Beet Kvass is a traditional Ukrainian beverage that is blood building, rich in probiotics and supportive of normal digestive and liver function. I first learned about beet kvass in Nourishing Traditions, where Sally Fallon recommends a four-ounce glass of beet kvass morning and evening as a tonic.
Beet kvass is one of the easiest and least expensive ferments you can make. Two quarts of kvass can be prepared from just two medium-sized raw beets in minutes. It’s ready to drink in just two days. And you can reuse the beets in the jar to make a second batch, by adding additional salt and water. That’s four quarts of healthy, probiotic beet kvass from only two beets and just minutes of prep time.
When making beet kvass, the beets are used raw. The beet tonic is ready in as little as 48 hours. I like to add fennel, pepper and other warming herbs to beet kvass to warm up the flavor and add a little more zing. You can make it with no spices at all though, and it will still taste good. The tonic is in the nutritive value of the beets.
What’s so great about beets?
Beets are high in antioxidants. They are anti-inflammatory and give support for detoxification. (1) While other red vegetables, like red cabbage, get their antioxidant qualities from anthocyanins, beets get their antioxidants from betalains, a group of pigments that is unique to beets, chard, spinach, rhubarb, prickly pears (sabra) and quinoa. There are both red and yellow betalain pigments.
Betalain pigments are being studied for their ability to detoxify the liver, purify the blood, (3) and cause cancer cell death. (4) Betalains reduce inflammation in the body. They even show promise in lowering blood pressure.
Betalains are damaged by heat, however. So you won’t want to stock up on canned beets. There is a significant difference in the betalain content of lightly steamed beets compared to long boiled beets. Kvass is made from raw beets so the betalain content is the highest.
Beet greens also contain the flavonoids lutein and zeaxanthin. These are important antioxidants for eye health. However, with the exception of yellow beets, the lutein and zeaxanthin are mostly in beet greens and only minimally in the root of the vegetable. Yellow beets are good sources for lutein and zeaxanthin, nonetheless. If you are concerned about glaucoma, macular degeneration, or cataracts, consider alternating beet kvass made with yellow beets, with beet kvass made with red beets, to gain the most tonic benefits.
The beet greens are not used in kvass, but by all means, steam them and use them as a vegetable, as you would spinach, or add them to borscht, another traditional Ukrainian dish.
Beet Kvass Recipe
Adapted from Nourishing Traditions 2
• 2 medium to large red beets, peeled
• 1 tsp. Celtic sea salt or Himalayan salt
• 2 tbsp. whey or starter from a previous batch of Kvass
• 1 tsp. whole fennel seeds
• ½ tsp. whole pepper berries
• 2 quarts of water, filtered
• 2 quart wide mouth Mason jar
• 1 Fermentools kit
Peel and coarsely chop the beets into fine cubes. Do not grate them. Grated beets break down their sugars too quickly and lead to alcohol fermentation rather than lacto-fermentation.
Place the chopped beets into the Mason jar. Add the whole spices, salt, whey or starter, and enough filtered water to fill the jar to within one inch of the rim. Do not use treated tap water for this recipe. You can use the glass weight from the Fermentools kit, but it isn’t necessary. The fermentation is quite fast, so the risk of surface mold is minimized.
Place the lid and fermentation lock on the jar and wait 30 to 48 hours. Ferment out of direct sunlight, to preserve the anti-oxidants.
The liquid in the jar will become bubbly. The kvass is ready when the active bubbling has stopped. Once active fermentation has stopped, strain off the liquid and refrigerate it. This is your kvass.
Add more salt and filtered water to the jar and ferment a second batch of beet kvass from the same beets. If your beets are especially fresh and juicy you may get a third batch of kvass from the same beets. Replace your beets with fresh beets when the kvass colour fades in intensity.
How to serve beet kvass
Beet kvass should be ruby red in color, when made with red beets. It will be golden yellow when made with yellow beets. It will taste pleasant, with a slight sourness, and a slight salty-sweetness. When you start drinking it, you’ll find your body craving it. It makes a delicious thirst quencher on hot days, rich in potassium, and folate.
Drink kvass cold as a tonic thirst quencher. Four ounces in the morning and in the evening as a tonic or a glass full as a thirst quencher after you’ve been working outside in the heat. You can drink it freely.
Add it to soups like borscht, just before serving, for its unique tart flavor and bright color. Adding it just before serving preserves the healthy probiotics and the betalain antioxidants.
Beet kvass is one of the easiest and healthiest fermented foods you can make at home. Give it a try and see if you agree.
1. Clifford, T., Howatson, G., West, D., & Stevenson, E. (2015). The Potential Benefits of Red Beetroot Supplementation in Health and Disease. Nutrients, 7(4), 2801-2822. doi:10.3390/nu7042801
2. Fallon, S., Enig, M. G., & Connolly, P, (1995). Nourishing traditions: The cookbook that challenges politically correct nutrition and the diet dictocrats. San Diego, CA: Promotion Pub.
3. Kanner, J., Harel, S., & Granit, R. (2001). Betalains: A New Class of Dietary Cationized Antioxidants. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 49(11), 5178-5185. doi:10.1021/jf010456f
4. Zhang, Q., Pan, J., Wang, Y., Lubet, R., & You, M. (2012). Beetroot red (betanin) inhibits vinyl carbamate- and benzo(a)pyrene-induced lung tumorigenesis through apoptosis. Mol. Carcinog. Molecular Carcinogenesis, 52(9), 686-691. doi:10.1002/mc.21907