Kanji (Indian Probiotic Drink)

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Kanji, an Indian probiotic drink, by myheartbeets.com
In India, people have traditionally consumed a good amount of fermented foods.

Growing up, my family would make fermented drinks, pickles, achar, even meat. We never used the word “fermented” to describe these things, but that’s what they were. During the fall and winter seasons, my mom would make Kanji, a salty and sour probiotic drink that grew on me as I grew older.

Kanji is a traditional fermented Punjabi drink, only slightly similar to Beet Kvass.

I like to call it “Indian Kombucha.” It’s certainly an acquired taste, but I think true ferment enthusiasts will appreciate the unique flavor. This drink is traditionally used to help aid digestion (and it works, so drink in moderation).

Kanji and Thandai (a delicious creamy beverage) are often the drinks of choice during Holi, an Indian festival of colors.

My mom tells me that in India, her family would make Kanji using black (dark purple) carrots. If these carrots were unavailable, they’d add beetroot to help darken the color of the drink. This recipe uses both carrots and beets. In addition to these two vegetables, you’ll also need black/brown mustard seeds, fine sea salt and filtered water. These simple ingredients make for a unique and complex flavor.

Once you combine all of the ingredients together for this drink, put it in a glass container (I use a half-gallon mason jar) and keep it in a sunny spot inside the house. The amount of time required to create a ferment will depend on the temperature in your home, but this typically takes anywhere from 3 days to 1 week. If it’s colder, it’ll likely take an extra few days.

Taste the drink periodically to see if it’s done.

Once it’s nice and sour, strain it and put it in the fridge to chill. Make sure to save the carrots and beets, they’ll make for tasty pickles!

Kanji, an Indian probiotic drink, by myheartbeets.com

Kanji (Indian Probiotic Drink)

Kanji, an Indian probiotic drink, by myheartbeets.com

Kanji (Indian Probiotic Drink)

4.91 from 11 reviews
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Ingredients
 

  • 1 tablespoon Brown Mustard Seeds crushed
  • 4-5 large carrots peeled
  • 1 large beet peeled
  • 6-7 cups filtered water or enough to cover the vegetables
  • 1 tablespoon Fine Sea Salt

Instructions
 

  • Crush the mustard seeds in a mortar pestle or a coffee grinder (it’s okay if they’re coarsely ground).
  • Chop the carrots and beet into long pieces.
  • Combine all the ingredients in a glass jar (I use a half-gallon mason jar) and cover with a lid or cheesecloth.
  • Let the jar sit in a sunny spot for at least one week - stirring with a wooden spoon daily.
  • Once the kanji develops a tangy flavor, that means the drink is fermented.
  • Strain the drink, save the pickles to enjoy later.
  • Put the drink in the refrigerator to chill.
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Comments

    • Ashley - My Heart Beets says

      Hi, I have only tried this with black/brown mustard seeds. I believe yellow mustard seeds are milder in flavor – so that may affect the outcome of the kanji. If you try, please let me know how it turns out!

  1. Vinod says

    5 stars
    Hi, I live in Buenos Aires Argentina. The climate is generally mild and gets hot for a few weeks only. Pls confirm if I can replace Mustard seeds by some other ingredient ? We do not get mustard seeds here.
    Also, if I prepare Kanji in quantity and wanna keep for weeks – is there anything that I could add to it to make it last longer ?

  2. Anica says

    Thank you for he recipe.

    I live in UK, and its mostly cold here. Will my drink still ferment. Where can I keep it for this process as there is hardly ever any sun here!!

  3. David Shilman says

    Looks delish! With the fermentation, does it develop small amounts of alcohol, like kombucha does? (Or is that from the sugar in kombucha? I’m obviously not a chemist or food scientist! 😉 )

    Thanks!

    • My Heart Beets says

      Thanks David! To be honest… I’m really not sure about the alcohol content but that’s a good question. Hopefully another reader will see this and be able to respond because now I’m curious too lol.

  4. Shantala Bhat says

    I tried this but got some some white and grey foamy spots on the top, on the third day itself.
    Has something gone wrong.
    Shall I discard it?

  5. preeti says

    If i try this in instant pot (yogurt mode). how long i should keep it in ? what do you suggest ?

    • shiva says

      Never ferment things in metal pots or plastic containers. Use clay pots or glass. If you must use metal, make sure it has ceramic layer blocking contact with the metal. Fermentation can react with metals/plastic.

