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The Best German Sauerkraut You Will Ever Eat

If You have had the good fortune to try fresh German sauerkraut, you’ll know it is crunchy, slightly acidic, yet sour, and full of flavor. Nothing like the canned stuff you buy in glass jars at supermarkets here in North America. Luckily, making sauerkraut at home is incredibly simple, and doesn’t require much in the way of supplies, or ingredients. You actually only really need two ingredients!

A top down close up of a jar of german sauerkraut on a wooden table.

Growing up with a German background, I was inevitably introduced to sauerkraut by my father who loves the stuff and will eat it on anything! It goes to show just how versatile good sauerkraut can be, especially when eating on a budget, or wanting to preserve cabbage you grew in your own back yard.

Sauerkraut can be eaten cold on sandwiches (think in a bun with a Oktoberfest Sausage), as a side to a hearty meal, or simply on it’s own for a refreshing and healthy snack. It can also be eaten hot, and is delicious sauteed with onions and bacon, creating a slightly sour vegetable side dish great with a pork roast, or red meat!

By using one of the oldest methods of preserving food, anyone can make this healthy recipe at home. Lacto-fermentation is the star of the show in this recipe. Thousands of tiny live little beneficial bacteria (specifically Lactobacillus), do all the hard work converting the natural sugar present in cabbage, into lactic acid creating an environment void of bad bacteria.

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What Is Lacto-Fermentation?

Lacto-Fermentation has been used for thousands of years to naturally, and safely preserve foods, and increase your overall health. A battle between good and bad bacteria, lacto-fermentation uses only three ingredients to do its job:

  • Salt
  • Water
  • and your vegetable of choice.

Almost any vegetable can be fermented in this way, preserving it’s taste, texture, and increasing the bio-availability of natural vitamins and minerals you would not otherwise get in your diet.

First the cleaned vegetable of choice is packed with salt in a non-reactive container (such as specialized glass jars, or in a specialized stone crock (affiliate link)), creating an environment deadly to bad bacteria. These bacteria would otherwise make us sick if they where allowed to multiply. The salt helps draw out the natural water in the present in the vegetable creating a brine in which the fermented food is kept.

When fermenting some larger vegetables such as carrots or turnips, brine is added to the fermentation container, to ensure all the produce is submerged and not exposed to the air which is again filled with bad bacteria. After all the bad bacteria have died off, live Lactobacillus bacteria which is naturally present in most foods, gets to work, converting the natural sugars into lactic acid, thereby preserving the vegetable.

The great thing about this type of natural fermentation is that it does not destroy any nutrients in the vegetable itself, creating a nutritious fermented product full of vitamins, pro-biotics, and enzymes beneficial to your health.

The process of lacto-fermentation can take anywhere from 10 to 20 days to complete depending on the temperature the fermentation container is kept at. In warmer conditions the bacteria will work faster then in cold temperatures. While the fermented product will essentially always keep fermenting once the desired acidity is achieved, the fermented food is usually placed in a cold or refrigerated spot to stop the fermentation process once the desired taste is achieved.

So How Do You Make Sauerkraut At Home?

To make your own German Sauerkraut you only need two ingredients: Salt and Cabbage. Any cabbage can be used, but in general regular green cabbage is the most commonly used variety. (I now want to try a red sauerkraut for fun!)

For this batch of sauerkraut (which fits in a 1.5L glass mason jar), I used:

  • 1 large head of green cabbage (Roughly 2kg or 4.5lbs of cabbage)
  • 2 Tbsp of salt (make sure the salt is iodine free, pickling salt is my go to option.)
  • Optional: I add 1 shredded carrot to my cabbage mix to add some color to my sauerkraut!

Start by removing the core of the cabbage. First cut the head of cabbage in half, and then into quarters. I have found this to be the easiest way to remove the core. Cut out the core sections and remove any outer leaves which may have black spots or look damaged.

