You will love this wild fermented salsa without whey. It is packed with nutrients, natural probiotics and live enzymes! The wild fermented salsa is delicious, good for digestion, and free of all major allergens, such as gluten, dairy, eggs and nuts.
You can make the fermented salsa in the fall with tomatoes that are harvested during peak season, and eat it in the winter. Or you can make it all year round. Once you try the probiotic guacamole combining avocado and this fermented salsa, you will be amazed how nature has rewarded us with foods so tasty yet nutritious!
I make this probiotic-rich and vegan fermented salsa in September when all the ingredients for salsa are available fresh from my local farmer’s market. It’s the perfect time to ferment and preserve foods for the colder months, as what nature has taught us to do since the beginning of time. I am not a canner, because fermented foods are good for you, and more nutritious than canned.
I have read many fermented salsa recipes from other wonderful chefs, before I came up with a basic recipe to work with. However, each time I made mine, I took notes and improved upon it. Since a few of my friends have taste tested for me, I now have a pretty good version that I am happy to share after 2 years of fermenting salsa. In addition, this fermented salsa is medium spicy. I wanted enough of a kick, but also wanted to ensure my children can eat it too! And most importantly, this salsa is fermented from wild bacteria that are naturally existing in our environment, without using whey. Hence the word “wild” in the name “wild fermented salsa”.
Finally, to my friends who requested this recipe – thank you for being a fan! And here you go …
Wild Fermented Salsa
- 6 lb tomatoes (select a firm and less juicy variety; I use "San Marzano")
- 2-3 red onion, approx. 1 lb
- 2-3 sweet peppers, approx. 1 lb
- 4 jalapenos
- 12 garlic cloves
- 2 cup chopped cilantro
- 4 tbsp sea salt
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- Remove and discard ends of the tomatoes where stems are attached. Save the juice and seeds of the tomatoes in a small bowl. This way you won’t waste all the juice and make a big mess when dicing the tomatoes. Dice the tomatoes and store in a large bowl.
- Dice 1-2 onions, and add them to the large bowl with the tomatoes. Save rest of the onions for blending later. I like to see chunks of onion in the salsa, and also like the flavour of the onion blended in the sauce, therefore I divide them to dice half and blend the other half. For simplicity, you can choose to dice all the onions or skip this step.
- Remove and discard seeds and stems of the sweet peppers and jalapenos. Put sweet peppers, jalapenos, garlic cloves, rest of the onions in the food processor. Add the saved tomato juice from step 1 to the food processor. I use all the juice of the “San Marzano”, but other tomato variety may produce too much juice. In that case, you can leave some juice out, else your salsa will be too runny. Pulse the food processor until all the ingredients are evenly mixed, but not to turn it into a smooth blend. It should resemble a thick sauce with small chunky bits insides.
- Add the mixture from the food processor, chopped cilantro, sea salt, ground cumin into the large bowl where the diced tomatoes and onions are stored. Combine all ingredients well.
- Fill the salsa in glass jars. Make sure to push down the salsa to release all trapped air and have the vegetable chunks submerged under the juice. You want to fill the jars close to the top, leaving roughly an inch of air space to the rim. Seal the jars loosely so that air can escape, otherwise you will need to open the jar every day or 2 to release the pressure.
- Let it sit in a dark spot away from heat for 3-5 days. If your house is cold or if you like your salsa more tangy, then you should ferment the salsa on the longer side of this range. Otherwise, you can ferment it for a shorter amount of time. It’s normal to see air bubbles produced in the salsa around day 3 – this is a sign of fermentation and will continue for a few days – you may need to push down the salsa gently with a fork to help release the air. You can taste it daily until it reaches the acidity you desire, and then move the salsa jars to cold storage to slow down fermentation.
- This recipe is good for preserving a big batch over winter for the whole family. See "storage" section for more details.
- See "food parings" section for suggestions on how to use this salsa.
- See "thoughts and analysis" section for more technical considerations for this fermentation.
- This recipe yields 14 cups = 3.5 quart.
- The calorie calculation is based on the full recipe.
- Prepping and cooking time only include time actively spent on making this salsa and checking the fermentation; they do not include time waiting for fermentation to progress.
You can store the fermented salsa in the fridge or cellar for months to a year, if the salsa is fermented properly. Every year, I make a big batch in the fall. And I have personally eaten my fermented salsa throughout a whole year. However, tomato salsa is not one of those ferments that are meant for or required to age, unlike my pineapple-turmeric-ginger sauerkraut recipe.
The flavour of the salsa are great throughout the year of storage, but the tomato chunks do become mushier and the salsa becomes more watery as time goes by. This is because the tomatoes are slowly digested by the bacteria. If you like a firmer texture, then you will probably want to eat this salsa in the first few weeks once fermented.
My favourite way to pair this fermented salsa is to add a few scoops to some chopped avocado. It makes a quick and tasty probiotic guacamole! Another way to enjoy the fermented salsa is to use as a topping on your scrambled eggs and pan-seared fish. You can always use fermented salsa rather than regular salsa in any Mexican dishes for extra nutrients. Furthermore, you can use this fermented salsa on pretty much anything instead of fresh tomatoes too, such as burgers, salads and sandwiches. There are many great ways to incorporate a little probiotic food everyday.
Thoughts and Analysis
If you come across other fermented salsa recipes, you may notice some differences. I like to have a pretty good reason for any decision I make. Therefore, I have researched and carefully considered each option I came across. To summarize, here is the list of factors I studied, as well as my conclusions. I am passing no judgements on others’ methods here, rather I hope it helps you if you decide to try an alternative method some day.
Some people use a layer of olive oil on top of the vegetable ferments. This oil layer is added right after the vegetables are filled into the jar on day 0 and before it is fermented, to act as an airlock during fermentation. I have learnt from the more experienced fermenters that there is a small but real risk of botulism with the oil topper method. You can find a more detailed read on this topic here (you need to be a member of the WFU Facebook group to access the article). I don’t feel the gain is worth of the risk. For extra flavour, I can always add the olive oil at the time of eating.
Whey is a starter culture that’s used in many vegetable ferments, but not at all necessary. The fermentation process will start on it’s own, due to the naturally existing lactic acid bacteria on the vegetables. I choose not to use whey for a few reasons:
1) I eat fermented vegetables for probiotic diversity. Therefore, I don’t want my fermented salsa populated with the same strains as my milk kefir.
2) whey is not dairy-free. Now people who are dairy sensitive or vegan can still enjoy my salsa and get all the nutritional benefits from it.
3) Fermented salsa tends to become watery, especially as it ages. I don’t want to add any more liquid that I don’t have to. Here is another article talking about why not to use whey in vegetable ferments.
Most salsa recipes, fermented or not, call for lemon and lime juice. I am not so strongly objecting citrus in the salsa as I am for oil topper and whey. However, I choose to omit lime and lemon too in this recipe, for the following reasons:
1) I don’t want to add more liquid that I don’t have to, as there is already quite an amount of juice in the salsa.
2) Once the salsa is fermented, it will be very sour. Therefore, you won’t really miss the note of the lemon and lime.
3) If I don’t add citrus, the salsa mixture is less acidic to begin with. Therefore, I can let it ferment a little longer to maximize the benefits from all the good bacteria that had a chance to develop.
If you really love the flavour of citrus, go for it. If you do choose to add lime or lemon, 1-2 is enough for this recipe. I personally prefer lime in salsa over lemon, as the flavour profile of lime works better in the salsa.
If you use a different method to make fermented salsa, I would love to hear your experience. I also love to know your favourite ways of eating your fermented salsa! Oh, and don’t forget to check out my other fermented recipes. Cheers!
More gut-healing fermentation recipes you will love:
- Fermented Pickles /w Green Tea and Dill Flowers
- Pineapple-Turmeric-Ginger Probiotic Sauerkraut
- Homemade Fermented Sauerkraut /w Caraway Seeds
- Raspberry Kefir Cream Cheese Spread
- 11 Important Things to Know for a Successful Kombucha Brew
- Kombucha Carbonation and Flavouring Tips: The Second Fermentation