I’m not, but that’s probably only because I didn’t really get into the stuff until about a year ago. In all honesty, I think kombucha is fine. Some brands are even pretty good, but when it comes to a midday drink, I’m typically A-OK with water or coffee.
While you won’t catch me paying $13 for a glass of the on-tap ‘booch at my local coffee shop, I am definitely interested in kombucha when it comes to other applications. Namely, using it as a base for a killer marinade.
As the mixture of tea, sugar, and SCOBY ferments into kombucha, glucuronic and gluconic acids are produced, which is why kombucha tastes sort of like sweet vinegar (or vinegar-based drinks like shrub and switchel.
Acid, as you may already know, is a great way to tenderize and flavor meat. Kombucha’s tang and fizz work wonders with any protein, from steak, chicken, and lamb to shrimp and fish, and even tofu. In the same way that some folks swear by marinating meat in sodas like Sprite or Coke, kombucha is my go-to marinade base when I’m looking to jazz up a cut of meat.
Since bottled kombucha comes in pretty large portions, when I plan to use it in a marinade I like to make a side that also involves the ‘booch.
To keep my ingredient list manageable, I tend to start with a base marinade (I like ginger-lemon kombucha with soy sauce, rice vinegar, garlic, olive oil, and red pepper flakes), use most of it on my protein, then turn the rest into a vinaigrette for a crunchy vegetable like smashed cucumbers or sliced fennel. Sear the meat, toss the veg, maybe make a pot of rice if you’d like, and that’s all I need on a hot summer night.
Cocktail on the side is optional, but I should probably remind you that the rest of that bottle of kombucha also works great as a mixer.
Do you use kombucha for cooking, too? Let us know in the comments below.
Any Night Grilling is your guide to becoming a charcoal champion (or getting in your grill-pan groove), any night of the week. With over 60 ways to fire up dinner—no long marinades or low-and-slow cook times in sight—this book is your go-to for freshly grilled meals in a flash.
Rebecca Firkser is a freelance food writer and recipe developer. Her work has appeared in a number of publications, among them Food52, TASTE, Edible Manhattan, Extra Crispy, The Strategist, and Bon Appetit's Healthyish. She contributed recipes and words to the book "Breakfast: The Most Important Book About the Best Meal of the Day." Once upon a time, she studied theatre design and art history at Smith College, so if you need a last-minute avocado costume or want to talk about Wayne Thiebaud's cakes, she's your girl.