The 14 Best Fermentation Books of 2023

The best fermentation books for beginners to experts will help you make sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, bread, beer, and more at home.

In This Article

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Fermentation is, as fermentor and author Sandor Katz says, "the transformative action of microbes." That microbial transformation gives us many of the foods we enjoy today, including wine, beer, bread, kimchi, sauerkraut, cheese, chocolate, yogurt, vanilla, black tea, and coffee. You probably eat fermented food daily, if not with every meal. "I have yet to meet a food that can't be fermented or a foodway that isn't informed by the process,” says Llewyn Máire, co-owner of the fermentation company Savage Craic. 

In recent years, fermented products have become more popular in stores and restaurants, and interest in fermentation classes has skyrocketed. During COVID-19 lockdowns, I got to (virtually) meet hundreds of new fermenters in my online classes, who were eager for a new hobby and wanted to cut down on food waste. (Fermentation is great for that!) Even beginners find the process simple and fun, and you can ferment or pickle using basic tools you may already have in your kitchen. Having a good book or two at your side will give you the guidance and confidence you need to get started.

While writing my book, Our Fermented Lives: A History of How Fermentation Has Shaped Cultures and Communities, I took a deep dive into my bookshelf, drawing inspiration and knowledge from the best of the best. Here are some of my favorites – the well-worn and dog-eared books that I turn to again and again. This list includes the best books for fermenting vegetables, sourdough, beer, cheese, and more.

Best for Beginners

Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods

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Amazon

Now in its second edition, Wild Fermentation is a classic for a reason: author Sandor Katz makes foundational fermentation knowledge accessible and fun. It covers basic foods and drinks (including sodas) as well as ferments that may be new to you, like African sorghum beer. 

Written in Katz's conversational voice, this book is a perfect introduction to the art of fermenting food. Wild fermentation relies on the microbes naturally found in our environment, which means that it does not require you to buy starter cultures. I especially like this book for beginners because it helps you build a fermentation practice that doesn't require a ton of special equipment, and that can be adapted to ingredients that are available and in season around you.

Price at time of publish: $27

  • Full Title: Wild Fermentation, The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods
  • Author: Sandor Ellix Katz
  • Number of Pages: 320
  • Ebook Available: Yes

Best Deep Dive

The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from Around the World

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Amazon

This is the definitive English-language text on fermentation, exploring traditions and techniques from around the world. Once you've firmly entrenched yourself in your new fermentation obsession, The Art of Fermentation is a must-buy. In this James Beard Award winner, Sandor Katz deep dives into global fermentation practices, drawing on his years of experience as well as countless hours of conversation, and hands-on fermentation, with people across the planet.

This book also offers practical guidance, so you can put what you learn into action. The Art of Fermentation is suitable for most levels of expertise, and with 528 pages of fermentation information, there's plenty to learn. This book is regularly cited as an indispensable guide by fermentation educators and by enthusiastic home cooks and chefs. 

Price at time of publish: $34

  • Full Title: The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from Around the World
  • Author: Sandor Ellix Katz
  • Number of Pages: 498
  • Ebook Available: Yes

Best for Creative Cooks

Foundations of Flavor: The Noma Guide to Fermentation: Including In-Depth, Step-by-Step Information on Making and Using Koji, Kombuchas, Shoyus, Misos, Vinegars, Garums, Lacto-Ferments, and Black Fruits and Vegetables

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Amazon

Copenhagen's Noma is often called "the world's best restaurant," in part because of its wide-reaching creativity that extends to its robust fermentation program. Fermentation at Noma embraces the art and science of microbial transformation, using specialty equipment to extract flavors or achieve a specific result.

This beautiful hardcover volume comes from Noma co-owner and chef Rene Redzepi and David Zilber, former head of the Fermentation Lab at Noma and now a food scientist at Chr. Hansen. Zilber's creative experiments and curious nature (ever a source of inspiration for me) shine through. References to history and literature pepper the book. And both authors' expertise is applied to a range of kitchen projects from peasos (miso made with peas) to vinegars to garums.

Best of all, each process is beautifully photographed and broken down into easy-to-follow steps, making even unfamiliar techniques feel doable. This is the perfect gift for cooks looking to expand their culinary boundaries and have some creative breakthroughs of their own. 

