Old Fashioned Homemade Root Beer

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Old Fashioned Homemade Root Beer - Holistic Squid You’ve been requesting more soda recipes and I’ve been listening!

You know what makes you the coolest mom on the block? Ice cold root beer floats made with real ice cream and real old fashioned root beer.

I recently whipped up the food and drink for a healthy kids party and we did not skimp on fun! The kids had a great time and the parents did not have to wrangle sticky fingered, sugar drunk monsters as they departed the party. A good time was had by all!

There are many Root Beer recipes. Some more intricate, layered, and complex than others. Let’s begin with this simple and beautiful recipe. It is a summertime favorite of mine.

Did you know the lacto-fermented beverages of our ancestors were refreshing health tonics? The recipes for the delicious drinks of yore are built on herbal remedies passed down from mother to daughter and on and on. The roots of Root Beer are said to ease tummy discomfort, aid digestion and promote radiant skin. Lacto-fermented beverages are high in probiotics, organic acids and electrolytes. These are the are the original rehydration sport drinks sans all the sugar.

Don’t care about any of that? The taste is outrageous. Get real. Be well.

Old Fashioned Root Beer Ingredients:

Old Fashioned Root Beer Method:

  1. In a heavy bottomed pot, add the sassafras, sarsaparilla and ground vanilla bean.
  2. Cover with 1/2 gallon water. Bring the water to simmer and cover for 20 minutes.
  3. Add sugar and stir to dissolve completely.
  4. Turn off the stove and leave the pot covered for 30 minutes.
  5. When your Root Beer wort* has cooled to room tempurature (approx. 75F), use a cheese cloth or fine mesh strainer to remove the herbs.
  6. Now, add the ginger bug liquid* to your Root Beer wort.
  7. Pour your soon-to-be-soda into two quart sized bottles (old apple cider vinegar bottles are a convenient choice). Place a tight lid on the bottles and allow it to sit in a warm or room temperature spot in your home for 2-3 days. If your home tends to be cool at night, consider getting a seedling mat. Just set the bottles on top of the mat and out of direct sun light.
  8. After 2-3 days of fermentation (watch for bubbles rising to the top of the bottle and if you are unsure your bevi is ready, give the lid a slight twist and listen for a gas release), you will have a lovely probiotic rich, old fashioned root beer.

Chef’s Notes:

*Wort: The soda liquid before the addition of your culture starter of choice.

*Remember to strain out the pieces of ginger when adding the ginger bug liquid to your Root Beer wort.

Yield:  2 quarts


- This post was generously contributed by Monica Ford of Real Food Devotee. Monica’s delicious recipes will make your mouth water and your tummy purr. If you’re lucky enough to live in Los Angeles, Real Food Devotee can make your life easier by delivering nutrient dense goodies directly to your door.

Photo credit: An Eye Full Studio

Do you make your own homemade root beer or other cultured sodas? What’s your family’s favorite?

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  1. Angie Smith via Facebook says

    We were just talking about wanting a healthy root beer this morning! We were thinking of plain kombucha with root beer flavored stevia. When we get brave, maybe we’ll try this…although I have no idea what ginger bug liquid is – I guess I’ll have to read more. Thank you!

  2. Angie Smith via Facebook says

    We were just talking about wanting a healthy root beer this morning! We were thinking of plain kombucha with root beer flavored stevia. When we get brave, maybe we’ll try this…although I have no idea what ginger bug liquid is – I guess I’ll have to read more. Thank you!

  3. Angie Smith via Facebook says

    We were just talking about wanting a healthy root beer this morning! We were thinking of plain kombucha with root beer flavored stevia. When we get brave, maybe we’ll try this…although I have no idea what ginger bug liquid is – I guess I’ll have to read more. Thank you!

  4. says

    Thanks for the great recipe and instructions! Shared it on my FB page. I have all the ingredients needed, but would like to know how much root beer this recipe makes. Thanks for the help!


  5. Jill says

    Hi. On the Mountain Rose website, they offer the sassafras and sarsaparilla grated or as a powder. Which do you recommend?

  6. Katie says

    How important is it to sterilize your equipment? I made my rootbeer last night… it’s now sitting on my counter in some swing-top bottles I bought cheap at Ross! It only dawned on me today, after doing a little more reading on homemade soda, that I never washed or sterilized the bottles when I got them home from the store. I also didn’t carefully sterilize any other equipment I used and may have stuck my finger in the wort a few times to taste!

    What are the chances of ending up with yucky, “contaminated” root beer?!

    Also, the root beer is really dark, and kind of cloudy -looking.. not really like the picture above… is this normal?


  7. says

    Hi @Katie It is not important to “sterilize”your equipment. Everything should just be clean. Here’s the thing about brand-new bottles and jars- most manufacturers spray and antibacterial film into the jar or bottle. So, when ever you have a new bottle or jar, you should rinse it with very hot water to remove this film. Especially when your intention is to ferment or encourage good bacteria. this does NOT mean your soda will not ferment. It just means that it makes the success of natural fermentation a tiny bit less likely. A tip for future fermenting:)

    Katie, I like you love the swing top wire closure bottles. They are just plain beautiful. However, I caution anyone against using them for making soda. They tend to build up quite a bit of pressure and have very little give. So, one of these days you just might put out an eye fermenting soda in one of those beauties. I guess the upside is that when that top swings back at lightning speed the bruise it leaves will be soothed by a champagne like wash of probiotic rich soda;-)

    Also, these bottles make it more difficult to tell when your soda is ready. you cannot burp your soda with a quick twist of the cap at the same time allowing in very little oxygen. Oh, it makes fermenting a tiny bit harder especially for beginners.

    The color of this root beer tends to be lighter then say IBC root beer. However, just because yours is a little darker doesn’t necessarily mean it will not be a perfectly good root beer! I bet it turns out great. Please let us know how yours turns out.

  8. Katie says

    Monica –

    LOL! When I am injured by my exploding soda, I will also be soothed by the satisfied feeling that it actually WORKED!!

    Dang, I guess I didn’t realize that those bottles weren’t ideal… they just looked so PERFECT to hold some homemade rootbeer… guess I will know for next time :-) And I wasn’t aware of the antibacterial film either… that is good to know!!

    They’ve been on the counter since Tues night, and there is a little bit of bubbly foam forming on the top and also, if I disturb the bottle., I see little bubbles rising from the bottom… I think that is a good sign…?

    How can I test it? Can I just open one up and see if it’s fizzy? If it’s not ready, would that disturb the process too much?

    Thanks again!

  9. Susan R says

    Made it! And I THANK YOU! It’s awesome! I made the ginger bug as directed last week. Then made the tea and sweetened it with honey, bottled and left on counter. 2 days later it is the best root beer ever! Added some homemade raw cream ice cream, OMG!!! :)

  10. Katie says

    Mine turned out pretty good too! At first it had a kind of yeasty smell and really bitter aftertaste, and I didn’t really like it that much at all. But I tried another glass last night (after it’s been sitting in the fridge for a week), and it was really good! The flavors seemed to have, I don’t know, come together, more! It definitely has that old fashioned root beer taste, with almost a hint of creamy vanilla-ness. And the weird smell and bitter aftertaste seem to have disappeared! It’s not super-fizzy like regular soda.. .or really fizzy at all… but I still like it! I’ll finally be having a root beer float this weekend! Hopefully I’m still getting some beneficial probiotics and such, even though it doesn’t appear to really be carbonated.

    Looking forward to trying more recipes!!

  11. says

    Hi @Katie
    I am so glad you ventured into the magical world of naturally fermented sodas/elixirs.
    So, here’s my two cents. Next time you make Rubier use on non-wire closure bottle. Have you seen the bottles that raw apple cider vinegar comes in? Use those! They are great! To know when your soda is finished fermenting, give the bottle a shake and watch for bubbles rising from the bottom to the top to form a bit of fizz or foam at the top of the soda. If you see these bubbles, give the lid a little twist and listen for a gasp of air. Don’t remove the cap. Just give it a twist.
    With practice, you will not only produce a taste he will love but also the perfect crisp effervescence.

    And yes, you are still reaping the rewards of beneficial bacteria even though this first soda is not effervescent.

    Enjoy that root beer float! Is the beginning of something truly amazing. Xo

  12. Katie says

    Thanks for the info! It seemed like it was ready when I first put it in the fridge because it got foamy when I shook it and the lid kinda “popped” the first time I opened it. It is a tiny bit carbonated now, but not much. Oh well.. practice makes perfect! This was my very first fermenting project (except for raw milk kefir, which is super easy!)… I feel like a whole new world has been opened up :-)

    I actually have a bottle of raw apple cider vinegar that is almost gone. Just a few more batches of homemade salad dressing or bone broth to use up the rest of it and I’ll have my empty bottle!

    Thanks again!

  13. says

    Yaaay @Kaitie Yaay! This in conjunction with the ginger bug is an advanced fermentation. Also, as long as you are keeping your ginger bug healthy and using it to make sodas when it is hungry or due a feeding, it will become stronger as it matures & give u crisper ferments! Xo

  14. says

    For the ground vanilla beans: can you just grind it up yourself? Is there a way to do that? We already have vanilla beans from making vanilla extract, and would love to just be able to use left overs from that :)

    (We’re super excited!)

  15. Susan R says

    How long can my ginger bug last. I keep it in the fridge, take out, let it warm and feed on occasion. Can it go “bad”? Thank you!

  16. says

    Hi @SusanR
    You only need to take your ginger bug out of the frige to use it. If you’re just letting sleep in the frige, that’s fine and it doesn’t have to ever go bad. I have one in the frige for months. Took it out one day and used it. It was just peachy. xo

  17. Maryanne says

    Started my ginger bug last night, and ordering my herbs today. Can NOT wait to try a root beer float – one of my favorite treats on the planet! Never had a homemade soda before & really looking forward to it! Thanks for the step-by-step instructions – it always seemed overwhelming until now.

  18. Maryanne says

    I finished making this root beer a couple of days ago – it was great! I never got to make that root beer float, however, because when I pulled the root beer out of the fridge yesterday, it had gelled! And I mean, slimy gel. Anyone have any idea why this might have happened? I had it stored in a glass bottle, airtight, and in the fridge, if the storage makes a difference.

  19. says

    Hi @Maryanne

    Bravo to you for fermenting. I bet it will be perfect next time!

    You have cross contamination of some sort this time around. I could not say exactly what the source is from here and though it very well may be from something else, I must admit it sounds a bit like cross contamination from kombucha.

    Cross contamination of a ferment can result from many sources like, using a fermenting vessel that is not impeccably clean, fermenting in very close proximity to other types fermenting projects, a lose bottle lid allowing in foreign bacteria from another food in your kitchen or frige and more. Do not let this scare you away from fermentation. Just understand that this is truly an artisan process and though you will find your fermentation rhythm and the secrets and tricks of your micro environment that support consistency, you will never have complete sameness every time.

    Though it is disappointing to lose a batch of anything you have lovingly fermented, I love to embrace the reality that it works out perfectly and is delicious 99% of the time and that is the challenge and joy of live food. This is the challenge of our decision to not process our food into complete consistency and death.

  20. Maryanne says

    Monica, thanks for answering. I actually did have some kombucha in my fridge with the finished root beer – maybe I’ll just store the root beer in a jar with a better lid next time. Makes sense! I still have a ginger bug going, so I’ll just try another root beer batch.

  21. Natalie says

    Hi Monica! Thanks for the recipe! I’m super excited to try it out! Would it be ok to use vanilla extract instead of the ground vanilla beans? Thanks!

  22. says

    Hi @Natalie Yes. You can use vanilla extract instead of ground vanilla beans in this recipe. Because you are heating this concoction, there will be no more alcohol present from the extract. Let us know how it turns out and enjoy! XO

    • Natalie says

      Thanks for such a quick response! Unfortunately, Mountain Rose Herbs is out of the sassafrass and sarsaparilla! Do you have any suggestions of another reliable place to obtain these items?

  23. Tye says

    I am just wondering what are your thoughts on using sassafras? I have read that it can be harmful. Is it ok to give to kids?

  24. Tye says

    I am wondering what are your thoughts on sassafrass? I have read that it can be harmful. Would it be ok for kids to drink this soda?

  25. says

    Hi @Tye
    Trepidation over sassafras began in the 1960s. A study conducted on lab rats implicated safrole in liver cancer. The lab rats were fed very large amounts of safrole. It would be like you consuming 32 twelve-ounce bottles of root beer per day. Siting this study, the FDA required commercial soft drink makers to remove sassafras from their brews.
    While large quantities of safrole caused liver cancer in lab animals, smaller and frankly more sane doses may be beneficial for humans. Some studies indicate that safrole may lead to death of cancer cells.
    I think you might enjoy reading this article!

  26. Bekka says

    I am wondering about the amount of vanilla called for. 3 tablespoons of ground vanilla seems like a lot. How much vanilla extract would you use as a substitution?

  27. says

    Hi @Bekka
    Instead of 3 T ground vanilla to make a half gallon of soda, you could use 4 T vanilla extract. The the differnce in taste is not shocking, good quality ground vanilla bean does yield a more full bodied and delicious soda. Enjoy!

  28. Paul Lemmo says

    Hi all, I have a question. I followed an on line recipe for lacto fermented root beer. After simmering all ingredients I strained it and added the sugar. The recipe said to let the mixture cool down to ” blood temperature “. I assumed blood temperature meant about 98 degrees or so. At about 98 degrees I added the whey and immediately bottled it in flip top bottles. It’s been about 24 hours and I don’t see any bubbles or foam yet. Is this normal? Was the temperature to warm? Can a temperature of 98 degrees kill the whey the same way high temps can kill yeast? The recipe said to let the bottles sit for 2 to 3 days then refrigerate.

  29. says

    Hi @Paul
    You should let your wort/tea cool to below 80F. Roughly room tempurature. Yes. You can kill the yeast and bacteria in the whey with heat.
    Try the recipe on this page. I think you’ll be very happy with the results.

  30. says

    Great help, thanks! I am getting ready to try my first batch of lacto fermented soda this week, and it looks like all (most) of my questions have been answered either in your article or in the comments!

  31. Kim says

    Will 4 ounces of Sassafras and Sasaparilla along with 1 ounce of ground vanilla bean be enough to make a few batches to test out? Or do I need to up the quantity on those?

  32. Michelle says

    Question – could the RB wort be udder for a second ferment of komboucha? I have a ginger big and definitely plan to try the recipe as is, but I’d love to try it with my KT. Thanks in advance to anyone who may know!

  33. Krysta says

    Found this on Pinterest, awesome! Sassafras actually grows around my house and I have been making sassafras tea since I was a kid.
    But a word of warning, sassafras should be avoided by pregnant women, I can’t remember why at this moment… So just a heads up :)

    • Krysta says

      After telling my husband about this… He only wanted to know one thing.. “How about Dr.Pepper?”
      Anybody got ant recipes?

  34. Claire says

    I’d love to know if anyone has read studies that show how much sugar remains after fermentation. My son and I have been on the GAPS nutritional plan for more than a year, and stay away from cane sugar. Do folks feel like the benefit of probiotics outweigh the fact that the drink may still contain sugar?

  35. Mel says

    Hi! I made the root beer three days ago, followed directions to a T, but I have no bubbles in my root beer yet. No signs of any bubbles at all! How long should I keep the root beer on the counter before giving up? Thank you!

  36. says

    Very cool! We discovered a hidden shop on the way home from our last road trip that had about a 100 different kinds of root beer (ever since our honeymoon it is a tradition to find and try new root beers on our trips) – even though many of them were “real” root beer they weren’t the REAL real like this. :)

    How would this work added to the second ferment of a water kefir? Might be a fun experiment. I also hadn’t heard about a ginger bug before – I’ll have to give that a try too. So much fun to be had in the world of fermenting. 😉

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