33 Fermented Foods From Around the World

Healthy fermented food. Homemade fermented carrots with garlic, dill and pepper in a glass jar
© Elena Alex photo/iStock via Getty Images

Written by Nina Phillips

Published: February 25, 2024

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Fermented foods from around the world can be a little scary. They rely on good bacteria to change the taste, texture, and nutrients of a food. The strong flavors and threat of bacteria mean that some people actively avoid fermented foods and drinks.

However, there are a lot more fermented foods out there than people realize. Some are even staples across the world. It’s very unlikely that you’ve never had a fermented food or drink before, even if you didn’t realize it, like kombucha, kefir, or even sourdough bread.

Every country and culture uses fermentation in its own way. There are some amazing ones out there and no two are the same. While some are strong, like gochujang or kimchi, others are quite mild. Creme fraiche, for example, is fermented milk.

So don’t stick your nose up quite yet. Take a look at these 33 different fermented foods from around the world. You may find some you’re willing to give a try after all.

1. Cod Liver Oil

In Scandinavia, cod is fermented.

©Tatiana Belova/Shutterstock.com

They fill a barrel with cod livers and leave it to ferment for a long time.

2. Poi

The ground and cooked taro roots are sometimes eaten fresh but often left to ferment.

©Hong Vo/Shutterstock.com

Poi is from Polynesia.

3. Yogurt

bowls of various greek yogurt

Yogurt is a rather common food everywhere.

©Magone/iStock via Getty Images

Many people don’t realize yogurt is a fermented food, which is what gives it that sour tang.

4. Kiviak

Seagulls mate for life, though when they're unable to have chicks, they may go their separate ways.

Kiviak is a rather unique ferment from Greenland.

©JimmyLung/ via Getty Images

It involves fermenting seagulls inside a seal for six months before they eat the birds raw.

5. Salgam

Salgam is from Russia.

©Rainbow_dazzle/Shutterstock.com

This drink uses pickled red carrots and turnips fermented with bulgar.

6. Worcestershire Sauce

Worcestershire sauce in a bowl

This popular and hard-to-pronounce sauce is a popular fermentation in England.

©Roxiller/iStock via Getty Images

Anchovies and vinegar make Worcestershire sauce.

7. Atole

Beef red chili Tamales being made assembled by hand on a kitchen counter top.

This drink is from Mexico.

©Malisa Nicolau/iStock via Getty Images

Corn masa diluted with water, fruits, and nuts and turned into a drink best describes Mexican atole.

8. Sriracha

Sriracha is a Thai hot sauce that quickly grew in popularity.

©Michelle Lee Photography/ via Getty Images

Fermented red jalapenos and spices make up the main ingredients in Sriracha.

9. Doubanjiang

Mabo tofu

This paste is said to be the base of most Sichuan dishes.

©zepp1969/iStock via Getty Images

Doubanjiang uses beans and flour as a base.

10. Jalebi

Pakistan and India make a deep-fried dish from fermented flour.

©Saravanan Ravichandran/Shutterstock.com

After the bread cooks, it’s often dipped in saffron and sugar syrup.

11. Hakarl

Greenland shark (Somniosus microcephalus) 16 August 2013

Hakarl comes from Iceland.

©NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program, Public domain - Original / License

These ammonia-cured sharks are buried underground for a while.

12. Vili

Green bowl of greek yogurt and fresh berries isolated on white background

Finland’s version of yogurt involves fermented milk.

©baibaz/iStock via Getty Images

It’s velvety and made from different forms of yeast.

13. Nem Chua

This Vietnamese meat dish is similar to spam.

It’s made from ground pork and seasonings that are wrapped in banana leaves and left to ferment.

14. Khanom Chin

Noolappam Idiyappam rice noodles a popular traditional steam cooked Kerala breakfast dish. Hot and spicy egg roast curry on a houseboat Alleppey India. South Indian food. noolputtu Sri lankan

Thailand has a lot of noodle dishes.

©Santhosh Varghese/Shutterstock.com

Fermented rice noodles, Khanom Chin, are thin and flavorful.

15. Tempeh

Tempeh

Tempeh is a version of fermented soybeans that comes from Indonesia.

©danikancil/iStock via Getty Images

They use a fungus to ferment the beans while retaining the nutrients.

