Vibrant and tart with the flavor of pineapple, and infused with sweet cinnamon and star anise, tepache is a traditional fermented drink from Mexico. To make it, you’ll need a pineapple, unrefined sugar like piloncillo or jaggery, spices and a jar. After making this tepache recipe, let it culture at room temperature, and you’ll have a vibrant sweet-tart, slightly effervescent drink in a few days.
What is tepache?
Tepache is a fermented soft drink native to pre-hispanic Mexico (1). In addition, brewers traditionally made it with corn. But now, contemporary brewers typically use pineapple, cane sugar and spices.
Tepache’s flavor is vibrantly sweet and tart. Further, cinnamon and star anise infuse some tepache recipes with a distinct, sweet spicy aroma.
Unrefined cane sugar also gives the drink a distinct floral note with mineral undertones. Occasionally, brewers will add water kefir (also known as tibicos) to the brew to kickstart fermentation. Using a starter helps it to brew faster.
These ingredients ferment at room temperature for 1 to 3 days. Hot, tropical temperatures allow the drink to ferment faster, while colder temperatures slow the fermentation process.
Tepache is usually served only lightly fermented as a soft drink, and even young children drink and enjoy it. However, some brewers ferment the drink for longer period to produce an alcoholic version. And when you let it ferment a month or longer, it will turn pineapple vinegar. When you ferment the drink for a short period of time, it will have a very low alcohol content – similar to kombucha.
Is it good for you?
Like most fermented drinks and foods, tepache is rich in beneficial bacteria and probiotics as well as beneficial acids. Pineapple is a good source of enzymes and rich in vitamin C.
Gut Health and Tepache
As a wild-fermented drink, specific cultures will vary from batch to batch and brewer to brewer. Most tepache recipes will contain lactic acid producing bacteria including lactobacillus lactis, which is also found in buttermilk and cheese (2).
Most tepache brews will also contain beneficial yeasts like saccharomyces boulardii(3) which is associated with increased enzymatic activity and better nutrient delivery in the gut (4). It also plays a role in supporting gut health and the restoration of the gut barrier, so shows promise in addressing conditions related to leaky gut (5).
Vitamins, Minerals and Enzymes
Pineapple contains a good amount of vitamin C, thiamin and manganese. It’s also rich in various food enzymes, like bromelain, which may help to support digestion.
During fermentation, beneficial bacteria and wild yeast consume sugars and produce beneficial acids and B vitamins. But even though tepache is fermented, it still tastes sweet. And that means there’s till plenty of sugar remaining in your brew. So drink small amounts, and people prone to blood sugar imbalance may wish to skip this drink in favor of fermented vegetables .
Sourcing Your Pineapple
Since you’ll use the pineapple rind to make tepache, you want to be particularly careful about how it’s sourced. Pineapples are a pesticide-intensive crop, which means that the rind may contain significant residue.
Further, the use of pesticides and herbicides in conventional pineapple production is so intensive, it often sterilizes the soil, eliminates biodiversity. Even worse, conventional pineapple production has profound impact on the health of farm workers and community members (6).
For these reasons, take extra care to purchase organic or sustainably grown pineapple for this recipe.
How to Make Tepache
Most tepache recipes need only pineapple and unrefined sugar. But you can also add spices. And water kefir will give your brew a boost so it cultures faster.
Slice your pineapple peel, and reserve the fruit for another purpose.
Then warm a bit of unrefined sugar with water. Artisan producers make unrefined cane sugars like piloncillo and jaggery the traditional way, by boiling sugar cane juice to a fine syrup. Then they beat it as it crystallizes. The result is that it has a rich flavor, and plenty of residual minerals.
Pro Tip: Since sugar cane takes up heavy metals from the soil, use an organic jaggery like this one from Pure Indian Foods that’s screened for heavy metals.
Pour the sugar water over the pineapple peel. Drop in the spices. And then cover it with more water. Next, allow it to ferment for a few days, until lightly sweet, pleasantly tart and faintly effervescent.
Tepache de Piña Recipe
- Warm the sugar and 2 cups water in a small saucepan set over high heat. Stir them together until the sugar dissolves fully.
- While the sugar water cools, cut away the pineapple’s top and bottom. And then, discard them. Chop the peel, reserving the fruit for another purpose, and place it into a 1 gallon jar. Drop the cinnamon stick and clove into a gallon-sized jar.
- Pour the sugar water over the the pineapple, and then pour in the remaining 6 cups water and the water kefir, if using. Cover the jar, and allow the tepache to ferment for two to three days, or until bubbles and foam form at the surface of the jar. Strain away the pineapple and spices, and then pour the tepache into bottles.
- You can drink the tepache right away, or allow it to ferment in the bottle an addition 1 to 2 days. Serve over ice.
Where to Find Organic Star Anise and Cinnamon
Sweet spices infuse this tepache recipe with subtle flavor and delightful. We recommend ordering from Mountain Rose Herbs, a longtime partner specializing in organic, fair-trade spice.
Another Fermented Drink You Might Like
If you like the sweet-tart fizz of real, homemade tepache, you might give probiotic lemonade a try too. Lemons, honey and fantastic bubbles.
Sources and References
1,2) Fuente‐Salcido, N. M., et al (2015), Isolation and characterization of bacteriocinogenic lactic bacteria from M‐Tuba and Tepache, two traditional fermented beverages in México. Food Sci Nutr, 3: 434-442.
3) Romera-Luna, H.W., et al (2018) Evaluation of the Probiotic Potential of Saccharomyces cerevisiae Strain (C41) Isolated from Tibicos by In Vitro Studies
4) Terciolo, C., Dapoigny, M., & Andre, F. (2019). Beneficial effects of Saccharomyces boulardii CNCM I-745 on clinical disorders associated with intestinal barrier disruption. Clinical and experimental gastroenterology, 12, 67–82.
5) Vandenplans, Y., et al. (2009) Saccharomyces boulardii in childhood. European Journal of Pediatrics. 168(3).
6) Lawrence, F. (2010) Bitter fruit: The truth about supermarket pineapple. Guardian.