A Recipe for Beet Kvass: A Deeply Cleansing Tonic

Beet Kvass

To drink beet kvass is to taste the blood of the earth –  sweet and salty with a mineral-rich undertone that speaks of the soil itself.  Beet kvass is an acquired taste, much like other fermented foods whose characteristic sourness can offend tame palates.  In spite of – or perhaps because of – its briny and earthy flavor, we love beet kvass.

Beet kvass is a probiotic tonic made from beets that was popularized by the landmark book on traditional foods, Nourishing Traditions.  Kvass is a traditional Russian beverage made from fermenting scraps of wheat or rye bread with water, starter culture and a bit of salt.  It’s often flavored by berries, raisins, apples, various spices and beets, though this version is made exclusively from beets and it lacks the characteristic overt saltiness that some people dislike in other beet kvass recipes.

Benefits of Beet Kvass

Beet kvass carries with it all the benefits of beets, marrying them with the benefits of fermented foods for a deeply cleansing tonic.  Rich in betacyanins – the pigments responsible for beets’ characteristic hue, beets possess strong antioxidant capacity with an ORAC value of 1,776 which may be why beets seem to help mitigate inflammatory states in the body which may contribute to cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes.

In making beet kvass, fresh raw beets are peeled, chopped and set in a fermentation crock or jar (you can find them online) and covered with a prepared brine of unrefined sea salt, starter culture and filtered water.  From time to time, I season my beet kvass with organic ginger, cloves, allspice, coriander, cardamom or orange peel.  The kvass then ferments for about a week before it is decanted and served.

The fermentation process enhances the already strong nutritional profile of raw beets, increasing levels of food enzymes and B vitamins (particularly folate).  It also inoculates the beets with beneficial bacteria which support immunity and digestive system health.

Using a Starter Culture

Both bread and beet kvass are traditionally made with a starter culture which helps to promote the proliferation of beneficial bacteria, leading to a successful and safe kvass.  This starter culture can be fresh whey drawn from clabbered milk, kefir or yogurt.  It can be the brine of previously fermented vegetables like sauerkraut or kimchi.  I don’t recommend using kombucha or water kefir as starter cultures as they can produce unnecessarily yeasty (and sometimes slimy) kvass.  Use 1/4 cup in the recipe below.

Beyond fresh whey and fermented vegetable brine, I prefer to use a packaged starter culture to make beet kvass and other tonics.  Unlike whey, sauerkraut or kimchi juice which may have limited ability to inoculate the kvass depending on their age, a packaged starter culture is very reliable and is flavor neutral.  I typically use 1 packet kefir starter culture when I make beet kvass.  I also see a benefit in culturing very specific beneficial bacteria, especially as part of an overall healing protocol.  Use 1 package starter culture (you can buy it here) in the recipe below.

Using a starter culture also helps to reduce the amount of salt used in this recipe, increasing palatability.

Don’t have time to make your own?

If you’re still uncomfortable with the idea of making your own fermented foods and drinks, or you haven’t the time, you can also purchase organic fermented beet juice (as well as other tonics) online and still reap the same benefits of making your own.

How to Serve Beet Kvass

We drink beet kvass daily – when beets are in season – at the recommendation of a nutritionist we see periodically.  She also recommends taking one quart of bone broth every day (which is why perpetual soup is so helpful).  I serve 1/4 cup beet kvass over ice and diluted with mineral water before and during meals.  Even our little boy loves it.

Beet Kvass

Beet Kvass

By Jenny Published: April 19, 2012

  • Prep: 5 mins

Beet kvass is deeply earthy, richly pigmented and an excellent tonic to promote good digestion and overall wellness. I use kefir starter culture to prepare my kvass.