16. Puto

Puto (Rice Cake)

If you’re not a fan of soybeans, these fermented rice cakes are often considered milder in flavor.

©Philippines Impressions/iStock via Getty Images

These rice cakes originate from the Philippines, often served with coffee.

17. Kaymak

Clotted Cream (Click for more)

Kaymak is popular in the Middle East and Central Asia.

©s-cphoto/iStock via Getty Images

Milk that’s heated and lightly fermented for a creamy texture creates Kaymak.

18. Doogh

Glass cup of Turkish traditional drink ayran , kefir or buttermilk made from yogurt, healthy food

This is a Middle Eastern and Central Asian dish.

©mescioglu/iStock via Getty Images

It’s yogurt, but a little thinner and more sour.

19. Bors

romanian serbian dish fish soup (bors peste)

Bors is fermented stock from Romania.

©pfongabe33/iStock via Getty Images

This stock forms the base of sour soup.

20. Chin Som Mok

Pulled pork with vinegar barbecue sauce american style

Thailand’s fermented pork is cooked after fermentation.

©Angel Simon/Shutterstock.com

Chin Som Mok gets wrapped in banana leaves and grilled.

21. Kvass

Homemade Bread kvass dark

Kvass is popular in Slavic and Baltic countries.

©Severga/iStock via Getty Images

Bread, usually rye bread, and other ingredients like spices and fruit create the base for Kvass.

22. Appam

Rajamudi rice appam served with kerala chicken curry.

Appam is a delicious and spongy Indian dish

©Jogy Abraham/iStock via Getty Images

This is a pancake made from a mix of coconut milk and rice batter.

23. Ogiri

castor oil plant

Ogiri is a Nigerian dish.

©iStock.com/NATALIA NOSOVA

It uses poisonous castor seeds that ferment for five days to make them safe to eat.

24. Balao-Balao

The Philippines has a dish not for the weak-stomached.

©Punnatorn Thepsuwanworn, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons - Original / License

Balao-Balao is a very soft dish made from raw shrimp and rice.

25. Dhokla

A variety of different legumes make up this Indian ferment.

©iStock.com/piyaset

This dish is full of flavor thanks to the chickpeas, urad, rice, and pigeon peas.

26. Atchara

Papaya fruit cut open

It’s made with unripe papaya, carrots, and onion, amongst other ingredients.

©iStock.com/PixoStudio

This is another dish from the Philippines.

27. Injera

Ethiopian Dinner Bread

Injera is Ethiopian in origin.

©JeffKearney/iStock via Getty Images

This food uses teff flour and is a spongy and sour flatbread.

28. Kenkey

Whole grain flour

West Africa has their own version of sourdough, usually served as a

swallow

.

©iStock.com/Belyaevskiy

Maize soaked in water and fermented is a popular dish, especially when served with a special pepe hot sauce.

29. Lutefisk

Generic whitefish on white background

Norway’s lutefisk takes some getting used to.

©Natalya Osipova/Shutterstock.com

It involves pickling whitefish in lye until it resembles gelatin.

30. Sauerkraut

Though this is Germany’s national dish, it’s said to have originated in China.

©iStock.com/aronaze

Sauerkraut is made from cabbage fermented with lactic acid.

31. Salami

Cured meat is another popular dish many people might not know is fermented.

©iStock.com/tolisma

Salami involves adding a lot of spices to meat and fermenting for several days before it’s dried.

32. Sumbala

Carob powder and pods

Sumbala is a West African fermented dish.

©CreatiVegan/iStock via Getty Images

Locust beans are boiled and then left to ferment.

33. Surstromming

Sour

herring

might not sound appetizing, but it’s a popular Swedish dish.

©iStock.com/Fudio

Surstromming has a strong smell, and it is highly recommended you don’t open a can indoors.


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About the Author

Nina is a writer at A-Z Animals, FIDIS Travel, and Giant Freakin Robot. Her focus is on wildlife, national parks, and the environment. She has been writing about animals for over three years. Nina holds a Bachelor's in Conservation Biology, which she uses when talking about animals and their natural habitats. In her free time, Nina also enjoys working on writing her novels and short stories. As a resident of Colorado, Nina enjoys getting out in nature, traveling, and watching snow hit the mountains from her enclosed porch.

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