Now for the ‘hardest’ part of making sauerkraut at home, you need to cut the cabbage into small strips!

a series of four images showing how to remove the core from a cabbage and then julienne it.

The easiest way to ‘shred; the cabbage for homemade sauerkraut is to separate the quartered cabbage into “stacks” and then, using a very sharp chefs knife julienne the cabbage. The cuts don’t need to be perfect, but you do want the cabbage to be somewhat uniform in size. This helps create a more appealing texture and easier to eat end product!

Once all of the cabbage is cut to your satisfaction, dump it all into a large bowl or bucket. This is not the final container you will ferment/store the  sauerkraut in.

Mix in the 2 Tbsp of pickling salt and properly mix it in with your hands. At this point in the process, many recipes will call for adding water or brine, but this is unnecessary, and I find simply dilutes the flavor of the sauerkraut. While it is correct that you do need liquid to submerge the cabbage in, you can extract the natural water present in the cabbage by pounding it. The pounding action and the salt work together to release the water creating the brine needed to lacto-ferment the sauerkraut.

Related:  Simple Oven Baked Chicken Breasts

roughly sliced cabbage in a bucket prior to making sauerkraut

You can use a specialized tool called a pickle packer (affiliate link), fashion your own stamper out of wood, or use anything else you may have around the house as long as it’s cleaned first of course! I have in the past used an empty wine bottle( though I must admit I was worried of it breaking), and as you can see in the pictures here a meat mallet does a fine job!

shredded cabbage being mashed in a bucket with a meat mallet to extract the naturally present water

While cutting the cabbage may be the “hardest” part of this, pounding the cabbage, is the most time consuming part. Expect to stomp your cabbage and salt mixture for a good twenty minutes before you have enough liquid to submerge the cabbage in. You will know you are done stomping when you can push the cut cabbage down and the liquid brine rises up covering the surface of the cabbage.

cabbage and shredded carrot being mashed in a bucket to create homemade sauerkraut

You’ll notice in the above image that I have added a shredded carrot to my cabbage. I like adding one carrot in to add color and some visual appeal. It will not noticeably change the flavor of the sauerkraut. – Chef Markus Mueller

Once the cabbage can be pressed down and submerged under it’s own liquid, the hard part is done. Pack the sauerkraut into your final fermentation jar or vessel, and weight the sauerkraut down to keep it below the liquid. As I generally make small batches like this one (instead of 20L at a time as you would in a large stone crock), I use a clean glass bottle filled with water as my weight. Wine bottles work great and just fit inside of the mouth of the 1.5L Mason Jar.

Cover the fermentation container with some cheesecloth(I wrap the around mouth of the mason jar) to keep out any dust or other debris which may fall in as the cabbage sits to ferment over the next week. It’s best to place the the sauerkraut in a dark location such as the back corner of a kitchen counter away from windows or in your cellar. Now we wait!

After two or three days you should start to see some foam, and bubbling action on the surface of the liquid. This is a good sign and means that the good bacteria (the Lactobacillus) is starting to do it’s job, converting sugar into lactic acid!

homemade sauerkraut submerged in a glass jar and just starting to ferment. You can see the bubbles starting to form at the top of the jar indicating fermentation has begun.

Your sauerkraut is now starting to ferment!

A note about mold

If you see mold starting to grow on the sides of the jar ABOVE the liquid, simply wipe it away with a clean cloth. This may happen since brine may splash up on the sides of the container as you are filling it creating spots for mold to feed on. Rest assured that anything submerged in the brine, will be safe to consume!

Once your German sauerkraut has matured and is as sour as you like, clean the top of the crock and then remove the plate and stone used to weight down the sauerkraut. Generally, sauerkraut is finished fermenting after two weeks, but the longer the bacteria can work away, the more tender the cabbage will also become!

vertical image of fully fermented german sauerkraut packed into glass jars for storage.

How long will homemade sauerkraut last?

