Cooking with Kombucha

Kombucha is most often consumed as a beverage, either alone, with a meal or even in a cocktail. My recent training as a plant-based chef unleashed a series of ideas for cooking with kombucha. Cooking with kombucha allows a chef to add the beneficial properties of this fermented beverage to an array of foods.

Cooking with tea, or fermented tea, provides an option for people trying to avoid fats in their diet. A liquid is necessary to soften the food while sautéing. Often chefs utilize soup stock in this manner. Depending on the flavor of the kombucha, it can substitute for a sweet or citrusy taste in the finished product. My cooking style is to take a recipe as a base for inspiration and then vary it with substitutions or alternatives.

One easy substitution is with the preparation of instant oatmeal packets. Substitute some of the water with kombucha to add some flavor and health benefits. When sautéing vegetables, you can start your pan with water or soup stock, later adding oil and some kombucha as the food begins cooking. Those are effortless ways to use up the few last sips in the bottle sticking around in the fridge.

For Passover, the Jewish holiday, charoset is a traditional holiday food. It is a mixture of chopped nuts, dried fruits, and spices, usually soaked with wine to hold it together. It is created as a symbol of mortar for building brick walls, with the consistency of a chunky condiment. For the holiday this year, I soaked dried cherries and dehydrated apples in kombucha until they were softened. I then ground pecans, almonds, and the fruit with some of the liquid in the food processor, adding cinnamon and nutmeg to taste. The finished product was remarkably delicious. I used Joan Nathan’s recipe as a foundation for my creation.

Marinating with kombucha is another trick I have started to use. When making a raw vegetable salad, it can help soften the vegetables as the salad begins to meld together. My greatest success has been with thinly sliced fennel on the mandolin. When assembling the salad, I add the kombucha, dill pickle juice and lime juice to cover the ingredients. The flavor we had brewed was blood orange kombucha, so it complemented the remaining ingredients of blood orange chunks, black olives, fresh dill, and pistachios. The recipe from Nerds with Knives was a good place to start.

One recent experiment was a failure. I replaced the kombucha in my raw cucumber/red onion salad but the kombucha soaked the cucumbers too much and they were mushy. I think the trick is to use a stronger-flavored, harder vegetable, such as carrots, beets or celery root.

When creating muffins with my sourdough starter, I often utilize kombucha as one of the liquids in a sweet mixture. I have the starter ready and add the liquid when I add oil and other flavoring elements. Often, I soak dried fruit in the same manner as the charoset and add both to the baked items.
Knowing that my husband is a willing consumer of any of my odd culinary concoctions encourages me to keep trying. Back to the drawing board for more experiments.