Fermenting Beets Step by Step

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Fermenting beets is easy and the result is both tasty and healthy. It’s a great way to preserve your harvest and enjoy it longer. In this tutorial, I’ll show you just how easy it is to ferment beets.


My favorite way of eating vegetables is fresh out of the garden. During the growing season, that’s exactly what we do, we pick the fresh veggies and bring them in or enjoy them right out there in the garden. However, since I don’t have a root cellar yet, there isn’t a way for me to keep all these vegetables fresh for months.

Fermenting them is my next favorite way to go. Yes, the jar of fermented vegetables still needs to be stored in the fridge, but I can fit many vegetables in a jar, they are peeled and sliced and ready to be served, and they keep their firmness and freshness for months.

Fermenting Beets…

A jar of fermented beets.

Fermenting is a quick way to put a large number of vegetables into storage and the result is not only delicious but also healthy. Fermenting beets is one of my favorite ways to preserve this crop because beets keep their firmness for a very long time. They are fresh and salty and a great snack right out of the jar.

What is Fermentation…

Fermentation is the process of using microorganisms, such as bacteria or yeast, to convert carbohydrates to alcohol or organic acids under anaerobic conditions. There are a couple types of fermentation…

Alcoholic fermentation is when we use yeast to break down sugars into carbon dioxide and ethanol. This is the process we use to make beer, wine, and bread.  

Lacto fermentation is the process of using bacteria, named Lactobacillus, to convert sugars into lactic acid. This bacteria (some form of it) is actually present in our digestive system naturally and is also present on the surface of plants. Lactic acid is a preservative that helps us preserve foods by preventing the growth of harmful bacteria. Lacto fermentation, which is the process we are going to use to preserve our beets, also increases the vitamin and enzyme level of the vegetables we ferment. 

Adding fermented foods to our diet can help us introduce additional probiotics, or in other words, beneficial bacteria to our digestive system in a natural way. Beneficial bacteria help us digest food and help us support a healthy metabolism.

So we take our beets, let them sit in a solution and steep for a few days, the sugars in the vegetable break down and start promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria. Lactic acid is formed and prevents the growth of harmful bacteria which makes it possible for us to preserve what’s in the jar (in cold storage). We get to add beneficial bacteria to our gut and are able to keep the food for a longer period!

Nori holding fresh beets from the garden

Ingredients…

  • Beets – you can ferment any kind of beet. There are many varieties of beets; some are round and some are longer and narrower. Some are pink, some are yellow, and some are deep purple/red… They are all great and suitable for fermenting. Just make sure to choose fresh beets.
  • Seasonings – I kept this jar of fermented beets very simple and only added 1 tablespoon of mustard seeds. You can use a couple of cloves of garlic or you can add dill, thyme, bay leaves, rosemary, mustard seeds, pickling spice mix, peppercorns, hot or mild dry peppers, chili flakes, or anything else that you can come up with. Try something different each time until you find your favorite seasoning combination.
  • Brine – you are going to need salt and water. When you use salt to preserve food, always make sure that you use kosher, sea, or canning salt and not table salt (or in other words, use non-iodized salt). Also, make sure that you are using non-chlorinated water (distilled is fine if you have to buy your water). I used 1 tablespoon of salt per one cup of water to make the brine for this ferment. If you feel that this is too much salt for you, you can do 1 teaspoon of salt per one cup of water instead (but no less than 1 teaspoon).
  • Optional – some vegetables, especially those with high water content, may become soft during the fermentation process. If you want to make sure that your vegetables stay as crunchy as possible, you can add tannin-rich leaves like blackberry leaves, bay leaves, or horseradish leaves to the jar. For a list of tannin-rich leaves, visit this post. I find that beets keep their texture well so I didn’t add any leaves here but if you’d like, feel free to add them. 

Kitchen Tools…

  • Cutting board
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Knife
  • Jar with a lid– you can use a wide mouth quart or a pint jar (I used a 24 oz jar here but it’s just because I had it laying around). Or you can even use a half gallon jar if you have room in the fridge to store it. I used a metal lid here but I actually recommend using a plastic freezer lid or you can go with a fermentation lid that will save you from needing to burp the jar (more on this later).
  • Measuring spoons
  • 2 cup measuring cup
  • Fermentation weight – I still don’t have fermentation weights! I tell myself at the beginning of every season that I’m going to buy weights and somehow the season ends and I still haven’t bought them. I’ve used so many last-minute tricks to keep the vegetables under the brine, but believe me when I say that your life is going to be much easier if you use fermentation weights (**Update – I now have fermentation weights and I can’t believe that it took me soooo long to get them!).

