Lacto-Fermented Roasted-Tomato Salsa

Today we have a guest post by Shannon who blogs at, Cooking God’s Way. I am sharing her recipe first because salsa is a very dependable lacto-fermented first project. It tastes great and is simple and easy to do. Shannon shares a roasted salsa, which sounds delicious!

We love salsa in our family, especially this lacto-fermented salsa….and it’s sooooo good for you! Full of live probiotic “good for you” bacteria that is so beneficial in helping to boost your immune system. We put it on everything from tacos and burritos to scrambled eggs. This salsa is about a medium heat level. You can adjust the heat and seasonings in this salsa to suit your tastes by modifying how much jalapenos and/or ground cayenne pepper you use.

Lacto-fermented Roasted-Tomato Salsa

    * 2 pounds Roma tomatoes (about 8 to 10), sliced in half length-wise* 4 large cloves garlic (do not peel)

    * 1 medium onion (yellow or red), sliced into thick rings but not separated

    * 2 jalapeno peppers, left whole

    * 1 small bunch cilantro, or to taste

    * 2 Tablespoons lemon or lime juice

    * 1 teaspoon cumin

    * 1/2 teaspoon mexican oregano

    * pinch (1/16 tsp.) ground cayenne pepper, or more to taste

    * 1 Tablespoon unrefined sea salt, such as RealSalt or Himalayan Salt

    * 4 Tablespoons whey

Other Items you will Need:

    1-quart glass mason jar, with metal lid and outer ringOR

    1-quart sized jar with Air-lock lid (these work really great, and make for the best tasting fermented vegetables)

Preheat broiler to 500F. Have ready a large heavy-duty baking sheet. (If the weather is particularly warm, and you don’t want to heat up the house, you can roast the vegetables outside of the grill instead.)

Gently smash cloves of garlic with the back of a spoon or drinking glass, leave skin on.

Place tomato halves on baking sheet (cut side up), along with the sliced onion, garlic cloves, and jalapeno peppers. Place baking sheet in oven, directly under broiler, checking on them every 5 minutes. Turn as needed, when tops are browned and/or bubbly. Brown both sides, removing any pieces as necessary when they are finished.

Place broiled peppers into a plastic zip-top bag and seal. Allow to steam for 5 minutes. When done steaming; peel off the skin and remove stem, seeds, and membrane. Meanwhile mince all the vegetables (be sure to peel garlic first) to desired size*.

*NOTE: If you have a food processor, mincing the vegetables is very easy and quick to do. Just pulse all ingredients, individually in the food processor. It is important NOT to mince them all at once, or you will end up with half the ingredients turned into a puree before the other half gets to the size you want.

As you mince each ingredient (tomatoes, garlic, onion, peppers, cilantro) add it to a medium-sized mixing bowl. When everything is minced and added to the bowl, add the lemon (or lime) juice, cumin, and oregano; stir gently to combine. Stir in the whey and sea salt. Taste and add ground cayenne pepper as desired.

Pour salsa into a quart-sized mason jar and screw-on the lid. (Always remember to leave 1-inch of space from the top of the jar to allow for expansion.)

Leave jar out at room-temperature for 2 days before transferring to cold storage.

Makes 1-quart.

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I love beautiful and simple food that is nourishing to the body and the soul. I wrote Fresh: Nourishing Salads for All Seasons and Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons as another outlet of sharing this love of mine. I also love sharing practical tips on how to make a real food diet work on a real life budget. Find me online elsewhere by clicking on the icons below!


    • Sarah says

      To get more whey from your yogurt, make yogurt cheese.
      Put yogurt into a strainer lined with cheescloth, set it over a measuring cup or bowl, cover lightly and refridgerate over night.
      The whey drips out into the bowl and the yogurt becomes a nice creamy spread.

      • Liz says

        Oh I forgot, if you’re not using whey, use a little more salt. You should be able to taste the salt but not too salty. If it tastes good fresh, then it will be good fermented.

    • KimiHarris says

      Amy, about three months. After that it will start becoming a little too fizzy. πŸ™‚ It doesn’t last as long as other vegetable ferments because tomatoes are really more like a fruit.

      • says

        Not to contradict, but just to add my experience- made LF salsa, although not roasted last year and we ate it for the better part of a year without noticing anything except a slightly stronger spiciness as time went by. We never noticed any fizz at all and loved every bite of it. I am so looking forward to making some of this in the next week or so. Thanks for the great series!

        • Beth says

          I think this might be because tomatoes, while technically a fruit, are higher in acid which acts as a preservative. Mmmm, imagine, fresh summer tomato salsa for the holidays!

          • stephanie k says

            I didnt think about it beforehand, but we just made about 30 pints… do they HAVE to be in the fridge? Because I’m a little short on fridge space and now I have a lot of salsa and 1 perturbed hubby! What do I do?

          • Erica says

            Stephanie K,

            If you have a cool place in your house (basement?) or a warm place in your garage you could probably leave your fermented salsa out there. I know there aren’t very many cool places yet as I am running into the same trouble.

            The problem with the warmth is that it will keep fermenting and will likely get very fizzy. Just store it in as cool a place as you can find.

            Does anyone know if you can freeze fermented foods and how that affects the cultures?

  1. says

    I just can’t wrap my head around using whey for fermenting. I don’t know why. I read somewhere that things can end up with a weird, cheesy-sort of taste to them. I can’t bring myself to try it. Someone who does it please tell me it isn’t like that! Is it? I need something to get me over the hurdle to actually be willing to try, because I would probably like it!

    • Brenda says


      How the whey tastes depends on where it comes from. I think that the best tasting whey comes from yogurt. Just buy a big container of plain yogurt and hang the yogurt in a kitchen towel or cheesecloth. The whey will drip out. You’re left with a yogurt cheese that’s kind of like cream cheese. This whey doesn’t leave any wierd taste in the fermented product, in my opinion.

      • KimiHarris says

        I agree with Brenda, from what I’ve learned from other whey fermenters. The taste depends a lot on where you got your whey and whether or not it had a mild flavor.

        • Michelle Hink says

          I get my whey from a farmer with goats. He makes feta cheese and gives me the left-over whey (for free!). It has the cheese-cultures in it that he uses to make his feta. I like it much better than the whey I got from store-bought yogurt (stonyfield’s plain cream on top is what I used before) because it is bright yellow and makes things taste buttery. It is also much more active than the stonyfields.

      • Lisa says

        I also agree with Brenda – I use whey from organic live cultured plain yogurt. I use it for salsa, sourkraut, carrots and ginger… and never have any cheese or milk taste. I much prefer this to using all salt – just too salty for my taste. The whey works perfect!!

  2. Anthony says

    I have an allergy to dairy proteins, so whey is not something I can use. Is it possible to produce a good fermented salsa (or other vegetables) without the whey?

    • KimiHarris says

      There are many options. You can simply use an extra tablespoon of salt. Or you can use 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of vegetable starter (like the one the Body Ecology diet store sells). I’ve heard of other people (though I haven’t tried it), who use some type of other fermented dairy free drink instead (like coconut kefir, I guess). The point in adding the whey is to jump start the lacto-fermenting process. So in replacing it, you need to add the probiotics somehow through another source, or add the salt to help “keep” it until the natural lactic acid can take over.

  3. Jeanelle says

    This sounds really great and easy to try. Thank you!
    I’m wondering if I can use whey from Kefir grains? Will this work like yoghurt?

  4. Rob says

    My wife and I are big salsa eaters so this is a perfect recipe for us to try especially since jalapenos and tomatoes are just coming into season here in Atlantic Canada.

  5. Joanne says

    Yea! another great idea for fermenting. My tomatoes are just around the corner and this is what I need. In my world I give seminars on fermenting foods and this will be a wonderful addition. Thank you!

  6. michelle says

    i know you mentioned it before, but i use kombucha as a ferment aid in place of whey often…and we much prefer everything i have used kombucha for over the regular whey. i have made dill pickles and watermelon rind using the same recipe from NT as well as salsa and with kombucha it has all turned out GREAT!

  7. Joy says

    Can’t wait to try this. Made salsa the regular way last night and I think the cooking will make it just taste like storebought, even though all the veggies were fresh from the garden.

    Next batch, I’ll try this method and use kombucha since I have that easily accessible.

    Have you tried with tomatillos or green tomatoes?

  8. Tash says

    Okay…I’m inspired…up till now all I’ve tried is sauerkraut (and loved it). But I’m gonna do this!!! I love salsa and always make it fresh – I’ve just been intimidated by the idea of whey. If I were to use salt, would I have to leave the salsa out longer than if I were to use whey?

  9. says

    Can’t wait to try this!!! I’m super intimated of making fermented foods but this looks reasonable. So, it’s possible just to add extra salt instead of whey?

