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How to make tempeh, tofu, natto, pickles, sauerkraut, and other fermented foods

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How do you make tempeh and other fermented foods? Check out the site, "How to Make Tempeh - Cultures for Health." You start with two cups of hulled soy beans, 2 tablespoons of vinegar, and a packet of tempeh starter, which amounts to about 3/4 of a teaspoon of starter. Check out the site, "Tempeh Starter."

You can follow each step of the tempeh recipe at the site, "How to Make Tempeh - Cultures for Health." If you want to make natto, see the site, "How to Make Natto." You'll be starting out with two pounds of soybeans for the natto. But you'll need a jar of natto spores that comes with a special small spoon.

Use up all and don't use anything left over to make more natto. Since natto has a distinctive smell, you may want to isolate the natto during the fermentation time. When eating natto, if the smell isn't likable to you, you can hide the odor in yogurt when eating it. Those used to eating natto and those who like natto as is, don't have to hide the odor. There's going to be a fermentation process taking place.

If you want to make your own tofu, see the site, "How to Make Tofu." You'll be starting with two quarts of soy milk for making tofu.

Want to make other fermented foods? Check out the sites, Cultured Soy, Cultured Vegetables, Sourdough, Kefir, Kombucha, Cheesemaking, and Buttermilk. Or see the site, "How to Thicken and Flavor Homemade Yogurt." Check out, Make Delicious Feta Cheese at Home. If you can learn how to ferment foods safely, you can make your own cultured foods at home where you know from where the ingredients come. Also see, "Culturing in a Cookie Jar" and "What is Lacto-fermentation?" Check out, "Five Cultures You Can Use to Ferment Almost Anything" and "The Many Benefits of Preparing Cultured Foods."

If you want gluten-free fermented foods, see the site, "Gluten-free Fermented Foods." Or check out, "Lacto-fermented Electrolyte Drinks" and "Cultured Coconut." Check first with your pediatrician if you're thinking about cultured food for your baby. You may wish to read the articles, "Tips for Getting Children to Eat Cultured Foods " or "Cultured Foods for Babies." You also can take a look at articles such as "How to Strain Whey from Cultured Dairy," and "How Much Salt?." For more articles on fermented food how-to topics, see, "Expert Advice, How-to Videos, Recipes and More."

How do you ferment foods and still make sure the bacteria culture you're breeding is going to be healthy for you?

You could start with a starter culture. Or you could use wild fermentation in which the natural enzymes in the vegetables ferment them. To lower some of the salt content, rinse off the fermented vegetable before eating.

If you ferment your own foods, don't use plastic or metal containers because the chemicals might leach out. Use glass jars, ceramic crocks (not containing lead) or wooden barrels like in the old days when people bought pickles out of storefront pickle barrels for a nickel or less for a pickle.

Some fermented foods taste better than others. Stinky tofu tastes different than pickled red cabbage. And pickled watermelon rind tastes different than pickled eggs or other types of pickled (fermented) animal protein products. There's also another word for pickled, which is cultured. The result is fermented foods.

Please be careful if you're fermenting food such as tofu unless you know what you're doing. See, "Botulism from Home-Fermented Tofu Sickened 2 in 2012 | Food." Also check out the site, "How to make fermented tofu (臭豆腐).avi - YouTube." Or see the site on pickled tofu, also sometimes called Tofu cheese, "Which soy foods are fermented? - The World's Healthiest Foods." Interested in fermented food history? Check out the site, "History of Fermented Tofu - page 1 - SoyInfo Center."

If you ferment meats, you need to be careful you're not breeding harmful bacteria

People historically also dried meats as in beef jerky or dried salted cod fish. Old remedies include fermented cod liver oil, which is still available in bottles. See, "BLUE ICE™ Fermented Cod Liver Oil - Green Pasture Products." Two thousand years ago, ancient Roman soldiers were fed a daily ration of fermented fish oil. See, "Celebrating David Wetzel and Fermented Cod Liver Oil | Nourishing." Want to eat like a Roman soldier? Check out the site, "Food for Thought » Blog Archive » Garum: Eat like a Roman Soldier."

For starters, if you want to start fermented your own foods, begin with vegetables. You want to avoid food borne bacteria that causes illnesses. The goal is to ferment foods with the type of culture that's considered good bacteria. See sites such as "How to Ferment Vegetables - Cultures for Health " and "Fermented Food for Beginners: Lacto-Fermented Vegetables." Or see, "How to ferment vegetables | Sarah Wilson."

Fermenting vegetables is basic. You take a jar, and fill it with clean chopped cabbage and add salt. Check out the site, "Recipe: Lacto-Fermented Pickled Vegetables Recipes from The Kitchen." See the demonstration video, "Fermented Vegetables Demo - YouTube." You also can ferment root veggies such as radishes, daikon, cabbage, garlic, ginger, and cauliflower

How to ferment vegetables

You can do it with just salt, your favorite spices and herbs or no herbs and spices, and with our without whey. If your body can't tolerate whey, which comes from milk products, just use the salt and add any spices and herbs you want to flavor the fermented vegetables.

Fermenting cabbage to make sauerkraut

  • 1 medium cabbage, cored and shredded
  • 1 tablespoon of caraway seeds
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt or Himalayan pink crystal salt
  • 4 tablespoons of whey. If you don't want the whey in your food and want to keep it nondairy, use an extra tablespoon of salt instead to ferment your vegetables

Mix all ingredients in a glass bowl, not a metal or plastic container, and pound with a wooden pounder or a meat hammer or just squeeze with your clean, washed hands about 10 minutes to release juices.

After you've kneaded the shredded vegetables, spoon them into a glass mason jar. Use your pounder or meat hammer to press down until juices come to the top of the cabbage and cover it. The cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about three days before transferring to cold storage. In three days the fermentation will be done, and then you'll have to keep your jar of pickled vegetables in the refrigerator. If your batch goes bad, usually it will stink. Sometimes the fermentation process produces bubbles. This is part of the lacto-fermentation process.

Don't leave vegetables above the liquid line in the jar, or else mold will grow on them. Not all vegetables require pounding to bring out the juices. Instead, you add salt and water to create the brine. For example, you don't pound certain root vegetables such as carrots. Instead, you use the brine to ferment them.

What you're creating is an anaerobic process (not an oxygen environment)

In this anaerobic place, the fermentation begins during the lacto-fermentation process. If oxygen is present, it will ruin your final result. To keep your jar anaerobic (without oxygen), just keep the lid tightly closed so air doesn't get into the brine and vegetables during those three days it's sitting at room temperature. Then once you open the jar, it has to be refrigerated. In the old days before refrigeration, the contents of the entire jar of pickled food served an entire family, so nothing went to waste.

The other alternative is putting the jar outside when the winter temperature is less that 38 degrees outside. But that doesn't work when the sun comes up and warms the temperature. So make only enough in one jar to finish in a few hours. Or make a few jars and don't open them for three days and let the air in.

Once the fermentation is done in 3 days, then refrigerate the pickled vegetables, which should last a few more days in the refrigerator, since the air has already entered the jar, and the vegetables will spoil in a few hours if not eaten right away. For more recipes, check out sites such as "Fabulous Fermentation Week! ~ Kimchi | My New Roots" and "Basic Napa Cabbage Kimchi (Kimchee) Recipe - CHOW." For example, you can ferment napa cabbage and daikon radish.

A review paper coming out in the January 2014 issue of the journal Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, "History of Various Ethnic Foods in the United States" (Oliver 2012), published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) reveals some interesting statistics about the history of several popular ethnic foods in the United States, according to the December 16, 2013 news release, "History of ethnic foods in the United States."

At this time, for example, there are more Chinese-style restaurants in the USA than any other ethnic group. Just behind Chinese are the Italian-style restaurants followed by Japanese-style restaurants, followed by the number of Mexican-style restaurants. And various ethnic-style restaurants open frequently all over the USA.

According to a report published by the analytics company Placed, a person’s ethnicity is the greatest predictor of which fast food chains they prefer. You also may wish to check out the site, "Ethnicity May Predict Fast Food Chain Preferences (Video) - AOL Jobs." Or see, "How Fast-Food Eaters Split Along Ethnic Lines."

Here, in Sacramento, there has been a recent boom in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean-style restaurants along Fulton Avenue, such as the Lebanese and Greek cuisine, Indian and Persian cuisine, along Fulton Avenue along with the long-established Mediterranean Market and other European and Middle-Eastern style groceries in the area. You have a preference for guacamole in Sacramento and a preference for hummus.

So many chefs have combined the two and mixed dips that are half guacamole and half hummus. That means mixing mashed avocados with hummus made from sesame seed paste (tahini) and mashed chick peas/garbanzos. It makes a great dip, flavored with lime juice, but eat it in one day, before the avocado turns brown. Or just make enough for one day's meals. In various supermarkets, you also can see hummus in little cartons mixed with Greek-style yogurt, which cuts down on the oil content as some manufacturers of commercial hummus mix the yogurt with the hummus instead of adding oils.

You can make a bean dip out of any type of cooked bean, lentils, or other legumes by mixing it with either sesame seed paste, avocado, or yogurt or simply by mixing the pureed legumes or beans with lemon juice, broth, and anything creamy, such as tahini (sesame seed paste). You'd use more chickpeas, for example and a little tahini to cut down on the oiliness of texture and taste.

For example, with the influx of so many immigrants from various Middle Eastern countries, that new communities have sprung up near the ethnic food markets and restaurants in various areas of Sacramento. For example, Midtown is home to two relatively new Turkish restaurants along with more Greek and Indian restaurants. How many Middle Eastern Restaurants are there in Sacramento?

