Quick-Fermented Salsa

by Chance on May 18, 2016

Quick-Fermented. You might be wondering what that means. Fermentation is a chemical reaction. According to dictionary.com, fermentation is “a chemical reaction in which sugars are broken down into smaller molecules that can be used in living systems. Alcoholic beverages such as beer, wine and whiskey, are made from the controlled use of fermentation.” Here, the sugars that are being eaten are the sugars present in the fruit (tomatoes) used. In this case, unlike in those of the alcoholic beverages mentioned above, it’s a bacteria doing the eating (when you’re making alcohol, it’s usually yeasts doing the eating). The bacteria doing that eating belongs to the lactobacillus family and they live around us and on those tomatoes we’re using for the salsa. That family name may be familiar to you if you purchase yogurt as it’s one of the “probiotic” strains added to yogurt to culture it. When you see “L. bulgaricus” or “L. Acidophilus”, that “L.” stands for lactobacillus. So, what’s the big deal? The big deal is that lactobacillus bacteria naturally live in our bodies. They’re part of what’s now being called our microbiome, or, all the bacteria that make us up. It’s a good thing to replenish the bacteria that naturally live in our bodies when possible because there are a lot of things we regularly do that kill that same bacteria. A few of those things are… living stressed out lives… taking antibiotics… drinking chlorinated water… it’s actually a pretty long list, so I’ll just leave it at that. It turns out that those bacteria living in our microbiome are pretty darned important. Some people are making the case right now that they’re actually fundamental to our health. I agree. (I’m not going to bog down this recipe blog with scientific notations. Sorry. I’m going to save my effort for the recipe card. If you’re interested, there are all kinds of sources for finding out this information. Some reputable, some not. I love the public Wild Fermentation group on Facebook that was inspired by Sandor Katz’s Wild Fermentation book. There is a great files section with solid links. I also love the book Fermented Veggies by Christopher and Kirsten Shockey.)

So, now that you know what fermented means, you might be wondering why I tacked it onto my salsa recipe.  We have a joke in my family. They’ll see a jar sitting on the counter and they’ll say, “are you fermenting that?” To which I reply, nonchalantly, “Nah, it’s just sitting around.” The joke is, the jars are just sitting around. But the bacteria in the jar is going wild! By creating the right conditions (basically, adding salt to inhibit other things from growing and keeping it at room temperature), the lactobacillus bacteria get a chance to chomp on those sugars and when they do that, they multiply. They also transform something from ho-hum mundane into something with depth and dimension that wasn’t there before. In addition to getting some great digestion-boosting bacteria, lacto-fermentation (which has nothing to do with lactose from milk) essentially preserves your food. That’s kinda how it developed – as a method of food preservation (sauerkraut, anyone?). Some ferments take longer than others and this is a quick-ferment because it will only be “sitting around” for 24-48 hours. By the way, that yogurt and the bottles of expensive probiotics sitting in your fridge? Homemade probiotic ferments blow them away with their total bacteria count!

When I teach classes about fermentation – sourdough bread, kombucha, water kefir, fermenting veggies – I always tell people that embracing bacteria, ceasing to think of it as the enemy, will change your outlook on life. If, however, you’re not quite ready to embrace the idea of creating the right conditions for bacteria to thrive, you can fall back on the fact that this recipe creates a delicious salsa. And that’s what *really* matters, right? Now, I want to add here that it sometimes take my family a while to catch on and fully embrace my weird kitchen experiments. Sometimes they don’t catch on at all and I sadly put them away (goodbye forever, kombucha). This salsa, however, had no such acceptance curve. One of our favorite restaurant salsas comes from La Fonda Latina. It’s a freshly made salsa, but sometimes it’s a little fizzy. We like it best that way and one day, in an Aha! moment, it occurred to me that all I needed to do was let it “sit around” in my kitchen and we would be able to avoid their bad service and eat endless amounts of salsa. It’s been a favorite since then and with summer coming up, it’s a great way to use up fresh tomatoes. (In April, when I made this, I bought the best available which happened to be organic vine ripened. Sometimes it’s grape or cherry tomatoes. Do make an effort to buy the best quality you can because it greatly affects the end result.)

Quick Fermented Salsa
Ingredients: fresh, ripe tomatoes (4-6+), 1-2 cloves of garlic, 1/2-1 red onion, 1-2 T fresh cilantro (ingredients can be scaled up as desired)
Peel and coarsely chop garlic cloves and place in a food processor.
Process until finely chopped, stopping to scrape the sides down once.
Core tomatoes and roughly chop into 6-8 pieces.
Add to the food processor and process until pureed.
Add chopped onion and cilantro to a large glass bowl or a large glass jar. Pour tomato- garlic puree on top.
Mix well. Add salt to taste.

