The Complete Guide to Safely Using Salt in Vegetable Fermentation

by Kaitlynn Fenley
white salt crystals

This is a comprehensive guide to safely using salt in vegetable fermentation. Find out how much salt you should use to ferment any type of vegetable at home, how to calculate salt concentration, and what to do for low-salt options in fermentation.

Fermenting with Salt

In order to provide the microbes present on raw vegetables with an exact concentration of salt, you must use units of mass to measure your salt. There are two mathematical methods we use to create an exact total salt concentration (please note that I am NOT referring to salinity. Here we are discussing total salt concentration, aka % composition of salt), and the desired approximate salt concentration varies by type of vegetable (see chart below). Here I will use 2.5% as an example.

Using the metric system is much easier because 1 mL of water weighs 1 gram. So there is no mathematical conversion between mL and gram measurements of water in the metric system. 

Fermenting Brine Ratio  

I do not teach brine ratios, because total salt concentration is better. Total salt concentration accounts for the weight of vegetables and water. Let’s look at 2.5% total salt. The exact, analytical way to create a 2.5% total salt concentration is as follows:

Place a bowl on a scale and tare/zero the scale. Add 2.5 grams of salt to the bowl, then add your produce and any water into that same bowl up to 100 grams. That’s a 2.5% total salt concentration. 

What we do is slightly different, easier, and very safe: We weigh all of our produce and water, multiply that weight by 2.5%, and add the number we get in salt. This results in an approximate 2.5% salt concentration that is perfectly safe and optimal for fermentation.

Fermentation Salt Calculator

If we have 100 grams of produce and water, we multiply by 2.5%. So 100 x 0.025 (you have to move the decimal because you are multiplying by a percentage) = 2.5. So we add 2.5 grams of salt. This ends up being a 2.44% total salt concentration.

In order to calculate the total percent salt concentration of the mixture, you divide the grams of salt added by the total grams of the entire mixture: 2.5 grams of salt / 102.5 grams (of salt + water + produce) = 0.02439.

Move the decimal to make it a percent and you get 2.44%  And guess what? With this method, we end up with 2.44% salt, no matter the weight of vegetables or water… if we add 2.5% salt, the resulting total salt concentration will always be 2.44%

For example, If we have 756 grams of cabbage and water, we multiply that by 2.5%. That equals 18.9. So we add 18.9 grams of salt.

18.9 / (756+18.9) = 0.02439

Yep. That’s 2.44%

The only way you will get a consistent salt concentration throughout different batches of fermentation is by weighing the produce and water, doing math, and then weighing out your salt. 

wooden spoon full of salt over a mason jar of green jalapeño peppers

Salt to Water Ratio for Brine

The salt to water ratio for brine, also needs to include the water inside the vegetables.

Common Questions About Measuring Salt in Vegetable Fermentation:

  • Why weigh the vegetables? All vegetables are about 98% water, so you have to account for that water weight. Because of osmosis and concentration gradients, the total salt concentration includes the water found in the vegetables. Since we’re calculating a total (w/w) salt concentration (not salinity) the mass of vegetable matter added to the mixture has to be accounted for.
  • They didn’t need math to ferment 2000 years ago. “They” also lived in a less toxic world where agriculture was different, salt was different, microbes were different and antibiotic-resistant bacteria didn’t thrive in an industrialized food system.  No, people didn’t always use science to ferment… but they have used weight measurements for recipes, trade, and calculations for a LONG time. A long time meaning since around  1200 BC at least. People of the Eastern world used mass and ratios (aka math) to make fermented vegetables for thousands of years. Not American tablespoons. Traditionally, in the eastern world, fermented vegetables are made with high salt concentrations between 5% and 20%.

Salt Fermentation

Now, I do list recommended total salt concentrations below. These are the total salt concentrations that have yielded the best microbial compositions when fermenting different vegetables, in my recipe development tests and studies. This chart is not to say that you cannot achieve an acceptable quality fermented vegetable using different salt concentrations.

