Learn how to make sauerkraut with our tried and true method. This fermented sauerkraut recipe is perfect for beginners and tastes delicious.
Homemade sauerkraut is hard to beat. It’s equally good, if not better, than store-bought alternatives, and you can regulate the fermentation time to achieve your desired level of sourness. We season ours with traditional German spices such as caraway seeds, allspice berries, juniper berries, and peppercorns.
Fermented sauerkraut requires minimal prep time on the first day. Then, you can let the fermentation process work its magic. I personally love the taste of this homemade sauerkraut after a week of fermentation. Once it’s ready, I keep it in the fridge for months and enjoy it with cooked meats, on sandwiches, salads, as a side to roasted veggies, and more. For a quicker version, check out our recipe for quick sauerkraut, which is still delicious even though it’s not fermented.
What is sauerkraut?
Sauerkraut is a popular tangy fermented cabbage dish in Central and Eastern Europe. Several theories exist on its origins, including from China, Mongolia, and the Romans. The unique sour flavor of sauerkraut is due to lacto-fermentation. It is rich in probiotics and nutrients, making it a gut-friendly dish you can easily prepare at home (more about potential benefits of fermented sauerkraut here).
Equipment for sauerkraut
- Half-gallon mason jar: I love the size of half-gallon jars, and the brine shared in our recipe below is specifically designed for them. You can use two 1-quart jars, but follow our instructions in the recipe below for increasing the brine.
- Fermentation lids with an airlock (optional, but recommended): An airlock makes fermenting easy and hands-off since it releases stored gases in the jar for you. If you do not have an airlock, you must open the lid daily during fermentation to release stored gases. Here’s the airlock that we have in our kitchen.
- Glass fermentation weights (optional, but recommended): Weights are optional, but I love using them when I ferment. For a safe and successful fermentation, cabbage must stay submerged in the salt brine. A weight helps pack the cabbage down under the brine. Here are the weights we have in our kitchen. They are glass, which make them easy to clean.
Ingredients for sauerkraut
- Cabbage: I use a large green cabbage for traditional sauerkraut, weighing at least 2 ¾ pounds. It has a mild flavor, firm texture, and high sugar content, ideal for fermentation. When making homemade kimchi, we use Napa cabbage.
- Salt: Use kosher salt or sea salt. I have Redmond Real salt in my kitchen and use it for this sauerkraut recipe. Pickling salt, Celtic salt, Himalayan pink salt, Morton’s, or Diamond Crystal salt will all work. Do not use iodized salt, as this can negatively affect fermentation.
- Spices: We’ve shared more of a classic German sauerkraut recipe below, so we stick with allspice berries, juniper berries, peppercorns, and caraway seeds.
- Tiny bit of sugar: A teaspoon of sugar helps speed up the fermentation process initially.
How to make sauerkraut
Making sauerkraut at home is easy, especially with our easy-to-follow recipe. You will just need time for the fermentation process (1 week). If you’re reading this an need sauerkraut now, take a look at our easy sauerkraut.
This is the best sauerkraut recipe we’ve tried at home. First, we want to remove the core and slice the cabbage. Then, toss the sliced cabbage with our salt and spices so it begins to break down and release liquid. Cover the tossed cabbage with a dish towel and set aside for 30 minutes.
Next, I use clean hands to crush the cabbage and salt mixture for two minutes, watching it wilt and shrink dramatically (see photo below). Now, let the cabbage sit for another 30 minutes.
Then, I add a teaspoon of sugar, crush it, remix it, and pack it into my sanitized jar. If you have one, this is when you would place your weight into the jar. Then, as a last step, we will pour in our salt brine — a 2% solution of water and salt — to cover the cabbage in the jar.
Seal the jar with its lid or use a fermentation lid with an airlock attached — as shown in our photos. This airlock makes fermenting hands-off since it releases any stored gases created from the lacto-fermentation. If you do not have an airlock, no worries. You just need to open the jar daily to release stored gases as the cabbage ferments and turns into sauerkraut.
I place my jar inside a bowl on the counter. The bowl catches any liquid that seeps from the jar during fermentation (it doesn’t always happen, but if it does, we will be prepared).
Leave the sauerkraut to ferment for 1 week, then replace the airlock with a regular lid and transfer it to the fridge and enjoy with your favorite dishes. Here’s a photo after fermenting my sauerkraut for a few days. See all those happy bubbles — our fermentation is working!
Does sauerkraut go bad?
While the fermentation process protects it naturally, it can go bad. Watch out for telltale signs like a dull grey or brown hue, fuzzy mold growth, or a pungent, unpleasant odor. These mean it’s time to say goodbye.
How long does sauerkraut last?
Homemade sauerkraut lasts 4 to 6 months in the fridge — After a week of letting your sauerkraut bubble away and ferment at room temperature, it’s time for the fridge! Keeping it chilled slows the fermentation. This preserves the perfect texture and flavor, so you can enjoy your homemade sauerkraut for months to come. Just ensure the cabbage stays submerged in its brine so it doesn’t dry out.
Can you freeze sauerkraut?
Freeze sauerkraut for up to one year, but I have a few caveats. First, ditch the jar and transfer the sauerkraut to a freezer-safe container or a freezer bag, and leave some space at the top of the container to allow for expansion. Second, to preserve the texture, thaw the sauerkraut slowly in the refrigerator before using it. Note that frozen sauerkraut might be softer than fresh once it has thawed.
What to eat with sauerkraut?
- With sausages: Bratwurst and sauerkraut is a classic, and kielbasa or Polish sausage paired with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes is a hearty and comforting meal.
- With pork: Pork chops, pork tenderloin, and pork meatballs all work well with sauerkraut. Serve it cold right from the fridge, or warm it up first. Pork and sauerkraut are made for each other.
- With salads: Add a spoonful to your favorite salads or mix into creamy potato salad.
- In soup: Stir sauerkraut into this cabbage and ham soup or into our lentil soup.
More cabbage recipes
We love cabbage and have shared many cabbage recipes over the years. A few favorites are this easy roasted cabbage, lemon sautéed cabbage (a reader favorite), bacon fried cabbage, and this creamy coleslaw.
Homemade Sauerkraut (Beginner Friendly!)
This homemade sauerkraut recipe is perfect for beginners and tastes delicious, with traditional German spices like juniper and caraway. We have provided ingredient amounts by weight for safety and the best results. Use a kitchen scale to weigh your ingredients for this fermented sauerkraut recipe.
Equipment: We recommend using one sanitized half-gallon jar with an airlock and glass weight (see article). If you do not have an airlock, you must vent the gas daily during fermentation, which requires you to open the top to release gas and then close it again.
Timing: You will need 1 ½ hours of preparation time, and then the sauerkraut ferments at room temperature for 1 week.
You Will NeedFor the cabbage
1000 grams cabbage, sliced 1/4-inch thick, from large head of cabbage at least 2 ¾ pounds
20 grams pickling, kosher, or sea salt, not iodized salt
3 allspice berries
3 juniper berries
1 ½ teaspoons caraway seeds
1 teaspoon (4g) sugarFor the brine (2% solution)
650 grams water
13 grams pickling, kosher, or sea salt, not iodized salt
1Make the brine: Combine 13 grams of salt with 650 grams of water and stir until dissolved. The salt may take a minute to dissolve but should do so eventually. You can heat the water to help the salt dissolve quicker, but then cool the brine back to room temperature before pouring over the cabbage. Set aside.
2Add the cabbage, peppercorns, allspice, juniper, and caraway seeds to a large, non-reactive mixing bowl.
3Sprinkle 20 grams of salt evenly over the cabbage mixture. Toss well with your hands to combine. Cover with a tea towel, and let sit for 30 minutes.
4Remove the towel, and thoroughly crush the mixture with your hands for 2 to 3 minutes. The volume will decrease dramatically. Cover with a tea towel again, and let stand for another 30 minutes.
5Remove the towel, and add the sugar. Crush with your hands for about 1 minute.
6Transfer the cabbage mixture and all the liquid it creates to a sanitized jar. Use the end of a rolling pin or muddler to press the mixture into the jar.
7Add a fermentation weight (optional). Cover the mixture with the brine (ensure it is completely covered), and add the lid — we recommend using an airlock.
8Set the jar inside a bowl to catch any liquid that seeps out. Leave it this way, on the counter at room temperature (see notes), for one week. If you do not use an airlock for the lid (recommended), you must vent the gas daily (open the top to release it, then close it again).
9After one week, swap the airlock for a standard lid and store it in the refrigerator for 4 to 6 months. Ensure the sauerkraut stays submerged in the brine.
Adam and Joanne's Tips
- How to sanitize the jar: Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add your jar, and boil for 5 minutes.
- Use 1-quart jars: We use 1/2 gallon jars, but you can use two 1-quart jars for this recipe. You will need more brine, so make 1.5x the brine shared above or 975 grams water and 19.5 grams salt. You will have some leftovers, but this guarantees you will have enough 2% brine.
- Ideal temperature for fermenting: Ferment your sauerkraut at room temperature (around 70 °F / 21°C). Cooler temperatures may slow fermentation slightly and warmer temperatures may cause issues.
- Allspice berries: We found whole allspice berries less common in the grocery spice aisle, so we recommend buying a “pickling spice blend” instead. McCormick “Mixed Pickling Spice” contains allspice berries. I just removed 3 to make this recipe.
- Nutrition facts: The nutrition facts provided below are estimates. We have used the USDA database to calculate approximate values.