Beet Kvass: A Cleansing, Medicinal Tonic

beet kvass

By April Swiger, Contributing Writer

Some of the most beautiful stains on my cutting board are from beets. Tangy, earthy, salty, and a little bit of fizz perfectly describe this deeply nourishing, and richly medicinal, fermented beet kvass tonic. It’s an acquired taste, which I have slowly become accustomed to, and I have fallen head over heels for this blood red drink. Traditionally, tonics like this supplemented the daily diet, instead of supplement pills. 

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Sally Fallon in Nourishing Traditions says (page 610): “This drink is valuable for its medicinal qualities and as a digestive aid. Beets are just loaded with nutrients. One 4-ounce glass, morning and night, is an excellent blood tonic, promotes regularity, aids digestion, alkalizes the blood, cleanses the liver and is a good treatment for kidney stones and other ailments.”

According to this article by the Weston A. Price Foundation, kvass originated in Russia and was traditionally made with stale sourdough rye bread. It boasted of great immune boosting qualities, and although it wasn’t an alcoholic drink, it was similar to beer in taste. Kvass can also be made with beets, and traditional homes in the Ukraine always had a bottle on hand. It was often used as a tangy addition in soups, vinaigrettes, and borscht.

The health benefits of lacto-fermented food are undeniable. As chopped beets mix with sea salt, the sugar and starch convert to lactic-acid perfectly preserving the kvass. The finished drink is full of beneficial enzymes, friendly probiotic bacteria, and increased vitamin levels. Regularly eating lacto-fermented vegetables, or incorporating beet kvass into your diet, will promote healthy gut flora, and greater absorption of nutrients from your food.

The first time I made beet kvass, I used Sally Fallon’s recipe in Nourishing Traditions which calls for the addition of whey to inoculate the mixture. We don’t eat much dairy in our home, so I opted to double the salt, and ferment my kvass for longer than the recommended two days. The end result was way too salty! However, after it sat in the refrigerator for a few more days, the saltiness diminished quite a bit, and I was able to drink it and enjoy it.

Wild fermentation is truly an art, and takes a little trial and error. In recent months I experimented with decreasing the amount of salt in my kvass while still using enough to allow proper fermentation to take place. My most recent batch was the fizziest yet and absolutely delicious! Depending on the time of year, and the temperature inside your home, your kvass may need anywhere from 2-7 days to ferment. This winter I’ve been allowing mine to sit at room temperature for a full week before putting it in the refrigerator.

Fermentation Vessel Choice

There has been some debate about what the best vessel is for lacto-fermentation. Wardee at GNOWFGLINS breaks down some great options. I personally have always used a mason jar with a metal band and lid. None of my ferments have ever gotten moldy (mold isn’t necessarily a bad thing), and I typically burp them once a day to release the pressure that builds up. This works for me, but it’s good to explore other options that may better suit your personal preferences.

Foam/Scum on Top

A few times my kvass has developed a thin layer of white or brown foam at the top. It’s harmless, and I typically scoop it out with a spoon before putting my jar in the refrigerator.

Filtered Water

It’s very important to use filtered water, free from chemicals like chlorine and fluoride. These chemicals are typically present in tap water and can prevent your kvass from fermenting properly. I have been using a Berkey filter  for two years now, and love it.

Sea Salt

Celtic sea salt is my salt of choice. It’s unrefined and packed full of nutrients and trace minerals. Standard table salt has iodine added to it, which could inhibit the growth of beneficial bacteria. Table salt is not a good choice for fermenting beet kvass, so it’s best to go with an unrefined sea salt.

How will I know when my beet kvass is ready?

When the kvass is a deep red color, and you see fizzy bubbles moving upwards in the jar, it’s good for drinking! It should smell earthy and salty, like beets. If it smells rancid, throw it out. Your nose will know, so don’t drink anything that smells off. If your home is fairly warm (over 72 F), your kvass is likely ferment quickly, so keep an eye on it. I let mine go for a week during the winter, and only a few days during the warmer months.