Check out the list at the site, "Sacramento Middle Eastern Restaurants | Urbanspoon." For example there's a wide variety in Middle Eastern cuisine at Sacramento restaurants from the Marrakech Moroccan and Casablanca, just to name two examples of Moroccan cuisine to the Eastern Mediterranean variety of restaurants such as Famous Kabob on Fulton Avenue and Greek and Middle Eastern-style

Opa! Opa! on J St. Then there'sSahara Grill & Cafe and Crest Cafe serving Afghan and Middle Eastern cuisine. Check out the entire list.

New restaurants keep opening all the time. For example, the Turkish restaurants, such as Anatolian Table Turkish Restaurant - Rocklin, CA and Sacramento, and Istanbul Bistro. There's also the Middle-Eastern-Greek-European type of cuisine such as Pita Q - The Healthy Mediterranean Grill. With the influx of Middle Eastern foods in most Sacramento supermarkets, such as commercial hummus in little plastic containers, the food is becoming more mainstream rather than limited to Eastern Mediterranean and Middle Eastern communities.

What you want from a Middle Eastern or Greek-style restaurant are foods that share cultures of Greek, Turkish, and Levantine, including (Lebanese, Syrian, Israeli, Jordanian, Iraqi). Those foods that are eaten across the cultures of the Eastern Mediterranean include moussaka (baked beef and eggplant casserole), souvlaki (chicken shish kebab), acili ezme (cucumber and crushed walnut salad) and falafel.

Middle Eastern restaurants usually bring you a basket of freshly-baked, sesame-speckled flatbread. Sometimes you get the black sesame seeds or the brown sesame seeds. Sesame seeds come in various colors including white. Then you want a creamy tangy, smooth hummus. It's made smooth by peeling the skin off the humus before mashing it up or pureeing it in a food processor and adding the lemon juice and sesame seed paste (tahini). You want a tahini either with or without the olives and olive oil on top or sesame seed oil. \

You don't want hummus topped with canola or safflower oil or any other oil that tastes unlike extra virgin olive oil. And you want the hummus topped with a few pitted black olives or slices of black olives. If you're going Greek in the soup style, it's white bean soup in a tomato base with other vegetables such as carrots, celery, and onions. If you're going Turkish style in the soup or Lebanese, it's lentil soup or bean soup with dark green leafy Lacinato kale and other vegetables.

If you're looking for Turkish food, try karni yarik, which is baked eggplant stuffed with ground beef and topped with a robust, full-flavored housemade tomato sauce. And if you're vegan, try zucchini entrees without cheese or yogurt. Mediterranean-style diets can include lots of green, leafy vegetables and other colorful vegetables from raw salads to casseroles. There's something for almost every taste. You can learn a lot about which foods are healthiest for specific issues and preferences. Also see, "Best Arabic Restaurants in United States -"

The December 16, 2013 news release, "History of ethnic foods in the United States" notes the following information about some of the ethnic restaurants in the USA:


  • In 1930s, Mexican immigrants were a small minority and Mexican cuisine was a minority’s food
  • Today, it is the largest segment of the ethnic foods market in the U.S.
  • Ground beef tacos, enchiladas, burritos, tostadas and beans are popular Mexican foods among non-Hispanic Americans
  • Chili powder was first imported from Mexico to San Antonio, Texas in 1943
  • There are about 7,102 Mexican restaurants across the country


  • The number of Italian restaurants in the 10 most popular cities is around 16,783; this number is higher than Mexican and Chinese
  • Around 10,000 Italian restaurants were established in New York City by the 1930’s, and most of these restaurants were simple and undecorated
  • Italian dishes became popular in the U.S. after the 1970s


  • There are more than 43 thousand Chinese restaurants in the U.S.—more than any other domestic fast food restaurant
  • U.S. Chinese cuisine differs from the original because “Americanized” Chinese food is usually less spicy than the authentic recipes, has higher levels of monosodium glutamate (MSG) to enhance flavor and involves more deep frying
  • The first Chinese restaurant opened in San Francisco in 1849


  • There are approximately 9,000 Japanese restaurants in the United States
  • Sushi bars began to appear in 1957
  • Entrepreneurial chefs contributed to the popularization of sushi in Los Angeles
  • Japanese food became much more popular in the early 1980s

About IFT
For more than 70 years, IFT has existed to advance the science of food. Our nonprofit scientific society—more than 18,000 members from more than 100 countries—brings together food scientists, technologists and related professions from academia, government, and industry. For more information, please visit the IFT website.

For more information on trends, you may wish to check out the site, "US Restaurant Market 2013 - View Trends, Analysis & Statistics‎." Also take a look at the sites, "The Food Timeline--USA food history sources" and "We Are What We Eat: Ethnic Food and the Making of Americans." Or see, "Ethnic Food Info -"



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