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How to Make Sauerkraut

Making your own healthy and delicious sauerkraut at home is easy and economical. This is the perfect recipe for beginners and using a jar rather than a crock allows you to see the transformation from cabbage to kraut.

  • Author: The Real Food Dietitians
  • Prep Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: ~3 cups
  • Category: Condiment, Fermented Food


  • 1 1/22 lbs. fresh cabbage, organic whenever possible
  • 1 1/22 tsp. sea salt


  1. Rinse cabbage in cool water. Remove the coarse outer leaves and discard. Remove and rinse a few unblemished leaves and set them aside. Rinse the cabbage again in cool water and place on cutting board.
  2. Using a large knife, quarter the cabbage and remove the core. Thinly slice the cabbage with a knife or mandoline slicer then transfer cabbage to a large bowl.
  3. Add 1 teaspoon of the salt and, with your hands, massage it into the cabbage. When the cabbage starts to look wet and shiny, taste it. You should be able to taste the salt without it being overwhelming (in other words it should be a little salty but still taste good). Add more salt, a little at a time, if needed to get that ‘salty but not too salty’ flavor and a good amount of brine. Continue to massage until the cabbage becomes wet and limp and brine begins to pool in the bottom of the bowl. When you can squeeze the cabbage with two hands and the brine runs freely into the bowl, you’re ready for Step 4. If you’ve put in a good effort and don’t have much brine, cover the bowl and allow it to sit for 45 minutes. Massage again until the liquid runs freely when you squeeze a handful of cabbage in your hands.
  4. Transfer the cabbage to a clean 1 quart mason jar or crock a few handfuls at a time, stopping to press the cabbage into the bottom of the jar using your hand to work out any air pockets before you add more cabbage. Repeat this adding and pressing until all of the cabbage has been packed tightly into the jar. You should have some brine on top of the cabbage once it’s all been pressed into the jar. Leave 2-3 inches of headspace in the jar so you have enough room for the next step. If you have too much cabbage, place some in another clean jar (yeah for extra kraut!) to make a second batch.
  5. Place the zip-top freezer bag into the jar and use your fingers to spread it out so that it covers as much of the cabbage leaf as possible. Fill the bag with cool filtered water and seal it while pressing out as much of the air as possible. Tuck the top of the bag into the jar. If using a lid with an airlock, screw lid on tightly, fill airlock to ‘Fill’ line with water and snap airlock cap in place. If not using an airlock, very loosely screw lid onto jar (so that gases created during fermentation can escape) or cover with a clean kitchen towel.
  6. Place vessel on a baking sheet or pan out of direct sunlight and cool (55-75℉) to ferment for 4-14 days. Dark is best but it needs to be somewhere where you won’t forget about it! Check your ferment daily to be sure everything is under the brine. Remember: “If it’s under the brine, everything’s fine!”
  7. If you see air pockets or notice that the brine is not completely covering the cabbage, carefully remove the lid and zip-top bag and with clean hands, gently press the cabbage down to return everything to below the brine.
  8. Taste test your kraut starting at Day 4 by carefully removing the bag with clean hands. Use a plastic or wooden fork to gently push the cabbage leaves aside and remove a small taste. It’s ready when it has a pleasing pickle-y flavor without the strong acidity of vinegar, the cabbage has softened a bit but retains some crunch and the cabbage is more yellow than green and slightly translucent (like it’s been cooked). If it’s not ready, rinse the bag under running water and carefully place it back in the bag so that all of the cabbage is below the brine. Taste again in another day or two to see what you think.
  9. When it’s pleasing to your tastebuds (and/or less than a pH of 4.6 as measured with a pH strip), skim off any scum from the surface and transfer your finished kraut into clean glass jar, tamping it down with your clean hand, a tamper or handle of a wooden spoon. Pour any leftover brine into the jar. Optionally, top with a small circle of parchment paper by lightly pressing it onto the surface. Tighten the lid then refrigerate for up to 6 months to 1 year.


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