What is Bokashi Composting?

close-up of bokashi composting in a bin

Bokashi has nothing to do with your favorite plant-based cereal brand. Bokashi is an anaerobic composting method that is marketed to city-dwellers or gardeners who want to try an alternative method of home composting.

Although Bokashi is usually thought of as a composting system, it’s more correct to say it is a method of composting by fermentation or “pre-composting.” The food won’t decompose, as with traditional backyard composting, but it will be chemically altered or fermented (like sauerkraut). 

(Note: We’ll still refer to it as Bokashi “composting” for simplicity’s sake.)

Bokashi 101

Bokashi fermentation needs three things to work:

  • A food source (kitchen waste)
  • Microorganisms (the inoculant)
  • An anaerobic (oxygen-free) environment

It takes about two weeks for the Bokashi process to ferment the food scraps to the point where they can go into the ground. During this time, the mixture will produce a liquid or leachate. Drain this every two to three days and use a 1:100 leachate to water ratio to fertilize your plants. (This is sometimes called compost tea or Bokashi tea.)

After the two-week waiting period, spread the fermented food into the soil, and wait two weeks to one month before you plant anything over top. (The scraps will be too acidic to come into contact with plant roots before then.)

What you will need

Ready to try Bokashi out for yourself? Gather these materials to get started:

  • Two 5-gallon buckets (or purchase a Bokashi bucket with a spigot)
  • Drill (to drill holes in one bucket)
  • Lid for your top bucket
  • Inoculated Bokashi bran
  • Food scraps
  • Brick
  • A rag or insert to cover the top of the food
  • Large kitchen spoon to press the food down or another type of masher

You’re ready to go!

How to do Bokashi composting in 4 easy steps

Step 1: Assemble the bucket

  • Drill a few holes in the bottom of one bucket.
  • Place the bucket without holes on the ground.
  • Put the brick in that bucket.
  • Place the bucket with holes on top of the bottom bucket.

Step 2: Add food scraps to the bucket

  • Chop foods that are too large (over 1-2 inches) into smaller pieces.
  • Put a layer of inoculated bran into the bottom of the bucket (enough to just cover the bottom).
  • Pour 1-2 inches of food scraps into the bucket. 
  • Cover with a handful of bran (use more bran if you have high-protein scraps).
  • Press the food down to remove extra air (a large kitchen spoon or other kitchen tool is helpful).
  • Repeat, ending with a layer of bran.
  • Cover and press down with a rag or insert.
  • Cover with the lid to form an airtight container seal.

Step 3: Drain and fill

  • Drain the liquid every few days (use it in your garden in a 1:100 liquid to water ratio).
  • Continue to fill the bucket with food scraps and bran as described above.
  • Once the bucket is full, put it aside out of direct sunlight.
  • Continue to drain every few days.
  • Wait two weeks.
  • Start a new bucket in the meantime.

Step 4: Bury the scraps

  • Once the food has been sitting for two weeks, it’s time to get out your shovel. 
  • Dig a trench at least 6 inches deep in your garden (OR add the fermented material to your compost bin)
  • Spread the compost in the trench.
  • Cover with soil.
  • Wait at least two weeks before you install new plants over this area. The mixture is highly acidic and can kill the roots of new plants. The mixture’s pH will neutralize during this time.

Note: The result of this anaerobic process should smell pickled or like vinegar. White growths may appear, and this is OK. Green or black growths or a foul odor means something went wrong. If this happens, you’ll need to dispose of the mixture.

  • Dig a hole away from your plants about 1 foot deep. Fill the hole with three handfuls of bran, pour in the food scraps, and top off with three more handfuls of bran. Cover with soil. 
  • Disinfect your bucket with a diluted bleach solution or another disinfectant.

What food scraps can I use in a Bokashi bin?

Here is a list of foods that are allowed in Bokashi buckets:

  • Almost anything that comes out of your refrigerator: all vegetable and fruits
  • Raw or cooked meat scraps (including fish, red meat, chicken)
  • Bones
  • Dairy products (cheese, yogurt, eggs, etc.)
  • Cooked foods (grains, veggies, foods made from flour, etc.)
  • Indoor plants or garden waste
  • Tissues

What can’t I add to a Bokashi bin?

