Beet Kvass {With Apple & Ginger Variation}

Beet kvass is a nourishing fermented beverage teeming with beneficial natural probiotics. It is also a crucial component in many traditional borscht recipes. It requires only three ingredients — beets, water, and salt. My beet kvass recipe also adds ginger and apples, but this is entirely optional. The result is a healthy, versatile, fermented drink that is earthy, sour, faintly sweet, and salty too.

A mason jar full of dark red beet kvass with apples and ginger slices. It's on a wood table next to a discarded beet green leaf.

What Is Beet Kvass?

I’m growing beets in my raised beds this year so I should have plenty. One of my favorites uses is this beet kvass recipe. I absolutely love to have this on hand to drink as-is, but especially to make make nourishing, healthy, traditional borscht soup.

Traditional foods like beet kvass is a lacto-fermented probiotic drink teeming with beneficial bacteria from Eastern Europe where kvass originates. It can be a bit of an acquired taste.

It is traditionally made by fermenting rye bread in water, but variations like this beet kvass also exist.

The first historical mention of Kvass we get is in the Primary Chronicle, a book of ancient Slavic history compiled sometime around 1113. Various types of Kvass have been popular in Ukraine and Russia for more than 1000 years.

Kvass has long been considered an excellent blood tonic that purifies the blood and liver and heals the stomach as it aids digestion, but this is not medical advice.

But it is also a fun and easy fermentation project and tasty beverage.

If you’re new to fermentations — make my beet ginger kvass with apples.

And if you love this beet kvass recipe, check out some of my other fermented food recipes — like my fermented preserved lemons, cultured raw butter, soured milk, and my raw milk kefir smoothie.

My recipe for traditional Irish soda bread also utilized raw cultured buttermilk.

An overhead shot showing the ingredients needed to make this fermented beet kvass drink with the optional apples and ginger.

Ingredients

  • Beets | I love using dark red beets, but golden beets or any other varieties you can buy or grow works! I also recommend you source organic beets for a recipe like this that uses the beet skins.
  • Water | Filtered or spring water is best. If you are using tap water, let the water sit out 24 hours so that the chlorine can dissipate. Chlorine can interfere with fermentation. You can also boil your water for 10 minutes and then allow it to cool to room temperature..
  • Salt | Do not use iodized salt. Sea salt or pink Himalayan salt is fine. Fine salt is preferred to coarse.
  • Ginger (Optional) | Fresh ginger gives a refreshing and flavorful boost. This is an optional add-in that is my favorite. If making this kvass to use in traditional borscht — do not add ginger.
  • Apples (Optional) | Fresh apples of any varietal add sweetness and a delicious flavor to this beet kvass recipe. As with the ginger, you can leave this ingredient out too. If apples are used, they must be removed after 2-5 days.
  • Other Vegetables, Herbs, Spices | See variations below.

Equipment

You already have the equipment you need. There are some nice-to-haves if you’re going to get serious, but fermentation is a very budget-friendly way to preserve the foods you’re growing or buying at the farmer’s market at the peak of freshness.

Fermentation is one of my top ways to prepare for food shortages and inflation.

The most important thing is glass jars. It doesn’t matter what size. You can use multiple small jars or 1 large glass jar. You can even use a food grade bucket or a massive fermentation crock.

Our ancestors frequently used wooden barrels.

  • Glass jars with lids | I use mason jars and traditional crocks, but jars are obviously way cheaper than a crock like this one.
  • Pickle pipes | these are amazing and a must in my opinion, you just put them on and then check on your ferments as you want. No daily “burping” required as a tiny hole in the top vents all gasses. They come in wide-mouth and regular-mouth, so check your jars before ordering.
  • Weights | I use the glass weights in the link (make sure you’re buying wide mouth or regular mouth depending on what type of jars you’re using) but you can DIY your own too. A plastic bag filled with water for example, will work. It is very important that you keep your vegetables and other ingredients below the salty brine as mold growth will occur otherwise and make your ferment dangerous.

A great starter kit for those new to fermentation is this simple one from Masontops that comes with glass weights, a tamper (for pounding things like sauerkraut), and fermentation lids that help excess gas escape safely. I started with this kit several years ago and still use everything in it. It comes in wide-mouth or regular mouth.