The takeaway here is that no matter what salt concentration you use, the total concentration of salt in vegetable fermentation can ONLY be accurately measured using the mass of the salt, and the mass of the total mixture. There is no possible way to achieve the desired salt concentration by using arbitrary amounts like a head of cabbage and a tablespoon of salt… and you definitely cannot estimate a salt concentration by salting to taste. Taste is arbitrary and salt perception is vastly different for each person depending on diet and lifestyle.

How much salt for lacto fermentation?

Here is a page from our lesson two workbook in the fermented foods semester online course that can help you understand what amount of salt to use for different types of vegetables:

What About options for Low Salt in Vegetable Fermentation

The concentration of salt in vegetable fermentation greatly influences the microbial composition of fermented vegetables. Even the type of salt used can have a profound effect on which types of microbes populate fermented vegetables. 

A critical safety step in the fermentation of vegetables is the accumulation of lactic acid produced by lactic acid bacteria. This acid accumulation is what creates a preserved and safe fermented vegetable product. 

Acid production, and the resulting pH in vegetable fermentations, is affected by the use of different salt concentrations, because the use of different salt concentrations influences which microbes thrive and how fast they can thrive. 

Essentially, salt encourages the growth of desirable heterolactic and homolactic microorganisms, like Leuconstoc and Lactobacillus. So the microbial community, the production of acid, and thus food safety are all a result of the initial salt concentration in fermented vegetables. (5)(12)(11)

The lowest salt concentration I’ve found, that claims to be safe without using a starter culture is about 1.3% (2). However, in the paper referenced (2) initial levels of pathogenic yeasts, fungi, Gram-negative organisms, S. aureus, L. monocytogenes, and E. coli were not monitored, measured, or reported. No data was collected on biogenic amine levels or aflatoxin presence. Thus, this paper lacks some data on the safety of the vegetables fermented at 1.3% salt concentration and drew conclusions based solely on the sensory acceptability of the kimchi. Also, it should be noted that this low of salt concentration is conducive to fungi growth.

A more thorough study indicates that a 2.5% salt concentration is ideal. The result of their microbiological analysis showed that the population of LAB in 2.5% salted sauerkraut is significantly higher than that in samples with lower salt concentrations. Correspondingly, the speed of decrease in pH and accumulation of acids were the highest in 2.5% salted sauerkraut (12). The quicker the lactic acid accumulates, the safer the product.

It should be noted that most research indicates that lower salt concentrations result in undesirable and possibly pathogenic bacteria and fungi thriving in certain stages of fermentation (6)(5), which can cause food poisoning, unpleasant textures, and vegetable softening (10). Generally, as salt concentration is lowered below 2%, wild fermentation is no longer an option and starter cultures, preservatives, calcium chloride, mineral salts, and/or potassium chloride must be added to account for reduced salt content and to ensure safety(4)(5).

In commercial pickle fermentation, something called bloating can occur if an inadequate salt concentration is used, because lower salt concentrations allow for carbon dioxide and acetic acid-producing Lueconostoc bacteria to thrive for a longer time, discouraging a swift transition to homolactic Lactobacillus. With regular safe salt levels, Leuconostoc only thrives for a short time before producing enough acid to encourage homolactic (lactic acid-producing) Lactobacillus spp. to take over the fermentation(3). This shift to Lactobacillus is vital to controlling the levels of biogenic amines produced in fermented foods, as Lactobacillus can consume and degrade biogenic amines.

For at-home fermenters, I advise using the salt concentrations in the chart above. If you’d like to experiment with salt concentration levels as low as 1% I highly suggest buying some pH strips to ensure your at-home fermentation project has achieved a safe pH level of around 3 to 4 pH. Also, you still need to weigh the salt in order to verify that you’re actually using a specific % salt concentration. By using extremely low salt concentrations, your fermentation projects can be contaminated with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, acid-tolerant S. aureus, acid-tolerant pathogenic fungi, C. botulinum, and/or become undesirable in flavor and texture(6)(7). This is because a low salt concentration can allow for secondary fermentation by yeasts. Some yeasts have the ability to deacidify, raising the pH and increasing the chances of pathogen growth. It’s also important to note that salt concentrations greater than 10% are sometimes inhibitory to fermentation.

