Sparkling Golden Beet Kvass Made the Traditional Way

by Kaitlynn Fenley

This golden beet kvass tastes good because it is made the traditional Russian way, with sugar! Beetroot kvass is a sweet and tart sparkling drink made by fermenting beets with sugar, water, and rye bread.

What is Beet Kvass

The word Kvass in Russian means to ferment, and Russians have made beet kvass for hundreds of years as a sparkling and refreshing soft drink. You make kvass with beets, sugar, water, and a little piece of rye bread (more on that later). Also, Poland, Ukraine, Latvia, and other Eastern European countries have their versions of kvass.

I think it is essential that I tell you what the beverage beetroot kvass is not. It is not “lacto-fermented beets,” it is not made with salt and shouldn’t taste like salty dirt. Slavic and Russian kvass drinks all use sugar, not salt. The fermentation process of kvass and the microbes involved are similar to kombucha, a yeast and acetic acid fermentation that requires sugar. Beets contain a lot of fructans, which are natural fermentable sugars, so adding sugar leans into the natural way beets ferment.

The Salty Version of Fermenting Beets

It’s common in other Slavic countries for people to ferment beets with salt and then cook it into borscht, a beet soup. Since kvass just means “to ferment” salt-fermented beets are also called kvass, but there is a huge difference between the kvass destined for cooking and the kvass meant to be enjoyed as a beverage. When you compare beets fermented with sugar and beets fermented with salt, there are stark differences in flavor, microbes, and fermentation byproducts. (To learn more about fermentation science you can join our online course!)

Americans, unfortunately, culturally appropriated and popularized salty beet kvass as a full-on drink, when it’s not usually used as a drink. Eventually, American health food bloggers and even book authors started regurgitating kvass beverage recipes with salt on their blogs, calling it a drink. Essentially, they erased knowledge of how the drink kvass historically was made with sugar—erased it from the first page of google, anyways.

So let’s get back to making the kind of kvass you drink, the time-tested, historically healthy way, with sugar.

Beet Kvass Benefits

Russians believe that beet kvass has healing powers, and I do too! It’s often called “the elixir of youth.” It’s proven to help with blood pressure issues, to boost energy levels, support brain health, reduce inflammation, provide probiotics, balance gut health, provide electrolytes for mineral balance, cleanse toxins, and support healthy blood flow.

Since beet kvass is fermented, vitamins like folate (vitamin B9), manganese, potassium, iron, and vitamin C are more bioavailable. Fermentation also dramatically reduces the oxalates in beets, making it one of the most healthy ways to consume the benefits of beets.

Beet kvass is an excellent way for people with IBS to get the benefits of beets. Beets are a high FODMAP food, often problematic for people with IBS to digest. Through the fermentation process, the microbes digest the FODMAPs, making it much easier for you to digest and absorb all the beneficial vitamins and minerals from beets.

How Much Beet Kvass Should I Drink Per Day

Since most people’s first experience with drinking kvass is the salty kind, there is this bad reputation that it can cause digestive upset, so you should start with a tiny amount and adjust to it. (I’m rolling my eyes). Beet kvass is not supposed to cause diarrhea, or as some people call it, “bowel cleansing.” LOL. Adverse effects from fermented foods and drinks are 99% of the time caused by someone not fermenting or producing it correctly.

When you make it the traditional way, beet kvass should not cause any digestive distress. You should be able to drink a glass of kvass the same way you would drink a glass of kombucha, and it even tastes similar. I drink an 8-ounce glass at a time, usually once a day when I have some made. I love to drink it around 3 pm because it boosts my energy.

If you have kidney stones, bladder disease, gout, stomach ulcers, or rheumatoid arthritis, or if you are pregnant, you should consult your doctor before trying beet kvass.

How to Make Beetroot Kvass

I am well versed in developing fermented vegetable recipes from scratch because I studied that process in college. But when it comes to cultural recipes I don’t have much experience with, I turn to recipes passed down by grandparents and great-grandparents to learn. I think there are two ways to get fermentation right. The first is understanding the microorganisms and creating a recipe that caters to the natural physiology of the microbes. The second is historical and time-tested recipes passed down for generations within families, meant to be followed precisely.

I learned how to make kvass from a Russian food blogger, Peter. He grew up drinking beet kvass made by his dedushka (Russian grandfather). After learning from Peter’s blog, I developed my golden beet kvass recipe, with different ratios of ingredients and precise measurements. I also incorporated a secondary fermentation to carbonate it.