How to Ferment Beets Step By Step…

Cutting the tops and roots of the beets

Step 1 – preparing the beets. Cut off the beet greens (and use them to make veggie patties or add them to meatballs or salads) and wash the beets. Cut off the tops and the roots (these go to the chickens)…

Peeling the beets

Use the vegetable peeler to peel the beets…

Slicing the beets

Then, slice or cut your beets however you want. It doesn’t really matter how you do this. You can slice them thin or a little thicker, however you prefer eating them. Just know that if you slice them real thin, they’ll probably soften much more quickly.

Packing the jar with beets slices and seasonings

Step 2 – Packing the jar. Pack the beets into a clean jar. Try to fit as much as you can in there but make sure to leave about an inch of headspace or a little more for your fermentation weight. Since I seasoned with only mustard seeds, I added them after the jar was full. If you are using other seasonings (like garlic, for example), you can pack the jar halfway with beets, add the seasonings, and then pack the jar with beets the rest of the way.

Adding the brine over the beets

Step 3 – add the brine. Mix one tablespoon of salt per one cup of water (or as low as 1 teaspoon of salt per one cup of water) and stir until the salt dissolves. Add the brine to the jar so it covers the beets (if you like the taste of vinegar, feel free to add a tablespoon of vinegar per cup of water as well. I show how to do that in my preserving peppers in vinegar and salt post).

Placing a fermentation weight over the beets

Step 4 – let the beets ferment. Now all you have left to do is place the fermentation weight (to push and hold the vegetables under the brine) and close the jar. When I made this batch, I still didn’t have my glass fermentation weights so I used an apple. If you use an apple or a cabbage core you must make sure that they are submerged under the brine as well or you’ll have a wormy disgusting mess on your hands!

Closing the jar and letting the beets ferment

It’s much easier if you have a proper fermentation weight. Place it on top of the beets and push down a bit to make sure that all the beets are under the brine. Close the jar, set it on a plate, and place it on the kitchen counter to ferment.

After a couple of days, you’ll notice some bubbles forming at the top of the jar, the brine will start to look foggy, and the beets will start to dye the brine purple. That’s great, this is how you know that the process of fermentation is on its way.

Remember that if you are not using a special lid for fermentation you will have to “burp” the jar, meaning once a day you’ll need to twist the lid open (don’t lift it) for a couple of seconds before twisting it back. This will let the gases that form inside the jar during the fermentation process a way to escape.

For a pint-size jar, it’s probably going to take 5 to 7 days to ferment. For a quart jar, it’ll probably take 7 to 10 days to ferment. Usually, I tell people that you’d know when the fermentation process has been completed because the brine will clear again. It’s never as clear as it is when we add it to the jar but it is noticeably clearer. The problem with fermented beets is that they color the brine purple so this might be hard to recognize.

Fermented beets ready for serving

How to Store Fermented Beets…

  • In cold storage – the best way to store your fermented beets is in cold storage (40-45 degrees F). This can be in the fridge or the root cellar. Make sure that the beets stay under the brine even while they are in cold storage and use a clean fork to scoop some out when you are ready to enjoy them. They should last 6-8 months in cold storage easily.
  • At room temperature – beets are very firm and so, it is possible to leave them at room temperature for a while especially if you live in a cold climate and the temperature in your home is not too high. I once left a jar of fermented beets at room temperature for three months. They were just fine. After three month they got too soft for me. They were still good to eat but I didn’t like the texture they got. I do prefer keeping fermented beets in cold storage but I do want you to know that it’s ok to leave them out if you need to. Still make sure that they are always covered by the brine and that you are using a clean fork to scoop them out of the jar.

How to Serve Fermented Beets…

  • As a snack – they are firm and earthy and salty. I simply love scooping a few slices into a jar and snacking on them. It’s so much better than reaching for a cookie.
  • As a side – fermented beets are a great side for an easy sandwich lunch. Add them as a side to a burger instead of the fries, add them as a side to a meat wrap, or a BBQ sandwich or any other.
    Add them as a side to this Mediterranean zucchini casserole, or serve them with zucchini and corn fritters for a simple vegetarian lunch or breakfast.
  • Throw them in salads – they are a delicious, salty addition to any salad. I sometimes add them to my favorite Mediterranean egg salad, to a classic Israeli salad, or replace the cooked beets with fermented beets in this pumpkin and beetroot salad.

Frequently Asked Questions…

What is the white film on top? Is it dangerous? Do I have to throw it out?

If you notice a white film forming on top of the brine don’t worry! The white film is kahm yeast and is not harmful. It develops when the sugars are used up and the pH of the ferment drops because of the lactic acid formation. Simply scoop it out when the ferment is done. More will develop but just scrape it off when you’re ready to eat your fermented beets.

If mold develops can I just scrape it off?

