Whether you’re wondering how to eat more fermented foods, or curious about eating fermented foods in general—you're in the right place. 🙂 This is a super fun deep dive into some the practical (and delicious) possibilities of these alluring foods.
This is honestly one of my favorite topics to talk about, because there are so many creative ways to incorporate cultured and fermented foods into everyday meals. The possibilities really are endless, and it's so easy to get creative in the kitchen with these wonderfully complex yet irresistibly tasty foods.
New to fermented foods? This top 10 fermented foods list will take you on a scrumptious journey into this fascinating world. 🙂 And for some quick recipe inspiration, be sure to check out these fermented food recipes that contain easy-to-find ingredients like sauerkraut, kimchi and more - no home fermentation required!
Where to buy fermented foods
Before we dive in, it's probably best to take a minute here to talk about actually buying fermented foods in your local area. And by all means, if you'd like to start fermenting foods at home that's fantastic (bonus points if you already do!) 🙂
Luckily, it's fairly easy now to find fermented food options in your local grocery or specialty store. For cultured dairy like yogurt or kefir, that'll almost always be near the milk and butter shelves, and for fermented veggies like sauerkraut and kimchi, look in the produce department on the refrigerated shelves.
Pro tip: To get all of the probiotic and nutritional benefits of fermented foods, make sure to look for products with language like "contains live and active cultures" in the case of fermented dairy, or "raw" or "fermented" for vegetable ferments.
So I love to start this conversation with fermented drinks because it's such a delicious (and refreshing) way to get started eating fermented foods, even though in this case we're drinking them. 🙂 And perhaps I'm completely biased thanks to my particular obsession with kombucha, but I honestly can't think of a more perfect way to incorporate a delicious, bubbly drink into a meal.
Kombucha is widely available in nearly all large grocery stores nowadays; it's so popular that you'll likely even find it in the beverage shelves of your local convenience store! If you have yet to try it, you'll have plenty of flavors to choose from whether you're into fruity, spicy/gingery or minty.
Kombucha pairs well with main dishes like burgers, fish, burritos and more, thanks to it's typically fruity and bubbly profile. It can also pair particularly well with a cheese plate or appetizer as a non-alcoholic alternative.
And if you want to add a little extra zing to your next smoothie, stir in a little kombucha after you blend everything up. A warning: you may never go back. 😉
Shifting gears to fermented dairy, kefir is a delicious way to mix up your milk or yogurt routine. Thinner than yogurt but thicker than milk, kefir is meant to be consumed as a beverage and also comes in a variety of flavors, often of the fruity sort or vanilla, similar to yogurt.
The great thing about kefir is that it's an easy way to add some extra natural probiotics to any recipe in place of milk, such as this blueberry kefir smoothie. And if you like drinking it straight, one of my favorite ways to enjoy it is with some freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. (Feel free to dip them too; so good.)
I'm also going to mention miso soup in the beverage category because it really is such a soothing and hydrating way to warm up on a cooler day. The miso is the fermented product in this soup and should be added last after the broth cools a little, to preserve the natural probiotics of the fermented soy.
Moving on to breakfast, there are so many great ways to eat more fermented foods whether you're a sweet or savory breakfast fan (or both, like me!)
Fermented veggies can be added to your favorite savory dish since a little goes a long way. They are really there to enhance the flavor profile of the meal rather than dominate it. One of my favorite breakfast combos is a little kimchi served alongside eggs such as in this kimchi breakfast bowl, or added to a breakfast burrito.
And you needn't follow an actual recipe if you're in a hurry! Just a tablespoon or so of fermented vegetables served on the side of your favorite style of eggs is amazing. (My favorite is sunny side up with a side of kimchi.) 🙂 If you're having breakfast potatoes, those also go great with a little sauerkraut or fermented beets to wake things up.
And for you sweet breakfast fans, yogurt or kefir both offer a ton of options for breakfast. From a fruit and yogurt parfait to overnight oats with kefir, there are so many great ways to add some awesome cultured foods into your morning routine. I also love serving French toast topped with whipped Greek yogurt and berries for an extra special breakfast or brunch event.
For easy lunch options, I'm a big fan of meal prepping some tuna or chicken salad for the week, and having fresh chopped salad fixings to make a quick salad or sandwich on a busy day. And speaking of tuna, meet it's new best friend: sauerkraut! It's the perfect add-on for a warm comfort food sandwich like a Reuben, tuna melt sandwich or grilled cheese, or a cold sandwich or salad like this tuna and sauerkraut sandwich or salad with sauerkraut.
