We Can Phickle That! – Pickled Golden Beets with Cumin and Basil

We Can Phickle That!  is a weekly feature that will run from now through the end of produce season(s), I’ll be hitting up the farmers markets in search of the best seasonal vegetables to ferment.  I’ll share my successes and favorite flavoring combinations with you on Thursdays until the produce becomes sad and sparse.  If you don’t get the reference, please watch this hilarious video clip that approximately 3,000 of my closest friends and family members have sent  me.

My spice drawer and herb garden overfloweth at the moment.  More accurately, my spice drawer always overfloweth, and my herb garden currently overfloweth.  Maybe it’s my Ukranian and Polish heritage, but I can tell you, there are few things I would rather grow or eat.  For the eating, I’ll take a borscht, a roasted beet side or a Detroit Greek salad any day of the week.  (Yup!  In Detroit, the Greek salads have beets.  I suspect this is because the “Greek” salads are really Lebanese salads, but I digress).  I grow them because they’re super simple to grow, and even if you end up with a small or nibbled root, you still get the gorgeous greens to eat!  I make beet pickles a lot, in fact even pre-fermentation, they were one of my favorite vegetables to pickle.  They are also available locally for most of the year, so I can still do my small batch jawn and have year round beet pickles.

Golden beets

Some of my favorite pickles are pickled beets

A word to the wise on beets and other sweet vegetable fermentation: their intrinsic, natural sugars can sometimes cause a yeastier (read: alcoholier) fermentation.  It’s not overwhelming, but can be a bit of a change, and your brine might get a tad more viscous.  If you don’t love that taste, mix your beets with less sugary vegetables such as radishes, and you’ll avoid it altogether!

As always, the keys here are avoiding air and providing an appropriate room temperature.  My favorite way to keep my vegetables in anaerobic conditions is to keep them submerged under brine.  That way, the brine provides a suitable air-barrier.  Some people buy jars with airlocks, or special lids with corks and airlocks.  I find that the cheapo jar method works perfectly well, and in fact, the only truly failed batch of pickles I ever had were ones I did with one of those special lids.  I’m not saying they don’t work, I’m just saying they aren’t necessary, and in my experience do not provide a better end product.   As for temperature, the 70 degrees F (around 21 degrees C) has been the best temperature in my experience.  You can go up or down a bit on either side of that number, but too much cooler, and fermentation might not start.  Too much hotter, and it happens too quickly!

Farm fresh beets

I love these guys so much. Knobbly ends and all.

In this case, I used golden beets, but only because I couldn’t find red beets at the farmers market, and I don’t have any ready to pluck from my garden at the moment.   The red beets, give the brine a stunning ruby color that makes me happy to leave it out on the table during fermentation.  The golden beets produce a golden brine, but it is tinged with a bit of red from the beet skins, so it’s not anywhere near as lovely.  Your choice, though.  Any beets will do!


Yield one quart, easily scalable

If you’re new to lactopickling, please check out my Pickle FAQ before you get started!


  • 4-5 medium beets, any variety, unpeeled, skanky parts removed with a paring knife
  • 1.5 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 2 cups brine, made from 2 cups room temperature water and 1 tablespoon of salt
  • 1/8 cup whole basil leaves, tightly packed


  1. Slice or chop your beets as you like.  I sliced mine to about 1/5 of an inch.  I did it by hand, so they are definitely not exact.  You can use a mandolin for even slices.
  2. Put cumin seeds in the bottom of your jar and place beet slices on top  of them.  I like to lay most of my slices flat, so they are easier to pack in the jar.  Beet slices should fill the jar to a 1/2 inch below the jar shoulders.
  3. Pour brine over beets, until they are covered by at least a thin layer.  The beets will give up some of their water as they absorb the salt from the brine.  Don’t overfill, or your jar will overflow when this happens.  Not a tragedy, but it’ll make a mess.
  4. Submerge your veggies using the cheapo jar method or the method of your choice, and cover securely with a cloth and rubber band.
  5. After about 2 weeks, taste a beet slice.  If it tastes acidic enough, pack your basil leaves into the top of  of your jar, put the lid on, and stick them in the fridge.
  6. 2 days later remove the basil leaves.

These pickles make a fantastic addition to salads, sandwiches and are even great chopped as a garnish for chili!  I like them topped with a dab of hummus, too!


Beet pickles

The cumin’s in the jar, and the basil’s really here, so beet it. If you want to be fair just beet it, beet it, beet it, beet it….



  1. Ann says

    I’m laughing at the caption for your last picture. That’s good. (I also enjoyed your a-spare-agus pun. My 10 year old son and I have pun wars. You are giving me some good ammo for our next battle. :) )
    I just love beets and look forward to trying them in this recipe. Thank you!

  2. Amanda says

    Hi Ann,

    That’s awesome! I love a good pun. Who am I kidding? I love a terrible pun. But thank you for putting up with them!

    • Amanda says

      Hi Casey,

      The red tends to wash out the white. I used to grow these, so they were a main source of pickling goodness for me, but they don’t really maintain their stripes, sadly. Sometimes you’ll get a batch where you can kind of see a pinkish stripe then a reddish stripe, but mostly they just look red. Still gorgeous and delicious, though!

    • Amanda says

      Thanks for reading! This is one of my favorite pickles, although it’s a bit prettier with red beets, I admit.

  3. Laryssa says

    Hi Amanda, Do you think I could use cooked red beets for this, or is it better for them to be raw? Thanks!

    • Amanda says

      Hi Laryssa,
      If the surface of the veggies get exposed to high heat, the bacteria should die (which is not a good thing). The lactic acid bacteria aren’t meant to survive boiling temperatures. Having said that, I have read that some people blanch them prior to fermentation. I always leave mine uncooked. If you trying blanching and they still ferment (or not) please let me know!

  4. Nora says

    These came out amazing. I’ve been pickling for a few years, but this was my first attempt at lactopickling. I used your jar method, which worked great. I ate that batch way too quickly, so now I must make more. BUT, I reused the brine to pickle some eggs and they were spectacular. Keep these recipes coming!

    • Amanda says

      So glad to hear that, Nora!! Beets are one of my favorite things to pickle, and they definitely get eaten way too fast around here as well. I will definitely keep the recipes coming. Thanks for reading!

  5. Julie Levitt says

    I brought home purple and golden beets from the farmers markets yesterday. Now I am having to defend them from the borscht soup pot and get them pickled fast.

    • Amanda says

      Hi Julie,

      I don’t think you’ll regret your choice (although borscht is so very tasty). Along with my minty turnips (and snap peas, which are probably my favorite overall pickle), these are some of my favorites of this summer. I’ve made a few larger batches, and I’m getting ready to plant my fall beet crop, so I’m pretty psyched about having these this winter!

      Thanks for reading, and let me know how they turn out!


  6. Julie Levitt says

    One week and counting. I put the beet slices in a 1/2 gallon canning jar and topped it off with another tiny canning jar. Most of the cumin floated and ended up in the tiny jar so today I emptied the jars out, put everything back in and put it back in the cabinet.

    The only thing I have done differently is to use the smallest opening screw on top that I use to start seeds for sprouts. Its working like a champ and I hope to have a tasting party in a couple of weeks.


    • Amanda says

      Hi Julie,

      Great! My cumin seeds sometimes get to the top as well. Sometimes they’re fine, sometimes they get a little kahm on them. If they get yeasty, I just skim them off once my pickles are done. That seems to work fine.

      Let me know how yours turn out!!


  7. Kim says

    I’m at the test your beets stage. When I removed the ghetto jar which I covered with a white kitchen cloth and tight rubber band there was a frothy sludgy bit around the inside rim of the large jars. Is this mold? The levels of liquid are two fingers lower than the rim and not touching the sludge so I wiped it off. Beets taste salty, not acidic, what should I do?

