Think, Eat, Be Healthy

Fermented Sauerkraut Recipe

fermented sauerkraut

Fresh unpasteurized fermented sauerkraut provides all the nutrition of the cruciferous vegetables, the added B-vitamins from fermentation and the pro-biotic boost of the living bacteria.

About fermented sauerkraut recipe

Fermenting vegetables is an age-old tradition in many cultures and serves many purposes. The bacteria responsible for most fermentation, the lactobacillus family, produce lactic acid that acts as a natural preservative by stopping the growth of harmful bacteria and fungus. Lacto bacteria also produce omega-3 fatty acids and B-vitamins, including B-12, as by-products of fermentation. Cell walls are also partially broken down by the bacteria, making more nutrients available more easily in a way similar to cooking but without the bad effects of heat on nutrients and proteins.

This fermented sauerkraut will last many months refrigerated in covered containers. I like to take it out of the crock while the cabbage is still quite crispy. Fermentation will continue in the refrigerator but at a much slower rate. By the time I get to the last jar of kraut, the cabbage will be much softer and the flavor will have mellowed considerably.

This fermented sauerkraut recipe cost me less than four dollars for two heads of organic cabbage and an onion. It yielded four quart jars of sauerkraut plus enough extra to have with dinner. At the same store where I purchased the cabbage, one quart jar of unpasteurized sauerkraut sells for $6.99. This is a significant savings and I get to flavor the kraut however I like.

Fermented foods add a lot of nutrition, flavor and variety to every healthy whole food diet. The living bacteria in these foods aids digestion and strengthens the immune system. Make them part of your whole food health plan at least a few times each week.


To prepare the cabbage for fermented sauerkraut, start by removing the outermost few leaves, which are probably dirty or damaged, Then quarter the head(s) of cabbage and cut out the solid core.

Ingredients for fermented sauerkraut

2 small heads of organic green cabbage, quartered, stem removed and thin sliced, enough to make 1 1/2-2 gallons

1 small or 1/2 large yellow onion, thin sliced into half rings                       1 medium carrot, shredded

6-8 garlic cloves, thin sliced                                                                            1 tablespoon whole mustard seed

1 tablespoon whole coriander seed                                                                1/2 teaspoon freshly grated black pepper

4 tablespoons sea salt

sliced cabbage

I like to cut the vegetables by hand to produce slight variations in thickness. This adds a nice variety of textures to the finished kraut with the thinnest pieces being softer and the thickest being crisper.

Preparing fermented sauerkraut

1. Place all of the ingredients into a large mixing bowl, sprinkling the salt on last

2. Using both hands, mix and massage the salt into the vegetables until everything is very well mixed and the veggies are becoming wet and limp.

3. Let the veggies rest in the bowl for 20-30 minutes to allow the salt to draw out water

4. Mix and massage the veggies again. They should be quite flexible and wet with some water standing in the bottom of the mixing bowl. If they are still crisp and there is no free liquid, add another tablespoon of salt, massage and let rest again

5. Pack the veggies into the fermenting container of choice(see notes below). Press down very firmly as more veggies are added. When all of the veggies are in the fermenting container, there should be enough liquid present to fully submerge them. If there is not enough liquid, let rest again  and press down again. See notes below if there is still not enough liquid

6. Weight the veggies to make sure they stay fully submerged under the surface of the liquid brine

7. Cover the fermenting container loosely to prevent contaminants from falling in. A loose lid, plastic wrap, plastic shopping bag or clean kitchen towel will all work fine

8. Allow to ferment at room temperature. You should start to see bubbles after a few days. Skim off any mold that may form on the surface of the liquid. Start tasting the sauerkraut 3 days after fermentation starts. Remove the kraut from the fermentation container when the kraut has the combination of crispness/sourness that you are happy with

9. Place the finished fermented sauerkraut into glass jars with lids and refrigerate to slow/stop fermentation

sauerkraut ingredients

After the first mixing and massaging with salt.

Notes on fermented sauerkraut

Use non-reactive containers for the fermentation container and storage containers: glass or ceramic are best. The liquid formed by fermentation is quite acidic and salty. This acidic brine can corrode and pit stainless steel, aluminum and other metals. Corroded metal is dissolved into the brine and is not a healthy addition to any diet. The salty, acidic brine is also what prevents the growth of bad bacteria and fungus, acting as a preservative for the fermented sauerkraut.

dedicated crock

A dedicated crock with a water-lock lid and weights makes fermenting almost fool-proof.

My favorite fermentation containers, in order of ease of use, are 1.) dedicated fermentation crocks with a water-lock lid, 2.) one gallon glass jars with a wide mouth and 3.) ceramic casseroles with fitted lids. Dedicated fermentation crocks are nearly foolproof and usually come as a kit with fitted ceramic or stone weights for holding the vegetables under the surface of the brine. One quart glass jars filled with water make good weights for gallon glass jars. A flat plate with a weight on top works for casseroles.

More failed batches will occur using casseroles and jars instead of fermentation crocks because of contamination. A little mold, mildew of fungus on the surface can simply be skimmed off and will not affect the kraut. The brine often gets slightly thick and stringy from the lacto-bacteria: this is natural. But if the kraut starts to smell spoiled rather than sour, or turns blue or green, throw away the entire batch immediately. Your nose and stomach will not let you eat spoiled kraut and there has never been a reported death from home fermented vegetables.


The final product in jars and ready for the refrigerator.

A fermentation starter will speed up the process and often make a finished sauerkraut in one week or less at room temperature. Without a fermentation starter, sauerkraut will normally take 11-14 days. The time varies widely with temperature and how crispy and sour you like the finished kraut. Any liquid from previous fermentations of kraut, kimchi, cucumber pickles or other vegetables makes a suitable starter. The good bacteria that do the fermenting naturally live on and within the cabbage leaves, so it is very important to buy organic produce for fermenting or at least know without doubt that the cabbage has not been irradiated to kill bacteria.

Freshness counts when making fermented sauerkraut – find the freshest cabbage available. Older or drier cabbage will occasionally not produce quite enough brine to cover the vegetables completely. This is rare. When it happens, make additional brine by dissolving 3 1/2 tablespoons of sea salt into 1 quart of water, bring it just to a boil and allow to cool to room temperature before adding to the kraut. This will remove any chlorine or other contaminants that might prevent the growth of the fermenting bacteria. It is also important to use pure sea salt for the same reason – ordinary table salt has iodine and other additives that will interfere with and discolor fermentation.

The most basic recipe for sauerkraut has only two ingredients: green cabbage and salt. All of the other ingredients in this recipe are only to produce a more complex flavor profile. Many other ingredients can be added or substituted for kraut. Try red cabbage and red onion instead of or in addition to the suggested ingredients. I also like caraway seeds, anise seeds, cumin seeds and whatever fresh or dried herbs are available. Try different combinations in future batches to discover your personal favorite combination of flavors for sauerkraut.

This recipe is vegan, gluten-free and grain-free. It is a suitable addition to every healthy whole food diet.

For more fermented vegetable recipes, please click on the links below.

Fermented kimchi recipe

Fermented garlic dill pickle chips recipe

How to make fermented mustard pickle spears

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