Aug 022010

Green Bean harvest
The first time I had a dilly bean, it was at a bar.

Well, not really a bar, per se, more like a nice restaurant loungey-kind of bar.

The kind that serves brunch.  And Bloody Mary’s.

My first dilly bean was lovingly served in place of celery to stir a brunchy Bloody Mary, and I thought it was brilliant.  I’ve been hooked ever since.

Dilly beans are great.  A green bean, pickled with seasonings you normally relegate to cucumbers.  Except. . . . they become different.  They’re crunchier, they have a better bite, and, of course, they don’t fall apart in one’s drink.  They’re the perfect thing you can do to a green bean, other than eat them fresh out of the garden.

My parents make traditional dilly beans, processed with vinegar and canned with a boiling water bath to seal for shelf stability.  They are awesome and are a welcome treat in a Christmas basket.  I, on the other hand, have been trying my hand at lacto-fermenting mine for home use, and frankly, I love them even more!  Without the strong flavor of the vinegar, the beans and fresh herbs really shine through, while the added benefit of eating a crunchy, salty snack, with probiotics included, can’t be beat.
Dilly BeansI make my dilly beans with beans I’ve grown a bit extra long on purpose.  (I’ve always got those Bloody Mary’s in mind, I guess!) and batch process them in half-gallon or gallon batches.  Once they’re fermented and “pickled” I drain them from the original brine, disperse them into smaller containers, adding fresh brine and herbs, and store.  I find that this process works better for me in terms of keeping the vegetables submerged in the brine, and I have less waste.  If you prefer to pickle them directly in the jar they’ll be stored in, you’re more than welcome to do that and can still use this recipe, just disperse the herbs a little bit more evenly amongst the jars and make sure that the vegetables are thoroughly submerged for the entire processing time, about two weeks.

Enjoy these Dilly Beans on top of a zesty Salad Nicoise, on the side of a sandwich, or simply to stir along a Bloody Mary.  One bite, and you’ll be hooked!


Lacto-Fermented Dilly Beans

per every half gallon

  • 1 pound tender, young green beans, trimmed
  • 2 hot peppers (I used Serrano), stems cut off and sliced in half lengthwise
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 Tablespoon dill seed
  • a small handful of fresh dill
  • Brine consisting of 1/3 cup pickling salt or sea salt to every 2 quarts of water
  • quart size freezer bag

In a half-gallon mason jar or crock, layer beans, garlic, peppers and herbs and spices. Dissolve the salt in the water and pour enough brine over the beans to cover them well. Push a quart-size (or gallon size if your crock has a larger opening and surface area) freezer bag into the top of the jar and pour the remaining brine into the bag, removing air from bag before sealing.

The point of the freezer bag is to keep the vegetables submerged while brining while, if the brine evaporates or the bag leaks, it doesn’t dilute the brine.

Store at room temperature for about two weeks, covered with a dishtowel, if necessary, to keep bugs out, but not sealed. Oxygen is needed for lacto-fermentation. Lacto-fermentation, indicated by tiny bubbles, should begin within 3 days. If any scum appears at the top of the jar, simply skim it off and rinse off the brine bag before re-covering.

Dilly beans should be ready in about two weeks, when they taste sour and the bubbling has stopped. Remove the brine bag and, either cap the jar, or you can drain the vegetables, re-jar into smaller jars, add new spices (dill seeds, garlic and peppercorns, specifically – no more fresh dill this time around) and top with fresh brine of the same consistency as indicated above, before capping.

Store in a cool, dark place until ready to eat. Some prefer keeping their lacto-fermented pickles in the fridge, but I keep mine, unopened, in our very cool basement.

I live in a 100+ year old house with a traditional basement pretty much carved out of the rock. It’s cold enough down there that I use it for a root cellar and pantry storage. And hopefully, this fall, wine cave!

Pickled beans should keep in cold storage for several months.


Want to know more about why lacto-fermenting vegetables is better for you than pickling with heat?  Read this post.  Keep in mind, I make both varieties, but I have a special place in my heart for those lacto-ferments!

