Select the best salt for sauerkraut and be ensured of success.
Salt is used to create the brine in which the cabbage mixture ferments. Salt pulls water out of the cabbage to create an environment where the good bacteria (mainly lactobacillus) can grow and proliferate and the bad bacteria can die off.
This is an important job for our salt! Since sauerkraut is made with just cabbage and salt, you want to make sure the salt is able to do its job. Ideally, you want to make it a good one.
- Start Off Simple
- Three Categories of Salt
- Processed Salts
- Mineral-Rich Dry Salts
- Mineral-Rich Wet Salts
- Frequently Asked Questions about Fermenting Salt
- Summary of Salt Choices
- What Salt Will You Use for Making Sauerkraut?
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Start Off Simple
When you’re first starting to ferment, it’s okay to keep things simple and use the salt you have in your home (even though it may be a refined salt), as long as it just says “salt” or “sodium chloride” on the label.
If it has additives such as iodide, sugar, or anti-caking agents such as calcium silicate in it, ideally don’t use it. These additives can interfere with the fermentation process.
That being said, the best salt for sauerkraut is an unprocessed salt, salt that still has its complete natural profile of minerals. One of the nutritional benefits of fermentation is that it makes minerals bioavailable, resulting in more nutritious sauerkraut. So, the more minerals in the salt you use, the more minerals you’ll end up within your sauerkraut.
However, there is the “ideal” and then there is reality.
In fact, having had the opportunity to ferment vegetables with every possible kind of salt handed to me by workshop organizers, I have observed that lactic acid bacteria seem tolerant to a wide variety of salts, including iodized salt, and are not particularly picky.Sandor Katz, The Art of Fermentation
Start simple with what you have and then over time “level up” your salt choice.
Now, let’s learn what your salt choices are.
Three Categories of Salt
I’ve grouped salt choices into three categories:
- Processed salts (table salt, sea salt, iodized salt, kosher salt and pickling salt), some of which don’t contain additives and work well for beginning fermenters.
- Mineral-rich dry salts (Himalayan Pink and Redmond Real Salt) that contain naturally occurring minerals and are good to switch to once you’re ready to spend the extra money for the extra minerals these salts contain. The best salt for sauerkraut is a mineral-rich dry salt.
- Mineral-rich wet salts (grey sea salt) contain naturally occurring minerals and have a high moisture content. I no longer recommend this category of salts since they can contain microplastics, lead, and heavy metals due to the high levels of pollution in our waters today.
When you think of salt, the white stuff in your shaker on the table comes to mind. You may know it as table salt, sea salt, kosher salt or pickling salt.
However, few people realize that this salt—like our sugars, flours, and vegetable oils—is highly refined. It is the product of an industrial process that uses chemicals and high temperatures to remove all the trace minerals naturally occurring in the sea or earth. Those minerals are then sold to companies making and selling dietary supplements. These are the minerals that our bodies use to regulate blood pressure, nourish our adrenals and just plain keep us healthy.
Table Salt or Iodized Salt—Do Not Use
These are basic salts that you can buy inexpensively from any grocery store.
They are refined salts that have had all their minerals stripped out during processing. They also contain additives such as calcium silicate to make them free flowing and potassium iodide to compensate for iodine deficiencies. The Windsor brand table salt available here in Canada even has sugar listed on the label!
The problem with these additives is that they may inhibit the beneficial bacteria in your fermenting sauerkraut. Because of this, I do not recommend using table salt or iodized salt for fermentation.
Industrial Sea Salt—Check the Label
Most so-called sea salt is produced by industrial methods. It ends up being be a highly refined salt that has had all its minerals stripped out during processing, just like table salt.
Even if it does not contain all of its minerals, as long as there are no additives listed on the label, it is fine to use for fermenting.
Kosher Salt—Not Recommended
This is also a popular salt found in most grocery stores.
Kosher salt is not “kosher” itself, but is used to make meats kosher and has a larger crystal than table salt. I don’t recommend using it for fermentation because I find that the larger crystals don’t dissolve as easily as a fine-grain salt. It can also contain anti-caking agents that you do not want in your ferments.
Pickling Salt—Works Fine
Pickling salt does not contain anti-caking ingredients or additives like iodine.
Pickling salt is pure granulated salt (sodium chloride). In addition, its fine granules are easily dissolved.
Mineral-Rich Dry Salts
Think of salt as you would any other food you would put on the table, or in your ferments. An ideal salt for fermenting is whole, unrefined and full of natural vitamins and minerals.
Mineral-rich dry salts are mined from ancient sea beds, Pakistan for the Himalayan Pink Salt and Utah for Real Salt.
Himalayan Pink Salt—My Favorite
Himalayan Pink Salt is my favorite salt to ferment with.