You can also use your beets for a second, weaker batch. Save about half a cup of the kvass in your jar as a “starter”, fill it with filtered water again, and set it out on your counter for a few days. Your kvass will last for many months in the refrigerator.

Other Uses

You can use your kvass in place of vinegar for salad dressings, or as a tangy addition to soups. Be sure to reduce any additional salt in your recipe! A recent favorite of mine is adding beet kvass to Kimi’s everyday salad dressing recipe in place of apple cider vinegar. The color is beautiful!

Beet Kvass Vinaigrette

Other Lacto-fermented Recipes:

Beet Kvass
Recipe type: Medicinal Tonic
Beet Kvass is a medicinal tonic that cleanses the blood, liver, and promotes healthy digestion. Enjoy 4 ounces of this drink in the morning and evening. This recipe makes one half gallon jar, or two quart sized jars.
  • 2 large, or 3-4 medium beets (preferably organic)
  • 1 tablespoon of sea salt
  • Filtered water
  1. Peel your beets, and chop them up coarsely (1-2 inch chunks). Do not grate your beets! This will cause your kvass to ferment too rapidly, producing alcohol rather than lactic-acid (Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions, page 610)
  2. Put your chopped beets in your jar, or divide them equally between two quart sized jars
  3. Sprinkle the sea salt on top of your beets
  4. Fill your jar with filtered water, leaving about an inch at the top for headspace, and stir the contents well
  5. Secure the lid, and leave it on your counter for 2-7 days before moving it to the refrigerator


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April is a follower of King Jesus, wife, mother, writer, and adoption advocate. She lives in New England where her husband serves as a worship-pastor. Her introverted nature loves to read, sip coffee, and cook nourishing food for those she loves. You can find her writing at April Swiger.


  1. Amanda B. says

    This was a beautiful tutorial! You have encouraged me to actually give this a try! Have you ever used ginger during the fermentation stage to add a little different flavor?

    • says

      Thank you, Amanda! I hope you get to try it! I think adding ginger would be a great addition. I tried it once, along with some oranges and lemons. It ended up being a little too bitter, but that may have been the orange and lemon rinds that I included in the mix. I’ve been meaning to try it with only ginger, or only freshly squeezed lemon juice. Let me know how it works for you if you do it!

  2. Sarah L says

    I love beet kvass, and started mine from Nourishing Traditions as well. I also love the beets, and at some point I changed from making Kvass to making pickled beets. I cut the beets in to wedges of 6ths or 8ths depending on the size of the beet. fermenting for a week or so on the counter. They improve over time in the refrigerator. I believe pickled beets may also have been a traditional ingredient in borscht. Everything gets used in the end. Salt can be touchy, I try to keep mina at a minmum. I sometimes add ginger slices, dill seed or caraway seed. I wonder if cardamon would be good. . .

    Kvass is also made from wheatberries.


  3. Sarah L says

    I love beet kvass, and started mine from Nourishing Traditions as well. I also love the beets, and at some point I changed from making Kvass to making pickled beets. I cut the beets in to wedges of 6ths or 8ths depending on the size of the beet. fermenting for a week or so on the counter. They improve over time in the refrigerator. I believe pickled beets may also have been a traditional ingredient in borscht. Everything gets used in the end. Salt can be touchy, I try to keep mine at a minmum. I sometimes add ginger slices, dill seed or caraway seed. I wonder if cardamon would be good. . .

    Kvass is also made from wheatberries.


    • says

      Hi Zosia – I use the metal lid and ring that come with Ball Mason jars. I screw it on tightly and then “burp” it once a day to release the pressure when it ferments. I’ve used plastic lids before, also screwed on tightly, and they work, but I don’t are as airtight as the metal ones. Hope that helps!

  4. says

    I am dying to try this out. I’ve got my beets. I’ve got my water. I’ve got my salt. Unfortunately, I do not have large enough jars. Is it possible to split the beets four ways to use four pint-size jars? As I am always trying new things, the hubby is being reluctant to getting more jars.

    • says

      Hi Kristn, I apologize for just now replying to this! I’m sure you could give it a shot. It would just be a matter of making sure enough beets and salt are in each jar to allow them to ferment properly. Let me know how it goes if you try!

  5. jake3_14 says

    My kvass developed a cap of white mold and on top of that, a gray-black mold. I discarded that, but I’m afraid to drink it now. Could the second type of mold be the same variety as the “toxic mold” that makes people move out of their homes while the problem is fixed?

      • jake3_14 says

        That was my thought, too. And if this happened once, I probably shouldn’t make kvass at my place again. I’ll get in touch with some like-minded neighbors and ask if I can store my fermenting kvass there.

  6. Patty says

    My kavss is day 6 on counter. I never released the lid fr pressure? Should I? Then do I just keep the beets on the jar forever? Tomorrow it goes in refrig. So if I pour some out to drink an the beets r still in jar, that’s ok? Directions not specific enuf fr 1st timer.

    • says

      Hi Patty – If the lid on your jar isn’t bulging at all you should be fine. I leave the beets in the jar when I refrigerate my kvass. and often do a second batch with the same beets (it’s much weaker), after I’ve drank all but about 1/2 cup of the kvass. After the second batch I discard the beets and start with fresh ones. Hope that helps!

  7. Lisa says

    I am making my first kvass today in a half gallon jar, using four beets. The tutorial doesn’t mention how full of beets the jar should be. I was envisioning escabeche or sauerkraut. My jar with four beets is not even half full. They are to the 1.5 pint line. Is this enough beets? Are my ‘medium’ beets actually teensy beets?

    • says

      That sounds right, Lisa! It’s not like sauerkraut, or other fermented veggies, where the entire jar is full. It’s meant to make a drinkable tonic, so the liquid is the most important part 🙂 Let me know if you have any other questions!

  8. Avster says

    I heard some folks use keifer starters. I am wondering if i can add some sauerkraut with its water at the beginning of the beet fermentation?

      • Jeff says

        Yes, you can use kefir (just a tiny amount– about a teaspoon or less), or yogurt whey, or fermented pickle brine or fermented sauerkraut brine as a starter. It will ferment the beets quicker and make it less likely to get mold or to go rancid before the lacto bacteria take control and overwhelm the bad bacteria.

  9. Avster says

    Hi me again :-).. im just wondering what it the purpuse of the salt? i am trying to cut down on salt and have added a teaspoon to about 3L (just under a galon of container). Most of the reciepes call for 2 Table spoons which seems a bit too much. Just wondering if the salt is manditory for the proper fermentation or is it used only for the taste ?

    • says

      The salt preserves the kvass, and keeps it from going putrid while the lactic acid is produced. If you want to use less salt you can, but be sure to add some whey into the mix as well 🙂 Nourishing Traditions uses 1/4 cup of whey per 2 quart jar. Hope that helps!

  10. Avster says

    Quick question – i tried the kvass with organic beets (for the first time) and noticed a whole bunch of thick foam about an inch thick, being created at the top surface, which i never got before using conventional beets. Is the foam a sign of bad kvass? perhaps the organic beets were not fresh enough ?

    • says

      Hi Avster – I have not experienced that, but from what i’ve read the foam is not anything to worry about. It can be a natural reaction during the fermentation process. Just scoop it out and the kvass should be fine 🙂

  11. Maria says

    Hi, Thanks for a great tutorial on Kvass. I used it to start my first batch. I am wondering if maybe I used the wrong container though, instead of a mason jar, I used what is called a slom jar. It is like a mason jar but the lid is already attached and it is also made of glass. Would this still work? I have opened the lid slightly once a day just to let any gasses out. The Kvass seems to be turning out great! But I just wanted to confirm this with you. Thanks!

    • says

      Hi Maria – I’ve never used a slom jar to ferment, but I imagine it would be fine especially since you are burping it once a day. Enjoy your kvass!

  12. says

    Would adding less water to beet make the solution thicker?
    I am thinking a sauce with this, so i think reducing it would kill the benefits of it but i would like it to be a saucy consistency.
    (new at the fermentation game!!!)


  13. says

    I’ve been put on a no-dairy diet for a while, so I’ve put my beets together with salt and cider vinegar instead of whey. I notice (now!) that the recipes don’t show this as an option. Have I blown it completely? It tastes quite similar to the batch I finished that was made with whey.