Through five years of commercial fermentation recipe development research, I’ve found that success in fermentation comes from using exact and adequate salt concentrations. The chart I created above contains the salt concentrations that have encouraged the quickest drop in pH, the best progression of microbial populations, as well as the best food sensory outcomes in my recipe development tests. Experiment at your own risk!

Another option for those on low sodium diets is to ferment with the salt concentrations listed in the chart above. Once fermentation is complete, you can remove half of the liquid and replace the liquid removed with raw apple cider vinegar before placing it in the fridge. This results in a vastly different flavor, but I enjoy it and it cuts the salt content almost in half without compromising food safety and sensory qualities.

A Valid Experiment on Salt in Vegetable Fermentation?

If you want to read a thesis on various salt concentration effects on fermentation CLICK HERE. This is someone’s master’s degree thesis, and I think it was executed wonderfully. Overall, they found that 1% to 2.5% salt concentrations didn’t differ much on the outcome of safe pH levels and end-product control of pathogens. Salt concentrations of 2.0% and 2.5% resulted in the most lactic acid formation. Their results also indicate that 2.0% NaCl resulted in the highest final levels of lactic acid bacteria. However, they did not differentiate between the population development of heterofermentative Leuconostoc spp. vs homofermentative Lactobacillus spp. across the different salt concentrations. This differentiation is important because, as stated previously, lower salt concentrations can discourage the transition to a desired homofermentative Lactobacillus predominate population. This microbial population transition is vital and impacts acidity, gas production, biogenic amine content, potential pathogen growth, sensory qualities, and glucose levels. A transition to a Lactobacillus predominate population results in a population of bacteria that are verified probiotics. Also, Lactobacillus spp. are the specific bacteria involved in fermentation that exhibit the enzymatic activities that biotransform phenolic compounds into health-promoting substances (8). Essentially, fermented vegetables contain more verified probiotic bacteria and health-promoting compounds when a salt concentration of about 2.5% is used and vegetables are fermented for at least 14 days (12).

In conclusion, more studies are needed to validate and ensure the safety of fermented foods produced with extremely low salt concentrations. For thousands of years, traditional fermented vegetables have been made with high salt concentrations ranging from 5% to 20% (9). Before we can change and disregard thousands of years of fermentation recipes and traditions… Before anyone culturally appropriates these historical recipes to meet the low-sodium needs of the American diet, we must fully study and validate the safety and repercussions of these changes.

sliced carrots and dill in a mason jar on a countertop.

A note on traditional fermentation practices

Natural fermentation precedes human history, I know. Since ancient times, humans have exploited the fermentation process. I think it’s only reasonable that, in our modern times, we allow ourselves the space to respect and learn about the microbes of fermentation. We should choose to understand microbes to harness fermentation in the healthiest way possible. Also, let’s not irresponsibly culturally appropriate recipes and instead bring pride and respect to the long-standing culture of fermented foods by understanding the process fully.

Some traditional fermented foods, like Baechu Korean kimchi and Dưa Chua Vietnamese fermented vegetables have a swift fermentation time. This is thanks to specific ingredients, adequate salt content, and traditional methods.

Dưa Chua, for instance, is made by drying vegetables in the sun then submerging them in a brine that includes salt and sugar. Dưa Chua is usually fermented for about 4 days at 80-95° F.

Baechu Korean kimchi is made by soaking nappa cabbage in a high salt concentration for 12 hours before it is rinsed and rubbed with a paste made of salted shrimp, fish paste, gochugaru, sugar, ginger, garlic, and scallions. Then it is packed into an air-tight fermentation crock and enjoyed after only three days of fermentation.

In both of these examples, the ingredients, salt content, methods, and temperature are very important factors influencing the fermentation outcomes. If you want to make traditional fermentation recipes from other cultures, some of which have quick fermentation times, find a teacher from that culture who provides recipes (there are so many) and follow EVERY step, method, temperature, time, and ingredient. These types of recipes are time-tested and perfected over thousands of years.

