Dilly beans the fermented way

dilly beans ready to eat

I’ve written an easy salt brine pickle recipe for living, lacto-fermented dilly beans, which are traditionally a vinegar preserve. Now that green bean season is in full swing, here it is.

dilly beans ingredients

Ingredients to fill a one-quart mason jar:
-1/4 jalapeno pepper. Use more if you like it spicy.
-1/2 bunch of fresh dill
-3 cloves of garlic
-about 1 tsp celery seed
-enough green beans to fill up your jar
-2 cups water mixed with 1.5 tbsp sea salt (non-iodized)

Dilly beans in the jar

Chop off the tough bits at the end of the beans and the rough ends of the stalks of dill. Throw the garlic into the bottom of the jar. Jam in half the beans, standing upright. Stick the bunch of dill and the pepper into the middle of the jar, then fill in the outside edges with the rest of the beans. Pour in the celery seeds and shake them around the jar. Add enough brine to cover the veggies. Keep the veggies submerged and away from the mold-carrying air by placing a smaller jar full of water as a weight as in this post.

Dilly beans ready to go

Leave them in a dark place for one to three weeks with the smaller jar holding the beans under the brine and a towel draped over the top to protect them from bugs and dust. When they taste the way you like, put a lid on them and stick them in the fridge.

For a traditional vinegar pickle recipe for dilly beans, see the one here in Katz’s book Wild Fermentation.

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  1. hellaD’s avatar

    These beans look fantastic! Great photos and yum that recipe sounds good too. I love your recipes.

  2. Joe’s avatar

    I am on day 7 of fermenting, and they taste awesome. I randomly came across your website, and I’d really like to thank you for introducing me to the fascinating world of salt brine pickling. I finally have something to do with the veggies my neighbor is always giving us from her garden!

  3. Eric’s avatar

    Glad to hear it, Joe!

  4. Kris @ Attainable Sustainable’s avatar

    So, I made these. After a couple of weeks I pulled them out of the cupboard. There was mold around the upper edge of the jar. The weighted glass jar plan isn’t air tight, and I’ve heard that a little mold growth can happen with fermentation, so I wiped it off. I sampled a bean – not bad! Then I looked down and saw little wormy things crawling around the edge of the jar.

    I had the jar with the weight covered with a cloth and they were situated in a dark cupboard. I suspect the wormies were maggots – maybe fruit fly? (I’m in the tropics, and they are a problem here.)

    Is there a reason that I can’t use a lid? Expansion? Explosions? I’d love to try this again, but don’t want bug in the beans!

  5. Eric’s avatar

    @Kris Some mold on the surface of the brine is common. The important thing is to keep the veggies under the brine—so in that sense the veggies should be airtight, or sealed from the air. Air will always touch the top of the brine, even if you put a lid on the jar, so it’s possible that mold would grow even if you used a lid on top of the jar after weighting the veggies to keep them under the brine. Using a lid would probably help keep the flies away, though. If you use a lid, I recommend screwing the lid on loosely so that carbon dioxide can escape rather than building up. Or you could screw the lid on tight and then loosen it every few days to release gas trapped inside. As for the worm/fly, was it also in the veggies or only on the lip of the jar? If the veggies were under the brine, they should be safe from bugs and worms. Also, if you’re in the tropics I bet you could get away with a shorter fermentation time, which would give mold less of a chance to build up on the surface of the water. I’m in the San Francisco area and I usually let my pickles go a week to 10 days in the summer and two weeks in the winter. Taste them as you go to get them just right (which also gives you a chance to clear any mold as it starts on the surface).

    Another option for sealing the veggies from the air is to ferment them in a jar or crockpot that has straight sides and to find a plate or cut a disk of (untreated) wood that is just a little smaller than the diameter of the pot. To see a picture of this technique, check out my post on making sauerkraut. You put the veggies in the pot, add the brine, place the plate or wooden disk on top of them, and then put a weight on top of the plate/disk. That way you get a very even pressure on your veggies and can worry less about one or two popping up out of the brine and touching the air where they might grow mold.

  6. Magda @ No Food Diet’s avatar

    WOW!!! OMG, these were amazing! They completely blew my mind. I’ve never made dilly beans before and never even heard of them before seeing them online, but I thought I would try them. I had no idea what to expect when I checked them after a week, but they were so delicious that I ate ten right in a row while standing at the jar. The first jar went so fast, I can’t wait to make more! Thank you so much for this recipe!

  7. paul’s avatar

    Eric, thanks for the recipie. I fermented mine for 3 weeks but NOT in the dark… the top has a little white floating (mold?) but I’m more worried about the garlic! It’s starting to turn green. The beans taste great but I’m wondering if I should be eating them or not! Any suggestions? Thanks again! -paul

  8. Eric’s avatar

    @Paul, the blue color is a normal reaction. Depending on where you read, the acidity of the pickle brine either releases sulfur that’s normal in the garlic, which combines with traces of copper to make greenish blue copper sulfate in small amounts, or the acidity causes naturally present pigments called anthocyanins to change color. On that second explanation, see the second page of this UC Davis fact sheet. As for the floaters, just spoon them off and enjoy the beans!

