What is the Best Salt to Use When Making Fermented Sauerkraut?

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 can bacteria 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.

BLOG POST BONUS: Click here to get access to The Best Salt and How Much Salt Sauerkraut Guide. The right amount of salt is the KEY to success!

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, don’t use it. These additives can interfere with the fermentation process.

If it has additives such as iodide, sugar or anti-caking agents such as calcium silicate in it, 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.

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) that contain naturally occurring minerals and have a high moisture content. I no longer recommend this category of salts since they can contain lead and other heavy metals due to the high levels of pollution in our waters today.

Processed Salts

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

Table salt or iodized salt not best choice for fermenting. | makesauerkraut.comThese 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 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

Is sea salt the best salt to use for making sauerkraut? | makesauerkraut.comMost 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

Is Kosher salt the best salt for sauerkraut? | makesauerkraut.comThis 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 of the larger crystals that don’t dissolve as easily as a

I don’t recommend using it for fermentation because of the larger crystals that don’t dissolve as easily as a finer grained salt. It can also contain anti-caking agents that you do not want in your ferments.

Pickling Salt – Works Fine

Is pickling salt the best salt for sauerkraut. | makesauerkraut.comPickling 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, a top choice among fermenters. | MakeSauerkraut.comHimalayan 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.

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Redmond Real Salt – Also a Good One

Redmond Real Salt is a great salt for fermenting. | MakeSauerkraut.comRedmond 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.

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Mineral-Rich Wet Salts

Grey Sea Salt – No Longer Recommended

Grey sea salt is a great salt for fermenting. | MakeSauerkraut.comI 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.

Summary of Salt Choices

The best salt for making sauerkraut. | makesauerkraut.com

Know Your Salts Infographic

Here is a beautiful infographic done by the Real Salt Company that nicely summarizes your salt choices. Know Your Salts infographic by Real Salt. | MakeSauerkraut.com

Make Sauerkraut!

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:

SureFire Sauerkraut... in a Jar | makesauerkraut.com The SureFire Sauerkraut Method… In a Jar.

BLOG POST BONUS: Click here to get access to The Best Salt and How Much Salt Sauerkraut Guide. The right amount of salt is KEY!

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 2019-10-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

52 thoughts on “What is the Best Salt to Use When Making Fermented Sauerkraut?”

  1. I have been making fermented vegetables by using a bacterial “starter” (lactobacilli and others), and so I have not worried much about how much salt I use, although I did happen to use the Himalayan salt… at least I got THAT right… So far, over the last year or so I have consumed a couple of gallons of my ferments, and am still alive. Still, I am wondering if what I am doing is safe… what if the starter doesn’t take sufficiently ?… should I do the higher quantites of salt such as you recommend, just to be (more) sure ? Don’t wanna die of botulism… BTW, the way I do the starter is I put double the recommended quantity into a couple of liters of celery juice (home squeezed), along with a T or so of the himalayan salt, already dissolved in water, and then a T or so of honey, mix and let stand an hour or so at room temp (however long it takes me to grate all the veggies… usually a lot more than an hour). That then serves as my covering brine. (My veggies are predominantly cabbages, plus carrots, ginger, onion, pepper, radish, beet).

    • Hi Kingtoot,

      Since you’ve been successfully making many batches of fermented vegetables, you must be doing more than getting just the salt right. What is not clear is whether you’re making “sauerkraut” which doesn’t usually need added brine or roughly cutting vegetables and pouring brine over.

      Lactic acid bacteria consume the sugars in the vegetables to create lactic acid which preserves the ferment and kills harmful bacteria. This creates an acidic environment with a pH of 4.6 or lower to be considered safe. Testing with pH can be done, but if you’re following proven recipes all should be fine. Botulism doesn’t like a salty environment nor an acidic environment.

      Salt ratios can vary creating anywhere from a 2% brine (which I use for my sauerkraut recipes) and up depending on what you’re fermenting.

      I have no experience with celery juice, though I do add celery to my sauerkraut.

      I don’t use starters. They add an extra item to buy and are not necessary for sauerkraut ferments. Starters add extra beneficial bacteria to stack the deck in your favor.

      I’ve never used honey. You’d be adding other bacteria – if it’s raw – and adding more sugar for the bacteria to feed upon.

      Happy Fermenting

      • Thanks Holly ! Well, I will say this, just for peace of mind, now that I have read your thing I will definitely do the salt in your recommended proportions, and then when I use up my starter, dunno, I might still be too chicken to fly without it, not sure. The honey I add actually isn’t raw, it’s costco honey, probably not the most ideal. The acidity thing confuses me a bit, because I must say, that while my ferments do have a zing to them, they don’t seem nearly as acidic as say vinegar, or a lemon. Should they seem more vinegary ? Maybe I should get some litmus strips. Or does the acidity change (reduce) during the ferment period ? I usually ferment mine about 8-14 days before putting in fridge. I remember storebought sauer kraut as being only mildly tart, certainly not as tart as ACV, eg… I mean, it is very hard for me to eat a mouthful of ACV without choking (air gets mixed in the bite or something, and I am a goner).