If your ferment develops raised and fuzzy black, pink, green, or blue mold throw it out. Be sure to clean all the utensils and vessels well.

Can I add other vegetables in with the beets?

Yes! Try adding carrots or cauliflower or turnips for a different flavor combination. Just take into consideration that the beets are going to color everything purple.

Can I season my fermented beets?

Definitely! You can add pickling spice mix, whole peppercorns, mustard seeds, bay leaves, dill, rosemary, chili flakes (for some heat), or any other seasonings and spices you can come up with. You can make it a bit different each time.


Around these parts, we love beets! They are one of the main crops in my garden in the spring and in the fall. My personal goal is to never be without beets in some way. Fermenting beets is just another way for me to prep them and to preserve them. It takes minutes to put a jar of fermented beets together and the result is both delicious and healthy. I hope that you give them a try.

More Beet Content…

More Fermenting Tutorials…

Fermenting Beets

Fermenting Beets

Yield: One quart
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Ferment Time: 7 days
Total Time: 7 days 10 minutes

It takes minutes to prepare a jar of fermented beets. It's a great way to preserve them and the result is both delicious and healthy.

Ingredients

  • Enough beets to fill a quart jar
  • 1 tablespoon of mustard seeds
  • For the brine: sea salt, kosher salt, or pickling salt (in other words, non-iodized salt), and non-chlorinated water (distilled is fine)

Instructions

  1. Prep your beets: remove the greens and wash your beets. Cut off the tops and the roots. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin. Then, cut your beets as you wish (you can go with thin slices or cube the beets... It doesn't matter how you cut your beets just take into consideration that the thinner you slice the beets the faster they'll soften).
  2. Pack the jar: wash your jar with warm water and dish soap. Pack the jar with the beets. Make sure to leave 1-1 1/2 inch of headspace for the fermentation weight.
  3. Add the mustard seeds or other seasonings (see notes).
  4. Add the brine: dissolve a tablespoon of salt in a cup of water and add it to the jar. Repeat until the jar is filled with brine. Place a fermentation weight on top of the beets. Make sure the beets are covered with brine.
  5. Let ferment: close the jar with the lid (use a plastic freezer lid or a fermentation lid) and set on a plate to catch any liquid that spills out in the fermentation process. Place your jar at room temperature to ferment.
    After a couple of days, you'll see bubbles starting to form inside the jar. If you are not using a special fermentation weight, make sure to open the jar once a day to let the gas out then close it again (just twist the lid as if you are going to open the jar and after a few seconds twist it back again).
    It should take 7-10 days for a quart jar to ferment. The brine in the jar will become foggy and then after about a week, it will clear again. When the brine is clear again the beets are ready.
  6. Store the jar in the fridge or a root cellar for best results or at room temperature for a couple of months.

Notes

  1. Beets - you can ferment any kind of beet this way. No matter their color or shape.
  2. Vinegar - if you like the taste of vinegar, feel free to add a tablespoon of vinegar per cup of water as well. 
  3. Brine - if one tablespoon of salt is too much for you, you can try to make a brine less salty with one teaspoon of salt per cup of water. Don't use less than one teaspoon.

Frequently Asked Questions...

  1. What is the white film on top? Is it dangerous? Do I have to throw it out?
    If you notice a white film forming on top of the brine don’t worry! The white film is kahm yeast and is not harmful. It develops when the sugars are used up and the pH of the ferment drops because of the lactic acid formation. Simply scoop it out when the ferment is done. More will develop but just scrape it off when you’re ready to eat your fermented beets.
  2. If mold develops can I just scrape it off?
    If your ferment develops raised and fuzzy black, pink, green, or blue mold throw it out. Be sure to clean all the utensils and vessels well.
  3. Can I add other vegetables in with the beets?
    Yes! Try adding carrots or cauliflower or turnips for a different flavor combination. Just take into consideration that the beets are going to color everything purple.
  4. Can I season my fermented beets?
    Definitely! You can add pickling spice mix, whole peppercorns, mustard seeds, bay leaves, dill, rosemary, chili flakes (for some heat), or any other seasonings and spices you can come up with. You can make it a bit different each time.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 1 Serving Size: 1 quart
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 119Total Fat: 3gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 12844mgCarbohydrates: 22gFiber: 5gSugar: 16gProtein: 5g

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3 thoughts on “Fermenting Beets Step by Step”

  1. Hello there! I decided to wipe around the top of the jar inside and found a bit of dark residue. Tastes great and smells fine. Lost of bubbles! Used a baby bottle nipple to hold down the veggies seemed to work ok. Just unsure if the little bit of dark residue around the inside is normal. Nothing on lid. Ty!

      1. Aw ty! Good to know my husband thought it was bad and I took it out of the fridge to compost but I’ll definitely keep the next one 🙂

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