Whether it’s the fizzy feeling of sipping kombucha, miso’s funky punch, or sourdough’s tangy bite, fermented foods are some of our favorite ways to shower our taste buds with love. And it’s no surprise—for millennia humanity has been brewing and souring and letting food and drink, well, rot. Even if you’ve never made your own, we bet there’s a jar of miso in your pantry or tub of feta in your fridge.
Fermentation creates foods teeming with good bacteria, and also introduces new and exciting flavors to our palates. We believe some of the best fermented foods come from those wild bacteria already in your life, which is why we’ve gathered seven of our favorites to DIY. But don’t sweat it if you’re not ready to go on a yogurt- (or kimchi- or beer-) making adventure—we’ve included loads of ways to use up store-bought fermented ingredients, too.
While we’re big fans of a quick pickle for last-minute tacos or salads, they just don’t have the same bite as vegetables preserved in a long, briny soak. For the real dill (hehe) all you need is your vegetables, salt, and time.
As silly as that Portlandia pickling sketch was (you know the one), you really can pickle almost anything. Kimchi and sauerkraut are two variations of the same process, letting cabbage soak in its own brine (with some spices) to transform into bright, flavor-packed bites.
Creamy, tangy, homemade yogurt is really as simple as combining milk with a bit of culture over heat. To make your own, heat then cool your milk (to kill any bacteria that would compete with your starter), then add a tablespoon or so of yogurt (either store-bought or from a previous batch). Then tuck your pot into a warm place for a 4-to-12-hour rest—the longer it sits, the tangier it gets!
For an even easier dairy DIY, make kefir. Simply pour milk into a glass jar and add kefir grains (combinations of yeast and bacteria, similar to SCOBY). Cover the top of the jar with muslin and secure it with a rubber band, then place in a dark spot (like a pantry) for 12 to 24 hours. Once the liquid begins to separate into curds and whey, just strain, and you’re good to sip.
Tempeh is made from whole and fermented soybeans, making it dense and textured and perfect for versatile, filling dishes. To make your own fresh, nutty-tasting loaf, you just need soybeans, a tempeh starter, and a warm, cozy place to keep it. After around 48 hours, you can refrigerate your tempeh and start planning dinner.
It’s pretty difficult to mess up miso. Really. You’ll need to plan ahead (at least 2 months), but it’s essentially a mixture of cooked soybeans, white or brown rice koji, some salt, and water.
Making beer isn’t complicated, but it is time-consuming and precise. You’ll need just over 2 hours of active boiling and steeping and stirring and straining, but otherwise it’s a hands-off 4-week wait. Bonus: It’ll make your home smell like warm grains.
What’s your favorite fermented food to DIY? Cheese? Kombucha? Drinking vinegars? Share in the comments below!