How to Make Sauerkraut the Old-Fashioned Way (2024)

This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, please see our affiliate policy.

Leave a ReviewJump to Recipe

Tangy, crunchy, and oh, so good for you, here’s How to Make Sauerkraut the old-fashioned way. All you need is salt, cabbage, and time; you’ll be thrilled with just how delicious and easy it is.

How to Make Sauerkraut the Old-Fashioned Way (1)

What you need to make sauerkraut:

  • Bowl. A bowl large enough to contain five pounds of cabbage.
  • A crock or large glass jar. Well-stocked hardware stores or specialty cooking shops carry a really nice selection of ceramic crocks that were made exactly for this purpose. (Not just to hold all your spoons and spatulas on the counter!) Or ask your grandma if you can borrow hers for a while.
  • A small plate. A plate (or other flat object) small enough to fit down into the crock, to keep the cabbage submerged. I used a lid from a deli container because it was flexible (just be sure to sterilize whatever you use!)
  • Cheescloth. Layers of cheesecloth cover the top of the crock during fermentation.
  • Weight. A clean rock or a water-filled mason jar works great. Something to hold the plate down on top of the cabbage. Don’t forget to sterilize whatever you use!

How thin to cut cabbage for sauerkraut?

Well, that depends on how you like it. Thick or thin, long or short, it’s up to you.

How to make Sauerkraut:

PS: When making homemade sauerkraut or any other fermented food, it’s really important to use super-clean, even sterilized equipment. Running everything through the dishwasher is always a good idea.

  1. Cut up the cabbage. Remove the soft outer leaves of the head of cabbage and cut into quarters.
    How to Make Sauerkraut the Old-Fashioned Way (2)
  2. Then in a big bowl, add half of the shredded cabbage and half of the Kosher salt. How much salt to make sauerkraut? This recipe uses a sauerkraut salt ratio of 3 tablespoons salt for 5 pounds of cabbage.
    How to Make Sauerkraut the Old-Fashioned Way (3)
  3. Now for the fun part! Using clean hands, knead the cabbage and salt together for 3-5 minutes. The goal is to get the cabbage to soften and begin to release moisture. Knead, massage, and then knead some more! Stir in the jumpier berries (or any other spices you choose to add, see below) and combine.
    How to Make Sauerkraut the Old-Fashioned Way (4)
  4. Next, one handful at a time, move the cabbage into the clean crock and press it down into the bottom of the crock using your fist or a flat potato masher.
    How to Make Sauerkraut the Old-Fashioned Way (5)
  5. Place the plate or other small, flat item inside the crock.
    How to Make Sauerkraut the Old-Fashioned Way (6)
  6. Weigh it down with your choice of weight.
    How to Make Sauerkraut the Old-Fashioned Way (7)
  7. Cover the crock with a few layers of cheesecloth and let it sit and think about things for a couple hours.
    How to Make Sauerkraut the Old-Fashioned Way (8)
  8. After two hours, four hours, and six hours, remove the cheesecloth and push down on the plate firmly to check if the cabbage is fully submerged in the brine. If at the end of 6 hours the cabbage is still not fully submerged, you can add some salt water to juice things up a bit.
    How to Make Sauerkraut the Old-Fashioned Way (9)
  9. Once you have fully submerged cabbage, all you have to do is allow the cabbage to ferment at room temperature (between 65 and 75 degrees).

How long to ferment sauerkraut?

Good news! In a few days, as long as you use a clean utensil, you get to start tasting and sampling the sauerkraut.

Homemade sauerkraut is ready to eat about as soon as it begins to ferment, at about 5 days. “Young” sauerkraut tastes crisp and mildly acidic, while “older” sauerkraut left to ferment at the 10-day mark is softer, funkier, and every bit as delicious. The longer it ferments, the tangier it becomes.

Once you get your custom-made sauerkraut to the level of fermentation that you like the best, transfer into glass jars, drain off the brine, and move it into the refrigerator.

And by all means, save the brine! It will jumpstart your next batch, which you should be making asap.

Other fun ingredients to add to homemade sauerkraut:

  • Switch up the cabbage, add your own savory veggies, and have fun experimenting with almost everything
  • Red cabbage
  • Shredded raw carrots
  • Shredded raw beets
  • Ginger
  • Fresh herbs

*Garlic: Many people associate garlic with a higher risk of botulism. You need to worry about this the most when the garlic is in an anaerobic environment (lack of oxygen, where botulism can thrive) such as in home canning or when garlic is covered in oil. However, I am not a food scientist and I don’t work at the CDC, so take my advice with a grain of salt and please do your own research if adding garlic, especially if you’re in a high-risk category (pregnant, elderly, etc.).