(9) Effects of salt concentration on microbial diversity and volatile compounds during suancai fermentation

(10) Toxins in Fermented Foods: Prevalence and Preventions

(11) Effects of different types of salts on the growth of lactic acid bacteria and yeasts during kimchi fermentation

(12) Effect of salt concentration on microbial communities, physicochemical properties, and metabolite profile during spontaneous fermentation of Chinese northeast sauerkraut

Consecutive Outbreaks of Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli O6 in Schools in South Korea Caused by Contamination of Fermented Vegetable Kimchi

Comparison of microbial communities and physiochemical characteristics of two traditionally fermented vegetables

Large-scale targeted metagenomics analysis of bacterial ecological changes in 88 kimchi samples during fermentation

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Robert H. June 23, 2020 - 1:02 am

Thank you for your fermentation expertise, Kaitlynn. I appreciate the instruction and plan to employ it on my own.

Kaitlynn Fenley June 24, 2020 - 3:57 pm

You’re welcome! I’m glad you enjoyed this post!

Laura I. July 4, 2020 - 8:58 pm

Any recommendations for making your own salt blend for fermentation? I’ve been using the one you used to sell, but I’m almost out! I see it’s a mix of 4 types, but is there a preferred ratio?

I keep a jar of either your sauerkraut or dill pickle recipe fermenting on my counter at any given time 🙂

Kaitlynn Fenley July 5, 2020 - 1:20 pm

I love hearing that you keep sauerkraut and pickles fermenting at all times! For the salt, it’s equal parts by weight.

We may bring the salt back, but we are experiencing some supply chain issues from COVID right now.

Laura I. July 7, 2020 - 4:06 pm

Thanks for the quick answer! I’ll be on the lookout for it, and in the meantime I’ll hit Red Stick Spice Company.

Liz July 23, 2020 - 1:10 am

This is exactly what I’ve been looking for! The fascinating world of micro-organisms and their control of our environment (from our soil to hospital surgery theatres to our food right down to our intestinal flora) and our health can be overwhelming & mystifying at times. Your in-depth research and clear informative style of writing is truly a gift. I’m so excited to finally make my first big batch of sauerkraut, with enough confidence that I won’t be wasting valuable local organic produce. Thank you for sharing for the sake of educating – not for financial gain. I hope the micro-organisms populating your environment are as beneficial to you as your knowledge is to your readers.

Sylvia Burgos Toftness July 28, 2020 - 4:20 am

Thanks for your very, very informative posts! Request: please make it easier to print from your site. Thanks.

Matt August 29, 2020 - 12:12 pm

2.5% by mass will not give you a 2.5% salt solution. It may be close but the amount of water in the cabbage can vary for all kinds of reasons. The math will get you close but won’t give you an exact salt concentration in your brine unless you know the exact water content of that cabbage. The ONLY way you could ensure a 2.5% solution at home would be to measure it with a salinity refractometer or hydrometer. And that measuring device needs to be calibrated.

Kaitlynn Fenley August 29, 2020 - 1:21 pm

This entire post is about calculating approximate total (w/w) salt concentrations. This blog is NOT about salinity.

Salinity and total salt concentration are two completely different things.

My post here includes two mathematical options to calculate total w/w salt concentrations. The first method results in an exact total salt concentration (% composition of salt). The second results in an exact (w/w) salt concentration that is slightly less than the first, but is easier mathematically, because you simply add a specific percentage of salt.

Tom November 1, 2021 - 11:46 pm

Kaitlin, as I understand your approach, when you specify to add 2.5% salt to a jar of vegetables plus water, the percent calculation includes all the mass inside the jar; i.e., the mass of the vegetables and any added water.

Thus, Matt seems to be under the erroneous view that you add a 2.5% brine to the vegetables. I agree your method would result in variations in salinity, depending on the water content of the vegetables, but it’s too small to worry about.

Matt’s approach to separately make a brine with a given percentage then add it to the jar of vegetables is very common on the web. I don’t like it because you really don’t know how much salt you’ve added. Thus, I prefer your approach, whereby you know exactly how much salt you add.