Instructions (Step-By-Step Photos)

Chopped beets on a wooden cutting board next to a glass mason jar being filled up with them.

Wash beets well to dislodge any dirt, but do not peel, or remove the beet skin. Chop the beets into medium-sized chunks.

An apple being chopped up on a wooden cutting board.

Chop the apple into small pieces, skin and core included.

Fresh ginger being sliced on a cutting board.

Peel the ginger and roughly chop or slice.

Chopped apples being added to the jar of chopped beets.

Add the beets, apple, and ginger into your jar (or jars). (See variations & substitutions below for even more vegetables, herbs, and spices you can add into your kvass.)

Sea salt being added to the jar of chopped beets and apples.

A large mason jar half full of chopped beets, apples, and ginger.

You can either add the salt and water separately, or you can make the brine beforehand and pour it over the ingredients in the jar.

The ratio of salt to water is: 1 heaping teaspoon of fine salt per 1 cup of water, or two heaping teaspoons of coarse salt per 1 cup of water.

But the most correct way is to weigh all of the ingredients, including the amount of water that will be held in the jar, and then multiply that by 0.025% (assuming 2.5% is the amount of salinity) and the resulting number will tell you how many grams of salt needs to be added to your vegetables and water.

Fresh spring water being poured over the apples, beets, and ginger.

It is important to keep the chunks of vegetables and fruits below the brine. Anything exposed to oxygen will begin to develop mold.

Affix your lid and store the kvass out of direct sunlight in a cooler room temperature. A dark, dry place like your pantry or kitchen cupboard is ideal.

If using a regular lid instead of a special one made for fermenting that releases gas on its own, you will need to unscrew the lid periodically (preferably daily, so set an alarm to remind you) to vent the building up of gas.

After 2-3 days — take the apples out.

Although you can go as long as 5 days with the apples, do not go past that point, as the sugar in the apples will begin to ferment into something alcoholic and unpleasant.

A mason jar full of dark red beet kvass with apples and ginger slices. It's on a wood table next to a discarded beet green leaf.

Leave the beets and ginger alone for the rest of the way.

Beet kvass ferments pretty quickly. The fermentation time will take from 5 days to a week-and-a-half for the good bacteria to take over and multiply. I usually go two weeks for extra sourness. Taste your Beet Kvass after 1 week. You can strain the Kvass if you wish, or leave as is. If you choose to strain it, save at least some of the large beet chunks and add them back. They will sink to the bottom.

Store refrigerated or in a cool room in your cellar where the kvass will continue to ferment but a very slow pace.

A mason jar full of dark red beet kvass with apples and ginger slices. It's on a wood table next to a discarded beet green leaf.

Helpful Hint

Small spices and herbs that float to the top of your ferments become magnets for mold and bad bacteria, make sure you’re keeping them properly submerged below your brine. If you see a white film forming on the top, just skim it off, it’s harmless kahm yeast. If the growth is fuzzy, it is likely mold and you must throw your kvass away.

When in doubt, throw it out.

The Fermentation Brine Calculation

The most accurate way to determine the amount of salt to add for fermented vegetables is by weight, not by cups and spoons. Not all salt weighs the same. And most vegetables require anywhere from 2% to 5% with 2.5% being the average and what I aim for personally.

This is the basic formula:

1 heaping teaspoon of fine sea salt per 1 cup of water.

Or

Weight of all ingredients + weight of water multiplied by 0.025%

Example (vegetables) 532 grams + (water) 216 grams = 748 grams x 0.025 = 18.7

This means we need to add 18.7 grams of salt to our fermented vegetables total. Although in this case, I would be rounding that up to 19 grams of salt.

Storage

Store out of direct sunlight. Once the fermentation level you prefer is achieved (1-2 weeks), your beet juice kvass can be kept in the refrigerator for many many weeks and months.

This drink is not meant to be frozen, and freezing is also unnecessary as it lasts so long.

How To Use Beet Kvass In Recipes

Salads | Make salad dressings with your beet kvass and/or use the chunks of beets and apples directly in the salad too.