Price at time of publish: $25

  • Full Title: Foundations of Flavor: The Noma Guide to Fermentation: Including In-Depth, Step-by-Step Information on Making and Using Koji, Kombuchas, Shoyus, Misos, Vinegars, Garums, Lacto-Ferments, and Black Fruits and Vegetables
  • Authors: Rene Redzepi, David Zilber
  • Number of Pages: 456
  • Ebook Available: Yes

Best for Science Lovers

Preservation: The Art and Science of Canning, Fermentation, and Dehydration

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Amazon

Christina Ward is the Master Food Preserver for Wisconsin, which means she knows a ton about preserving food. This book explores the history and science of food preservation in a way that even non-scientists can understand. Ward explains why different preserving practices work as they do, how to do them safely, and what equipment you might need. Though not exclusively about fermentation, Preservation includes many fermentation recipes and is an excellent choice for readers who want to learn about ferments alongside other preserving practices. 

Price at time of publish: $25

  • Full Title: Preservation: The Art and Science of Canning, Fermentation, and Dehydration
  • Author: Christina Ward
  • Number of Pages: 400
  • Ebook Available: Yes

Best for Fermenting Vegetables

Fermented Vegetables: Creative Recipes for Fermenting 64 Vegetables & Herbs in Krauts, Kimchis, Brined Pickles, Chutneys, Relishes & Pastes

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Amazon

Vegetable fermentation is a fantastic starting point for your fermentation journey. Easy and safe, vegetable fermentation often requires minimal equipment. You just need "your hands, your microbial mates, and the ability to give them the environment they need to thrive," says Máire.

I turn to Fermented Vegetables again and again because it's easy to use and filled with creative ideas. Kirsten and Christopher Shockey have an approachable writing style and are wonderful at explaining fermentation concepts and processes clearly so that newbie fermenters can feel less intimidated. I love the range of possibilities in this book, too. There are basic pickles and sauerkrauts but also chutneys, relishes, and ideas for fermenting just about any veggie you can get your hands on.

Price at time of publish: $17

  • Full Title: Fermented Vegetables: Creative Recipes for Fermenting 64 Vegetables & Herbs in Krauts, Kimchis, Brined Pickles, Chutneys, Relishes & Pastes
  • Authors: Kirsten K. Shockey and Christopher Shockey
  • Number of Pages: 376
  • Ebook Available: Yes

Best for Sourdough

Flour Power: The Practice and Pursuit of Baking Sourdough Bread

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Amazon

Tara Jensen is a respected sourdough baking educator, and her passion for all things sourdough shines through in this book. I've been a fan of Jensen's work for years, following her woodfired baking sessions with intrigue and a bit of envy that I wasn't there baking, too. With this book, you can tap into Jensen's expertise wherever you are. 

I especially love Flour Pour for its detailed, easy-to-follow recipes and the grounding it offers in sourdough baking techniques. Some home cooks (myself included!) struggle with the timing of sourdough feeding and baking schedules, and Jensen demystifies all of it so that you bake delicious loaves with confidence.

The book's 80 recipes range from big, fluffy bread loaves to flatbreads to special sourdough breads, like Finnish rye rings. It also includes peeks into Jensen's own baking journey, which makes it much more fun and personal to read. 

Price at time of publish: $28

  • Full Title: Flour Power: The Practice and Pursuit of Baking Sourdough Bread
  • Author: Tara Jensen
  • Number of Pages: 304
  • Ebook Available: Yes

Best for Homebrew

The Homebrewer's Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to Making Your Own Beer from Scratch

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Amazon

If you're interested in homebrewing, you'll find a great selection of books on the market that address the basics, specialty styles, regional brewing practices, and historic brewing practices. I love this book because it's a combination of all of these. You get some thorough grounding in brewing science and practice, but it also opens the door to creative brewing, too. Historically, people did not always use hops in their beers, and this book offers a glimpse into the world of possibilities with beer flavorings. It is seasonally focused, meaning that you can find inspiration from foraging or farmer's markets any time of the year to add to your beers.

