Now that tomatoes are rolling in I thought I’d share this recipe from last year. This is our absolute favorite ferment and some of the tastiest salsa we have ever had.

A few of you have made a request for my recipe or method for making a fermented salsa. I’m excited to share this with you for two reasons:

  1. I am making this stuff a lot lately.
  2. It is some of the best salsa we’ve ever had.
  3. It’s a lot easier than water bath canning salsa.
  4. It is a tasty way to take in some probiotics.
  5. It keeps for months in cold storage.

Okay, that was five.

Seriously, though, I plan on making gallons of this stuff for winter and have gotten a start with 1.5 gallons already tucked away in our refrigerator. I figured that our family could easily eat a quart of this salsa per week, and that’s if I can keep my husband’s hand away from the jar with a spoon.

Lacto-Fermented Salsa

makes 1/2 gallon of salsa

Recipe Notes: I use a food processor because it really speeds things up. You certainly don’t need to – simply chop everything up to your liking and continue with recipe. Also I like to store mine in 1/2 gallon jars instead of quarts to save on refrigerator space. Fermented salsa is salty, so don’t be alarmed. The salt and they whey are what will preserve it and give it those wonderful probiotics.

  • 1 large onion or a large bunch of green onions, cut into large chunks
  • 3 small bell peppers, cored and cut into large chunks
  • 6 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/2 cup packed cilantro leaves (unchopped)
  • 2.5 pounds roma tomatoes, cut into quarters
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons coarse celtic sea salt
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder
  • 1/2 cup whey
  • 1/4-1/2 cup water

Directions

  1. Combine onion, bell peppers, garlic, and cilantro in food processor. Pulse 3-5 times until coarsely chopped. (At this point if the lovely smells coming from this combination don’t make you swoon then I don’t understand you.) Add 1/3 of the tomatoes and pulse 2-3 times until room is made for additional tomatoes. Repeat with another one third of tomatoes. Finally, add the last of the tomatoes and pulse an additional 3-5 times.
  2. Pour contents of food processor into large bowl. Add the lemon juice, sea salt, cayenne powder, and whey. Stir well and allow to sit a few minutes while you prep your containers.
  3. Wash two quart jars or one 1/2 gallon jar well with soap and hot water. Do the same for a food funnel and jar lids. Ladle the salsa into jars, leaving 2-3 inches of head space. Add water to submerge the salsa.
  4. Close lid tightly and leave at room temperature for a few days, until bubbly and fermented. During this process the solid vegetables may separate from the liquid. Simply stir with a wooden or plastic spoon until redisbursed and submerged under the liquid. Transfer to cold storage. Should keep for months.

Have you tried fermenting salsa yet?

 

75 Responses to How I Make Lacto-Fermented Salsa

  1. Grace says:

    Shannon – this looks delicious. I noticed with your other lacto-veggie recipes you say the whey can be replaced with an extra Tbsp of salt. Is that the case here as well? You already note that the salsa is salty so I’m wondering if I can omit the whey all together (I can’t have dairy) or if there would be issues with preserving?

    Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Shannon Reply:

    Grace – absolutely, although it may be VERY salty in this case. Good on beans and other bland things, though.

    [Reply]

  2. Jean Finch says:

    Shannon,
    I made something similar with cheeseslave’s recipe except I left out the hot chiles and put in red peppers instead–It was onions, garlic, and herbs–I did not add water to the whey and salt but I put it out on the counter for 4 days and then refridgerated it–It does not bubble but tastes really good–I am a little nervous as that is the first time I have done any fermenting. Is the whey and salt still preserving without water added?
    Jean

    [Reply]

    Shannon Reply:

    Jean – the water is not necessary, except that it keeps the veggies submerged and in an anaerobic state – good for preserving.

    [Reply]

  3. Whey, as in what’s left after straining the yogurt? Or after making ricotta?

    [Reply]

    Shannon Reply:

    Alanna – As in the leftovers from straining yogurt.

    [Reply]

    Kate Reply:

    @Shannon, if you don’t have ready access to whey (i.e. you’re not able to make your own yogurt/cheese/etc. for now), can you get it at Whole Foods or the like? I’m really interested in making this, but I’m kind of in limbo (residence-wise) and don’t have the resources to make my own whey. Advice?

    [Reply]

  4. I have never tried fermenting salsa but I’m always looking for new ways to get my probiotics. Next time I make salsa I will give this a go. Thanks!

    [Reply]

  5. adrianne says:

    Do you have to add the lemon for perserving or fermenting? I am allergic to citrus so I am wondering if it would still keep without it.

    [Reply]

    Shannon Reply:

    Adrianne – That is a great question, one to which I don’t know the answer. The lemon gives it a great flavor, but could also contribute to preservation. Try adding an additional 1-2 Tablespoons raw wine vinegar for flavor and safety :) .