I was a little surprised to read that you recommend a minimum salt concentration of 2.5%, though I believe you understand very much about fermentation science, so I must respect this recommendation. With this in mind, and when you consider Matt’s approach to first make a separate brine with, say only a 2 – 4%, when you add it to the jar of vegetables, since there’s often only room for a cup or so of brine, the net total salt concentration (wt for wt) in the jar is far less than 2.5%. It all makes me wonder if there are some health issues brewing with this idea of salt fermentation that’s becoming more popular in the nation.

Kaitlynn Fenley November 2, 2021 - 10:41 am

You are correct, with the salt brine/salinity method most people end up with dangerously low levels of salt because over 90% of the mass of vegetables added IS water.

It’s been a bit of a challenge getting people to understand why weighing the vegetables is important, and that total weight is directly proportional to the water weight. For example, an old crusty cabbage stored in the fridge too long is going to weigh less than a cabbage freshly picked from the garden. So by weighing the vegetables you are accounting proportionally for the water content within. If a cabbage is old and dehydrated, it won’t weigh much because it’s missing the water that makes up 92% of the weight, so you won’t add as much salt.

There are a lot of health issues brewing! There are many people who report being “allergic to fermented foods” and having things like “histamine intolerance” when eating ferments. This is not about fermented foods in general, but about the quality of the fermented foods they are consuming… and the poor fermentation instruction they follow. People experiencing health issues from fermented food consumption are reacting to poorly fermented foods made from irresponsibly culturally appropriated recipes. Even renowned popular books written by certain “experts” are full of fermentation misinformation, and inconsistent recipes that lead to poor results and a bad reputation for fermented foods.

If you want to make traditional fermentation recipes from other cultures, It is best to find a teacher from that culture who provides recipes (there are so many) and follow EVERY step, method, temperature, time, and ingredient. These types of recipes are time-tested and perfected over thousands of years.

Benjamin September 6, 2020 - 10:18 pm

thank you MS Fenly for sharing your wonderful knowledge when it comes to fermentation, . i find your post a bit easier to understand than my go to book, the art of fermentation by Sandor Katz.. i have been playing with the idea of making a fermented hot sauce.
wondering if it would be better to just use fermented peppers in recipe or trying to ferment all of the ingredients. i was also thinking of starting a base for making vinegar and fermenting the ingredients that way and if so i assume i could use a lower salt ratio…. i wish we went over this a little in culinary school.

Kaitlynn Fenley September 7, 2020 - 8:09 am

You’re welcome!

I take a logical, scientific approach to explain facts about fermentation. For a lot of people, this fills in the confusing learning gaps other resources have.
We’re writing a hot sauce recipe to post on our blog next week, so look forward to that. I like to ferment the peppers and garlic I use in hot sauces, then I blend the other fresh ingredients in with some vinegar once fermentation is complete.

Acetic acid fermentation (Vinegar) is a completely different process and does not require salt. A lot of people have requested that I write a vinegar fermentation blog, and I will soon!

Philip Chapman November 8, 2020 - 12:54 pm

Hi. Just wondering whether the mass versus volume debate is academic, in the sense that if veggies are +/- 95% water, does it really make any difference that the veggies are weighed with or without the water? We are only talking about a 5% variance.

Kaitlynn Fenley November 9, 2020 - 1:38 pm

I’m not sure what you are asking here… your question is hard to follow.

You cannot determine a total salt concentration with volumetric measurements of NaCl. This is a scientific fact, not a debate.

Vegetables are not “+/-” 95% water… All vegetables contain approximately 95% water or more. Meaning when you weigh a vegetable, approximately 95% of that weight is water. So yes, vegetables must be weighed and included in total salt concentration calculations (and I’m referring to total salt concentration, or w/w % composition, NOT salinity).

Philip Chapman November 10, 2020 - 8:28 am

Sorry to label it a debate. I know that one cannot equate mass to volume when deciding on a salt/water ratio. Also that the water content of vegetables has to be accounted for in the brine. My only point is that there is an approximate difference of 5% in weight between just water and a water/vegetable mixture. One liter= 1000 grams of water, 950 grams of vegetable/water. 2.5% of former is 25 grams of salt; 2.5 % of latter is 23.75 grams of salt. The difference is even less significant if the vegetable has 98% water content. I was just wondering how such a small difference can be that significant in the end result.

On another note, what do you recommend as a percentage for onions or shallots?

Kaitlynn Fenley November 10, 2020 - 11:15 am

Did you read the math section at the beginning of this blog?

There is not a 5% difference in just water versus a water and vegetable mixture.

This math you present here is comparing how much salt to add to 1000 grams of water, versus how much salt to add to 1000 grams of JUST vegetables with no water added…

Vegetable matter IS 95% water. It seems to me you’re thinking vegetables are 95% “OF” the water added?

Say you want to ferment 1000 grams of cucumbers into pickles:
Cucumbers CONTAIN 98% water. That means of the 1000 grams of just cucumbers, 980 grams IS water.
Plain water also is included in cucumber fermentation recipes to create a brine.
So say we add 1000 grams of filtered, plain water.
That’s a total of 1980 grams of water present in this recipe.

SO the difference in salt between just water with 2.5% salt added, and a water/vegetable mixture with 2.5% salt added IS significant.
From this example:
just 1000 grams of water would be 25 grams of salt added.
The water and vegetable mixture, a total of 1980 grams of water present, would be 49.5 grams of salt added.
That’s almost double the amount of salt and is extremely significant.

Tony Purcell December 10, 2020 - 8:22 am

Hi, I have been experimenting with lactic acid ‘fermentation’ of fresh organic tumeric root (not whole but thinly sliced). I have been using 2% salt and add a powdered starter culture, I leave it to ferment for 14 days. Fermented tumeric tea is widely consumed in Okinawa. Having read your comments regarding fermentation of root vegetables I am now questioning whether I am using the correct process. I believe the lactic acid fermentation process is used in Okinawa. Have you tried fermenting fresh tumeric root?

Kaitlynn Fenley December 10, 2020 - 9:47 am

Root vegetables can be broken up into different categories: bulbs (like fennel, onions), corms (like celery root, water chestnut), rhizomes (like ginger, turmeric), taproots (like beets, carrots, parsnips), and tuberous roots (like sweet potatoes, yucca), and tubers (like potatoes, yams).

When I refer to root vegetables I’m talking about tubers, tuberous roots, and taproot vegetables, like beets, carrots, and sweet potatoes. Tubers and taproot vegetables store a lot of starch, which serves as a substrate that influences fermentation. Rhizomes like Ginger and Turmeric are vastly different and contain different compounds that influence microbial growth and fermentation in different ways.

Fermentation and the Optimal Vessel - Clay on Herbs March 10, 2021 - 6:59 pm

[…] Alright so now that you know that we are fermenting with lactobacillus, how can we ensure a safe and tasty result. It comes down to salt and water, once you have a safe container to put it all in. When considering salinity of the “brine” or saltwater that you will fully submerge your veggies in, it is helpful to consider the moisture content of the vegetables you are using. In most cases you will want your brine to be about 3% to 5% salt but you can experiment with ranges from 2% to 20% though too much salt and you might hurt the cultures you are trying to produce (and hurt your gut) while too little salt and you risk growing harmful bacteria that will contaminate your final product. We would recommend putting all your veggies in a jar, filling it with water to the desired level, then recollecting the water you just used in a separate vessel and measuring it to find the amount of salt to use. One to two tablespoons per quart or liter is a loose estimate. For more brine info check this. […]

Tavis March 15, 2021 - 3:09 am

Thank you for this. When you advise not to ferment root vegetables, do you mean all root vegetables? I’d like to ferment onions but it sounds like perhaps it’s not a good idea. Here you refer to carrots and beets, so just double checking.

Kaitlynn Fenley March 18, 2021 - 8:24 am

There are alternate methods to fermenting root vegetables. Here I am stating that root vegetables do not ferment well with traditional wild fermentation. You can search “fermented onions” and “fermented carrots” here on our blog. I have recipes on how to ferment both in a safe and healthy way.

