The Benefits of Lacto-Fermentation & Lacto-Fermented Salsa Recipe

Our beautiful salsa ingredients

I have always been intimidated by the idea of lacto-fermentation. I mean, just listen to the name. Sounds scary! I always thought it was time-consuming with not so tasty results. And if it weren’t for my sweet cousin, Amy, I probably would still be in that scared state. This last week, Amy, invited me over to her home to make lacto-fermented salsa. I thought, why not? I discovered how incredibly easy this process is! And how fun to learn something new with friends. Couldn’t get much better than that – inspiring one another on in our healthy homemaking pursuits. So find a friend, and dive in with me to the world of lacto-fermentation?

What is Lacto-Fermentation?

Rather than go into all the details, I will just share a few quotes with you and direct you to my lovely friends on the web who have explained this so well previously.

Lacto-fermentation is the process of cultivating lactic acid as a natural preservative to prevent putrefication. Starches and sugars in vegetables and fruits are converted to lactic acid by the many species of lactic-acid producing bacteria. It has multiple health benefits as described by Sally Fallon in Nourishing Traditions:

“The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables enhances their digestibility and increases vitamin levels. These beneficial organisms produce numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibiotic and anticarcinogenic substances. Their main by-product, lactic acid, not only keeps vegetables and fruits in a state of perfect preservation but also promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine.”

I have discovered that is is a simply, easy, and worthwhile means of adding wonderful vitamins, enzymes, and especially probiotics to your diet.

Fermented Foods for Beginners by Nourishing Days
Benefits of Lacto-Fermentation by Nourishing Gourmet
Wild Fermentation – a great resource as to the whys and hows of fermentation

Lacto-Fermented Salsa

Recipe adapted from Nourishing Days

Makes 1/2 gallon

1 large onion cut into large chunks
1 large green, red or yellow pepper, cut into large chunks
6 large cloves of garlic, peeled
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, unchopped
1 jalapeno pepper, cut in half
3 lbs of tomatoes, cut into quarters (approximately 4 cups)
2 Tbsp lemon juice (or juice of 1 lemon)
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp sea salt (definitely sufficient!)
1/2 cup whey (Take yogurt or kefir and place in a cheesecloth/cloth napkin and drain over large measuring cup. Squeeze the cloth gently with your hands until you get enough liquid. The juice that drains will be your whey! It’s very easy!)
1/4-1/2 cup water (UPDATE: we found this completely unnecessary and made it too watery, so use your judgment.)

Directions:

  1. In a food processor or blender, place onion, pepper, garlic cloves, cilantro and jalapeno pepper. Pulse several times until mixture is nicely diced. Transfer to a large bowl.
  2. Place tomatoes in the food processor or blender and pulse several times in likewise fashion until nicely diced. Add to large bowl.
  3. Gently combine all ingredients in the large bowl and add lemon juice, vinegar, sea salt, and whey.
  4. Transfer to a 1/2 gallon glass jar (or 2 quart size jars), and carefully add 1/4-1/2 cup water until all the ingredients are submerged. Make sure to leave 2-3 inches of headspace for expansion.
  5. Cover tightly with a lid and leave on your counter for 2-3 days until the salsa is bubbly. Transfer to cold storage or the top shelf of your refrigerator. Best used within 3 months.

Here’s our little video demonstration amidst all of our 5 little ones! We had the little girls cut up the tomatoes for us and they loved being included in the process. All in all, it took about 2 hours to make 3 gallons of salsa with interruptions so it was a very easy process. Amy is allergic to dairy, so she offers her dairy free alternative to using whey, which is Body Ecology veggie culture starters, as described in the video. Join us for all the fun we had!

Easy Fermented Beverages

Kombucha is a simple way of getting some of these fermented benefits into your diet regularly! We love this beverage! Kefir is another easy one that we have used forever for our smoothies and for soaking our grains.