    [Reply]

    Melinda Reply:

    @adrianne,

    An easier solution to your allergy would be NAET, it is a special acupressure technique that completely heals allergies. It rocks my socks! I used to be lactose intolerant and allergic to cats, now I can snuggle cats and drink as much milk as I want without any problems. One NAET treatment cures one allergy, so if you are allergic to many things, like I was, it may take while to take care of each allergy, but it’s totally worth it! I owe my life to this treatment, so I like to pass along this website when I come across someone with allergies. -find an NAET doctor in your area at naet.com :)

    [Reply]

  6. Shannon, I am determined to give your salsa a go this fall. I’m going to make the time, buy a food processor, and track down whey. Yes, I am! (repeating this over and over to myself)

    [Reply]

  7. Tina~ says:

    HI,
    This sounds wonderful!
    Could you use Apple Cider Vinegar instead of red wine?
    Thanks!

    [Reply]

  8. Sarah says:

    Can I ferment any salsa recipe if I add whey?

    Is the vinegar in your recipe necessary for preserving, or just for taste?
    Sounds yummy – I’m going to try!

    [Reply]

  9. Penny says:

    Made this today and I couldn’t keep the vegetables under the liquid, some of them want to float at the top no matter how much I press them down like NT recipe says, is that ok?

    [Reply]

  10. Faith says:

    Use ONLY distilled water. I was told that regular tap water has clorine in it that will kill the fermenting process. Thank you for the recipe. I can’t use whey, but I kept a lot of the leftover juice from one of my Kim Chi batches and I can use it. My CSA farmer said to always save the excess liquid from any fermented veggie. I hear it is really good for making Bloody Mary’s, but I can’t handle the liquor. Can only have wine, but that is OK. LOL The redder the bedder!!

    [Reply]

  11. Leah says:

    Looks fabulous!! I am on a yeast-free diet thus no vinegar. Can I make the salsa without it? Or add more lemon juice?

    [Reply]

  12. Melinda says:

    how cold is your cold storage? I’ve wondered about this when considering fermenting…I have a basement that stays cooler than the upstairs, but it isn’t necessarily “cold”..

    [Reply]

  13. Chantelle says:

    This sounds SO yummy! Hopefully it will be something fermented that my hubby will actually eat…
    Quick question though- can I use other types of tomatoes ( I have a surplus of cherry tomatoes from my garden…) and get the same effect? Thanks so much for your help!!

    [Reply]

  14. Sarah says:

    Thank you for this recipe an for inspiring me to make it, it is delicious!! I halved the recipe and made about one quart but am already anxious to make more. I did experiment a bit and used 1 tbsp coarse celtic sea salt, 1 tbsp whey, and the juice of 1/2 lime for the acid. Since I was using red slicing and heirloom tomatoes instead of roma, I definitely didn’t need to add water.

    [Reply]

  15. Lanise says:

    Can you make substitutions to this recipe and still have it be safe? Like, can I use lime instead of lemon? I know with canning you have to be pretty exact with ingredients because of the acid levels, but I’m not sure about fermenting. Thanks.

    [Reply]

    Shannon Reply:

    Lanise – Absolutely. I think you can change up most things as long as a few things are kept constant. The whey, salt, and acidity should remain the same. So if you use lime juice just make sure you use as much as you would find in a lemon. Other than that mix and match.

    [Reply]

  16. Shannon says:

    First, love your name! Second, I plan to make this later this week and was wondering the same as the previous poster. Would lime juice work? I love lime juice when I make pico de gallo. Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Shannon Reply:

    Shannon – I believe lime juice could work. Just be sure to maintain about the same amount. Lime is delicious in pico, isn’t it?

    [Reply]

    shannon Reply:

    Well, I made it but didn’t have enough whey. I made 5x more than the original batch since I had so many tomatoes to use up but only had a 1/2 cup whey so added 4 tablespoons of salt. Wow, is it salty! I know you warned about that above but I love salt so didn’t think I would mind. Otherwise the flavor is excellent, especially with the cilantro. I can still use it to make soups but is there any way to salvage it to use with chips or is it too late? Thanks!

    [Reply]

  17. Kristin says:

    I was wondering if you might know the answer to this question. I was given some whey. If I make ricotta out of it, can I still take the liquid that is left from that and use it as whey or is it just garbage at that point?
    Thanks!

    [Reply]

  18. Julie D. says:

    I don’t think you are ever supposed to add vinegar to lacto ferments. Vinegar disrupts the lacto fermentation process.

    [Reply]

  19. Janet says:

    I used organic ”pasturised” organic lemon juice. Would this be ok?
    I used everything else exact in the recipe. I also used whey from store bought
    Dannon yogurt by letting it drip into a bowl.
    Tasted it and it is delicious!

