Beet kvass is a fizzy fermented drink. Tangy and traditional, this elixir is flush with health benefits. It’s also easy to make!
If you’ve never had beet kvass before, you’re in for a treat.
Making beet kvass is a simple fermentation project for beginners and only takes a week or two until it’s ready to drink.
It can be ready in less time, too, if you have whey to speed along the fermentation process.
Some people love kvass, others hate it, but there’s only one way to find out which camp you belong in.
Are you an initiate when it comes to this wonderful elixir? Let’s begin.
MAKING BEET KVASS – THE VIDEO
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KVASS AROUND THE WORLD
If you can’t tell by the name, this is an Eastern European drink. Russian, actually.
According to Kirsten and Christopher Shockey in their brilliant book, Fermented Vegetables, kvass means yeast or leaven in old Slavic.
In Yiddish tradition, beet kvass is known as russel, a beet brine.
But it doesn’t always need to be made with beets.
Kvass can be made with rye bread, cabbage, carrots and other root vegetables.
More on that later.
WHY SHOULD I DRINK BEET KVASS?
There are so many benefits. Where do I begin?
In Sally Fallon Morell’s iconic book, Nourishing Traditions, Morell describes beet kvass as being a blood tonic. She also claims that this miracle drink can help out with kidney stones and liver cleansing.
Because beets are so darn nutritious (check out this Healthline article on beets), fermenting them basically turns up the volume on their nutrition profile and benefits.
As a result, beet kvass is awesome if you have digestive issues (especially if you find yourself eating a lot of prunes).
Drinking beet kvass can also help whet the appetite and it makes a great natural hangover cure. So the next time you drink too much, instead of reaching for the pills, sip on a 4oz glass of kvass!
WHAT DOES IT TASTE LIKE?
I never really knew how to describe the taste of beet kvass until I read Fermentation Revolution where authors Sebastien Bureau and David Côté describe it as kombucha meets V8.
That’s what it tastes like.
Light. Effervescent. Tangy. And absolutely delicious.
WHAT DO I NEED TO MAKE KVASS?
First off, you’ll need a mason jar. A quart-sized one (one litre).
You’ll also need 1-3 beets, depending on their size: enough to fill the jar halfway.
Good salt (I like using this kind of salt).
Filtered water (preferably without chlorine, as that messes with the good bacteria).
A lid, or better yet, an airlock fermentation lid.
And a baking sheet to catch any overflow. This might not happen, but better safe than having fermented beet juice everywhere!
THE BEST BEETS FOR BEET KVASS
You can use any beet variety to make kvass, but for that deep burgundy colour, use red beets.
Chioggia beets will give you a pink hue, and golden beets will give you a beautiful yellow beverage, especially if you include turmeric in the ferment.
More on playing with flavours later though!
HOW TO MAKE BEET KVASS
Start off by giving the beets a good scrubbing and then chop off the beet top and the bottom.
If your beets have greens, save them! You can stick these in a smoothie or saute them like you would spinach. The ends can go in the compost.
Dice the beets in 1/2″-3/4″ chunks and add them to a clean quart-sized mason jar. They should fill the jar halfway.
Fill the rest of the jar with filtered water. If your water is chlorinated, let it stand overnight to degas it, or boil it for 20 minutes and allow it to cool.
Stir in the salt (Celtic salt is best) and cover it with a lid.
Store it away from direct sunlight.
If you’re not using a fermenting airlock, you’ll need to open the jar every day to let any carbon dioxide out and give the brew a stir.
If you are using an airlock, you should open the jar a few times throughout the week to give the brine a stir.
Should you notice any scum at the top, don’t panic. This is normal. Just spoon it out.
After day five, you can start testing the kvass, but overall, it takes 7-14 days for the fizziness to build.
A NOTE ON TEMPERATURE
Temperature plays an important role in fermentation.
Bacteria like warmth, so a warm kitchen will speed up fermentation.
If you’re making kvass in the summer and don’t have air conditioning, your beety beverage will be ready sooner, so start tasting it after day 2 or 3.
A chilly kitchen, on the other hand, will slow things down.
That’s why storing ferments in the fridge (when you’re happy with how they taste) is advised. It doesn’t stop fermentation, but it slows it right down.
DO I NEED TO PEEL THE BEETS?
While you can peel the beets, it’s unnecessary.
Just give them a good scrubbing and cut off the beet top and bottom.
CAN I USE SHREDDED BEETS?
Absolutely not. Shredded beets mean more surface area to ferment, which means more available sugar.
Beets have a lot of sugar, so unless you want to make alcohol, don’t shred beets to make kvass.
USING WHEY TO SPEED ALONG FERMENTATION
If you happen to have whey on hand, well, you’re lucky!
A couple of tablespoons of whey will kickstart fermentation, serving as an inoculant.
Brine from other ferments, like sauerkraut, will work just as well.
Using whey, however, is completely optional. I often make it without.
FLAVOURING BEET KVASS
While I am of the opinion that beet kvass tastes perfect as is, some folks like playing around with the flavour profile.
I mentioned it earlier, but you can experiment by including cabbage, carrots, and even rye bread into the mix.
Try adding turmeric or ginger to a golden beet kvass.
Do you like onions? Throw a few slices in there and see what happens!
DO I NEED FERMENTING WEIGHTS?
This is not the case with beet kvass.
Just cover it up with a lid and you’re good to go!
DO I NEED TO BURP THE JAR?
Nope! However, if you are using a lid (instead of an airlock), you should open it up every day to let out any gas that might be building up.
THERE’S SCUM ON MY KVASS. HELP!
Gross! But not really. This is normal.
Unless you’re growing green and black mould and it smells like something died, just skim off the scum and proceed with the fermentation.
WHY DOES MY BEET KVASS TASTE LIKE ALCOHOL?
Did you dice up your beets too small, or worse, did you shred them?
When you give the ferment too much sugar to work with, wild yeast will have a feeding frenzy and convert your beetroot brew into alcohol.
Another reason this may have happened is that it sat out too long. A hot kitchen may also be the culprit as warmth speeds up fermentation.
WHY ISN’T MY BEET KVASS FIZZY?
It didn’t ferment long enough! If you want effervescence, let it sit out a bit longer before stopping fermentation.
That being said, flat beet kvass tastes just as delicious.
SQUEEZING IN A SECOND BREW
One hack when it comes to making beet kvass is stretching your ingredients by getting a second brew going.
Empty your jar of the rich red tonic within and add more filtered water and salt.
Let it ferment for another 7-14 days and that’s that.
You could try getting a third or fourth brew out of the beets, but by now their flavour has been pretty much drained, so it probably won’t taste as good!
STORING THE KVASS
When you’re happy with the kvass, strain it and store it in a pint-sized mason jar (assuming you used a quart-size one) or a bottle like this one.
Pop it in the fridge or a cold room and try to drink it up within two months.
Mind you, if you forget about the kvass and it’s more than two months old, it might still be good! Let your nose and tastebuds be your guides.
USING THE SPENT BEETS
We don’t like to waste anything here in the Kitchen, so when I make beet kvass, I use the beets to make my victory borscht (it’s a WWII recipe).
If you don’t do the second brew, you can also add the beets to a salad or toss them into a smoothie.
Don’t want to eat them? Give them to the chickens! And if you don’t have chickens (I don’t either), then toss the beets on the compost pile.
HOW TO USE BEET KVASS
Drink it! This is my favourite way to use beet kvass, considering all of the health benefits associated with it.
Make borscht. I like using the leftover beets by making a big pot of this traditional soup. To enhance its beetiness (no, that’s not actually a word, but stay with me here) you can swap out the broth with kvass.
Cocktails. If you’re a bartender at heart, try experimenting with kvass in your cocktails! Shake up a dirty beet martini. Add it to a bloody mary (or a caesar, if you’re Canadian). Bring out the cocktail shaker and have fun!
Vinaigrettes. Since kvass is a bit sour, it makes an interesting acid when making homemade salad dressing. Plus, it gives it a pretty colour to boot!
MAKING BEET KVASS
By now you should be well-armed to make your very own beet kvass.
Like I said at the very beginning, it’s a perfect beginner project if you’re new to fermenting.
If you have any questions, ask away in the comments below. I’m here to help!
When you do wind up making this traditional drink, I hope you’ll pop back on here to leave a rating (or find me on Instagram) and let me know how it went.
SHOP THIS POST
Fermentation Revolution by Sebastien Bureau and David Côté
Fermented Vegetables by Kirsten and Christopher Shockey
The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz
Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon Morell
MORE FERMENTING PROJECTS TO EXPLORE
BEET KVASS INGREDIENTS
1-3 beets (enough to fill a quart-sized jar halfway)
1 tsp salt
filtered water to fill the jar
BEET KVASS INSTRUCTIONS
Scrub and chop the beets into 1/2″-3/4″ chunks
Add the beets to the jar, filling it halfway
Fill the jar with filtered water, leaving 1/2″ inch of head space
Stir in the salt and cover with a lid or fermentation airlock.
Allow to ferment for 7-14 days until fizzy
PRINTABLE BEET KVASS RECIPE CARD
- Quart-sized mason jar (one litre)
- Fermentation Airlock (optional)
- 1-3 beets enough to fill a quart-sized jar halfway
- 1 tsp salt
- filtered water to fill the jar
- Scrub and chop the beets into 1/2″-3/4″ chunks
- Add the beets to the jar, filling it halfway
- Fill the jar with filtered water, leaving 1/2″ inch of head space
- Stir in the salt and cover with a lid or fermentation airlock.
- Allow to ferment for 7-14 days until fizzy
- If you’re using a lid to seal the jar instead of an airlock, make sure to open it up every day to release any gas buildup.
- Try to give the kvass a daily stir (if you forget to do this, that’s totally fine).
- You may notice a layer of scum. This is harmless. Just scoop it out!
- Adding a couple of tablespoons of whey will help to speed up the fermentation.
- Experiment with flavouring the kvass by including cabbage, onion, ginger, turmeric, etc to the mix.
- Get a second brew out of the beets by topping them off with additional salt and filtered water.
- Keeps for up to two months in the fridge (possibly longer, if it lasts that long!)