This salsa is great as-is, with chips. It’s also fantastic mixed into guacamole (recipe to follow) and could be used as a gazpacho base in the summer.

Quick Fermented Salsa

Quick-Fermented Salsa
Prep time
Total time
A quick-fermented salsa recipe. Great for eating with chips, including in guacamole or for a gazpacho base.
Serves: 3+ cups
  • 2+ cloves of garlic
  • ripe tomatoes (6+)
  • ½-1+ finely chopped red onion
  • 1-2 T finely chopped cilantro
  • salt to taste
  1. Peel the garlic and coarsely chop. Add to a food processor and run until very finely chopped. Scrape down the sides once.
  2. Core tomatoes and roughly chop into 6-8 pieces. Add to the food processor and process until pureed.
  3. Add chopped onion and cilantro to a large glass bowl or a large glass jar. Pour tomato-garlic puree on top. Mix well. Add salt to taste. It should be well seasoned.
  4. Cover and let sit 24-48 hours. You should see small bubbles in the salsa as well as possibly a bubble and/or foam line at the top of the salsa.
  5. If you listen with your ear at the top of the open jar, you will hear it fizzing. Refrigerate. Salsa will keep up to 3 weeks in the fridge. Eat often!



I draw a lot of inspiration from Indian cooking. I love the bright flavors and the slow simmered sauces. I love the way the spices come together in a magical synchronicity that is so much greater than the sum of its parts. I love a lot of Indian food, but because we avoid dairy and gluten for my son, a lot of it is off-limits when we eat out. If you’ve read this blog for any time, you’ll already know that my common solution to that problem is to make it myself. (I do have to add here that I have a new favorite vegetarian Indian restaurant. Madras Mantra in Decatur. Ram and Mahi are the nicest people and this restaurant is the hands-down best vegetarian Indian I have eaten in Atlanta. We know which items are safe for my kiddo, but they are very helpful if you have questions and have extensive gluten free options like papadam/papad, idli, dosa, white rice and pulaos, medu vada, and uthappam. They do use ghee in most dishes.) For that reason, I have spent  a lot of time reading Indian recipes. On my Roku box, there is an Indian food channel that is the bees-knees. Really. It’s real people in their own kitchens cooking Indian food. I don’t like all of them, but there are a few standouts. One of these standouts is Manjula of Manjula’s Kitchen. She has her own website where you can also view her videos and obtain her recipes. I have never made a Manjula recipe that hasn’t been well received by my family or utterly delicious. Her spices are always right on and because you’re seeing it on video, you learn the important tricks like frying the spices in hot oil and cooking tomato puree down. I mention her here because the original recipe for “Besan Puda” or “Gram Flour Dosa” comes from her website. You may notice that I have included three links to the original recipe. That is because it is important to give credit where credit is due. I did not think of this on my own, but I have made changes (as always) and I am using it in some unique ways, so I will post the recipe that I use here. **I do always omit the hot chilis from my Indian cooking. Too hot.

Another thing I often look for when reading recipes are those recipes that are not common, but are naturally gluten free or perhaps made of a more nutritionally dense ingredient than we would normally use. Since I work around food restrictions as well as preferences, this really helps. For example, I use a lot of almond flour in my baking – both “regular” gluten free and grain free baking because it greatly increases its nutritional value. In this case, “besan” or “gram” flour is a flour made from finely ground chickpeas. Some people do not like bean flours because they give them tummy upset. If that is the case, I will be sad that you do not get to make this awesome recipe. If you think you might want to try it, you could try adding a pinch of hing or asafetida to the batter to help with digestibility. I have used the finely ground besan flour from the Indian markets and I have also used the chickpea flour from DeKalb Farmer’s Market. The gram flour from the Indian market is superior because it is more finely ground.  I think you could use a garfava flour mix here just as well. In contrast to wheat flour, this recipe contains no gluten. In contrast to commercial gluten free flours, it contains no rice flours, corn products or xanthan gum. I also use chickpea flour to make homemade falafel, pakora (fritters) and ladoo (kind of like a fudge).

Besan Puda
First, put a medium sized frying pan on medium heat to get hot. I use an approximately 8 inch pan. You want a pan that you could make crepes in, not a tiny omelet pan and not a huge pan either. I use stainless steel and cast iron pans, so they take a little bit to heat. It will be just right by the time you make the batter.

Put the following ingredients into a 4-cup measuring cup or medium sized bowl:
2 cups chickpea flour
1/2 cup tapioca starch (this is optional, but it makes a crispier outside)
1 tsp salt
Whisk these ingredients together to mix them.
Additionally, you can add 1/2-1 tsp of granulated or powdered garlic or onion for more flavor.

Measure out a total of 1 1/2 cups of water into a separate bowl or measuring cup. Pour in about 1/2 cup of water and start to whisk it into the flour. Add the water in 1/2 cup or so increments, whisking well after each addition, until all the water is added. Avoid the temptation to dump all the water in. This will ensure a lumpy batter that will then require you to dirty the immersion blender to rescue it, and that’s just one more thing to wash! Your batter should be completely smooth. If there are any small lumps, mash them against the side with the whisk so that the batter is smooth. The batter should be like pancake batter; fairly thick, but able to run off the spoon. It should not be thin and drippy and it should not be thick and gloppy. We’re talking baby bear’s porridge here people.

For cooking you will need oil to spray or brush into the pan (I use grapeseed, coconut, or avocado) as well as a spatula that can release the crepe/tortilla/thing you are cooking from the pan. I use a metal one because that’s what I use on my pans. You will also need a ladle.

Spray the pan generously with your oil. Fill your ladle about half full. You’re aiming for about 1/4 Cup of batter. Pour the batter into the center of the pan. Wait about 3 seconds. Use the bottom of the ladle to gently move the batter out from the center of the pan, using concentric circles. As in, move the ladle in small circles around the pan that gradually become bigger, pushing the wet batter with the ladle as you go. This sounds complicated, but it’s easy to feel when you are doing it. Stop when you get to the edge or when you run out of batter, whichever comes first. Your first ones will be thicker than your later ones and that won’t matter, because they will all be delicious!

Cook on this side until the top starts to look dry. At some point, use your spatula to gently pry up the edges to get it ready to be flipped. You can peek at the bottom. Little brown spots are tasty. When you have little brown spots, when it smells toasty, when the top is dry or some combination of those indicators, lightly spray the top with oil and then flip it over.

Press it down firmly in the pan. Cook for another few minutes on this side and then remove to a plate. Eat. Repeat.


We really miss something I used to make with shredded cheese from a bag, marinara sauce and flour tortillas that I called “pizzadillas”. Now, I make these and when I flip it over to the second side, I put in grated raw goat cheese, about a cup of very finely chopped raw spinach and about one teaspoon of marinara sauce, dolloped all around. After the cheese starts to melt, I flip it closed like a quesadilla and let it cook for a few minutes to wilt the spinach. Nom. Nom. Nom.

I did try Manjula’s original version with zucchini and I thought it was tasty. However, my kids HATE zucchini, so they weren’t huge fans.

Besan Puda or The Best Chickpea Crepe/Wrap/Tortilla Ever
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Cuisine: Indian transformed
Serves: 8-10
  • 2 Cups besan, chickpea or gram flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ Cup tapioca starch
  • ½ tsp granulated garlic or onion (optional)
  • 1½ Cups water
  1. Whisk the salt and tapioca starch into the chickpea flour (along with optional flavoring) in a 4 Cup measuring cup or medium bowl.
  2. Adding ½ Cup at a time, start to add the water, patiently beating out the lumps with each addition.
  3. Continue until all the water has been added and the batter is smooth.
  4. If the batter did not end up smooth, whiz it in a blender and return it to the measuring cup.
  5. Heat a medium (8") pan over medium high heat. Oil the pan.
  6. When the pan is hot, add ¼ Cup or ½ ladle full of batter to the pan.
  7. Wait about 3 seconds and then place the ladle down into the center of the pan.
  8. Start to move the batter out, using the weight of the ladle while moving it in circles.
  9. Continue until you reach the edge of the pan or run out of batter.
  10. Cook until the top starts to look dry, it smells toasty or there are dark brown spots on the underside (or all three).
  11. Spray with a drizzle of oil.
  12. Gently loosen the edges and flip over. Cook for a few minutes on the second side, pressing down firmly with the spatula.
  13. Remove to a plate.
  14. Optional step: Once the puda is flipped, fill with raw chopped spinach, cheese and a teaspoon of marinara sauce. Once the cheese begins to melt, fold it in half and press down to seal. Cook for a few minutes and then flip.

These are also a quite passable wrap if you have a hankering for a sandwich. In that case, I would cook them slightly less so that they were not quite as dry, fold or roll them and wrap them in foil as I finished them so that they stay warm and somewhat pliable.


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