Get some culture in your veggies: How to make raw fermented vegetables video

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We all know most food preparation techniques diminish the nutritional value of the food we eat. From the minimally-prepped (raw, chopped) to the totally killed (deep-fried, overcooked), the range of nutritional degradation is wide. But I bet you didn’t know that there’s a way of preparing your dinner that not only preserves but enhances the nutritional value of your food. Let me introduce you to one of my all-time favorite ways to eat veggies: cultured. A little Picasso with your spinach? No, silly, not that kind of culture. I’m talking about fermentation.

Cultured veggies are veggies that have been naturally fermented through a process called “lacto-fermentation.” When veggies are cultured, their sugars and starches are transformed into lactic acid by micro-organisms, a process that adds loads of beneficial bacteria and amazing enzymes. Fermentation was traditionally used to preserve vegetables and fruits through their off-season. Think of foods like sauerkraut or kim chi. The fermentation process keeps the veggies from going rancid.

There are lots of health reasons to eat cultured veggies:

  • They’re already partially digested and packed full of enzymes. This means they’re super easy to digest, and aid the digestion of anything you eat with them.
  • They balance the pH of your digestive tract
  • They offset the carcinogenic effects of that yummy charcoal you find on anything BBQ’d
  • They’re packed with probiotics, which makes them very healing to the digestive tract and great for the immune system
  • They help reduce sugar cravings (bonus!)
  • They add a really interesting and distinctive taste to your meals.

How do you eat them? Add them to salads, use them as a side or relish with any kind of protein or other veggie, throw them in wraps. You can add them to just about anything savory and they’ll enhance the food and the flavor. The only thing important to remember is to keep them cold – DON’T heat them, or you’ll kill all those great enzymes and probiotics that make them such nutritional powerhouses.

how to make raw cultured veg |

Here’s a video demonstration of how to make them. Or, if that sounds like too much work, look for them in the refrigerated section of your health food store, and look for the words “raw” or “cultured” on the label. The commercially made sauerkraut that’s not refrigerated isn’t the same thing – they use heat, vinegar, and often too much salt.

Cultured Veggies Part 1 – How to make the culture starter

Cultured Veggies Part 2 – Making the veggies


Probiotic culture starter

Whey is the liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and strained. It is packed full of probiotics, which can be used as a starter for cultured veggies.


  • Big bowl
  • Large sieve
  • Clean tea towel or cheese cloth


  • 1 large container organic plain yogurt (the best quality you can find)

Line a large strainer set over a bowl with a clean dish towel or cheese cloth (I prefer the dish towel). Pour in the yogurt, cover and let stand at room temperature for several hours (this can take up to 12 hrs).

The whey (clear liquid) will run into the bowl and the milk solids will stay in the strainer. Store the whey in a mason jar in the fridge (keeps for up to 6 months), and the cream cheese in a covered glass container (keeps for about 1 month).

Basic cultured veggies

Makes 2 quarts


  • Food processor (not mandatory, but your life will be much easier)
  • Big bowl
  • 2 quart size wide-mouth mason jars


  • 1 head green cabbage
  • 1 small yam (note: the size I used in the video was way too big and the cultured veg came out a little mushy – use a small one) or 1 carrot
  • 4 pieces celery
  • 1 bunch radishes
  • ½ – 1 tbsp sea salt
  • 4 tbsp whey

Put veggies through the food processor on the grate setting to shred. Add to big mixing bowl with the sea salt and whey. Mix thoroughly, squeezing the veggies to release some of their juices.

Pack tightly in mason jars and press down firmly with a pounder or meat hammer until juices are released. The top of the vegetables should be a least 1 inch below the top of the jar. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about 3-5 days before transferring to cold storage.


  1. Rashelle


    I can’t wait to try this. Thank you. I just have one question: Can I use the juice of my first batch of cultured veggies to start the next batch?

    • @Rashelle – that’s a great question and honestly I’ve never tried it but I bet you could. Try it and let us know! You can make sauerkraut from just the cabbage, its juices, and sea salt along with the natural bacteria in the air, so I imagine adding the kraut juice as innoculant would be fine.

  2. Sarah


    Hi Margaret and Chef James,
    Thanks for your fabulous information and instructional videos.
    I live in the Middle East and I have been unable to find a starter culture and so it’s great to know that I can start with the whey from organic yoghurt. (I now need to find quart jars or some other big glass jar and may need to bring them in from elsewhere).

    In your video you said that cabbage is always required to be the base of the ‘salad’. I have an allergy to cabbage and the brassica family as do two of our children. I understand that we may be able to eat these vegetables once they are fermented but before we try that I’d like to increase the prebiotics in all of our guts first. I’d like to start everyone on fermented vegetables and wonder what vegetables you could recommend we start with and can we ferment the veges without cabbage?

    Thanks for all your great information!
    P.S. Are you on Facebook?