Sauerkraut spices:

Certainly, you can switch up this basic recipe to make it even more interesting, and make it your own! (A combined tablespoon of any dried spice listed below is enough for this recipe.)

  • Bay leaf
  • Peppercorns
  • Turmeric
  • Caraway seeds
  • Chili flakes
  • Dill seeds
How to Make Sauerkraut the Old-Fashioned Way (10)

Help! There is some mold on the top of the sauerkraut brine!

Don’t worry—it’s harmless. Skim it off with a clean utensil, double-check to make sure there’s enough brine, press it down well, and cover things up again.

My sauerkraut has a weird brownish layer on top? What to do?

It’s normal, especially if the cabbage rises to the surface. Just keep pressing it down, or use a whole cabbage leaf on top of the sauerkraut, just under the plate.

Do you have to use that much salt when making sauerkraut?

Yes, Kosher salt is an important step in creating an ideal environment in which the cabbage can ferment without growing harmful bacteria. If you’re watching your sodium, rinse the sauerkraut after it goes through a complete fermentation, just before you eat it.

And remember, the 3 tablespoons of kosher salt is for 5 pounds of cabbage.

What’s the ideal temperature for making sauerkraut?

Room temperature between 65 and 75 degrees. In a warmer room, the sauerkraut may ferment quickly, which will make a softer product without as much crunch. A cooler room may need more time to work its magic.

What to eat with sauerkraut:

A big bowl of sauerkraut served up alongside pork chops, sausages– nothing is better. Sauerkraut is fantastic on a Rueben sandwich, in Hot Reuben Dip, or even served on a simple hotdog. Sneak it into wraps, salads, and rice bowls.

Or eat it plain! Do you ever have those days when you know you didn’t eat enough vegetables? Sauerkraut can be ready and waiting for you in the fridge.

If you are into things like “probiotics” or “gut health,” homemade sauerkraut is one of the cheapest ways to eat healthful bacteria (have you priced raw sauerkraut at the store? PRICEY). When I was in culinary school, one of my instructors swore she ate one spoonful of homemade kraut every day, just because it made her feel so good!

Join Us

HUNGRY FOR MORE? Sign up for our weeklynewsletterand follow along onFacebook,Pinterest, andInstagram for our latest recipes! Tag all your glorious creations #culinaryhill so we can eat vicariously through you.

How to Make Sauerkraut the Old-Fashioned Way (11)

How to Make Sauerkraut

By Meggan Hill

Tangy, crunchy, and oh, so good for you, here’s How to Make Sauerkraut the old-fashioned way. All you need is salt, cabbage, and time; you’ll be thrilled with just how delicious and easy it is.

Cook Time 5 days d

Total Time 5 days d

Servings 24 servings

Course Pantry

Cuisine German

Calories 25

5 from 3 votes



  • 5 pounds green cabbage quartered, cored, and sliced lengthwise ⅛ inch thick
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon juniper berries


  • Combine half of cabbage and half of salt in large bowl. Forcefully knead salt into cabbage until cabbage just begins to soften, about 3 minutes. Add remaining cabbage and salt and continue kneading until all cabbage has softened and begins to give off moisture, about 3 minutes. Stir in juniper berries.

  • Transfer cabbage and any accumulated liquid to sterilized 1-gallon ceramic crock, pressing down firmly with clean fist or sterilized flat headed potato masher to eliminate air pockets. Top cabbage with clean plate just small enough to fit inside crock and weigh plate down with clean rock or quart jar filled with water. Cover with triple layer of cheesecloth, securing in place with rubber band. Let ferment at room temperature, 65 to 75 degrees, for 2 hours.

  • Remove cheesecloth and weight, and press plate firmly onto cabbage. Replace weight and cheesecloth and let ferment 2 more hours. Repeat process twice more, or until cabbage is fully submerged under brine. (If brine doesn’t completely submerge cabbage within 24 hours, cover cabbage with mixture of 1 cup water and teaspoon salt).

  • Check cabbage every 2 days, pressing down cabbage to keep it submerged (top off with additional brine, made following instructions in step 3, as needed). Let ferment until sauerkraut has reached desired level of fermentation, 5 to 10 days. Transfer sauerkraut and brine to glass jars with tight-fitting lids and refrigerate. Sauerkraut can be refrigerated for up to 2 months.


Yield: About 3 quarts.

Adapted from the America’s Test Kitchen D.I.Y. Cookbook.


Serving: 0.5cupCalories: 25kcalCarbohydrates: 6gProtein: 1gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 889mgPotassium: 161mgFiber: 2gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 93IUVitamin C: 35mgCalcium: 38mgIron: 1mg

Did you make this recipe?Tag @culinaryhill on Instagram so we can admire your masterpiece! #culinaryhill

Meggan Hill

Website | + posts

Meggan Hill is a classically-trained chef and professional writer. Her meticulously-tested recipes and detailed tutorials bring confidence and success to home cooks everywhere. Meggan has been featured on NPR, HuffPost, FoxNews, LA Times, and more.

How to Make Sauerkraut the Old-Fashioned Way (2024)


How is sauerkraut made in the old days? ›

History of Sauerkraut

In the 16th century, the Germanic peoples began dry curing cabbage with salt to extract the water from the vegetable and allowed the mixture to ferment, turning the sugars in the cabbage into lactic acid which served as a preservative. The process remains the same today.

How to make old fashioned sauerkraut in a 5 gallon bucket? ›

  1. Remove outer leaves, wash, core and slice cabbage.
  2. Add cabbage to a 5-gallon bucket and massage in 6 Tablespoons of salt.
  3. Tamp down until the juices start to come to the surface. ( ...
  4. Use a plate and some weights to press the cabbage down underneith the liquid.
  5. Store in a dark, cool space for 5-6 weeks.
May 14, 2020

What to add to sauerkraut to make it taste better? ›

Ten Delicious Kraut Additions
  1. Juniper Berries. Small and dark, these little raisin-sized berries pack a flavor punch. ...
  2. Beets. Peeled and grated or thinly sliced, even a tiny bit of beet stains the whole ferment fuchsia. ...
  3. Ginger. ...
  4. Lemon Peel. ...
  5. Dill. ...
  6. Caraway Seed. ...
  7. Fennel. ...
  8. Celery Root (celeriac)

How do you prevent botulism in sauerkraut? ›

You should still follow good practises while fermenting vegetables, like using fresh produce, chlorine-free water, iodine-free salt and ensuring your vegetables are properly submerged. Learn more about how to prepare for your ferment here.

What is the primary ingredient used in the preparation of sauerkraut? ›

Cabbage is converted to sauerkraut due to growth and acid production by a succession of lactic acid bacteria.

Do you have to rinse sauerkraut before cooking it? ›

I would say it depends. The best way to know is to just open the bag and taste a little bit of the sauerkraut . When it has already a nice taste (not too salty) that you like, you don't have to wash it before using it. If it's very salty then rinse it to get rid of the saltiness.

What is the ratio of salt to cabbage for sauerkraut? ›

The most widely used ratio of 2.00%–2.25% weight of salt to weight of cabbage gives the best results. This means you add 2g to 2.25g of salt for every 100g of finely sliced cabbage in your recipe.

What is the best spice for sauerkraut? ›

Classic sauerkraut spices are juniper berries, caraway seeds, dill and celery seeds.

Should I put sugar in my sauerkraut? ›

Cabbage, salt, and sugar (plus some time) are all that's required to make a standout homemade sauerkraut recipe.

What kind of cabbage makes the best sauerkraut? ›

Round cabbage (also called white cabbage or simply cabbage) is the best cabbage for making sauerkraut. The cabbage is dense with smooth leaves and weighs on average around 2 kg. Light green cabbage will give you the best results!

Why does sauerkraut not go bad? ›

Making sauerkraut means fermenting cabbage in salt water. This allows the lactic acid bacteria (LAB) to grow and change the sugars in cabbage into lactic acid. This acid grows to such a point that it's hard for bad bacteria to survive. This keeps the cabbage safe and lets it be stored for a while.

How do you know if sauerkraut has live cultures? ›

If sauerkraut contains live probiotic bacteria, it should say so on the label. Look in the chilled section. Like many other probiotic products, stores generally keep live sauerkraut in the chilled section. Avoid pasteurized sauerkraut.

How long does it take to age sauerkraut? ›

Store the container at 70°–75°F (21°–23°C) while fermenting. At these temperatures, sauerkraut will be fully fermented in about three to four weeks; at 60°–65°F (15°–18°C), fermentation may take six weeks. Below 60°F (15°C), sauerkraut may not ferment. Above 80°F (26°C), sauerkraut may become soft and spoil.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Maia Crooks Jr

Last Updated:

Views: 6073

Rating: 4.2 / 5 (63 voted)

Reviews: 86% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Maia Crooks Jr

Birthday: 1997-09-21

Address: 93119 Joseph Street, Peggyfurt, NC 11582

Phone: +2983088926881

Job: Principal Design Liaison

Hobby: Web surfing, Skiing, role-playing games, Sketching, Polo, Sewing, Genealogy

Introduction: My name is Maia Crooks Jr, I am a homely, joyous, shiny, successful, hilarious, thoughtful, joyous person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.