Easy Fermented Condiments

After our successful salsa makings, I knew that a few other easy means of getting probiotics would be through our condiments. I love homemade ketchup and whipped it up in a few minutes and it is currently on my shelf fermenting away. Here are a few recipes:

Lacto-Fermented Ketchup
Lacto-Fermented Mustard

Lacto-Fermented Mayonnaise

I have made lacto-fermented sauerkraut in the past, and I don’t recommend the standard recommendation that you can replace whey with an extra tablespoon of salt, as we did with that attempt. It makes an extremely salty final product! Best to use the simple process of making whey as described above!

So that is a simple start on lacto-fermentation!

About Lindsay

Lindsay Edmonds is first a lover of Jesus, wife, mother of three, homemaker, and writer. She is the editor of Passionate Homemaking since its beginning five years ago. She loves inspiring women around the world toward simple, natural, and intentional living for the glory of God.

56 Responses to The Benefits of Lacto-Fermentation & Lacto-Fermented Salsa Recipe

  1. Meredith June 18, 2013 at 3:04 pm #

    This site was… how do I say it? Relevant!
    ! Finally I’ve found something which helped me. Thanks a lot!

  2. Slawebb August 29, 2012 at 4:44 pm #

    I made this today but ate it fresh. I left out the whey and only used 1 T of salt. It was SOOOO yummy we ate almost the whole 1/2 gal tonight. I did deseed the hot pepper to make it more kid friendly. It had just the right amount of heat to it. Even my 3 yo loved it. I’ll be making more tomorrow to ferment. Thank you so much for sharing your recipe!

  3. Lindsey June 5, 2012 at 10:48 am #

    Do you have to use glass jars or could you use plastc canning jars?

  4. Ariana September 12, 2011 at 9:51 am #

    Hello Lindsay – the recents posts showed up in my inbox today and I just wanted to post a note of encouragement to counter this vitriol. (There are certainly far better ways to offer helpful critiques.) Your blog is wonderful and I always enjoy your recipes as many have become household favorites. Thank you for blogging!! A quick note on the recipe: I have not made your salsa recipe. I use one from Nourishing Traditions which is similar except it excludes the red wine vinegar. Perhaps this is why my salsa lasted for 2 years! (see my earlier posts) Thank you again for all your hard work!!

  5. nicklepickle August 31, 2011 at 8:49 pm #

    i already have printed out a handful of these recipes! i have one question…is there a substitute for the whey? we cannot have any dairy in our diets right now just for a season…i would LOVE to make these recipes but don’t know how to make them without the whey…your thoughts???

    • Lindsay September 3, 2011 at 7:39 am #

      Check out the video. My friend who I made this with is also dairy intolerant. She recommends a product that is a good substitute in the video.

  6. Katie @ Imperfect People July 17, 2011 at 5:39 pm #

    This post is rockin my world. I am so excited. I hope to make the salsa and the ketchup this week! I have lots of tomatoes in the garden this time of year!

  7. Ariana July 15, 2011 at 12:54 pm #

    Thank you for your insights on fermenting! I’ve used several of your recipes thus far. I’m curious what makes this salsa go bad. Last night I tried some salsa that I had fermented 11 months ago. I hadn’t opened it yet so I wasn’t sure what state it would be in. It smelled delicious and it was the best salsa I’ve ever tasted! But then I discovered that it was not made in 2010, but 2009!!! Is it possible that fermented salsa could really last that long?

    • Ariana September 3, 2011 at 12:20 pm #

      I wanted to follow-up my earlier post on old salsa – 6 weeks later and I’m still standing so my salsa did indeed last 2 years w/o poisoning me! Although funny aside b/c 36 hours after eating it I got really sick to my tummy. I thought for sure I had given myself food poisoning and was fearing doom. But nope, a day later I was surprised to learn that I was pregnant and that morning sickness has stayed with me since. :)

    • Lorraine September 3, 2011 at 5:11 pm #

      Ariana,

      How did you store your salsa? Did you can it or was it just in the fridge that long?

  8. Amanda June 21, 2011 at 7:36 am #

    Your post says to cover tightly. If I do so, how often should I vent? I’m used to making yoghurt and kefir from starters, but tend to only cover loosely. I will be using wide mouthed mason jars with the appropriate freezer type lids.

    Thanks

    • Ariana September 3, 2011 at 5:34 pm #

      Hello Lorraine, the quart size jar stayed in the back of my fridge all that time. I wouldn’t try to keep it for that long again b/c I really was nervious for many days and most recipes say to consume within 3 months. It really does make me wonder how long fermented food can last…

  9. Marta June 20, 2011 at 12:23 pm #

    I have a question about the whey…. how much yogurt did you use to get the half cup of whey? I have it sitting on the counter right now and it’s only produced one drip. Squeezing it didn’t work at all. The yogurt was just squeezing straight thru. Guess I just need to be patient. :)

  10. Leah Johnson June 17, 2011 at 10:04 pm #

    Love this recipe – I LOVE salsa and love the idea of being able to make a whole bunch at once and always have it on hand since it keeps for so long. I am going to buy ingredients and make it this week – thanks for your blog. I’ve gotten so many great ideas!!!

  11. Phoebe June 15, 2011 at 5:53 am #

    Can this salsa be canned instead of stored in the fridge?

    • Lindsay June 15, 2011 at 6:17 am #

      Yes, but you would have to can right away (heating the ingredients as required for tomato based canning) and would lose the benefits of fermentation and the nutritional value of raw ingredients.

  12. Tamara Sz May 12, 2011 at 11:47 am #

    This is such a great recipe! I just made a second batch today. The batch I made about a month ago just ran out. We live in Europe and a small jar of salsa costs about $4 here. I love that I can make about a liter of salsa for about the same price! I also really love how fresh it tastes as compared to jarred salsa, and ours truly stayed good in the fridge for over a month after we fermented it for a few days on the counter.

    I do have a question. I have found that this is a bit salty for my taste. Can I reduce the salt or is it crucial to the fermenting process?

    Thanks for the recipe and the video tutorial!

    • Lindsay May 12, 2011 at 1:52 pm #

      Did you use salt instead of whey? If so, it will certainly be more salty.

      • Tamara Sz May 16, 2011 at 11:40 am #

        No, I used whey, as well. But guess what?!?! This batch ended up with mold on the top after 3 days on the counter. So sad. Any ideas about why this would have happened?

  13. criabenson February 24, 2011 at 1:56 pm #

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful recipe. I’m brand new to this concept. Can you tell me what the shelf life is for fermented salsa, veggies, ketchup, mayo, etc?

    • Lindsay February 24, 2011 at 2:45 pm #

      Again, at least a month, but I have been surprised to see them last quite a bit longer.

  14. momx3 November 1, 2010 at 6:26 am #

    for the salsa recipe, could I skip the vinegar or is that part for the fermentation?

  15. Carrie October 19, 2010 at 8:12 pm #

    Thank you for posting this. I am going to try it for my holiday neighbor gifts. I do have a question about “shelf” life. Once the salsa goes into the cold storage, is the three month limit if it has been opened? Or does it matter? I am wondering if the fermentation “seals” the mixture in the jar. Is it possible to “can” the salsa? I am new to all of this and appreciate your opinion.

    Thanks!

  16. Gina October 14, 2010 at 10:16 am #

    A friend led me to your blog, and I must say, I’m inspired and loving it!

    Now, as far as the salsa goes, I didn’t have any luck “squeezing” the yogurt through the cheesecloth…all the yogurt just seeped through, any thoughts on why? I do use non-fat, could that be why? Thankfully, it worked fine over several hours with a cheesecloth lined strainer, I just had to wait for it. Also, I didn’t notice any “bubbling,” any thoughts as to why? The salsa does taste great though! :)

    • Lindsay October 17, 2010 at 6:36 am #

      I am not sure why you wouldn’t get anything via the squeezing method, but it very well may because you used non-fat. Bubbling may be very minimal but it still works.

    • Evan McGinnis August 17, 2012 at 12:36 pm #

      I also had no luck with the bubbling after three days. The salsa tastes great though, so I’ll give it another try. I want to see the bubbles! Thanks for the recipe and the video.

      • Evan McGinnis August 29, 2012 at 11:01 pm #

        I lied! Once I removed the lid there were bubbles coming up. Turned out great!

  17. Joy October 10, 2010 at 10:25 pm #

    Thanks for the great video Lindsay!

    I tried to drain the whey from some kefir I had at home but it came out really white…not sure what I did wrong. How long does it take to get the whey to drain using cheesecloth?

