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Homemade sauerkraut recipe

Homemade sauerkraut recipe

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  • Recipes
  • Dish type
  • Preserves
  • Pickles

Full of probiotics, this traditionally fermented sauerkraut is a tasty and healthy accompaniment to sandwiches, meats and more.

16 people made this

IngredientsMakes: 4 (1L) jars

  • 2 white cabbages, quartered
  • 1 handful salt
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 small handful caraway seeds (optional)

MethodPrep:30min ›Extra time:7days resting › Ready in:7days30min

  1. Remove and discard the core of the cabbages, then finely shred. In a large bowl, mix some salt with half of the shredded cabbage. Massage and squeeze for several minutes till the cabbage softens; it will be quite moist. Repeat with the remaining cabbage. Set bowl of cabbage aside overnight at room temperature.
  2. The next day, peel and grate the carrots and mix in with cabbage. Add caraway seeds if desired. Squeeze out excess liquid and discard the liquid.
  3. Transfer the cabbage to sterilised jars (1L jars are ideal). Wipe the rims with a clean cloth, then screw on lids. Store in a cool, dark place set over a towel, as the jars may leak during the fermentation process.
  4. Ferment for 2 to 3 weeks, to taste. Once sauerkraut is ready, store jars in the fridge to slow the fermentation process. Sauerkraut will keep in the fridge for several months.

How to sterilise jars

Learn how to sterilise jars two ways with our handy step-by-step guide and video.

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Recipe: Homemade Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is probably the most well-known lacto-fermented vegetable. Old fashioned sauerkraut is made with thinly sliced cabbage and salt. Like any traditionally homemade food, sauerkraut can be made in a number of ways with a number of ingredients. Whether you add a secret ingredient to your homemade sauerkraut or keep it basic, kraut has a slew of health benefits. It is rich in probiotics, vitamins, fiber, and minerals, which can contribute to better digestion and a stronger immune system. Sauerkraut can also help promote a healthy heart, stronger bones, and weight loss.

Even if each kraut-making method is different there are a few common basics to remember when making fermented cabbage into sauerkraut at home.

Recipe Summary

  • 3 pounds green or red cabbage
  • 1 ½ tablespoons pickling salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Remove outer leaves from cabbage. Quarter cabbage heads lengthwise remove cores. Using a mandoline, food processor, or large chef's knife, finely shred cabbage. Measure 2 1/2 pounds shredded cabbage.

Place the 2 1/2 pounds shredded cabbage in a large ceramic crock, glass container, or plastic food container that holds at least 1 gallon. Add pickling salt and sugar. Using very clean hands or tongs, toss cabbage with pickling salt and sugar. Let stand 10 minutes. Using a clean, heavy plate that fits just inside the container, press plate down on cabbage. Let stand at room temperature for 2 to 24 hours, tossing cabbage and pressing plate down on cabbage every hour or until enough liquid is released to cover cabbage by at least 1 inch. (If cabbage does not release enough liquid, add enough water to cover in a ratio of 1 cup water to 1 teaspoon pickling salt.)

Place a large resealable plastic bag filled with 1 quart water plus 4 teaspoons salt (or a clean 1-gallon jug full of water) over the plate to weight it down. Cover container with a clean dishcloth or loose-fitting lid. Place container in a cool place out of direct sunlight to ferment. At temperatures between 70ºF and 75ºF, fermentation will take 3 to 4 weeks at 60ºF to 65ºF, fermentation will take 5 to 6 weeks. The sauerkraut is ready when it has a slightly crunchy texture and pleasantly tangy flavor.

Every 2 or 3 days, replace dishcloth with a clean dishcloth, skim off any scum that forms on surface of cabbage, and clean and replace plate. If any discolored cabbage appears at the top, remove and discard it. If the water level gets too low, add enough water to cover in a ratio of 1 cup water to 1 teaspoon salt.

Transfer undrained sauerkraut to canning jars or airtight containers seal and label. Store in the refrigerator up to 2 months.

40 pounds heads mature cabbage
1 pound canning salt

Our family learned how to make sauerkraut from my grandfather who was of German decent. In this recipe I am trying to incorporate all my answers to the different questions that I have been asked when I have posted this before.

For best results weigh the cabbage and the salt using a ratio of 40 pounds of cabbage to 1 (one) pound of salt.

We use a kraut cutter and a crock which are over one hundred years old. You can use a bread or cutting board and a large knife to cut the cabbage.

Remove the outside green and dirty leaves. Cut the heads of cabbage in half and remove as much of the core that you can. Now is the time to weigh the head of cabbage. We keep a running total of the cabbage we use to make sure that we use the right ratio of salt to cabbage. When we find out the total amount of cabbage we are using then we measure out the exact amount of salt needed. Shred the cabbage using either a kraut cutter or a knife. We use a kitchen scale to weigh the cabbage and salt.

Put about 5 pounds of cabbage and about 2 ounces of salt into a large bowl and mix with your hands. Put into a crock and pack gently with a potato masher and tamp the cabbage down until some juice comes to the top. The first batch may not bring up juice but, after putting in the second batch of cabbage and salt the juice should easily come to the top. Repeat until you have used up all the cabbage and the correct amount of salt. You must not store your kraut in a metal container.

After the last shredded cabbage and salt are put in the crock work the cabbage with the potato masher until juice comes to the top. We use a piece of white cloth such as a piece of a sheet to cover the kraut. Then we put boards on the cloth and a stone to weigh the kraut down so the juice comes to the top. Some people use one or more large plastic bags filled with water to weigh the kraut down so it is under the juice. If you use plastic bags make sure they are the kind that can be used with food. Garbage bags won't do.

During the curing process, kraut requires daily attention. Remove scum as it forms and wash and scald the cloth often to keep it free from scum and mold and wipe the side of the crock. Fermentation will be complete in about three weeks. The kraut should be kept in a place where the temperature is in the mid 50s to low 60s. It needs just enough warmth to keep it working during the fermenting process. Yet not so hot that it will spoil.

Kraut works from the top down. To check to see if the kraut is ready wait about 2 weeks and dig down in the center of the kraut about 5 or 8 inches. Take a little out and taste it. The kraut should be firm but not crunchy and should have good kraut flavor. If it is not ready let it sit for a few more days and then taste it again.

The following is for canning the sauerkraut. As soon as kraut is thoroughly cured, pack into clean canning jars, adding enough of the kraut juice, or a weak brine made by dissolving 2 tablespoons salt to a quart of water, fill jars to with 1/2 inch of top of jar. Put on cap, screwing the band tight. Process in water bath for 15 minutes. This method cooks the kraut.

We use double bags (one bag inside of another) to pack the kraut in and then we put it in the freezer. When using this method to store the kraut you need to leave some space in the bags because the kraut will continue to ferment until it is frozen. (We learned this the hard way. Had Kraut spill out into the freezer. It really smelled.) By freezing the kraut it is fresh when taken out of the freezer and has not been cooked. I find that cooking the kraut with the pork chops on a low temperature for three hours it turns out the best. Kraut tastes good raw too.

It is not often that we add any sugar at the end of the cooking time but, sometimes if the kraut seems too sour we will add a little sugar.

The main thing is to measure your salt and weigh your cabbage. The ratio of 1 pound of salt to 40 pounds of cabbage is very important. To little salt will make the kraut spoil and to much salt will make the kraut to salty.

Hints: Weigh cabbage and salt to get the correct ratio. This is important. Keep in a temperature where the kraut will work yet not spoil. Check the kraut often and keep it clean. When the kraut is ready remove about the first inch of kraut from the top and throw it away. The top inch of the kraut usually is kind of soft. You may find that at some time during the fermenting process that there doesn't seem to be enough juice. Just add some plain water. Don't put any more salt in the kraut. The good thing about homemade kraut is that it does not have the preservatives that store bought kraut has.

Homemade Sauerkraut Tips

You can use just about any kind of cabbage for sauerkraut. I like to use traditional green cabbage, but red cabbage and Napa are other good varieties.

Some people use special equipment to make sauerkraut, including an airlock lid and fermentation weights. I just use butter muslin and a small jar to weigh down the cabbage under the liquid.

Either way, let it sit for a week or two at room temperature, and you’ll have a big batch of this delicious homemade sauerkraut recipe.

If you have leftovers, here are some ideas of what to eat with sauerkraut.

Remove core from cabbage. Cut in half and finely shred.

Place cut cabbage in large bowl and sprinkle salt on top.

Using your hands, knead the salt into the cabbage, squeezing firmly to help release liquid from the cabbage. You can also use a potato masher to pound the cabbage until it begins to break down.

When the volume of cabbage appears to have reduced by half, add the caraways seeds and work them in.

Pack the salted cabbage into the quart jar in layers, firmly pressing it down each time before adding more (the entire 2 pounds of cabbage should fit into a quart jar).

Press cabbage down firmly in the jar, so that liquid bubbles up over the surface of the jar.

Loosely cap the jar and place it in a cool, dark spot.

Check every other day, removing any bloom and pressing cabbage down if it has floated above the liquid (be warned, it will be a bit stinky. That’s normal).

After two weeks, taste the sauerkraut. If you like the flavor, place the jar in the refrigerator. If you want something a bit stronger, let it continue to ferment until it pleases you.

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Steps to Make It

Remove outer leaves and any undesirable portions from firm, mature, heads of cabbage wash and drain. Cut into halves or quarters remove the core. Use a shredder or sharp knife to cut the cabbage into thin shreds about the thickness of a dime.

In a large container, thoroughly mix 2 tablespoons pickling and canning salt with 3 pounds shredded cabbage. Let the salted cabbage stand for several minutes to wilt slightly this allows packing without excessive breaking or bruising of the shreds.

Pack the salted cabbage firmly and evenly into a large clean crock or jar. Using a wooden spoon or tamper or the hands, press down firmly until the juice comes to the surface. Repeat the shredding, salting, and packing of the cabbage until the crock is filled to within 3 to 4 inches of the top.

Cover the cabbage with a clean, thin, white cloth (such as muslin) and tuck the edges down against the inside of the container. Cover with a plate or round paraffined/waxed board that fits inside the container so that the cabbage is not exposed to the air. Put a weight on top of the cover, so the brine comes to the cover but not over it. A glass jar filled with water makes a good weight.

An alternative method of covering cabbage during fermentation consists of placing a plastic bag filled with water on top of the fermenting cabbage. The water-filled bag seals the surface from exposure to air and prevents the growth of film yeast or molds. It also serves as a weight. For extra protection, the bag with the water in it can be placed inside another plastic bag. Any bag used should be of heavyweight, watertight plastic and intended for use with foods. The amount of water in the plastic bag can be adjusted to give just enough pressure to keep the fermenting cabbage covered with brine.

Formation of gas bubbles indicates fermentation is taking place. A room temperature of 68 to 72 degrees is best for fermenting cabbage. Fermentation is usually completed in 5 to 6 weeks.

Fully fermented sauerkraut may be kept tightly covered in the refrigerator for a few months, it can be frozen in sealed freezer bags, or it may be canned as follows: ​

Hot Pack: Bring sauerkraut and liquid slowly to a boil in a large kettle, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and fill sterilized jars rather firmly with sauerkraut and juices, leaving 1/2-inch headspace.​

Raw Pack: Pack sterilized jars with sauerkraut and cover with juices, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Adjust jar lids and process.

Recipes that Use Sauerkraut

Beer and Sauerkraut Cupcakes – Ann’s Entitled Life

You definitely wouldn’t think of sauerkraut as an ingredient in cupcakes, right? But with the sweet flavors and stout beer in this recipe, it works together remarkably well!

Reuben Casserole – Spend with Pennies

This Reuben casserole features tender pasta, corned beef, and sauerkraut smothered in a swiss cheese sauce. Yum!

Pork and Sauerkraut Bake – Spend with Pennies

Pork pairs remarkably well with sauerkraut, and when you throw in tender potatoes it’s a dish that the whole family will love.

Sauerkraut and Sriracha Pizza – Homemade for Elle

If you’ve never had sauerkraut on a pizza, you’re missing out! This one features sirloin steak, roasted peppers, and a generous drizzle of spicy sriracha.

Sauerkraut Chickpea Flour Ravioli + Spiced Applesauce – Strength & Sunshine

These beautiful homemade raviolis are made with chickpea flour (gluten-free) and filled with sauerkraut and smothered with a spiced applesauce.

My Favorite Reuben Sandwich – Spend with Pennies

A classic favorite – the Reuben sandwich is not to be underestimated. Made with corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and a homemade thousand island dressing.

Hot Reuben Cheese Dip – Plating Pixels

I don’t know about you, but this is what I am bringing to the next work potluck! Hot Reuben Cheese Dip. Paired with rye bread for dipping. Umm, delicious.

Easy Spicy Golden Sauerkraut – Moon and Spoon and Yum

What makes this homemade sauerkraut recipe different from others is it’s use of turmeric, red chile flakes, and black peppercorns. It’s vegan, gluten-free and so good for the gut.

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls Recipe – Savoring the Good

Also known as Halupki, these cabbage rolls are easy to make and the ultimate old country comfort food.

Easy Homemade Sauerkraut Recipe – Sidewalk Shoes

I’ve always wanted to learn how to make sauerkraut in a mason jar, and this tutorial walks you through just how easy it is!

Slow Cooker Beef Stew with Sauerkraut and Tomatoes – Chicken Scratch NY

This super simple recipe is made with onions, coconut oil, stewing beef, sauerkraut, crushed tomatoes, and beef broth.

Instant Pot Reuben Sandwiches – Stef’s Eats and Sweets

What’s better than Reuben Sandwiches? Instant Pot Reuben Sandwiches, of course. In under two hours, these can be on your dinner table.

Crock Pot Pork and Sauerkraut Recipe – Midlife Healthy Living

This delicious combination is made with pork loin, sauerkraut, beer, apple butter, brown sugar, and onions.

Sauerkraut Salad – Simply Stacie

Tangy, sweet, and delicious – this sauerkraut salad is made with crisp vegetables, sauerkraut, and a sweet dressing.

Make Your Own Probiotics – Whole New Mom

We’ve all heard about how great probiotics are for our health and immune system, and homemade sauerkraut is full of natural probiotics. Learn how to make it:

Herb Buttered Whole Chicken Stuffed with Sauerkraut – Peace, Love and Low Carb

This Paleo recipe features a beautifully roasted whole chicken stuffed with sauerkraut and a butter herbed mixture.

Reuben Stuffed Mushrooms – Peace, Love and Low Carb

A fun play on the Reuben sandwich, but with mushrooms!

Reuben Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Russian Dressing – Peace, Love and Low Carb

A low-carb and healthier take on the Reuben sandwiches featured on a sweet potato. It even features an easy homemade Russian dressing.

How to Make Sauerkraut


  • 1 head green cabbage*
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt per head of cabbage (I use this one)
  • Clean glass jar (I usually use one average head of cabbage per quart-sized mason jar)
  • If you need extra brine: 1 additional tablespoon of sea salt and 4 cups non-chlorinated water

*I’m writing this recipe for one head of cabbage, BUT, keep in mind it takes nearly the same amount of effort to make a lot of kraut as it does a little… So don’t be afraid to make a BIG batch. And it tastes better the longer it ages, too! You can make bigger batches of sauerkraut in a beautiful old-fashioned fermenting crock. Learn how to use a fermenting crock in this post.


Wash the cabbage and remove any wilted outer leaves.

Quarter the cabbage, remove the core, and slice the cabbage into thin strips (I shoot for around 1/4″ wide). Try to make the strips as uniform as possible, but don’t feel like they have to be perfect.

Place the strips in a large bowl, and sprinkle the sea salt over the top.

Allow it to sit for 15 minutes or so, and then start mashing. There isn’t a right or wrong way to do this– just use your hands, a mallet, or whatever blunt object you can find to mash/knead/twist/press/crush the cabbage. The goal is to start the juices flowing. (It helps if you can think of something that makes you mad while you do this–it’s better than therapy, really…)

Starting to release the juice

I mash/knead for about 8-10 minutes. Hopefully by the end of this process, you’ll have a lovely pool of salty cabbage juice sitting in the bottom of your bowl. At this point, taste the juice in your bowl. If it doesn’t taste salty, like ocean water, you want to add a little more salt to get your ratios just right.

Place a couple handfuls of cabbage into the jar, then thoroughly pack down with a wooden spoon. The goal is to eliminate as many air bubbles as possible.

Pack it down baby…

Repeat the packing and mashing until the jar is full– just make sure to leave about 2″ at the top.

If there is enough liquid flowing from your cabbage to cover it completely, congrats!

If not, make a 2% brine solution to fill up the rest of the jar. (If you don’t completely submerse the cabbage in liquid, it’s susceptible to mold and other gunk).

To Make a 2% Brine:

Dissolve 1 tablespoon fine sea salt in 4 cups non-chlorinated water. If you don’t use all of the brine for this recipe, it will keep indefinitely in the fridge.

The finer the salt, the less stirring you must to do to dissolve. I particularly like this sea salt from Redmonds (learn more about them in my Cooking with Salt article), as it dissolves almost immediately.

Cover the exposed cabbage with brine, leaving 1″ of headspace at the top. If you are having troubles with the cabbage floating to the top, you can weigh it down with a glass weight (this is my favorite glass weight), OR even wedge a piece of the cabbage core on top to hold it down. Any cabbage that is exposed will need to be thrown away, but you were going to toss the core anyway, so it’s no big loss.

Adding a glass weight to hold the cabbage under the brine

Affix a lid to the jar (fingertight only), and set aside in a room-temperature location, out of direct sunlight, for at least one week.

You’ll probably want to place a small dish or tray under the jar, as they have the tendency to leak a bit and spill over. Also, removing the lid after a day or so to “burp” the jar and release any pent-up gasses is also a smart idea.

Taste and smell your kraut after one week. If it’s tangy enough, move to the refrigerator for storage. If you like a bit more tang, simply allow to ferment for a bit longer.

A Note About Salt

I’ve had a few commenters say their sauerkraut either was too salty or not salty enough. This is a part of the learning curve of making homemade sauerkraut, and the more batches you make, the better you’ll get at adjusting the salt levels. However, here are a few tips:

  • If in doubt, start with slightly less salt than called for– you can always add more.
  • A good way to start training your taste buds to the proper salt levels is to make the brine listed above and taste it. That is what the proper salt levels should be of your cabbage strips when you initially start mashing them.
  • Taste-testing is also important as not all salts contain the same level of saltiness.
  • After mashing the cabbage and salt for 15+ minutes, taste the brine in the bottom of the bowl. It should taste like ocean water (very salty). If not, add a bit more.
  • Getting the proper salt levels is crucial, as too little salt will result in spoiled cabbage, while too much will stunt the fermentation process. You’ll get better the more you practice– promise!

Should I Use an Air Lock Fermentation System?

For my first few batches of kraut, I simply used a regular mason jar and lid. However, I was excited when Fermentools sent me a 6-pack starter kit to try. Are air locks an absolute requirement for making homemade fermented vegetables? Nope. However, they can reduce the amount of mold on a ferment, and allow the gasses to escape without you having to “burp” the jar. Basically, if you’re new to fermenting, an airlock makes the whole process pretty much fool-proof.

Using an air lock from Fermentools

The air locks were simple to use with the widemouth mason jars I had on hand, and the glass weights that came in the set were especially handy for keeping the cabbage from floating to the top (and a little easier than trying to wedge a core down in there…)

Bottom line– you don’t *have* to use a air lock, but they are pretty handy, and often produce a higher quality product in the end. And if you’re making a big batch of homemade sauerkraut, half-gallon mason jars are easier to handle (and less expensive) than one of those big ol’ fermenting crocks (which I have since updated to because we eat SO MUCH sauerkraut. If you’re interested in getting a fermenting crock for big batches, check out the fermenting crocks from Lehman’s. (I got one of the 6-packs, which will handle around three gallons of kraut…)