        • Try my recipe! https://www.makesauerkraut.com/how-to-make-sauerkraut/ No litmus strip hassles. It has worked for hundreds of people and I’ve made 100s of quarts of sauerkraut. It takes away all worries and then you’ll have a baseline to see what is “vinegary” or not for you. I find it to be pleasantly sour, but not overly so at all.

          I don’t know what the pH is at the start of fermentation, but it’s 4.6 or lower at the end.

          Good Luck!

      • I agree, you don’t need starters for fermenting. In fact, everything I’ve fermented has been done without any starter pack.

        Now I haven’t done sauerkraut, since it’s not my particular cup of tea. But I have done pickles, and bell/hot peppers as far as veggies go.

        I’ve also started fermenting some salsa, and boy oh boy, is it tasty. I tend to let it ferment a little bit longer to really get the probiotics going, but add a tiny bit of stevia to negate most of the sourness to make it more palatable when I scoop out a bowlful of it.

        I also sterilize any jars I use by either putting them in a boiling pot of water for 10-20 minutes, or if they’re too big for a pot, fill it up with boiling water from a kettle, let sit for 10 minutes, dump the water out, then repeat.

        • Thanks for sharing your experience Jason. I have a few salsa and onion relish recipes that use whey. I’ll experiment without whey because I’ve never liked using the whey. My first bad experiences with sauerkraut used whey, definitely not necessary.

  2. oh no, I was watching Maangchi, making kimchi and she said to use kosher salt, so I got a kilo of it. I keep getting confused between kimchi and sauerkraut methods.

    • Hello Johnny, No worries. Fermentation is somewhat forgiving. My guidelines are stack the deck in your favor and ensure repeatable success.

      If you use the Kosher (as long as it has no additives), try mixing the salt in and leaving it sit for an hour and then seeing if you have any large grains of salt left. It should break down given some extra time.

  3. Hi Holly,
    Love your website and wished I had seen your website 2 weeks ago when I made my my first batch of saurkraut. I was told that I could use mason jars and put cheese cloth over the brine. However, I made a huge mistake by using Morton table salt. So far, it all looks like it did when I made it with few to no bubbles and smells about the same. I have tasted it and it’s like a very mild version almost like cold slaw. I bought some pickling salt. Can I salvage my batch by adding pickling salt now? Also, will my batch be safe to eat?

    • Life is full of lessons and fermenting is more forgiving than we all like to admit. Glad you’re enjoying the website.

      Don’t waste your time trying to salvage the first batch. Leave it alone and see how it is in a week or two. Adding pickling salt will just give it a higher level of salt and slow fermentation down even more. It should be fine to eat.

      Cheese cloth over brine. I made many a jars of sauerkraut without the lid. They turned out fine. But, once I learned that sauerkraut ferments best without air, I switched to using the lids and noticed an improvement in taste and texture. Live and learn. You have many good jars of kraut ahead of you!

      • Thanks Holly. Though it doesn’t have much kraut flavor, it is still pretty good. Next time I will put lids on and get some Hymalaian salt.

  4. Hi Holly,
    Thanks for the valued information. I have a query. I am not able to find the Himalayan Pink Salt in the market nearby, but I do have Black Salt (Indian). I have read it some where that Black Salt is made from Himalayan Pink Salt by adding some Indian spices. Can I use it to make Sauerkraut?

    • It would depend upon what all was added. Some places mention sulphur which might impact fermentation. In addition, the amount of spices added if it was a large percentage would cut down on the amount of sodium in the salt mixture.

      I would do a one-jar test batch and see how it ferments. Maybe just cabbage and the salt so you can tell what flavor it imparts. Also, go a little heavy on the salt to compensate for the added spices, perhaps a rounded tablespoon.

      If not, look for a plain white salt without additives. Let me know if you get some scrumptious sauerkraut with the black salt :-).

      • Thanks. I have found Himalayan pink salt. I do not want to take risk as
        I am doing it for the first time. I am making it today and I will discuss it with you as the process begins. Thank u for being there. 🙂

  5. I don’t like to rely on intuition alone when it comes to microbiology and bacteria we ingest in our foods which on one hand is good and the other hand can turn nasty in a moment .. so this was an excellent article based on experience which I will incorporate. Thanks for your experience. I will indeed be using pink salt.. it’s readily available to me so it’s a no brainer.

    • Thank you. Himalayan Pink salt has not failed me yet. Now that you have your key ingredient sourced, make sure to weigh your cabbage and vegetables and you’ll be successful, QUITE successful. Enjoy.

  6. What do you think of Maldon Sea Salt Flakes? I want to maximize nutrients bc I don’t eat many veggies. Are Maldon Flakes comparable in terms of minerals, like Himalayan Pink Salt? I used it for my first attempt using your guide and it turned out tasty.

    • From what I could find, Maldon Sea Salt Flakes are 98% sodium chloride, similar to a sea salt. This makes it lower in minerals than Himalayan Pink. The mineral-rich salts (Himalayan, Real Salt) are 84% sodium chloride, with the remainder being minerals.

      If using it, I would definitely weigh the salt vs. using a measuring spoon. Its large flakes would take up more space and measuring would not be as accurate.

