This is how to make Sauerkraut that stays crisp and never fails! Making sauerkraut is easy with this old European recipe. I get constantly asked for this sauerkraut recipe and you won’t believe how easy it is! Get perfectly preserved sour cabbage with these secrets every time! 

Russian/ Ukrainian Sauerkraut recipe with cabbage and salt

 

We add sauerkraut to Borscht Soup, Bratwurst and Sauerkraut Subs, stuff them in Pierogi dumplings, make a quick sauerkraut salad, or turn it into a Fried Cabbage dish that you can make with pork and sauerkraut in using one-pan! And since other pickled vegetables are a big part of the Russian, Polish, and Ukrainian cuisine you should try our Ukrainian Pickled Tomatoes and Polish Dill Pickles that-are-staple pantry foods!

What Is Sauerkraut?

Sauerkarut is sour cabbage that goes through the process of Lacto-fermentation. It’s a way to preserve vegetables for long periods without freezing or canning. That’s just the way people of earlier times preserved their fresh vegetables, including cabbage.

Lactic acid is a natural preservative that prevents rotten bacteria. The sugars and starches in vegetables convert into lactic acid (known as lactobacilli) and is a type of fermentation that enhances our digestion, vitamin levels, and enzymes.

(Same Sauerkraut Recipe using grated carrots.)

sauerkraut recipe

Sauerkraut Benefits

Sauerkraut is the best known Lacto-fermented food around the world because it’s an antibiotic and promotes the growth of healthy flora through the intestine. It’s recommended to eat 2 tablespoons of sauerkraut with a meal to help digestion. People with poor health can get back on track by eating lactic acid foods like sauerkraut and changing their diet.

Every culture has its way of cabbage preparations. For instance, Korean kimchi is a Japanese staple of Lacto-fermented cabbage and vegetables, and Moldovians brine whole cabbage head leaves. However, in Russia and Ukraine, we like to add grated carrots to sauerkraut, whereas German sauerkraut is nestled with caraway and mustard seeds.

Bavarian Sauerkraut is also sweet and a milder type of sour cabbage, but no matter what variation you go with, know that a traditional sauerkraut recipe consists of cabbage and salt. My mom’s method for making sauerkraut is to knead it with salt to release a natural liquid known as anaerobic fermentation.

The results of this old-fashioned sauerkraut method can sometimes come out bitter due to the lack amount of liquid forming on the top. Even though I added plenty of salt to ensure I released maximum juices from the cabbage I had to toss it out because it was just too bitter (and this was weighed and pressed into a jar properly.)

Homemade Sauerkraut Recipe (The Easy Method):

It wasn’t until I tried my Ukrainian aunt’s sauerkraut which she makes on rotation for her family of 15! Her sauerkraut is so fresh, crisp, and perfectly tart! Not too sour or bitter just right. Her secret to crisp cabbage is to use a pale white-green head of cabbage, not leafy-green. The cabbage needs to be heavy with pale green leaves.

The instructions to make her sauerkraut are a bit different from the pound and kneading method. She, not only mixes the salt into the cabbage but makes a cold brine from cold water and more salt to ensure the anaerobic fermentation begins from that moment on.

Interestingly, this just covers the cabbage and is like taking a big shortcut! The salt and water protect the cabbage from browning and I have never had bad results, it turns out every time! I’ve had someone who has tried many sauerkraut recipes ask for this recipe, claiming it was the best sauerkraut she had! It’s so good even my children eat it!

Best Cabbage For Sauerkraut?

Winter Cabbage has the highest moisture content which is ideal for sauerkraut. It has thicker compacted leaves than the summer cabbage. Summer cabbage has loose hollow leaves and is much lighter in weight. Late cabbage is much heavier and has pale green leaves.

The best late cabbage varieties, to grow at home are the Late Flat Dutch, Multikeeper Cabbage, and Brunswick. You want heavy green cabbage that is pale green in color (sometimes called white cabbage.) Avoid ruffled or tender cabbage leaves when making sauerkraut you want dense cabbage that is wide and firm to the touch.

Q&A

Making Sauerkraut:

To get the most benefits out of your sauerkraut don’t cook the sauerkraut! Canning sauerkraut will kill that friendly bacteria through heat. Lacto-fermented foods are best refrigerated or preserved in barrels or buckets.

I like to have my cabbage sit out on the counter until it has reached the sourness we like then move it into glass jars and keep it refrigerated (cold storage). This way it keeps for months in the back of the fridge without canning and further souring.

 

  1. Weigh the cabbage heads on a scale to ensure you are working with 3 kilograms of cabbage (if the cabbage weighs a little more than that’s fine just stay in the 3kg mark you’ll be discarding the core and bad leaves later.)
  2. Cut the cabbage in half with core-intact for easier shredding. Shred the cabbage into a large mixing bowl, using a mandoline, sharp knife, or salad master (shoestring cone attachment.)
  3. Toss together the cabbage, 2 tablespoons salt, grated carrot (if using), and a teaspoon of sugar (it won’t be sweet.)
  4. Meanwhile, make a cold brine of water and salt.
  5. Transfer the cabbage into a large pot and cover it with the cold brine. Press and pack down the cabbage with a heavy plate to ensure the cabbage is covered at least 1-inch above the plate.
  6. Place the cabbage in a dark cool spot (somewhere on the countertop) for 3-5 days. Check for tartness after 3 days. I do not cover my pot with a tea towel as long as the liquid covers the cabbage it should not brown.
  7. Pack the cabbage with the juices into 4 1-quart jars or one 1-gallon jar. Be sure to press the cabbage down to bring the liquid up and cover the cabbage.
  8. Refrigerate for up to 12 months or more.