  9. paul’s avatar

    @Eric: Exactly the response I was hoping for. You, sir, are the man. Thanks, again!

  10. Jeanette Paganetti’s avatar

    So glad I found you, I haven’t done this in a couple of years and couldn’t remember if I had to partially cook the beans first, now I know and even have more info to try, thanks a bunch!!!!!!!

  11. May’s avatar

    Mine are on week two and they are soooo salty! What is going on with these things? Will the saltiness go away the longer I ferment or am I stuck with salty beans?

  12. Eric’s avatar

    Hi May, before eating the beans you can rise them off, which helps a little. You can also take them out of the brine and put them in fresh water in the fridge for a few days and that could pull some of the salt out. I wouldn’t leave them in the fresh water for an extended period, but a little while should be fine. Next time go for a less salty brine until you find a level that you like.

  13. Franka’s avatar

    My beans have been fermenting in a crock-pot on the counter for two weeks. When they get put into jars and into the ‘fridge to stop the ferment (do I want to stop this process now?), do I use the original brine or make up a new batch?

  14. Eric’s avatar

    Hi Franka, You can put the beans in the fridge whenever you like their flavor. More time will make them more tangy. They’ll also keep changing in the fridge, just more slowly. And I would jar them in the same brine, which will have citric acid in it from the fermentation, which will help preserve the beans. The brine can also be a tasty addition to things like a salad dressing or a bloody Mary. Even when the pickles are done I often save some of the brine for other uses.

  15. Toni Kulma’s avatar

    Can you use dill seeds instead of fresh dill. I have some of the seeds already.

  16. Eric’s avatar

    Go for it Toni. I think the flavor will be a little different with the dill seeds but that doesn’t mean it will be any worse. I throw in other spices sometimes or whatever I have on hand that sounds good.

  17. Darcy’s avatar

    Hi there. My beans were delish but mushy. This has never happened before The brine was hot when I put it in. Is this the reason? Flavor good but miss the crispness.

    Second ques, I read that you can “can” these by draining the liquid, boiling it for five minutes, and then adding back to jars to then process. Is this true? I hope so! Thanks!

  18. Toni Kulma’s avatar

    Darcy, if you used hot brine, that is what probably made them mushy. Maybe you partially cooked them…. Mine turned out perfectly but I used room temperature water. You can “can” the beans but it will kill the probiotics. If you want to make canned dilly beans there are recipes on the web for that. In fact I made canned dilly beans before I made fermented ones thinking that is the taste I was trying to duplicate. Since I was really looking for live cultures to eat, I still have 4 quarts of canned dilly beans on a shelf in my basement. I will try them this winter sometime, since I am in no hurry to eat them now. (And I have 3 quarts of delicious of fermented dilly beans in my fridge.)

  19. Lori’s avatar

    I’m going to try this recipe today. I have lots of fresh, tender beans still in the garden and frost is coming!

    I’m drawn to this recipe because you don’t suggest blanching them first, like everyone else does. I’d really rather leave them raw for crunch and enzyme activity. There is a debate about whether these will “work” if they aren’t blanched first. Glad to see yours worked raw and others have had success.

  20. Patricia’s avatar

    How long can dilly beans be kept in the fridge? I have had mine for over a year. One of the three jars tastes ok the other two seemed a bit off. ( I dumped those)

  21. Eric’s avatar

    Patricia, I’ve kept ferments that long (and even longer) and still used them, so if it tastes ok then enjoy.

  22. martinorama’s avatar

    HI there, I’m currently fermenting raw green beans and i just stumbled over some articles which say that:

    “Raw Runner Beans Can be poisonous:

    Raw beans are poisonous because they contain prussic (hydrocyanic) acid, which is rendered not dangerous only by cooking. It was only in 1957 that prussic acid protein was discovered in green beans.

    A few hours after eating raw beans or bean seeds, some individuals become sick from low blood pressure, vomiting, stomach ache, circulation problems, convulsions, or heart palpitations. These poison symptoms are possible with all beans. The susceptibility to these reactions to beans is heriditary.

    Always cook your Runner beans properly and always cook other green beans also as this removes any danger by altering the chemicals in them, unless your sure your raw variety contains less of the poisonous chemicals.”

    is this correct? can you ferment raw beans and there is no issue as described above?

    very curious about this. thanks for help in advance.


  23. Eric’s avatar

    Hi M, I hadn’t heard about that. For dilly beans I use green beans, also called string beans, not runner beans. As for dried beans, when they’re fermented, either the resulting mash is cooked afterward (in Indian dosa batter, for instance) or else the beans are cooked before being fermented (like the soybeans used in miso), which would take care of the tough chemicals and fibers of mature beans. I do see references online to people eating runner beans raw when they are very young, but like I said, I don’t know about how much cyanogen they contain or how dangerous they might be.

  24. Angela’s avatar

    Hi there. I just found your website. We let some of our green beans get too large and they are a bit fibrous (not quite woody, but a little tough). Will these soften up by pickling them or should we just give them to the animals? Thanks!

  25. Eric’s avatar

    I’m afraid I don’t have high hopes, Angela. My best guess is that they’d end up too soft in some spots and still stringy in others.


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