Fermented Salsa – Gluten-free, Vegan

by Beth @ Tasty Yummies

Fermented Salsa

First off, I know for many of you, your very first question will likely be “Why?” Why would you ferment salsa? Well, I suppose that could be asked about many things. Why ferment? Admittedly, fermentation and cultured foods is something I am newly interested in and I am still learning a lot about. So, I will just share some of what I have learned about why fermented foods are so good for us.

There is so much more to having a balanced and happy gut than we realize. It is now estimated that over 500 species of bacteria are present in our intestinal track with reports of 50 – 75% of our immune system activity residing there. In our modern world filled with antibiotic drugs, chlorinated water, antibacterial soap and pasteurized foods, we are killing off all of the good bacteria we need to maintain good health and digestion. If we don’t actively replenish this good bacteria that we need, we won’t get the proper nutrients out of the foods we are eating.

Why Ferment?

There are so many healthy enzymes that flourish and live cultures that are created when vegetables are fermented, creating an environment full of probiotics, enzymes and minerals which are important in maintaining healthy digestion and a healthy body. These live cultures, usually bacteria or yeast, that fermented foods contain, help balance the microflora are a little city of tiny organisms in our large intestine that, when working well, help digest fiber, protect us from things we’d rather not absorb like carcinogens, and keep the bowel healthy.

The probiotic good bacteria and enzymes in fermented foods help to populate our gut and intestines with Lactobacilli which are really important for healthy digestion. They also help to eliminate toxins from our body, so eating them will allow your intestines to detox, which is a really good thing! All of this beneficial bacteria (or probiotics) have also been shown to help slow or reverse some diseases, improve bowel health, aid digestion, and improve immunity! I am a huge proponent of taking a daily probiotic, which has changed the way my gut feels on a daily basis.

Besides improving digestion, restoring the proper balance in our guts, and helping us to pull more nutrients from our diet, fermented foods last longer in storage. This salsa can be stored in the fridge up to a couple of months. The lactic acid is what keeps it from spoiling. Lacto-fermentation is a popular option for fermenting and although I didn’t have any whey, I opted to just increase the sea salt, which works exactly the same and get it fermenting. If you wish to use whey, take the sea salt down to 1 tablespoon and add 2 tablespoons of whey. FYI there are even ways to make your own whey (say that 10 times fast) at home, just search around online for different recipes and how-tos.

Cultured raw vegetables that are created just by leaving them in airtight jars at room temperature for several days to ferment, this might just be one of the easiest and cheapest things you will ever come across to help use up those veggies and get some additional health benefits from, while you are at it. A common vegetable used for this is cabbage, to make homemade sauerkraut, but you can also add other vegetables like carrots or beets or radishes, etc.

This fermented salsa is simple to make and you can make the recipe your own, based on how you like your salsa and maybe what you have growing in your own garden. I had some great peppers from our garden and some fresh herbs from the farmers market, so I went to town making a spicy salsa, just like what we love. Feel free to tweak the herbs to what you like, add additional dried herbs and spices and other veggies, as you desire. This same recipe would work great unfermented, just add less salt or skip the whey. The differences in the taste of the fermented salsa versus the regular stuff are pretty subtle, you will notice the fermented salsa is a tad bit of tang and fizziness, almost a tad hint of an alcohol-y flavor, that I really like. I have served it to quite a few people, and it was well received by all, jars of this have disappeared fast around here. I have to thank Tasty Yummies reader Jaya Lila Ramey for her tips on fermenting salsa, she made it so much easier for me to just dive into this fermenting process, unintimidated.

Other examples of fermented foods are miso, kombucha, kefir, yogurt, kimchi, pickles, etc. If you are looking to experience some of the many benefits of what we’ve discussed, it is important to eat fermented foods regularly. This fermented salsa is a wonderful way to do just that. It is great with your favorite chip or cracker, on top of a salad, eggs, steamed veggies, soup, etc. Heck this salsa is so good you can just eat it with a spoon. A good tip to keep in mind too, fermented veggies are particularly good to eat with starches and proteins, as it will help you to digest these foods better.

What are your experiences with fermented foods? What benefits have you noticed? If you like fermented foods, what are your favorites?

Fermented Salsa

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{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kristin September 3, 2013 at 8:50 am

Sounds great! Does it taste different?