Note: Be sure that the cabbage is submerged under liquid at all times during the fermentation process.

Can I Omit The Water?

This sauerkraut recipe turns out perfect every time! However, if you want to make old-fashioned sauerkraut without water invest in a masher or pickle packer and pound the cabbage to release natural juices. You want enough liquid to cover the cabbage during fermentation.

Ideally, you want to add 1 tablespoon of sea salt for one quart of shredded cabbage. Allow pounded cabbage to sit in salt for 10 minutes in a mixing bowl. Then pack into clean jars, and press it down to bring the liquid over the cabbage by 1-inch.

Sauerkraut Ingredients:

Sauerkraut is made from fresh raw ingredients. You’ll want to choose a heavy winter cabbage variety when making crisp sauerkraut.

  • Winter Cabbage- is a late cabbage variety ideal for making sauerkraut. You want a heavy cabbage head with pale green leaves when making sauerkraut. It will result in crunchy sauerkraut is key for success!
  • Salt- use un-refined sea salt or kosher salt. Don’t use iodized salt for homemade sauerkraut it has to be premium ingredients to work as a preservative. Salt inhibits putrefying bacteria for several days until enough lactic acid is produced to preserve the cabbage for many months.
  • Carrot- prior to fermenting you can add 1 part of vegetables to your sauerkraut like beets or carrots. For 3 kilograms of cabbage, you’d use 1 carrot or beet that has been grated with a box grater. This makes it nutrient-dense as it ferments with the cabbage.
  • Brine- skip the pickle packer (masher) for pounding cabbage and do yourself a favor, make this brine of water and salt! Use filtered or pure water.

How Long To Ferment Sauerkraut?

The way you prepare sauerkraut and the temperature of your room can make a big impact on how long you need to ferment cabbage. Typically the fermenting process for me at room temperature of 70°F can take 3-5 days depending on the humidity.

If you want a milder cabbage then go with 3 days of fermentation. We like it more on the tart side so, 5 days is perfect! Taste test after day 3 to determine if you want to continue fermenting it or pack it for cold storage.

Can You Freeze Sauerkraut?

Extreme temperatures can kill the good bacteria that, can develop, during Lacto-fermentation. Freezing and cooking sauerkraut is possible, however, the texture will change. Fermented sauerkraut stays crisp and fresh right in the refrigerator for long periods of time if handled properly.

A jar of well-fermented vegetables can keep for months and months! Just make sauerkraut with these instructions and prolong the vitamins in storing it properly without the extremes.

How Long Does Sauerkraut Last?

Why buy the sauerkraut brands when you make this easy sauerkraut recipe?! If you have ever wondered, does sauerkraut go bad? Then I’m here to answer your question!

Sauerkraut can go bad if you select the wrong cabbage and mess up the salt ratio. There are many other reasons for failures but one of them can be the lack of liquid covering the cabbage during fermentation.

If fermentation went well and your sauerkraut tastes perfectly tart you can prolong its shelf life in the fridge for up to 12 months! Keep as long as you want within this time in the fridge and be sure to always have the liquid covering the cabbage!

What To Eat With Sauerkraut?

There are so many recipes using sauerkraut! Make a sauerkraut sandwich, Polish sauerkraut, and sausage dish and so much more! Here are some ideas;

What Is Sauerkraut Made Of?

The best sauerkraut is made with fresh ingredients, always use filtered or pure water, and the best quality organic vegetables! Sauerkraut tastes crisp and delicious with the right cabbage!

Sauerkraut is mainly made of cabbage and salt. The sauerkraut probiotics are many! Did you know drinking sauerkraut juice can help with nausea and bellyaches?

Calories and Nutrition:

Sauerkraut is healthy and low in calories. Not only is it good for you but it is low in carbs and packed with probiotics, vitamins, fiber, and minerals, which aid digestion and bowel movements.

 

Tips

  1. Use a slotted spoon with holes to remove any cabbage from the jar. You don’t want to remove a lot of liquid from the jar as it will keep the rest of the batch preserved. Always have the sauerkraut covered with juices when storing.
  2. Grate a carrot or beet into the sauerkraut for more vitamins!
  3. Use filtered or pure water and the best quality organic vegetables!
  4. You know the batch of sauerkraut is bad if the smell is so awful that nothing can persuade you to eat it. Bubbly, little spots of white foam are pickling liquid and natural.
  5. Use a wide-mouth glass jar for easier serving.
  6. Add sauerkraut to soups, salads, fried cabbage, and dumplings. Many doughs are stuffed with a braised cabbage filling like these Cabbage Belyashi.
  7. Raise a dozen of heads of cabbage and it’ll last you a year!
  8. Wash and trim any spoiled parts, that can ruin your sauerkraut batch.

Tasty Recipes To Use Up Sauerkraut:

Need sauerkraut recipe ideas? Try these recipes using sauerkraut:

 

 

sauerkraut

Everything You Need To Make Sauerkraut At Home:

  • Mandoline Slicer– makes shredding cabbage a breeze!
  • 1-Gallon Glass Jar-perfect for cold storing sauerkraut.
  • Large Mixing Bowl– be sure to use an extra-large bowl as cabbage can triple in volume when shredding.
  • 8-Quart Pot– use a large pot for fermentation. You want something large enough to fit a dinner plate and bring up the liquid, but at the same time cover the cabbage so it’s not exposed to the air.
  • Sharp Knife- I like to slice the head of cabbage in half for easier shredding.

How To Make Sauerkraut:

Sauerkraut Recipe

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Ferment: 3 days
Servings: 1 gallon
Author: Alyona Demyanchuk
This is how to make Sauerkraut that stays crisp and never fails! Making sauerkraut is easy with this old European recipe. I get constantly asked for this sauerkraut recipe and you won't believe how easy it is! Get perfectly preserved sour cabbage with these secrets every time! 

Equipment

  • 1 mandoline slicer
  • 1 6-quart pot
  • 1 Extra Large Mixing Bowl
  • 1 dinner plate

Ingredients

Sauerkraut:

  • 3 kilograms cabbage (6 lbs)
  • 2 Tbsp salt
  • 1 grated carrot* (optional)
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar

Cold Brine:

  • 6 cups cold water
  • 2 Tbsp salt

Instructions

How to make Sauerkraut:

  • In an extra-large bowl mix together the cabbage, salt, carrot, and sugar and pack into a large pot.
  • Stir the cold brine ingredients together and pour over cabbage.
  • Press the cabbage mixture down with a heavy plate and make sure liquid covers the cabbage completely to prevent any browning. Let sit at room temperature for 3-5 days.
  • Pack into a 1-gallon jar, (or four 1-quart jars) pressing, the liquid over the cabbage, and keep refrigerated for up to 12 months.

Notes

NOTES:
  • Omit the carrot for a traditional sauerkraut recipe.
  • 3 kilograms is about two large heads of cabbage.
  • My aunt likes to air out any bitterness before packing it into jars. Simply dump the sauerkraut into a large bowl after fermentation and allow it to sit open for 2 hours. Then pack tightly in jars, pressing the liquid over cabbage, and store in the fridge as directed. I skip this step. 

Nutrition per serving

Serving: 1cupCalories: 49kcalCarbohydrates: 11gProtein: 2gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 1780mgPotassium: 331mgFiber: 5gSugar: 6gVitamin A: 821IUVitamin C: 69mgCalcium: 76mgIron: 1mg

 

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18 comments

    • Vicky

    How much beet can i use? and would it be shredded raw or cooked?

      • Alyona Demyanchuk

      Hi Vicky, you can grate one raw beet into the cabbage.

    • Lana

    Do you cover the pot when you let it sit at room temperature?

      • Alyona Demyanchuk

      It’s best not to, so the air can circulate otherwise the sauerkraut can form a film.

    • Alena

    Hi, when you say you can dump the sauerkraut into a bowl for a couple of hours to get bitterness out, so you cover with like a light towel or just have the bowl completely uncovered?
    Also, when you are mixing the shredded cabbage with other ingredients, do you mix heavily until juices come out or just a light, gentle mix? Thanks!

      • Alyona

      Hi Alena, my aunt would air out the sauerkraut uncovered, I don’t really do that and get great results. This recipe calls for additional water so it should cover the cabbage when covered with a heavy plate. No heavy mixing is needed.

    • Al

    This is my favorite sauerkraut! I enjoy it very much. It tastes great even after staying in the fridge for quite some time. Thank you!

      • Alyona’s Cooking

      Thank you for the feedback.

    • Rene Herrera

    What kind of bowl? Metal,glass, plastic?

      • Alyona’s Cooking

      Hi Renee, it doesn’t matter.

    • Tammy

    on the salt what kind are you using ?

      • Alyona’s Cooking

      Hi Tammy, I used Kosher salt but sea salt is better.

    • Tonda

    Can you can this kraut

      • Alyona’s Cooking

      Hi Tonda, you probably can! I know Aldi has jarred sauerkraut.

    • Diana

    Do you eat it as is after it fermented for 3 days or do I have to add onion, oil, vinegar and sugar everytime?

      • Alyona’s Cooking

      Hi Diana, it depends what your making, really. I’ll leave it the way it is for Reubens or bratwursts subs and will add an onion, sugar, and etc for a salad.

    • Inna MKS

    Hi! Thanks for recipe, I wanna prep everything right to try this out, what size jars would I need for this amount?

      • Alyona’s Cooking

      Hi Inna, 4 quart-sized jars is what you’ll need to pack the sauerkraut to, unless you have the half gallon jars. This does ferment 3 days before packing so you plenty of time before packing:) Would love to hear how it turned out!

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