Easy Fermented (or Fresh) Garden Salsa
Yield: 3 cups (recipe doubles easily)
Healthy, flavorful salsa can be gut-healthy, too! You may enjoy this salsa freshly made, but it only takes 2 days for the probiotics to develop.


  • 1 pound cherry or grape tomatoes, cut into a small dice (reserve juices*)
  • ½ bell pepper, diced small (color of choice-I often use yellow or orange; could omit and add an extra ½ cup or so of tomatoes)
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped (may substitute basil, parsley or a mix)
  • ¼ cup minced red onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ a jalapeño or Serrano pepper, minced (seed if a less spicy salsa is preferred)
  • ½ tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 level teaspoon fine sea salt (may substitute other salt as long as it is free of iodine or any other ingredients, which may impede fermentation)

Other equipment:

  • 1 (quart-size) glass jar with an airtight lid (or 2 pint-size jars)
  • Weight: such as half a bell pepper, a cabbage leaf, half a peeled onion, a clean stone or fermentation weight


  1. Add the tomatoes, bell pepper, herbs, red onion, garlic, jalapeño or Serrano pepper, lime juice and salt to a mixing bowl, and toss to thoroughly combine.(I use a quart-size Pyrex measure for easy transfer to the jar later.

    At this point, taste the salsa. It should be well seasoned with the salt and lime juice, but not overpowering. Salt aids the fermentation process and helps keep the “bad bacteria” from populating. I like a hint of tang from the lime but enjoy the sweetness of the tomatoes, too. Fermenting will also add an extra layer of tang, and you can always add an extra squeeze of lime later.

    Fresh option: If you’d like to enjoy the salsa now, you may skip the fermentation step and dig in with tortilla chips or toasted French bread rounds for a lovely “bruschetta dip.” Or use as you would any fresh salsa. Hint: For a chunkier salsa,

    To ferment: Transfer the salsa to a glass jar with an airtight lid, making sure to add all the juice from the bottom of the mixing bowl. I use quart-size Mason or Ball jar, which allows for some room at the top. Alternatively, you could divide the mixture between two pint-size jars.

    Press the salsa down in the jar so the veggies are fully submerged in the juice/brine. Then add your weight of choice. (I’ve been using the remaining bell pepper half.)

    Tightly seal the jar and place in a spot away from direct sunlight. Ferment the salsa at room temperature for 2 day (48 hours). After 24 hours or so, you will likely notice that small bubbles are beginning to form. This is the part of the fermentation process where the good bacteria are developing.

    After 2 full days, your salsa will be ready to enjoy. At this point, you may eat the salsa or store it in the refrigerator. You can also remove the weight now. If you prefer a tangier salsa, you could let the salsa ferment for an additional day or so. Simply taste once or twice a day (I give it a stir, too) and refrigerate when it is to your liking. The salsa will keep for several months in the fridge, where the fermentation process is mostly halted, although the flavor will continue to develop.

    Food processor option: Halve the tomatoes; set aside. Roughly chop the bell pepper, herbs and onion. I like to still mince the garlic and hot pepper to make sure there aren’t any big chunks in the finished salsa. Add the bell pepper, herbs, onion, garlic and hot pepper to the work bowl and pulse 5-6 times. Scrape down the bowl, and add the tomatoes. Pulse about 10 times, scraping the sides of the bowl down after 6 or 7 pulses. You want the mixture to be evenly chopped and somewhat chunky, not pureed. At this point, I transfer the mixture to a bowl with a spout (it’s easier than transferring the contents from the work bowl to the jar), where I add the lime juice and salt, and taste for seasoning. Then transfer to the glass jar, making sure the vegetables are submerged in the juices, and top with your weight. Place the lid on the jar and follow the fermenting step, above.



*Tip for fresh method: When following the fresh salsa method, I like to drain the cut tomatoes in a colander for 15-20 minutes, give or take, to allow the excess juices to drain before adding the remaining ingredients. (The juices are necessary in the fermentation process, so don’t drain when following that method.) The fresh method also works well with plum or good vine-ripened tomatoes. Sometimes I skip the bell pepper and/or hot pepper in this version. When serving as the aforementioned “bruschetta dip” with toasted French bread rounds (that I brush with olive oil, season with garlic, salt and bake until crisp), I opt for fresh basil instead of cilantro and often drizzle the mixture with a little olive oil and use balsamic vinegar instead of lime juice. Either way, feel free to add more acid to taste and generally mix things up as you prefer.

A few more things:
As mentioned, when fermenting, the tomatoes should not be drained as the juices are necessary for the process to work. As a result, this salsa is naturally more liquid-y. Some of the liquid may be drained off after the ferment – although it tastes wonderful and does contain gut-healthy probiotics.
I’ve only used cherry and grape tomatoes for the fermented salsa as they contain enough liquid for fermentation but less than regular vine-ripened tomatoes. If I were to experiment with larger tomatoes, I would partially seed them and reserve some of the juices, which could be added before closing the jar if needed. There should be enough liquid to just submerge the salsa ingredients when weighted.
Ripe, seasonal tomatoes are the foundation of this salsa and critical to its wonderful fresh flavor as well as a successful fermentation.


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