Vegan sources of probiotics exist, but you have to be careful to double-check labels. Most probiotics are made with milk, like kefir or yogurt, or other animal products That said, vegan probiotics do exist and are available as food items and supplements alike. Learn more about vegan probiotics and supplements below.
The Best Vegan Probiotic Foods
Traditional sauerkraut contains just a handful of basic ingredients: cabbage, water, and salt. When left to ferment, Lactobacilli bacteria growing naturally on the cabbage eat the sugars in the cabbage leaves, producing lactic acid. Along with its high probiotic content, sauerkraut is also rich in potassium, manganese, folate, and copper, along with vitamins B6, C, and K. Sauerkraut is also high in fiber and low in calories.1
Applying the same process to other vegetables will yield similar results. Salt, water, and a vegetable of your choice sets the foundation for lacto-fermentation, allowing for one of the most nutritious probiotic foods for vegan diets.
Kimchi comes in various forms, but the most popular type of kimchi comprises Napa cabbage left to ferment with a mix of salt and spices. This results in a good source of Lactobacilli, fiber, and antioxidants.2
It should be noted that most packaged kimchi and kimchi served at restaurants are not strictly vegetarian or vegan as they may contain fish sauce, oysters, squid, or other salted seafood, which provides a deep, briny, umami flavor and contributes to the fermentation process. Check the label or consider making your own kimchi that omits seafood.3
Kombucha is a fermented tea brewed using a Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeasts (SCOBY), which provides the probiotics in the beverage. Scientific reviews on kombucha suggest that it may support health by contributing to detoxification, providing antioxidant properties, promoting energy, and stimulating depressed immunities.4
Kombucha can be bought pre-packaged and bottled, but we recommend brewing kombucha at home using a pathogen-free SCOBY. SCOBY starters can be bought online or in health food stores.
Traditional kefir is made using milk that has been fermented with kefir grains, which comprise cultures of bacteria, yeasts, and lactic acid. Instead of using milk, water kefir uses sugar water, coconut water, or juice that is cultured and fermented with water kefir grains. This gives you the probiotics and nutrition of traditional kefir without the dairy. The taste and consistency resemble kombucha, but water kefir offers a quicker process without the caffeine.5
Water kefir can be made at home using water kefir grains available online or in health food stores. The grains can also be cultivated and used over several years when taken care of properly.
Miso is a fermented soybean paste that can be used in soups, sauces, braises, and more. It is made using soybeans, salt, and a koji starter that usually contains a strain of probiotic yeast known as Aspergillus oryzae, which may present powerful anti-inflammatory properties.6
General Tips for the Best Vegan Probiotic Foods
- Read the label – If you purchase these probiotic foods from a store, make sure you read the label and look for animal-based ingredients or additives. Keep an eye on added sugars, salt, and preservatives as well.
- Avoid pasteurized foods – While some vegan-friendly packaged foods may proclaim that they are rich in probiotics, they may have gone through pasteurization. The pasteurization process kills off bacteria, including the helpful bacteria found in the food.
- Do it yourself – Many probiotic foods for vegan diets are easy to make at home, requiring only a few basic ingredients and time for fermentation. Making your own probiotic vegan foods can save you money and helps you control the exact ingredients that go into the end product.
Choosing the Best Vegan Probiotic Supplement
If you don’t have the time to make these foods or don’t like how they taste, you should consider taking a supplement instead. However, not all probiotic supplements are vegan-friendly. Some contain milk byproducts in the form of dairy powder or casein (a protein found in milk). Some supplements are made using bovine gelatin. A vegan probiotic supplement should outright state that it uses only plant-based ingredients, but make sure to read the label carefully.
Are probiotics vegan? Many probiotics contain milk or animal byproducts but there are still plenty of vegan-friendly options. You can make your own vegan probiotics or consider taking a vegan probiotic supplement such as DrFormulas™ Nexabiotic® Saccharomyces Boulardii Probiotics.
DrFormulas Vegan Prebiotics