How To Make Sauerkraut At Home

September 7th, 2010 - filed under: The Food » Recipes


Sauerkraut is a traditional dish of lacto-fermented cabbage. But don’t let the ‘lacto’ fool you – there’s no dairy in there! Lactobacilli are the bacteria that lend the name, and they live on raw cabbage leaves. When encouraged under the correct conditions, these bacteria begin the incredible fermentation process that turns a moderately healthy food into a nutritional goldmine!

Raw unpasteurized sauerkraut is incredibly high in vitamin C, probiotics, digestive enzymes, and cancer-fighting compounds. For a more thorough discussion of the fantastic, fabulous affects of fermented foods, you can read my article. Otherwise, just trust me when I say that sauerkraut is super delicious, super nutritious, and super easy to make at home.

To culture a batch of cabbage, all you’ll need is:

  • cabbage, green or purple, as much as you want
  • sea salt, about 1 tablespoon per 2 pounds cabbage
  • a sharp knife + cutting board OR a food processor
  • a very, very large bowl
  • large glass jars or a glazed ceramic (lead-free) crock
  • coffee filter/rag/wash cloth + rubber band

IMG_1708Step One
First, peel a few of the outer leaves from each head and set them aside. Then, cut the cabbage! You can thin slice it by hand (my preference) or you can use a food processor for a more diced, ‘fluffy’ affect. Surface area is crucial so try to slice as thinly as possible.

IMG_1711Step Two
Put all your cabbage in a very big bowl. It looks like a ton but it shrinks up, I promise. Sprinkle the salt over the cabbage. My general guide is 1 tablespoon per 2 pounds, but there’s lots of wiggle room. You *do* need enough salt though, as it draws the moisture out of the leaves via osmosis, and it also keeps the fermenting liquid inhospitable to ‘bad’ bacteria. Make sure you use sea salt, not table salt.

IMG_1715Step Three
Give it a good massage! I like to use my hands but you can use a potato masher or even the blunt bottom of a cup or jar. What you’re doing is breaking down the cell walls and extracting moisture. You’ll see the cabbage go from crisp to limp, and the volume will significantly decrease.


IMG_1729Step Four
Now it’s time to pack it in. Use a very clean glass jar or glazed ceramic (lead-free) crock. Handfull by handfull, stuff the soggy cabbage in and press it down hard. If you do it right you’ll be able to get a big head of cabbage into a very small space. Tamp it down after each handful and notice how the liquid always rises above the solids. Top it off with the last of the cabbage and the last of the liquid.

IMG_1732IMG_1737Step Five
Now, take one of those large outer leaves and press it down on top of the shredded cabbage (shown left) . You may have to tear it into a few pieces to get it to fit, but basically you’re making a little hat to keep all the shreds submerged.

Then, you need to weight it down to keep it from floating. I use a smaller jar filled with water (shown right), but you can also use a ziplock bag of water, a small plate – whatever works with your setup.

Finally, cover the top with a breathable barrier – something to keep out dust and bugs but to allow air flow as well. I prefer coffee filters (shown at top), which I can use again and again. Secure with a rubber band and set in a coolish spot to ferment.

Check every day to make sure the shreds stay under, and use a clean hand to push them back down if necessary. Taste test every few days – it’s done when you think it tastes yummy! Kraut can ferment anywhere from 5 days to 5 weeks and will then store in the fridge for months. Enjoy!


For more instruction here’s an awesome video from the fermenting master himself, Mr Sandor Ellix Katz (aka Sandorkraut). Check it out – he’s the shizzie y’all.


Also! I thought it would be fun to share this little ‘behind-the-scenes’ photo. People always ask me how in the world I find the time to get all this stuff done. The answer is simple: I am a crazy person. Ha! But here’s the proof. Working spread out on my kitchen floor, wearing my baby (who is totally passed out!), up to my elbows in experiments, catching up on my animal rights podcasts . . . and grinning like a mad woman, because I’m LOVING IT!



  • Sayward Rebhal

    Hi Judy, unfortunately this recipe absolutely requires the salt to keep the food from rotting. Sorry!

  • Judy Fazio

    Oh well … Thought it was worth a try.
    Thank You for answering my question :)

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  • shanoahb

    I just made my first jar, and am wondering if it needs to sit out of the sunlight? or just somewhere cool… also made the choc ganache pie, it is awesome!! my husband was shocked at how rich it was being totally raw and vegan. ;)

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Yes, it should be out of direct sunlight. And yay, I loooove that pie!

  • vintagemom

    Great lens! I have been wanting to make sauerkraut, Thanks for the easy recipe, Hope to try it soon. And, your baby is Beautiful.

  • Joan

    Thanks for the info! I asked my elderly aunt for her recipe, which included ingredients but was short on useable instruction!
    Thanks again.

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  • Annie

    Thanks for the recipe! I’ve been wanting to make some sauerkraut for awhile but always figured it to be a lot harder. I started mine a few days ago and have a question. Mine appears to look just fine but it does have a bit of an odor. Is this a normal part of the fermenting process or is this a bad batch?

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Depends on the odor. Sauerkraut will develop a smell, but it’s a very specific sauerkraut smell. If it smells at all “rotten” or bad or anything other than what sauerkraut should smell like, then I’d say yes, unfortunately something went wrong.

  • Mary Abele

    That was great! Thanks :)

  • MamaK

    It’s difficult to tell from the picture, but it appears your baby’s spine/neck is not being supported enough as is pictured here. A head should not dangle from the body in a carrier — that can cause some serious damage.

    Great blog post on kraut.

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  • Anita

    I made purple sauerkraut using your recipe about 8 months ago. It was great!! I tried it again about 2 weeks ago and noticed that it had a weird smell to it. Then I saw that it was getting moldy. I did the same thing as the first time. Any ideas as to why it went bad?

  • Sayward Rebhal

    There’s so much bacteria and mold spores in the air, especially in these warmer months. It probably just got contaminated. Did you maybe not use enough salt? The saltiness helps prevent the bad bacteria from taking hold. But, well, a little spoilage is part of the fermenting process. It happens every now and then. Don’t let it discourage you!

  • Allyssa

    Thanks for the recipe! Im planning on making it today while my 2 year old son is napping :)

    I have a question though….. Could i use kosher salt instead of sea salt? Also, does it matter if its ‘course’ or does it need to be ‘fine’?

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Kosher salt would be okay, and the course versus fine won’t matter as long as you can get it to completely dissolve. You just want it evenly disbursed.

    Do you have a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder? You could try and get it a little finer before mixing it in.

    But really, I’m sure it will work. Sauerkraut is like the easiest thing ever. Good luck! =D

  • sylvia

    I just made my first batch of sauerkraut; now where do I put the jar to ferment? On the kitchen counter or in a dark spot and, what temp?

  • d gasawa

    Rinsing it before you cook or eat it might help with the sodium content.

  • Angela_Kindle

    Once this is made- would pressure canning work for preserving it for later? I had a pretty awesome friend give me 3 rather large homegrown heads and want to make kraut for later use :)

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Pressure canning would probably work, but it would kill those live probiotic beasties that give this stuff such amazing health benefits! If you can find the room int he fridge, I’d definitely say try not to can it. It will keep for a loooooong time just hanging out in the back of the fridge. ;-)

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  • Catherine Lee

    That’s what I noticed too

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