How to Make Sauerkraut

Homemade sauerkraut is easier than you think! You’ll get probiotic benefits and a kitchen DIY project. Here’s how to make sauerkraut: a simplified guide.

How to make sauerkraut

Oh, hi! Welcome to Fermentation 101. We’re your hosts, Sonja and Alex. And we can’t wait for you to experience the magic of fermentation through sauerkraut! After taking you through our simplified guide to sourdough bread, we wondered: what other DIY projects can we break down? Where we landed was homemade sauerkraut. It’s easy to make, simple to ferment, and a seriously healthy probiotic-filled addition to any meal. The best part: Alex and I have researched everything so that you don’t have to. Ready to get started?

How to make sauerkraut

What is sauerkraut?

OK, so what is sauerkraut? In a nutshell: thinly sliced, fermented raw cabbage. Sauerkraut is made by a process called lacto-fermentation. Lacto-fermentation is a process that also makes dill pickles and kimchi: and all you need is salt, vegetables, and water.

How does it all work? Without getting too technical: lactic bacteria is present in the vegetables. And during fermentation, it goes to work turning sugars into lactic acid. Lactic acid is a natural preservative that inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria. Along with preserving, the fermentation process also increases vitamin levels and improves digestibility of whatever is being fermented.

Bowl of shredded cabbage
Massage the shredded cabbage to release the liquid

Is sauerkraut good for you?

In a word: Yes! Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha have become the health craze of the moment. What’s all the fuss about? Fermented foods can give your body a dose of healthy probiotics, which are live microorganisms crucial to healthy digestion, says Dr. David S. Ludwig, a professor of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. So eating sauerkraut can contribute to better gut health!

An interesting note: canned sauerkraut does not contain probiotics, because they’re killed in the canning process. So making this homemade sauerkraut recipe guarantees you’ll get those live cultures right into your jar! (If you’re worried about this when buying store bought, make sure to get refrigerated sauerkraut, not canned.)

Helix weight and fermentation lid
A helix weight is used to hold down the cabbage so it stays submerged and doesn’t grow mold.
The fermentation lid lets gases escape and doesn’t let bacteria in.

Tools for making homemade sauerkraut

OK, let’s get to how to make sauerkraut! Alex has combed through all the research to find exactly what you’ll need for your home fermentation experiments. Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. 1 quart wide mouth mason jar: A 1 quart jar holds enough for a 3 pound head of cabbage.
  2. Fermentation lid and helix weight: A helix weight is used to hold down the cabbage so that it stays submerged during fermentation. The fermentation lids have airlocks that let gases created during fermentation to escape but doesn’t allow bacteria in. As an alternative, you could use a fermentation stone to weigh down the cabbage; then place a cheesecloth on the mouth of the jar and secure it with a rubber band. But these lids and weights are so slick, we recommend using them if you’re serious about fermentation.
  3. Cocktail muddler or wooden spoon: This is used to pack the sauerkraut into the jar.

That’s it! For a kitchen DIY project, it’s a pretty low ask. Ready for the good part? Keep reading.

How to make sauerkraut
Pack in the cabbage with a cocktail muddler or wooden spoon

Tips for how to make sauerkraut

Before you get to the recipe below: let’s talk about a few tips! Here are a few things we learned along the way about how to make sauerkraut:

  • Cut the cabbage into shreds using our easy method. Have you had these problems with cabbage? Uneven pieces, the knife slipping, cabbage all over the counter? We did, until we learned this: how to cut cabbage…the right way!.
  • Use a room temperature cabbage. This might sound silly, but you’ll need to squeeze the shredded cabbage with your hands for about 10 minutes. And there’s nothing worse than putting your hands into freezing cold cabbage! The easiest way to do this is to have it at room temperature.
  • Squeeze a LOT. The squeezing part takes quite a long time, and your hands may get tired. Take a break if you need to! You’ll need to get the cabbage to the point where it is the texture of sauerkraut: the fermentation doesn’t do that. So squeeze away! You’ll be amazed by how 3 pounds of cabbage will reduce down into only a few cups.
  • Use fermentation lids and weights (shown above.) The weights keep the sauerkraut submerged in the jar so it doesn’t mold: they’re seriously slick and our new favorite trick. Throw the jar in a dark, room temperature place and let the fermenting begin.
  • Taste starting on Day 6. Every environment is different, so you’ll want to taste your sauerkraut until you find a flavor you enjoy. This can be between 6 and 12 days; we find it is usually good by Day 7.