Refrigerated, the homemade sauerkraut keeps best in sealed jars (mason jars are perfect for this). Un-opened these jars will easily keep for 3 months, but you may find it gone long before then! As my father always makes his 23L of sauerkraut in the Fall, he simple puts the crock out on the porch and covers it with a clean board. The cold temperatures will keep and eventually freeze the sauerkraut for winter, at which point he goes out and chips out some with an axe!

Tried the recipe? Take a picture and tag me on Facebook & Instagram: @earthfoodandfire . For more from scratch recipes follow me on Instagram & Pinterest

Looking for more cabbage dishes? Try this blueberry braised red cabbage!


A top down close up of a jar of german sauerkraut on a wooden table.

The Best German Sauerkraut You Will Ever Eat

Markus Mueller | Earth, Food, and Fire
Easy to make a great for your health, learn how to make your own German Sauerkraut. Full of probiotics, vitamins, and a great way to preserve cabbage for the winter, sauerkraut can be eaten cold or hot with various dishes and meats! #fermented #sauerkraut #german #recipe
4.89 from 9 votes
Prep Time 30 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Condiment
Cuisine German
Servings 1 .5 liters sauerkraut
Calories 535.3 kcal


  • 4.5 lbs of green cabbage
  • 2 Tbsp pickling salt
  • 1 carrot


  • Shred the carrot and cabbage.
  • Mix in the pickling salt.
  • Pound the cabbage mixture until there is about 1 inch of liquid cover the cabbage when it's pressed down.
  • Weight the cabbage to submerge it in the brine, and store in a cool, dark area for 10 to 20 days to ferment.
  • Check the cabbage daily to asses fermentation and remove any possible mold growth.
  • Store fermented sauerkraut in mason jars in the fridge for up to 3 months after fermentation is complete.


Calories: 535.3kcal
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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  1. Gay McDonald

    5 stars
    Hi Chef Markus, some time back, I found a recipe that included dried rose petals in sauerkraut. It’s an amazing addition, and also looks nice. Just add around 2tbsp to your standard recipe. And, when serving, I sprinkled over some pomegranate. We love to eat it with Shio Koji Chicken Breast and a tomato salad

  2. I lived in Germany for quite a few years and loved the sauerkraut from the supermarkets. I remember the taste to be a bit vinegary and very slightly sweet and very moreish. Will this taste the same? Would I need to add any vinegar and/or sugar in to the recipe to re-create the flavours I remember and if so, when? I have bought some Polish sauerkraut from the UK supermarkets and it just doesn’t taste the same or as nice as the German version I remember. I really want to try this and have it on a brotchen with frikadellen and remoulade, among other things 😋

    • Hi Lee, I would not add any vinegar or sugar to the recipe as it can adversly affect the fermention. The shredded carrot will add a small amount of natural sugar which will help flavor the end product. Homemade saurkraut and store-bought kraut will always taste slightly differently, as commercial brands add various ingredients to extend and guarantee freshness and shelf life to accommodate shipping, storage, etc. Our recipe uses only lacto-fermentation to naturally ferment the saurkraut. I would suggest giving the recipe a go as it is, and if you don’t find it sour enough, you can let it ferment longer to achieve a more sour taste.

  3. 5 stars
    This is my first try at making saurkraut.
    I cut a base ball bat down to squish the cabbage in the mason jars.
    First I ground up pickling salt untill it was like icing sugar , then after 15 minutes I squuzed it in my fists until loads of water came out.
    Next I spooned it all into a 1 liter mason jar , and took my bat and pressed it down many times.
    I’m wondering if I should fluff it up a little , or leave it compressed at the bottom.
    Both ways it is under the brine.

    • Hi Neil, grinding the salt is probably not really needed as the salt will dissolve either way as you beat the cabbage and the moisture is drawn out. Grinding the salt may make it dissolve faster of course. As for fluffing up the cabbage, I would say no. Leave it compressed as you don’t want any air pockets which can introduce bad bacteria. As long as the entire batch of cabbage is submerged under brine while fermenting you will be fine though.

  4. Beth Radaich

    Hi again Markus
    Thank you for your reply, the cabbage was fermenting in a dark cupboard for two weeks but I am in Australia and we are approaching winter but the autumn weather has ranged from 38 C (100F) to 24C (75F) in the last two weeks, a bit cooler inside. I did work very cleanly and my jar was sterilized so I cannot think of any reason for contamination, the brine was well above the cabbage, I did not add carrot as I had run out of them. the only thing I can think of is that I packed the cabbage at the bottom too tightly and perhaps there was not enough brine in the cabbage at the bottom, it smells really good but I think I will chuck it out to be sure and start again.
    I made your red cabbage (rotkohl) last night, it was really yummy, I used cranberry jelly instead of blueberry as I couldn’t get any and didn’t have time to make.
    Warm regards

    • Hi Markus, I made your sauerkraut recipe. I used a mixture of red and white cabbage with a hint if carrots. It has been fermenting for 8 days now. The bubbles came up and you could see the bubbling throughout the recipe. But today when I checked, the bubbling has stopped and the water is not covering much of the cabbage mix. There is no mould, it smells great, but I am afraid it doesn’t seems to be fermenting any longer. There’s only about a 1/2 to 1 inch of water. Should I add more water. Please advise and thank you for your help.

      • Hi Linda, I would suggest pressing the cabbage down and seeing if this brings the brine level back up. If it does, simply increase the weight on the cabbage to make sure it stays submerged. You shouldn’t have to add any water to it, doing so could disrupt the fermentation as you may be adding in bacteria, chlorine, or whatever else is in your tap water.

    • Hi Beth, I made mine at temperatures between 24 and 18°c in South Africa, it wasa bit heavily compacted at the bottom because I didn’t have enough brine but came out right in four weeks. I just ate in now, you don’t have to worry.

  5. Beth Radaich

    Hi Markus
    Your recipes are wonderful, I have German heritage and I love German food.
    A couple of weeks ago I made your Sauerkraut recipe and all was going well, I hadn’t checked it for a few days and this morning when I checked it, it smells great and the top is a lovely greenish color but the bottom half of the Sauerkraut has turned a pinkish color, what do think? Is is still ok to eat?
    Warm regards

    • Hi Beth,

      Thanks for reaching out. Troubleshooting can be difficult but I’ll do my best.

      What is the ambient temperature you are fermenting the sourkraut at?

      Was there enough brine covering the top of the cabbage when you initially started? Is the cabbage still submerged or has the brine evaporated?

      Did you work cleanly? Was there any chance of bacterial contamination?

      Did you add any carrot to the mix? Is the carrot all at the bottom?

      Let me know and we can go from there. If the cabbage was properly submerged in brine and fermenting properly, there should be little chance of contamination.

      That said if it smells funky or off or you see signs of mold I would discard it and rather play it safe.

      Chef Markus

  6. Edward L Bagyinka

    I make mine so simply. I use 2, 23L pails. In one pail, I put the shredded cabbage in the proportions you have mentioned, or more simply 1 Tblsp salt for each 4L Ice Cream pail of shredded cabbage. No pounding. I then use the other pail as a weighted lid, I use water in this pail such that I can still lift it.
    Put the weighted pail into the cabbage pail, and away you go.

    • Hi Edward, This sounds interesting. How long does it take for the sugar to extract enough liquid from the cabbage to start fermenting it? I would be worried about bacteria in the air starting to manifest in the cabbage while it is not submerged. Interesting to learn this technique though!

  7. Gma Michel

    5 stars
    What a great recipe to learn how to preserve. And the story of your father with his axe makes me cry. My father also made a giant crock of sauerkraut back in the day. I may try this, I missed learning how to do it myself.

