U.S, Canada & U.K. Express 3 Day Shipping!

Fermenting Vs Pickling: The Complete Guide




Fermented and pickled food products offer a long-term solution to food storage while also increasing the flavor and probiotic content. While most people will use the two terms interchangeably, they are entirely different processes, each with its expected benefits and best foods to use. This article seeks to shine the light on the pickling vs. fermentation, the differences involved, and the potential benefits of each.


Not Much Time? Skip To What You'd Like To Learn...


What Is Fermenting?

In food processing, fermentation refers to the process of carbohydrate breakdown by microorganisms into alcohol or organic acids, such as lactic acid. This process is conducted by naturally occurring bacteria and yeast cultures which are found on the surface of raw food. in order for fermentation to take place the specific food product has to be placed in optimal conditions which will vary from one fermentation project to the other so do prior research before fermenting food. As the culture breaks down the carbs, the probiotic culture multiplies immensely and enriches the fermented food with billions of live probiotics.


What Is Pickling?

Pickling is the process of storing and preserving food by anaerobic fermentation in vinegar or brine. Anaerobic respiration refers to the breakdown of carbs in the absence of oxygen, so the pickled food has to be stored in airtight containers to keep out oxygen. The pickling process changes the flavor and texture of the food due to the increased acidity.


Differences Between Fermenting And Pickling

1.  Method Of Preparation

Pickling involves submerging food in brine or vinegar and covering the container to maintain an airtight seal. On the other hand, fermentation involves submerging the food in an ideal pickling liquid that varies from one fermented product to another.

2.  Type Of Chemical Reactions Involved

Pickling food in brine or vinegar introduces an overly salty or acidic environment that prevents microbial growth. This keeps off harmful bacteria cultures from infesting the pickled food. Fermentation relies on the naturally occurring bacteria to produce lactic acid by breaking down carbs. The acidic environment keeps off harmful bacteria cultures. The reaction also produces carbon dioxide, which is the reason why you often get gassy after consuming fermented food.

3.  How Long It Takes

Pickling only requires a one time set up during which the food is pickled and sealed airtight. Fermented foods, on the other hand, require specialized fermentation processes depending on the specific dish, after which the fermented food is then transferred into storage. Typically, fermentation takes between one and four weeks.

4.  How Long Does It Preserve The Food?

Pickled food can be stored for up to 6 months, while fermented food can be stored for up to 18 months if stored properly. While pickling can only preserve food for a shorter period of time, the food gets to retain most of its distinctive flavor, unlike fermented food, which gains an acidic taste while also gaining a soft texture.

5.  Effect On Nutritional Value

Pickled food tends to lose its nutritional content, especially water-soluble vitamins such as vitamin B and C. Fermentation leads to the breakdown of the carbs, thus reducing the caloric content, which aids in weight loss. Fermentation also increases the probiotic content in raw fermented food, which plays a vital role in improving gut bio.


Similarities Between Fermenting And Pickling

1.  Storage Conditions

Pickled and fermented foods are best stored under cold temperatures, such as refrigeration. This reduces the fermentation process, thus prolonging the shelf life of the fermented food.

2.  Preservation Of Nutrients

Pickling and fermenting processes reduce the degeneration of nutrients during storage. Most pickled and fermented food will retain at least 80% of their nutritional content.

3.  Change In Flavor And Texture

The pickling process adds a salty or acidic taste depending on whether you use brine or vinegar as the pickling liquid. Fermented food gains an acidic flavor due to the breakdown of carbs into lactic acid. The pickling and fermentation processes also

4.  Presence Of Carbon Dioxide

The fermentation process leads to the breakdown of sugar into lactic acid, and carbon dioxide is produced as a byproduct of the process.  The pickling process also traps carbon dioxide in the pickled food.


Examples Of Fermented And Pickled Food

Food Product


































Sauerkraut - Sauerkraut is prepared by fermenting finely cut cabbages in brine under anaerobic conditions. Unlike other fermented or pickled meals which only undergo either of the processes, sauerkraut undergoes fermentation while pickled in brine.

Vegetables - Pickling vegetables is not only quick and easy to perform but also serves to preserve the nutritional value of vegetables. Pickling is especially useful when dealing with seasonal vegetables that need to be stored for future use without major changes in the flavor and texture. 

