Like ginger bugs, a turmeric bug is a delicious, living probiotic drink that’s naturally carbonated. In this article, you’ll find out the easiest method to make your own turmeric bug in 5-7 days, plus the best varieties of turmeric to use to make it!
Each summer, we grow enough turmeric and ginger in our garden to last us the rest of the year. Why not just get store bought rhizomes? A couple reasons:
- we use beyond organic no-till growing methods, and
- we enjoy growing unusual varieties that probably aren’t going to be available in a typical grocery store.
Our three favorites ginger and turmeric cultivars that we’ve tried thus far:
- ‘Bubba baba’ blue ginger,
- ‘White Mango’ turmeric, and
- ‘Indira Yellow’ turmeric.
(Read our article about how to grow your own organic ginger and turmeric.)
How to use lots of turmeric or ginger? Make a “bug”!
Both turmeric and ginger rhizomes store easily, so we eat tons of them throughout the year. However, one of our favorite things to do with our turmeric and ginger rhizomes is make fermented probiotic drinks, often referred to as “bugs.”
What is a ginger or turmeric bug?
A ginger or turmeric bug is a fast-fermented beverage/tonic resulting from naturally occurring bacteria and yeast. The process is similar to that used to make other fermented beverages like wine, beer, and kombucha, albeit bugs are much faster to make.
Plus, you don’t have to add specific strains of yeast to make bugs like you do when making wine or beer.
Do ginger and turmeric bugs contain alcohol?
During the fermentation process, a very small amount of alcohol is created in your bug as the bacteria and yeast digest the sugar. The exact ABV will vary by how long you let your bug ferment, the temperature in your home, and other factors.
No need to worry though — due to the relatively short fermentation time, your ginger or turmeric bug is unlikely to contain more alcohol than vinegar, which is somewhere around 2%.
How do you use ginger and turmeric bugs?
We enjoy using our bugs as an after dinner digestif or as a flavorful addition to other adult beverages.
However, bugs are also great used similarly to a sourdough starter… You can use a small portion of your ginger/turmeric bug to kickstart the fermentation process in other drinks such as sweetened herbal teas and fruit juices. (The general ratio is about 1 part bug to 7 parts sweetened drink, but ratios vary for other drinks.)
The yeast and bacteria in the bugs quickly begin digesting the sugars in these beverages, off-gassing CO2 in the process. Once bottled and refrigerated after a few days to bring fermentation to a halt, the remaining CO2 makes the drinks bubbly and effervescent.
This basic process utilizing ginger and turmeric bugs can create true, low-sugar sodas, root beers, and other bubbly probiotic beverages.
An easier way to make ginger and turmeric bugs
Lots of websites have instructions for making ginger bugs. A few have turmeric bug recipes as well.
They all use the same basic recipe and instructions: add 1 tablespoon of grated ginger/turmeric root + 1 tablespoon of sugar + 3 tablespoons of water to a jar. Stir twice per day plus add the same quantity of ingredients each day to increase the total volume gradually over the course of a week.
Is this necessary? Or can you make a single large batch turmeric/ginger bug all at once, stir it twice a day, and be done within a week?
To make sure we weren’t simply biased towards our standard way of making ginger and turmeric bugs, we did a side-by-side comparison using our easier all-at-once recipe versus the standard bit-by-bit method recommended elsewhere. See notes below recipe for details.
Our turmeric bug recipe:
Easy turmeric bug (with white or orange turmeric)
Here's the easiest and fastest way to make a delicious probiotic turmeric bug using white and orange turmeric.
- 1 cup grated turmeric (skin on) densely packed
- 1 cup organic cane sugar
- 2.5 cups lukewarm water (we also used our town's high quality tap water, but you may opt for bottled water instead)
- 1/2 tsp citric acid or 2 Tbsp lemon juice
Put all ingredients in jar, stir until sugar dissolved. Cover jar with breathable cloth, such as a paper towel, linen, cheese cloth, etc held in place by a rubber band. Leave at room temperature out of sunlight.
Stir vigorously every 12 hours. We stir once in the morning, once at night before bed.
Strain and bottle after no more than 7 days — or once the taste and bubbles are to your liking. The longer the bug ferments, the lower the sugar and the "dryer" the final product. It may also develop off flavors if allowed to ferment too long.
Additional turmeric bug recipe notes:
- Despite the ratios being the same, our all-at-once turmeric bug recipe began fermenting faster (visible bubbles on the second day) versus the standard recipe (which didn’t show signs of fermentation until a day later). We’re not quite sure why this would be the case — perhaps more material being present allowed for faster, more robust microbial inoculation?
- Our method requires a lot less time and effort. Just stir twice daily, no need to add more turmeric, sugar, and water every day.
- Our method produces a better (or at least as good as) final product more quickly. We strained, bottled, and refrigerated our turmeric bug after 5 days at ~70°F, but the standard recipe batches needed to go at least a day longer, based on our taste preferences.
- ‘White Mango’ turmeric produces a milder, more nuanced piny-flavored turmeric bug than ‘Indira Yellow’ turmeric, which is fairly strong-flavored (still delicious if you like turmeric as much as we do). There are also black turmeric varieties that are far more potent in flavor than the varieties we used, but these would likely be better for purely medicinal tonics than beverages made with flavor in mind.
Turmeric bug recipe: turmeric bug lemonade
We’ll be enjoying small glasses of our turmeric bugs as nightly digestifs for months to come.
We also made a tasty turmeric bug lemonade concoction with some of our Meyer lemons that turned out great. Quick recipe & instructions:
- 1 cup turmeric bug
- 1/2 cup fresh squeezed Meyer lemon juice
- 2 cups water
- Stir twice daily for at least three days (or taste and bubbles are where you like it) then bottle and enjoy! We’ll create new turmeric bug recipes with seasonal fruits and herbs to share with you in the future.
In the meantime, we recommend that you get your own ginger or turmeric bugs started today!
Similar articles to sink your teeth into:
- How to grow your own organic ginger and turmeric
- Recipe: chewy ginger candy
- How to make quick-pickled daikon radishes (and other veggies)
- How to make the best homemade milk kefir
- Fermentation: how to tend your microbial garden for better health
- How to make elderflower kombucha
- Turning edible wild flowers into sparkling cordials
- Recipe: chickweed wine? Yes, and it’s really good!
- Tony & Andrea’s pumpkin champagne recipe
- Tepache recipe: how to turn pineapple skins into a delicious probiotic drink
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JoshJanuary 29, 2023 at 3:26 pm
hi, I’m wondering about mixing ginger and turmeric or different varieties in one bug. I have red and white ginger and an orange turmeric that I am growing and I was thinking of making one big bug or combining multiple. have you tried this?
Aaron von FrankJanuary 30, 2023 at 2:14 pm
Yes, you can mix turmeric and ginger in a single bug – and, yes, we’ve done it! In ours, turmeric dominated the front flavor notes then it had a nice spicy ginger finish.
Mark KotlyarJuly 13, 2020 at 4:24 pm
Would love to know what receptacles do you use for the bug?
Closed lid? Air tight? Or mesh to allow full breathing, but no insects?
Aaron von FrankJuly 14, 2020 at 6:54 pm
Hi Mark! Sorry for the lack of specificity on that point. Just updated the article. For our ginger and turmeric bugs, we use glass canning jars with breathable lids – this can be as simple as a paper towel held on top by a rubber band. You can also use linen, cheese cloth, or any similar material.