This easy Fermented Carrots recipe serves as an excellent introduction to the world of fermentation. Whether you're a novice or a seasoned fermenting enthusiast, this post covers all the essentials, including equipment and safety tips. With just a handful of basic and fresh ingredients, along with some patience, you can make this delightful lacto-fermented carrot recipe.
What is Lacto-Fermentation?
Fermentation, specifically lacto-fermentation or lactic acid fermentation, entails immersing vegetables and/or fruits in a solution of brine (salt and water). Unlike pickling, which involves killing bacteria, fermentation follows a different approach.
When executed correctly, this process eliminates or suppresses harmful bacteria while allowing good bacteria (beneficial bacteria) to flourish. Consequently, the vegetables and/or fruits undergo a transformation into nutritious, probiotic-rich lacto-fermented foods.
If you've ever tasted kimchi or fermented cabbage (sauerkraut), you'll notice a distinct acidity, unlike that of traditional vinegar pickles. Ferments possess a tangy flavor rather than a pickled one and may even produce a tingling sensation on your tongue. This effervescence is a result of the carbon dioxide generated during the fermentation process.
For those new to fermentation or attempting it for the first time, I recommend reading my comprehensive post on lacto-fermentation. It covers all the fundamental information necessary for confidently fermenting a variety of vegetables!
One of my most simple ferment recipes, it together with a few simple ingredients from your pantry, fridge or garden. Remember to use the freshest carrots you can get your hands on.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Salt: When fermenting, use kosher salt, pickling salt, or sea salt. Avoid using table salt as it has added iodine which can possibly hinder fermentation.
- Garlic: I love using fresh garlic in fermenting projects but the choice is up to you.
- Spices: For this recipe, I am including black peppercorns, coriander seeds and bay laurel but you can totally add other spices here. Get creative. I recommend you use whole spices rather then ground so that you don’t end up with spices floating around the brine.
- Vinegar: I prefer using neutral white distilled vinegar because it won't alter the overall flavor, but you can opt for alternative acids such as white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or even lemon juice or lime juice. It's advisable to steer clear of dark vinegars like balsamic or red wine. While adding vinegar is not mandatory, I highly suggest it, as it contributes to flavor equilibrium and helps extend the life of the finished product in the fridge.
See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.
The Right Salt to Water Ratio (Salt Brine)
For this recipe, you will be using a salty brine solution to ferment the carrots. This is also known as submersion salting or saltwater brining. Brining is used when you are fermenting fruits and vegetables that do not have too much water content or if you plan to ferment them whole. This technique can be applied to whole cloves of garlic, giardiniera mix, and fermented cucumbers.
Filtered water or spring water is preferred over tap water because the chlorine in tap water could affect fermentation. I recommend a 3.5% salt solution. This translates to 3.5 grams of salt per 100 grams of water. A good place to start is 1 tablespoon of sea salt or kosher salt to 2 cups of water (which works out to 17g of salt to 475g of water – a 3.5% ratio).
Equipment and Supplies
Fermentation lids (also known as airlock lids) are not essential, but highly recommended. This is a lid with a valve that allows gasses to escape safely. It fits directly onto your jar. There are several options like the Klemon and Masontops (affiliate links).
You can use a standard lid and unscrew it twice a day to let any built-up air escape and quickly reseal. This option is not ideal as it can allow oxygen back in.
I also recommend that you use glass fermentation weights (affiliate link). Glass weights will help keep the food submerged in the simple salt brine, helping ensure a safe fermentation project.
I recommend using a glass mason jar (a wide-mouth jar is perfect because many of the lids mentioned above are designed specifically for it). This recipe calls for a 1-quart jar. You can also use ceramic crocks (affiliate link) or another fermenting vessel or glass jar of your choice. I stay clear of metal and plastic containers (though there are many who use plastic containers for fermenting).
Fermenting fruits and vegetables is generally very safe and foolproof. But to make sure that you are not introducing any bad bacteria or mold in the project, keep your equipment and tools as clean as possible. You don’t need to sterilize them (as you would if you are canning), but washing everything in soapy warm water and air drying them is the best way to reduce the risk of cross-contamination.
How to make lacto-fermented carrots
Step 1: Prepare the Brine. In a large measuring cup or jug, combine the fresh water with salt. Mix well to dissolve the salt.
