Fermentation has a long, widespread history as a means of food preservation. It appears in and typifies many cultures' traditional foods. Additionally, these traditional non-dairy foods may have the added benefit of providing beneficial probiotics to the food supply.
Miso is a paste made from steamed soybeans, a fungal koji-starter and sometimes mixed with rice. Red and brown varieties are typically fermented longer than white, and have flavor profiles ranging from sweet to salty dependent on these fermentation times.
Natto, like miso, is fermented soybeans, but are whole beans rather than paste. Natto has a distinctive smell from bacterial fermentation. The stirring of natto results in sticky strings developing, and has a slippery mouthfeel.
Kimchi is the national dish of Korea, and is typically produced by salting and brining cabbage, radish, cucumber and other cruciferous vegetables, and seasoning with ingredients like garlic, ginger, red pepper, and/or fish paste.
Sauerkraut is a shredded, salted, lacto-fermented cabbage dish often accompanying German dishes, but it reaches to other eastern European and Asian dishes as well. Some may season the sauerkraut with fruits and spices, but it is not necessary.
Curtido is the El Salvadorean cousin to sauerkraut, and is a fermented salsa comprised of onions, chiles, cabbage, and other vegetables. Curtido is found served alongside pupusas, or as a topping for meats.
Kombucha is a fermented tea beverage, commonly seen with fruited and spiced flavors. It uses a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (also called a SCOBY), and ferments a mixture of tea and sugar, creating a fizzy, mildly sour beverage.
Kvass is a fermented beverage, originating from Eastern European countries, is made using stale dark rye bread along with yeast, sweeteners, and other fermentable grains, fruits and vegetables, such as barley, beets or raisins. It might be found as a base for home recipes like borscht.
Tibico (also known as Tibi or Water Kefir) has origins in Mexico and Brazil, and uses symbiotic biofilm cultures of bacteria and yeast in “grains” to inoculate sweetened liquids, creating fizzy soda-like beverages.
This is only a small selection of fermented probiotic foods from a handful of cultures. Please feel free to add your own in the comments below.
To maximize probiotic activity, these products should not undergo pasteurization or heating. With that in mind, good manufacturing practices should be used, and appropriate food safety precautions employed.
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