Kvass: Ukraine’s Version of Kombucha

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Long before hipsters (like me) drank kombucha, Ukrainian’s and other Slavs drank kvass. What is it? It’s a fermented beverage traditionally made from rye-bread. Today there are so many kvass recipes that go beyond bread and incorporate other healthy ingredients such as apple cider vinegar. Just like kombucha, kvass is non-alcoholic although it naturally contains some alcoholic content since it is fermented.

Kvass, which means “leaven,” is a popular drink in many Slavic countries especially Ukraine, Russia and Belarus. Like many popular foods in Europe, discussing their origin can cause debate. In Russia, it was referred to as a Russian cola despite tasting like a fizzy bread drink. According to Russiapedia, kvass was first mentioned in Old Russian Chronicles in the year 989! This is 50 centuries ago, around the same time that beer production began.

“Kvass is made by the natural fermentation of bread, such as wheatrye, or barley, and sometimes flavoured using fruitberriesraisins, or birch sap collected in the early spring. Modern homemade kvass most often uses black or regular rye bread, usually dried (called plural suhari), baked into croutons, or fried, with the addition of sugar or fruit (e.g. apples or raisins), and with a yeast culture and zakvaska (“kvass fermentation starter“).”


In the times of Old Russia, it developed into a national drink and was consumed by all, from the poor to the Tsars. The peak of its popularity was the 15th and 16th centuries, where every Russian on average drank 200 to 250 liters per year. Even back then, there were already many different varieties: red, white, sweet, sour, mint, honey, berry and more. Every city and town also had their own local specialty.

Today, kvass remains a popular beverage in Eastern Europe. Keto-dieters beware, this drink is not your friend. A 16 fl oz (approx. 500 ml) bottle contains 129 calories. There is under 1 gram of fat, 3.9 grams of protein and a whopping 29 grams of carbs which makes it 83% carbs. However, it is considered healthy. It is said to improve digestion and boost metabolism. It helps prevent infections and keep the heart and circulatory system healthy.

There are a lot of types of kvass, see here. The feature image is from Ukrainian-recipes.com.


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