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2 tastyyummies September 3, 2013 at 9:01 am

Thanks Kristin. I actually talk about the slight differences in the taste in the article right up there ;)

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3 Kristin September 3, 2013 at 7:54 pm

Thanks for the reply! I completely missed it…..

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4 Ilana September 3, 2013 at 12:47 pm

Beth,

I discovered fermentation a few month ago and have been making fermented salsa, ketchup, mayonaise and kefir and yogurt! They make my belly feel so good. I am excited that you have discovered it as well and I look forward to seeing fermented foods appear in your always-delicious recipes!

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5 tastyyummies September 4, 2013 at 10:15 am

Yum all of those goodies sound amazing!! I have made my own kombucha before, but that is as far as fermenting went for me. Until now. I cannot wait to play some more ;)

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6 Cindy September 3, 2013 at 1:08 pm

I am thrilled to hear of your new interest in cultured/fermented foods, because I am right there with you! I just ordered milk kefir grains and am so excited about the possibilities! I hope to replace my daughter’s yogurt with kefir (milk, coconut, almond milk). I’m also getting some water kefir grains from a friend this week. I can’t wait to see more fermented recipes here! :)

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7 tastyyummies September 4, 2013 at 10:17 am

I am also excited to try out water kefir, but I just haven’t had the time. I need to have an extra day each week for all the things I want to accomplish in my kitchen ;)

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8 Karen September 5, 2013 at 5:09 am

Hi Cindy, Have you tried using water kefir instead of whey in fermented recipes? I am wondering if it makes a good fermenting starter in place of whey. I make water kefir and drink it every day. Thanks, Karen

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9 Greg February 16, 2014 at 4:25 pm

I have not used water kefir itself as a starter, but I have used water kefir grains and they work very well for sauerkraut – about a tablespoon (1/2 at the bottom of the jar and 1/2 about halfway up) per quart jar really speeds up the fermentation process.

I used them for coconut milk yogurt as well, but I apparently used too much (about 2 tablespoons for one quart) as I nearly had an explosion about 18 hours later (I had a “yogurt volcano” when I opened the jar and lost about half a quart) and really didn’t care for the “kefiry” flavor the grains imparted into the yogurt.

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10 Janet September 3, 2013 at 3:43 pm

Love the jars without the metal lid. I do not make my own fermented foods but like you I have heard they are good for the gut. I am not a fan of the salt that seems to be so prevalent in fermented foods that I have tried.

Have a beautiful day!

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11 tastyyummies September 4, 2013 at 10:24 am

Aren’t those jars great? Fermentation can be done with out the extra salt, using whey or other starters. Google around, it is totally possible.
Hope you have a lovely day, too!

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12 Sherri September 3, 2013 at 8:40 pm

I am loving the looks of this recipe and am going to try it. I do have a question though. The instructions say to cap tightly and then leave on counter for 2-3 days. Should that not be cap loosely for the counter time to allow escape of gas and extra fluid? I’m asking because sauerkraut and fermented veggies require the lid to be loose for the first while and then the lids are tightened when put into storage.
When I have my jars on the counter for the initial ferment, I put them in a glass baking pan to catch escaped liquid. Saves a mess to clean up.
My favorite ferments: sauerkraut, fermented veggies, and have hard apple cider on the go.

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13 tastyyummies September 4, 2013 at 10:19 am

I have to be honest that I am not sure why to cap tightly versus leaving it open. The reader I spoke with who makes it and EVERY other fermented salsa recipe I saw online said the exact same thing, too. I will have to do a little more research as to why that it and get back to you. Wow hard cider? Now I am intrigued ;)

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14 Sherri September 4, 2013 at 5:02 pm

Thanks Beth. The only thing that I can think of is that the tomatoes don’t give off as much gas (or liquid) as the sauerkraut and other cruciferous veggies. (FYI: if doing sauerkraut, have loose lid. If not you will have an explosion) Traditionally sauerkraut is done in a crock, but I like using the jar method as it’s less work.
I have the book “Fermented: A 4 Season Approach to Paleo Probiotic Foods” by Jill Ciciarelli and her recipe indicates a loose lid for the first few days. By the way, her book is worth a snoop. I’m using her method for hard cider (both wild and controlled) and there are a few other things I want to try such as beet kvass and fermented hot sauce.