Its purity and high mineral profile ensure a healthy fermentation environment. I especially like its color—a beautiful pink! Himalayan Pink Salt is mined from deep in the Himalayan Mountains. This salt crystallized more than 200 million years ago and remains protected from modern-day pollution and impurities.
It contains more than 84 trace minerals and none of the additives or aluminum compounds found in refined table salt.
I like to use unprocessed ingredients, thus, my preference for mineral salts or
unprocessed sea salts.
Lead in Himalayan pink salt?
However, some choose not to use salts mined from ancient sea beds (Himalayan pink salt and Real Salt) due to trace amounts of lead found in these subterranean salt mines and instead recommend sea salt. However, I’m disturbed by all the microplastics in our sea waters and how varying moisture contents can throw off sodium numbers.
This article sums up my viewpoint on why the benefits of Himalayan salt outweigh the negative factors.
- 100% CERTIFIED AND NATURAL: Does not contain any pieces of plastic like some of our...
- USED: Seasoning for grilled meats, fish, ribs, eggs, vegetables, soups, stews, pasta salads as...
- INGREDIENTS AND MINERALS: Himalayan pink salt ranges in color from sheer white to varying...
- 100% NATURAL PINK & CERTIFIED: Our Sherpa Pink Himalayan Salt is Kosher Certified, Non-GMO, and...
- FINE GRAIN: This Sherpa Himalayan pink salt is in our slightly larger than standard table salt...
- TASTES GREAT: Our 100% pure Himalayan Pink Salt is the perfect addition to any meal! Sherpa...
Redmond Real Salt—Also a Good One
Redmond Real Salt is commonly found in health food stores and even in many standard grocery stores.
Real Salt comes from an ancient sea bed in Central Utah. It is completely natural sea salt—nothing added, nothing taken away. That means you get more than 60 trace minerals in a delicious, healthy salt that is not chemically treated, bleached or kiln-dried.
- FLAVOR – Real Salt is unlike any salt on earth. It’s subtly sweet, never bitter sea salt...
- NATURAL – Unrefined, unprocessed and ancient sea salt with trace minerals and no additives....
- HEALTHY – Recommended by doctors! An ancient sea salt recommended by doctors and health...
Mineral-Rich Wet Salts
Grey Sea Salt—No Longer Recommended
I used to ferment with grey sea salt because of its high mineral profile and availability at local health food stores.
Since I’m now concerned about the quality of the water used for these salts, I’m using up my stock of grey sea salt and then I won’t be using it anymore.
The grey in this salt comes from the clay lining of the salt ponds where sea water is evaporated. It is known for its high moisture content, extraordinary mineral content, and bonus nutrients not found in most sea salts. It is hand-harvested according to centuries-old Celtic methods and is often called Celtic Sea Salt.
It can contain lead and other heavy metals due to higher levels of pollution found in our waters today. In addition, some claim that mold can form during the evaporation process, not something you want to introduce into your ferment.
Frequently Asked Questions about Fermenting Salt
If your grocery store has bulk bins, check there. One reader told me she can find it in the bins at Sprout market.
Health food stores will likely carry Himalayan pink salt. And, of course, it can be found online.
“Fine” grain will dissolve more quickly than larger grains and will give you the best results.
Yes, but, you’ll want to take the extra step to first grind it. Large salt grains do not always dissolve completely and result in uneven dispersement of the salt.
Yes, pickling salt works fine. Its grains dissolve quickly and it contains no additives.
Some of the minerals in these salts don’t dissolve in water. Some look like grains of sand and some look like grains of salt. People sometimes notice traces of red minerals left behind too.
Most of the granules that don’t dissolve are the trace mineral silica, an element that occurs naturally in healthy bones and joints.
The amount of salt you use impacts the rate of fermentation. Too much salt slows fermentation down; not enough salt and fermentation will progress too quickly.
Salt, when used in the right proportions, creates an environment within which we are able to better control the growth of microorganisms and have a happier ferment.
No, most likely everything will ferment just fine. There is the “ideal” for “stacking the deck in your favor” and then there is what you have in your kitchen. Don’t let your options prevent you from getting started with fermentation.
Summary of Salt Choices
Know Your Salts Infographic
Here is a beautiful infographic by the Real Salt Company that nicely summarizes your salt choices.
Grab some salt (either the “white stuff” without additives or a mineral-rich dry salt) and cabbage and make some sauerkraut.
Need to know how much salt to use?
See How Much Salt Should I Use in My Lacto-Fermented Sauerkraut? or follow my step-by-step recipe:
What Salt Will You Use for Making Sauerkraut?
Share in the Comments section what salt you have around the house that you will use for fermenting.
Last update on 2021-07-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API