    • Lindsay October 11, 2010 at 8:01 pm #

      Yes, whey will definitely be off-colored – yellowish to white depending upon your starting source. Kefir makes it more white as compared to yogurt. Like I said, I squeezed it through with cheesecloth and it only took a minute, if that. You do want to avoid any clumps and such, so that is why using a cheesecloth or napkin works best.

  18. Brandy October 9, 2010 at 9:30 pm #

    I’ve dipped my toe ever so slightly into the world of lacto-fermenting in the past. Just made ketchup. My family absolutely LOVES it, but I haven’t made it since. Thank you for inspiring me to give it another go!

  19. Anna October 9, 2010 at 1:57 pm #

    I just made this today. Mine was on the juicy side. Will it thicken up as it sits for a few days or do you drain some of the liquid?

    • Lindsay October 11, 2010 at 8:05 pm #

      Yah, I noticed that it probably doesn’t need the extra water. I drained mine somewhat as well.

  20. Jerilyn October 9, 2010 at 8:30 am #

    I’m just diving into this world of lacto-fermentation… thanks to getting Nourishing Traditions from the library. I made fermented green tomatoes today. Trying to not go crazy with all of the new information… take it slowly, one at a time! :)

    I have a practical question though. We live in an apartment- no cellar, no basement. Where can I do cold storage. I do not have room in the fridge. Are there any good options for me?

    • Lindsay October 11, 2010 at 8:08 pm #

      Sorry…I am in a similar situation and don’t have alot of fridge space. Unless you get another small fridge you don’t really have any other options. I just have to make small batches or just make items I know we use frequently – as in the ketchup, mayo, and salsa.

  21. Corrie October 8, 2010 at 3:58 pm #

    This is the best video I’ve ever seen. You guys made me feel just like a friend visiting your home. I loved the kid in the backpack and the pots and pans in the background. So many videos have everything perfect and I think, “I have 3 small children. I could never do that.” But you guys did it and did it with grace. Wonderful job. More videos please!

    • Lindsay October 11, 2010 at 8:13 pm #

      Thanks Corrie for your sweet thoughts! That was the goal – we have littles ones and want to make it doable for you all too!

  22. Shannon Hazleton October 8, 2010 at 6:07 am #

    That was fun! Thank you for sharing. I am really looking forward to doing this for myself and a friend.

  23. bashtree October 7, 2010 at 8:10 pm #

    So I have a really novice question…after getting the whey from the kefir or yogurt, what do you do with the not-whey (is that the curd?) – is there another use for that?

    • Lily October 14, 2010 at 4:44 am #

      Don’t toss it! Once drained of whey what you have is kefier or yogurt cheese. You can use it like cream cheese or mix some herbs in it and you have a yummy cheese dip/spread for cracker or veggies. Or break up the curds, mix in a little cream and you have cottage cheese. Or if you only partially drain it you get a nice, thick, greek-style yogurt. So many uses! :o )

  24. Debra Worth @ Happy To Be Home October 7, 2010 at 1:53 pm #

    It still seems somewhat daunting, the idea of letting something “ferment” is nerve wracking… but it’s less scary and I might just have to get over my fear and do it.

  25. Holly October 7, 2010 at 6:07 am #

    I followed your recipe and made a batch of salsa yesterday. I only had a really large jar available, so there are about four inches of head space in the jar. By bedtime last night things were bubbling nicely. This morning the salsa is floating on top of the water that I poured over the top as the last step in the recipe. Is that normal, or a problem? (I am thinking that I used too much water.) When three days have passed, should I scoop out the salsa, leaving the water at the bottom as much as possible, or mix it all up and scoop it all out into smaller containers? I am worried that I really goofed up and need to scrap this batch (with all those lovely garden tomatoes)! Any advice or experience with this *floating salsa dilemma*?

    • Lindsay October 7, 2010 at 7:55 am #

      It is perfectly normal for it to separate somewhat. Tomatoes have a lot of juice that will separate, so its not just the water. My salsa did the same thing. Just mix it up before serving.

  26. Danielle October 6, 2010 at 5:44 pm #

    This sounds yummy!