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15 Michelle September 4, 2013 at 3:30 am

I’ve been making my own Kefir for a little while in a bid to help my stomach. I use it in everything :). I also use it as a face mask after reading your probiotic mask post and OH Wow my skin looked amazing and I am seeing the difference with my wrinkles.
A really interesting article, thank you

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16 tastyyummies September 4, 2013 at 10:23 am

I really need to try kefir!! So glad you enjoyed the probiotic mask, I have had such great results with it. Thanks for your comment.

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17 Sue Clarke September 5, 2013 at 9:02 am

This looks wonderful!

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18 tastyyummies September 5, 2013 at 10:10 am

Thanks Sue.

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19 Lesli September 6, 2013 at 1:32 pm

Trying this recipe tonight!! I’ve begun fermenting foods this summer. You might read up on using pickl-it jars. From what I’ve read, they aren’t a true and safe anaerobic ferment without something like a vented jar and can pose health risk if fermented in just a regular jar. Thanks for the recipe!

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20 Megan September 9, 2013 at 4:43 pm

Delicious recipe! (I tried it over the weekend, and I just opened the first jar tonight.) One thing to add, though: Because the fermenting process releases a lot of extra gases, I think it’s important to leave more space than you would for putting something like jam in cans, or even unfermented salsa. My jars’ lids swelled up, the jars leaked a bunch of liquid, and then, when I opened it, about 1/4 cup of salsa burst out of the top.

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21 Megan September 9, 2013 at 4:43 pm

My reply should say “jars”, not “cans”.

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22 tastyyummies September 10, 2013 at 12:41 pm

Wow really? I didn’t have any issues like that at all. Maybe it is different for everyone. I will edit the recipe to include that note. Thanks for sharing. Quick question, did you ferment with whey or salt?

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23 Megan September 12, 2013 at 7:20 am

How weird that no one else had that problem! I imagined that the gasses expanding was fairly ordinary . . . oh, well. I fermented with salt, and because I don’t measure out ingredients exactly and was straining out the juice from some very, very juice tomatoes, I may have added too little – or too much, hard to be sure.

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24 Savvas December 2, 2013 at 8:33 am

Hi Beth,

Fermented foods are excellent for a healthy gut. I will try the recipe but is 2-3 days outside the fridge enough to ferment? I normally leave Sauerkraut (http://naturalhealingcyprus.wordpress.com/2013/05/20/simple-sauerkraut-recipe/) 2-4 weeks out of the fridge depending on the weather.

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25 Candace @ Candida Free Candee December 11, 2013 at 6:26 pm

So excited I found this! I have found some recipes for fermented salsa but so far all have required whey (which I can’t have) or brine from sauerkraut, which I haven’t tried yet, so thank you!
I make water kefir regularly and kombucha as well but haven’t ventured into the condiment side of things, this will be my first.
Thanks for sharing!

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26 Pioneer Don January 16, 2014 at 9:23 am

Beth,
Great Recipe!
I love seeing people discover the health benefits of cultured foods!
I try to share on a daily basis the benefits of saving the bounty of food we enjoy in the U.S.
I also tell folks to find and participate in their local CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture), to help return our nation to its once pristine and natural flora!
Thank You so much for being one more person that understands and promotes healthy living!
Keep up the good work!

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27 mike February 18, 2014 at 8:14 pm

For anyone having issues with gas building up a simple solution is to “burp” anything you are fermenting once or twice a day. Simply unscrew the lid slowly and just enough to release the pressure. You will hear the gas hissing out. When it’s done, screw it tight again.

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28 Erin February 19, 2014 at 4:31 pm

So I made a batch in late August and after a few days of fermentation on the counter, I stuffed my jars into the back of the fridge. Just opened a jar today – 5 months later and I had gas build up in the jar, which – when opened – caused the salsa to bubble over the top and spill into the sink. I mixed the rest and tasted the salsa and it had a noticeable “fermented” tang to it. I wasn’t sure if it was still okay, but I’ve left sourdough starter in the fridge for weeks at a time, and lactofermented pickles for months and months. It’s watery, but SUPER tangy – and I just can’t go back to purchased salsa. I gobbled it up with some corn chips and am glad I have a second jar waiting for my next craving!

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29 Lisa May 16, 2014 at 5:58 pm

Can I use Kosher Salt instead of Sea Salt? Anyone? Thanks!

