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
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.
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 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 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
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.
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. 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 Himalayan salt benefits outweigh other factors.
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.
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.
Summary of Salt Choices
Know Your Salts Infographic
Here is a beautiful infographic done 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 2021-01-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API