How to Make Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut makes itself -- you just mix the ingredients. It requires no coddling, doting or even precise measuring. Make classic sauerkraut with everyday supermarket-friendly white cabbage, but, for variety, any type of cabbage will do -- Napa, red and bok choy all ferment equally well. Size doesn't matter either; coarse, 1-inch pieces or thin, 1/4-inch shreds ferment in the same amount of time. You have only one loose guideline to follow to make sauerkraut in any quantity: Every 3 pounds of cabbage, or about 1 large head, requires at least 1 1/2 tablespoons of kosher salt to start fermentation.

Things You'll Need

  • Kosher salt
  • Non-aluminum bowl
  • Kosher salt
  • Vegetables to taste (optional)
  • Herbs and spices to taste (optional)
  • Crock or glass jars
  • Cheesecloth


    • 1

      Peel, core and chop the cabbage. Portion 1 1/2 tablespoons of kosher salt for every large head, or for every 3 pounds of cabbage you chopped.

    • 2

      Add the cabbage to a non-aluminum bowl in layers, sprinkling a little salt on each layer.

    • 3

      Add other chopped vegetables, such as carrots, greens, garlic, ginger, peppers, to the cabbage to taste.

    • 4

      Add herbs and spices to taste. Peppercorns, parsley, dill, bay leaf, coriander seeds, caraway seeds, red pepper flakes and juniper berries are a few classic suggestions.

    • 5

      Mix the cabbage and pack it into a heavy crock, canning jar or sturdy food-grade plastic container. Punch the cabbage down forcefully into the container; you want to pop the cells and force out the water.

    • 6

      Set a weight on the cabbage that weighs a minimum of a few pounds for a large batch. A quart-sized glass jar filled with water does the job for a large batch. For smaller batches, a smaller jar filled with water works.

    • 7

      Cover the whole setup -- container and weight -- with a few layers of cheesecloth and tie twine around it to hold it in place; you want to keep out insects and debris while letting the cabbage breathe.

    • 8

      Set the cabbage aside to ferment. The ideal temperature for fermentation ranges from 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

    • 9

      Press on the weight a few times a day to squeeze water out of the cabbage until it stays submerged. Taste the sauerkraut after 4 or 5 days of fermenting. Ferment the kraut longer for a stronger taste.

    • 10

      Transfer the sauerkraut to an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator up to 3 months.

Tips & Warnings

  • Add sliced, firm fruit for a sweeter, smoother sauerkraut. Apples, pears and peaches smooth sauerkraut's piquancy with subtle sweetness and floral notes.
  • Press the weight to keep the cabbage submerged at all times while it's fermenting. If you see any mold growth, simply skim it off with a spoon.
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  • Photo Credit Elena_Danileiko/iStock/Getty Images

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