I also love to have sourdough bread on hand for sandwiches or any meal (yes, sourdough is also a fermented food!) The photo at the top of this article is actually just grilled ham and cheese sandwiches prepared on sourdough bread, a delicious combo.
And if you're feeling more of a burger kind of vibe for lunch, adding a topping of kimchi right to that burger is next-level good, whether you use a beef, turkey or veggie burger. Oh and while we're on the topic of burgers, if you happen to have potato salad on the side, adding a little sauerkraut to it is also delicious, as is sauerkraut on top of a hot dog. And (of course) don't forget the dill pickle with your lunch. 😉
Eating fermented foods at dinner is where things get really interesting; the possibilities really are endless. Just choose your favorite cuisine and I'll bet you there's a way you can add in a fermented food or two.
Personally, I find myself adding kimchi to just about everything these days. It's the perfect fix to take a simple grilled protein like steak, chicken or tofu from good to great. Simply pair it with a side salad or steamed veggies and potatoes or rice and you're good to go! It also perfectly completes a noodle dish like this quick kimchi noodles recipe or some fried rice.
I've also been experimenting with pairing different kinds of sauerkraut with favorite sides and appetizers like these sweet potato latkes with beet kraut. The sauerkraut works well here to offset the sweetness of the potatoes and balance the sour cream.
A few more ideas
For Indian dishes like chicken tikka masala, saag paneer or anything particularly spicy, a mango lassi beverage on the side will cut the spice and provide a welcome sweetness from the yogurt and fruit. And the classic Indian yogurt-based dip raita also shines in Indian cuisine, again helping to balance the heat from curries or spicy dishes.
And the classic Moroccan dish chicken tagine also famously calls for the fermented ingredient preserved lemons to reproduce its authentic flavor. You can find this condiment in a specialty foods store, or make your own preserved lemons right in your own kitchen!
A protein-rich fermented food like tempeh should also be mentioned under the topic of dinner ideas since it provides a great vegan or vegetarian option for main courses. This easy marinated baked tempeh is my go-to recipe here; you can serve it over a salad or with some rice and cooked veggies.
And don't forget about apple cider vinegar, another lesser known fermented food. This simple apple cider vinegar dressing is great over a simple salad of greens. Or swap out sour cream with Greek yogurt in a ranch dressing for some extra probiotic goodness.
Snacks & desserts
Ooh, I couldn't wait to get to this all-important section: snacks and desserts. 🙂
For snacks, my favorite thing to grab out of the fridge is either some real dill pickles (found in the produce section), or these savory fermented carrots which are just so, so tasty and crunchy. (My then toddler also agrees with me; they are so good, even at age 3!)
Of course, you could also grab some fruit and yogurt for a more substantial snack, and something like this black raspberry yogurt bowl also makes an incredibly delicious snack or dessert.
Oh and I should have mentioned this earlier on the topic of breakfast, but a slice of avocado toast on sourdough makes a truly great snack as well. Or nacho night with Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. (Don't tell, they'll probably never know the difference!) Tzatziki is also a classic Greek dip featuring yogurt; it's great with chopped veggies, crackers or pita slices.
For desserts, I'll often pair a favorite classic dessert with a fermented dairy topping such as this old fashioned apple crisp with whipped Greek yogurt. Those are easy wins when you can simply swap out the topping (whipped cream in this case) for a more probiotic version.
I also love making baked goodies like muffins and breads with Greek yogurt, like these delicious cranberry orange muffins. Even though the live cultures won't survive the baking process, the slightly tangy flavor and most texture of the muffins make cooking with yogurt so worth it. 😉
You can find fermented foods in classic recipes such as Reuben sandwiches, miso soup, kimchi fried rice, yogurt bowls and smoothies, and sourdough recipes.
Yes, cooking or baking fermented foods will kill off most probiotic bacteria since they are heat-sensitive. However, consuming cooked foods made with fermented ingredients such as sourdough bread still offers non-probiotic benefits such as enhanced flavor, texture and nutritional profile.
You can start incorporating fermented foods into your diet by eating yogurt or kefir at breakfast, a scoop of sauerkraut on your sandwich or salad at lunch, or adding a little kimchi at dinner on top of noodles, rice bowls or grilled protein or burgers.
Popular non-alcoholic fermented drinks include kombucha (fermented tea), kefir (cultured dairy), and yogurt-based drinks such as lassi or smoothies with yogurt as a base.