Price at time of publish: $23

  • Full Title: The Homebrewer's Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to Making Your Own Beer from Scratch
  • Authors: Marika Josephson, Aaron Kleidon, Ryan Tockstein
  • Number of Pages: 240
  • Ebook Available: Yes

Best for Japanese Fermentation

Preserving the Japanese Way: Traditions of Salting, Fermenting, and Pickling for the Modern Kitchen

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Amazon

In the last few decades, interest in Japanese food has grown in North America, and fermented foods are no exception. Nancy Singleton Hachisu was born in California but has lived on a farm in Japan since the 1980s, and her experience in both places helps her bring knowledge of Japanese fermentation techniques to English-speaking readers.

Preserving the Japanese Way covers various fermentation types. I turned to it again and again while writing Our Fermented Lives, and I learned something new (and got a spark of inspiration for my own fermentation practice) each time. Hachisu writes in a conversational style that draws you in, and her deep knowledge of Japanese fermentation is evident throughout, including her descriptions of different types of miso. Make sure to try the persimmon vinegar in the fall – it’s become a treasured staple in my pantry.

Price at time of publish: $32

  • Full Title: Preserving the Japanese Way: Traditions of Salting, Fermenting, and Pickling for the Modern Kitchen
  • Author: Nancy Singleton Hachisu
  • Number of Pages: 400
  • Ebook Available: Yes

Best for Curing Meat

Pure Charcuterie: The Craft and Poetry of Curing Meats at Home

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Amazon

Meat fermentation is a preservation practice with deep, historic roots and can be found in many cultures around the world. While there are many great meat fermentation books and classes to be found, I love Pure Charcuterie because it's thorough and approachable.

Throughout the book, Meredith Leigh's expertise shines. I also love that in addition to hands-on knowledge, she offers you an appreciation for the craft and beauty of this process. Leigh's love of meat fermentation as an art form and a path to sustainable, creative eating is evident on every page. This book is perfect for those new to meat fermentation and those seeking to deepen their appreciation.  

Price at time of publish: $18

  • Full Title: Pure Charcuterie: The Craft and Poetry of Curing Meats at Home
  • Author: Meredith Leigh
  • Number of Pages: 160
  • Ebook Available: Yes

Best for Cheesemaking

The Art of Natural Cheesemaking: Using Traditional, Non-Industrial Methods and Raw Ingredients to Make the World's Best Cheeses

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Amazon

I've long been a fan of David Asher's work through The Black Sheep School, where he teaches cheesemaking classes focused on sustainability and natural processes. Asher's passion and expertise are evident throughout the pages of this book, which makes the natural cheesemaking processes from the past relevant and accessible to cooks today.

The Art of Natural Cheesemaking is easier to follow than many books on the topic, and it doesn't require expensive specialty starters or a big up-front investment in equipment. Instead, Asher gives readers knowledge of cheesemaking techniques, plus the confidence to take that knowledge into the kitchen. This book is a great choice for someone new to cheesemaking or for the experienced cheesemaker looking to expand their knowledge of traditional techniques.

Price at time of publish: $35

  • Full Title: The Art of Natural Cheesemaking: Using Traditional, Non-Industrial Methods and Raw Ingredients to Make the World's Best Cheeses
  • Author: David Asher
  • Number of Pages: 320
  • Ebook Available: Yes

Best for Dairy-Free Cheesemaking

One-Hour Dairy-Free Cheese: Make Mozzarella, Cheddar, Feta, and Brie-Style Cheeses--Using Nuts, Seeds, and Vegetables

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Amazon

Love cheese but don't eat dairy? Fermentation is the answer to getting that rich, savory cheesy flavor back in your life! Dairy-free cheeses can ferment over the course of days or even weeks, while other recipes get a quick savory kick through the addition of fermented foods like nutritional yeast, soy sauce, or vinegar.

I love this book because it's simple to use and yields dairy-free cheeses quickly. While the book is not strictly a fermentation book, Claudia Lucero draws on her knowledge of fermenting as well as cheesemaking (she's been a traditional cheesemaker for years), and she uses many fermented products to make its magic happen. It's perfect for an afternoon or weekend project, and the results are delicious: dairy-free versions of everything from melty mozzarella to Parmesan to Cheddar. In addition to the cheeses themselves, One-Hour Dairy-Free Cheese also offers ideas for using them, like pizza and curried spinach and paneer. 