      But… that being said, you had great success with it. It is more expensive than HP or Real Salt. Just some thoughts to keep in mind when you reach for the salt for your next batch of sauerkraut.

      • WOW! This is the first time I really noticed the sodium chloride content for 2 salts on the same page OR actually paid it any attention. BUT In this case if BRINE is the amount of sodium chloride itself , a user of pink Himalayan salt shooting for a 5% brine would only wind up with a 4% brine as compared to the user of Maldon Sea salt flakes…… a 16% difference of brine strength probably would not effect a lot unless it was the “bottom” 16% needed to keep it from being attacked by a spoiling invasion of bad guys.

        • Yes Mike and Sheila, you bring up a good point that I’m now finding myself pondering. I don’t find a need to become more “accurate” because the Himalyan Pink at 2% has been working fine and probably results in a less “salty” taste than a pure sodium salt. However, it should be noted/discussed somewhere.

      • I have a grinder so I’ll use what I have for now and remember to buy fine ground next time 🙂 By the way, I’m a fellow Canuck that transplanted to California in 1992!

          • Funny! Well I got my new batch made up last night in my crock. It’s all submerged, weights and all under about 2″ of brine and I covered it with plastic, as you suggest. When I made sauerkraut in jars last year, I just covered them with cheesecloth and didn’t have any problems so I’m never sure on that.

          • I’m sure it will be just fine. There is an “ideal” and then we work with what we have. I don’t use an open crock. To keep as much air out as possible, you just want some type of “lid” and the plastic – over the rim, not on the brine – is the closest trick to keeping air out.

          • I like to use a gallon sized zip lock back filled about 1/3 full of water to add weight and also make a good seal around the top of the crock. Easy and it works great.

  7. Holly, I did use Kosher salt and there’s not that much brine, most is at the bottom. This was yesterday, Sunday. Should I throw it out and start over. One big cabbage made 4 quart jars. I didn’t put another jar in to pack the cabbage, but I packed it super tight. Will it make a difference not having a jar in the quart jar? Thanks.

  8. Why do you recommend against Kosher salt?
    I’ve used it many times for fermenting, without any problems .
    I weigh my salt using a gram scale for simpler calculations.
    I don’t understand your issue of the large grain size.

    For kraut, after mixing with the cut cabbage and waiting half an hour, pound it with the end of a cylindrical wooden rolling pin until it bleeds the brine.
    Then squeeze each handful of kraft leaving the brine at the bottom of the bowl of kraut.
    Pack into the jar(s) pounding it down with the rolling pin after every several handfuls.
    When completed packing to the headspace, pour some of the accumulated brine into the jars, press down with the rolling pin to get some of the air bubbles out.
    Pour remaining brine into the jars after putting in a reserved cabbage leaf.
    Put on a weight and cover.

    For fermentating brined vegetables I weigh both the water and the salt.
    When mixing, just make sure the salt is completely dissolved, OR rinse the salt out of the bottom of the mixing vessel.
    I weigh the salt and water before starting to pack the vegetables to give the salt time to dissolve completely, stirring it while packing.

    How is Kosher salt grain size a problem if it dissolves?

    It is also available and inexpensive.

    • Thanks for your question. As long as it has no anti-caking agents in it, you’re fine. Not everyone weighs their salt – glad to hear you do – so I try to make first time experiences as simple as possible. The grain size is a issue if you don’t weigh your salt. One tablespoon of a fine grain is very different than 1 tablespoon of the large Kosher salt grains.

      I don’t do much, if any at all of the pounding – just a bit of light massaging – so the salt doesn’t always dissolve in time. Sounds like you have a system that works, so continue to ferment in that way.

      Great system on brined vegetables. Yes, now that I have a good digital scale, weighing the water and salt makes it so easy. I’m playing around with using a very fine grain salt, packing vegetables into the jar, taring, pouring in the water, adding the 2% salt and then turning the jar upside down and back up and few times the first day to get it to dissolve. No mixing of brine, no leftover brine. We’ll see.

      • I always weigh both water and salt on the gram scale.
        1kg water = 1000g = 1liter.
        To get 2.5% salt solution, multiply the number of grams of water by 0.025.
        For 2% multiply by 0.02.
        For 3.5% multiply by 0.35, etc.
        Easy Pickle.
        Perhaps you might share this with your readers.

          • HI. I used pink himalayan salt but it actually has iodine added. I have 2
            batches of this in the works and after 15 days, the first one has no
            bubbles…should I let it stand another week or so to see if it ferments
            or just start over? Is there a chance? Thanks.

          • You may have missed seeing the bubbles. They tend to happen in the first 3-5 days. I would give it a smell and taste. Sour? Tangy? Almost vinegar like? If you have that, then it has fermented and you can decide how much longer to let it ferment. If it tasted liked salted cabbage, then fermentation hasn’t happened.

          • Thank you. It definitely has a sour/vinegary smell….not totally pleasant but looking forward to trying it! Thanks again!

    • I have not tried this idea. You’ll want to be able to know how much total salt you’re using and make sure there are no nasties in the garlic salt that might interfere with the fermentation process.

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