Lacto-Fermented Foods for Kids: 15 Tips

Perhaps you've heard how beneficial lacto-fermented foods are for you and your kids. Lacto-fermentation is a practical, low-cost, whole-foods way to provide high amounts of vitamins, enzymes, and beneficial probiotics to your diet. However, the challenge that remains is getting these wonderful foods into your kids!

Obviously a lot could be said here about lacto-fermentation. The how's and the why's are all beyond the scope of this post, but there are some amazing resources here on the web to help you get started.

Food Renegade posts a perfect primer on Lacto-Fermentation, a must read if you need a 101 on the "whys". Also, check out Lost Arts Kitchen for an awesome read on Lacto-Fermentation. There's your 110 course!

Alyss at Real Food My Way is the resident expert (in my opinion) on lacto-fermented vegetables, and she is excellent in terms of the "hows".

As far as recipes go, most all of them are found in Nourishing Traditions, so if you haven't yet tried your hand at lacto-fermentation, don't be scared! It's easy, fun, and oh so thrifty.

Sandor Katz "wrote the book" on Fermentation; literally. He goes way beyond Sally's recipes in Nourishing Traditions and it's a great handbook for anyone who wants to really dive into traditional methods of fermentation.

Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning is a great resource on ancient food preservation methods, including lacto-fermentation. There are many great recipes in here for sure, but I love it because it really teaches you how to do it "the old-fashioned" way.

Now, take a moment to consider how much your family spends on good probiotics, digestive enzymes, and vitamins. Never mind that most of the aforementioned products on the market aren't very bioavailable and are largely full of additives and synthetic ingredients. Those that aren't are through the roof expensive.

Lacto-fermented foods are real, they're nourishing, full of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and beneficial bacteria that you need to maintain a healthy gut, immune system support, and optimal nutrition. They are essential if your gut is compromised, because they assist your body in the breakdown of food. They increase the efficiency of digestion by providing enzymes that help do the work for you. This allows for optimal mineral absorption, which in turn may help with satiation and weight control.

If you're still intimidated, or don't have time to make anything lacto-fermented, there's now a company that sells high-quality, delicious lacto-fermented foods to order! Zukay offers delicious lacto-fermented salsas and relishes that lavish billions of beneficial bacteria and enzymes to your food.

Okay, so how do you make this appealing to your kids? Here are my 15 tips that work for me:

1) Start young! My 21 month old has been given lacto-fermented veggies since he was old enough to eat solids. Just a few bites, mind you, but it has introduced him to the "sour" taste. His favorite is lacto-fermented beets.

2) Kombucha is a delicious, mineral-rich, fermented beverage that can be sweetened with a small amount of fruit juice or stevia. Adding even a tablespoon to your child's juice will provide good probiotics and enzymes. Gradually even out the ratios to introduce your child to the taste.

3) Kefir sweetened with cinnamon, nutmeg, and stevia is a delicious snack that my kids enjoy.

4) When you serve ground beef or sausage, discreetly pour a small amount of juice from lacto-fermented pickles, or sauerkraut onto the meat. You can also mix tiny, chopped dill pickles or kraut into your meal. I find ground beef seems to hide these types of things well. Especially in sloppy joes.

5) If your child already likes pickles, by all means, make your own. It can take a few trials to get that perfect texture. I find it works best when you follow the Nourishing Traditions recipe but add 3-4 cleaned oak leaves to the jar to help preserve crispness. When you get it down, you'll find that any pickle lover will be naturally drawn to the "alive" version!

6) Make your own lacto-fermented ketchup. Yes, ketchup (and mustard, mayo, relish) and pretty much everything that goes on a hamburger or hot dog has its roots in a traditionally lacto-fermented condiment. These are easy to make at home. A basic home-made ketchup is composed of tomato paste, raw apple cider vinegar, raw honey or maple syrup, and garlic. Play around with the spices to suit your taste and match your kids' tastes. Even mixing the lacto-fermented version half and half with the store bought will add benefits in a sneaky way. This will work for any condiment,although mustard and mayo should be easy to replace and sneak in!

7)Use kefir, fil mjolk, or buttermilk to make a smoothie.

8)Gingered carrots (shredded carrots, chopped ginger, and salt basically) is delicious and very kid-friendly. Again, if you can chop it very finely and mix it with cooked sausage it can be much easier to present to kids. This is also great topped on lentils or soup (once they've cooled).

9) Chips and dip are often a favorite among kids. Here are a few ideas; adapt based on what your kids like. For a bean-type dip, try pureeing sprouted, cooked beans (navy beans and Lima beans are allowed on the GAPS and SCD diets)with a lacto-fermented salsa, gingered carrots, or kraut. Kefir cheese (or strained kefir/yogurt) tastes great mixed with fresh chives, garlic, and chopped onions to make a sort of ranch dip. Serve with celery and carrots. Guacamole is easily enhanced by adding lacto-fermented salsa or cortido.