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30 Cindy Hill May 17, 2014 at 10:49 am

Is the “whey” a special starter whey or just plain protein whey that you would make a drink with? Thanks!

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31 Sandra May 20, 2014 at 3:43 pm

I see that whey is mentioned as ” if using whey add at this time” but nowhere in the ingredients is it listed, what am I missing?

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32 Sandra May 20, 2014 at 4:02 pm

My bad!!! Of course I saw the whey notation after my comment. Have gotten sone helpful suggestions by reading other comments.

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33 The Gilded Sprout May 27, 2014 at 10:00 am

Fantastic post. I really got into fermenting foods a couple of years ago and have been trying anything and everything ever since and can’t wait to try this. I am really enjoying your blog and salsa looks great!

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34 TAMMY CUEVAS June 7, 2014 at 4:13 pm

When making sauerkraut, I store the jars in the basement in a dark, cool place rather than in the refrigerator. Is this okay with the salsa? I really want to try this method, because until now I have not found a safe way to can homemade salsa without using a store-bought mix.

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35 pam poulain June 9, 2014 at 7:16 am

i thought on this fermentation that you had to have air get into the jars?
not to have the lids on tight?

can u do this in a large crock then after it ferments, put in jars then water bath?

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36 Shirley June 29, 2014 at 1:49 pm

Could this salsa be canned?

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37 Beth @ Tasty Yummies June 30, 2014 at 9:24 am

probably yeh, but I have ZERO experience canning sadly, so I am not the person to ask. But, I really don’t see why not.

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38 cindi July 6, 2014 at 5:13 pm

shirley,

if you “can” this salsa, it will kill all of the beneficial bacteria that you’ve spent time culturing. if you want canned salsa, you should use a recipe out of a canning book. once boiled in a water bath canner, the veggies will no longer be raw and the friendlies will be dead :)

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39 Anna June 30, 2014 at 12:11 pm

I’ve been reading a lot about fermenting foods, trying to include more probiotics in my diet. I haven’t seen a salsa recipe before. Looks very interesting and I can’t wait to try it.
From my reading, I understand that whey and salt have different roles in the process.
Whey (from yogurt, buttermilk, or milk kefir), kefir grains, brine from a previous ferment, or other cultures help the fermentation process proceed faster but can limit the variety of probiotics in the final product.
Salt’s job is to kill off the bad bacteria, allowing the good bacteria to go to work. However, too much salt will affect the good bacteria as well and slow down the fermentation process.
“Burping” the jars every day will prevent the spills, messes, and blow-ups.
Thanks again for the recipe.

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40 cindi July 6, 2014 at 5:14 pm

it’s also my understanding that the salt helps keep the veggies crispy.

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41 Paula July 12, 2014 at 4:50 pm

I’m a culinary coward … how do you know if it’s fermented or has simply gone bad? We don’t have air conditioning, so during summer, my kitchen will routinely be 90+ degrees most of the time. I keep very little “stock” in my pantry because of this so how would this heat affect the safety of trying to ferment salsa?

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42 cindi July 14, 2014 at 4:02 pm

Paula,

The actual fermentation process is only a few days; once it’s bubbly, it has to be refrigerated.

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43 cindi July 14, 2014 at 4:04 pm

sorry, somehow part of your question didn’t register in my brain! i keep my air off a lot and i’m in north florida; i haven’t had any problems with the fermented foods. they probably just ferment a little faster.

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44 Ellen Lewis July 21, 2014 at 9:06 am

If I follow this recipe with 3lbs of tomatoes, how many quarts will it make? This will help me know how many batches to prepare.

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45 Lisa July 27, 2014 at 3:45 am

Is the whey necessary, because it is not in the original recipe?

Thanks,
Lisa

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46 Sarah September 16, 2014 at 6:29 pm

I just made my third batch of fermented salsa and I just panicked as I thought my jars were going to explode as the lids were being pushed out, liquid was seeping out of the jars and the contents were separating more than before just after two days. I made a double batch and was very sad to think something went wrong. Thank goodness for all these comments, I think my salsa actually fermented this time (and possibly did not last time)! When I opened the jars the contents actually expanded 1-2″ out of the top. The salsa does taste different from last time but still tasty. Looking forward to the health benefits and happy that all may hard work didn’t go to waste.

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