Homemade Sauerkraut Recipe (Easy Countertop Method) (2024)

Fermentingis an age-old way of preserving foods and increasing their nutritional value. Turning cabbage into sauerkraut is one of the easiest fermented foods to master.

Why is this sauerkraut better for you? During fermentation, billions of beneficial bacteria are produced. Because it’s homemade (and not pasteurized like in the store), this bacteria is still present when we eat it and helps our gut flora.

In fact, homemade sauerkraut is one of the least expensive and easiest ways to add probiotics to our diets!

Sauerkraut: Why Make It from Scratch?

In short, it is cheaper, healthier, and oh so much tastier!

Being the ¼ German that I am, I have always had a love of sauerkraut. The problem is, short of authentic German restaurants, good sauerkraut is hard to find. The logical solution, of course, was to make my own. Sauerkraut was the first thing I got brave enough to try to ferment, and it will always have a special place in my heart and on my counter.

Sauerkraut has all the benefits of traditional fermented foods, including the abundance of natural probiotics. It is made using natural lactic acid fermentation. In other words, beneficial Lactobacillus bacteria do the hard work of breaking down the cabbage into its delicious and salty final product.

Store-bought sauerkraut is often cooked, killing the beneficialbacteria. The few good brands,like Bubbies, are great, but expensive.

The Kraut-Making Process: Sauerkraut 101

Sauerkraut simply means “sour cabbage” in German, but making kraut does so much more than just make cabbage sour!

As I mentioned, the Lactobacillus bacteria are the active workers in the process. These bacteria occur naturally in fruits, vegetables, and even on our skin and in our bodies. They are generally considered harmless and even beneficial.Lactobacillus also have two major properties that make them perfect for fermentation:

  1. They can survive in an anaerobic environment (oxygen-free)
  2. They handle salt well, unlike many other types of bacteria

This allows us to ferment thecabbage under a brine in an oxygen-free environment without killing the Lactobacillus.Many other types of bacteria don’t handle salt or lack of oxygen well. The lactic acid fermentation process allows the good bacteria to stay and flourish while discouraging the bad bacteria.

If it sounds complicated so far, never fear … the recipe itself is a snap!

The Right Equipment Makes a Big Difference

Sauerkraut is tough to mess up, but the right equipment makes the process so much easier! Since kraut is one of the most budget-friendly real foods out there(along with sardines), I’ve found that it is worth investing in some inexpensive equipment to make it a regular part of mydiet. There are several different methods to choose from.

Option 1: A Good Ol’ Mason Jar

The mostbasic method of sauerkraut-making is done in a simple glass jar. Even a quart-size mason jar will work, though many people choose a half-gallon size to be able to make a little more at once. You can use a plastic bag filled with water to seal the jar from air, though considering my feelings aboutplastic, I highly discourage this method. Instead, I recommend getting these pieces of equipment:

Whichever equipment you pick, I encourage you to have some kind of weight and some kind of fermentation lid. You can also use this equipment when making kimchi and pickles!

Option 2: A Fermentation Crock

I prefer the more traditional method of making sauerkraut in a fermentation crock. For one thing, you get to use a cool-looking traditional stoneware fermentation crock (like this one). I find this method easier and a high-quality crock costs less than the weights, lids, and jars you need for the mason jar method.

If you aren’t sure you’ll love making sauerkraut, it might be best to start with the mason jar method. If you like it, a fermentation crock will greatly simplify the process.

How to Make Homemade Sauerkraut

A few tips for making the best homemade sauerkraut:

  • Use the freshest cabbage available. Any color cabbage will work, but the fresher it is, the more crisp the finished sauerkraut will be. I love making kraut with fresh-picked cabbage from mygarden or farmers market.
  • Make sure everything is clean. Since this process relies on a certain type of bacteria for fermentation, it is important to remove as much unwanted bacteria as possible. No need to bleach anything (please don’t!), but make sure the jar or crock has been washed well in warm, soapy water, and wash your hands well too!
  • Get rid of the air. As explained above, the beneficial bacteria need an anaerobic environment to ferment correctly. Using any of the methods I explained above will accomplish this.
  • Get the salt right. This recipe does require salt. It is necessary not just for taste, but for proper and safe fermentation. I’ve tested it and it can be done with as little as 1 tablespoon per quart of sauerkraut (2 tablespoons total for this recipe), but doesn’t work well with less than that.
  • Keep the temperature moderate. In my experience, kraut is best when fermented at around 64-67 degrees, though anything in the 60-70 degree range works well. If it gets cooler than that, fermentation is very slow. At higher than that, it is too fast and can yield a mushy finished product. Cabbage is often freshest in cooler months, and counter temperatures are perfect at these times. In warmer months, I often place kraut near air conditioning vents to keep it cool, or just make sure it is in a cool, dark corner of the pantry.
  • Then make it stop! Once you’ve achieved the desired level of fermentation, it is important to move it to the refrigerator to stop the fermentation. At this point, it will store for up to 6 months if kept cool and with the kraut below the brine.

Homemade Sauerkraut Recipe (Easy Countertop Method) (1)

Homemade Sauerkraut Recipe

Enjoy delicious, crisp, perfectly salty kraut for months! Only takes 30 minutes of hands-on prep. This traditionally made sauerkraut is brimming with healthy probiotics.

Prep Time 30 minutes mins

Total Time 14 days d 30 minutes mins

Calories 10kcal

Author Katie Wells

Print Recipe Pin Recipe

Servings

2 quarts

Ingredients

  • 2 heads cabbage (about fivelbs)
  • ¼ cup salt (see note below)
  • 1-2 TBSP caraway seeds (optional)

Instructions

  • Get things clean– Wash all equipment, work surfaces, and your hands in warm soapy water.

  • Slice the cabbage– Remove the outer leaves and cores from cabbage. (Compost them if you can!) Slice the cabbage into quarters for easier slicing. Then, thinly slice cabbage into very thin ribbons. If you have one, afood processor speeds up this process.

  • Add the salt– Place the thinly sliced cabbage in a large bowl (make sure it is clean too!). Sprinkle the salt over it. Knead and squish the cabbage/salt with your hands for about ten minutes. At first, it won’t seem like it is doing anything at all, but be patient. After a few minutes, the cabbage will start releasing liquid and by the end, there should be enough liquid brine to cover the cabbage in the crock or jar. Add the caraway seeds at this point if you are using them.

  • Move it to the fermentation vessel– Stuff the cabbage very tightly into the jars or fermentation crock. Pour any liquid from the bowl into the jar. If needed, add just enough water to make sure the water/brine covers the cabbage entirely. If the cabbage is fresh, no liquid may be needed, but don’t worry if you have to add a little water.

  • Weigh and cover– Add the fermentation weights and fermentation seal (or use the fermentation crock as directed). If you are just using a basic mason jar, you can also do this by adding a smaller jar that just fits inside the lid of the mason jar and covering both jars with a cloth and a rubber band.

  • Let it ferment– Now you get to practice patience! Fermentation will begin within a day and take 2-5 weeks depending on temperature and desired tartness. After 2weeks, check for desired tartness. The sauerkraut is technically slightly fermented after only a few days, but the best flavor seems to be at the 2-3 week mark. Taste is the best measure here, so check it often and stop the ferment when you get the desired taste. Note: It is normal to see bubbles, white scum, or foam on top during the fermentation. You shouldn’t see any actual mold, though. If you do, scrape it off the top, and make sure all the rest of the cabbage is fully submerged. All cabbage below the brine level should still be fine.

  • Cool it down– Once fermented, it can be eaten right away,or it will store in the refrigerator for up to six months.

  • Enjoy! Sauerkraut is delicious on its own or added to salads, soups, or on top of meats.

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts

Homemade Sauerkraut Recipe

Amount Per Serving (1 /2 cup)

Calories 10

% Daily Value*

Sodium 450mg20%

Carbohydrates 4g1%

Fiber 3g13%

Protein 1g2%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Notes

*The salt should be at a ratio of about 2% by weight. If you have a digital scale, it is worth weighing the cabbage and the salt if you want to get the perfect ratio for the brine. I find it easiest to weigh the cabbage (in grams) and then I calculate 2% of theweight of the cabbage to use in salt. Any high-quality salt will work but I find the best results when I use this one.

**Nutrition data may vary based on fermentation time. Longer ferments will break down more of the naturally occurring carbohydrates in cabbage. Also, a ½ cup serving size can vary greatly based on how it is measured (scooped vs. packed down).

Like this recipe? Check out my new cookbook, or get all my recipes (over 500!) in a personalized weekly meal planner here!

Sauerkraut Health Benefits

Now that you’ve made some delicious kraut, you get to enjoy its many benefits. Sure, it’s delicious, but it also has some other nutritional benefits:

Probiotic Powerhouse

If high quality probiotics aren’t in the budget, just make some sauerkraut. It contains billions of naturally occurring beneficial bacteria. Probioticsare thought to be beneficialin supporting the natural balance of bacteria in the gut. Some studies even indicate that probiotics and gut health are important for mental health, digestive health, and proper immune function.

Vitamins B & C

Cabbage is a natural source of B vitamins and vitamin C. The process of fermentation increases the availability of these nutrients, potentially making sauerkraut more nutritious that the original cabbage itself.

Good for Digestion

Sauerkraut is included in protocols like the GAPS diet to seal and heal the gut. Many people report that sauerkraut soothes and helps improve their digestion.

Antioxidants

Sauerkraut is a good source of lutein and zeaxanthin. These antioxidants are well-studied for their benefits to the eyes.

Do you like sauerkraut? Ever tried to make your own? Share below!

Homemade Sauerkraut Recipe (Easy Countertop Method) (2)

Homemade Sauerkraut Recipe (Easy Countertop Method) (2024)

FAQs

How to make sauerkraut step by step? ›

Procedure:
  1. Prepare cabbage: Discard outer leaves, then rinse heads under cold water and drain. ...
  2. Salt cabbage: Layer cabbage with salt in large mixing container. ...
  3. Pack container: Using clean hands or optional tamper, pack a handful of the cabbage into the fermenting container(s). ...
  4. Ferment: ...
  5. Store: ...
  6. Enjoy!

How long to ferment sauerkraut on the counter? ›

Store the container at 70°–75°F (21°–23°C) while fermenting. At these temperatures, sauerkraut will be fully fermented in about three to four weeks; at 60°–65°F (15°–18°C), fermentation may take six weeks. Below 60°F (15°C), sauerkraut may not ferment. Above 80°F (26°C), sauerkraut may become soft and spoil.

What happens if you use too much salt when making sauerkraut? ›

Too little salt can cause the sauerkraut to get mushy or moldy and too much will slow the fermentation down significantly. Always start with the least amount of salt required and add more if needed.

How much salt do you put in a quart jar when making sauerkraut? ›

directions
  1. Quarter, core, and shred cabbage (may be done with food processor).
  2. Pack into sterilized quart jars by tamping down with a fork (I use tongs) and leave 1 inch headspace.
  3. Add 2 tsp salt and 3 tsp cider vinegar to each jar.

What is the most essential step of making sauerkraut? ›

To make sauerkraut, shredded cabbage is mixed with salt and allowed to ferment. The amount of salt added is critical to assuring food safety, and should not be adjusted. Fermentation takes three to six weeks depending on the air temperature. During this time, the acidity in the product will increase.

What is the ratio of salt to cabbage for sauerkraut? ›

The most widely used ratio of 2.00%–2.25% weight of salt to weight of cabbage gives the best results. This means you add 2g to 2.25g of salt for every 100g of finely sliced cabbage in your recipe.

How do you know when homemade sauerkraut is ready? ›

The rule of thumb when it comes to sauerkraut is to just keep tasting the sauerkraut until the taste is to your liking. The sauerkraut itself should be safe to eat at every stage of the process, so there is no real 'fermentation time'.

Should fermenting sauerkraut be kept in the dark? ›

While the cabbage is fermenting it is best to keep it on the counter away from direct sunlight. You can also keep it in a dark place like a cabinet if you wish. The ideal fermenting temperature is 60°F to 75°F (15°C to 24°C). In other words, room temperature.

Can sauerkraut go bad while fermenting? ›

Yes, you could say sauerkraut has already “gone bad” because it is a fermented dish. However, there still is an expiration date and the product can become too ripe to consume. A big red flag when your kraut has gone bad is the smell- a weird off-smelling yeasty or moldy aroma.

What kind of salt is best for sauerkraut? ›

Sea salt works well, or rock salt. Watch out for the salt labelled 'pickling salt', it often has anti-caking agents in it which can negatively affect your fermentation. If you're not sure, read the ingredients, there should just be one! A fine grind of salt is required for this type of pickling.

What is the best salt for homemade sauerkraut? ›

Kosher salt does not contain iodine but it can contain anti-caking agents, so be sure to check the package to make sure it's just salt. Though I have not experienced this personally, I have read that kosher salt can make fermented foods taste more salty. Plain sea salt is a great option for fermenting food!

How much salt for 2 lbs of cabbage to make sauerkraut? ›

You want 2% salt by weight, so 20 grams of salt for every kilogram of cabbage, or roughly one tablespoon of Diamond Crystal kosher salt per pound of cabbage. Trim and core the cabbage, removing the outermost leaves.

What happens if you don't put enough salt in sauerkraut? ›

Using too little salt not only softens the cabbage but also yields a product lacking in flavor.

Why is my homemade sauerkraut so salty? ›

When making your own sauerkraut, it is easy to make mistakes that may lead to overly salty sauerkraut. Common reasons include: Using too much salt in the brine. Fermenting for too long.

Why do you put vinegar in sauerkraut? ›

Vinegar is sometimes added to sauerkraut recipes to speed up the fermentation process and add extra flavor. However, traditional sauerkraut recipes do not include vinegar. Instead, the cabbage is fermented with just salt and water. Adding vinegar to sauerkraut can also affect the texture of the final product.

Do you add water to cabbage when making sauerkraut? ›

If you did not get enough juice from salting and pounding your cabbage, you can moisten it a little with a brine, using a 1/2 tablespoon unrefined sea salt with 1 cup of filtered water.

How to make old fashioned sauerkraut in a 5 gallon bucket? ›

Instructions
  1. Remove outer leaves, wash, core and slice cabbage.
  2. Add cabbage to a 5-gallon bucket and massage in 6 Tablespoons of salt.
  3. Tamp down until the juices start to come to the surface. ( ...
  4. Use a plate and some weights to press the cabbage down underneith the liquid.
  5. Store in a dark, cool space for 5-6 weeks.
May 14, 2020

How is sauerkraut made in the old days? ›

In the 16th century, the Germanic peoples began dry curing cabbage with salt to extract the water from the vegetable and allowed the mixture to ferment, turning the sugars in the cabbage into lactic acid which served as a preservative. The process remains the same today.

What is the best salt for making sauerkraut? ›

Sea salt works well, or rock salt. Watch out for the salt labelled 'pickling salt', it often has anti-caking agents in it which can negatively affect your fermentation. If you're not sure, read the ingredients, there should just be one! A fine grind of salt is required for this type of pickling.

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