Fermented Foods

Fermented Foods - Chef Works

Let’s talk about fermented foods

While fermenting foods is a preservation technique that dates back thousands of years, chefs are jumping on fermentation trends and featuring funky flavours on their menus.

One example that has seen a rise in popularity is the kimchi burger. Kimchi is a traditional Korean dish made with fermented vegetables, usually napa cabbage and Korean radishes, that have used a variety of seasonings, including chili pepper, garlic, ginger, scallions and briny ingredients like fish sauce or salted shrimp. The mixture is then left to ferment, allowing the development of its distinct tangy and spicy flavours.

Kimchi burgers are increasingly featured on the menus of restaurants in South Korea, England and the United States, while the modern take on the traditional burger even makes an appearance on the McDonald’s menu in South Korea.

While on the drinks menu, kombucha and kombucha cocktails have experienced a surge in popularity as well, with a growing number of people opting for the fermented beverage as a healthier substitute to soft drinks.

When it comes to restaurants, Noma in Copenhagen, which has been named the world’s best restaurant four times over, is leading the trend with a menu where every dish includes some form of fermentation. This inspired The Noma Guide to Fermentation, from the chefs of the restaurant Rene Redzepi and David Zilber. The 2018 release was named one of the best cookbooks of the year by the Chicago Tribune, New York Times, Boston Globe and the San Francisco Chronicle, and is the ultimate guide for home cooks and chefs. In this manual, cooks can step out beyond the kimchi and sauerkraut fermenting, and experiment with misos, lacto-ferments, vinegars and garums.

So, let’s take a closer look at fermentation and why it is beneficial to food production.

Q. What is fermentation?

Fermented foods are foods that have undergone a process where microorganisms convert sugars and carbohydrates into compounds such as alcohol and organic acids. This process not only preserves the food but also enhances its flavour and nutritional value, providing many fermented food benefits. Some examples of fermented food include sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt and kefir.


Q. What are the health benefits of fermented foods? Are fermented foods anti-inflammatory?

Beyond their rich taste, fermented foods carry probiotics – live beneficial bacteria - which are essential for a healthy gut. Probiotics support digestion and nutrient absorption, contributing to a balanced diet.

According to a study published in the journal Nutrients in 2023, in which more than 300 studies on fermented foods were reviewed, it found a number of potential health benefits.

These fermented food benefits include:

  • Improved gut health: They contain beneficial bacteria that can help to improve the diversity and composition of the gut microbiome. A healthy gut microbiome is important for overall health and well-being, and has been linked to a reduced risk of a number of chronic diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and certain types of cancer.
  • Reduced inflammation: Fermented foods contain compounds that have anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is a root cause of many chronic diseases, so reducing inflammation can help to improve overall health.
  • Improved immune function: These foods can help to boost the immune system and fight off infection. This is especially important for older adults and people with chronic diseases.
  • Reduced risk of heart disease: Fermented foods can help to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, two risk factors for heart disease.
  • Reduced risk of cancer: They also contain compounds that have anti-cancer properties. These compounds can help to protect cells from damage and prevent cancer cells from growing and spreading.

Examples of fermented foods that you can incorporate into your diet, include:

  • Dairy products: Yogurt, kefir, cheese
  • Vegetables: Sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles
  • Soy products: Tempeh, miso
  • Beverages: Kombucha, kefir, beer, wine

Q. Why is fermentation beneficial to food production?

Firstly, the process enhances the preservation of perishable items, extending their shelf life naturally. Additionally, fermentation enhances flavours and promotes balanced gut flora associated with improved digestion, nutrient absorption, and a strengthened immune system.

The shelf life of homemade fermented foods can vary depending on factors like the type of food, the specific fermentation process used, and how it's stored. Generally, well-fermented and properly stored homemade foods can last for weeks to months. For example, sauerkraut and kimchi can last several weeks to a few months when refrigerated. Fermented beverages like kombucha can remain good for several weeks in the fridge.

It's crucial to store fermented foods in airtight containers in the refrigerator to slow down the fermentation process. Regularly check for signs of spoilage, such as off odours or mould, and discard any items that look questionable.

The quality and safety of fermented foods can vary depending on how they are made. It is best to purchase fermented foods from reputable sources and to avoid added sugars or other unhealthy ingredients.


The renewed interest in fermentation in today's culinary scenes is noticeable as traditional methods blend creatively with modern gastronomy. Chefs and consumers alike are embracing the diverse and bold flavours that fermentation brings. As we explore the world of fermentation, it becomes evident that this ancient preservation method elevates flavours and contributes to a healthier and more sustainable approach to food production.

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