    • Hi Sarah! Delighted you found this helpful 🙂 Fermentation is actually just traditional “pickling” – so you can do it with just about any vegetable you can think of: beets, carrots, okra, cucumbers… There are loads of good recipes in Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions. With some of the veggies – beets and carrots for example – you want to keep them in big chunks so that you don’t release too many of the sugars, and you don’t need to beat them to release juices like you do with the cabbage. I’d recommend getting a copy of Sally’s book and starting with that because the technique for each vegetable is a little different. Once you’ve got the basics down, you can experiment with different flavors and recipes

  3. Sarah


    Please forget the Facebook question! I’ve found you!

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  5. cynthia marshall


    I have a question that has not been answered despite literally hrs of internet research and emails to so called experts.

    I am very lactose intolerant and have “leaky gut syndrome” and very severe rheumatoid arthritis as a result so I must not eat dairy which will flare up my immune system.

    to be safe and avoid molds which will also flare up this disease if I ingest them, should I use a starter and if so, which one. Body ecology starter is dairy based or so they said when I called them. What should I do? Just make a salt water brine and hope for the best or do that and purchase a Pickler thing to remove the air on top of the mason jar.

    Is there a water based kefir that can be used to make pro biotic vegetables like the one used to make pro-biotic drinks? If there is one one, what is it called and where can I purchase it

    Please don’t guess or speculate or make a conjecture on this question. Some people with auto immune diseases and who also have severe allergies to molds must not ingest them either dairy or molds or else will get quite sick. What do you suggest I do based on factual knowledge about the best way for me to make pro-biotic vegetables so that I can heal the “leaky Gut sndrome” that is causing this disease of rheumatoid arthritis and environmental allergies and sensitivities. What is the answer to my question which is: If one who is lactose intolerant should hey just use a brine and no starter because there is no non dairy starter to used in making pro biotic vegetables for those people.

    I am also intolerant to cabbage and cannot eat sauerkraut but probably could put one leaf on top and remove it later after the vegetables finish fermentation. Do you suggest I make a brine solution and use a single cabbage leaf on top because of the good bacteria they contain and then remove it before I eat the vegetables?

    regards – Cynthia

    • Cynthia – I’d use a brine and no starter. And if you’re intolerant to cabbage, then skip that altogether. You’ll get all the benefits without any cabbage. I’d also start very gently – with just the juice from the fermented vegetables at first and slowly, gradually, build up to the vegetables themselves. I wouldn’t try a kefir for lacto-fermenting veggies because there’s yeast in the kefir and it doesn’t play well with veggies.

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  7. Judi


    Thank you so much for your great video. I wonder if you can use the whey that’s left after making tofu from homemade soy milk to lacto-ferment veggies? Thanks!

    • @Judi – I’ve never tried it but you can try and see what happens? I’m assuming the tofu you’re making at home is fermented? If it’s fermented, you could try it. If not, then it wouldn’t have the live bacterial cultures in it required to be considered a culture starter.

  8. Wm


    Hi and thanks for the great video! I’m raw vegan so was wondering if anyone could recommend something besides the yoghurt whey or any other commercial starter?


    • I would just add the sea salt and let it culture “wild”. There are bacteria in the air that will ferment it – it just may take a few extra days and the results aren’t quite as controlled/predictable. A great resource is Sandor Felix Katz’ book “Wild Fermentation

  9. Sandy Michelsen


    Is there a way to ferment vegetables that is salt free,dairy free and rice free? Thanks.

    • It’s easy to omit the dairy and rice (have never actually heard of using rice before?) but hard to eliminate the sea salt. Why do you need to?

  10. Sharon Plumb


    How pleased I am to learn today the technique for fermenting vegetables. I am currently involved in a long session of chemo with a return of breast cancer. All the benefits of restoring the gut flora and nourishing the body are driven home by anything I read about my recovery. Thanks both of you for the journey you have taken!

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  13. Lesli


    This is an answer to prayer. Your recipe is much easier than the ones I’ve found elsewhere. It gives me confidence to start this week. Fermented foods are an important component that’s been missing in my diet. I could do this weekly!

    • So glad you’re feeling inspired Lesli! Keep us posted how it goes. You can do it!

  14. Candi


    Dear Margaret,
    I followed your video recipe and “thought” I left enough room at the top… was at least an 1” from the top, but by day #2, the liquid was coming out of the top all over the counter, I opened the jar and dumped a little liquid out and left back on the counter (at the time it was bubbling) but then stopped after I took out some liquid…… is day 4 and I put the jar in the fridge, but now I am afraid I may have screwed things up? Is it safe to eat now??? Please Help!
    Thank you!

    • Hi Candi, Usually seepage is normal. When you poured liquid out, was the cabbage still covered? You’ll need to go by taste. The veg should taste pickled and slightly sweet. If you really want to be safe, check the pH of the veg with a pH strip. Fermented food needs to reach a pH level of 4.6 or lower (which indicates it is acidic enough to be safe). Fermentation, if done properly, will bring food to the “safe” acid level.

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