  8. Irmgard Teubert

    5 stars
    Hello Markus Mueller, being new to your website, your recipes etc
    I am impressed with these ! I am making Sauerkraut for 30/40 Years or more,
    My family all get two jars for Christmas and now my granddaughter asked me for my recipe to follow in my footsteps (I am 93 years old)
    But I still have a question : can you tell me how to save wine leaves in the fridge from
    now til about October, when I make my crockpot full of delicious and healthy Sauerkraut? A few go underneath and a few have to cover the kraut and its brine!
    My daughter keeps them dry in a plastic bag in the fridge, it did not work for me!
    Do you know this method? It gives the Sauerkraut an eaven richer taste, I love it!
    I am so happy I found your recipe-site, marvelous !

  9. 5 stars
    Thanks for this – I definitely want to try this one day. I’m Ukrainian and we love our sauerkraut! Does German sauerkraut differ from Ukrainian? I have no idea…

  10. 5 stars
    I am so happy to read your sauerkraut recipe and instructions, Markus. I remember my German uncle George making huge stone crocks of his famous sauerkraut every year and our family would trade him for my Mom’s tourtiere. It was so delicious! I still have some of the old crocks so I want to try making a small batch as you have so generously shared with us. Thanks so much, Markus!

  11. Victoria Nancarrow

    4 stars
    Hello Markus
    I would like to make this at home, can i buy the recipe with your fantastic instructions anywhere? Also I’m sorry for my ignorance, when the fermentation ends and you bottle the sauerkraut do you strain the brine beforehand? Thanks for a great recipe

    • Hi Victoria, you’ll find the recipe at the end of the post. There should be a ‘print recipe button’. No charge! 🙂 As for the brine, you want to leave that in with the sauerkraut it will help preserve it longer. In order to ‘stop’ fermentation simply place the sauerkraut in a cold spot such as the refrigerator . This stops the bacteria from continuing to ferment.

  12. Zoan S. Burris

    I have a kraut cutter that belonged to a great-great aunt. It is wooden with a metal blade. Never did make any saurkraut but there were 11 or 12 kids in their family so am sure it was used.

    • That sounds awesome(!), and like it would speed up the slicing! My dad built himself a slicer (basically a gigantic mandolin slicer) and it can tear through a whole head of cabbage in under a minute!

  13. Lecker! I love sauerkraut. I was surprised to find out that Germans don’t eat nearly as much sauerkraut as we might think (I’ve been living in Hanover and Berlin for the past 4 years).
    Your post reminds me that I need to make a new batch soon. It’s so easy!

  14. 5 stars
    What a great post! We love sauerkraut. I’ve never made it at home, (although we recently made kimchi), but now I need to try. Thanks for the detailed instructions, and, great photos, too!

  15. 5 stars
    Wow! Great tutorial. I’ve never made sauerkraut before but you make it sound totally doable. 🙂

  16. I’ve never made sauerkraut at home… appreciate the detailed instructions. I love that you maintain family traditions ♥ Stellar post Markus!

  17. When I was a kid it was my job to pound the cabbage with a filled vinegar jug (they were much sturdier then!) but now I only make it a quart at a time and I only massage the cabbage until it releases the juice. If I am making a double batch (because one quart doesn’t last long) I get my son to help me. Now I know when he goes away for school he won’t starve because cabbage and salt are all you need and they are cheap!
    I once asked my grandpa how his mother made her kraut, as she had 14 children (12 boys, 2 girls) and they were used to doing very hard work on the farm. He said, “well you take a cart load of cabbage…” lol! Can you imagine?! Also back in those days, there was a deep hole in the floor of the basement, the perfect size for the pickle barrel. Pickles were lacto fermented right there and whenever they wanted a snack or some at mealtimes, it was my grandpa’s job as the youngest to go fetch the pickles. I love that you added the story of your dad making the kraut on the porch, then using the axe to cut some for dinner!

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