    Thanks

    [Reply]

  20. Sarah says:

    This is great salsa! I have been water bath canning salsa for a while, but we go through it so fast that it just seems to be a waste of time to go to all that trouble. I made a batch of this just back in September and already need to make more. And there are just two of us! We like things to be really spicy, so I substituted chopped up fresh jalepenos for about half of the green peppers. My boyfriend and I agree that this is the best salsa we have ever eaten. Thanks for this awesome recipe :)

    [Reply]

  21. Brandi O. says:

    I just recently found your blog, and am loving all of the lacto-fermented recipes. My question is…how do you fit all of these things in your fridge? Elsewhere on your blog I read that you don’t like to freeze food for storage because of the cost of an extra freezer, I would assume you feel the same way about an extra fridge. What do you use for cold storage? Thanks!

    [Reply]

  22. waggie says:

    whey substitute. I don’t have any cultures for making kefir or yogurt yet (my fingers are crossed for your recent giveaway) so I don’t have any whey. I know you can just add extra salt, but I would rather not do that. Is there anything else that can be used?

    [Reply]

  23. April says:

    I have the same question as waggie. Can I use kombucha, which I have lots of, instead of whey? Or can I just buy some yogurt at the store and strain it, or are the store kinds not diverse enough in their bacteria content?

    [Reply]

  24. I LOVE this recipe and have made it several times. I have some yellow tomatoes that are nearly ripe, so I’m going to use them to make this.

    [Reply]

  25. Sharon says:

    Thanks so much for a great recipe! I have been thinking about trying this for a while but never have. I just got a boatload of peppers and tomatoes so I think today is the day! Now to find cilantro…. :-)

    [Reply]

  26. Carol says:

    Am I missing something with the vinegar? From the current post (8/19/11) it seems it is missing but is mentioned in many of the comments. How much vinegar? My daughter nearly lives on salsa and I would love to make this for her. I have been unable to find any that tastes “fresh” enough to me. I purchased some “oasis” brand at the grocery here several months ago and it was delicious but they no longer carry it and neither does any of the other stores. Thanks for your blog, I enjoy it!

    [Reply]

    Shannon Reply:

    Carol – I forgot to remove it from the directions even though I removed it from the ingredients. So no vinegar needed :) .

    [Reply]

  27. Emma says:

    Sounds delicious. How much red wine vinegar does the recipe call for?

    [Reply]

    Shannon Reply:

    Emma – None. I forgot to change the directions after removing the red wine vinegar from the recipe.

    [Reply]

  28. Megan says:

    Yum, this is delicous! My new favorite fermented food. I also love that it doesn’t require any cooking, lwhich means less heating up the kitchen!

    [Reply]

  29. brite says:

    Also curious to know if I could ferment with kombucha instead of whey- we don’t do dairy, so I don’t often make yogurt, but I have a source for raw milk, so I could do it if it makes the recipe- so eager to try it while I still have so many tomatoes and peppers!

    [Reply]

    Shannon Reply:

    brite – That’s a really interesting question and unfortunately I can’t make any guarantees since I have never tried the kombucha. You could try leaving your raw milk out until it separates and then strain it off with a coffee filter or cheesecloth so that it is very clear (no dairy cloudiness) and some can tolerate that even if they can not handle dairy. You can also purchase starter cultures via my resources page.

    [Reply]

  30. Oh boy am I excited about this recipe. You rock!

    [Reply]

  31. Lauren says:

    I should definitely try this! I make my own yogurt, so whey would be no problem. Sounds delicious!

    Lauren
    The Past on a Plate

    [Reply]

  32. Can you use a vegetable starter instead of whey?

    [Reply]

  33. sarah says:

    Can I make lacto fermented salsa with canned tomatoes? I have a bunch I bought last year and need to use them up. Thanks!

    [Reply]

  34. Cindy says:

    I only have 1 fridge, so not much in the way of cold storage (though I do have a basement) so I won’t be able to make enough to make a dent in what my family of 4 will eat in salsa through the next 3 seasons. Do you think that water bath canned salsa could be lacto fermented later when it is opened to get those healthy benefits? Thanks for posting the recipe – inspiring!

    [Reply]

  35. Shana says:

    yes….is a basement ok for cold storage so I can make a bunch to store as my frige stays pretty full?? Also I am trying to figure out if I can use the whey from cottage cheese making when the milk has been heated to around 190 and vinegar added to it, don’t know if the vinegar affects the live cultures. And does it matter if it is goat milk whey??

    [Reply]

  36. [...] Something new in my fridge is lacto fermented cucumbers.  I have been reading about lacto fermented vegetables for a couple of years now but had been too afraid to try making any.  Lacto fermented vegetables are a great source of healthy bacteria for the gut.  Unlike canning, lacto fermented vegetables are still raw and retain their nutrients.  And since I had such a bumper crop of pickling cucumbers this year I figured I would venture out and try the pickles.  I really like them, and several of the kids like them.  Nobody hates them, but some still prefer the canned pickles.  Next I hope to try the lacto fermented salsa. [...]