Kombucha - Kombucha requires freshly brewed and sweetened tea and a source of kombucha culture such as raw kombucha from a previous batch to act as starter tea and a SCOBY. Kombucha undergoes aerobic fermentation during which the yeast culture breaks down the sugar into ethanol which the bacteria culture feeds on to produce acetic acid and carbon dioxide. 

Cheese - Cheese is derived from dairy milk which undergoes fermentation and bacterial enzymes are added to acidify the protein and fat content. The coagulated mass is then drained and pressed into shape. Some cheese varieties have additional aromatic mold growing on the outer layer giving them their distinctive notes. 

Kimchi - Kimchi is a traditional korean meal that's prepared by fermenting napa cabbages with fish sauce and additional flavoring ingredients. During the fermentation naturally occurring bacteria culture breaks down the carbs in the cabbages into lactic acid which improves the flavor of the dish and also keeps off harmful bacteria. 

Dills - Fresh dill flowers and leaves are used to flavor cucumbers as they undergo pickling. The end result is well preserved pickled cucumbers with a rich dill flavor. 

Eggs - Hard boiled eggs can be cured in either brine or vinegar before getting sealed in an airtight container for long term storage. These pickled eggs will retain their protein content and also acquire some of the brine or vinegar flavor. 

Sourdough - Sourdough is prepared by fermenting whole wheat dough using a naturally occurring yeast and lactobacillus culture. During the fermentation process the culture breaks down sugars in the dough into lactic acid which improves the flavor and the bread’s keeping qualities.


Which Has More Health Benefits? Pickling Or fermenting

Raw fermented food contains live probiotics, which are essential in restoring gut bio balance, thus giving fermented food more health benefits.

Popular Pickled Products

Pickled Product

Where To Buy

Tillen farms Pickled Beans

Del Monte Pickled Beets

Big John's Pickled Eggs

Vlasic Kosher Dill Pickles

Old South Pickled Tomatoes


Popular Fermented Products

Fermented Product

Where To Buy

Lifeway Low-fat Kefir

Kuehne Barrel Sauerkraut

GT’S Organic Raw Kombucha

Mother In Law's Kimchi

Ocean Spray Yoghurt


Common Questions

Are Pickles Pickled Or Fermented?

Pickles are considered to have undergone pickling as they are fruits or vegetables that are preserved in brine or vinegar.

Is Sauerkraut Fermented Or Pickled?

Sauerkraut is pickled via fermentation after the finely shredded cabbages get submerged in brine and allowed to ferment for at least 20 days.

Does Pickling Involve Fermentation?

Yes, some pickled foods do undergo fermentation if they are pickled raw, which allows anaerobic respiring cultures to thrive in the pickled food and slowly ferment it increasing the probiotic content.

Is Kimchi Fermented Or Pickled?

Kimchi relies on fermentation to increase the lactic acid content to give it the characteristic flavor.

Is Achar Fermented?

Achar relies on spiced oil to pickle food for long-term preservation.

Can You Get Botulism From Sauerkraut?

You can only get botulism from sauerkraut if it's been contaminated with harmful botulinum bacteria.

Can I Add Vinegar To My Sauerkraut?

You can add vinegar to your sauerkraut, although it's not recommended as it can result in undesired taste.

Are Pickled Foods Good For Your Gut?

Raw pickles contain billions of live probiotics that aid in restoring gut bio balance.

Is Pickled Cabbage The Same As Sauerkraut?

No, pickled cabbage gets pasteurized before the container is sealed, which prevents fermentation - a necessary step in the preparation of sauerkraut.

Are Olives Pickled Or Fermented?

Olives are pickled in brine, which prevents lacto-fermentation while also leaching out the bitter taste in olives that's caused by oleic acid.

Can You Ferment With Vinegar?

Yes, you can use raw vinegar to ferment food; however, avoid distilled vinegar as it contains a higher acid content and none of the live probiotics required to ferment.

Are Pickled Onions Good For You?

Yes, pickled onions contain healthy amounts of essential nutrients and live probiotics, which improve the digestion system.

Are Pickled Beets Considered A Fermented Food?

Yes, pickled beets undergo Lacto fermentation, which increases the probiotic content. 

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

Special instructions for seller
Add A Coupon
Liquid error (snippets/cart-drawer line 228): product form must be given a product

What are you looking for?