10)A spoonful of raw honey helps the sauerkraut go down... This may be a last resort for those of us with children on the GAPS/SCD diets who really need lacto-fermented foods in order to heal. I actually gave my daughter a crushed clove of raw garlic mixed in with raw honey when she was sick and she took it with relatively little wincing!

11) The medicine dropper is a novel and intriguing thing for my kids (maybe they're strange, but they'll try a medicine dropper's worth of anything!). I often give my son a "dropperful" of sauerkraut or pickle juice, or coconut kefir. A little does go a long way, so don't worry if they only take a little.

12) Not for the faint-hearted, you can brew your own healthy, lacto-fermented soft drinks. This article explains, in depth and in detail, how to do it.

13) Unpasteurized soy sauce is a great condiment to sprinkle on something as simple as veggies and brown rice. This soy sauce is usually only available by special order, but try your local Asian market for Nama Shoyu. It's also available, ironically, at Amazon:

14) Traditional miso is a fermented food product that, when added to cooled broth, provides an excellent avenue for getting fermented foods into your kids. It's my 4-year old's favorite! Miso Master is absolutely the best brand I've found, and they offer a soy-free chickpea miso that we love!

15) My friend had a genius idea of dehydrating some sauerkraut she had made into "sauerkraut crackers". They had a tangy, crispy crunch to them that her kids (and mine too) absolutely loved! You could experiment with adding flax seeds or soaked sunflower seeds and herbs as well.

Some closing thoughts:

There's a reason why lacto-fermented foods, throughout the ages, have been served as condiments and not main dishes. A small amount goes a long way, and too much can create an internal environment that is much too acidic. When it comes to young children, they usually know when they've had enough. Especially if they are introduced young. So don't force it down, or you will effectively ruin your child's chances of ever having a healthy association with the food. Offer some at every meal and require that they eat one bit of everything. "Just one bite" is a famous saying at our dinner table. If their body needs more, it will tell them!

What say you? What are your experiences with lacto-fermented foods? What are your tricks for helping your children enjoy them?

For more tips and kid-friendly recipes, visit Real Food Wednesdays at Cheeseslave and Works-for-me-Wednesday at "We're that Family".


Kristen said...

My four kids ages 4-12 love almost anything lacto-fermented. This past fall I even bought myself a 10-gallon crock and let them *stomp* the kimchi. One of our latest favorites is the lacto-fermented raisin chutney from Nourishing Traditions...absolutely the way to *wins friends and influence people.* Good enough to eat off the spoon! Tonight we enjoyed it on top of some lamb soup/stew. As my 4-yr old said "YUM-bo!"

Thanks for a great post!

Holly said...

I've been wanting to make kefir. I love the stuff from the store, but know it's got a lot of sugar.
Oak leaves in pickles? I've never heard that!

sara said...

This may not work for you on the GAPS diet, but my children love to eat kale and kraut sandwhiches. Toasted Ezekiel bread,spread dijon mustard on one side, tahini on the other side, add a handful of drained kraut and about a leaf and a half (or 2) of steamed kale. I think you may be able to enjoy this wrapped in a romaine leaf or one idea I have had which I haven't tried yet is this. Ani Phyo has a really tasty raw bread recipe in her book Ani's raw kitchen. It is made of ground flax seeds, ground sunflower (and whole) seeds, onions, garlic, salt and water. You mix everything up and then put it in the dehydrator. I love the stuff and have thought about making a kale and kraut on it for me. Can you have those bread ingredients on the GAPS diet?

Pampered Mom said...

One of the things that I've found is that I have to let go of my preconceived notions about what my children will and will not eat. True, my 4 yo still to this day resists most vegetables, but he loves my 24hr yogurt (super tart), LF pickles, etc. Dd (14mos) will eat just about anything as well.

I used to be timid, but after putting off giving them CLO b/c I figured they "wouldn't like it" only to find that they in fact would drink just about the whole bottle if I let them I've tried not to let my concerns stop me!

Courtney said...

great article full of good information, i have not tried any of this with my daughter but I think I will have too.

Donna said...

Excellent tips!
These are exactly the kind of things I've been looking for!
I just started on some of the NT a few months ago and this is one thing that I have not been able to sway the children on.
My kids love ketchup and I love your idea about 1/2 and 1/2. I think that is my best place to start. Some of them liked kraut, others did not. None like gingered carrots, not one!
I wondered if I put the carrots in baked foods if it would destroy the 'good stuff'.
Never heard of oak leaves! The pickles I made were soggy and the kids would not touch them either.
thanks for the tips!

Carrie @ OrganicThrifty said...


That's so cool! I want a sauerkraut crock! I haven't tried the raisin chutney; great tip!!! I will have to!

Thanks for your comment!

Carrie @ OrganicThrifty said...


Kefir is super easy! You'll save lots of money and it's healthier!!

Yeah, oak leaves; who'd have thought! I didn't believe it at first, either, but it really worked!

Thanks for your comment!

Carrie @ OrganicThrifty said...


That sounds absolutely wonderful! While GAPS doesn't allow for sprouted wheat (as you noted), we can have sunflower seeds, flax seeds (at least I'm pretty sure!) and of course onion and garlic. That would be delicious. I need to look for that book at the library! Thanks so much for the helpful tips. I want to make that bread and sandwich!

Carrie @ OrganicThrifty said...

Pampered Mom,

I'm totally with you! We all have our preferences; I figure that since I'm in charge of what we buy at home, that I'm responsible for making a variety of healthful things available to my family that I can be at peace about. Whether they get it from kraut, pickles, beets, or kefir, they're getting the good vitamins and probiotics and that's most important! Thanks for your comment!

Carrie @ OrganicThrifty said...


Good for you for getting started with NT!! It can be hard to turn the older kids onto the fermented foods, for sure. I think that since Vitamin C is destroyed by heat, you might loose some of the vitamin content if you cook with them. However, if you were to add them to a soup or other dish at the very end and mix it in, it would probably be fine AND still have the enzyme structure in place. Let me know how the ketchup trick goes!

Alyss said...

Thanks for the link! :) What a great post! All of those are great ideas. I don't have any kids but I do try to sneak lacto fermented goodies into my friends as often as possible. Like someone else noted, I'm amazed at what happens when I let go of my preconcieved notions about what people will and will not eat. I brought a quart of pink kraut to a burrito party the other day and it's almost gone! :)
I've found that offering tiny amounts of the fermented stuff is a great way to start. Just enough to taste it. For some people telling them all about the process and the benefits helps while for others it freaks them out more. "There's BACTERIA in this??" :) Know your audience - I bet most kids would be totally into helping with the process.
Oh - I've also found that the apple cranberry kraut is much sweeter than regular kraut and more people like it. And people seem to like pink kraut better than green kraut. I think just because it's prettier :)

Erica said...

Thanks for all those tips! Can you tell me what your ketchup recipe is -- what proportions of tomato paste, honey, vinegar and garlic? Thanks!

Erica said...

Another tip is to make your own creme fraiche -- so easy and so yummy! -- and then use it to top soups, potatoes, and fruit, to make dips, in ice cream, and any place where you could imagine using sour cream.

By the way, I've seen unpasteurized soy sauce at Whole Foods.

Anonymous said...

Sauerkraut crackers --hmmm! I would love to try these. Could you give me more specifics on the recipe? Did she just do largeer chunks of 'kraut ? (I usually chop my cabbage so small that after it was dehydrated I'd have to use tweezers to pick them up - lol)


Carrie @ OrganicThrifty said...


Yes, I forgot to mention creme fraiche! That's a favorite of ours. DS will just eat spoonfuls of it plain! As for the ketchup, I just use the recipe in Nourishing Traditions but add more garlic than called for, and sub. honey for maple syrup. I'll play around with it and post a new recipe soon!

Alyss, great tips. I think I need you to do a guest post here soon and enlighten us all with your favorite kraut recipes!

Anonymous, I think my friend used larger-cut sauerkraut. I will get her recipe and post it...she's out of the country right now but when she's back I'll let you know!

sara said...

If you can't find the Ani Phyo book at the library (mine has it), I would be happy to email the raw bread recipe to you over the weekend. If you leave a comment at my blog, I can email you that way or perhaps you get my email when I leave comments?

Paula said...

I too would be interested in the kraut cracker recipe!! :D Thanks for this GREAT article!!!

Michelle said...

Great Post!

I tried my first batch of sauerkraut today so I hope it goes well!


lydia said...

This was a timely post for me, thanks!! So I am just double checking, but you used actual oak leaves from tree, not something you buy at the store???

I am hoping to try Nourishing Traditons Apricot Butter recipe soon, to put on pancakes and in sandwiches.........yum!!

Christy said...

I just happened upon this ...looking for ways to convince MYSELF to eat the lacto-fermented foods! Along with my husband and children this is a whole new taste. Thanks for the great tips - I really want to try the ketchup.

christin b said...

I wish wish wish the soy sauce on your link was gluten free.

Revrick said...

I have a great new product for doing lacto fermentation of vegtables in canning

The product is glass weights, shaped like a disc, that are made to keep the
vegtables down in the jar during fermentation.

If you go to this link:


you can see a picture of how they work.

central Maine

Revrick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shaina said...

I know this is probably a silly question but...when you say oak leaf do you just mean a regular ole oak leaf you go out and pick off an oak tree? Or is this different?

Carrie @ OrganicThrifty said...

Hi Shaina,

I totally just picked an oak leaf off a tree in my yard! Of course, if there's any chance of them being sprayed with toxins, I'd avoid it. You can use grape leaves as well :O) Great question!


Sarah Harkins said...

I'm not sure dehydrated sauer kraut would have any probiotics left in them. It seems to me the heat would kill the healthy bacteria. Otherwise, it does sound yummy!