Price at time of publish: $16

  • Full Title: One-Hour Dairy-Free Cheese: Make Mozzarella, Cheddar, Feta, and Brie-Style Cheeses--Using Nuts, Seeds, and Vegetables
  • Author: Claudia Lucero
  • Number of Pages: 272
  • Ebook Available: Yes

Best Book for Koji Lovers

Koji Alchemy: Rediscovering the Magic of Mold-Based Fermentation

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Amazon

Koji is a mold, and it's used to make many foods you probably enjoy regularly, including shoyu (soy sauce), amazake, sake, miso, and more. When Koji Alchemy came out, I was beyond excited. While koji recipes can be found in The Art of Fermentation and other fermentation books, here was a useful and beautiful volume all about koji itself! 

In Koji Alchemy, Shih and Umansky give you clear, step-by-step guidance and plenty of inspiration. They brought in a range of guest authors to lend their voices through essays and recipes, too, giving the book a broad reach and scope, and giving readers the opportunity to learn from a variety of perspectives and kitchen practices, including Kirsten Shockey's essay "My Blue Cheese Is Your Stinky Tofu" on finding culinary connections or Mara Jane King's recipe for using koji to make homemade fish sauce. 

Price at time of publish: $30

  • Full Title: Koji Alchemy: Rediscovering the Magic of Mold-Based Fermentation
  • Authors: Rich Shih, Jeremy Umansky
  • Number of Pages: 352
  • Ebook Available: Yes

Best for Mead

Make Mead Like a Viking: Traditional Techniques for Brewing Natural, Wild-Fermented, Honey-Based Wines and Beers

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Amazon

Jereme Zimmerman combines folklore and history with practical knowledge in this fun, informative volume. This book shows how simple mead-making can be: it can require little equipment beyond some basic know-how and your own sense of curiosity.

Featuring recipes appropriate even for novice brewers, Make Mead Like a Viking is easy to read and details both sweet and dry meads, plus other brews like melomels (fruit meads) and country wines. It also gives readers useful information on types of honey, brewing equipment and processes, brewing history, and flavoring. It's a great choice for new and experienced brewers alike.

Price at time of publish: $25

  • Full Title: Make Mead Like a Viking: Traditional Techniques for Brewing Natural, Wild-Fermented, Honey-Based Wines and Beers
  • Author: Jereme Zimmerman
  • Number of Pages: 240
  • Ebook Available: Yes

Best for Vinegars

Wildcrafted Vinegars: Making and Using Unique Acetic Acid Ferments for Quick Pickles, Hot Sauces, Soups, Salad Dressings, Pastes, Mustards, and More

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Amazon

Pascal Baudar has gained a cult following for his creative foraging experiments, educational social media posts, and classes. He even makes his own vessels from clay and other materials around him! Baudar's teaching style is conversational and improvisational, relying heavily on the abundance of the natural world around him.

In Wildcrafted Vinegars, Baudar brings his love of foraging to the page, showing readers how simple it is to make and flavor vinegar using wild ingredients. He also showcases other uses for vinegar, such as in mustards, sauces, quick pickles, and more. This book is perfect for outdoor-loving cooks and those looking to bring some exciting new flavors to their larders. 

Price at time of publish: $35

  • Full Title: Wildcrafted Vinegars: Making and Using Unique Acetic Acid Ferments for Quick Pickles, Hot Sauces, Soups, Salad Dressings, Pastes, Mustards, and More
  • Author: Pascal Baudar
  • Number of Pages: 304
  • Ebook Available: Yes

Our Favorite

Learning to ferment your own food opens you up to a world that's flavorful, fizzy, and even a bit magical. There are many wonderful fermentation resources and fermentation classes out there, as well as a wonderful community of fermentation enthusiasts on social media (check out the #kojibuildscommunity hashtag on Instagram, for example).

With so many directions your fermentation practice can take you, having books to teach and inspire can help you feel confident and successful in each new method you learn. We chose these books to help give you an overview of fermentation, and to help you dive into specific types of fermentation like cheesemaking or mead brewing. You may find that you'll want to buy more than one!

