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Raw sauerkraut is surprisingly easy to make and is WAY cheaper than buying the store-bought stuff. For a just a couple dollars, you’ll have more fresh sauerkraut than you’ll know what to do with!

fork full of saurkraut

 

Fermenting my own veggies has always terrified me, since I was convinced I’d probably do it wrong and wind up with botulism. But people have been eating fermented food for centuries, so it can’t be as scary as it sounds, right?

Right.

Plus, it’s loaded with friendly bacteria for your gut, which has been shown to improve digestion and the absorption of vitamins and minerals. So, eat your (fermented) veggies.

Homemade Raw Sauerkraut

Ingredients:

1 head green or purple cabbage
2 Tablespoons sea salt
Spring or distilled water, as needed

Tools:

Wood cutting board
Sharp knife
Glass jar
Large glass or metal bowl
Metal Tongs
Ziploc bag (if needed for added weight)

Directions:

Step 1: Sanitize your tools!
You want to start with really clean tools. Sanitize your jar, knife, cutting board, tongs and glass bowl with boiling water, which should kill off any lurking bad bacteria. We only want the good kind growing in our veggies!
Step 2: Prepare your cabbage.
cabbage leaves on a cutting board
Rinse cabbage well, and remove the large outer leaves.

(You’ll want to save these for later.)
cutting cabbage leaves on a cutting board with a knife
Using a sharp knife, simply shred the cabbage and transfer it to a large glass bowl.

Add about 2 Tablespoons of salt, then, using tongs or clean hands, massage the cabbage until it starts to break down from the salt. It will release moisture and reduce in size.

Step 3: Transfer to a jar.
cut cabbage in a large glass jar
Transfer the massaged cabbage to a clean glass jar, preferably one that is large enough to fit your hand through the top. The most important part of making fermented veggies is that you remove all the air in the jar–> so you want to pack the cabbage tightly, leaving no gaps! I used my fist to punch it down, but a clean wooden spoon would work, too.

Step 4: Cover with water and reserved cabbage leaves.

Like I mentioned above, the key to properly fermented sauerkraut is making sure there is no air remaining in the shredded cabbage. While there is already plenty of moisture released from the cabbage to make the brine, I like to add a little extra spring water (do not use tap water!!) to make sure the liquid level is completely ABOVE the shredded cabbage.
pouring water into jar of cut cabbage leavesOnce you’ve added the water, use the reserved cabbage leaves to press down the shredded cabbage–> keeping it submerged under the liquid.

Ideally, you’d fill up the jar all the way to the top, but mine didn’t work out that way. If that’s the case for you, too, simply fill a plastic bag with salt water (in case it bursts in the jar, you want it to be salt water!) to use as a “weight.” Place the salt water bag on top of the large cabbage leaf layer, and seal the jar. You should be able to see the liquid layer above the shredded cabbage line.

Step 5: Store in an insulated bag for 3-7 days.
glass jar filled with cabbage and water
If your house is a too warm or too cold, the insulated bag ensures that the fermentation process is kept at an even temperature. My sauerkraut took a full week to reach the classic “tangy” flavor this time around, but it may take less time in warmer climates. You can start checking on it after 3 days, just make sure the liquid level is high enough each time you re-seal the jar!

Once the sauerkraut has fermented to your liking, remove the weight and outer leaves and discard.

*I’ve heard that it’s not uncommon for a layer of mold to develop on the outer leaves. This doesn’t mean your sauerkraut is ruined! Simply discard the layer of mold, and everything underneath the brine should be safe. As always, use your best judgement–> if it smells off, don’t eat it.

Step 6: Store in the fridge and enjoy!

jar of saurkraut in a fridge
I’ve had raw food teachers tell me that raw sauerkraut can last almost indefinitely in the fridge… but hopefully you’ll eat it all before you can test that theory. It will definitely last for months in the fridge, so feel free to make a BIG batch!

Once you’re comfortable making your own sauerkraut, feel free to get creative with the veggies you add to it! Ginger, beets, carrots, garlic, and lemon juice all make tasty additions.