  14. Terri W. says

    I’ve made beet kvass several times now and have never noticed bubbles or fizz. Is it fermenting properly?

  15. jason swenson says

    Thank you for the great post. I have some home canned beets and was wondering if those could be used? If so, would the juices from canning also be used? Thanks for your time.

  16. Michaele says

    Loved your images and the recipe! began my first batch of kvass 5 days ago. On day 3 I poured off a bit to take to my daughter. Noticed thin film of white on the surface day 4, definitely whitish on surface and exposed glass. Smells ‘fine’ (not sure what to anticipate? smells mildly of beets)

    all unsafe as mentioned in an earlier comment posted? I’ve no black mold but seems as if a white mold.

    thank you in advance!

    • says

      Hi Michaele – Some white foam or scum on the top is harmless. I typically just scoop it out and don’t worry about it. Mold will look much different. It should smell like beets, just as you described. Hope that helps!

  17. Peter V. says

    I made my first batch two days ago and didn’t cap the jar, but put a paper towel with rubber band on top as I usually do with Kombucha. Do you think that’s a problem? It looks ok so far and there are small bubbles coming to the top.

    • says

      Kombucha needs air. A lacto-fermentation does not deed oxygen. Its considered a good practice to deprive it of oxygen in order to prevent oxygen dependent bacteria from taking hold. I normally keep my lids on semi-teight, allowing for excess pressure to be vented but only allowing a 1-way movement from inside to outside. Ive had jars explode on me. So cant say I agree with the practice of keeping the lids on tight. Can you imagine 1L of kvass evenly distributed along over a 30ft perimeter? Add to that glass pcs hurled with such pressure as to stick into the walls and ceilings? ya…. with something that stains like kavass…….. My rule of thumb is that after the fermentation starts, you should be able to push the snap lid into the down position, otherwise, if there is two much pressure in there to manually push it down, it needs to be loosened.

      Also consider that fermentation happens faster under pressure. Much faster, depending on the pressure, 2-3 times as fast.

  18. t l says

    love the old school russian bread kvass, although the modern/commercial ones (from russia and eastern europe) are loaded with sugar and have minimal if none benefits, even the taste is more like of a soft drink. i’m so glad i came across this and can make my own from beets, it is already fermenting on the counter, can’t wait to taste it. thank you for sharing 🙂


    I AM NEW AT THIS, BUT WANT TO TRY IT. I don’t have a large glass jar…but I do have clean, white, large plastic containers, about 1 gallone size with screw on lids… Can i use those? LLOYD IN OHIO

    • says

      You can use any container. I normally use a 1 or 2 L mason. I would make sure the plastic is food grade. (I would discourage making kavvas in garbage bags or industrial pails.

      It really helps if you can form a light seal, or an moderate how much pressure is applied to the seal, if you cant release pressure, it might go boom.

      On another topic, I might mention that any amount of salt will retard the fermentation, but will also create a longer lasting product and will decrease the change of infection (such as the white film). I personally never use salt, as i finds it produces a flavor that I dont like as much. I wait 3 days or so, then place in the fridge.

      I also use a 2 pass ferment. using mineral water the first time, and then Reverse Osmosis or Distilled the second. Sometimes I use the second pass to “inoculate” a new batch. The second pass is always done in the fridge, as with no salt and a weak ferment, its susceptible to infection. (not dangerous to us, just not desirable for the fermentation)

      Ok, so there are a few thoughts.

  20. Sarah says

    I just wanted to add that I drink my beet kvass in a half and half with my vegetable juice (beets, carrot, celery and ginger). I stilll get a good dose of kvass, but the juice dilutes the slight saltyness. The result is an extra healthy vege juice with the benefits of a fermentation 🙂 This is a good way to “wean” onto kvass

  21. Margaret Aitken says

    I made Kvaas a week ago and went away on holiday. I checked on it today when I got home and it is thick red and viscous.
    Reminds me of blood.
    Is it safe to drink?
    I put a cheesecloth and rubber band over the top.

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