Homemade Sauerkraut Recipe

Why This Recipe Works

  • Using a precise amount of salt ensures a steady and safe fermentation.
  • The right equipment makes fermentation easy and reliable.

Unlike many of my colleagues, I don’t have a single pet. I have billions of them. I provide for them by feeding them and giving them a comfortable home where they can thrive. As with most pets, I have to put up with their incessant and uninhibited eruptions of gas, but it’s more than worth it for the unconditional love I get from them in return. In my case, that love comes in the form of sauerkraut.

My pets, if you haven’t already figured it out, are the billions of lactobacillus bacteria that have been camping out in crocks and jars on my countertop for the past several weeks. They’ve been eating the shredded cabbage’s natural sugar and converting it into lactic acid and carbon dioxide (hence all that gas). As the lactic acid builds up, the kraut gets increasingly sour, gradually developing into the stuff we love to heap on hot dogs and alongside brats.

I’ve been fermenting foods at home for several years now, from kraut to carrots and cucumbers to hot sauce, and it remains one of my favorite cooking activities. We write a lot about the science of cooking on this site, though most of that is focused on the chemical and physical processes that happen when we do things like salt and heat our foods. Fermentation gets you knee-deep in the biological sciences, and it’s a fun place to be. No longer are you cooking alone—instead, you’re teaming up with an army of friendly microbes, working in tandem to transform and preserve fruits and vegetables. It’s something humans have been doing for millennia, and if you haven’t tried it yet, it’s time you start. I mean, who doesn’t want to be the master of their own microbial universe?

Sauerkraut (немецкая тушеная капуста)

23 Окт 2011 15:25

Настя и Игорь

После возвращения из поездки в Мюнхен, долго пытались найти в интернете рецепт этой замечательной немецкой капусты. Вот этот, найденный на авто.ру, показался максимально похожим на то, что мы ели.

Если что-то делаем не так, большая просьба, тем, кто проживает в Германии и знает, как готовится эта замечательная капуста, поправить. Спасибо.


Капуста – 1 вилок

Яблочный уксус – 4 столовые ложки


Лук – 1 шт

Масло растительное – для жарки

Лавровый лист

Ягоды можжевельника

Тмин (мы его не любим, поэтому не клали)

Перец (черный, красный) молотый

Капусту шинкуем, заливаем уксусом, солим, ставим в теплое место под грузом, чтобы сок дала. В оригинальном рецепте оставляют капусту на ночь, но на наш взгляд, чтобы капуста проквасилась, одной ночи маловато, поэтому мы оставляем на 2, 3 дня.

Лук мелко режем, обжариваем на сковороде в растительном масле или сале, добавляем капусту, лавровый лист, сушеные ягоды можжевельника, тмин, перец, соль по вкусу.

Во время приготовления капусты важно, чтобы она хорошо прожарилась и покоричневела, но не подгорела, поэтому кухню покидать нельзя, капусту надо постоянно помешивать и добавлять водички при необходимости.

К такой капусте хорошо подходят копченые сосиски, которые можно в самой капусте и подогреть.

23 Окт 2011 15:45

Настя, должно быть очень вкусно!!! Но немцы как правило берут капусту уже квашеную, в банках..Но не знаю, продается ли такая в РОссии.

Я тоже очень люблю немецкую тушеную капусту и часто делаю

23 Окт 2011 16:06

23 Окт 2011 16:57

рецептов приготовления квашеной капусты очень много , в общем то как и унас каждая хозяйка делает по своему рецепту !

1. Капуста дожна быть вызревшей и резать ее надо очень тонко , ножом так не получится лучше например на терке с самой тонкой насадкой !

Затем солим на 5 кг капусты 50 гр соли и 4 чпйные ложкм сахара , если хотите покислей то соли надо добавлять как бы это странно не звучало !

Все приправы по вкусу , делают и с можжевельником и с лавровым листом и с семенами укропа , это дело вкуса . а также можно добавить белого вина или винного белого уксуса . Но лучше сделать с вином .

2. Капуста нужно трамбовать , если вы взяли например полную кастрюлю 6 литровую . утрамбовывать пока не буде половина кастрюли ! Но а дальше все как обычно 2 недели при температуре 18 20 градусах , а потом в холод

30 Окт 2011 8:31

Город у моря

, спасибо за рецепт!!!

Start with a head of cabbage. Before you do anything to it, weigh it. Write down the weight—you’ll need this to calculate how much salt to use later.

Peel off the outer leaves of the cabbage. These tend to be dirty or damaged. You don’t want them in your sauerkraut!

Next, cut out the core of the cabbage.

I like to give the cabbage a good rinse at this point. Since you cut out the core, the water can flow into the leaves and wash them. Make sure to turn the cabbage upside down and shake out any water.

Peel off one more outer leaf and save it for later.

Shred your cabbage and place it in a large bowl. I usually do this the old-fashioned way with a knife, but you could use a food processor if you prefer. Lisa from the blog Farmhouse on Boone suggests shredding your cabbage through the grater blade on your food processor if you like your sauerkraut fine. I tried that and it makes slicing a breeze!

Now it’s time to calculate how much salt you need to use! It really depends on how salty you like your sauerkraut. If you like it nice and salty, use 2 teaspoons of salt per pound of cabbage. If you prefer a less salty kraut, use 1½ teaspoons of salt per pound of cabbage. I personally find that 2 teaspoons of salt per pound is too salty. I go for the 1½ teaspoons.

For example, if your cabbage is 2 ½ pounds, use 3 ¾ to 5 teaspoons salt. If your cabbage is 3 pounds, use 4 ½ to 6 teaspoons of salt.

Toss the cabbage with the salt and let it sit for 15 minutes.

After you let the cabbage rest, it’s time to massage it! This makes the cabbage release some of its liquid, which you’ll be using as your brine.

Knead the cabbage for 5 minutes. Your arms will get a workout, but it’s so worth it!

You should have a fair amount of liquid at the bottom of the bowl after kneading.

Now grab handfuls of cabbage and cram them into a very clean glass quart jar. You want to make sure to pack the cabbage down really well so you can fit it all in the jar!

Pour the liquid left in the bowl on top of the cabbage to cover. If you don’t have enough cabbage juice to cover the cabbage in the jar, you can mix together a 2% solution of salt water. This is equal to about 1 teaspoon of salt per cup of water.

Note: If your tap water contains fluoride or chlorine, make sure to use filtered water instead.

Remember that cabbage leaf that you saved earlier? Cut a circle out of it the same size as the opening of your jar.

Place the cabbage leaf on top of the shredded cabbage in the jar.

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You want to weigh the cabbage down so that it stays below the brine. Any cabbage that’s exposed to the air is a potential mold grower. I invested in glass fermenting weights because I ferment veggies on a regular basis. But I have also used small glass bowls or jars for the job. Another suggestion from Lisa is to use rocks to weigh down the cabbage: Put clean rocks in a zip top bag, seal the bag, and place on top of the cabbage.

Screw a lid on top, and set the jar aside to ferment! I suggest using a plastic instead of a metal lid since metal lids can rust. This has happened to me before!

The time you let your sauerkraut ferment is really up to you. I like to let mine go for 2 weeks, but you might prefer the taste at 1 week or even 4 weeks! Keep an eye on your sauerkraut throughout the fermenting process. If the liquid gets too low, top it off with a 2% solution of salt water. If any scum forms on top of the liquid, skim it off.

Here’s a comparison of what a freshly made jar of sauerkraut looks like compared to a fermented jar. The cabbage definitely loses its green hue and becomes more dull or yellow as it ages.

When your sauerkraut is fermented to your liking, remove the weight and round of cabbage leaf. Store in the refrigerator. Sauerkraut can stay good in the fridge for months! It will have a better chance of not growing mold if the liquid covers the cabbage at all times. Again, you can always top off the liquid with a 2% salt water solution.

It’s also a good idea to make sure to use a clean fork when you dish up sauerkraut. And put the lid back on the jar as soon as possible to minimize the risk of bacteria getting into the jar.

Some people like to flavor their sauerkraut with herbs such as dill or caraway seeds. You can also add other veggies such as carrots, garlic, or ginger. I personally haven’t experimented with anything but salt and cabbage, but I’d like to give flavored sauerkraut a try!

How about you? Are you a sauerkraut fan? How do you like to serve it?

Erica lives in northern Minnesota (land of lakes and mosquitoes) with her husband and three kids. She’s a believer that just about everything is better with butter. Her other long-standing food obsessions include matcha, sourdough, and late-night cold cereal (with loads of cream).

These sauerkraut recipes will revolutionize what you think about humble cabbage.

Often a condiment or a side, sauerkraut is that funky fermented jar you toss on your hot dogs. It’s tangy, crunchy, and full of probiotics.

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What’s more remarkable is how many things you can add it to when you think outside of the box. I’m talking casseroles, soups, and even desserts!

From breakfast to dessert, there’s a kraut recipe here for every meal of the day.

Sauerkraut Soup

Kapustnyak is a sauerkraut soup that is popular throughout Ukraine.

Sauerkraut is undoubtedly the star of this event. But there’s also a good amount of humble veggies, white beans, and bacon in there too.

Before you toss in the kraut, be sure to give it a good rinse. This will help get rid of some of the extra saltiness.

Sauerkraut Casserole

Feeding hungry bellies a filling, affordable meal isn’t always easy. That’s why I turn to casserole recipes like this hearty dish.

It’s packed with ground beef, wide egg noodles, and sauerkraut. It’s a bit tangy, savory, and cheesy, so it’s an all-around winner.

If you foresee a busy weekday ahead, you can prep this the night before. That way, all you have to do is plop it in the oven.

German Meatballs with Sauerkraut

German meatballs with sauerkraut is a gratifying dish for a chilly day.

The sauerkraut stews in tomato paste with the meatballs for a deeper flavor. Right at the end, it gets a touch of cream.

For this dish, German sauerkraut is a must. It has the right balance of sweet and sour to go with the meatballs.

Bratwurst and Sauerkraut

Brats and sauerkraut is a German classic that doesn’t disappoint.

This one is extra special because this perfect duo simmers in a saute of onion and apple.

Crack a cold one and grab a side of dijon. Dinner will be ready momentarily.

Reuben Sandwich

A Reuben without kraut is blasphemous if you ask me. If you feel the same, you’ll agree this is the proper way to make this classic.

Some corned beef, a slice of swiss cheese, and a handful of sauerkraut stuffed between rye bread make the quintessential Reuben.

Oh, and don’t forget the creamy homemade Russian dressing!

Reuben Meatballs

Speaking of Reubens, you can turn your favorite sandwich into a feast with this cozy casserole.

It has your typical Reuben fixings like Swiss cheese and sauerkraut. The twist is that the corned beef gets turned into juicy meatballs.

Serve this with some slices of rye bread and everyone will want to dig in.

10-Minute Sausage and Sauerkraut Skillet

Who doesn’t love a tasty and savory 10-minute recipe? This two-ingredient recipe is a quick fix for when hunger strikes.

The key is to use quality Kielbasa and sauerkraut.

If you need some more oomph, you can serve this with pickles and some sour cream.

It’s an easy dinner, fast snack, or simple camping meal.

Vegan Cabbage Rolls with Sauerkraut

This vegan take on a Romanian classic is genius. Rather than stuff cabbage with meat, you pack it with savory potato and rice filling.

What’s even better is that you wrap it all up with fermented cabbage leaves!

This will take some time and patience. But it’s a fun meal for the kids to help with on a chilly day.

Sauerkraut Stew

If winter weather has you craving a warming meaty bowl, throw on a pot of this Polish stew.

It’s packed with a savory trifecta of pork, sausage, and bacon. Tomatoes give it a deeper flavor and sauerkraut is the perfect touch!

Let all that goodness stew for a bit, then ladle yourself a big bowl.

Potato and Sauerkraut Latkes

Sauerkraut is the secret to adding more flavor to latkes.

But instead of piling a heaping on top, you add it to the shredded potatoes and fry them up.

These latkes are so scrumptious that they don’t even need a topping.

But if you do want to add some latkes toppings, sour cream or applesauce is the more traditional route.

Sauerkraut Chocolate Cake

I know what you’re thinking, but sauerkraut and chocolate are not as bad as you imagine. In fact, it’s remarkably amazing!

This cake is super fudgy and chocolatey as you would expect.

However, the kraut adds a delightful sour and salty element that balances out the sweetness.

Serve up a slice to your friends and see if they can guess the secret ingredient. They won’t even be able to tell!

Best Ever Pork Roast with Sauerkraut

There’s something about a juicy pork roast that always satisfies my need for comfort food. And this is one of the best!

The pork roast is simply seasoned, while the sauerkraut adds a kick. It’s sauteed with onions and apples so it’s sweet, sour, and oozing with flavor.

Reuben Casserole

Here is another exceptional way to turn a Reuben into a home-style casserole.

Thick cubes of rye bread get layered with corned beef, melty cheese, Thousand Island dressing, and sauerkraut.

This five-ingredient dish is very easy to make and one the whole family will agree on.

Sauerkraut Pizza

Love sausage and sauerkraut? Throw it on a pizza!

When it comes to homemade pizza recipes, you can top it with anything you want.

This one calls for Bavarian sauerkraut, which is a bit more mild and sweet. So it’s not as jarring as you may think.

Hot German Potato Salad

Move over creamy potato salads, this hot dish has come to town!

It’s savory, vinegary, and full of bacon.

Since it’s tangy and not creamy, sauerkraut goes particularly well. Use any kind you like and pile that goodness on until your heart’s content.

This one is a crowd-pleaser you’ll want to bring to barbecues, potlucks, and more.

Hot Dogs and Sauerkraut

Sometimes, the only condiment your hot dog needs is sauerkraut. No mustard, no ketchup, just good old-fashioned sauerkraut.

And this is the quickest way to go about it. Simply toss everything in a pan and cook until the kraut starts to brown.

You can throw it on a bun or serve it up in a skillet. Either way, it’s fast, easy, and downright affordable.

Sauerkraut Strudel

Did you know that strudels can also be savory? Skip the sweet fillings, because you’ll want to try this German strudel.

On the outside, you have a gorgeous flaky puff pastry.

On the inside is an incredibly satiating filling of bacon and sauerkraut in a breaded egg mixture.

Serve this up with a dollop of sour cream and enjoy!

Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut and corned beef are a flawless combination. Add a slow cooker to the mix for an easy dinner.

In honor of this Irish duo, everything simmers in a bottle of beer.

This meal is perfect for a St. Patty’s feast. It’s also great for when you have a busy day and want dinner ready when you get home.

Sauerkraut Salad

Looking for a cabbage salad with some crunch? Here’s one I highly recommend.

It’s overflowing with crunchy veggies like carrots, celery, and bell pepper. It’s also packed to the brim with sauerkraut.

Coat everything in a zippy apple cider vinegar dressing, and this salad touches on more flavors than you can imagine.

Chicken and Red Cabbage Sauerkraut Tacos

Do you love cabbage in your tacos? Take it up a notch and make them with kraut.

These tacos feature tender chicken and red cabbage sauerkraut in a creamy chipotle sauce. It’s protein-rich as well as full of vitamins and probiotics.

If you do want some extra taco toppings, you can’t go wrong with salsa and guac.

Pork and Sauerkraut Bake

Have a hankering for meat and potatoes? Throw this bake in the oven.

It’s the perfect combination of savory, sweet, and sour.

The prep time is minimal, but it will take a couple of hours to bake. So while you’re waiting, you can catch up on work or relax with the family.

Hot Reuben Dip

So I know I mentioned quite a few ways to do a Reuben. But this one is perfect for parties or game days.

It’s the right balance of cheesy, savory, creamy, and tangy. And you can make it ahead of time!

I think rye crisps are a must, but bust out any crackers you’ve got on hand.

Polish Sauerkraut Bread

I love bread any way you serve it and that includes this Polish delicacy.

Sauerkraut gives the bread a nice texture and slightly salty taste. It’s more mellow than sourdough, but delicious, nonetheless.

The caraway seeds add a hint of nuttiness that I think is a must.

Slovak Christmas Eve Mushroom Soup

I admit this soup may not look the prettiest. But I assure you that your tastebuds will love it.

This Slovak Christmas Eve tradition is a wholesome soup that’s modest and minimal.

It calls for only six ingredients, which include a ton of sauerkraut and mushrooms.

If you want to make this vegan, you can easily swap out a non-dairy substitute for the butter.

Polish Sauerkraut Pierogi

I go crazy for dumplings, including these scrumptious Polish dumplings.

The Polish are masters of creating heavenly pillows of stuffed goodness and what better way to showcase that than by stuffing it with kraut.

This is another Christmas tradition that you won’t want to miss!

German Sauerkraut Beef Goulash

Beef goulash is a traditional Hungarian stew that’s full of meat and veggies.

This German version is similar, except thicker and overflowing with kraut.

It’s a fantastic winter warmer with a rich, complex broth infused with red wine.

Pour yourself a glass while you’re at it. It will take a while for all the flavors to meld. You might as well kick back and enjoy the smell.

Sauerkraut Frittata

I love frittatas because they have endless variations. Take this sauerkraut frittata for instance.

I never would have thought to add kraut to a frittata until I tried this. Sauerkraut is that extra little something to add a nice flavor.

There are only a few ingredients, too, making this dish even easier.

Corned Beef and Sauerkraut Quiche

Quiche is like the fancier version of frittata. This means it’s great for special occasions and holidays.

And you know what goes great with St. Paddy’s Day? This Irish-style quiche!

The creamy egg mixture gets a punch of horseradish and sauerkraut. There’s also some corned beef and nutty gruyere to make it more savory.

It all gets served up in a buttery pie crust!

Dijon Shrimp Over Sauerkraut

Corned beef and sauerkraut are an obvious combination. But kraut tastes good with shrimp, too.

If you’ve been on the hunt for a keto cabbage recipe, I highly recommend this one.

It’s a succulent and tangy creation that only takes 20 minutes. And you won’t have to cheat on your diet to enjoy it.

Grandma’s Kielbasa and Sauerkraut

Somewhere out there is a grandma who worked hard to perfect this recipe.

This is the epitome of cozy comfort food. It features smoky kielbasa on a bed of jarred sauerkraut.

It’s very satisfying and doesn’t take a ton of prep work. Plus, you won’t have to break the bank.

30 Ways to Use Sauerkraut

These sauerkraut recipes are easy, healthy, and delicious! From soup to casserole to sandwiches, these dishes are guaranteed to please.


  • Select your favorite recipe.
  • Organize all the required ingredients.
  • Prep a sauerkraut recipe in 30 minutes or less!

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Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Start out with nice, tight heads of green cabbage. Weigh the cabbage, then calculate the amount of salt you’ll need based on that. 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. (You can discard these, or save them to help hold the shredded cabbage down in the crock later.) Then shred the cabbage, either by hand or using a mandoline or a food processor with its slicing-disk attachment.

Add Salt and Spices, Knead, and Squeeze

If you’re using a large ceramic fermentation crock, you can add the shredded cabbage directly to it, sprinkling the salt on and mixing it in intermittently as you fill it up. If you’re using a glass Mason jar, start with the cabbage in a large mixing bowl, sprinkling it with the salt and mixing it well.

Squeeze and knead the cabbage for a few minutes to begin drawing out its liquid, letting it stand in between; I like to cover it while it stands, either with the lid of the crock or with plastic wrap, to prevent the precious brine from evaporating. Every 15 minutes or so, come back and squeeze and knead the cabbage again, helping to release more and more brine.

Exactly how long this will take and how much brine you get will depend on the cabbage you have, but after anywhere from one to four hours, you should have a decent amount of brine built up—enough to cover the cabbage when it’s compressed.

You can also mix in spices now, like caraway seeds, for a more German-style kraut, or juniper, for a more Alsatian style.

If you’re using a Mason jar, now’s the time to transfer the cabbage and its brine to the jar. Try not to pack the jars or crock more than two-thirds full, since the contents tend to bubble up during fermentation. If the vessels are too full, they may overflow.

Weight It Down

Push down on the cabbage to compress it; this should force the brine up. If you’re lucky, there will be enough to cover the cabbage by about an inch or so. If not, you’ll need to make some extra brine (which we’ll do in the next step). If you saved those outer cabbage leaves, you can lay them across the top of the shredded cabbage and use the weights on top of that—they can help keep little shreds from sneaking up above the weights. Just make sure all the cabbage, including those leaves, is below the brine.

Add Extra Brine, if Necessary

If you don’t have enough natural brine from the cabbage to cover it well, you’ll need to top it up. It’s important that the brine you use maintain the same 2% salinity as the cabbage and its brine. To make it, fill a measuring cup with water, and calculate the salt weight based on that—for every 100 grams of water, you’ll want to add two grams of salt. Now add this saltwater brine to the vessel until the cabbage is well covered.

Some people claim that fluoridated tap water can’t be used for fermentation brines, but I’ve never had a problem. While fluoride may inhibit microbes to some degree, I haven’t found it to be a real impediment to fermentation, at least not with the tap water I use in New York City.

Seal and Store in a Cool, Dark Place

Because light can degrade foods over time, as mentioned above, keeping your vessels—especially clear glass ones—in the shade or dark is best.

Wait, Then Eat

Now you just have to wait. After a day or two—or three—your kraut should start bubbling and fizzing as the lactobacillus becomes the dominant microbe and starts to plow through the sugars. If your vessel is pretty full, you may want to set it on a rimmed tray, just in case it does bubble over. This is when it will become clear that you have something alive on your hands—a little microbial universe in which you are god.

After a week or so, once the first big push of fermentation has settled down, feel free to open up your crock and sneak a taste. (While also keeping in mind that opening and closing the sealed container increases the chances of molds and such forming—wash your hands and utensils before sticking them in!) If mold does grow on the surface, just carefully skim it off. As god of your kraut, you have a right and a duty to tend to things.

After about three weeks, your sauerkraut should be pretty far along, quite sour to the taste. You can let it go another few weeks, up to about six or so. At that point, it’s a good idea to transfer it to the fridge, where the cold temperatures (combined with the high acidity) will slow any remaining fermentation to a near-standstill.

When it’s all done, it definitely stops feeling like you have a billion pets and starts feeling like you have a lot of delicious fermented cabbage on your hands. It’s time to make some sausages, grill some hot dogs, or cook up some choucroute. And then recruit your next army of loyal bacteria. There’s a lot of cabbage waiting to be preserved.

December 2016

  • salt (3 tablespoons if using Diamond Crystal ; if using other brands, measure by weight), plus more as needed (see notes)
  • 1 teaspoon () or juniper berries (optional; see notes)
  • If using a large fermentation crock, add shredded cabbage to crock, sprinkling in the measured salt and optional spices as you go. If using a Ball jar, put shredded cabbage in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle with measured salt and optional spices. Mix well, then knead and squeeze cabbage for a few minutes to begin to release its liquid.
    Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik
  • Covering cabbage between kneadings with plastic wrap or the crock’s lid, continue to squeeze and knead cabbage roughly every 15 minutes, until an ample amount of brine has formed; it should be enough to cover the cabbage when the cabbage is compressed. This can take up to 4 hours. If not enough brine forms, proceed to the next step (you will add more brine later as necessary). If using Ball jar, pack shredded cabbage into jar now, with all its accumulated brine.
  • After the first week, feel free to open vessel, push cabbage back down below brine level (it’s very important that the cabbage always remain below the liquid level), and taste cabbage to monitor its progress. If brine gets low, top it up with more 2% salt water. Keep in mind that the more often you open the vessel, the greater the chance of mold growing on the surface. If mold does grow on the surface, carefully scrape it off and continue to ferment the kraut.
  • The sauerkraut is ready when it is quite sour, which can take anywhere from 3 to 6 weeks, depending on your preference. Throw out the sauerkraut if it becomes discolored, slimy, or malodorous. (Some sulfurous smell is natural, but anything truly offensive is a bad sign.) Refrigerate in sealed containers for up to 6 months.

What is Sauerkraut?

When we make something like sauerkraut, what we’re really doing is pickling. But it’s not just any pickling: It’s pickling by way of fermentation specifically. This is different from the process of making so-called “quick pickles,” like these, in which a brine made from an acid like vinegar is used to flavor and preserve fresh or par-cooked vegetables. Because of vinegar’s inherent acidity, those vegetables are preserved right away as microbial activity grinds to a halt. (Sugar and salt in the brine also help stop the little critters from surviving.)

With fermented pickles, you don’t add an acid directly to the vegetables. Instead, you let a specific kind of acid-producing bacteria—lactobacillus, in the case of sauerkraut—run wild. Given the right conditions, which I’ll explain below, they’ll do all the work to create the acid for you. This is true of sauerkraut (“sour cabbage” in German), which is pickled shredded cabbage, but it’s equally true of sour dill pickles, kimchi, and even some hot sauces, in which the chile peppers are fermented and then blended to form a smooth sauce. (Tabasco, in case you’re curious, is one example of a fermented hot sauce.)

Kraut is one of the best starting points for trying your hand at fermentation because it’s one of the simplest, since you can make it with nothing more than cabbage and salt. Once you get the hang of it, it’s not much of a leap to try pickles, like kimchi, that include a larger number of ingredients.

Fermentation Gear

One of the best things about making sauerkraut at home is that it doesn’t require much equipment. All you need is a nonreactive crock or vessel that’s relatively narrow and tall—the less surface area exposed to air, the better, and the easier it is to keep the cabbage below the brine.

I’ve used swing-top glass canning jars before with good results, but while recipe-testing for this story, I tried out a few other devices and have a couple new favorites.

A classic ceramic fermentation crock.Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

If you plan on making large batches of sauerkraut and other pickles, it’s worth investing in a real ceramic fermentation crock. I bought a five-liter German-style crock, which comes with stone weights to hold the cabbage down, and was able to easily fit eight pounds of cabbage in it—that’s a lot of kraut. I actually could have packed in another four pounds, while still leaving enough room for things to bubble up without overflowing.

The crock has a couple other advantages, aside from its size and the included weights. First, the ceramic keeps things nice and dark in there, which is good, since light can degrade food over time. Second, it has a water lock for the lid to sit in: Slot the lid into the channel around the crock’s opening, then fill it with water, and it will let air bubble out but not back in. This functions as an airlock, allowing the carbon dioxide to fill up the air space in the crock, and eventually escape, without letting any oxygen-rich air back in. The result is reduced likelihood of mold forming inside. As with any airlock, if you open the vessel up, you’ll break the seal and let oxygen back in; that’s okay, but keep in mind that the mold risk increases the more you do it.

The downside of a large crock is that, well, it’s big, and it requires ample storage space. If you’re not ready for that kind of commitment, I’d recommend fermenting in half-gallon Mason or Ball jars instead. They’re smaller, but also more versatile, since they’re useful for holding plenty of things besides fermented foods.

It’s possible to use the Mason jar with its own lid, burping it occasionally to prevent too much pressure from building up, but I like the ease of specialty lids designed for fermenting. They have airlocks or valves built in, allowing gas to escape while preventing oxygen from seeping back in.

The Easy Fermenter and glass weights, both made for Mason jars.Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Of the kinds I tested, I liked the Easy Fermenter best. It has a slim profile, thanks to a basic rubber valve instead of a bulkier three-piece fermentation airlock, making storage easy. It also has a dial on its surface, with numbers that correspond to the days in a month: Set the dial to the day you start the ferment, and you won’t forget later just how many weeks it’s been going. (This is especially helpful if you plan on fermenting lots of things and risk losing track of when each one started.)

The last bit of gear that I found helpful when using Mason jars was glass fermentation weights. Again, they’re not required, since there are a lot of ways to weigh down the cabbage, but these glass ones fit the jars well and are easy to clean and store. Otherwise, you’ll be forced to rig up your own system for compressing the cabbage, which—I can tell you from experience—doesn’t always work as well as you hope.

Whatever equipment you decide to use, once you have it, it’s time to get fermenting.


The quantity of cabbage called for here will fit well in a half-gallon Ball jar, but you can easily fit nine pounds of cabbage (or more) in the larger, five-liter crock. You can also make more kraut and pack it into multiple Ball jars.

More important than the specific quantities in this recipe is an understanding of the ratio of salt to cabbage by weight, which makes it easy to scale up or down. You’re looking for a 2% salt ratio, which means 2 grams of salt for every 100 grams of cabbage. To calculate this, weigh your cabbage in grams, then multiply its weight by 0.02. The result will be the amount of salt you need in grams.

Caraway will give you a more German-style kraut, while juniper will give you a more Alsatian style. You can also omit the spices.

Special Equipment

Kitchen scale, gram scale (optional but recommended), 5-liter fermentation crock with stone weights or half-gallon glass Ball jars with Easy Fermenter lids (or other airlock lid system) and glass fermentation weights, rimmed baking sheet

Sprinkle the Salt, Hold the Oxygen

Sauerkraut fermenting in a Mason jar with a three-piece fermentation airlock lid.Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Lactobacillus bacteria are everywhere. They’re on our skin, in our bodies, and on the fruits and vegetables we buy and eat. They’re generally considered to be “friendly” bacteria, meaning they aren’t harmful to human health and may even be beneficial in some cases.* Some companies sell starter cultures of lactobacillus, which you can add to the crock to help kick off fermentation, but in my experience, this isn’t necessary—there’s more than enough naturally occurring lactobacillus in our environment, so you don’t need to augment it with special products.

*Exactly how beneficial, from what I understand, remains an unresolved question in the dietary sciences, so I won’t speculate much on it here. Lactobacillus-rich foods may do your body some good, or they may not.

Lactobacillus has two important qualities: It can survive in oxygen-free environments, and it can tolerate salt better than many other microorganisms. It’s these two qualities that we exploit to successfully ferment vegetables, like cabbage in kraut.

First, we add enough salt to make life difficult for competing microorganisms. If this were a football league, it’d be like putting liquid heat in the jockstraps of all the players, except the ones on the team we want to win. When it comes to kraut, a level playing field is not what we’re after. This salty environment is just dandy for the lactobacillus, though, paving the way for its total domination over other bacteria.

While there isn’t full agreement among pickling experts about the perfect amount of salt for the fermentation of sauerkraut, the general rule of thumb is about 2% by weight. That means that for a small, three-pound head of green cabbage, you’d add one ounce of salt. In the metric system, which makes these kinds of calculations much easier, that same head of cabbage weighs about 1,400 grams, and therefore would need 28 grams of salt. Using Diamond Crystal kosher salt, our preferred brand, that comes out to just about three tablespoons for the three-pound head of cabbage. Put another way, that’s about one tablespoon of Diamond Crystal kosher salt per pound of cabbage. Please do not make the mistake of using the same volume with other types and brands of salt, as their densities vary—for this reason, weight is by far the more reliable method of measuring. I recommend grabbing a small gram scale to accurately weigh these small quantities.

The salt has an important second role: It draws moisture out of the cabbage’s cells through osmosis, forming a salty brine. Because the cabbage is shredded, its surface area is maximized, meaning that a surprising amount of brine can accumulate even from a juice-free vegetable like cabbage. With the help of some mechanical bruising through kneading and squeezing the cabbage, its cells break down even more, speeding up the release of liquid.

This brine brings us to the second important quality of lactobacillus—its ability to survive in oxygen-free environments. When we submerge the cabbage in its own brine, the lactobacillus and other microorganisms living on it are deprived of oxygen. Many will die as a result, but lactobacillus kicks into anaerobic (oxygen-free) fermentation mode, converting the cabbage’s sugars into lactic acid while creating by-products like carbon dioxide. You’ll know that fermentation is underway when your cabbage starts bubbling and burping.

The main enemy throughout is oxygen, which is why you want to keep your cabbage submerged in the brine the whole time. Sometimes molds can form on the surface of the brine, especially in the early stages, when the cabbage hasn’t fully acidified yet; mold on the surface isn’t ideal, but it’s not a sign that your kraut needs to go in the trash, either. Just carefully scrape it off and proceed as normal. Still, with the help of an airlock, which I’ll describe below, you can reduce the chances of mold forming.

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