Raw sauerkraut on fork

How To Make Raw Sauerkraut

4.53 from 19 votes
Tangy and rich in gut-friendly probiotics, this raw sauerkraut is a welcome addition to any dish!
prep30 mins total30 mins
Servings:12

Ingredients
 
 

  • 1 head green or purple cabbage
  • 2 Tablespoons sea salt
  • Spring or distilled water , as needed

Instructions

  • Start with really clean tools. Sanitize your jar, knife, cutting board, tongs and glass bowl with boiling water, which should kill off any lurking bad bacteria. We only want the good kind growing in our veggies!
  • Rinse cabbage well, and remove the large outer leaves. (You'll want to save these for later.)
  • Using a sharp knife, shred the cabbage and transfer it to a large glass bowl. Add about 2 Tablespoons of salt, then, using tongs or clean hands, massage the cabbage until it starts to break down from the salt. It will release moisture and reduce in size.
  • Transfer the massaged cabbage to a clean glass jar, preferably one that is large enough to fit your hand through the top. The most important part of making fermented veggies is that you remove all the air in the jar-- so you want to pack the cabbage tightly, leaving no gaps! I used my fist to punch it down, but a clean wooden spoon would work, too.
  • While there is already plenty of moisture released from the cabbage to make the brine, I like to add a little extra spring water (do not use tap water!!) to make sure the liquid level is completely ABOVE the shredded cabbage.
  • Once you've added the water, use the reserved cabbage leaves to press down the shredded cabbage-- keeping it submerged under the liquid.
  • Ideally, you'd fill up the jar all the way to the top, but mine didn't work out that way. If that's the case for you, too, simply fill a plastic bag with salt water (in case it bursts in the jar, you want it to be salt water!) to use as a "weight." Place the salt water bag on top of the large cabbage leaf layer, and seal the jar. You should be able to see the liquid layer above the shredded cabbage line.
  • Store the sealed jar in an insulated bag for 3-7 days. You can start checking on it after 3 days, just make sure the liquid level is high enough each time you re-seal the jar!
  • Once the sauerkraut has fermented to your liking, remove the weight and outer leaves and discard. Note: It's not uncommon for a layer of mold to develop on the outer leaves. This doesn't mean your sauerkraut is ruined! Simply discard the layer of mold, and everything underneath the brine should be safe. As always, use your best judgement-- if it smells off, don't eat it.
  • Store in the fridge and enjoy! The sauerkraut will last for months in the fridge, so feel free to make a BIG batch!

Notes

Once you're comfortable making your own sauerkraut, feel free to get creative with the veggies you add to it! Ginger, beets, carrots, garlic, and lemon juice all make tasty additions.

Nutrition

Calories: 18kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Sodium: 1176mg | Potassium: 128mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 75IU | Vitamin C: 27.7mg | Calcium: 30mg | Iron: 0.4mg
Course: Snack
Cuisine: American
Keyword: how to, paleo, vegan
Per Serving: Calories: 18, Fat: 0g, Carbohydrates: 4g, Fiber: 1g
Reader Feedback: Have you ever made your own fermented veggies? If not, are you willing to try it now? Now that I’ve done it successfully, I’m excited to enjoy cheaper sauerkraut more often!

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Megan Gilmore leaning on her white countertop.

Megan Gilmore

Hi, I’m Megan. A former fast food junkie turned best-selling cookbook author. I create healthy recipes made with simple ingredients to make your life easier.

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Comments

  1. Oh no! I meant to say in above recipe,3 tbs.salt……………………………………… I want to add that as soon as you put the salt on natural juice start coming out of the cabbage,use your hands to mix the salt in.Put into crock(I just ordered a big fermenting crock on line,still waiting for it to get here)tamp down until juice covering.

  2. Hi, just want to tell you that I make my own Sauerkraut too….
    But you don’t have to use so much salt,some recipes use no salt! They say it is better for you but does not last so long! My recipe is as follows…

    5 pounds shredded cabbage
    3lbs.salt
    fresh garlic (or not)I love it!
    fresh dill

    1. Please do not attempt a “low salt” or “no salt” sauerkraut recipe until you have made at least a couple of batches of typical brined sauerkraut. You want to be completely comfortable with the fermenting process, and familiar with the stages the fermenting cabbage goes through first.

      The salt serves several purposes. First, during the massage part of the recipe it begins breaking down the cabbage. But more importantly, it helps create an environment in which the beneficial bacteria can flourish.

