How to Make Sauerkraut

Homemade sauerkraut is crunchy, sweet, and briny, filled with the tang of healthy fermentation. Over the years of making this awesome fermented food, I’ve become a ‘kraut nerd, and have successfully converted nearly everyone I know until a kraut lover! Many people have only tried canned, overcooked, sour-smelling sauerkraut – so I understand if you’ve stayed away until now.

Many years ago I made homemade sauerkraut for a cooking class, and while the first recipe was a success, the kraut mostly just took up space in the fridge (alongside the kim chi experiments I also tried). It took me awhile to come around to this food, but now I eat it nearly everyday, in sandwiches, in wraps, atop salads, served in bowls of food, and with so much else. Homemade kim chi loves noodle soups and friend rice. I also make my favorite homemade coconut yogurt nearly every week, and I like to experiment with fermented cashew cheeze and I had a serious homemade water kefir phase, too.

Here’s a look at the first batch and just a few of the batches I’ve made in years since::

homemade sauerkraut
I thought peppercorns would be really cute, and they were, but they were very hard to eat.

homemade sauerkraut
jars of purple kraut and one lone jar of kim chi!

How to Make Sauerkraut

By far, the best thing about making kraut is that it’s SUPER easy. All you need is cabbage and salt – yes, REALLY. I usually toss in some carrots, beets, and herbs, but at its most basic, perfect kraut is just cabbage and salt. Some sites recommend using a vegetable starter or beginning with dairy whey, but the veggies already have all the good bacterias they need to ferment on their own (it’s like magic, or science… or both!).

Below is my detailed look at how to make the best kraut. It starts with the best organic green or red cabbages and a handful of good sea salt. You will also need some supplies, which I’ve detailed below.

homemade sauerkraut
It all starts with the humble cabbage. Red or green, both work great!

Homemade Sauerkraut

1/2 head of cabbage (about 2 pounds cabbage per quart)
4 teaspoons sea salt

Optional mix-ins:
½- 1 cup shredded carrots, radishes, and/or beets
½- 1 cup thinly sliced onion
1 Tablespoon each dried dill, caraway seeds, and or mustard seeds
1-2 Tablespoons fresh chopped garlic, ginger, or turmeric

  1. Have sanitized wide-mouth jars and lids ready for use (at least one quart jar per 2lbs cabbage; see How to Sanitize Jars for Fermentation projects here).
  2. Remove outer leaves and set aside. Slice cabbage in half and remove the core.
  3. Slice cabbage according to your preference: slice into thin strips, chop into small bits, or shred in a food processor. Add cabbage to a large bowl and sprinkle with salt.
  4. Using your hands, massage cabbage to release liquids and soften slightly. You can also let the cabbage stand for 15 minutes to soften further. Stir in optional mix-ins.
  5. Using utensils and/or your hands, pack cabbage into the jars tightly, pressing down firmly as you go. Water will release from the cabbage as you pack it in; cabbage should be submerged in the liquid (brine) and there should be at least an inch of space at the top of your container.
  6. If there is not enough brine to cover the cabbage, make more brine with 1 teaspoon salt and ½ cup filtered water.
  7. Top cabbage with smaller (sanitized) jars or weights, and cover loosely with a towel. An average fermentation time is about seven days in a warm climate. Check sauerkraut everyday to ensure that the brine is covering the vegetables. If it has evaporated, add more brine using the measurements above to ensure cabbage stays covered. If the sauerkraut becomes rotten smelling or moldy, it should not be eaten.
  8. Refrigerate after fermentation is finished. Sauerkraut keeps for a very long time in the fridge, and will improve with age. Enjoy with salads, sandwiches, and in wraps.

Yield: 1 mostly-full quart jar

Click here for a printout that includes my recipes for sauerkraut, kim chi, and the sanitizing directions for the best ferments every time. 

homemade sauerkraut 4
Chop the cabbage finely. Now I use the shredding blade on my processor to make quick work bigger batches.
Gut Health: What to Eat and Not Eat
Add salt, then give your cabbage a good massage. Water will be released, and the cabbage will become very wet.
The Everyday Fermentation Handbook
Pack your cabbage tightly into prepared jars, wait a week, and then it’s ready!

Red and green cabbage image from Shutterstock; all other images mine.


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About Andrea Bertoli 521 Articles
A vegan chef, cookbook author, educator, writer, surfer, and yogi based in Honolulu, Andrea is also the Accounts Manager for Important Media. Follow her foodie adventures at AndreaBertoli.com, Vibrant Wellness Journal, and Eat Drink Better. Find more from Andrea on Facebook and Instagram

4 Comments

  1. Aah I’ve been meaning to do this again. I fermented some collards while I was pregnant but then got scared to eat them in case I screwed up. Now that I don’t have to worry about a baby in my belly, I need to get back on the fermenting train!

  2. Would like to make homemade sauerkraut but I don’t understand #7-9 about using jars & weights (jar inside of jars)? lid on? why a towel? That needs to be explained more thoroughly.

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