Fermented beets taste even better than regular beets! I find the high sugar content of beets kind of cloying, and the fermentation process reduces the sugar and results in a beet that is flavorful without being overwhelmingly sweet. Additionally, this recipe is a great way to enjoy your beets because it’s also teeming with live enzymes and beneficial bacteria that promote gut health.
Why Fermented Beets Instead Of Pickled Beets?
Beets have never been one of my favorite vegetables, but they have so many health benefits that I knew I needed to include them in my diet.
When I discovered fermentation, I decided to try fermentng beets, too. Now this is one of my favorite ways to enjoy beets (I also enjoy beetroot juice in my fresh juices). It’s amazing how lacto-fermentation (nothing to do with dairy, but rather lactic acid bacteria) transform foods for the better!
When you make pickled beets, typically you will make a vinegar, sugar and spice solution, mix with hot water (or boil together) and throw it over cut up beets in a large jar. Most people can eat these in limited amounts, but cannot tolerate much due to the acidity of the vinegar.
Lacto-fermented beets, on the other hand, uses the same process that makes natural sour pickles. It uses a salt water brine and doesn’t require additional sugar to help cut the acidity. It is also still a living food, retaining and creating enzymes and allowing beneficial bacteria to flourish. It’s wholesome and nutritious, not as sour, really doesn’t require too much salt. It doesn’t require a hot brine, and generally will actually have more than enough brine to cover the beets until they’re done. You can actually enjoy the extra brine from fermented beets as a drink on its own or addition to homemade concoctions, adding a splash of color and flavor.
Health Benefits of Beets
There are many great reasons to love beets. For one, they have high Vitamin C content naturally, and also have a healthy dose of iron. Vitamin C and iron work synergistically, and fermentation makes both more bioavailable. This makes beets a great food for those who are anemic!
Beets also increase nitric oxide levels, which can help prevent heart disease. This also leads to healthy blood pressure because nitric oxide regulates blood flow and blood circulation by relaxing and dilating blood vessels. If you want to learn more about the importance of nitric oxide for a healthy cardiovascular system, check out this article. It gets very technical, but you’ll understand why this molecule is so important to our bodies!
Beets also have anti-inflammatory properties, due to the phytonutrients it contains. There are multiple studies underway that show that phytonutrients are important for our immune system, cognitive function, recovery and more.
Beets are also great for our digestive systems! They are a good source of dietary fiber, aid in detoxification, and even more awesome when fermented since they’ll then be loaded with live enzymes and probiotics!
How To Ferment Beets
To ferment beets, you’ll need a few supplies. Mainly, a quart jar to ferment in. I use special fermenting vessels with airlock lids for all my fermentation recipes. Using an anaerobic environment for your fermented foods helps reduce the chances of a failed ferment. The airlock lids allow carbon dioxide to escape the jar while locking out oxygen. It results in safer, more vibrant, more tasty ferments, so the additional cost is WELL worth it! Check out this post about the supplies I recommend for fermenting.
You’ll also need about 1lb of raw beets per quart jar. I recommend organic beets as that gives you the greatest chance of having fresh, unsprayed beets with the proper live bacteria and nutrients to fuel fermentation. But, you can choose to use any type of beet. Red beets will give you a deep crimson color, while golden beets will give you a light yellow end product. Chioggia beets will give you a lovely light pink color! They’ll equally result in delicious probiotic foods your whole family can enjoy.
You’ll need garlic, onions and pure sea salt (some like to use Himalayan Pink Salt, but I use this salt. I also recommend using a fermentation weight, but if you don’t have one handy you can use a small glass mason jar or swirl the jar 1-2x daily to discourage the growth of kahm yeast or mold on the surface of your beets. Kahm yeast is generally regarded as safe to consume, but it does change the flavor (in a negative way) and can also result in mushy beets. If your ferment molds, it is not safe to consume as it may contain harmful bacteria and yeast.
I can’t stress how important it is to use fresh produce for your ferments! Fermentation is great to preserve vegetables and help you save money, but it’s best to do your fermenting when you’ve just bought your produce rather than when it’s starting to go bad and you’re trying to figure out a way to use them up. At that time, it’s better to freeze or use for soup! USE SUPER FRESH BEETS!!! 😉
You’ll also want some onions and garlic, and you can also add other spices you may enjoy such as a cinnamon stick or two, mustard seeds, lemon peels, bay leaves, orange zest, allspice berries, etc. For a quart jar, you don’t need a huge amount of spices. A teaspoon to tablespoon of your favorite spices will be plenty. Make a note of your additions so you’ll know if you need to reduce or increase the amount of spices you put next time!
There’s a full list of ingredients I use for this recipe in the recipe card below, which is printable.
Start by washing your jar. Whenever I’m fermenting beets of any kind, I like to start with a freshly washed jar. I do this when I’m making beet kvass as well. Beets tend to have a higher chance of developing kahm yeast or even mold, so use the freshest beets you can find, and freshly washed equipment and utensils. Rinse well to remove all soap residue, and it’s OK to use them while still wet.
Once you’ve washed your jar, add the spices, sliced garlic and onions, and beets to the jar. I prefer to cut my beets into bite sized cubes. But you can do beet slices if you like. Just don’t cut them too small, as the pectin in beets can cause your ferment to be slimy (which is perfectly safe to consume in the absence of mold, but can be a weird texture).
Garlic & Onion Fermented Beets Recipe
- 1 Quart Jar
- 1 Airlock Lid
- 1 Fermentation Weight
- 1 lb beets (choice of red beet, golden beet, Chioggia beet)
- 1/2 onion
- 5 cloves garlic
- 2 cups water (approx)
- 10 grams salt (approx)
- Wash your jar and rinse well to remove all soap residue.
- Peel 5 cloves of garlic, and slice in half. Add to the bottom of the jar.
- Peel an onion and slice 1/2 of it thinly. Add to the bottom of the jar.
- Peel approximately 1lb of beets, and cut into bite-sized cubes. They don’t need to be super small, maybe a 1/2 inch on each side. Add these to the jar until it is filled to the shoulder of the jar. There should be approx 2-4 inches of headspace left.
- Mix up a 2% brine. You’ll need approximately 2 cups water (unchlorinated, you can use filtered water, spring water, etc. but preferably a water with minerals), and 10g of salt. As a general rule of thumb, it is best to weigh your salt as different salts have different densities. But 10g salt amounts to approximately 2 teaspoons.
- Cover your beets with the salt brine, and mix up a little bit more if necessary, using the ratio 5g per cup of water. At this point you can add the fermentation weight if you are using one. If you don’t have a weight, be sure to swirl the jar daily to help make sure kahm/mold do not form at the surface.
- Close your jar and allow to ferment at room temperature, but away from direct sunlight, for 5-7 days. You should notice bubbles after the first day and when the most active part of the fermentation process is complete, these bubbles will die down. Then you can move your ferment to the fridge. You can begin enjoying your beets right now, but they’ll taste even better after being chilled for another week.
Once ready, your fermented beets will keep for a very long time. This is why fermentation also a nice and easy way to preserve vegetables, and have them on hand ready to eat. You can throw these in salads for a quick nutritional and probiotic boost, or enjoy them as a side dish.
Other Fermented Beet Recipes
Here are some of my other fermented beet recipes for you to try out: