While you can ferment pretty much any vegetable, some veggies seem like they were made to be fermented. Beans definitely fall into that category! Fermented green beans are tangy, crunchy, and downright delicious. It takes extreme willpower to stop eating these right out of the jar! The good news is: they’re so healthy for you, it is totally okay if you don’t stop. The other good news? They’re really easy to make.
Another popular way to preserve green beans is to pickle them. The fermentation process preserves them as well, but also introduces millions of gut-healing probiotics, enzymes, and antioxidants. It keeps the food alive, rather than sterilizing it! That is why we typically choose to ferment foods over using a vinegar brine to pickle them. However, if you’re interested in a more classic pickle, we do have an awesome vinegar brine recipe! We use it to achieve a classic pepperoncini flavor with our pickled peppers, but the recipe can be used for any veggie – including greens beans!
Even if you don’t have homegrown green beans to use for this recipe, I highly suggest giving it a go anyways! Pick up some beans from your farmer’s market or local grocery store. But remember, it is always best to choose organic produce for ferment recipes. Inorganic produce can interfere with a safe fermentation process, and also produce off-flavors.
- A fermenting vessel – Some folks use ceramic crocks, but many homesteaders and herbalists these days simply use mason jars of varying sizes. For smaller batches, use a pint or quart jar. For larger batches, we use these half-gallon mason jars.
- Fermenting lid or air lock device – The use of a lid made for the fermentation process is ideal, which makes the job much easier and pretty foolproof, though a regular jar lid can be used with a few tweaks. Examples of fermenting lids include an all-in-one device like a Kraut Source lid, or the use of a combination of items like a glass or ceramic weight along with another type of air lock lid. A further discussion of their reasoning and use will follow in the directions section below.
- Organic Green Beans – As many needed to fill your ferment vessel of choice.
- Salt – Sea salt or kosher pickling salt. Do not use iodized table salt! It messes with the flavor and process. We love this Celtic sea salt for our ferments.
- Filtered water
- Fresh Dill – 1 bunch
- Optional: Garlic, peppercorns, chili peppers, or red chili flakes
1) Clean Supplies
You want to make sure all of your supplies are clean. No, they don’t need to be insanely clean or “sterile”. You actually never want to use bleach (or even soap) on your fermenting tools! The residual could stick around and really make things taste “off”. We spray ours with plain white vinegar, and then rinse well with hot water. That’s it. I do the same with my hands.
2) Prep Green Beans
Rinse off the beans. Like the other supplies, they don’t need to be crazy sterile-clean. Avoid using soap or produce washes! For this recipe, it is best to use your most tender green beans, and avoid using the tough ones. The beans will soften just slightly as they ferment, but not nearly the same as cooking tough beans to tenderize them.
To prep the beans, trim off the hard stem end. That is it! You could cut them into bite-size pieces if you desire, though we generally leave them whole or in halves.
3) Add Seasonings of Choice
In the bottom of your chosen fermenting vessel, add some washed fresh sprigs of dill. I suggest this simple “seasoning” at minimum. As long as you don’t dislike dill, it provides a very mild and delicious addition! The amount of dill doesn’t need to be precise. If you get the smaller plastic clamshell packages, use about half for a quart jar, and the whole thing for a half-gallon jar. If you’re able to get a larger, looser bunch of dill, we generally use about a quarter of those per quart jar, and half a large bunch per half-gallon jar.
We also usually add a couple cloves of fresh garlic at the bottom of the jar. If you don’t like dill or garlic, you can totally skip either and keep it super simple! Or if you loooove garlic, you can add more. Personally, we have found that fermented garlic can overpower the flavor of everything else if you go too heavy. We find about 1-2 cloves of garlic in a quart jar, and 3-4 cloves per half-gallon jar is our sweet spot. (These were small cloves, so we added 3 in this quart.)
You can also get creative here and go beyond what this basic recipe is calling for. For example, add a pinch of peppercorns, a sprinkle of celery seed or mustard seeds, a chunk of fresh ginger or turmeric, a dash of red chili flakes, or even a whole hot chili pepper or two – if you want some heat! That’s the beauty of fermenting. The options for experimentation and creativity are endless. Keep in mind that flavors usually mellow out when fermented too. For example, hot chilis will become much less spicy than when eaten raw or even cooked once they’re fermented.
4) Pack the Jar
Once you have your chosen seasonings at the bottom, start adding greens beans to the jar. When fermenting, it’s best to try and fit as many veggies in the jar as possible. If you’re going through this process, you might as well maximize the amount of cultured food you get out of it in the end! This will also reduce the amount of brine needed, and the amount of air that can get trapped inside. Therefore, when you’re putting the green beans into the jar, try not to just throw handfuls in there all haphazardly. I like to lay the jar on its side as I add the beans, which makes it easier to pack them in together.
5) Make a Brine
The standard brine ratio for fermented vegetables is 1 tablespoon of sea salt or kosher salt per 2 cups filtered water. With a fully-packed jar of veggies, we have found that 2 cups of brine is adequate per quart jar. Scale up or down as needed.
On the stovetop, heat a pot with filtered water to just warm enough to dissolve the salt. You do not want to add hot brine to your ferment, but lukewarm is okay. Too much heat will kill the beneficial bacteria (lactobacillus) needed to safely ferment your beans!
Once cooled, slowly pour the brine into the jar until the beans are completely covered. Pockets of air are likely trapped in there, so give the jar a little tap and wiggle to help release them.
6) Add a Weight
This is an important step in fermenting foods! The beans need to stay submerged below the brine level. If they’re allowed to float or be in contact with air, mold can develop!
The stainless steel all-in-one Kraut Source fermentation lids we use have a flat plate and spring inside that help to easily accomplish this, acting as a weight to keep everything down. Another option is to use a ceramic or glass weight made for fermenting. Some people get resourceful and use other clean items that fit inside their vessel, like a boiled rock or smaller glass jar.
Next, the jar or container of fermenting green beans needs to be covered with a tight fitting lid. The use of an air-lock lid made for fermenting is preferable. Aid lock lids allow for the release of any excess air and carbon dioxide that is produced during fermentation, without allowing new air or anything else to come in.
This is one reason why we really love the Kraut Source lids! They not only have a weight that keeps everything submerged, but also have a little moat on top that you fill with water, thus creating an air lock. However, there are a lot of other mason jar fermentation lids out there too! Here are some silicone nipple types. These would need to be used in conjunction with a weight of some sort, like these glass ones.
If you do not have an air lock lid, you can try using a regular mason jar lid. Screw it on tightly, and then make sure to quickly “burp” your jars every few days to release the built up carbon dioxide. Sometimes this works, though I have heard mixed reviews. I suppose they make air lock lids for a reason…
Once it’s all put together, let your dilly bean concoction sit out at room temperature for 7-14 days to do its thang. The total time depends on your personal flavor preference, and the temperature of your house. We let most of our ferments go for about 10-14 days.
Warmer conditions will ferment things more quickly, and cooler does just the opposite. The ideal fermentation temperature is around 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. If it is summer time and your house is warmer than this, try to find a slightly cooler location for your vessel to hang out. Too hot of conditions can encourage the development of white Kahm yeast. It is not dangerous, but rather stinky and off-putting.
Notes during fermentation:
During the week or two at room temperature, you will notice the fermented green beans start to undergo change. The lactobacillus is working away to convert the starches in the food into lactic acid, which preserves it. In the process, carbon dioxide is formed, so you’ll probably see some bubbling activity in there! The green beans will also start to change color, fading to a less bright green. The brine also gets cloudy, and this is totally normal!
If you are using a Kraut Source lid, keep an eye on its little water-filled moat, making sure it always has some clean water in there. It doesn’t dry out easily though. On the other hand, our vessels usually overflow from the lid for the first several days of fermentation. Be forewarned that yours may do the same! So we alway set the jars on a plate or in a bowl to catch the overflow. Once that initial burst of activity subsides (about 5 days later), the moat can dry up and you’ll want to add more water into it.
Another thing you may notice during fermentation may be a slightly odd odor. This is totally normal! To be honest, some ferments can smell pretty farty. I promise they taste better than they smell!
When the time is up, remove the air-lock lid, replace it with a regular lid, and move your finished fermented green beans to the fridge. Because of the acidity of fermented foods, standard mason jar lids have the tendency to rust. To avoid this, we store our finished ferments with either these stainless steel lids or these BPA-free plastic ones.
These fermented green beans are good for several months in the fridge, if not longer. We have enjoyed some ferments almost a year after they were made – though we always eat them up quicker than that!
Now it is time to feed your belly with probiotic-rich home-fermented food! We love to use these fermented green beans as a salad topping, or on top of sautéed veggies, brown rice, or curry lentils. They could also be used chopped up in egg salad, on sandwiches, like a pickle on an hor d’oeuvre plate with cheese and crackers, or just snacked on plain!
Don’t throw out that brine either! The liquid is also chock full of probiotics and beneficial enzymes, just waiting to make your belly happy. Did you know they actually sell leftover ferment brine, marketed as “gut shots”, at natural food stores? And they aren’t cheap! We like to drizzle some on top of salads with olive oil as a dressing, or even take little shots of it straight!
Ready to ferment?
Go make some insanely healthy, tasty fermented green beans of your own. If you are new to fermenting, do not be nervous! If you follow these steps, it is really quite difficult to “mess up”. In all our years fermenting, we have NEVER had mold or anything dangerous form in a fermenting vessel.
If you like this recipe, you’ll also love our fermented dilly radish recipe. It’s basically the same process, but with radishes instead of green beans! Curious to learn more about why fermented foods are so great for your health? Check out this post that talks all about the health benefits of fermented foods!
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