Ways to eat sauerkraut

There are so many ways to eat sauerkraut: you can literally just toss it in a salad or grain bowl to liven it up! Here are a few of our favorite ways to eat sauerkraut:

  1. In a sandwich: In a Vegetarian Reuben Sandwich. Or just melt Swiss cheese onto bread with sauerkraut. Put it over the top with Russian dressing (oh wait, that’s a Reuben!).
  2. On a grain bowl: Try it on any makeshift main dish salad or grain bowl. A few we love: Roasted Vegetable Grain Bowl, Broccoli & Yellow Rice Bowl, Healthy Rice Bowl or Vegan Buddha Bowl.
  3. Top a cheese spread: Try this: toasted bread, slather on Paprika Goat Cheese Spread, top with sauerkraut. Mind blown!
  4. Stir it into pasta: Instead of pesto, why not swirl sauerkraut into this Havarti Mac and Cheese?
  5. Add it to a green salad: Chop some lettuce leaves, add some sauerkraut, then drizzle with olive oil, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, salt and black pepper.
  6. In potato salad or egg salad: Want to add a zing to potato or egg salad? Stir some into our Best No Mayo Potato Salad, Favorite Potato Salad, Dill Potato Salad, or French Potato Salad. Or this Egg Salad Sandwich.
  7. Throw it on avocado toast. Like our Avocado Toast with Turmeric Egg.
  8. In a quesadilla. This Superfood Veggie Quesadilla or Brie & Mushroom Quesadilla would be great with an added tang.
  9. On scrambled eggs. Toss a little over these Best Scrambled Eggs for a morning pick me up.
  10. On a veggie burger. It’s a fantastic tangy burger topping! Try it on this Best Veggie Burger, Chickpea Burger or Vegan Black Bean Burger.

This sauerkraut recipe is…

Vegetarian, gluten-free, vegan, plant-based, and dairy-free.

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How to make sauerkraut

How to Make Sauerkraut


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  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 1 quart 1x

Description

Homemade sauerkraut is easier than you think! You’ll get probiotic benefits and a kitchen DIY project. Here’s how to make sauerkraut: a simplified guide.


Scale

Ingredients

Ingredients

  • 1 medium-small head green cabbage (about 3 pounds), at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt (or 1 teaspoon per pound)
  • 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds

Tools


Instructions

  1. Shred the cabbage. Place it in a large bowl and mix in the salt.
  2. Get your hands ready! Here’s the fun part: Massage the cabbage with your hands for 8 to 10 minutes until cabbage is limp and large amount of liquid is released (the liquid will be used in the jar during fermenting). The fermenting doesn’t change the texture of the cabbage, so you’ll need to massage until it’s the texture of sauerkraut. Take a break if your hands tire out! You’ll be amazed at how a huge bowl of cabbage turns into just a few cups of sauerkraut.
  3. Stir in the caraway seeds. Then place the seasoned cabbage into a 1-quart mason jar, tamping down the cabbage to stuff it in (we use our cocktail muddler for tamping, but you can also use a wooden spoon). Leave the liquid in the bowl for now.
  4. Pour the liquid released from cabbage into the jar. Top it with the helix weight and the fermentation lid: this holds down the cabbage during fermentation to make sure it stays submerged. Alternatively, you can weigh down the cabbage with a fermentation stone and use a rubber band to secure cheesecloth over the lid to allow airflow.
  5. Place the jar in a dark, room temperature space for 6 to 12 days. Start tasting the sauerkraut on Day 6. Once you achieve a “sour” taste that you enjoy, move the jar to the refrigerator, where it keeps for several months. (We find ours is good around Day 7.) Note: If you notice mold on top of the sauerkraut, scrape it off and keep enjoying the rest of the jar! Make sure all of the cabbage is submerged to avoid the mold.

  • Category: DIY
  • Method: Fermented
  • Cuisine: German

Keywords: How to make sauerkraut, homemade sauerkraut, what is sauerkraut, fermented sauerkraut, is sauerkraut good for you

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

2 Comments

  • Reply
    Elizabeth
    September 21, 2019 at 1:45 pm

    So easy and so delicious! I had a 1/2 head of red cabbage in my fridge when you posted this and got right to work. I omitted the caraway because I don’t care for it. Been eating it this last week on top of everything (peanut butter toast!) and now it’s gone. Definitely buying more cabbage this week. I highly recommend red cabbage too, it’s so beautiful!

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      September 21, 2019 at 2:42 pm

      This makes me so happy! Sauerkraut on everything :)

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