  37. renee says:

    No time to read all the comments, hopefully this isn’t repetitive feedback. Thanks, I love this recipe!

    I planted lots of juicy tomatoes that weren’t roma, so my salsa is already thin. To keep it as thick as possible, I have been making these changes. I omit the vinegar and the whey and the water. I stir the salsa daily while it is on the counter fermenting. (on the assumption that it interrupts anything trying to grow on top.) I have not had a problem, but your mileage may vary!

    Unrelated: I also like to add a pinch of cumin.

    [Reply]

  38. [...] you to preserve vegetables without a lot of energy in processing or storage. Try our favorite cultured salsa or make them using a starter [...]

  39. Alicia says:

    I made some tomatillo salsa this evening and as I put it away, I wondered if lacto-fermenting the remainder would work, then I found this post. I’m going to try it! Thanks for sharing :)

    [Reply]

  40. dan says:

    ok, this article totally is missing something. Being, why on earth would anyone want to ‘ferment(!!!) perfectly good salsa?! that sounds pointless. fresh salsa is delicious. thawed salsa from salsa that’s been frozen is equally delicious. so what’s the point? is this article directed just at ‘probiotic’ people (judging from the comments..) who are just afraid of drinking half a beer instead, or eating a slice of good bread. Or is this article meant for people who don’t get enough lactose, then why not just drink a friggin’ cold glass of milk? i don’t get it… i wish someone would tell me why, seriously, i’m curious. Poorly written article, misses explaining the whole point!!

    [Reply]

    Shannon Reply:

    Dan – You must not be familiar with lacto-fermentation. It is a process that increases nutrients, probiotics, and enzymes in vegetables and other foods. I usually lacto-ferment salsa for long-term storage. That is, instead of canning the stuff and killing it in the process I add some whey, let it ferment, skip the canning process, and it keeps in cold storage for months. We also eat fresh salsa when we have a windfall of tomatoes and peppers, but for storage and health reasons we lacto-ferment it.

    Lacto-fermentation does not mean lactose as in the sugar found in milk. The lacto refers to the lactic acid produced in the fermentation process. This acid protects the food from spoilage and creates a friendly environment for healthy stuff to flourish.

    I am not sure, however, why this recipe got you so upset as it is, in fact, just a recipe that you could make or not make at will.

    [Reply]

  41. Ben says:

    Re: Dan’s comments
    Whenever I viewed an issue without looking at the whole picture my old boss would say “Ben you are looking at this through a 3/8 inch pipe”.

    Try the damn recipe Dan and then make your comments from an educated perspective. Or don’t try it and miss out on a wonderful culinary experience. Either get outside the box or stay in it. But don’t make your decision by looking through that 3/8 inch pipe. As Shannon says, you do have a choice.
    Ben

    [Reply]

  42. Ben says:

    Shannon, I assume the cayenne powder is intended to give the salsa a little kick. Would Jalapeno peppers work as well? Maybe instead of bell peppers?
    Ben

    [Reply]

    Shannon Reply:

    Ben – Absolutely, and better because they are fresh.

    [Reply]

  43. [...] -Picture and recipe from Nourishing Days [...]

  44. [...] there is no reason to put it off. These tangy foods are delicious. I recommend starting with salsa and pickles, two of our family’s favorites. You can also find some fermented foods in the [...]

  45. Valerie says:

    I have this same question. What exactly do you mean by “cold storage”? Refrigerator, or a cool (meaning, what temperature?) pantry, or what?

    [Reply]

  46. jen says:

    Just made this – it is tasty, but I’m nervous about the fermentation part. I used “whey” leftover from making ricotta with milk and cream (no yogurt or starter cultures). Will it still ferment and be safe? Or should I have used whey from yogurt?

    [Reply]

  47. Sheila says:

    When you state “place in cold storage”… can this be a room-temperature kitchen cupboard? I live in a hot climate and the kitchen isn’t always cool. Will that be a problem?

    [Reply]

    Shannon Reply:

    Shelia – I would recommend a refrigerator, cool basement or root cellar. Ideally something below 70 degrees.

    [Reply]

  48. Margie says:

    When you say “room temp” for a few days to get it bubbling, how would this work if your room temp was 90 degrees, like it has been here in Texas with no AC? I would really like to try this but with the heat I think I might poison my family!!

    Thanks!!

    [Reply]

  49. [...] recipe I followed came from Shannon of Nourishing Days.  This batch was just freshly made – we can’t wait to try it in a few days. I made [...]

  50. [...] Add shredded lettuce, and Salsa – this is my favorite Salsa: [...]

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