  • Foods that have begun to mold or rot
  • Foods that are too large (Cut foods like potatoes into small, 1-2 inch cubes if they are whole.)  
  • Liquids, such as water, milk, or juice
  • Paper
  • Plastic

Benefits of Bokashi composting

If you’re wondering why the Bokashi system is beneficial, here are a few things to consider:

✓ Requires a small amount of space
✓ You can compost scraps that other methods exclude, like bones and meat scraps
✓ Low-cost to set up
✓ Perfect for apartment dwellers
✓ Reduces the amount of organic waste that goes into landfills
✓ No smell (if done correctly)
✓ No need to turn the Bokashi as you do with aerobic (traditional backyard) composting
✓ Increases fertility in the soil
✓ Increases organic material in the soil
✓ Adds beneficial microbes
✓ Serves as a soil amendment

Bokashi composting vs. other composting methods

Bokashi composting is often used by gardeners along with two other popular composting methods, traditional composting and vermicomposting. Here are a few highlights of each:

Bokashi composting

How it works: Ferments food
Note: Can use any food waste

Best used:

  • Indoors
  • In small spaces
  • Perfect for apartment dwellers


  • Adds fertility
  • Adds organic matter

Cost: Cheap setup if you use 5-gallon buckets. (Pre-made buckets are more costly.)

Traditional aerated composting

How it works: Decomposes food
Note: Some food waste is restricted

Best used:

  • Outdoors
  • In larger yards or outdoor spaces
  • Ideal for homeowners with lawns


  • Adds fertility
  • Adds organic matter

Cost: Chicken wire or pallet bins are inexpensive


How it works: Excretes food
Note: Some food waste is restricted

Best for:

  • Indoors or outdoors
  • Small spaces
  • Perfect for city dwellers or homeowners


  • Adds fertility
  • Adds organic matter

Cost: Red wigglers can be on the pricey side, so initial costs are more than other methods

FAQ about Bokashi composting

1. How can I use my Bokashi compost? 

Besides adding it to your garden soil or compost pile, you can experiment with adding it to your vermicompost bin as well. Worms prefer a neutral pH, so add small amounts of finished Bokashi to start and increase over time as the worms adjust. 

Finally, add extra carbon (like paper) to maintain a good carbon/nitrogen ratio, and add lime if the bin gets too acidic. (Remember, the worms prefer a neutral environment.)

2. Can I add fermented bones and meat to the vermicompost bin?

Actually, yes, you can. Without fermentation, bones, meat, and other items cannot be added to a vermicompost bin, but with Bokashi fermentation, it is possible to add these foods. The fermentation process chemically alters the food so that it can then be decomposed by the worms

3. Can I use Bokashi composting for cat or dog poop?

Again, this is a yes, according to bokashiliving.com. There are a few caveats:

  • Use a separate bin for pet waste.

  • Don’t use pet waste bags in the bin.
  • Keep the poop at least 6 feet away from vegetable gardens or outdoor play areas.
    If you don’t fancy dumping a bucket full of pet waste into your lawn every so often, take this approach:
  • Bury a 5-gallon bucket in your lawn or garden (Bury almost to the rim and cut out the bottom)
    Layer with pet waste and bran as you do for your kitchen scraps
    The level of poop should stay down on its own since the soil will help it break down. If the bucket becomes full, pull out the bucket, and cover the waste with a minimum of 6 inches of soil. Move the bucket to another area of the lawn to start the process again.

    4. What are some Bokashi troubleshooting tips?

    What if my bucket smells bad after the two-week settling period?
    You’ll need to dispose of the mixture. (See Note on Step 4: Bury the scraps.)

  • Can I store my Bokashi liquid that drains from the bucket?
  • No, use this liquid within one day.
  • Will my bucket always produce a liquid byproduct (leachate)?
  • Not always. Vegetables and fruits tend to produce more liquid than other materials. If your batch isn’t high in high-water ingredients, you may not have much liquid.

  • Are there other ways to use my Bokashi juice?
  • Absolutely. Pour the undiluted liquid into your household drains and toilets. The microorganisms keep down offensive odors and control algae. Local waterways also benefit, as the beneficial microorganisms help to out-compete undesirable bacteria.

    Source: Charles Sturt University

    If all of your energies have been directed toward your composting and gardening efforts, contact one of our local lawn care pros. They’ll take care of the lawn and get it ship-shape in no time.

    Main Photo Credit: Mack Male | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

    Sarah Bahr

    Sarah is a writer who has previously worked in the lawn care industry. In her spare time, she likes to garden, raise chickens, and mow the grass with her battery-powered lawn mower.