Soups | Beet kvass can be used to make traditional borscht soups.

Drinking | You can absoluely drink your beetroot kvass straight up if you enjoy the flavor. Many people do.

FAQ

How much beet kvass can I drink per day?

If you are new to beet kvass, start slowly introducing it by taking just an ounce daily or every other day to start to see if you have any undesirable effects. It’s an acquired taste so remember that if you do not enjoy the earthly, salty, subtle sweetness, you can add it to to other recipes too.

What is beet kvass supposed to taste like?

Beet kvass has an earthy and sweet flavor from the beets and a briny saltiness from the, well, salt. The sweetness is very subtle so some people like to make it tinto a fruit kvass by adding things like apples and berries to the recipe.

What is beet kvass good for?

Beet kvass is historically used as a health tonic to help with digestive ailments. It is also traditionally believed to help cleanse the blood and liver. But whether that is true or not — it is absolutely a source of beneficial probiotics as all fermented beverages and foods are.

Beet Kvass Top Tips

  • A starter culture will aid in fermentation and make for an even tastier beverage, but it is completely optional. Examples of a culture you can use: sauerkraut brine, kimchi juice, whey from yogurt or cheesemaking, some kefir, or buttermilk. Dairy products will change the flavor of your kvass in a way you may not like.
  • Do not peel your beets but make sure you scrub the skin very well.
  • Filtered or spring water is best. If using tap water that has been chlorinated, allow the water to sit for 24 hours so that the chlorine can dissipate or boil the water for 10 minutes and then let it cool.
  • Season matters. As with sourdough bread and other fermented foods, fermentation is reliant on temperature. It speeds up in the summer, slows down in the winter. Give your beet kvass extra time as needed.
  • Keep your beets under the liquid brine. Use a fermentation weight.
  • Foaming and bubbling is a normal part of fermentation, but mold and off smells are not. Discard anything suspicious.
  • Don’t throw your beet greens away! Sauté them in olive oil with some garlic and salt and pepper. They go great with pancetta too and make a nice side dish. You can also use them instead of chard in my recipe for potato chard blitva.
  • The fermentation equation to scale this recipe up or down is 1 heaping teaspoon of fine sea salt per 1 cup of water or the weight of the vegetables plus the weight of the water multiplied by 0.025. Do not try to use less salt than 2%.

Substitutions & Variations

Instead of apple and ginger add any of the following: black peppercorns, fresh dill, fresh thyme, bay leaves, garlic cloves, carrots, parsnips.

Related Recipes

Looking for more fermented recipes like this one? Try these:

Fermented beet kvass is bright red and inside a mason jar.

Beet Kvass

Use organic beets, natural sea salt, and (preferably) filtered or spring water to make this beneficial and delicious tonic. Beet Kvass is ridiculously easy and cheap to make at home.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Fermentation Time: 14 days
Total Time: 14 days 15 minutes
Course: Fermented Beverage
Cuisine: Eastern Europe
Keyword: fermenting
Servings: 1 quart
Author: Jana Dziak

Ingredients

  • Filtered or Spring Water
  • 4 teaspoons fine sea salt heaping teaspoons
  • 4 – 6 small Beets per 1 quart of water, approximately
  • 1 Apple chopped, skin and core included
  • 2 inch Ginger roughly chopped

Instructions

  • Wash beets well to dislodge any dirt, but do not peel, or remove the skin. Chop the beets into medium-sized chunks.
  • Chop the apple into small pieces, skin and core included.
  •  Peel the ginger and roughly chop or slice.
  •  Add the beets, apple, ginger and salt into your jar. You can also mix the salt and water beforehand.
  •  Pour water over the fruits and veggies up to 1/2 inch below lid.
  • It is important to keep the chunks of vegetables and fruits below the brine. Anything exposed to oxygen will begin to develop mold.
  • Affix your lid and store kvass out of direct sunlight in a cool, dry place like your pantry or kitchen cupboard.
  • If using a regular lid instead of a special one made for fermenting that releases gas on its own, you will need to unscrew the lid periodically (preferably daily, so set an alarm to remind you) to vent the building up of gas.
  • After 2-3 days — take the apples out.
  • Fermentation will take place over the next week to week-and-a-half. Taste your Beet Kvass after 1 week but you can continue up to 2 weeks. More time is unnecessary after this. You can strain the Kvass if you wish to get rid of the ginger and apple, or leave as is. If you choose to strain it, you should save some of the large beet chunks and add them back. They will sink to the bottom.
  •  Keep stored in the fridge.