      Consider this: if you thoroughly cleaned all your utensils and prep surfaces before making the sauerkraut, there should be no bacteria and therefore no fermentation once the cabbage is submerged in the brine, right? Of course this isn’t the case, and millions of bacteria will survive. Your job as the Ferment-Meister is to ensure that the good bacteria thrive, thereby crowding out the undesirable bacteria.

      There are actually several type of bacteria that successively break down the cabbage during fermentation. With a little practice you can use your nose to identify how far along in the process your sauerkraut is. By the end, between the salt, the “tanginess”, and the overcrowding it’s a pretty inhospitable environment, and all growth essentially grinds to a halt. Et viola, you’ve got delicious sauerkraut!

      At any rate, stick to the salt recipes. As pointed out, you can always rinse the sauerkraut before serving to remove excess salt — and it will still be one of the best things you can eat!

  3. What a great sauerkraut tutorial and you are quite pretty!! I may start eating like you if I can look as healthy & gorgeous as you (in a male body of course). What a pretty smile….God bless the internet!

  4. Thank you! What a lovely, informative recipe! I like the way you think Meagan 🙂 I need to heal my gut, and am starting here.

  5. Megan, thanks so much for this post. I am trying to make raw kraut for the first time and used a different recipe…I have a couple of questions, 1) I may have used too much salt and the recipe I made it from said that after the fermenting process and transferring to the fridge for a month, you should rinse it off before eating it…does that sound right? I may have goofed here but any help would be appreciated (I’m on day 4 of the fermenting process). Thanks!

    1. Hmmm… I’ve never rinsed my sauerkraut before, but I would imagine if you’re rinsing it AFTER the fermentation process, that’s totally fine! (And probably a good idea, to reduce sodium consumption!)

      Hope it turns out well for you! 🙂

  6. Thanks for the easy, clear recipe.

    My only concern with your version is the use of the plastic bag inside the glass jar — surely some chemicals could leach from the plastic into the cabbage, especially considering all the fermentation that’s going on. Plus, the ‘spring water’ in a plastic bottle. I’d suggest either sterilizing water from the tap by boiling it, then letting it cool in a glass container, or using a high quality filter.

    Thanks,

    Kelly

    1. Yes, the plastic bag isn’t ideal– preferably, you’d fill the jar all the way to the top, so you won’t need a weight at all! I had heard that even boiled tap water may affect your results, because it may not remove all the chlorine and additives, which is why I used the bottled spring water. But, yes, the plastic bottle isn’t the best choice. Next time I’ll buy the kind that comes in glass bottles!

      1. For those concerned with using a water-filled plastic bag to weight the cabbage down, you can purchase (on Amazon and elsewhere) little round glass weights that you set on top of the cabbage to hold it down. They usually come in a box of four. I’m sorry now that I donated my set a couple of years ago and wish I’d kept them.

  7. I’m on my third try with your sauerkraut recipe! With my first batch, the liquid overflowed my jar on Day 2, so I thought this might contaminate it– I threw that batch out. On my second try (which I did not fill as much), we sampled it after three days, and it had not fermented enough, but we contaminated it by accidentally double-dipping with the fork. To be on the safe side, we threw out batch #2! The third batch is currently on Day 6, but I’m concerned it might be contaminated because the liquid at the top of the cabbage has turned brownish. This scares me! Have I ruined yet another batch? Help!

    1. Just my two cents: I doubt you’re “contaminating” it by double-dipping into it w/ a fork. If there’s enough good bacteria being created in the ferment, it should crowd out any ‘bad’…

  8. I do recommend starting gradually with fermented veggies– they are powerful, and can make you feel bloated if you eat too much too soon!The important thing is to massage to release water and not other water to add but remove the water from cabbage and only leave little wet.

  9. We’ve been making huge (as in 200 quarts) batches of sauerkraut for about 30 years. We make it in crocks, letting it ferment for about 2 months. If you “stomp” the cabbage until the juice flows, there is no need to add water (which will seriously dilute the flavor). This is a 2-times-a-year family tradition for us- once to make it and once to can it. It’s a great way to keep the siblings, kids & grandkids close.
    And we have a bunch of blue ribbons from the county fair to brag about!