It is really easy to get probiotics naturally in your diet when eating plant-based foods. I will be discussing foods like kimchi and sauerkraut, as well as tempeh and miso. But there are also a few tasty drink options in there too, like kombucha and kefir.
For each, I will provide a recipe or serving suggestion to help you incorporate these delicious vegan probiotic foods into your diet.
So, let’s make our gut’s day. Here are some of the best vegan probiotic foods you should incorporate into your diet.
Recommended reading: Do probiotics work?
Kimchi is a traditional Korean dish made by fermenting vegetables with salt, chilli peppers (usually gochujang), garlic, ginger, and other seasonings. The primary ingredient in kimchi is usually Napa cabbage, but other vegetables such as radishes, carrots, and cucumbers can also be used.
Kimchi is considered a probiotic because it is made through the process of lacto-fermentation, which involves the growth of beneficial bacteria in the food. During the fermentation process, the bacteria break down the natural sugars in the vegetables, producing lactic acid and other compounds that give kimchi its distinctively tangy flavour.
Do be careful when ordering pre-made kimchi at a restaurant or buying it in a supermarket because it is traditionally made using fish sauce and/or shrimp. Many places offer vegan versions though!
Serving suggestion: make a vegan kimchi toastie or try out any of the recipes in my guide on cooking with vegan kimchi
Sauerkraut is a traditional German dish made by fermenting finely sliced cabbage with salt. The fermentation process involves the growth of beneficial bacteria, which break down the natural sugars in the cabbage, producing lactic acid and other compounds that give sauerkraut its characteristic sour taste. It is similar to kimchi, but with no chilli spicing.
Sauerkraut is a vegan-friendly probiotic food that can be enjoyed on its own or used as a condiment for sandwiches, salads, and other dishes. It is also a good source of vitamin C and other nutrients.
If you are buying sauerkraut then make sure to buy one that isn’t pasteurised so that the live cultures are still inside it.
Serving suggestion: mix it into a vegan potato salad for a tangy crunch or use it in a sandwich with slices of marinated tempeh
Tempeh is a traditional Indonesian food made by fermenting cooked soybeans with a type of fungus called Rhizopus oligosporus. The fermentation process binds the soybeans together into a firm, nutty-tasting cake.
As a result of this fermentation process, tempeh is rich in probiotics. Simply slice it up, fry it or bake it and add it to sandwiches, salads, and curries. This is one of my favourite ways of eating plant-based probiotics!
Miso is a traditional Japanese food made by fermenting soybeans with a type of fungus called Aspergillus oryzae, along with salt and sometimes other grains such as rice or barley. The fermentation process can take anywhere from a few months to a few years, depending on the desired flavour and texture.
During the fermentation process, the fungus breaks down the proteins and carbohydrates in the soybeans and other ingredients, producing a range of complex flavours and aromas.
If you do cook the miso into something like a miso soup then make sure to use warm water, not boiling hot, since high temperatures can cook off the good bacteria.
Kombucha is a fermented drink made by fermenting sweetened tea with a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). The fermentation process produces live bacteria and yeasts.
To make kombucha, a SCOBY is added to sweetened tea and left to ferment for several days or up to a few weeks. During the fermentation process, the bacteria and yeast in the SCOBY feed on the sugar in the tea, producing organic acids, enzymes, and other compounds that give kombucha its characteristic tangy taste and fizzy texture. Check out my favourite kombucha in my Hip Pop review or browse other great brands in my full guide to the best kombucha.
Serving suggestion: drink it as it is in a glass with some ice
6. Sourdough bread
Sourdough bread is a type of bread made using a natural fermentation process that involves wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria. This fermentation process gives sourdough bread its characteristic tangy flavour and chewy texture and also makes it a probiotic food.
The fermentation process begins by mixing together flour and water to make a sourdough starter. During this time, wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria naturally present in the environment begin to grow and multiply within the starter. This starter is then used to create a loaf of bread, in place of pre-bought yeast.
Be careful when buying pre-made sourdough bread since many brands claim their loaf is a sourdough loaf when it is actually just flavoured with sourdough. You can normally tell when they have ‘yeast’ listed in the ingredients since you don’t need pre-made yeast to make a sourdough loaf.
Serving suggestion: slice some sourdough bread and top it with some delicious smoked carrot lox and vegan cream cheese
Vegan kefir is a fermented drink made using a combination of water, plant-based milk, and kefir grains, which are a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. The fermentation process produces live bacteria and yeasts.
To make vegan kefir, the kefir grains are added to a mixture of water and plant-based milk, such as soy, almond, or coconut milk. The mixture is then left to ferment for several hours or up to a day, depending on the desired flavour and texture. During the fermentation process, the bacteria and yeast in the kefir grains feed on the sugar in the milk, producing organic acids, enzymes, and other compounds that give kefir its characteristic tangy taste and fizzy texture.
Do be careful when buying kefir in the supermarket as most of it is made using cow’s milk. You can find many variations made using plant-based milk as well as water.
Serving suggestion: blend some water kefir into your morning smoothie or into a vegan protein powder shake
8. Dairy-free yoghurt
Dairy-free yoghurt is a plant-based alternative to traditional yoghurt that is made using a fermentation process similar to that used to make dairy-based yoghurt. The fermentation process involves the use of live cultures, or probiotics, that convert the natural sugars in the milk alternative into lactic acid, which gives the yoghurt its tangy flavour and thick, creamy texture.
To make dairy-free yoghurt, a milk alternative such as soy, almond, coconut, or cashew milk is heated and then cooled to a specific temperature. A small amount of a yoghurt starter culture containing live cultures is then added to the milk and the mixture is incubated at a specific temperature for several hours. During this time, the live cultures feed on the natural sugars in the milk alternative, converting them into lactic acid and other compounds that give the yoghurt its characteristic taste and texture.
Sometimes the probiotics are removed from the yoghurt after it is made, so do make sure to buy one that says it contains ‘live cultures’.
9. Pickled vegetables
Pickled vegetables are a type of probiotic food that is made through the process of fermentation. During fermentation, naturally occurring bacteria consume the sugars in the vegetables and produce lactic acid, which preserves the vegetables and gives them a tangy flavour.
To make pickled vegetables, fresh vegetables such as cucumbers, carrots, onions, or cabbage are first washed and sliced. They are then placed in a jar or container along with salt, spices, and other flavourings such as garlic or dill. A brine is added to the jar, which is made by dissolving salt in water, and the jar is sealed and left to ferment at room temperature for several days or up to several weeks, depending on the desired flavour and texture.
As the vegetables ferment, they release carbon dioxide, which creates a natural pressure in the jar and helps to preserve the vegetables. The lactic acid produced during fermentation also helps to create a sour and tangy flavour.
Did you know that brine from a jar of pickles is used as a hangover cure in certain countries in Europe?
10. Probiotic supplements
If fermented foods aren’t quite your thing, then you may be much keener on the idea of taking a vegan probiotic supplement instead. Whilst I would encourage you to incorporate at least a few fermented foods into your diet, because they are a really natural way of consuming probiotics, these supplements also do a great job of looking after your gut.
I would recommend water-based probiotics, like Symprove’s probiotic drink, since they are more likely to reach the right place in your gut without being digested first. But you can also benefit a lot from powdered capsule probiotics if taken correctly!
I have tried a lot of these supplements myself to help with my gut issues and have put together a guide on the best ones: