that guy! Sauerkraut and kimchi are my favorites. I love the infinite variations and the way they develop over time – especially when something that was meh after a few weeks can be wowza just a week later.
    p.s. Tiny tiny brussels sprouts are very cute in the mix.


  • Anonymous

    I would love to hear about how you ferment herbal infusions…sounds awesome!

  • erica

    i love all these things, but my fave fermented food would be beer :)

  • bitt

    great list!

  • Gena

    I love fermented foods. Now that kombucha has finally grown on me, it’s one of my favorites, as are kraut and ACV. I also like to ferment nut cheeses at home!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Ahhh, how could I forget homemade nut cheese?? Definitely one of the very best. I’ve actually been meaning to post a tutorial, so thanks for the reminder lady!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Haha, YES!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Aw, yay for the Sandorkraut love, and I couldn’t agree more! =D

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Ooh, will you be doing homegrown veggies? Which ones which ones???

  • Sayward Rebhal

    I would also love to hear more about fermented herbal infusions . . .

  • Sayward Rebhal

    That sounds seriously delicious. Now I’m craving potato leek soup!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Definitely, just as soon as I DO it, haha

  • erosan

    Ha! I have blind faith in you… I read this list like Seven favorite fermeted foods I ferment myself… I guess I assumed you made them from the collection of jars on the photo. :P

  • Annie

    Coconut yoghurt and berries is deliciousness.
    My favourite fermented thing is Cider. I’m not big on beer, but I really need to get back into homebrewing cider. (Hard cider, that is)

  • Rachel@MyNaturallyFrugalFamily

    I never thought to put apple cider vinegar in hummus, but I will have to give it a go next time I whip a batch up.
    On a side note I cannot wait for January 18th and the new raw cookbook. Way to go Sayward.

    Have a great day!

  • Kaitlyn@TheTieDyeFiles

    Fermented foods are my savior! I’ve been making my own kombucha for months and just started my first batch of sauerkraut. I love ACV, you made me want to make that too! And I have a big tub of miso but I’ve only used it once. Time to get crackin! Once I get around to getting more mason jars I plan on pickling some veggies too.

  • Fran@BCDC

    Great info, Sayward! I didn’t know a lot about this. I wish I could find kombucha in my area. It’s very boring around here!

  • GreenFeatherHerbs

    1. Make a quart of herbal infusion (chamomile is nice, so are elderberries). Let it infuse for several hours then strain.
    2. Add a couple tablespoons of sugar or local raw honey.
    3. Pour about 1/2-1 cup of whey into the bottom of a clean quart jar. (I use raw cow’s milk yogurt whey, but there must be a vegan alternative to whey?)
    4. Add infusion to jar until close to the neck of the jar.
    5. Add two or three slices of fresh ginger.
    6. Cover loosely with lid or cloth.
    7. Let sit for two-three days.
    8. Taste test…kind of like kombucha–everyone’s preference is different.
    9. Store in a cool dark place, in an airtight jar.

    Enjoy! And let me know if you ladies try it…I’d love to hear the results :)

  • Julie

    Yes please! I’ve never had nut cheese but I’m anxious to try it.

  • Julie

    Sauerkraut is my all-time favorite but I LOVE dill pickled green beans and more recently I have made a Mexican styley kraut with green cabbage + sliced jalapenos + thinly sliced carrots + GARLIC! So so good on top of my vegetarian (speecy spicy) chili with a dallop of plain yogurt.

  • Andrea

    my number one fermented food is definitely soy sauce :) 2. are all kind of olives and 3. place goes to vine cos manyof the dishes and sauces wouldn’t be so tasty without the use of wine, but I have a bigger list of my favorite vinegared food:1. sottaceti (literally translated: sotto-under and aceto-vinegar) it is a combination of various vegetables (carrots, peppers, cauliflower, onions…with some spices as pepper and fennel) 2. capers 3. kalamata olives 4. roasted and pickled peppers 5. cipollette (small onions) in balsamic vinegar……oh now I’m hungry;)

  • Andrea

    Oh I almost forgot to mention Rejuvelac!!! <3

  • Sara J. Owen

    Thanks for the ACV tip – replacing half the lemon juice in hummus – can’t wait to try it!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Yes! I splash ACV into pretty much everything, haha.

  • Cynthia

    My daughter is allergic to citrus so we replace all citrus with Braggs ACV.

  • Elliecan Pelican

    hi! just found your page!
    i am a vego with vegan partner…. i have been getting into ferments for almost a year, my kids love sauerkraut now, my partner is still a bit squeamish. so,as far as my brief foray into your page goes, can i assume you are vegan? i am wanting to connect with fermenty others!
    yay! Ellie

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Yes ma’am, definitely vegan! Hello to a ferment-y friend. =D

  • Suze

    I would love to ear saurkraut and other fermetned foods, but I have severe osteoporosis and have to avoid salt as it leeches the calcium from the bones…any suggestions. Also I would love to use a low sodium tamari, but it’s not available in the UK.

    I love your website, the best I have come across. :o)

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Yogurt, kombucha, and kefir! =D

  • Anonymous

    Why don’t you have kimchi on your list? It’s cheap and keeps the plumbing clean. I take one or two spoonfuls whenever I’m near the fridge. Get at local Asian food store.

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  • skeptk_vegan

    This is a great list! I would like to point out however that LightLife (recommended in the tempeh section) is one of those brands that I have boycotted, as they are a massive distributor of factory farmed beef. They are owned by ConAgra, who has spent big bucks making sure that the GMO labeling movement does not succeed. :(

  • laura m.

    I use the raw vinegar mix with a little water with meal. Heinz now makes a raw apple cider vinegar. I use Braggs also. Also I take pro biotics.

  • Toni Dill

    I bought kombucha at a health food store and thought it was gross, tasted like beer, I dislike beer. Is the at how it is supposed to taste? I dumped it in a plant lol

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Yup, it tastes a bit like vinegar and a bit like beer. Definitely an acquired taste!