    • Amanda says

      Hi Kim,

      The sludge is likely kahm yeast, which is totally safe, but doesn’t taste good, so wiping if off is definitely the right approach. How long have they been fermenting? If it’s been 4 days or more at room temp, you should definitely have some acidity! If they aren’t acidic enough for your taste, cover them again and let them sit for longer. I usually ferment my pickles for 2 weeks, but they can go longer. I hope that helps! Let me know how it turns out!


      • Jodie says

        last week when I checked the beets they were fine. Today when I was ready to take them out of the crock there was a mold on the top of the weight and around the edges. There is no smell. I tasted a beet and they have a bit of a sour zing. It that ok?

        • Jodie says

          Just realized my dad made me a new wood weight for the crock. The wood did not have time to dry out. That could be the problem. The beets are beautiful and aren’t as sour as I thought.

          • Amanda says

            Hi Jodie,

            Yes, wood can be an issue for a couple reasons. Depending on the type of wood, it can mold. It can also absorb brine and expand, which is bad for both your ferment and your crock, which could potentially be cracked by the expanding wood. Go with what works for you, though! Those are just things to keep in mind.

            If the mold was on top of the weight and what’s underneath looks and tastes good, you should be great. How long did you let them ferment?



  8. Mark says

    I just started mine and am curious how often I should check for evaporation. I would think if need to add some water after a while to keep the beets submerged, or do they pack down more when they soften?

    • Amanda says

      Hi Mark,

      You will definitely get a little more osmosis-y action (aka more liquid in your jar) in the early hours of brining. I only ferment most of my pickles for two weeks, so I have never had to add more brine. If you are fermenting for a month or longer, you can start with more brine, and check in after 3 weeks or so to see if any is needed.

      I hope that helps!



    • Amanda says

      Hi Lacey,

      With sliced or chopped (as opposed to shredded) pickles, I would not recommend it. An important part of the process is making sure that everything is submerged under a thin layer of liquid. Seeds can be submerged under the vegetables, but the powder will tend to rise to the surface. If you are shredding your vegetables you can work the powder in with the salt, and then this isn’t an issue at all.

      I would also generally not recommend shredding the veg for this particular recipe. If your beets are very small pieces, the abundant sugars in beets are more readily available when the pieces are small, and you could initiate a yeast fermentation instead bacterial. Yeast fermentation would result in a slimier texture and a boozy/yeasty aroma. If you wanted to shred beets with other, less sweet vegetables in the mix, you’d be totally fine to do so! And this might NOT happen, so feel free to give it a try. I just want to make you aware of the possibilities.

      If you do decide to shred, you can double the amount of veg you’ll need or halve the size of the container.



  9. says

    Amanda, thanks so much for this recipe! I just did the taste test and like them without even doing the basil. But I will! How long will they last in the fridge? Not that they will!

    • Amanda says

      Hi Jody,

      It depends on how long you fermented them, how cold your fridge is and how full the jar stays, but these will last quite a while. Definitely more than a month.

      Glad you’re enjoying them!

  10. says

    Thanks for this recipe! I’ve added it to the Farm Fresh Feasts Visual Recipe Index by Ingredient, a resource for folks like us eating from the farm share.
    I appreciate it!

  11. jay moore says

    Hi Amanda;
    Thanks for sharing this recipe, I’m about ready to give it a shot! One question though: you mention “unpeeled” beets. Most of the beets I see are pretty thoroughly dirty…would it be okay if I peeled them after a good washing? Not sure I’d enjoy the taste of fermented dirt. Thanks, Jay

    • Amanda says

      Hi Jay,

      Washing = Good. Definitely wash them, but don’t peel them! The bacteria necessary for fermentation are primarily on the peel.


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