  10. Sally says

    I just made some lacto fermented salsa for the first time and noticed that it looked slightly whitish on the top when I opened it. It wasn’t very noticeable, but concerned me. I thought it could be mold or just simply something from the whey? It smelled good. I mixed it up and tried it. It was delicious, so I’m assuming it wasn’t anything harmful? Have you heard of this happenening?

    • michelle says

      i had this happen to me when i used whey to make salsa too…usually i use kombucha and it did not happen with the kombucha…i wasnt sure what it was either, but just skimmed it off and enjoyed the rest of the jar, no problems! i’d be curious if anyone knows what it is??

      • Michelle Hink says

        Yeah, same thing has happened to me with all of the fermented stuff I have made. In fact, when I made sauerkraut I got about an inch of hairy mold on the top. It was pretty easy to remove because it had a skin on the bottom and came off as a whole piece and didn’t infect my actual sauerkraut. I have read to always skim the “muck” off the top, and as long as the stuff smells good, its good to eat.

  11. says

    could i do the extra salt and put in one of my probiotic supplements to skip on the dairy? I get a high quality one from our family doctor.

  12. Peggy Locke says

    I’m new to this whole lacto-fermenting concept. I am enjoying reading it all but have one question. How does it differ from the regular canning process to keep out botulism? We hot water process everything, particularly tomatoes since they are a lower acid vegetable. I really want to try this but am very nervous about getting the family sick. If I process it in the hot water bath all those beautiful little live cultures will surely die ….

  13. hardtoil says

    Botulism toxin is produced by a germ known as Clostridium botulinum. It won’t grow in a lacto-fermentation environment.

    What we’ve been told about botulism is a half-truth. Here’s the full story.
    The botulism threat with heat-process canning is because botulism is very difficult to kill. So when you heat the jars of food, but not quite hot enough to kill the botulism, everything else is killed off so the botulism proliferates.

    If you pickle your food by lacto-fermentation, a process that precludes botulism, you’ve nothing to worry about. If lacto-fermented food spoils, it will taste terrible. On the other hand, food tainted with botulism doesn’t necessarily taste bad. Many victims had no idea the food was bad.

    You need to look these facts up for yourself, of course.

    • says

      Roma tomatoes are often called for because they are drier, with a higher flesh to seed ratio. They’re meatier, so there’s less waste. But you can use whatever you have on hand.

  14. Cathy says

    Ooooooooh! I am so excited to try this recipe out next summer! With the exception of the lime/lemon juice and the cumin, I grow everything else on my own and we LOVE salsa. I am curious though if I can use whey left over after making homemade moz cheese from raw milk Organic and grass fed…yum!) I get at a local dairy (Windsor Dairy), or if it needs to be whey from yogurt? Not sure if the whey isn’t as active or what not. I do know that my whey is NOT clear.

  15. bonnie mitnick says

    i made raw tomato salsa, it came out wonderful, but to the second batch i added raw organic corn kernels to make it interesting. now it wont’ stop fizzing even in the fridge. should i dump it and start over? is the fizzing bad? thanks for any advice.

    • Renate says

      The fizz is from yeast that is eating the sugars/carbs in the food/fruit. Like making homemade soda, it builds up because the tight lid keeps the carbon dioxide the yeast is giving off from escaping. Like soda, if you left the lid loose for awhile the carbon dioxide would escape and the fizz would go away. The fizz is harmless, tho, but if you get too much it could indicate a slight alcohol content – more fun for some but don’t serve it to any recovering alcoholics!

  16. lynnann says

    Hi all…this is so wonderful…I’ve been fermenting veggies since I first found Sandor Katz many moons ago. (I’m 61)…He helped me to be fearless! I took the Master Food Preserver class through the UW Extension and have now taught many ways of food preservation, but fermenting is my favorite!
    I’m going to try this with all the green tomatoes I have from our short growing season up here in the far northern reaches of Wisconsin. I use my gramma’s meat grinder on coarsest grind to process my veggies…and love to add chopped kale for “dente”. I use whey from the cheese I make to keep the salt content down…..Ferment ON! my friends

  17. velcromom says

    Oh now that is brilliant, to use the meat grinder for processing the veggies. I have my nana’s and another I found at a yard sale… good old “Universal #2” to the rescue! Plus my kids will love to help if we use the grinders…. thanks for the inspiration!


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