The Research

To find the best fermentation books, we drew on our own fermentation experience, input from experts, and, of course, books we have read. We focused our recommendations on books that are informative but enjoyable reads.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • What is fermentation? Is fermentation safe?

    "The dictionary definition of fermentation is the chemical breakdown of a substance by bacteria, yeasts, or other microorganisms, typically involving effervescence and the giving off of heat,” says fermentation educator and author Kirsten Shockey. “My own quick explanation is that it is a transformation of ingredients by microbes for flavor, preservation, and a leveling up of nutritional qualities. As a preservation technique, in fermentation we are setting up conditions that favor the friendly microbes that enhance our food as they break them down: Since microbes are competitive when done right, this eliminates the ones that are unsafe."


    Máire agrees: "It's a working of transformation that manifests new flavors, while making nutrients more bio-available — by tending a space where our microbial mates can thrive and harmful elements are eliminated, creating foods that are healthier, and safer, than they [were]."

  • What fermentation projects can cooks experiment with at home?

    Fermenting vegetables is an easy and safe project for beginners, according to Shockey. “They are quickly put together and create delicious healthy sides. They might have bubbles and a little funk, and to the new fermenter this might feel scary, but that is normal and part of the deliciousness,” she says.


    "Lacto-fermentation is a wonderful first ferment, as all one needs is salt, a bit of stewardship, and the ability to keep your pickles away from air,” says Máire. “There are several cultures that are wonderful to work with when first getting started: kombucha or water kefir, pre-made koji, yogurt, or wild yeasts all have fairly simple needs."


    Once you make your first ferments and feel comfortable, you can ferment just about anything. You may find yourself gravitating towards specific fermented foods, like miso pastes or cured meats, as you continue to learn more.

  • What equipment do you need to start fermenting?

    For basic fermented vegetables, you just need a jar, vegetables, and salt, according to Shockey. “When you think about how humans have been fermenting all across the world for thousands of years, you realize that not much is needed," she says.


    Following a recipe, it should be clear which supplies you’ll use, so just take note before you start if you need to buy anything. For fermentation projects in general, what you need depends on what the ferment needs, according to Máire: "Do they need to avoid air? Give them a weight to keep them submerged in brine. Do they need a specific temperature to thrive? A simple warming cupboard or heating pad should keep them happy." 

  • How do you store fermented food?

    "Fermentation has an intimate relationship with temperature. Generally, the colder they are, the slower they ferment, so the fridge or a root cellar is ideal for storage — unless one is going to introduce pasteurisation or stabilise them with vinegars," says Máire.

     

    It depends on the ferment, according to Shockey. “When I was making cheese on the regular, I had a ‘cave’ with cool conditions that I kept the wheels of hard cheeses and jars of feta in olive oil. I keep most of my vegetable ferments in the refrigerator, which is a modern luxury. The cool temperatures keep the microbes alive and fairly inactive, holding the flavor in a state that may not be fully fermented out — leaving crisp and sweet flavors along with the acidic ones. But any cool space will do. The cooler the space, the longer the ferment will last, in a tasty way,” she says. “I leave other vegetable ferments, like hot sauce, in cool cabinets. As long as oxygen is removed from the process, many ferments are fairly stable. Other ferments like wine, vinegar, or miso will continue to transform for years and can be stored in a cool or ambient environment for years, even decades."

  • What kinds of foods can be fermented?

    "I think this question here is what kinds of foods cannot be fermented?” says Shockey.


    “Some are certainly more nuanced than others, requiring more care and knowledge — I am looking at you salami — but I cannot think of an ingredient that cannot be fermented."

Our Expertise

Julia Skinner, Ph.D., is a fermentation educator, avid home fermenter, food preserver, and author of Our Fermented Lives: How Fermented Foods Have Shaped Cultures and Communities. She is the founder of Root, which offers online food preservation classes, a recipe newsletter, and more. For this piece, she interviewed Kirsten Shockey, author and co-founder of The Fermentation School, and Llewyn Máire, co-founder of the fermentation company Savage Craic. She used their insights and her own expertise to curate this list.

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