Notes

Apples and ginger are optional ingredients, you can omit them.
Filtered or spring water is best. If you are using tap water, let the water sit out 24 hours so that the chlorine can dissipate. Chlorine can interfere with fermentation. You can also boil your water for 10 minutes and then allow it to cool to room temperature.

Substitutions & Variations

Instead of apple and ginger add any of the following: black peppercorns, fresh dill, fresh thyme, bay leaves, garlic cloves, carrots, parsnips.

Storage

Store out of direct sunlight. Once the fermentation level you prefer is achieved (1-2 weeks), your beet juice kvass can be kept in the refrigerator for many many weeks and months.
This drink is not meant to be frozen, and freezing is also unnecessary as it lasts so long.

How To Use Beet Kvass In Recipes

Salads | Make salad dressing with your beet kvass and/or use the chunks of beets and apples directly in the salad too.
Soups | Beet kvass can be used to make traditional borscht soups.

Top Tips

  • A starter culture will aid in fermentation and make for an even tastier beverage, but it is completely optional. Examples of a culture you can use: sauerkraut brine, whey from yogurt or cheesemaking, some kefir, or buttermilk.
  • Do not peel your beets but make sure you scrub the skin very well.
  • Filtered or spring water is best. If using tap water that has been chlorinated, allow the water to sit for 24 hours so that the chlorine can dissipate.
  • Season matters. As with sourdough bread and other fermented foods, fermentation is reliant on temperature. It speeds up in the summer, slows down in the winter. Give your beet kvass extra time as needed.
  • Keep your beets under the liquid brine. Use a fermentation weight if necessary.
  • Foaming and bubbling is a normal part of fermentation, but mold and off smells are not. Discard anything suspicious.
  • Don’t throw your beet greens away! Sauté them in olive oil with some garlic and salt and pepper. They go great with pancetta too and make a nice side dish. You can also use them instead of chard in my recipe for potato chard blitva.
  • The fermentation equation to scale this recipe up or down is 1 heaping teaspoon of fine sea salt per 1 cup of water or the weight of the vegetables plus the weight of the water multiplied by 0.025.
  • Small spices and herbs that float to the top of your ferments become magnets for mold and bad bacteria, make sure you’re keeping them properly submerged below your brine.  
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Recipe Rating




7 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Although beets are an integral part of our diet in northern India, this particular recipe surprised me! We make a very similar fermented beverage with fermented purple carrots called Kaanji (kahn-gee). The process is similar except that we add salt, mustard seed powder (called rai in India), Salt, some red chilly and let it ferment for about a week or so. This makes the Kaanji extremely fiery and sour, which is the intent. So, overall the recipe is similar to yours, just slice the carrots lengthwise, add all the dry ingredients, add water, stir and let ferment for a week or so. We usually make this in the winter as purple carrots only show up in north India in the winter (it’s pretty hot here in the summers and carrots do not really do too well). Once we are done with the drink, we use the fermented carrots like a pickle for up to 2 weeks and eat them with frybread (Poori).

    1. Very interesting, I have never heard of this before. I love purple carrots, although I failed to successfully grow them last year. What is the tonic used for in your part of the world? A digestive aid?

  2. 5 stars
    Thanks for sharing this. I love the sound of beets with apple and the ginger. Looks like the perfect healthy drink and so easy to make. Can’t wait to try this soon.

  3. 5 stars
    I have never heard of Kvass until today! Is it similar to kombucha? I love kombucha and just started making it at home.

  4. 5 stars
    I’ve never had this but am definitely ready for it. I can use this in so many recipes.

  5. 5 stars
    Beets are very cheap in Paraguay. I’m always looking for new ways to use them. I can just imagine the flavor and how well it will go with my salad 🙂