Step 2. Prepare the Spice bundle. In a small cheesecloth square, bundle the loose spices. Tie the bundle with twine or simply make a knot.
Step 3: Prepare the jars. To each jar, add the garlic cloves, spice bundle, and bay leaf. Pack in the carrots. Carefully pour the brine solution and tap to release any air pockets.
Step 4. Add weight. Apply the glass weight (if using), making sure that everything is submerged in the brine.
Step 5. Add fermentation lid. Apply the fermentation lid to the top of the jar.
Step 6. Ferment. Ferment the carrots for 5 days away from direct sunlight. On day 5, taste the carrots. If you want them to be tangier and sourer, replace the weight and lid and continue to ferment for a few more days. If you’re happy with the taste, remove the weight, and fermentation lid. Add the optional vinegar to the jar, close with a regular lid and place the fermented carrots in the fridge.
Fermentation Time, Storage and Safety
While the carrots are fermenting keep them on the counter away from sunlight. The ideal fermenting temperature is 60°F to 75°F (15°C to 24°C) which is basically room temperature.
Fermentation time will depend entirely on your preference. I recommend a minimum of 5 days for carrots. By the 5th day, you’ll notice that the brine will look a little dull, even cloudy. That’s fine.
Taste the carrots. If you like them the way they are, you can proceed to the next step. If you prefer them more sour and tangy, you can ferment for another 3-7 days.
- Change it up. Feel free to add some other vegetables to your mix like sliced onions and cauliflower. You can also use other spices like whole mustard seeds or star anise.
- Keep it clean. Wash your jars and utensils before using them to prevent unwanted bacterial growth using hot soapy water. Optionally, you can sterilize them by boiling them in hot water for 5 minutes. The sterilization isn’t necessary, but does add an extra layer of protection.
- Safety first. Make sure to refrigerate your final product in the fridge.
Pickling refers to submerging fruits and vegetables in a vinegar solution. It is a different way to preserve produce.
Cloudiness in the brine is a typical occurrence and is generally not a reason for alarm. It may result from microbial or yeast activity, or the breakdown of starches and proteins from the fermentation of carrots and other ingredients. Rely on your senses; if there's an unusual odor or appearance, it's advisable to exercise caution and dispose of it. When in doubt, throw it out.
This is why I recommend using distilled vinegar to balance the flavor of your ferment when the fermentation is complete. This may affect the probiotic nature of the ferment, but I think it will improve flavor and it’s an easier way for new fermenters to ease into the world of fermentation.
If you make these Fermented Carrots (Lacto-fermented Carrot Sticks) or any other fermentation recipe on Urban Farm and Kitchen, please take a moment to rate the recipe and leave a comment below. It’s such a help to others who want to try the recipe.
Fermented Carrots (Lacto-fermented Carrot Sticks)
- 1 Quart Jar – 32-ounce (~1L) Mason Jar
- Fermenting weight
- Fermentation airlock lid
- Regular canning jar lid
- Piece of cheesecloth
- 2 cups Fresh un-chlorinated water - Filtered or spring water - 475ml
- 1 tablespoon Kosher, pickling or sea salt - 17 grams
- 1 tablespoon Black peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon Coriander seeds
- 1 Bay leaf
- 2-4 Garlic cloves - Peeled
- 1-2 Bunches of baby carrots - enough to pack into the jar. Use peeled baby carrots or cut larger carrots into sticks.
- Prepare the Brine. In a large measuring cup or jug, combine the fresh water with salt. Mix well to dissolve the salt.
- Prepare the Spice bundle. In a small cheesecloth square, bundle the loose spices. Tie the bundle with twine or simply make a knot.
- Prepare the jars. To each jar, add the garlic cloves, spice bundle, and bay leaf. Pack in the carrots. Carefully pour the brine solution.
- Add weight. Apply the fermentation weight (if using), making sure that everything is submerged in the brine.
- Add fermentation lid. Apply the fermentation lid to the top of the jar.
- Ferment. Ferment the carrots for 5 days away from direct sunlight. On day 5, taste the carrots. If you want them to be tangier and sourer, replace the weight and lid and continue to ferment for a few more days. If you’re happy with the taste, remove the weight, and fermentation lid. Add the optional vinegar to the jar, close with a regular lid and place the fermented carrots in the fridge.