These days probiotics are all the rage, and Whole Foods walls are stacked with expensive forms of sauerkraut and Brussels sprout Kimchi. What's the big deal and why does a bunch of sour cabbage cost so much? While I can't explain the price hike, a lot of probiotic foods are just fermented veggies with live or active cultures still present. Basically, they're just a bunch of microbes living in your food, which all sorts of purported health benefits.

Beyond being a trendy addition to your diet, fermented foods also add a kick to your kitchen. The bacteria start producing different kinds of acids and secondary metabolites that change the taste of your food. That's why sauerkraut ends up sour, and your kimchi starts to get funky. These three easy recipes will add some extra depth to your diet without the hefty price of buying trendy food at the grocery store. 

The easiest way to start fermenting at home is with sauerkraut. Sauerkraut is a German classic served best with bratwurst or maybe on the side of some fried eggs. #SpoonTip: Add some caraway seeds or Thai chilies to spice up your kraut, and feel free to experiment with other veggies besides cabbage. 


  • Prep Time:20 mins
  • Cook Time:10 days
  • Total Time:10 days 20 mins
  • Servings:1
  • Easy


  • 1 medium head cabbage
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 quart-sized mason jar
  • Step 1

    Make sure your workspace and all of your utensils are immaculately clean. Fermentation involves bacteria and you only want to have the good kind in your food. Start cutting the cabbage into 1/4 to 1/2 inch strips.

    Nadia Doris
  • Step 2

    After cutting about a cup of cabbage, add the cabbage to the jar with a teaspoon of salt and mash it down with a wooden spoon.

    Nadia Doris
  • Step 3

    Repeat until your mason jar is entirely full, or you've run out of cabbage.

  • Step 4

    Here's where all the magic happens. Fermentation is an anaerobic (oxygen-less) process, so once you've mashed down the sauerkraut enough there should be enough liquid to cover the cabbage. If there's not, cover the cabbage with plastic wrap and place in your fridge for 24 hours. If there still isn't enough liquid add a teaspoon of salt to a cup of water and add until there's enough liquid to fully submerge the cabbage.

  • Step 5

    Cover the fully-submerged sauerkraut-to-be with plastic wrap so that there's no air left in the jar. Allow the contents to ferment for 3-10 days in a cool room out of direct sunlight until your desired level of acidity is reached. Press the sauerkraut down daily and make sure no air is present between the plastic wrap and your fermenting cabbage.

Napa Cabbage Kimchi is a delicious addition to anything from pork buns to ramen. This recipe is a little on the complicated side but it's a great way to up your home-fermentation skills. The hardest ingredients to find are the kochukaru chili flakes and the salted shrimp, but an Asian specialty store should have them both. The kochukaru can be replaced with any medium spicy chili flakes and the salted shrimp can be omitted if you can't find it. Seafood is often used in fermentation recipes to kick-start the fermentation process. 

Napa Cabbage Kimchi

  • Prep Time:45 mins
  • Cook Time:28 days
  • Total Time:28 days 45 mins
  • Servings:1
  • Medium


  • 1 medium head Napa cabbage
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1/3 cup and 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup scallions roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup carrots julienned
  • 1 head garlic peeled and minced
  • 1 2-inch piece ginger peeled and minced
  • 1/2 cup flaked red chile preferably Korean kochukaru
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons salted shrimp
beef, pork, chili, sauce
Nadia Doris
  • Step 1

    Cut the cabbage lengthwise in half, and then into one inch strips. Toss with the salt and 2 tablespoons of sugar in a bowl and let sit in the refrigerator overnight.

    spinach, cabbage, lettuce, salad, vegetable
    Nadia Doris
  • Step 2

    Drain the cabbage and in a new bowl combine the scallions, carrots, garlic, ginger, chile flakes, fish sauce, soy sauce, shrimp and remaining sugar. I like to add a little bit of water to thin the paste to the consistency of ranch dressing.

    pork, tea, coffee
    Nadia Doris
  • Step 3

    Add the drained cabbage to the new bowl and mix thoroughly. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator for 24 hours. After 24 hours I like to move the kimchi mixture to a quart sized mason jar and then cover with plastic wrap so that no air can reach the kimchi. Let sit in your fridge for 1-4 weeks until it's appropriately delicious.

I'm a spicy food fanatic so this next recipe is my personal favorite. It's amazing and it keeps for ages, so you can have a spicy, tangy hot sauce to add to curry or stews well into the winter months when the warmth is needed most.

Fermented Hot Sauce

  • Prep Time:40 mins
  • Cook Time:3 mos
  • Total Time:3 mos 40 mins
  • Servings:0
  • Medium


  • 3 pounds chopped and stemmed fresh hot chilies - cayenne chili de arbol or red jalapeno. Substitute up to 1 pound with sweet chilis depending on your spice preference
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 head garlic minced
  • 1/2 inch fresh ginger minced
  • Zest 2 limes
chutney, pepper, garlic, condiment, sauce, chili, vegetable
Nadia Doris
  • Step 1

    Combine everything together in large bowl and let sit in the fridge for an hour. Working in batches, purée in a blender and then transfer into a non-reactive jar. I like quart jars, though you'll likely need a couple.

  • Step 2

    Cover your container with plastic wrap so that no air can get to the hot sauce. Place at room temperature and stir daily for at least a week.

  • Step 3

    Start tasting the hot sauce after a week. Once it reaches your desired level of sour, cover jars with lids and transfer to the refrigerator to spice up your next burrito. Jars of hot sauce will continue to sour (albeit more slowly) in the fridge and can keep for up to 3 months.