Are All Fermented Foods Probiotic?

Are all fermented foods probiotic-Any food made by fermentation can be called Fermented Food. However, not all fermented foods are probiotic. To be called probiotic, food must contain live micro-organisms that support the functions of the gut flora.

Here are some examples of fermented products that do not count as probiotic food.

Alcoholic drinks –  produced by ethanol fermentation, i.e. conversion of glucose into ethanol and carbon dioxide; even if the production involves a certain amount of lacto-bacteria, they are all killed by the ethanol, being the main product;
update: unfiltered and unpasteurized beer contains brewer yeasts and some people claim that these yeast are probiotic; looks like they are right; however, remember what alcohol does to your gut, so don’t use its probiotic content as an excuse to drink bottles of beer;

Chocolate – cocoa beans, the main ingredient of chocolate, are lacto- fermented but subsequently roasted and processed; roasting kills lacto-bacteria;

Tea – we all heard that black tea is the product of the fermentation of tea leaves; however, what the industry calls ‘fermentation’ is, in fact, enzymatic oxidation;

Coffee – lacto-fermentation is used to remove the mucus on the surface of beans, but all the remaining bacteria are washed out during the further processing;

Cheese – product of coagulation of the milk protein (casein); coagulation can be caused by an acid and in the past it was lactic acid produced by lacto-bacteria in the natural process of fermentation; simply speaking, milk was left to get sauered and then the curds (cheese) were separated from the whey; therefore, this kind of cheese could be qualified as probiotic food, if unpasteurised; nowadays, casein is coagulated primarily with rennet (stomach enzyme); some brands of high-quality unpasteurised cheese may contain lacto-bacteria, though;

Soy sauce – traditionally made by fermentation of soybeans, but most of the brands available currently in Europe are products of the acid hydrolysis of the soy protein;

Sourdough bread – the raw dough is rich in lacto-bacteria and friendly yeast, but they all die during baking, obviously;

In the original version of the post I wrote: “Sausages, like chorizo, salami, pepperoni – produced by lacto-fermentation of meat; but usually contain quite a lot of sodium nitrate and other chemicals that effectively kill the bacteria; scientists work towards developing a technology to produce probiotic meat, though”

However, I had a discussion with Karen from (see comments below) and have to admit that nitrates don’t affect lacto-bacteria very much. So, it implies that fermented sausages are indeed probiotic. Happy days!

Condiments, like Tabasco sauce or Worcestershire sauce – they contain lacto-fermented ingredients, but are usually pasteurised; anyway, a normal person eats only a bit of them in one go;

What Fermented Foods are healthy then?

I believe the following products to be definitely probiotic:

  1. Unpasteurised raw lacto-fermented fruit and vegetables, e.g. sauerkraut
  2. Water kefir
  3. Unpasteurized fermented milk products – kefir, buttermilk, sour milk, crème fraîche, cottage cheese, yoghurt
  4. Kombucha – fermented tea drink (however, see the comments section for some controversies)
  5. Unpasteurised apple cider vinegar;
  6. Soaked grains eaten raw, e.g. as muesli
  7. Unpasteurised fermented soya products – natto, tempeh, miso, tofu, soy sauce (not if produced by hydrolysis as I mentioned before);
  8. Unpasteurised fish sauce.

4 thoughts on “Are All Fermented Foods Probiotic?”

  1. So many questions for you! You mention kombucha, but that’s not probiotic-so what is beneficial about kombucha that doesn’t exist in probiotics? And almost all cheeses are made from lacto-bacteria fermentation–why would only raw cheeses be probiotic? And alcohol isn’t made through a bacteria process, but rather a yeast process. I’ve always wondered, though, are there health benefits to drinking unpasteurized yeast from homebrew? And aren’t lactic-acid producing bacteria relatively immune to nitrates? I thought that was the point, that the high levels of salt and nitrates made for favorable conditions in fermented sausages for the beneficial bacteria, but not the bad guys? I enjoyed your article, but it’s just leaving me asking so many more questions! 🙂


    1. Hi Karen! Thank you so much for the comment!
      I consider Kombucha to be probiotic as it contains Lactobacillus and Saccharomyces and loads of other microorganisms ; it is hard to believe that they don’t affect the gut flora.
      Cheese – of course, homemade cheese is made by lactofermentation but the the homemade cheese is not “almost all cheese” as you wrote. Unfortunately, 99% (or so) of cheese in the world is made by the industrial method, i.e. adding rennet to coagulate casein. I know that you are a great cheese maker, which fact I truly admire and assure you i didn’t mean your own cheese.
      I didn’t wrote that the production of alcohol is a bacterial process! I wrote ‘if it involvesa certain amount of lacto-bacteria…’ and it does, if you make wine.Those are killed by ethanol when its level rises.
      To be honest, I have no idea if the brewer’s yeast is beneficial. But I would be very careful with recommending any alcoholic drink as probiotic, given what alcohol does to our guts and overall health.
      I took the info about the nitrates from this source It says that nitrates inhibit bacterial growth especially pathogenic ones, which implies that LABs are affected as well. However, I must believe you here, because you are experienced in making fermented sausage. So, I am changing the text of the article and thank you for the info!
      I am a huge fan of your blog and your knowledge is really impressive.


      1. Thanks for all your responses! These are things I wonder about too, and eventually I’d like to do some research on live yeasts and molds and try to figure out what benefit (if any) they may have to the body. I know the lacto-bacteria are beneficial and always touted as having health benefits, but you are making me wonder again what affect other microorganisms may have on our bodies (like with the kombucha–I haven’t looked into it at all but had heard it wasn’t probiotic-though whether or not it is, it certainly has health benefits). I am really intrigued by your mention of the industrial cheese methods, and will have to educate myself some more. I’m enjoying all your posts!

        Liked by 1 person

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