This post is written in conjunction with Two for Tuesday’s Blog Hop, Real Food Wednesday, Simple Lives Thursday, Pennywise Platter and Foodie Friday.

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  25 Responses to “Lacto-Fermented Dilly Beans”

  1. I have made the traditional canned dilly beans and the family oves them, but I am wanting to do more lacto fermented veggies this year, so I will give these a try! Wishin’ I had a basement “cave” to store all these!!!

  2. Excellent! I have a big old bowl of beans in the fridge that I wanted to ferment. Will follow your directions today…

  3. These are a family favorite. I just picked my first green beans, and as soon as they boom, I’ve got my bean jars lined up and ready to make pickles. Thank you for spreading the joy at Two for Tuesday.

  4. Rookie question here – for it to be lacto-fermented, doesn’t it need to include whey? (or something else with the good bacteria?) You know I don’t know what I’m talking about with this sort of thing :>) but I’m trying to at least understand…

    • Hi Lenetta!

      I thought so at first too! But no, whey is not a requirement for lacto-fermenting foods as the beneficial bacteria are already ON the vegetables. Salt is really the only Adding the salt just allows them to ferment in a safe, controlled environment without decaying and the salt also keeps bad bacteria at bay.

      Whey is still useful for certain recipes . . . but it’s not required for this one!

      Let me know if you have any other questions!


  5. Lucky YOU with the cave basement. My mother in laws house was moved moved on logs with horses over 100 years ago and she has a wonderful root cellar and canning closet-too bad she dosent use it anymore, but it is fun to check it out! I too love anything lactofermented and will definitely try your beans out! Thanks for posting on the two for tuesday recipe blog hop! Alex@amoderatelife

  6. I am a little jealous of your root cellar. I love my house but a basement it doesn’t have – its one downfall! The Dilly Beans sound so crunchalicious! In a Bloody Mary – heaven! Thanks for linking to Two for Tuesdays

  7. Those beans are gorgeous! I just pickled some garlicky green beans and yellow beans…wonder if they’d be just as good with a bloody mary. I supose I’ll just have to try it. For the sake of research. 😉 Thanks for sharing with Two for Tuesdays.

  8. You had me at Bloody Mary! I like the idea of growing them longer for dilly beans, yes. And how I wish I had a root cellar. Thanks for the great post…

  9. Serve the dilly beans with a Virgin Mary made with fresh tomato juice for a healthier treat.

    Alcohol kills bacteria in our guts. Many many health problems are directly related to the “sanitizing” effect of drinking alcohol. It kills the good bacteria but not the yeast. That makes it a double-whammy gut buster.

  10. I’ve never even heard of dilly beans – these sound wonderful though! I love the idea of fermented green beans. Thanks for sharing this with us all at Two for Tuesdays!

  11. Those are some beautiful beans! I’ve always just called them green beans, didn’t know they were dilly?

    Would love it if you would consider sharing this blog or another post at Monday Mania. Hope to see you there!

  12. I hunted all over for a recipe like this a couple. of years ago but could only find versions of the USDA approved vinegar and canning bath version, where the beans are cooked instead of crisp. So I was afraid that this treatment was no longer considered safe for beans. Any thoughts on the issue?

    • Hi Elizabeth!

      Good questions! Obviously I am not a trained chef, nor am I approved by the USDA nor am I doctor, but I would not post a recipe or technique without both trying it first (mostly to make sure it tastes good!) nor would I ever post anything that is not safe to make or eat. Lacto-fermented pickles are, in my opinion, perfectly safe to eat. There are many recipes out there for uncooked pickles (both green beans and cucumbers as well as other vegetables) – some are lacto-fermented, others use vinegar (like a refrigerator pickle), but all are great ways to pickle your garden’s bounty.

      If you are concerned about botulism (which is what everyone tends to think of when they think about preserving green beans) you should know that botulism can only grow and make itself present in low-acid foods. Green beans, and most vegetables ARE low-acid foods on their own, naturally, however pickling, whether via ivinegar pickles or lacto-fermentation, creates a high-acid environment where the botulism bacteria can not survive. If you are planning on simply canning green beans for future consumption, then yes, the pressure canner w/ high heat method is required for safety. However if you are planning on pickling, which this recipe refers to, then lacto-ferment away!

