Lacto-Fermented Salsa

Regular readers may have gleaned (gleaned – ha! harvesting pun!) that Homebrew Husband and I enjoy fermenting stuff.

Right at this exact moment, the following is being (deliberately) fermented in our home:

  • 5 gallons blackberry wine
  • 10 gallons of beer (a carboy of pale ale and another of porter)
  • 2 loaves bread dough
  • homemade yogurt
  • 3 or 4 gallons of crock pickles
  • 2 or 3 gallons assorted other vegetable ferments: turnips, beans, carrots, mixed pickles, etc.
  • 3+ gallons lacto-fermented salsa (actually, we’re down several jars already but that was the original quantity).

Sadly, I tossed about 2 gallons of fruit-fly infested malt vinegar two days ago or I’d get to put that on the list, too.

Of all my ferments the Lacto-Fermented Salsa is my current favorite. It’s blowing my mind. It’s based on the Nourishing Traditions recipe that’s kicking around the web but with a few seasoning adjustments.


I made a huge batch of this for the first time this weekend as part of my “I bought 100 pounds of roma tomatoes – now what?!” adventure. We’ve eaten over 12 cups of this salsa in the 54 hours since I first made it. It’s that good, and it just keeps getting better as it ferments.

Before I give you the recipe, a word about food safety: you cannot, cannot, cannot just water bath can this salsa. First, water bath canning a lacto-fermented product kills off all the beneficial bacteria you’ve worked so hard to encourage. But more importantly, I have absolutely no proof that this salsa is acidic enough to be safely canned in a water bath canner. So don’t do it.

On the plus side, since you are not dancing with the botulism devil in the pale, anaerobic moonlight of canning, you can play around with the recipe. Add more peppers, add more cilantro, add more garlic or lime juice. All those adjustments you can’t do with a canned salsa recipe you can do with this one. Have fun. Just keep the salt and the whey constant and you should be fine.


To prepare, I chopped everything separately in my food processor and combined in a huge stainless bowl. I highly recommend not hand chopping all this.

5 from 1 reviews
Lacto-Fermented Salsa
Serves: 2 quarts
  • 2 pounds tomatoes, cored and chopped (about 4 cups)
  • 1 pound onion, peeled and chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 12 ounces bell peppers (green or red), seeded and chopped (1½ cups)
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • ½ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • ¼ cup whey from live and active culture yogurt
  • 4 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  1. Combine all the prepared ingredients in a large bowl, and stir to fully mix everything.
  2. Divide the pico de gallo evenly between two scrupulously clean, 1-quart mason jars. With a clean spoon, press the ingredients down to release some of the juices. Press the solids under the juices, and weight the ferment.
  3. Seal the jars with standard two piece lids, leaving the ring just fingertip tight, as you would for canning, to allow the gasses of the fermentation process to escape. Leave the pico de gallo at room temperature out of direct sun, for 2 to 4 days. Check the ferment daily. Look for bubbles and other signs of fermentation, give the ferment a little shake and swirl to keep everything fermenting evenly, burp the lid to release any pent-up carbon dioxide in the jar and taste the development of the salsa (clean spoon please).
  4. When you like the taste of the salsa or after 4 days, transfer the fermented salsa to the refrigerator, where it will keep for at least 4 months.


  1. says

    Happy birthday to the little fella!

    And YUM! I love fresh salsa, I have been wanting to do more lacto-fermenting, and cannot wait to have homegrown produce to make it with this Summer. Thank you!

    I have Wild Fermentation, now must look for Nourishing Traditions too…

  2. says

    yum, sounds great, my husband bought salsa the other day and I thought "surely we can make that"… but I just needed the right recipe and to have a go to show him that we can make it.

    Anyway, I am very new to lactic fermentation and have had a go at sauerkraut and pickles so far, which have turned out very nice, just using old glass jars. I note that some people use special crocks and pickl-it jars etc, are these just a gimmick or do they make better/safer pickles? This is interesting because I recently justified to you my use of a yoghurt maker, but now I'm wondering if I really need the next gadget! I would be interested in your opinion as I think you have way more pickling experience than me!

    Cheers, Liz

    • says

      Hi Farmer_Liz, I use big old glass jars because crocks tend to be really expensive. The idea behind the specialty jars is they come with a fermentation lock to keep air away from your ferment. You still have to weight the ferment down so it’s under the brine though. I haven’t used them, but I’d be up for trying. Maybe I’ll do a post about this next fall. But you should know that you can BUY the same fermentation locks used on those pickle jars from any homebrew supply place for about a buck. So I’d definitely DIY a fermentation jar before spending $20 on a premade one.

  3. maggysfarm says

    nice post, and particular appreciation for the wonderful imagery conjured by your ‘dancing with the Botulism devil’ sentence. Very Tim Burton!!

  4. says

    I’ve been googling fermentation and canning recipes lately and keeping falling upon your blog and am so excited about it! I’ll be making the salsa this week while kefir ferments on my counter to the sweet smell of kimchi in a crock, bubbling pickles in a jar and fermenting tomato seeds (those are for saving, not for eating, haha) :) Great blog!!

  5. says

    You’re a fermenting fool! I think salsa would be one of the easiest sells to my non-fermented fan of a husband. He’s still weirded out by kombucha and sauerkraut, but something he can put in a taco? Sold!

  6. eric says

    Excellent! I wanted something that has that fresh salsa taste, but that will last some time. I am not one that likes a cooked salsa. One question though; do I HAVE to peel and deseed the tomatoes, or is that just a preference thing? I never do that when I make my fresh salsa and there is never any left at the end of the day. Also, I like to press my garlic, not only because of the ease of it, but because I like the much stronger garlic taste that is provides, but I’m not sure if that would mess with the fermentation process as this will be my first go of it.

    Thanks for the great write up. Going to do some fermenting this weekend!

  7. Tami says

    I just made a bunch of fresh salsa. I was thinking about lacto fermenting it. Can I use the whey that separates from sour cream naturally instead of draining yogurt? Thoughts?

  8. Nidya Enfield says

    Hi I just love the Salsa being born in Mexico & raised eating hot spicy food I always keep fresh salsa in my fridge….I was wondering if instead of using whey can I used probiotics??? My brother owns a organic produce company and has lot’s of tomatoes, so I will making lot’s of salsa yummy!! BTW I love your’e news letter they remind me of home!!!

  9. Mark Zumkeller says

    This sounds delicious, but I wish it were scaled for a smaller batch! I couldn’t possibly use this much!

  10. Kate says

    I followed your link and made the small batch a week ago without whey and it was just insanely, inedibly salty. I know your recipe uses whey, but I can’t. Do you know if I really have to use twice as much salt to make it without whey? thanks

  11. says

    I am giving this a shot. I made a few modifications, so we will see if it works. I only had about a tablespoon of whey so I put that in with 6 cups and then I added about 3 tablespoons of juice from my fermented pickles. I also instead of peeling and seeding my tomatoes I just through them whole into the blender. I used mostly roma/cherry size tomatoes. I will post my complete recipe if it goes well. The fresh product is awesome. Thanks for talking about this on tsp.


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