I want to add a note on the rye bread I mentioned earlier. It’s an optional ingredient, but Peter’s dedushka always added a piece of crusty rye bread, so I added it. I think it’s a good source of yeast and flavor.

Golden Beet Kvass Recipe tips:

  • Use a 1-gallon glass jar covered with a tight weave cloth.
  • You should use homegrown or farm-fresh organic beets for the best results. Do not use frozen or processed chopped beets; use whole fresh beets with the peel.
  • It’s ok to skip the rye bread, but it is a delicious addition.
  • Do not use salt; it’s never been in the original beverage recipe.
  • You can incorporate added yeast or a tablespoon of raw kombucha to ensure a robust fermentation.
  • You need to stir the kvass twice daily with a clean spoon before it is bottled. IF YOU DO NOT STIR IT, YOU WILL ENCOUNTER PROBLEMS. DO NOT FORGET TO STIR IT.
  • Always make sure you use pressure-safe bottles for part two.
  • You can use the beets more than once, but the color will fade with each batch. I’d only use them twice.
carbonated Golden beet kvass after the two parts of fermentation. It's poured in a glass mason jar and ready to drink.
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Sparkling Golden Beet Kvass Made the Traditional Way

This golden beet kvass tastes good because it is made the traditional Russian way, with sugar! Beetroot kvass is a sweet and tart sparkling drink made from beets, sugar, water, and rye bread.

  • Author: Kaitlynn Fenley
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Fermentation Time: 6 Days
  • Total Time: 144 hours 10 minutes
  • Yield: 1 gallon 1x
  • Category: Fermented Drinks
  • Method: Fermentation
  • Cuisine: Russian

Ingredients

Scale

Part One

  • 3 large gold beets, rinsed and sliced
  • 150 grams organic cane sugar
  • filtered water
  • 1 small piece crusty rye bread

Part Two

  • Strained kvass from part 1
  • 20 grams maple syrup

Instructions

Part One

  1. Please see the recipe notes before you get started.
  2. Clean and sterilize your glass jar.
  3. Scrub any dirt off the beets and rinse clean with cool water. Slice the beets and set aside.
  4. Add the beets and sugar to the jar. Fill the jar with filtered water. Stir to combine until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  5. Add the small piece of rye bread (optional).
  6. Cover with a cloth lid, and allow to ferment for 3-4 days at room temperature (about 75° F).
  7. Stir the mixture twice a day with a clean utensil during the 3-4 days.
  8. You should see it begin to bubble within 24-48 hours. You’ll also notice the mixture become cloudy and vibrant in color.

Part Two

  1. After 3-4 days, strain and reserve the liquid from the fermented beet mixture. I suggest straining through a cheesecloth-lined colander. 
  2. Using a funnel, add 20 grams of organic maple syrup to your pressure-safe bottle. I used a 1-liter bottle. (tip: For higher levels of carbonation, try using 30 grams of honey instead)
  3. Fill the bottle with the strained fermented liquid from part one, leaving only a little head space, about 1/2 an inch.
  4. Allow it to ferment and carbonate in the bottle for 2-3 days, then store it in the fridge. You can check the carbonation at 2 days by carefully opening the bottle in the sink. If it is not as bubbly as you would like it, allow it to ferment at room temperature longer without opening the bottle.
  5. Enjoy chilled.

Notes

  • Optional: you can add 1/4 teaspoon cider yeast or a tablespoon of kombucha to part one, this results in the best carbonation.
  • If it is cold in your home, parts one and two may take longer. Once the mixture in part one becomes cloudy, vibrant, and bubbly, and ferments like that for about 24-48 hours, you can move on to part two.
  • The level of carbonation is dependent on how long the mixture was fermented in part one, the temperature in your home, and how long you leave it in part two.
  • You may notice the liquid becomes thicker and slightly viscous in part one, this is completely normal and the natural state of beet kvass. The viscosity will decrease the longer it is bottled and stored in the fridge.
  • yes, you can use red beets instead of gold.

Keywords: kvass, beets, russian, beet kvass

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23 comments

Autumn September 27, 2022 - 12:12 pm

do you use 20g of maple syrup per bottle, or divided amongst the bottles for the second ferment?

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley September 27, 2022 - 12:22 pm

It’s per bottle. I used a 1-liter bottle. So it’s about 20 grams of maple syrup per liter.