Sergio September 3, 2021 - 9:59 pm

Hi Kaitlynn, I am looking for some advice. I started making sriracha sauce using red chilly or Fresno peppers. Used 2.5% salt for the mixture, but mixture is blended and I added 3 tablespoons of brown sugar. Total weight is about 1kg. Does this extra sugar lessens the need for more salt that you show in your chart ? Also, recipe for my previous batches that I made, call for boiling and adding vinegar. Which i followed. Is it possible to leave those two steps out and just use raw, fermented sauce? How long would it keep?
Thank you, in advance, Sergio

Kaitlynn Fenley September 9, 2021 - 3:06 pm

No, the increase in sugar does not change the recommended salt concentration. The recommended amounts are based on the type of vegetable and the average vegetable microbiome. The chart is my advisement based on my experience and education… You can have success fermenting specific vegetables with varying salt concentrations though.

Adding sugar to naturally fermented hot sauce is tricky. You may find that it doesn’t contribute sweetness to the flavor profile, and the sugar just ends up making the flavor more acidic and alcoholic… this is because the live microorganisms will metabolize the added sugar into acids and alcohol. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to have a raw fermented hot sauce that is also slightly sweet since all the sugar will eventually be metabolized.

If you ferment the peppers, then add the sugar into the mix after pasteurizing the mixture (by boiling and adding vinegar), you can achieve a sweet, tart, and hot balanced flavor.

I keep raw fermented hot sauce in my fridge indefinitely. I’ve never had one go bad, and oftentimes they get better with age.

Lee September 26, 2021 - 8:43 pm

Finding your writing is a breath if fresh air. Thank you for being clear, concise, and including references!

Speaking of references, could you point me towards any regarding fermentation of eggs?

Do you know any good studies regarding the effects of potassium chloride or other salt substitutes on bacterial growth?

Kaitlynn Fenley September 30, 2021 - 9:31 am

I’m glad you enjoyed this post!

I don’t have much information on fermenting eggs. I know there are people that salt cure eggs and pickle things like quail eggs, but I wouldn’t advise “fermenting” them.

Here’s one of the papers I referenced in this blog post that discusses potassium chloride, calcium chloride and zinc chloride salts as replacements for NaCl in fermentation:

Marc October 8, 2021 - 9:15 pm

Hi. Thank your for going into such detail about the science behind lacto-fermentation. Understanding the full process takes the guess-work out of it. It makes perfect sense. I feel I’m on much firmer ground. I have a question. I’m going to ferment some cucumbers into pickles. The cucumbers had some waxy coating I had to wash off in Dawn dishwashing liquid. Now that I’ve washed everything off, how long will it take before the cucumbers have been populated with enough bacteria to be able to ferment them? Thank you for your help.

Kaitlynn Fenley October 14, 2021 - 12:52 pm

I do not suggest using wax-coated cucumbers for fermentation. Removing the wax with dawn dishwashing liquid would also remove all of the necessary fermentation microorganisms. Please see this recipe: there is a recipe in the blog and tips for choosing quality cucumbers for fermentation.

Tom November 4, 2021 - 1:06 pm

Kaitlin, what salt concentration would you recommend for celery stalk. Would that be the same for celery leaves? Thanks.

Kaitlynn Fenley November 4, 2021 - 2:27 pm

I’d use the same as I would for cabbage, so 2.5%

Melissa November 8, 2021 - 4:55 am

Hi! Your article was really helpful but I wanted to ask what percentage of salut would you recommend to ferment baby corn? I tried searching on internet but I did not find anything.
Tank you!

Kaitlynn Fenley November 8, 2021 - 8:15 am

I’ve never fermented baby corn. Since it’s a little higher in sugar than other vegetables, I’d go with 3%

Melissa February 21, 2022 - 5:50 am

Hi! I’m back with an update on baby corn. I fermented it with 3% salt as you said and tasted after 4 weeks. It was delicious!
I’m growing my own corn right now and will make another batch as soon as it’ll be ready to harvest.
I wanted to ask you another question if you don’t mind. Do you think I could ferment sweet potato leaves? If so, what salt concentration should I use, 2,5% as you mentioned above for green leafy vegetables?
Thank you!

