How to Ferment Hot Peppers

Unlike store-bought condiments, these spicy concoctions are rich with nutrients and flavor developed through the process of lacto-fermentation.

  • Lacto-fermentation of vegetables
    Lacto-fermentation of vegetables is the best way to preserve the fresh bounty from your garden.
    Photo by Storey Publishing/Lara Ferroni
  •  zip-close bag placed on top of your ferment
    Pour water into a zip-close bag placed on top of your ferment to help keep all the vegetables submerged in the brine.
    Photo by Kirsten K. Shockey
  • Fiery Ferments
    Fiery Ferments features a wide variety of pepper ferments that feature a variety of peppers. From Storey Publishing, it's available in our online store
    Photo by Storey Publishing/Lara Ferroni

  • Lacto-fermentation of vegetables
  •  zip-close bag placed on top of your ferment
  • Fiery Ferments

It always starts innocently enough: You thought you’d grow red peppers (Capsicum spp.), half a dozen green chiles, maybe a ‘Fresno’ chile or two, and of course you wanted to try to grow ‘Chocolate’ habaneros — oh, and you love poblanos, so put a few of those in, too. They’ve grown and grown — and you’re staring at more than a peck or two of peppers. Now what? The standard preservation choices are freezing, dehydrating, or canning, but you could also freeze-dry them with the right equipment.

Let’s talk about canning. Some vegetables confound even the most seasoned canner, and peppers are one of them. Before discovering fermentation, I was that girl who canned everything. I really did try to roast and can green chiles to make our own homegrown, Hatch-style chiles. Because peppers are low-acid vegetables, they require 45 minutes in a pressure canner. They looked beautiful through the jar, but they disintegrated into mush when I went to make my first chiles rellenos. If you want to can your peppers, you must pickle them first. You have to submerge the peppers in vinegar (as the key to safe preservation is to acidify, the definition of pickling) and then water bath can them. And while they’re certainly delicious, one can only eat so many jars of canned peppers.

Benefits of Fermentation

Enter another preservation option: Create the right environment for an entire team of microbes to do the work for you (without handling hot pots full of boiling water). With fermentation, you can acidify any combination of peppers, spices, herbs, and other vegetables to make a variety of chutneys, condiments, pickles, or hot sauces. The microbes acidify everything equally, which gives you flexibility to explore and create the flavor you desire.

After the fermenting vegetables reach a pH level of 4.6 or below, they’re safe and stable for a considerable amount of time. Shelf life depends on the vegetable, but pepper ferments can last unrefrigerated for a year or more in anaerobic conditions, as long as the ferment remains sealed and not in active use. It’s best, however, to store ferments in a refrigerator. This slows down the bacteria, stabilizes the ferment, and keeps the flavors intact and delicious.

Fermentation has gained a following for various reasons in the past few years, but at its core it’s a simple, inexpensive process that has been used reliably for thousands of years to preserve food. Here we are at the beginning of the 21st century, circling back to our roots. Now fermented foods are considered artisanal, and fermenters use a combination of traditional methods and scientific knowledge to preserve food for its flavor, color, and nutritional value.



Learn from Home!

Survival Skills, Garden Planning, Seed Saving, Food Preservation, Natural Health – Dozens of courses, 100+ workshops, and interactive Q&As.


Become a Preferred Subscriber and start enjoying the benefits today!

Fall in love with the flavor, versatility, and beauty of Mother Earth Gardener

Mother Earth GardenerDelight your taste buds, mind and eyes with beautiful photos and inspirational techniques on everything you need to know to grow, preserve and cook your own heirloom fruits and vegetables. You won’t want to miss the stories about plants passed down from generation to generation.

Don’t miss a single issue of Mother Earth Gardener. Published by the editors of MOTHER EARTH NEWS, Mother Earth Gardener provides decades of organic gardening experience from the most trusted voices in the field. Join today and save off the newsstand price! Get one year (4 issues) for only $24.95! (USA only)

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube