Kombucha: It’s What’s for Dinner – Madison Eats Food Tours
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Rice dish

Kombucha: It’s What’s for Dinner

I love kombucha. The tang, the sweetness, the slight effervescence that awakens my tastebuds. Kombucha is tart and crisp and loaded with probiotics. My three (current) favorite ways to enjoy kombucha are detailed below: in a spritzer, in a hot toddy and as a marinade for meat. Dinner and drinks are served!

Not all “booch” is created equal. Many brands of kombucha mix juice in to sweeten the beverage, faithless that our American palates can handle the sour-tart zing. But juice just masks the subtleties, and reduces the health benefits, adding unnecessary sugar. We are lucky here in Mad-town (aka Madison, WI) to have our very own kombucha brewers, Vanessa Tortolano and Alla Shapiro. Together they make NessAlla kombucha, which is craft-brewed fermented oolong tea with various natural, local and seasonal flavors.

In addition to a focus on the traditional processes to make the booch (Alla drawing from her Russian heritage and learning the art of kombucha making from her grandma), Nessalla focuses on building strong community connections.  They now sell their product in 10 states, and have moved to a large brewery on S. Park Street. But despite their growth, you can still find them selling kombucha at Madison farmers markets and working with folks in the community to offer samples at events and create collaborative products such as Alchemy’s Wild Rose– a delicious mix of Death’s Door vodka, organic rosehip liqueur, lemon juice and raspberry kombucha. Refreshing!

Luckily not only does Kombucha taste great, it also has amazing health benefits. Helen at Health Ambition describes them here.

Scroll down for my favorite cooking/drinking suggestions. Perhaps one of NessAlla’s delicious flavors will inspire your creative flow?

Tumeric Ginger Black Pepper – I like ginger, but sometimes I’m not in the mood for the strong bite. What I love about this flavor is the subtle earthy tones with a hint of warm spice. The mellow ginger fizz hits the tongue followed by a tangy earthy palate. The black pepper is subtle, just enough to support the ginger flavor.

Juniper Rose – Earthy with high floral notes, bright with a hint of spring.

Oolong – Simply fermented tea, it is tart and crisp with a clean feel.

Mango Turmeric – This booch offers a fruity sweetness, with a rich mango undertone, complementing the pungent turmeric. Strong enough to carry in a drink/dish, light enough for drinking on its own.

Lemongrass Ginger – Featuring well-balanced tartness with a hint of spice. Great in dressings or hot toddys.

THREE Ways to Enjoy Kombucha today:

1. Kombucha Spritzer:

Mix with seltzer water and a squeeze of lemon.

Kombucha Sour

2. Kombucha Hot Toddy

Makes 2: heat 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup lemongrass kombucha in a saucepan

Warm your glasses with hot water, discard the water

Add 1 tbsp honey, 2 tsp lemon juice and 3 tbsp bourbon to each glass

Evenly split the kombucha/water mixture between glasses

Stir and enjoy

Garnish with lemon peel or wedge

3. Mexican Style Kombucha Marinated Chicken (adapted from Cultures for Health)


Marinade (recipe below)

1.5 pound sliced chicken breast, or chicken tenders

1 red bell pepper, sliced

1 green bell pepper sliced

1/2 onion thinly sliced

Chopped cilantro

Salt and pepper

Steamed rice


1/3 cup tomato sauce

1/3 cup oil

1/4 cup kombucha (I used mango turmeric)

juice from 2 limes

2 Tbsp. chili powder (guajillo)

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. cayenne pepper

1/2 small onion

1 tsp. Diced garlic

Blend all ingredients together and toss with chicken breast, or chicken tenders. Refrigerate for 3-6 hours.


Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large skillet over med-low heat

Saute peppers and onion until soft and slightly browned and set aside.

Rinse/wipe skillet and heat another tbsp oil in the skillet on med heat.

Add marinated chicken pieces. Brown on each side and then add rest of marinade.

Add in pepper, onion mixture and cover and simmer on low heat about 20 minutes, until done.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over rice, garnish with cilantro.