How Much Salt Do I Use to Make Sauerkraut?


Have some of your batches of sauerkraut turned out mushy or slimy?

Were some too salty?

Were some covered in mold that forced you to throw out that sauerkraut that you invested so much time and money to make?

These mishaps are usually due to one or more of the following factors:

  • Salinity. How much salt was used in the cabbage and vegetable mixture (too much or too little)?
  • Temperature. How warm or cold your fermenting environment was (too warm, too cold, too variable)?
  • Time. How long you fermented (too short or too long)?

I find salinity to be the most important factor, with the temperature a close second.

I’ve got you covered. Just follow my recipe. It uses not too much salt… not too little salt… but, just the right amount!

How to Make Sauerkraut in a Jar in 7 Simple Steps [Healthy, Flavorful, Easy]

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 to success!

 

Why Do You Need Salt Anyway?

Salt pulls water out of the cabbage and vegetables to create a brine that the cabbage mixture is packed in. This briny environment is where the good bacteria (mainly lactobacillus) can grow and proliferate and the bad bacteria die off.

The success of your lacto-fermented sauerkraut depends on using the proper amount of salt for the quantity of vegetables you’re fermenting. This applies not just to the cabbage but to the other vegetables and seasonings, you add, too. The amount of salt used affects the rate at which fermentation proceeds, and determines the quality of the fermentation environment and types of microorganisms that will grow and thrive there.

Using the right amount of salt is key for many reasons:

  • Salt helps pull water out of the cabbage and vegetables to create an environment – a salty brine – for happy fermentation.
  • Too little salt is a “Come and live here” invitation to the “nasties” (mold or slime) that you don’t want in your jar.
  • Too little salt inhibits or prevents fermentation and tends to create a softer sauerkraut.
  • Too much salt is a “Go away” sign for the beneficial bacteria, the lactobacillus that you want living and multiplying in your jar.
  • The amount of salt you use determines the rate at which fermentation takes place. Too much salt and the fermentation process slows down and beneficial bacteria do not rapidly multiply. Not enough salt and the fermentation proceeds too rapidly, and the sauerkraut turns out soft.

Although you can use just about any salt – as long as it does not contain iodide or other additives – my favorite is Himalayan Pink Salt, as discussed in What is the Best Salt to Use When Making Fermented Sauerkraut?

The Sweet Spot: A 2% Brine

The best fermentation results are achieved with a 2% brine.

The easiest way to think about this is in grams. For every 100 grams of cabbage, you need 2 grams of salt (100 grams x .02 = 2 grams). You won’t have to do these calculations; my recipes are already set up to achieve this 2% brine ratio. I’m just trying to give you an understanding of where the salt measurements come from and why is the amount is important.

A 2% brine ratio ensures a happy fermentation environment and results in crispy, tangy sauerkraut. You will need a scale to weigh your vegetables, as I discuss here.

1 tablespoon of salt for 1¾ pound (800 grams) of vegetables

To make a quantity of sauerkraut that will fit in a 1-quart (1-litre) jar, you will need 1 tablespoon of salt for every 1¾ pounds (800 grams) of vegetables. These are the quantities I use because this amount fits perfectly into a 1-quart jar – the right size for the beginning fermenter.

How Much Salt?

There are three ways to determine the proper amount of salt: Taste, Volume and Weight. Volume is the method I use and teach on this website.

Determining Salt by:

Taste Sprinkle 1–-2 pounds of vegetables with 1 Tbsp salt and taste. It should taste salty, but not offensively so. Add more salt, if necessary.

You can make sauerkraut this way, and I did so for years, but some of your batches may turn out too salty or too soft if you don’t end up with the correct amount of salt.

Volume 1 Tbsp salt for 1 ¾ pounds of vegetables to make 1 quart of sauerkraut, OR
3 Tbsp salt for 5 pounds of vegetables to make 3 quarts of sauerkraut.This is my favorite way to make small home batches of sauerkraut. If I’m filling a 10- liter crock with 10–-15 pounds of vegetables, I weigh and mix in 5- pound increments.
Weight 2% salt by weight (using a digital scale set to grams)
16 grams of salt for 800 grams vegetables to make 1 quart of sauerkraut.First, weigh your vegetables in grams and then multiply by .02 (that is, 2%) to get the required amount of salt in grams (for example, 800 grams of vegetables would require 16 grams of salt).If you are measuring large batches of vegetables (that is, more than 5 pounds at a time), you’ll want to invest in a digital scale and also weigh your salt. The size of salt crystals vary, so measuring them with a measuring spoon may not always result in a successful fermentation, especially with commercial sized batches.
Extra Brine 1 Tbsp salt in 2 cups water.
Use this mixture if you need to add more brine during the first 10 days of the fermentation process.

Grab a scale, weigh out your cabbage, sprinkle with just the right amount of salt and let me know the results. Tangy with just the right crunch?

Want help selecting a scale to buy? See:

Resources: Tool of the Trade

Want help choosing what salt to use? See:

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

Or, want to just follow a recipe with it all figured out for you?

How to Make Sauerkraut in a Jar in 7 Simple Steps [Healthy, Flavorful, Easy]

 

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 to success!

44 thoughts on “How Much Salt Do I Use to Make Sauerkraut?”

  1. Erroneous logic.
    You mustn’t determine the salt by the weight/mass or vegetables, but as a water solution. The optimal salt content of the brine is between 3.5 and 5%. In other words, you have to add 3.5 to 5 grams salt to 1 litre water. A tablespoon contains about 7 grams of salt.

    • Hello Kara_kan, Thanks for sharing your insights and chemistry know-how. You’ve got me thinking. My brain will have to ponder this awhile to determine how best to properly describe the correct amount of salt to use.

      The way I understand it is, for sauerkraut, we’re “dry-salting” and we know how much salt works for a particular weight of cabbage/vegetable mixture. That salt extracts liquid from the cabbage and then we have our brine, which research indicates that this results in a 2% brine. For pickles, a 3.5% brine is first mixed and then poured over the cucumbers… The discussion continues.

      • Dear Holly,
        The method you use is overcomplicated.
        You can never determine the exact water content of vegetables without burning or at least completely drying them. It is much more easier to keep under control the salt content of water you add. Of course, you cannot know the exact volume of water you will use, but throwing away a few cups of remaining water or using it for other purposes is not an issue.

        • Hello Kara_kan, Yes, you’re method is very simple and is what I would use IF I were fermenting vegetables (e.g., carrots, garlic, cucumbers).

          I’m making sauerkraut where I don’t make a brine but instead add salt for the cabbage and bacteria to make their own brine. We’re talking two different processes.

          I see that you add vinegar and Vit C to your finished brined vegetables. What do you find that helps with? Keeping them fresh, longer?

        • Your method sounds like a Kimchi recipe where the vegetables are often soaked in brine then removed and packed in the crock. Since sauerkraut is cut finer it will lose more internal juices to the brine (which is not generally in the final product). This will make for a weaker flavor.
          For your next plan, adding any starter bacteria will get the sauerkraut to ferment almost exclusively with the lactobacillus. When you naturally ferment there is a progression of bacteria, each of which adds a different flavor and changes the PH until only lactobacillus remains. This can lead to funk, but usually leads to more complex flavors that really distinguish homemade sauerkraut from the commercial alternatives.

          • Hello!
            Thanks for the reply!
            Actually I do not remove and repack anything anywhere. Salt from the brine is absorbed by vegetables and takes part in chemical reaction, so the final product isn’t too salty, just good for consumption. Your idea about adding – or more precisely NOT adding – any Lactobacillus culture at fermentation start is worth considering.

          • If you do add a starter, I would recommend waiting at least 3 days for the ferment to develop some character.

      • Hi Holly,
        I’ve made sauerkraut with measuring sat by weight. Had good success with 2%, 1%, 0.5%, 0.35%. My l last batch I used 0.25% of salt to cabbage ratio, and my kraut came out mushy, perhaps I went too low.

        • Thanks so much for sharing this. It will be helpful for those trying to reduce salt. I get this question often. How long are you fermenting?

          I haven’t had the time to experiment, yet and still lean towards creating the ideal environment for the bacteria to do their work.

    • Fortunately you don’t have to be that accurate for sauerkraut. Just measure out 2 pounds of cabbage and use 1 table spoon full of canning salt. Works every time. Lets keep it simple so there are no mistakes.

  2. Hi Holly. I have been using your method and it works perfectly. I rather have the salt draw out the moisture with a bit of hand massaging of the shredded cabbage, than to add salted water. Who knows what is in the added water, even filtered. I only ferment for 9 days and it turns out perfectly! I have a question though. I normally boil the glass containers for approx 5 min before use. Is that a necessary step or can I just wash the containers with hot soapy water and air dry prior to use? Thanks again for your guidance!

  3. Hi Holly,

    I am making sauerkraut for the first time. I am curious how long the salting process takes to get the water out of the cabbage. I started mine 2 hours ago and I am concerned that I may need to just add brine to my cabbage to get the liquid content up. I did weight it after I’d salted it and I have 3 lb of cabbage and I have added 2 Tbsp of salt.

  4. The very easiest way for me to arrive at (OR VERY NEAR) the 2% brine level is : For every pound of cabbage add 10 grams of salt. 2.3 pounds of cabbage, no problem, 23 grams of salt.

  5. Thank you! Your ratio of 1 tbsp (in my case Terrasoul Himalayan pink) salt to 1.75 lbs of cabbage did the trick! I went just a tad over the 1 tbsp to bring it to 16 g (estimated, I have a basic spring scale). I shredded the cabbage, sprinkled, mixed and jarred. Had great fermentation quickly! I used your 2% ratio to keep a brine over the cabbage. I am a beer maker so I used air locks in a pre-drilled re-purposed pickle jar. After 3-4 days it was really good! After 7 days, the fermentation slowed (no more bubbling). I then put it in plastic tubs and refrigerated. No mold or anything funky during ferment. It was SO much better than I imagined it would be. I know it kills the probiotic effect, but I did take some of the kraut and sauteed it with onions and served with sausages – EXCELLENT! I am going right now to get some more fresh cabbage. This will remain a staple for me! Thanks again!

    • You’re Welcome! Happy to hear you are enjoying another fermentation adventure. Your beer making skills have transferred rather nicely. And, don’t worry about sauteing the sauerkraut. It does add great flavor to a dish. Just have some raw alongside. Best of both worlds.

  6. I just made Sauerkraut in a 2 gallon crock this morning using my family’s tried and true method and now after reading this I’m wondering if I messed up. I put 2 tablespoons of kosher salt on about 4 heads of cabbage and worked it in. I let it sit for about 15 minutes then added 2 quarts of water mixed with 6 tablespoons of kosher salt. I weighed it down so the vegetables were completely covered in brine. Am I clear in reading that you don’t add water at all?

    • Hello Pamela, This is more than one way to make sauerkraut, though I may not like to admit that. 🙂 See how you batch turns out and go from there.

      I don’t know what your cabbage head size was, but 2T of salt works wells for 5-6 pounds of cabbage. No, I don’t add water/brine but instead create that brine by the salt pulling moisture out of the cabbage.

  7. I am making sauerkraut monthly. Love mixing 1 red and two white cabbages. Yes going through 3 medium cabbages a month. Nice colours in Kilner Fermentation set. I am getting perfect results weighing salt using your cabbage weight x0.02 calculation to get 2% salinity.
    Has anybody noticed an increase in their blood pressure or is it a coincidence?
    Next batch I will try wtx0.015 & try a 1.5% salinity.

    • Hello Paul, Great to hear of all that sauerkraut you’re making… and consuming! No problem dropping down to the 1.5% salinity. In fact, due to my inaccurate tablespoon that’s what I’ve been using. It helps to use the mineral-rich salts if you’re concerned about blood pressure. Do some searching for “alternative” viewpoints on blood pressure and salt. I’ll eventually do a post. And, sauerkraut is usually consumed as a “condiment;” 1/4 to 1/2 cup daily (less salt….).

  8. Hi, my name is Chris. I have been fermenting for about a year now. I have become pretty good at garlic dill pickles and Korean kimchi. I have just made my 2nd batch of sauerkraut. Thank you for the easiest understanding of salt to cabbage recipe. My 1st batch came out well but I underestimated how much the cabbage would break down and my crock was only a little over half full. I just finished loading my 2nd batch. My question is, would it be a good idea to put a cupfull or so of the brine in my pickles in my crock with sauerkraut to help kickstart the probiotic cultures in the fermenting cabbage. I do this every time I make more pickles but would like to know if this could apply to sauerkraut. Thank you for the very helpful site. Chris. ( my wife is Michelle if the e-mail is confusing).

    • Hello Chris, I know many people do just that, but I recommend against it. You are introducing different bacteria than are needed at the onset of fermentation. What is on your cucumbers – or cabbage – is all that is need to start fermentation. Those starter bacteria are different bacteria than the finishing bacteria. More here: https://www.makesauerkraut.com/starter-cultures-not-used/ I’m glad you’re enjoying the site. Keep on making all those delicious ferments.

  9. Made a plain, no air lock, crock full, 10 days ago. Used a large red cabbage, about 2 tablespoons of plain non iodised sea salt (weighed it to get amount), and some caraway seeds, kneaded it to release the juices, packed tightly in crock, covered with large cabbage leaf and weighed down with 3 saucers, covered crock with lid and cloth tied on the top. Ambient daytime temperature around 28 degrees Celsius and a couple of degrees less at night. Inspected every few days and nothing seems to be happening. No visible bubbles or froth but had a very small amount of scum on the edge of the saucers, has pleasant wet cabbage smells in the crock. Took a sample today, lovely translucent pink/red colour, crisp to eat, tastes O.K. but can’t be sure if it is a salt or sour taste. Was expecting something more sour. (Never eaten S/Kraut before so have nothing to compare the taste with).
    Is it normal to have no visible signs of fermentation?
    Are normal things happening here?
    If I leave it for a few more weeks will it get more sour or will it spoil?

    • Hello, It sounds like you are on the right track. Red cabbage is a bit tougher and does take longer to ferment. At 28 degrees there should be more activity, though. If you press down on the plate, do you see bubbles? Were there bubbles during the first 5 days? Give it a bit more time. Perhaps you can buy a jar of sauerkraut for comparison. You’re looking for a sour taste, not a salty cabbage taste. See this post for what else to watch for: https://www.makesauerkraut.com/fermentation-signs/

  10. Wonderful website! I was googling an amount of salt to be used in sauerkraut and I came across your website. I am going to spent countless hours here (LOL) and read every single post. Thank you so much! It is the best site on fermentation and I have seen many. You have lots of original information too that I have not seen anywhere else.
    Quick question please: I love lacto fermented stuff. I could eat pickles, sauerkraut etc. by the pound. Having said that, is there such thing as eating too much lactoferments? I read recommendations on the internet that you should have a Tbsp or so of ferments with every meal. For me Tbsp is nothing. Why even bother (LOL). I grew up on lactoferments. When I was a kid my mom used to make them for every winter. I am originally from Poland and now I live in Canada.
    So as I said I could easily have a big plate of lactoferments. Is it OK? Any downsides? Too much of a good thing? I do not have any issues afterwards.
    Thank you in advance.
    Alana

  11. Ms. Howe, I’ve been using your recipe for a while. For some reason, my homemade sauerkraut goes bad after 6 months. I decided to throw it away and went to store and purchased the refrigerated, dated, unpasteurized sauerkraut. Why does it upset my stomach and home made doesn’t?

    • Hello Charlie, It is strange that your sauerkraut is going bad after 6 months. It should easily last a year. If you give me a few more details, perhaps we can get it working for you. What type of salt are you using, what temps are you fermenting at and do you move it to your fridge when it is done fermenting?

      I don’t know why the store-bought sauerkraut would be bothering you. What brand is it? Maybe try a different brand? Or, eat smaller quantities.

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