Learn how to make sauerkraut with this easy recipe including step-by-step photos and video to guide you along. This is a quick sauerkraut recipe with the fermented cabbage ready in just 7 days. Great for keeping your gut health in tip-top shape, sauerkraut can be added as a healthy condiment to any meal. It’s vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, low-carb friendly.
In This Post:
- ℹ️ Why Make Sauerkraut
- 📷 📹 How To Make
- ⏰ How Long To Ferment It
- 💡 Variations
- 🍽 How To Eat Sauerkraut
- 📝 Go To Full Recipe
- 🙋♀️ Sauerkraut FAQs
Why Make Your Own Sauerkraut
Gut health is one of the most talked-about topics amongst nutrition and wellness experts and enthusiasts. Many studies are now showing that healthy, well-balanced gut flora is one of the key factors in achieving good digestion and health in general.
As well as avoiding stress and toxins that cause an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in our gut in the first place, it’s important to include a variety of fermented foods and probiotics in your diet. Read about the top 10 foods for a healthy gut here.
Freshly fermented cabbage, also known as sauerkraut, is a wonderful and simple way to add some friendly bacteria to your gut. It’s not always easy to find fresh sauerkraut in stores (or it’s super expensive) and people often buy the pasteurised kind you find in the non-refrigerated sections of the supermarket.
However, that’s not the sauerkraut you want as all that lively bacteria are destroyed during the pasteurisation process. What you want is fresh sauerkraut in which the bacteria are alive and thriving and which you would keep refrigerated.
This easy sauerkraut recipe will teach you how to make your own in just 30 minutes plus 7 days of fermentation. And, it costs a fraction of store-bought sauerkraut. Winning!
You can also check out my fermented beets and cauliflower here.
How To Make Sauerkraut
Below, I show how to make sauerkraut in your kitchen. For a small batch of fermented kraut, all you need is a head of cabbage, salt and a jar! You can use white or red cabbage for this recipe. You can watch the video first and then follow more detailed steps and notes below.
Step 1 – Preparing The Cabbage, Salt & Jar
- I often use a medium head of cabbage (just under 1 kg or around 2 lbs ). This is suitable for a smaller batch of sauerkraut. Remove the outer leaves that might be dirty and cut the cabbage into quarters. I recommend weighing the cabbage at this point to see how much salt you will need.
- How much salt do you need to make sauerkraut? I use kosher salt as it measures more accurately and spreads more evenly. You need about 2.25-2.5% of salt to the weight of the cabbage. So, for 900 grams or 2 pounds of cabbage, you need about 20 grams of salt or 4 teaspoons).
- Shred the cabbage into thin strips, removing the core. You can use a food processor for this.
- Transfer half of the cabbage to a very large bowl or container. Sprinkle with half of the salt. Add the remaining cabbage and the remaining salt on top.
- Toss through and leave for about 15 minutes for the cabbage to start releasing its juices (the salt draws them out).
- Preparing the jar: In the meantime, wash a medium glass jar (about 750 ml to 1 litre if using medium to large head of cabbage) and its lid with soapy water, rinse with hot water and let it dry on a towel. There is no need to sterilise it any further than that.
- How do you know what size jar to use? Cabbage will shrink once squeezed and stuffed into a jar, so oftentimes people find that their selected jar is too large. I find that around 1 kg of cabbage needs a jar that’s around 750 grams to 1 litre. If you find yourself with a jar that’s too large for the amount of cabbage, you will need to top any remaining space in that jar with salted water. It should be as salty as the sea. Alternatively, use two small jars.
Step 2 – Squeezing The Cabbage To Produce Brine
Add about a third cup of filtered water and toss through the cabbage. Start squeezing and mixing the cabbage with your hands. Squeeze hard to get as much juice out of the cabbage as possible and after a few minutes, it will become lightly bruised and softened, with a decent amount of salty brine.
Step 3 – Stuffing The Cabbage Into A Clean Jar
- Start packing the jar we prepared earlier with the cabbage. Press the cabbage down with your fingers and then also with a spoon or a wooden stick. As you get closer to the top, use your fingers to really compact the cabbage in the jar, allowing the brine to float to the top.
- The idea is to eliminate as many air bubbles inside the jar as possible. You want to leave about a centimetre of space at the top for the liquid.
- Finally, pour in the remaining brine/juice to cover the cabbage completely as that will protect it from oxygen and external bacteria.
- Any little bits of cabbage floating on top are okay, they can be discarded after a few days.
- If you have leftover cabbage, you can pan fry it with some onions for a yummy side dish.
Step 4 – Sauerkraut Fermentation Stages
Cover the jar with a lid and set it aside somewhere warm, say near a stove. The fermentation process can take anywhere from 5 to 7 days (and even longer), depending on how warm or cold the air in the room is.
I recommend that you ferment the sauerkraut for about 7 days and that’s how I like it as it’s tangy but not too sour while still retaining its crunch. The longer you leave the jar out of the fridge, the sourer and softer the cabbage will become.
Now, there are a couple of things you need to do while the cabbage is fermenting. After about 24 hours, the pressure in the jar will build up as the bubbles will form during the fermentation. It’s important to gently open the lid and let some of that air/pressure out – this is called ‘burping the jar’ – and also to check that the cabbage is still covered with liquid.