      Let me know if you have any other questions! I hope you try this recipe!


      PS – A lacto-fermented pickle that has “gone bad” should be absolutely obvious to anyone. It would neither smell good nor be appetizing and you would in no way want it near your mouth. . . .

  13. Oh, I think I’ve got my project set out for today, now. I’ll get to fermenting those beans….

  14. I’ve already made a batch of boiling water bath dilly beans, but I have a bag of beans waiting for me in the refrigerator; this is their destiny!!!

  15. […] disregard their current appearance and recommend checking out this helpful and easy dilly bean recipe from Heartland […]

  16. […] some lacto-ferments that have been on my mind, as well as remake some staples. From left to right: Sarah’s dilly beans, Kristen’s pickle relish, Peggy’s garlic-dill pickles, my mayonnaise, and Erin’s […]

  17. […] speaking of all the lacto-ferments I made last week, they all turned out great. Sarah’s dilly beans were fabulous, just like she said. It was really hot, so everything was done in about half the […]

  18. Hi! I’m trying these out and they’ve been fermenting away for a week now…just checked them and there’s mold growing on the top (small amounts) – as in on top of the water and some of the little bits that have floated up are moldy. This is my first time lacto-fermenting anything. Is this normal? Do you know what this is about? Thank so much!

    • Hi Jordan!

      Just take out any moldy beans and discard, wipe off the mold from the rim of the jar with a clean, wet papertowel, making sure there is none left and add in a bit more brine to cover. I had a few I had to toss too . . . simply because they slipped above the brine during processing, but the rest have been amazing!

      Good luck!


  19. I’m still learning, so bear with me ;~) I thought that lacto fermentation was an anaerobic process and that oxygen would interfere, but you said not to cover because it needs oxygen. I’m confused! Can you explain? Thanks! Meanwhile, I can’t wait to try this!

  20. […] I’ve learned a lesson about beans the past few years. The first year I grew them, in our rental house in Omaha, I planted them before the tree above them leafed out and didn’t realize they’d get too much shade. It also rained a lot that year and all my beans were always filthy. The second year I grew them, the first year in this garden, I grew pole beans (on the assumption that they’d be less dirty) and I rigged up a hodepodge of fence posts and twine, often adding in the next layer of twine for them to grow on at least three to five days after they probably really needed it. I didn’t plant them thick enough and I couldn’t keep up with their upward mobility, and, though they were good, it was a lot of work for little return. Last year, I grew pole beans again but opted for bamboo teepees. Unfortunately, last year I planted too heavily, three bean plants per bamboo pole, and they mostly toppled and grew at random rates. I had plenty of beans to eat for dinner, mostly heirloom varieties which often were quite stringy and more difficult for the little ones to eat, but not enough at one time to sufficiently can for the winter, let alone pickle (and I do love my dilly beans). […]

  21. Greetings:
    Stacie Wells is correct and Lacto-fermentation requires a complete lack of oxygen.
    The following I found elsewhere on the Web.


    First up, let me state the obvious that many people don’t want to admit with mold and ferments. Mold REQUIRES oxygen to develop. If you have mold, you have air-flow which means you’re not producing a true lacto-ferment, you’re producing a salt-cured aerobic veggie ferment that, while it will have lactic acid bacteria in it, it isn’t going to be dominated by lactic acid bacteria (LAB). Oxygen is the enemy of LABs and it kills them off via competition from oxygen-loving bacteria.

    Mold is NOT benign unless we’re taking about particular cheeses. I love a good Bleu, but that’s not what we’re discussing here. Mold puts tendrils all through your veggies before the fuzzy nasties show up on top. So even if you scrape off the mold on the top, it still leaves tendrils behind. Once the development begins, you can only kill mold by using heat.


  22. […] of sauerkraut in the fridge, and occasional forays into lacto-fermented jalapenos, salsa, pickles, dilly beans and […]

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