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Good for the Gut: Fermented Veggies

Fermentation is a natural process, and in many cultures, has traditionally been used as a method of preserving food and drink. At the moment, fermentation is enjoying a revival due to the many health benefits of consuming probiotic-rich foods. Consumption of fermented foods and/or beverages introduces highly bioavailable beneficial bacteria into the gut, leading to improved digestion, better nutrient absorption and enhanced immune function. Recent research has even linked consumption of fermented foods with better mental health and lowered social anxiety!

Fermenting versus pickling techniques  

A pickle is simply a food that’s been preserved in a brine (salt or salty water) or an acid like vinegar or lemon juice. A fermented food has been preserved and transformed by benign bacteria. Usually, that means that the sugars and carbohydrates present in the food have been eaten by the good bacteria (often lactic acid bacteria). The bacteria then convert that sugar into other substances, like acids, carbon dioxide, and alcohol. Those substances, in term, preserve the food (and add to its flavor). 

Pickling preserves a flavor. A fermented food changes in flavor and intensifies with time as the bacteria transform the food. Sauerkraut can be either or both a fermented and pickled substance depending on how it was made. Sourdough bread, yogurt, or beer is fermented but not pickled.

Simple Vegetable Fermentation

Sounds crazy when you first start out to let food sit on your counter for days (or longer) but it’s a simple process and healthier than what you can buy in stores. If you can chop, measure, stir, and scoop you can make fermented vegetables.

The easiest to start with is sauerkraut.

Simple Sauerkraut or Fermented Pickles

Sauerkraut is a fermented and pickled substance. The sauerkraut is fermented in it's own brine and the lactic acid on the cabbage make it softer and change it's flavor over time. You can do the same thing with cucumbers if you don't like cabbage. This recipe will ferment the pickles which creates a probiotic food which is different than the preserved pickles you buy at the store.
Kraut is typically made with green or red cabbage but other veggies like carrots ,beets, and cauliflower are also good fermenters.
Once you’ve made kraut, experiment with dill fermented green beans, fermented salsa, ginger carrots, and more.


  • Nesting mixing bowls (for kraut)
  • Quart-sized wide mouth jar with lid


Perfect Pickles

  • 4-5 pickling cucumbers
  • 1 TBSP mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp dill sprigs
  • 1 TBSP sea salt
  • 4 TBSP whey If you don't have whey you can increase the salt by 1 tablespoon.
  • 1 cup filtered water


  • 1 med head of cabbage You could use cabbage by itself or add carrots, celery, cucumbers, beets… the possibilities are endless.
  • 1 TBSP sea salt
  • 4 TBSP whey If you don't have whey you can increase the salt by 1 tablespoon.
  • 1 cup filtered water this is optional and may not be needed if your vegetables have enough brine on their own.



  • Wash cucumbers well and place in a quart-sized wide mouth jar.
  • Combine remaining ingredients and pour it over the cucumbers. Add more water if necessary to cover the cucumbers but leave at least 1 inch of room at the top of the jar.
  • Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about 3 days before transferring to cold storage.


  • Chop the cabbage (green, purple of nappa) into thin strips and place it into a deep bowl (nesting bowls are perfect, use a larger of two)
  • Add the salt (and whey if using that) to the vegetable matter and mix it around so that each piece is covered. You can additionally add other flavorings like dill, garlic, mustard or other.
  • Place the smaller of the nesting bowls on top of the salted vegetables and press it down onto the veggies to press out the natural water within the veggies themselves. You may need to put a weight into the bowl.
  • If after 30 minutes your veggies are not submerged into their own brine than add up to 1 cup additional water (or add water just to lessen the saltiness). You can transfer the veggies to a ball jar with a weight or leave it in your nesting bowls. In either case it's important that the vegetable matter be submerged under the brine (salt water).
  • Ferment your kraut for 3 days or more days before transferring to cold storage. The longer you ferment the stronger the flavor. Cover tightly store in the fridge for consumption once you have the fermentation flavor you like.
Keyword probiotic


  1. Using whey in the lacto-fermenting process offers consistency and food for the lacto-loving bacteria,  but it isn’t absolutely necessary A good sea salt inhibits putrefying bacteria for several days until enough lactic acid is produced.
  2. If you don’t have weights to keep the vegetable below the liquid, simply shake the jar each day or use a fork to push the fibrous material down into the liquid level to prohibit any mold from developing at the top.

Erin Williams, MSN CN LMP, is the founder of, a health and wellness company established in 2001. Erin has a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Purdue, a master’s degree in Nutrition from Bastyr University, and is currently studying to become a Functional Medicine Practitioner. Erin enjoys sharing her love of natural health and wellness with people through lectures, blogs, and consultations. 

Post Author: EZBalanceWellness