Press it down with your fingers to let the juices float back to the top or add a little more water and a sprinkle of salt. I recommend the following frequency for releasing the air pressure and checking the liquid is covering the cabbage:
- 24 hours later – 1st release
- 36 hours later – 2nd release (12 hours after the first release)
- 48 hours later – 3rd release (12 hours after the second release)
- 72 hours later – just check the liquid, the pressure should no longer be building up (24 hours after the third release)
How Long To Ferment Sauerkraut
- The speed of fermentation will depend on how warm or cold the environment is. For example, in the summer months in Australia, my sauerkraut is often ready after 7 days and in winter, I might leave it out for 10 days. When we lived in Ukraine, we often had jars of sauerkraut in our cold basement for months through the winter.
- I like my sauerkraut after 7 days of fermenting outside of the refrigerator because it’s not too sour and still has a lovely crunch. I then move the jar to the fridge and start enjoying it daily. The sauerkraut will keep fermenting in the fridge but at a MUCH slower rate and it will keep for a few months.
- You can keep fermenting the sauerkraut outside of the fridge for many more weeks. It will get a little more sour and much softer in texture.
- This is a very basic sauerkraut recipe that you can apply to other vegetables. You can add grated carrot or other crunchy vegetables to the cabbage, some garlic, coriander seeds, dill, mustard seeds and other spices to make different variations of this sauerkraut.
- Add Korean chili paste, garlic, ginger and green onions to make a variation of kimchi.
- Add cumin seeds, garlic, fresh coriander/cilantro and chili to make a Tex Mex sauerkraut.
How To Eat Sauerkraut
- I like to add a little sauerkraut to my eggs in the morning or as a side with our dinner or lunch meal but I usually only have it once a day. It’s also great in sandwiches and wraps.
- You can drizzle it with a little olive oil and add some spring onion for sharpness and to freshen it up. I love it this way!
- Please note, all the gut-health benefits are in the uncooked sauerkraut! Once you heat it past a certain temperature, that good bacteria will die so eat it fresh.
- Having said that, you can cook the sauerkraut and it’s great with smoked pork ribs and sliced grilled kielbasa. Sauerkraut sauetted with some onions is a delicious stuffing for dumplings!
More Homemade Condiments
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- Homemade Paleo Mayonnaise
- 15+ Sugar-Free Salad Dressings
- Basil Cashew Pesto
- 1 clean jar 750ml to 1 litre
- 1 large mixing bowl or plastic container
- 1 medium head white cabbage about 900 g / 2 lbs.
- 4 teaspoons sea salt about 20 grams
- ⅓ cup filtered water
- Cut the cabbage into quarters, remove the core and shred with a knife or a food processor.
- Add to a bow and sprinkle with salt, toss through and set aside for 15 mins to release some of the cabbage juice.
- Wash the glass jar and its lid in soapy water, rinse and dry. No need to sterilise.
- Add 1/3 cup of water to the cabbage and start mixing and squeezing everything with your hands for a few minutes to bruise the vegetable and release the juices.
- Pack the cabbage tightly into the clean jar. Use a spoon or a wooden stick to push down the cabbage so it’s very compacted and the brine floats tot he top. Fill up to the top, leaving about 1-2cm space at the top. Press down again so that the cabbage is covered by the juice, pour in the rest of the brine. Cover tightly with the lid and set aside in a warm spot, like near the stove.
- Leave the jar out at this room temperature for at least 7 days. For the first few days, open the lid every 12-16 hours to let some of the pressure out and to make sure the cabbage is submerged under the liquid. Add a little extra salted water if needed.
- Taste after 7 days and it should be fermented enough to start consuming. Ferment longer for more sour and softer kraut. After that, keep the jar in the fridge for a few weeks.
Q. How long will sauerkraut last in the fridge after opening the jar to eat it?
A couple of months. It will dry up a little bit so I recommend adding a little bit of salted water after a few weeks.
Q. I’m wanting to make a big excess of sauerkraut juice to take shots could I double the water and salt and make a larger layer of brine?
Yes, that would be the way to do it. Use a slightly larger jar than the amount of cabbage. Make extra salty brine (the water should taste like sea water, fairly salty) and make sure to cover the cabbage with extra brine to the top of the jar.
Q. I used one small head of cabbage, not knowing how much it would shrink. So, my jar is only half full. Even though I’ve pressed it down as hard as I can, little bits keep floating up above the liquid level. Is this ok? Should I add more water?
This can often happen as the cabbage shrinks once it’s been squeezed and stuffed into the jar. I recommend having a couple of jars in different sizes. Say 500 ml and 750 ml, I keep any leftover jars from pasta sauces and so on. If you find yourself with a jar that’s too large for the amount of cabbage, you will need to top any remaining space in that jar with salted water. It should be as salty as the sea. Alternatively, use two small jars. Any little bits of cabbage floating on top are okay, they can always be discarded after a few days.
Do you ferment at home? What are your favourite foods and combinations? Share this post with your friends and family and get them into fermenting!