Melisa Ladas January 10, 2022 - 10:34 pm

Hi Kaitlynn! Thank you for this article! The internet is full of incorrect brine calculations from “experts”. Yikes! I want to be sure I do this right and safely. Could I trouble you for a little more info? I want to ferment cauliflower, radish, and asparagus (all separately). What percentage of salt should I use? Thank you much,


Kaitlynn Fenley January 11, 2022 - 11:46 am

You’re welcome! You can try 2.5% to 3% salt… just a warning though, all of these vegetables smell horrible when fermented. lol
It’s not that they are bad or anything, the smell is just… intense.
I personally cannot stand the smell of fermented radishes.

Melisa January 19, 2022 - 6:24 pm

Hi Kaitlynn,

I have one more question…. I really want to ferment salsa, actually I already have it in my jar. Most of the internet sources say to ferment for two days. Is this okay? I did squeeze the juice of one lime (that should bring the pH down). Thank you,


Kaitlynn Fenley January 20, 2022 - 11:03 am

Yeah, that’s okay because of the acid added from the lemon juice. But the salsa will definitely be effervescent and mostly have Leuconostoc bacteria in it, not many Lactobacillus.

Melisa Ladas January 11, 2022 - 4:42 pm

😂. I will keep that in mind! I might be thinking twice on the radish. I fermented lemon pepper asparagus years ago. It was tasty, but I don’t remember the smell. Thank you so much for your speedy reply.

Allan May 1, 2022 - 11:33 am

I note you use 2.5% brine for fermenting your roasted garlic. What salt % would be appropriate for fresh garlic cloves? Would you still need to add vinegar to achieve a safe pH? Would fermenting fresh garlic inhibit production of lactic acid?

Allan May 17, 2022 - 1:50 pm

you use 2.5% brine for fermenting your roasted garlic. What salt % would be appropriate for fresh garlic cloves? Would you still need to add vinegar to achieve a safe pH? Would fermenting fresh garlic inhibit production of lactic acid?

Kaitlynn Fenley May 17, 2022 - 2:49 pm

hey there! I don’t use 2.5% brine. I use a 2.5% total salt concentration. You can use the same directions in my roasted garlic recipe for fresh garlic, and yes I still recommend adding vinegar. When using fresh garlic it will probably turn blue. Fresh garlic does not inhibit the production of lactic acid, but the byproducts produced when the garlic ferments can raise the pH.

Allan May 18, 2022 - 11:06 pm

Have you done any work or trials using salts other than NaCl? For example KCl, CaCl2, and ZnCl2. Would these alternatives effect the type of probiotic bacteria created? What about taste and texture?

Kaitlynn Fenley May 19, 2022 - 8:18 am

No. There’s no reason for me to do such trials. We make our fermented vegetables with unrefined sea salt, as it should be. You can read about salt alternatives in the references listed in this blog post (5) Salt Reduction in Vegetable Fermentation: Reality or Desire?

SARAH July 30, 2022 - 3:44 pm

How do you calculate the ratio of water content and produce? Because as you mention, sometimes the cabbage left in the store for too long and it does not release much water. That’s why we need to add water.

I have tried your recipe of traditional sauerkraut. The ratio of water/product is about 1/2 (about 250ml of water and 550g of cabbage). However, my guess is that cabbage release so little liquid, so my actual salt concentration is higher than expected ( > 2.5%) and I experienced some stomach cramp.

So my question is can I change the ratio of water/produce to 2/1. ( like 1000ml of water and 500g of cabbage ) for more consistent result?

Thank you!

Kaitlynn Fenley July 30, 2022 - 5:57 pm

If you had digestive issues, you should consult your doctor. You may just be eating too much sodium overall, other foods included. I can’t suggest recipe adjustments like this. There should always be more cabbage than water, for a properly acidified product. Make sure it is fermenting for a long enough time too. All cabbage based ferments should ferment for at least 21 days.


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