    My only suggestion would be next time have the camera closer, you could hear the person w/the camera better than the other person.

    • Lindsay October 7, 2010 at 7:56 am #

      Well, this was a kind of quick thrown together video for fun. It was difficult because we had 5 children playing in the background. ;)

      • Danielle October 7, 2010 at 8:59 am #

        Awww ok! Well glad you did… it was great overall, just hard to hear in some spots.

  27. Lisa October 6, 2010 at 5:36 pm #

    I made lacto-fermented salsa for the first time last week. The recipe I used was ok, not great. I will definitely try your recipe. It looks like it might be a little closer to the salsa my family is used to. Thanks for the recipe!

  28. Ann October 6, 2010 at 5:32 pm #

    I love lacto-fermenting b/c I can make a little at a time over the course of the summer as I have extra ingredients instead of feeling the need to do it all at once like I would if I were canning. I have 27 pints stored away for the winter!! Thanks for the ketchup recipe, I hadn’t gotten around to trying that yet.

  29. Traci October 6, 2010 at 10:32 am #

    Thank you for this! I have been wanting to venture into this territory but am still a bit hesitant and it’s only because I don’t want to mess it up! The video was very helpful (it did take awhile to load) and I think I may have more confidence to try this out!

    I heart salsa!

    xoxo

  30. Jenny October 6, 2010 at 7:45 am #

    I’m pregnant and some people have cautioned against eating fermented foods during pregnancy. What is your take on this? I still do drink raw milk and have not given that up– but I’m curious about how careful I should be. Thanks

    • Lindsay October 6, 2010 at 1:38 pm #

      I believe fermented foods are very nutritious for pregnant women. The only item I would consume in moderation is kombucha because of the low alcohol content. I found several articles online recommending fermented foods during pregnancy especially because your digestive system may be sluggish. They can help prevent constipation and other digestive problems, and are useful in preventing and treating yeast infections. Read more here and here.

  31. Heather October 6, 2010 at 7:08 am #

    Thank you for this! I, too, have been afraid of venturing into the “fermented” food world. The word just does not conjure up good thoughts for me, and many bad memories of my grandma serving us “out of date” dairy products (shudder!) But after looking at your recipe, it is basically my regular salsa recipe with added whey. Now the “bubbling” salsa image still leaves me feeling a little leery, but I am going to try it!

  32. Jessica October 6, 2010 at 7:02 am #

    5 Little ones? I thought you only had two!! lol

    PS Do you have any idea whether this recipe would work with coconut kefir?

    • Lindsay October 6, 2010 at 1:40 pm #

      Well there were 5 littles ones between us. Amy has three and I have two. ;) If you drained off the whey from coconut kefir as I described above (in a cloth napkin, cheesecloth or coffee filter over a bowl), it would be perfectly suitable substitute.

  33. Joy Y. October 6, 2010 at 4:48 am #

    The recipes for the condiments look like something we’ll have to try next. I have been slowly working these lacto-fermented foods into our families’ diet…they are soooo good for us! Also, did you know (even though they are expensive), whole foods does sell fermented saurkraut and bubbies pickles which are fermented as well? They are raw also, so all the enzymes are still intact. Here is our take on lacto-fermented salsa……turned out great and the kiddos love it!

    http://vimandvigor.typepad.com/vim-and-vigor/2010/07/my-bacteria-laden-kitchen.html

  34. Beth October 6, 2010 at 3:37 am #

    I have made the sauerkraut and you are right the whey is much better than additional salt. Too salty. I am going to try the salsa recipe as we have plenty of frozen tomatoes and these work well to use for fresh salsa. I simply partially unthaw and slip the skins and use a ss food chopper like this one….http://www.cookingsharp.com/product/0/Rada-Serrated-Food-Chopper_793567.html add other veggies and spices and you have great salsa. Does the salsa have a sour taste? just curious…

    • Lindsay October 6, 2010 at 5:09 am #

      I am glad we cut back on the salt for the salsa from the original recipe (which called for 3 Tbsp), as it was just perfect! And no, there is no sour taste whatsoever. It tastes just like any salsa I would get at the store but significantly fresher. YUM!