If you’re thinking about getting started with fermented foods, you might be feeling a little overwhelmed. Adding new foods to your diet routine can be nerve-wracking, especially when it seems like you need special equipment, kits, cultures and more.
It’s a good idea to be cautious!
You don’t want to have allergic reactions, after all.
That’s a big concern in our household when we are trying new foods – there are too many sensitivities and food allergies for us to blindly add new foods to our diet.
But on the other hand, you also don’t want to spend a lot of money on foods that you actually don’t like or tools that you won’t end up using again.
Before you waste money on kits and fermented foods you have never tried, and definitely before you leap with both feet into fermentation of your own foods, take a few moments and consider these fermented foods instead.
Why these four?
Well, they’re all easy to find, and they’re certainly easy to incorporate into your diet.
But more importantly, they have flavours and textures that will already seem familiar. Just be sure to look for non-GMO products.
4 Easy Fermented Foods to Get at the Grocery Store
Take a deep breath and repeat after me – it’s just pickled cabbage.
Really and truly, sauerkraut is nothing more than cabbage that has been pickled with the traditional method of fermentation.
If you like coleslaw and you like pickles, and you’re brave enough to be considering fermented foods … no, no, no, I don’t mean that fermented foods require bravery, so calm down … anyway, it’s really just pickled cabbage.
And it’s pretty good.
A few years ago, in 2012, my mother and I spent a weekend preparing an incredible 10 gallons of sauerkraut. We had a lot of fun, and that gave us jars and jars of this healthy pickle to enjoy in our meals for several years. As it ages, the pickle becomes softer and more sour, but it is still delicious and healthy.
Sauerkraut, literally sour cabbage, is a very easy addition to your diet as a fermented foods beginner, since you can start with a little bit and gradually increase the amount.
And you should – too much sauerkraut at once might have a pungent effect when you’re in public.
In plain language, you’ll fart a lot!
Sauerkraut is a required ingredient in a Reubens sandwich, and it’s pretty good on hot dogs and sausages. German pickle tastes good in German foods – who’d have thunk it?
Okay, okay, are pickles fermented?
That’s a good question, and the answer is – sometimes.
Fermented pickles are … well, fermented … while your standard pickles are in a vinegar base.
But right now, you’re aiming to get used to the taste and texture of sauerkraut, so you’ll worry slightly less about how it’s been pickled.
In most produce sections, you’re going to find sauerkraut in jars and bags, while the canned version will likely be with the other canned vegetables or pickles.
When you’re choosing your sauerkraut, keep in mind that quality varies.
Choose bagged or even jarred sauerkraut over the canned style. The quality of canned sauerkraut will be much lower because of the high heat and preservatives. The only thing necessary to preserve good quality saerkraut is salt.
Later, once you’re used to eating it and know that you like it, you can look into making your own sauerkraut. You can make small batches in a mason jar, but ideally you’ll have a wooden pounder and a dedicated sauerkraut crock.
Read next: Seasonal Produce: What is in Season and When
Did you ever stop and think that yogurt is a fermented food?
This is so common and easy to use that you might already be including it in your diet.
However, if you’re going to buy yogurt instead of making it, there are a couple of things you should know in order to increase the health benefits.
First, make sure that you’re getting a yogurt with active culture in it. That’s the fermented foods part!
Second, choose a plain yogurt and add healthy flavourings to it, or select a brand that includes probiotics and does not include preservatives and processed sugars.
And if you’re wondering about the differences between regular yogurt and Greek yogurt?
The only difference is that some of the whey has been strained out of the Greek yogurt, leaving it thick and creamy. In fact, you can strain it even more to make a delicious yogurt cheese, but perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself.
If you haven’t started adding yogurt to your diet, the simplest way is to choose a healthy brand from the grocery store!
Once you’re ready to make your own, there are many ways to incubate the milk and yogurt starter. You can make life much easier on yourself by getting an automatic yogurt maker.
This is becoming very easy to find.
Even though I certainly don’t live in an urban area – I mean, the ‘big town’ that I drive to has under ten thousand people – I can find bottles of kombucha everywhere.
Drinking kombucha on the go is a lot easier than trying to walk around with your hot dog and sauerkraut.
If you already like cold tea, you might find kombucha to be just the thing for you because it’s basically fermented tea.
Kombucha is made by adding a SCOBY to very sweet black tea. SCOBY stands for Symbiotic Culture Of Yeast and Bacteria – and it’s full of good things for your digestive system.
Kombucha is ideal if you are more into a drink form of fermented food or if you just need something that is easy to digest on the go. If you are a cold tea fan, then this may be ideal as well. You can find kombucha at most stores that have health food or juice and smoothie sections. You can also find kombucha in a variety of flavors as well.
And when you’re ready – you can make this at home, too. I’ve found that it’s a bit trickier than sauerkraut and yogurt, so pay attention to the directions. But ooooooh, I love opening a bottle of my homemade blueberry-infused kombucha and taking that first bubbly sip.
Read next: How to make kombucha at home!
This might be a little harder to find, depending on where you live. When we lived in a city, I would buy refrigerated tubs of miso paste, and there were also block version of miso.
Miso – whatever the form – is made into a tasty and easy-to-digest soup once you add tofu and nori.
While I’m not discounting the value of the traditional chicken soup, there is something very soothing to the stomach about a bowl of hot miso soup.
Of course you can make it fancier with mushrooms, seafood and much more, but a simple miso soup with a little tofu and nori is quite comforting.
Even if it’s a new taste, it’s similar enough to traditional North American foods that you should be able to introduce it into your diet without a lot of difficulty.
This is one fermented food that you can also easily find at restaurants, at least in the larger cities. A sushi restaurant or hibachi will offer miso soup and more.
Miso is NOT, however, a fermented food that you’re likely to ever make at home.
I have looked into the process to see if it was something I could learn and put into my scratch cooking cookbook and it’s fascinating but certainly not an at-home process.
You can find lots of other delicious, from scratch recipes, though:
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So enjoy it in restaurants or pick up some miso paste to make delicious soup at home. You can make it as simple or fancy as you like.
There are of course many other fermented foods that you can start including in your diet over time, but these four are quite common and easy to use.