Reply
natasha September 28, 2022 - 7:46 pm

Reading this explains a lot, and I am laughing at it! I followed an instagrammer who is health concious and she made red beet kvass with salt. She shared the recipe and so I made this. It was pretty undrinkable. My husband made fun of me lol! your post explains a lot. Thank you

Reply
Sunnie September 30, 2022 - 4:15 am

Is it alright and safe to replace honey with maple syrup?

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley September 30, 2022 - 8:19 am

you can use honey or maple syrup. both work really well.

Reply
Jenni September 30, 2022 - 7:14 pm

Is it supposed to be thick like syrup after the first ferment? What did I do wrong?

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley October 1, 2022 - 7:09 am

Yes, that’s normal, you can leave it in the first ferment a little longer. It will thin out. It’s just all the sugars being released from the beets.

Reply
Tracy October 15, 2022 - 4:23 am

Hi, this has happenef to me, too. I put on a batch of golden beet kvass Monday night. It became very viscous by Wednesday. It’s Saturday morning and the kvass is bubbly but still viscous. I didn’t use Rye bread but I put a little more kombucha in it that the recipe calls for. It’s OK? Thx!

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley October 15, 2022 - 7:49 am

Yeah, it’s fine! Viscosity is totally normal. It’s just the sugary, starchy nature of beets, especially in-season fall and winter beets.

Reply
Catherine October 1, 2022 - 9:44 pm

Is there supposed to be a foamy head in my one jar? Did I do something wrong?
I made 3 jars and the other ones don’t have this.

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley October 2, 2022 - 6:49 am

It should be bubbly and look similar to the photos above in the blog post. Sometimes bubbles can look foamy. Just make sure you’re stirring it every day during part one.

Reply
Julia October 6, 2022 - 6:00 pm

I stirred daily and had foam. I noticed today (day 4) that the beets poking out of the foam had gone off looking above the liquid. Is this the problems you were referring to? 😬❤️

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley October 6, 2022 - 7:01 pm

no. Foam/foamy bubbles are normal. The beets change color as they ferment. The beets lose their color and the liquid should become more colorful.

Reply
Tracy October 7, 2022 - 1:27 am

First batch with red beets turned out great! Second batch reusing the same beets is also good but less beets flavor. It got started Fermenting faster – seems like the beets were starters. I added some kombucha but no bread. Do you know of an instrument to measure the sugar content as well as acidity? Thanks for a great site – glad I found it🌼🌼🌼

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley October 7, 2022 - 8:34 am

Hi there!

you can measure the acidity with a pH strip. I’m not sure how to measure the remaining sugars after fermentation.

Reply
Deirdre October 19, 2022 - 2:28 pm

So easy to make and tasty to drink! I love how this method of consuming beets reduces the oxalate load.

Reply
Victoria October 19, 2022 - 6:43 pm

I subbed agave nectar for the syrup and it turned out pretty good!

I’m not sure if it’s because it’s getting cooler where I’m at or what but it still wasn’t very fizzy after 2 days in bottles.

This was my first cultured guru/fermentation recipe trial thought, so I may have had unrealistic expectations of how fizzy it would get.

Good flavor though!

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley October 20, 2022 - 8:26 am

yes, colder temperatures make fermentation happen slower! You can also reduce the time you primarily ferment it to make it fizzier after bottling.

Reply
Lauren October 20, 2022 - 9:13 am

My new favorite way to use up beets from my garden! It’s been cool in my house, so I thought it wasn’t carbonating in the second part, but I decided to be patient and just left it alone without opening for 5 days and it’s lovely. It doesn’t explode when I open it, but when I pour it in a glass, it’s lovely and fizzy like a soda.

Reply
Sarah October 28, 2022 - 12:21 am

I made some recently and it never really got carbonated, only a touch but it’s also very cloudy and pretty thick (it has thinned off a bit though). I did use honey instead of sugar but the same measurements. What could be the issue?

(P.S. it’s still delish, I’ve just added some sparkling water to it to help with the bubbliness in the meantime 🙂

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley October 28, 2022 - 7:30 am

Nothing is wrong with it, the fructans in beets make it naturally thicker, and it thins out as it ferments more. You can adjust the fermentation times to suit the temperature in your home. That will help with carbonation like a shorter primary fermentation or longer secondary fermentation will make it bubblier.

Reply
Luiza November 30, 2022 - 6:40 am

Hello!
Can I substitute maple with raw honey?

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley November 30, 2022 - 8:38 am

yep!

Reply