  6. Anna says

    5 stars
    Hi Ashley! Thank you for this wonderful recipe! I love the taste! I’m used to drink kombucha and this is something new. How often do you drink it? How long can it stay? Do you live the pickles without water in the fridge? Thank you!

    • Shilpa says

      5 stars
      I get a thick layer on top on 5 th day with some white fungus growth .. shld I discard the drink .. how many days can the drink be kept in fridge.

    • Shivani says

      Taste it. If it is tangy and tempting, then the foamy texture is only a result of fermentation.
      If the taste is not pleasant, you need to discard it.
      Care must be taken while mixing the ingredients. Jar must be sterile, hands clean.

  7. Vivek Maithel says

    5 stars
    Hi Ashley
    I still am not able to figure out when the ferment process is complete.
    I made mine 2 days back and it looks done.
    I kept in the sun for 2 days.
    Is 2 days sufficient and what should one look for to decide that its been fermentated properly?
    Please advice?
    Thanks
    Vivek

  8. Abha Appasamy says

    Hi Ashley,
    My grandmother used to make Kanji with a number of vegetables and we used to call it paani ka achaar and loved it. Recently I made it with the leftover beetroot pieces after making kvass. In addition to salt and crushed mustard, I also added a pinch of asafoetida and some red chilli powder (pepper flakes) to taste. It was delicious and now we have it regularly with every meal – just can’t do without it! I don’t bother to put it in the sun, just keep it on the kitchen counter, and it does just fine.

  9. Diana says

    Just tried this. I didn’t open it until the 4th day and it smells like sulfur. I still drank it and I think I would like it if it wasn’t for the smell. Has this ever happened to you? Is this because I didn’t open it and stir it?

  10. Nahid says

    Hi,
    Is it normal for the kanji to have bubbles floating to the top and to foam at the top? It’s been 24 hours and the weather is really hot. Also, I used water that was boiled and cooled to room temperature before adding the other ingredients, is that okay?
    Thank you!

  11. Zaib Ali says

    4 stars
    I was looking simple kanji recipie for so long! I remember my Grandma used to make it from washed rice water! I will let you know how it turns! Thanks

  12. Kirsten Thomas says

    Hi, I love the idea of this. Also, my favorite part of my Indian restaurant days was the pickled carrots and tamarind sauces that we used with appetizers. Do you have a recipe for turning these leftover veggies into this sort of pickle? Or better yet, the original recipe for making the carrot pickle (paleo-ified of course!) Thanks! I’m loving your recipes.

    • My Heart Beets says

      Kirsten, my mom makes an awesome carrot pickle so I’ll have to get the recipe from her and share it 🙂 So glad you like the blog – let me know what you think of this if you make it. I’m working on an Indian eBook with 100+ recipes including tamarind sauce and chaat dressing, so stay tuned!

  13. Abby says

    I am so excited to try this! I just mixed it up and now will let it sit. I’ve gotten really into fermenting lately, so it’s good to have another beverage to add to the mix. Thank you!

  14. Dan says

    Hi! This recipe looks great. I’ve been living in Singapore and my apartment is typically between 80 – 90 degrees… I’ve yet to pull off a batch of sauerkraut that doesn’t just rot to death. Do you think this recipe would do well in such a consistently hot environment?

    Thanks!

      • Dan says

        Thanks so much for the reply! I just got everything into the mason jar and it’s time to let ms. nature do her thing. I’ll let you know how it goes…so excited!

    • cmd says

      Dan, have you ever considered putting your kraut vessel into an ice chest with some ‘blue’ ice or a bag of ice cubes [to be changed every few days] to provide a more favorable temperature environment for your kraut fermenting?

    • Abha Appasamy says

      Hi Dan, I live in Chennai, a really hot place, where the temperature is far hotter than needed to make sauerkraut. And yet, I make great sauerkraut. This is how I do it:
      Salt and crush the cabbage and whatever else you choose to add to it, until it releases water. Pack it in your jar or container (I use a stainless steel cylindrical container with a plate that just fits inside to weigh the cabbage down) and weigh down to keep it under the liquid. Keep it in your bedroom or a cool place for a day or two until it bubbles vigorously, then transfer to the refrigerator and leave it for 10 days to 2 weeks. Then taste to see if you need to leave it longer. When it is right, I take it out and pack it into smaller jars and put them back in the fridge. I make a lot at a time, as it improves with keeping, and store in the fridge until it is gone. My proportion is 2.25 – 2.5% salt to the weight of the cabbage for crunchy, delicious sauerkraut. If it is too salty, pour out some of the liquid and replace with filtered water, and it will tone it down. Hope you see this and it is helpful!

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