Homemade Sauerkraut

Traditional homemade sauerkraut recipe packed with probiotics Homemade Sauerkraut

Being the 1/4 German that I am, I have always had a love of sauerkraut. The problem is, short of authentic German restaurants, good sauerkraut is hard to find. The logical solution, of course, was to make my own. After some messy trial and error (that involved vinegar-scented mold) I found a recipe I like. This sauerkraut has all the benefits of traditional fermented foods including the abundance of natural probiotics.

Important Notes:

  • If you can tolerate dairy, you can speed up the fermentation by adding 1/4 cup of whey per gallon made. Here’s how to make whey.
  • This recipe can be scaled up or down. I’ve made it in gallon size glass jars with 3-4 heads of cabbage, 3-4 tablespoons of salt and 1/4 cup whey.
  • If you can’t tolerate dairy but want to speed up the fermentation, you can start by buying a jar of Bubbies or similar traditionally fermented sauerkraut and then use the juice from that in place of the whey.
  • Once you have achieved the desired fermentation, it is very important to store in the fridge.
4.9 from 7 reviews
Homemade Sauerkraut
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: side
Cuisine: German
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 25 lbs of cabbage
  • 1 cup (approximate) Kosher or Pickling Salt (not table salt!)
  • Large Crock or Container (around 5 gallons size, needs to be glass or enamel coated)
  • 2 large plastic zip-lock bags (2 gallon freezer bags are best)
Instructions
  1. Sanitize crock and utensils in dishwasher or with boiling water
  2. remove outer leaves and cores from cabbage
  3. Thinly slice cabbage-using a food processor greatly speeds this up!
  4. As you slice, mix 4 tbsp salt with every 5 lbs of cabbage and let stand in a bowl to wilt a little
  5. When juice starts to form on cabbage/salt mixture, pack tightly into crock using sanitized utensils or clean hands
  6. Repeat this until cabbage is within about 4-5 inches of top of container
  7. Pack down until water level rises above cabbage and all cabbage is entirely submerged
  8. If there is not enough liquid to cover cabbage, make a brine with 1½ tbsp salt in 1 quart of water. add cooled brine to crock until all cabbage is completely covered
  9. Once cabbage is submerged, fill a 2 gallon food-grade freezer bag with 2 quarts of water. place inside another 2 gallon bag
  10. Place brine-filled bag on top of cabbage in crock, making sure that it touched all edges and prevents air from reaching cabbage.
  11. Cover crock with plastic wrap and cloth or towel. tie tightly.
  12. Put crock in an area that will be between 70 and 75 degrees.
  13. Fermentation will begin within a day and take 3-5 weeks depending on temperature.
  14. After 3 weeks, check for desired tartness. If you are going to can, make it slightly more tart than usual as it will lose some tartness.
  15. Once fermented, it can be eaten right away, frozen or canned according to your canner’s instructions.
Notes
Do not use aluminum utensils! These quantities make enough to fill a five-gallon crock. You can adjust the recipe down and make in gallon size jars or smaller, just use ratio of 4 tbsp salt per 5 lbs cabbage.

Do you like Sauerkraut? Ever tried to make your own? Share below!

Photo Credit: Suzanne Perazzini

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Reader Comments

  1. john says

     I made sauerkraut this fall using the method you described. Cut it, salt it , pack it ,  brine it( if needed) , Then i put the water in plastic bags ( food bags) I used a brine mixture just in case there was a breakage of the bag, rather than just water. I covered it with a saran wrap type wrap and did not touch it for about 3 weeks. Then i removed the wrap and it was fermenting well , no  moldy kraut smelled good, I wiped off rimm of crock to brine level , refilled bags , put wrap back on . another 3 weeks and the kraut was the best Ive ever had without the constant checking and skimming. When i first started the temp of outdoors was in 80-85 range in garage so i set the crock in a picnic cooler and controlled temp with water filled pop bottle frozen in frig freezer.As temps dropped i stopped. My wife then canned it. I just had some with home made ( mine ) polish sausage …Zehr gute!! JH

      • Heather says

        What do you use to cover it while it’s fermenting in a myosin jar? And is the water a product of the cabbage and the salt or do you have to add water?

        • Jenny says

          Only add water if the brine (salt only, pressed HARD with the cabbage) doesn’t yield enough liquid to cover the cabbage. It must be anaerobic or mold will occur. If cabbage is not covered by liquid, simply add water to cover.

      • Melamie says

        This is my first attempt to culture cabbage. I just did it this way (1 head cabbage, 1 T salt. I also added added 1 T of whey). Some tiny pieces of cabbage are floating on top of the water, but I put plastic wrap on top to try and keep them submerged ( the plastic wrap touches the water). I worry that the pieces on top could cause the rest to spoil because a few tiny ones are not technically submerged- just under the wrap in little crevices of the plastic wrap. Is this ok, or could it cause the whole batch to spoil? Since I added the whey, how long should I let it ferment?

        • Alexis says

          Place a couple of whole cabbage leaves over your shredded cabbage to keep the cabbage suspended under the liquid.

    • Lenora says

      I use the removable crock from my slow cooker(s). I have several, because of their versatility, in different sizes and shapes. They make excellent fermentation vessels.

    • Gloria says

      I buy any crock pots I can find at garage sales for $2.00 or less. If they work, great…..If they don’t I use the crock to ferment my veggies.

  2. says

    Hi! Just as a tip I got from my parents (they made sauerkraut for years). Sometimes the water looks a little swampy and white-ish. If that happens, they said the cabbage needs to “breath”. If you use a smaller jar, then put a straw that can reach to the bottom, and blow a little air.

  3. says

    Hi Wellness Mama. I do not have a crock pot large enough to accommodate this amount of cabbage. However I do have a 5 gallon all purpose bucket that was recommended in a turkey brine recipe. It looks similar to the type of bucket used by Tropical Traditions. I purchased it at my local hardware store and have only used it for food preparation. The bottom is stamped with the number 2 surrounded by the recyclable symbol and is marked HDPE. Is this a safe alternative to glass or enamel coating? Please IM me on Facebook to Renee Dengler Lutz. Thank you so much. I cannot wait to try this recipe. I grew up in a small town and my dad fed our huge brood by means of hunting and raising game and growing too many varieties to mention of fruits, berries, roots,herbs, vegetables, etc. He was loving nicknamed “The Pickle King” and folks would travel up to 3 hours away to get a hold of his prized wares. He taught me well and I would love for him to be watching me from heaven, making him proud, as I make your recipe.

  4. Pam says

    I used a different recipe and only left it out on my counter for 3 days. It’s very salty! Can I put it back out on the counter to finish fermenting once it’s been in the fridge? Should I toss it and start over? Rinse it with water and eat it as is? First time and it looks great but doesn’t taste great at all.

    • Jenny says

      Only add water if the brine (salt only, pressed HARD with the cabbage) doesn’t yield enough liquid to cover the cabbage. It must be anaerobic or mold will occur. If cabbage is not covered by liquid, simply add water to cover.

  5. Lori says

    I fermented my sauerkraut for a week, then put it in the fridge. Over night all the brine has vanished in one of the jars!! What do I do?? Do I add more salt brine? What happened?! I had lots of brine last night.

  6. Erin says

    I’ve never had sauerkraut before and my mom only had it on a hotdog or sausage. Any ideas on how to eat this fermented food? :O)

    • Kriss says

      I might like sauerkraut more than most people. But, I love to just get a bowlful and a fork and have at it.

      We put it on all kinds of sandwiches. We make a healthy version of the Rueben a couple times a week.

      I like it mixed about 50/50 with massed potatoes and lots of butter, though I know control my potatoe consumption and have that as an occasional treat.

      OK, the really wierd thing, I love to run it through my juicer and drink it. Don’t write that off until you try it!

      Its great piled around a pork roast and baked. But, cooking it kills the probiotic value.

      I never refrigerate the kraut that I make. The sourness is self limiting via the lactic acid that is produced during fermentation. And, it only gets as sour as I like it. If you want to stop the sourness level level short of topping out, then refrigerate when it gets where you want it.

      Just some ideas from somebody who grew up not nowing that there even were people who didn’t eat sauerkraut at least 3 days a week. Pennsylvania German on both sides of the family.

    • magi says

      love this recipe – it has taken longer because our house is colder, but we eat it alot.
      try putting a layer in the bottom of your slow cooker then adding a roast of pork or chicken – we love it with lamb and ribs the best – not only does it tenderize but the flavor mingling is amazing!!

  7. Susan says

    I am confused by this part of the instructions, can you elaborate?

    9. Once cabbage is submerged, fill a 2 gallon food-grade freezer bag with 2 quarts of water. place inside another 2 gallon bag

    10. Place brine-filled bag on top of cabbage in crock, making sure that it touched all edges and prevents air from reaching cabbage.

    No where in the instruction 9 do you say to make a brine and put it in the bag, but then in 10. you are putting brine filled bags on top of the cabbage.

    Thanks.

      • Aislinn says

        Hello! I’m also a bit confused about the instructions . I have never fermented anything before so I’m a little lost, lol. So, if I understand you right, we are adding an additional TBSP of salt to the already salty mixture and then, as completely as possible, cover all of it with the gallon bag of water? Does it matter what point you add in the whey?

        Being new to DIY anything, I really enjoy trying out the recipes on your site! Thank you so much!

  8. A.E. says

    We use the Perfect Pickler (you can get it from their website or Amazon). It allows you to make it in mason jars or the 1/2 gallon mason jars. Better if you don’t want to make the huge batch,

  9. krista says

    I recently made a very large batch of homemade Sauerkraut. It took about 3-4 weeks of fermenting on the countertop to achieve my desired level of sour. As soon as it was done, I transferred it to Mason jars and put it in the refrigerator. How long will it last in the fridge? I know fermentation has stopped now that it’s in there, but how do i know if it’s gone bad? Does it slowly lose it’s pro-biotic power the longer it sits?

  10. Patti says

    We made a 15 gallon crock of sauerkraut several months ago. It was awesome! Our recipe was simular to yours. Ours was an antique crock, & we canned the sauerkraut in Mason jars. It was so good that I sent a jar to both my daughters who live in Atlanta & Austin.
    We are now growing cabbage & looking forward to making our next batch.
    BTW, I love your website & I’d like to subscribe to all, instead only to this category. How do I keep the same email address & receive info on all your goodies?
    P. :-)

  11. carol gillentine says

    My family is 100% German, and they were a farm family. Their recipe called for packing a qt. mason jar with cabbage and adding a tbsp. of kosher salt. Boiling water was then poured in up to the rim and the cap screwed on. I’m not sure my memory is right about this. Any comments would be appreciated.

  12. Colleen says

    Just a thought.
    WHY when making something healthy are you using plastic?
    Plastic bags plastic buckets – no plastic is safe ,plastic exudes chemicals and bisphenols which disrupt hormones and provide false eostrogens. Particularly bad for males . (have you seen male boobs ?) also bad for young boys.

  13. Cat says

    I have been fermenting beverages for a little while but finally just started fermenting vegetables. When I use red cabbage the brine turns pink which got me thinking, should we be drinking the brine as well to get the nutrients that may have leaked out of the vegetables? It seems like there would be lots of little beneficial critters in the juice as well. Thanks :-)

    • Wanda says

      I know from personal experience, you can definitely drink the brine and also it does wonders for heartburn during pregnancy! Any time I have a digestive upset I take a spoonful and it usually does the trick :)

  14. Patsy says

    Hi Katie,
    Love your blog.
    I have a med. size crock of sauerkraut going right now. I use salt, 1 1/2 t. per pound of cabbage mixture. I added carrots, a sweet potato, a little parsley, some celery and a Granny Smith apple. Dr. Mercola says the carrots, sweet potato and apple help feed the bacteria. This is the first time I’ve tried this recipe but have used carrots, cabbage and diakon many tmes. I didn’t use the culture he recommends so I will let it ferment for 3 weeks to get that special bacteria to develope. (plantarius) I think. I put cabbage leaves on top weight it down with a small baking dish that I sit a qt. jar of water in then cover with saran wrap then a tea towel and let it sit. If you can it, it looses it’s probiotics.

  15. Wanda says

    I made this recipe using a 2% salt brine by weighing the cabbage. I hear that using a volume measure instead of a weight measure can really cause variances in the final product, as much as a 60% difference in brine salinity in some cases! I’ve had very consistent results so far, and I also use the pickl-it airlock (and some DIY hacks as well, being handy an cheap lol). Looking forward to homemade kraut!

  16. Vickie says

    I have never made sauerkraut before…the recipe I used said to check daily and remove skim as needed..said fermentation would be done when no more bubbles…I never saw any bubbles or anything to skim until today….there is MOLD did I do something wrong is this batch ruined? I skimmed off the mold but do I really want to eat the sauerkraut?

    • George Moergeli says

      As long as the cabbage is under the juice, it should be fine. Skim off the mold. I make well over a 150 pounds per year and have done it for years using the ten and twelve gallon “Red Wing” crocks.

  17. Norman says

    Some of the questions are very good, but you chose not to answer them all. Can you still answer them? I am particularly interested in the one about using plastic bags and also the one about the wisdom of eating sauerkraut that has mold on it.

  18. Julie says

    Help. First time with kraut. Did everything by the book. Used a 10 liter crock with the water seal lid. Just opened the crock and the weights had sunk to the bottom of the crock. What did I do wrong? I also had added green apple and some horseradish. The apple looks brown. Is the kraut still safe; it tastes fine.

  19. Vicki says

    Hi there. I made sauerkraut about 7-8 weeks ago. When I started it fermenting, there was some brine covering the top, but when I checked it a few weeks later there was none. I wasn’t sure what to do so I put it in the fridge, where it still sits. There was no bad odor, no mold, still looks fresh but I’m uncertain if we should eat it. I can see brine in there but it’s a least 6 inches from the top of the cabbage. Can this grow botulism? Should I just throw it out and err on the side of caution? Can you offer any advice? Thank you!

  20. Jennifer says

    I’m a lil confused. In step 10 it says to put brine filled bag on top of cabbage and liquid. But in the step above it doesn’t say anything about adding salt to the water in the bags, and i don’t know what the point would be since it’s in plastic and not on food. Please explain. Thanks!

  21. Britt says

    I had made my kraut at the beginning of October, just cabbage, salt and a bit of water. I covered it with a clear plate, 2 2G plastic bags filled with water for weight and covered it with a tea towel. Room temps between 50*-65*. It bubbled for a while and has smelled right all along, but the dryness of the air has pulled moisture out of the crock leaving liquid to Just the top of the cabbage. I boiled some brine to recover it, but I am concerned it is no longer safe. Any advice?

  22. Terry says

    I know I’m joining this conversation late, but I’m rather desperate. I’m having some issues with my thyroid and immune system. I’m wanting to add fermented foods to my diet but don’t want to exacerbate the problem. I’ve heard that cabbage is a goitrogenic food. Does fermenting it make it better for your thyroid or should it be avoided completely? The same with cauliflower, broccoli etc. I love these foods and would love to try them fermented but I’m leery of them not wanting to cause further problems. Please respond.

  23. Valda says

    I’ve just started fermentation of cabbage and am enjoying the finished product. I started it on Feb 9 and haven’t put it in the fridge yet. It doesn’t taste strong yet. Is it possible in small batches to never make it to the fridge? I used a probiotic dissolved in water in the first batch and 1/2 c of brine from that batch for my next one.

  24. Ginny says

    What would you use to cover if you did one head in a quart-size mason jar? Also, how much Bubbie’s juice would you use for that amount of saurkraut? Thanks!

  25. Amanda says

    I need to get as many probiotics as possible! My breastfed infant just started getting pretty bad eczema at 8 months old. He’s never had it before. His poop is hard lately as well I think bc we’ve added more solids lately:( so I’m assuming his liver and kidneys are backed up making toxins come out on his skin ( eczema). Will me eating probiotics help get to him through my breast milk? Also, are there any good fermented vegetable brands in stores? I feel to stressed out at the moment to make my own. I read your article on eczema and am trying coco oil on his skin and also watching the food I eat and giving him more foods that have a probiotic effect. Any advice with his eczema is greatly appreciated!!

    • Terry says

      I feel for you. Wellness Mama has several articles on eczema relief. Just type in “eczema” in the search bar and they will all come up. I hope you find something that helps your little one.

  26. David says

    Your recipe is a bit ambiguous. Step 9 instructs us to fill a 2 gallon bag with water, yet step 10 instructs us to place the “brine filled bag” on top of the cabbage. I’m assuming that these two steps are referring to the same bag, and the “brine filled bag” is a typo? Or am I misreading the recipe?

    Thanks.

  27. stephanie says

    I apologize if this has been answered…but I am sensitive to salt. Does anyone have advice or recommendations?

    • Cat says

      Stephanie, have you tried a natural sea salt, like himalayan pink? I find natural sea salts to be not only better for me in the way I feel, but they are yummier (it makes iodized salt taste chemically) and the kids say it tastes saltier (but yummier) so they use less.

  28. Mary O says

    Thank you so much for your commitment to this blog!! I’m new to fermented foods and was wondering what the brine looks like when fermented for a month? Is it cloudy, clear, slimy? I used distilled water and salt for my cabbage. Thanks again!

  29. rebi says

    After 5 days my sauerkraut was really fermented. Is it safe to eat it?Maybe the temperature was too hot that s why..I don t know how it will taste after 2-3 weeks.. It seems to be done from now.. Does it has the same properties as it would have after 2-3 weeks?
    Thank you so much

  30. Laura says

    Is it preferable to provide an air-tight barrier (i.e. block all air from penetrating into the cabbage/liquid); or, is it necessary to allow the fermenting gases room for escape?

    • says

      Both. That is why I use the bag for a seal. You want it airtight, but with a way for bubbles to escape. I’ve also seen some people rig a fermentation lid (used for beer brewing) on the top of a gallon size jar for this.

      • Laura Harris says

        Many thanks

        I started my very first batch yesterday. I only had 1.5 lb cabbage so my ‘small mouth’ quart mason jar is only 3/4 full but enough brine was produced to cover the cabbage.

        I didn’t have anything to use as a weight that would fit inside the jar that would prevent pieces of cabbage from floating to the top so I placed an empty sandwich size plastic baggy on top of the cabbage/brine and then added salted water to the baggy so that it has, seemingly, made an airtight barrier. But, I guess this method will not let it breathe. Would putting a straw into the cabbage between the jar & water bag be of any benefit? Any other suggestions?

  31. Laura says

    HI, my apologies for my last post. I have been in and out of several sites over the past few days and thought I was elsewhere when I responded. You answered my question exactly. No need for me to have asked a ‘stupid’ straw question about allowing the bubbles to escape. however, I am still a little confused. If I cover the jar with plastic wrap and tie securely, as per your directions, how can the gases escape; or, are they supposed to stay within the jar?

    Many thanks.

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