These Lacto Fermented Cucumbers are a delicious and probiotic rich way of making naturally fermented pickles. Made with just cucumbers, salt, and water, you can adjust the flavors to your own taste preferences with a variety of herbs, spices, and other flavoring agents.
Fermenting cucumbers is perfect for preserving an abundant summer harvest to enjoy for a longer time, while also infusing them with probiotic goodness. Fermented vegetables provide several health benefits, including vitamin K2 and antioxidants.
Whether you are using cucumbers from your own garden, the local farmer’s market or a farm stand, you will love these natural pickles without vinegar. Turn them into fermented dill pickles using optional dill, garlic and pickling spices for flavoring.
Here are the ingredients I use. The cucumbers, water, salt and bay leaves are required. Dill, garlic, and pickling spices are optional
- pickling cucumbers - like kirby cucumbers, but small, firm cucumbers (3-5 inches long) of almost any variety work here. Sometimes I use slicing cucumbers (Persian/English) as long as they are no more than 1.5-2 inches in diameter
- bay leaves - grape leaves or oak leaves, mesquite and horseradish leaves work too. They include tannins that help keep the cucumbers crisp
- water - filtered or tap water that's been left out for several hours to reduce chlorine levels
- sea salt - 3 - 4.5% salinity will inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria while allowing lactobacilli to thrive
- pickling spice - use my linked recipe or a mix of mustard seeds, coriander, dill seeds, black peppercorns, allspice, cloves (optional)
- dill - dry or fresh; chopped or whole sprigs and flowers of fresh dill (optional)
- garlic cloves - peeled and sliced to they can release their full flavor potential (optional)
See recipe card for quantities.
Follow these steps to make your own fermented pickles.
Wash and dry cucumbers. Leave whole, or cut into spears or slices. Pack tightly into jar
Add bay leaves and optional garlic, dill, and pickling spice
Combine water and salt. Stir until dissolved, then pour the brine over cucumbers to cover
If the cucumbers float up, place a fermentation weight or small bowl on top. Cover with a lid
Place the jar on a plate or small bowl and let ferment at room temperature 3-5 days
Open the lid daily to burp and release air bubbles. Ensure the cucumbers stay submerged. Start tasting on day 3. When desired flavor is reached, move the jar to the refrigerator
Hint: The brine will turn cloudy and yellowish during the fermentation process. This is totally normal. If you see a white film floating on top of the brine, that is most likely Kahm yeast (not mold). It is not toxic, but it's best to scoop it off so it doesn't alter the flavor of your fermented pickles.
Once the fermented cucumbers have reached your desired sour tart flavor, move them to the fridge and store there for several months to a year unopened. Once opened, aim to use up the lacto fermented pickles within 1 month.
Be sure to remove the blossom end (small dark circle) from the bottom of each cucumber (even if leaving whole). Cut off about 1/16 inch from the end. This part contains an enzymes called pectinase that can make the cucumbers turn mushy.
Yes! Fermented foods, including fermented cucumbers provide many health benefits such as anti-oxidant, anti-microbial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic and anti-atherosclerotic activity.*
In general cucumbers take 3-5 days to ferment. Personal taste preferences and room temperature (bacterial activity is higher a warmer temperatures) will affect the actual number of days.
Pickled cucumbers are submerged in a salt, vinegar, and water brine. They aren't fermented, but usually just stored in the fridge. Any sour flavor comes from the vinegar. Fermented cucumbers are made in a salt water brine only. They also get a sour, but non-vinegary flavor due to lactic acid from the lactobacillus that induces fermentation.
Lacto Fermented Cucumber Pickles
- 1 quart sized glass jar with lid thoroughly washed with hot water
- fermentation weight or tiny bowl
- 1 pound pickling cucumbers small, firm cucumbers of almost any variety work here
- ½-1 tablespoon pickling spice mix of mustard, coriander, dill seeds, peppercorns, all spice, cloves...
- 1 teaspoon dried dill 1 tablespoon fresh chopped or 2-3 whole sprigs (optional)
- 2 bay leaves grape leaves or oak leaves
- 1-3 garlic cloves sliced (optional)
- 2 cups filtered water
- 3-4 teaspoons sea salt for brine of about 3.5 - 4.5% salinity
- Start by washing out your glass jar and stirring tools with hot water.
- Wash the cucumbers. You can leave them whole, or cut into spears or slices. Either way be sure to cut of the blossom end (small brown-black circle) from the bottom of each cucumber. It contains the enzyme pectinase that can make your cucumbers soften instead of staying nice and crisp.1 pound pickling cucumbers
- Pack the cucumbers tightly into the jar while layering with the pickling spices, dill, bay leaves, and garlic.½-1 tablespoon pickling spice, 1 teaspoon dried dill, 2 bay leaves, 1-3 garlic cloves
- Stir together the water and sea salt until the salt is mostly dissolved. Pour the salt water brine over the cucumbers all the way to the threaded neck. You may not need all of it.2 cups filtered water, 3-4 teaspoons sea salt
- If the cucumbers are floating up over the brine, place a fermentation weight or small bowl on top to keep them submerged.
- Close the jar tightly and place on a rimmed plate or bowl on your shelf or counter for 3-5 days. I like to open the jar daily to let from bubbles escape. Some brine may bubble over. You can pour it back in or drink it.
- The brine will go from clear, to bubbly to cloudy. Once the fermented cucumbers have reached your desired sour flavor, move them to the fridge. There they can last several months to a year unopened. Once opened, I prefer to use up the lacto fermented pickles within 1 month.