Ingredients

  • starter culture (see above)
  • 2 teaspoons unrefined sea salt
  • 3 pounds beets (peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes)

Instructions

  1. Whisk starter culture and sea salt into 1 1/2 quarts filtered water until well-dissolved.
  2. Place beets into a 1-gallon vegetable fermenter or fermentation crock. Cover with liquid ingredients until the crock is full within one inch of its lip and the beets are completely submerged. Pour in additional filtered water, as necessary.
  3. Allow the kvass to ferment at room temperature for at least one week before straining and serving.
  4. Reserve the beets and 1 cup beet kvass to prepare beet kvass up to two more times. Add additional salt and water (you may omit starter for subsequent rounds) to the leftover beets and culture them up to two more times before discarding, or serve them as a sidedish or in salads.

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What people are saying

  1. Candice says

    Great! Do you cover the beets while on the counter? Tightly or loosely, if so? Do you ever use the veggie starter culture from Body Ecology for your ferments? Thanks, Candice

    • Jenny says

      I culture my kvass in a vegetable fermenter equipped with an airlock (you can find them here: http://nourishedkitchen.com/where-to-buy/#kitchen). The fermenter maintains proper anaerobic conditions while allowing CO2 to escape.

      I do use the BED veggie starter culture from time to time. I also like the Caldwell’s starter; however, most of my veggie ferments are wild.

      • joelie hicks says

        I made some during beet season last year. After the ferment period I put it in my fridge and have not touched it! Is it safe?

      • Jodie says

        Hi Jenny, I am looking for a fermenting crock and when I clicked on your link that is supposed to list resources there is nothing. I am just wondering what crock you use that has an airlock. I was going to just get a basic one and use a plate on top for sauerkraut but not sure if that would work for kvass. Thank so much!

  2. Suzanne says

    Hi Jenny,
    I made beet kvass about 6 months ago and it’s been sitting in my refridgerator since then. One jar has developed mold on the top. I know with sauerkraut, you can scrape it off and the kraut is fine. Do you know if the kvass is the same? Thanks!

    • Jenny says

      I find that the tonics are better tossed if they develop mold (especially if it’s been there for a while). It’s hard to get the scent out of the kvass otherwise.

  3. Carrie says

    Would it work to make this in a gallon glass jar? If so would you put the lid on and just unscrew it to let the CO2 escape once a day or more? I’ve done some fermenting, but still feel intimidated whenever I see a new recipe. I’d really like to try this one! Thanks!

  4. Ciganka says

    Thanks for the great post. I recently made my own version of a beet kvass using water kefir and the juice from canned beets. I took water kefir after the first ferment and mixed it at a 2:1 ratio (2 parts water kefir, 1 part canned beet juice) and bottled it in groelsh top bottles. I let it second ferment for 24-48 hours and it was delicious and fizzy! I know it’s probably not quite as nutritionally dense as doing it all the way from scratch but it was still refreshing and better than drinking pop. I really like the ideas you gave for seasoning it…I will have to try that, too!

  5. Krista says

    I love beet kvass. I use the recipe from NT so I always only let it ferment a couple of days. I actually just made a batch today so I’ll let it go a few extra days to see if I like it better. My little one likes it, too.

    • cindy says

      Krista, we use the N.T. recipe, too…Have found that as long as whey is used, can use less salt if desired, and yes, it does srem to do better with a longer ferment than called for in the recipe. I have found, in fact, that all my ferments seem to take a lilttlt longer…maybe because we keep our house cooler. (?)

  6. sue says

    Thanks so much for all you do – I love your blog and I use our recipes so often! I’ve been making beet kvass for a couple years, modified (less salt) from Nourishing Traditions. I’ve never peeled my beets and I only let it sit for 48 hours as that is what Sally Fallon instructs. I see that your recipe has it ferment for a week and peels the beets. I’m assuming that the longer ferment will enrich the end product? Can you comment on the benefits of letting it sit longer and peeling the beets. Thanks so much.

    • Mikki Coburn says

      I’m wondering also. I have made the NT Sally one for years. I think like with her kraut, the method is a little more fool proof. I believe she says that it’s still alive and fermenting in the fridge (keep it in the warmest part of your fridge, the door shelves) the cold just slows down the process. She says that in a warmer climate, I am in SoCal, things ferment fast. In a really cool climate and home, slower, so the fridge kinda duplicates this. If I lived in a cold climate, had a cool root cellar, maybe I could do it and even without a starter, but the whey and several day ferment on the counter then to the fridge from NT has always worked well for me.

  7. Bonnie says

    I am enjoying Beet Kvass. It is so yummy. I used the recipe out of Nourishing Traditions, but yours has an additional flavorful twist to it. Thanks for sharing.
    I used a 2 qt Ball mason jar to make my Kvass. The lid was slightly loose for the 2 days it sat on the kitchen counter after which it was placed in the refrigerator.

  8. Mikki Coburn says

    I’ve been making and we’ve been consuming the beet kvass recipe from Nourishing Traditions for several years now. We’re hooked! We make it weekly and drink it almost daily, take it on road trips, to tennis and golf when it’s going to be hot, etc. It’s especially refreshing when you’ve been working out at the gym, yard or any activity that causes you to sweat and be really thirsty. I think it’s about the best thirst quencher out there. So, beneficially, is your recipe more so than Sally Fallon’s? My naturopath is impressed with my liver function at age 63; it’s perfect, and I attribute it to diet and kvass! ;-)

    • Vickie says

      Mikki, I know your post is old but I thought I’d ask you a question since you have mad beet kvass for so long.
      I made my first batch Thursday afternoon and planned on refrigerating it on Sat. However we ended up going to visit my son for a few days and I didn’t return until Monday morning. The brew smelled fine but had the WHITE CREAMY MOLD on top as well as a small pea size area of GREY MOLD. I scraped this all off and refrigerated it. ( In all around 4 days on a warm counter. ) IS THIS SAFE TO DRINK?
      Please let me know if you have any experience here…or should I toss it?
      Thank you so much,
      Vickie

  9. Julie says

    Do you ever use the beet kvass for something other than a beverage? Maybe in salad dressing? Are there issues with using it with other ingredients?

  10. says

    These photos are just stunning!

    Is it possible to use a high-quality probiotic capsule in place of the starter culture? If so, how many capsules for this recipe? (My probiotic is 15 billion CFU’s per capsule).

    Thanks!

  11. Alyse Finlayson says

    I am wondering the same about using a gallon glass jar since I do not have a veg fermenter or crock. Is it a gas build up and release issue? do you cover the kavas while it is fermenting?

  12. judith says

    I usually use whey, but it never gets very fermented unless it is really warm. Can I use raw fermented apple cider vinegar instead of whey?

  13. Heather says

    Great recipe. Thanks for the great basic recipes lately. They’re very useful and often contain some simple practical/relevant explanations of things I’ve wondered that I’ve found missing in Nourishing Traditions, so you sort of fill in the gaps for me. I would love to see more about making whole grain sourdough bread.:) Just thought I’d throw that out there. :)

    • Jenny says

      Funny you should mention sourdough … I’ve actually benn working with a local artisan baker in hopes of perfecting my technique, and I can’t wait to share what I learnedfrom him. Now, my breads are truly artisanal quality! Just a few simple tweaks he taught me.

    • says

      Hi Heather – I make my own kefir, so I use the kefir whey to culture the beetroot and also cucumbers and cabbage — I do make my own sour dough bread by mixing some plain flour 1Tablespoon with 2 Tablespoons of kefir whey in a glass jar and leave it on the bench. Everyday I add some more kefir whey and flour, give it a stir and let sit another 24 hrs. I do this for a week, then add 1 teaspoon pink salt and two eggs and extra flour – kneel lightly, press out onto oiled baking tray and push out with fingers – let rise 24 hrs and bake. I have found that a focaccia style bread works better than a loaf. I also add olives or fried onion or semi dried tomatoes – great natural sour dough bread – yummy p.s. you can take a little of the starter out and continue the process or just start again and you will have a continuous supply of beautiful bread. enjoy :)

  14. Jan says

    I can’t live without my beet kvass! My recipe is from Nourishing Traditions and I cover the two quart jar with a coffee filter and a rubber band while it sits fermenting on my counter. I like it to ferment a little longer than two days so usually let it go up to 4 days before putting it into the fridge – with a mason lid screwed on top. Beet kvass is one of the best kept secrets out there. If you haven’t tried it go for it. You’ll love it.

  15. Maria says

    Every time I have made beet kavaas following the recipe in Nourishing Tradiations,
    a film of mold forms on the top of the liquid. I usually ferment it for 2 days in a glass
    jar with a top loosely screwed on. Can you give some pointers so that I can eliminate
    the film of mold from forming on the top?

    • Mikki Coburn says

      If it’s just kind of white, foamy, scum, that’s not mold. I think it’s just part of the fermentation process. I just spoon it off and put the kvass in the fridge. It’s wonderful! Don’t throw out the beets, drain the kvass, or leave the beets in until you drink it all, add more more water and you get another batch. I also add half the original called for salt and whey, though maybe not necessary, the second round with the beets. Hopefully Jenny will comment on the “mold.” If it’s black mold, then Sarah Pope says it’s just fermented too long.

  16. Paula says

    Hi, I’ve made the kvass via Nourishing Traditions and really like it. I’ve been wanting to experiment with other uses for my kefir grains. Have you tried making kvass this way? I’m thinking there would be ample natural sugar to feed the grains? I’d love your opinion. Thanks.

    • cindy says

      I tried and it came out ‘gummy’…Sure would like to read more input on this possibility. Seems like it should work!

  17. Saeriu says

    In the introduction you mention other fruits veggies can be used as well to make kvass. I made some beet kvass about 3 weeks ago, tried a glass and it was salty and very strongly tasting of beets (duh!). It was good but really, really strong. Next time I make it, do you think it would work if I added in a chopped granny smith or delicious red apple, or even rhubarb? I’m a somewhat newcomer to beets and although I enjoy beets, the taste almost overwhelmed me.

  18. says

    I make and love kvass, too! I’m going to try it with less salt, as you do. I’ve been following the NT recipe and it’s a little too salty. I do have a question about a passing comment you made that you try to consume a quart of bone broth a day. Is that a quart a day per person? If so, that’s a lot! I usually tell my clients that ideally I’d like to see them take a cup a day and I think it would be hard to keep up with the larger amount, even if it is about the most nourishing thing on the planet!

  19. Dawn says

    Hi Jenny-I am hoping you can clarify the differences I see between the kvass recipe in the Get Cultured class and the recipe you list here. (i.e. more beets and 1/2 quart more water, but the same amount of salt and starter).
    Also, putting 1 1/2 quarts in a gallon fermenter leaves a lot of air space. I see that you say to fill the crock to within 1″ with additional filtered water-wouldn’t this dilute the saline? I would need to add almost 2 quarts of water to my gallon fermenter! My gut tells me to make another batch of 1 1/2 quarts water to 2 tsp salt and add that in. What say you??

  20. elfi says

    i too am interested in the difference between peeling and not for this beet kvass. as per ‘sue’ in april. thanks

  21. Laura says

    Hi Jenny,

    My husband and I received an abundance of beets from our CSA this summer, so I decided to make some beet kvass. I gave it to my husband–about 1/2 cup to drink–to make sure he got a dose of probiotics daily. After about 3 days, he got so ill: bloating, stomachache, and gas. He was bed-ridden for an entire day and could not eat normally for a few days after that. I suspect the beets were not fermented enough–I let them stay out for 3 days at room temperature–or I gave him too high a dose. I tried to research more on beet kvass–and found one source said it’s not good for people with candida–even in fermented form. I’m curious about what you think… Thanks!

  22. says

    Coincidentally, I just made a fresh batch of kvass! I’m trying beet-carrot this time, using purple carrots that are golden on the inside, plus one gold carrot. The colors are lovely.

    I’m going to try with a starter culture next time as you suggest. This time I used whey poured off from Strauss full-fat yogurt, which is pretty darned good.

  23. Elaine VanGelder says

    Great Informatio!Love the recipes BUT in order to print themIt just takes too many pages of info I don’t need
    How can I get the recipes withou having all of these pages.A seperate place just fdor recipes.

  24. Jennifer says

    Hi,

    I’m new to fermenting and only have my crock pot NOT a fermentation crock. What would you recommend of how to approach this? Do I need to open it every 12 hours or so to release the CO2? I am in serious need of B vitamins suffering with PCOS and trying to heal myself while homeschooling, 3 kids, and a hubby doing 15 months in Afghanistan. Seriously, ANY help is appreciated :) Thanks!!!

  25. Judy says

    Hi Jenny!

    I love your recipes, but I’ve noticed that a lot of the fermentation ones call for a starter culture that is dairy based (kefir or whey). I’m allergic to dairy so I am wondering if there is an alternative culture, or if using a Kefir culture for this recipe would be fine.

    Thanks so much!

  26. Sarah C. says

    Hi, I was wondering if anyone else has a problem when clicking on links within the blog article? I’ve noticed that in several postings I’ll click on a link to see what fermenting crocks (example from this article) and all it does it take me to a generic page on Village Green Network. When I’m on the Village Green site it just shows me information about Pleasant Hill Grain….is this their online store front? It would be great to see what items you actually use at home.

    Thanks!
    -Sarah

  27. Helen says

    Hi, I have a question about the sealing of the Beet Kvass container. Should the container be tightly sealed or loose?

    Thank you.

  28. Brianna says

    Jenny,
    Can I use already made kvass for a starter for new kvass? And keep doing this over and over? In other words, do you only need a starter once as long as you keep it going?

    Thanks! Love the post!

  29. says

    Hi everyone,

    I am from Ukraine – the country were beet kvass comes from and is a base for our traditional national dish – Ukrainian borshch. Borshch is made from beet kvass and beet kvass used to be always at hand in every Ukrainian household. We drank it as a healing medicinal tonic and used it for borshch.

    First of all, we NEVER added any whey or kefir starter to beets – this brings in different cultures, like more lactic bacteria rather than wild yeast (and kvass, from its very Ukrainian name means sour – mostly yeast fermented and carbonated, not lactic fermented, like sauerkraut).
    Secondly, we never closed the jar tightly, like many new recipes call for – as this will create pressure and may kill off some of the cultures. When this happens, slime may develop (harmless yet disgusting bacterial slime). We only cover the jar with a cheese cloth folded a few times and secured with a rubber band or a string.
    Thirdly, keep your beet kvass on the counter for at least five to seven days or longer away from sun light (or covered with a kitchen towel).
    Next, you will notice white mold forming on top of your beet kvass. This mold is harmless and is a part of the normal process. You can collect and discard this mold by spooning it from the surface. This mold is like the mold on brie cheese – not necessary the same fungi, but also harmless.
    We ALWAYS add a few crashed cloves of garlic. ALWAYS! We do not peel the garlic – just press it (or smash it) as to crack it open a bit for juices and cultures to penetrate it easier.

    No wonder many people cannot drink this beet kvass – I would not like it meself without any garlic and with whey added. I grew up drinking this stuff – NO WHEY, friends!
    Try the REAL UKRAINIAN beet kvass – you will LOVE it.
    PS: If it tastes too strong for you – dilute your beet kvass with water.

    Good luck with making this most medicinal tonic of all.

    Anna (from Ukraine)

    • molly says

      hi all,

      i recently made my first batch of beet kvass and i sort of deviated from the recipe that i had from nourishing traditions.
      i did not use whey, but just sea salt and i also added some freshly crushed ginger, cayenne, lemon juice and maple syrup. i think because of the sugars from the maple syrup, the drink fermented very quickly and became fizzy and carbonated within two days outside of the fridge. i was able to put it in the fridge and consume it after just two days of fermenting. it tasted really amazing, and i found the sugars from the maple syrup balanced the salty taste very well.
      i am glad to hear anna’s input, as she has experience with the traditional ukrainian kvass and would like to try making it that way next with crushed garlic. that sounds extremely healing.

    • John says

      Great tips. I too added garlic as it just needd something and it really did make it taste better. As not it is in season I have also added dill.

    • Susan says

      Hi Anna from Ukraine,
      I would appreciate if you could please e-mail me your way of making beet kvass.
      Thank you in advance.

    • Glen G says

      you mentioned no whey or starter kit. do you put salt in? If you would could you send me your recipe with instructions.
      thank you in advance

    • Nerida says

      Thanks Anna
      I’ve tried BK from NT and was way too salty. This time I used your suggestions, no whey, garlic and left for 10days. I scraped off the foamy mouldy looking stuff and it was absolutely great!
      Thanks for your tips!
      Nerida, from Australia

    • San Diego Cathy says

      The first time I made beet kvass it was this recipe that inspired me. I took the advice of Anna and added a clove of garlic. It is pure deliciousness! I agree, cannot even imagine leaving out the garlic! I do however like a longer ferment without whey and just tad tad more salt.

  30. Roz says

    Hi,
    First I have to say thank you.. LoVe your site.. it is a lifesaver for me.. About the Kvass – does using the whey instead of yeast make it SCD legal? Many thanks

  31. maur says

    I made beet kvass using three beets cut into half inch cubes added 32 ounces of filtered water and whey . The fourth day it was still very light with no taste nothing like the excellent store bought Zukay brand , so I put the cubed beets through my omega juicer and added it to the home made kvass then immediately refrigerated .After cooling it tasted almost as good as Zukay .

  32. Zarema says

    Jenny, I would love to make the beet kvass. however the link to the culture starter does not seem to work. Can you please let me know which one do you use in your recipe?
    thank you

  33. Michelle says

    Hi! I have a batch fermenting right now. I opted for using more salt instead of whey or starter culture and added garlic as the above poster from Ukraine suggested. But how do I know when it’s ready?! It’s been on my counter for 5 days. Thanks!

  34. SanDiegoCathy says

    Jenny! Thank you for letting us know how easy it is to make beet kvass for health!
    Anna! Thank you for explaining the white “scum” I would have been afraid of it had you not mentioned it; also for the idea of garlic added-so delicious!! My kvass is tangy and rich today, about a week on the counter top.

  35. RAY says

    I planted a ton of beets this year
    last year I tried to store my beets but they shrivveled up and got moldy….despite that I still made Kavass Tonic with them

    I’m wondering….can I dehydrate my beets…..maybe even powder the dried beets…..and use the powder to make Kavass……..
    that would really be super……and thoughts from anyone???

    I have seen prepared mixes for beet juice…..the olympic atheletes supposedly drink the stuff for performance enhancement

    What ideas does anyone have….or is this just a lame idea??

  36. Mike D. says

    Culturesforhealth.com, in their ebook on lacto-fermentation, says to let the beet kvass ferment for only 2-3 days, whereas you say to leave it out for at least a week. What is the reason for this discrepancy between you’re advice and that of Culturesforhealth.com? Thanks.

  37. Mich says

    Would it be okay to ferment this in a one-gallon mason jar instead of a fermentation crock? Does the lid need to be tight or loosened (maybe once a day or so?) Thanks!

  38. LiquidRainbow says

    This actually is not russian, if it were made from bread it’d be russian – but it’s from beets so i think ukraine is the most likely starting place, just sayin’ ;).

  39. Melissa says

    I started some beet kvass yesterday – I used a powdered kefir starter. Was just reading about milk kefir and the kefir grains on another page here, and am wondering if I should have used grains rather than the powdered starter culture?

    I’m also curious about what this will look like as it ferments. As I said, I started it yesterday. Today there is a white, cloudy but transparent layer forming on the top of the beets but in the liquid. Is this what is expected?

    thanks!

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