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Pickling vs. Fermentation: What's The Difference?

Posted by Meghan Wilson on
Pickling vs. Fermentation: What's The Difference?

Pickling vs. fermenting -- what’s the difference? Well, these two methods are ways to naturally preserve foods and can give some delicious, tangy results. Here’s what sets them apart from each other: 

The Difference Between Pickling and Fermenting

Both pickling and fermenting produce different results. But you may wonder- is pickling fermentation? What’s the difference? 


Pickling is the act of soaking foods in an acidic liquid (salt, acid, or alcohol) to achieve a sour flavor. Pickling can be used with most foods, including fruits, veggies, meats, seafood, and eggs.  It changes both the taste and texture of food. It also involves heat, which serves to destroy and inhibit the growth of any microorganisms. 

The fastest and most hassle-free pickling involves vinegar along with sugar, salt, and, on occasion, various herbs and spices that are brought to a boil and then poured over fruits or veggies to soak for a short period of time. Although vinegar is a product of fermentation, pickled foods are not fermented by default because they do not produce the same probiotic and enzymatic properties that exist in fermented foods. 

Pickled foods that are not fermented don’t offer the probiotic and enzyme benefits of fermented foods because they are typically heated for sterilization and preservation purposes during the canning stage. However, when heated and canned, pickled foods can be stored at room temperature much longer than fermented food.


When foods are fermented, the familiar tangy flavor is a direct result of a chemical reaction between a food’s sugars and natural bacteria - no added acid required. Fermented food is preserved by the bacteria. One bacteria you see a lot in fermented foods is called Lactobacillus, a bacteria that eat natural sugars and carbs and produces lactic acid and other health benefits. The lactic acid preserves the food and adds to its flavor. Home fermented foods contain probiotics and enzymes that offer health and digestion benefits. It’s important to note that these foods need to be chilled. 

The Overlap

Fermented, not pickled - Yogurt, sourdough bread, beer, kefir, cheese, kombucha, sauerkraut, and Cleveland Kitchen products are all fermented foods that are not pickled. The foods are not preserved in an acidic space, and the fermentation process doesn’t have enough acidity to qualify them as pickled. 

Pickled, not fermented- Store-bought pickles or anything labeled “quick-pickled” is not a fermented food. 

Why We Need Fermented Foods 

We all need fermented foods in our lives because they are rich in probiotic bacteria. By consuming fermented foods you are adding beneficial bacteria and enzymes to your gut-health, microbiome, and immune system. 


Fermented foods are easier to digest because they already have some of the sugar and starches in food broken down through the fermentation process. 

Nutrient Dense 

Fermentation can also increase the availability of vitamins and minerals for our bodies to absorb. Additionally, by boosting the beneficial bacteria in your gut, you are promoting vitamins B and K.  

Immune function

A large proportion of the immune system is housed in the gut. By consuming probiotic-rich foods, you are supporting the gut lining as a natural barrier, making the immune system more powerful. A lack of beneficial bacteria can allow disease-causing microbes to grow and cause inflammation in the gut wall. 

Mood and Behavior

Technically called the enteric nervous system, the gut is lined with neurons that can influence our emotions and feelings. Serotonin (a neurotransmitter involved in mood) is made in the gut and some research further suggests that as probiotic bacteria contribute to a healthy gut, they are also linked to a healthy mind.


Taking a probiotic supplement has become popular. But make sure you read the ingredients list and do your research because some bacteria do not survive transit, manufacturing practices, and heat damage--especially if not stored properly. It can be tricky to make sure you are taking the right supplements, so rest assured that Cleveland Kitchen’s fermented foods, including their sauerkrauts, are an easy way to incorporate probiotics into your favorite meals! 

For more information about probiotics and why we need them, check out our article here

Cleveland Kitchen 

Our krauts and dressings are inviting fermented foods to new and celebratory occasions. Our team truly believes that fermented foods are key to a healthier diet, and we want to make it effortless for people to savor them on any occasion. Try one of our favorite recipes and enjoy the benefits of fermented foods and delicious flavor! Throw together this savory-sweet vegan wrap for a quick work-from-home lunch and sit back while your taste buds enjoy the show.

The Sweet Beet Tofu Wrap 


  • 2 cups cooked, marinated tofu cubes - We used Hodo Foods Southern Barbeque Tofu Cubes
  • 1/4 cup Sweet Beet dressing
  • 1/2 cup vegan mozzarella cheese shreds
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, minced
  • 4 8 '' tortillas (choose any tortilla that matches your diet)


  • Place tortillas on a clean flat surface. Add 1/2 cup cooked tofu, 1 tablespoon Sweet Beet dressing, 2 tablespoons of cheese, and 1 tablespoon of minced cilantro on each tortilla.
  • Fold tightly to form a burrito shape.
  • Heat a heavy-duty pan or grill to medium heat. Coat with a light layer or oil or cooking spray and cook wraps for approx. 1-2 minutes on each side. Remove from heat, slice in half, and serve immediately.

Quick Tip

Use a grill pan or a panini press to get ridged grill marks on your wraps!

Try any of these delicious recipes curated by our culinary team, or help us kraut-source by submitting your recipes here or showing us how you #clevelandkitchen on Instagram and Facebook.






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