Fermented Carrot Pickles

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Fermented carrots are essentially an ancient method of pickling, much like dill pickles: No vinegar, just lacto-fermented goodness. Here’s how to make them at home. 

fermented carrots on a plate
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Obviously you will need carrots to do this, and you can basically ferment any sort of carrot — except for those monstrous field carrots, which are too thick. About 1 inch in diameter is as wide as you want them. Try using different colors. It’s fun. 

You can make fermented carrots any time of year, but I find spring, late fall or early winter to be the best. The reason is because any sort of lacto-fermenting is best done when your house is coller than 70°F. The warmer the ambient temperature is, the harder it is to get the right mix of wee beasties to ferment your carrots. 

So why ferment carrots? Other than the fact that you can make a tasty pickle with just salt and water, fermented carrots are better for you, nutritionally speaking, than vinegar-pickled carrots. 

The same bacteria that make a tangy pickle help your digestive system, and lacto-fermented carrots are easier to digest (and tastier) than raw carrots. 

Also, because fermented carrots are never boiled, the vitamins in them remain viable and available to you; vitamin C, for example, is notoriously volatile if heated. 

Making Fermented Carrots

I’ve learned a lot about lacto-fermented pickles over the years from gurus such as Sandor Katz’s Wild Fermentation. Katz’s book The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from Around the World has become an object of obsession for me; it is the kind of book I wish I’d written, but am happy enough just to read.

The key to this kind of pickling is the proper ratio of salt to water and coolish temperatures: Hotter than 75°F or so and you enter the danger zone. This is why making fermented carrots is rarely a summertime endeavor. 

You can use my recipe below, but for scale, shoot for about 2.5 percent salt by weight. And that is total weight, as in the weight of the water, herbs and carrots. You want 2.5 percent of that. Don’t go lower than 2 percent or higher than 5 percent. 

fermenting carrots in jars
Photo by Holly A. Hesyer

You’ll notice that the carrots in the picture above are well submerged in the jars. This is vital. If the carrots breach the surface, they can get moldy and soft and gross. You keep them submerged with either a smaller glass container that keeps them all under, as I did in the picture, or with plastic bags filled with the same brine you are pickling in. 

How long does it take to ferment carrots? At least a week, really at least two weeks, and I prefer really tangy fermented carrots, so I let it go a full month.

The longer carrots ferment, the more sour they will be. Temperature matters, too. If your room is warmer than 70°F, the carrots will ferment faster. Anything colder than about 50°F slows the process down drastically. 

My personal sweet spot is about 65°F — not so cold that I am freezing in my own house, but cool enough for a nice, slow ferment. 


Things can go wrong when fermenting carrots. And more often, things can look like they’re going wrong when they are not. Cloudy brine is tops among them. The pickle brine will get cloudy as the fermentation continues. This is normal. 

Another thing that happens is this wispy, white moldy thing shows up in the jar. That’s usually kahm yeast, and it’s perfectly harmless. You can pick it out if you want. 

You can get real mold on the surface in long ferments. Spoon this off when you see it. This stuff you don’t want. 

Bottom line: If your fermented carrots look nasty and are stinky. Toss them. Your natural senses will serve you well here. 

Fermented carrots in a jar on the counter.

Storing Fermented Carrots

When the carrots are as sour as you want them, put the jar in the fridge. They will continue to ferment, very slowly, so you will want to eat them within a couple months. 

Or, if you want to really stop the process, you can drain off the brine and simmer it for 5 minutes or so. This will kill the biological activity, but also deprive you of the good bacteria your innards are fond of. 

If you are looking for more cool recipes for lacto-fermented vegetables, try my recipes for fennel sauerkraut, or pickled mustard greens.

fermented carrots on a plate
5 from 5 votes

Lacto-Fermented Pickled Carrots

You can brine pickle, which is to say lacto-ferment, any crunchy vegetable. The general rule is that you want about 2 to 3 percent salt by weight of the vegetable. You don't need to be exact, but too little and the vegetables rot, too much and they are too salty. 
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
Servings: 12 servings
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes


  • 2 pounds small carrots, peeled
  • 4 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 dried hot chile
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns


  • Cut the carrots into discs the size you would want to eat at a cocktail party. Or leave them whole. Or split them in half lengthwise. The key here is to keep the thickest part of any piece no wider than about 1 inch.
  • Boil the salt, water, bay leaves, black peppercorns and chile for a minute or so, then turn off the heat and let this cool to room temperature. This gets the flavors melding. Once the brine has cooled to room temperature, pack the carrots and the thyme sprig into a clean Mason jar and pour the brine over them, making sure the jars all get some of the spices.
  • You will have leftover brine. Pour this into a plastic bag and tie it off. Push the bag into the jar — you want the carrots to be completely submerged in the brine. Alternately, fill a smaller jar that will just barely fit into the pickling jar with some water, screw on the lid and use that to prevent the carrots from contact with air. If the veggies hit air while fermenting, you get mold.
  • Put the jar into a cool, dark place for at least 4 days. What’s cool? Cooler than 75°F. Like many things that ferment, 65°F is about perfect. Don't go colder than 45°F. You can leave the carrots in longer if you want — they will be saltier and tangier. I often ferment these carrots for a full month.
  • Remove the bag or small jar from your pickling jar. To store your pickles, either do as I do and simply screw the cap on the pickles and put them in the fridge, or you can pour the brine into a clean pot and boil it. When it is cool, pour it back into the jar with the carrots and seal it up. If you want your pickles to be shelf-stable, you must boil the brine and then process it for 15 minutes or so in a hot water bath. Kept in the fridge, these pickles will last up to 6 months.


Note that prep time doesn't include pickling time. This recipe makes about 1 quart of pickles. 


Calories: 32kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 52mg | Potassium: 248mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 12648IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 27mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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  1. Mary, you don’t need pepper or chilis. Lots of Kim Chi recipes don’t use hot ingredients even though most do. All you really need is salt. (Hmm…something about the Beatles in that, LOL.)

  2. Hi ~ If I just wanted to pickle carrots without the exact spices you mentioned… but say, garlic onions, and like dill seed or celery seed… and salt of course. Could I do that? Or is there something about the peppercorns and chillies that ferment?
    Also, do the carrots get soft?
    Do they get “cooked”?

  3. Question: I have been looking all over Google for the answer to this and come up with zip – can you use frozen carrots to referment or does the process kill the lactobacillus?

  4. I made a batch, then started another the day after, as I realized that in following your directions I missed the peppercorns in the first go around (they aren’t in the instructions – just the list). Still waiting to see if they are going to turn out. I’m getting flakes in the brine, I’ve since found out that the kosher salt needs to not contain anti-caking compound. Hope that’s only visual.


  5. should i scrape the scum/mold off the top? this will be the 2nd day and the lid was not left on tight- its white and bubbly.
    Thank you for your help~

  6. Great post. I have been making no vinegar pickles for over 40 years.
    We make 40 – 48 quarts per year and they last an entire year. We start making pickles in early August. We have always used the no vinegar recipe. Once made, the jars stay in the cold spot the entire time. The temperature ranges from 60 degrees in August to 40 degrees in January. We “do not” process these jars in any way, they just naturally brine and once the brining is complete the jars stay on the shelf. Yes, they are not as crisp the longer you keep them, but still excellent and crunchy enough for me. When we make the pickles we pack the jars and place one head of dill on top of the pickles in the jar to make sure they stay submerged. We then screw the lids on tight once the ars are full and filled with water. We found that the old style glass lids are the only ones that can withstand the pressure of the brining process, the metal lids that are normally used in canning tend to buckle due to the pressure generated in brining, then they let air in and spoil the pickles. Using glass lids we found that only one or two jars of pickles spoil. Some jars are so well sealed that when we open them the effervessence, is like a bottle of carbonated soda, these I find are the best pickles and even drink the brine, and, use the brine(a small amount) in a bloody mary cocktail. We have been doing this for 40 years, and, my family for 40 years before that, none of us has died using this process, and we have always been healthy with no digestive problems. This I attribute to these pickles and also to drinking th juice.

  7. Thank you so much! I love preserved veges, but can’t eat vinegar – so I’m definitely going to give this recipe a try.

  8. my carrots are cloudy- I have been fermenting cabbage for the past year and didn’t notice the cloudiness- probably because the color is so close. I opened them and smelled them and they smell like carrots. Hoping they are on the right track- it has been about a week, and the temp in my house is not real warm. Thank you for any advice!

  9. Thank you for this post. I made these as instructed except that I didn’t have a dried chili so I used a fresh jalapeno from my garden. woah.. excellent flavor.. but wow the heat was intense! You know.. in a good way.

  10. Hank, it seems like you don’t make a great quantity since you keep in the fridge. I have cucumbers I want to preserve and was wondering if right now would be a good time to ferment them and leave in the garage (without boiling). Anyone done this before?

    Sorry, English is my second language.

  11. I have a quart of carrots fermenting on my counter (after I tasted yours clamming, had to have some!) It’s been 4 days- liquid got a little cloudy day 3 (I understand that’s OK). But also day 3 white foam around the top of the jar (none touching carrots, which are submerged, bag of brine on top). I read it’s OK, and to skim the foam off the top. Have you ever had this ever happen?

  12. Opps! I forgot to add that fermented cukes rarely stay firm for long, even with the advent of grape or oak leaves. Those leaves do help them stay crisp a tad longer, the tannins I guess. Other things like salsa, coles, carrots, etc. do very well in a cool basement.

  13. A question back to you two: What do you do when you run out of fridge space? You can’t very well leave a fermenting jar of pickles at room temperature indefinitely.

    You didn’t ask this question of me, but I hope you don’t object to my answering. I put fermented veg in a dark cellar. Some people cap fermented salsa and do this. It continues to ferment a bit, but it stays good for many months.

  14. Laura: Yep, tops of jars are open. You only cap them once you’re done.

    Susan and Joli: I am not overly concerned with the vitamin content or whatever. It’s a nice side effect, but I do this for flavor. That said, I leave most of my lacto-fermented pickles in the fridge so they are still alive. A question back to you two: What do you do when you run out of fridge space? You can’t very well leave a fermenting jar of pickles at room temperature indefinitely.

  15. I love this recipe, they are great with ginger as well. I love home fermenting everything from beets to milk to kombucha and beyond.

    I feel the need to add a comment though, about making them shelf stable, or processing them.

    By lacto-fermenting, you not only create a delicious pickle (boiling not actually required) but you amp up the vitamin and enzyme activity, making them even healthier than raw.

    If you process them, aka boil or heat in any way, you Destroy all of that lovely work you just did creating an enzyme rich super food.

    You generally shouldn’t process, can, cook, freeze or otherwise denature fermented foods if you want to keep the nutritional value in tact.

  16. so, the tops of the bigger jars is open? just a bag o’ brine or the smaller jar sitting in the water? Just want to get it right.

  17. I love that fermentation turns the food into a high probiotic, good for you food, and even increases the vitamin content in many cases. Canning, on the other hand destroys much of what is good in the food.