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Salt by Weight for Delicious Sauerkraut… Batch after Batch

How much salt – and which salt – should you use to make delicious, perfectly fermented sauerkraut batch after batch? Salt by taste? Salt by measuring? Salt by weight?

Some good questions.

In all my sauerkraut recipes, I have you weigh out 1 ¾ pound (800 grams) of cabbage and vegetables, add 1 tablespoon of salt, mix and then pack into a quart (liter) jar. Works darn good.

However, I started getting questions on how to make sauerkraut in a jar other than the standard American quart canning jar, how to calculate the right amount of salt without using a measuring spoon, or how to reduce the amount of salt used. And, I also was alerted to a variance in the size of tablespoons.

I did not know that measuring spoons are not standard throughout the world. In Australia, a tablespoon is 20 ml; Great Britain, 17.7 ml: North America and elsewhere, 14.7 ml. That’s a 25% difference in tablespoons between the U.S. and Australia.

Enter that scale I am so adamant about owning if you want to successfully ferment sauerkraut.

Weigh Your Cabbage and Vegetables to Guarantee a Perfect Ferment

And a digital scale at that.

A Scale for Salt by Weight or a Measuring Spoon for Salt by Volume?

I had been ignoring a few fermenters out there who emphasize the need to determine your salt by weight due to a variation in the weight of salt from one type of salt to another. I had steered away from weighing my salt because I didn’t want to complicate matters for first-time fermenters and felt “If it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it!” Besides, what does it mean to “weigh” your salt?

Before we go further, don’t freak out and feel you have to start weighing your salt. What I share here is just an option. There is a greater degree of flexibility to the fermentation world than I care to admit. However, I also know that the more variables you eliminate the greater your chances for success, batch after batch. And keep in mind, I’ve successfully fermented sauerkraut for close to 15 years using a measuring spoon.

OK, time to head to my kitchen and find out if there is a difference in weight with the various types of salt.

I pulled out my prized EasyWeigh KD8000 kitchen scale and scavenged around in my cupboards to find neglected salts since I now only use Himalayan Pink Salt not only for fermenting but for all my salt needs. Here are the salts I found:

Jars and containers of different salts. | MakeSauerkraut.com
  • A box of that nasty, pure-white stuff complete with anti-caking agents and iodine.
  • A stash of Celtic gray salt.
  • A local Vancouver Island sea salt
  • Himalayan Pink Salt, fine grain.
  • Some large-grained Himalayan Pink salt.
  • A small jar of Redmond Real Salt.

I pulled out my measuring spoons and using a knife to level the spoon, measured out 1 tablespoon of each salt.

Six different salts on top of a wooden chopping board, a metal scooper at the left side and measuring spoons on top. | MakeSauerkraut.com

What did I discover?

Here’s a table with what one tablespoon of each salt weighed in grams.

Himalayan Pink Salt, Fine GrainCeltic Gray SaltHimalayan Pink Salt, Coarse GrainRedmond Real SaltVancouver Island Sea SaltIodized Table Salt
13 g10 g14 g12 g9 g12 g

One tablespoon of the two salts that are evaporated seawater with no further processing weighed in at only 9-10 grams of salt. Now, I know why I often had trouble getting consistent results with my Celtic Gray Sea Salt. I would have been using way too little salt.

What does all this mean?

  • Measuring spoons can be inaccurate and vary from one spoon to the next.
    I have two sets and have always thought one looked a bit larger than the other. It is!
  • Different salts do weigh different amounts.
    This is due to variance in grind size, density, and moisture content.
  • I need to start thinking about the advantage of weighing my salt. 
    Weighing salt will allow you to adjust your batches of sauerkraut to your taste preferences and fermentation conditions. In real warm weather, you may want to use 2.5%; in cooler weather 1.5%. If you’re finding your sauerkraut too salty, adjust down to 1.5%.

Why is It Important that You Use the Right Amount of Salt?

Salt is the workhorse in your ferment. The right amount of salt is critical for creating the environment for mighty-microbes to ferment that sweet cabbage of yours into tangy sauerkraut.

  • The right amount of salt encourages the right bacteria – lactic-acid bacteria – to thrive and grow, giving them a competitive advantage over the hostile bacteria.
  • Too little salt favors harmful bacteria that can not only turn your sauerkraut to mush but may cause mold or yeast to grow.
  • Too much salt and the lactic-acid bacteria will not multiply. You end up with cabbage pickled in salt, not fermented sauerkraut.
  • Too much salt and unwanted salt-tolerant bacteria and yeasts will grow. Not what you want.

What is the Right Amount of Salt?

Six different salts on top of a wooden chopping board on top of a MyWeigh KD-8000. | MakeSauerkraut.com

The fermentation of sauerkraut is done through a self-brining process. Salt is evenly mixed with finely sliced cabbage to allow moisture to be drawn out of the cells to form a brine in which safe fermentation can proceed.

This is opposed brined fermentation where whole or roughly vegetables – cucumbers, carrots, garlic, etc. – are packed into a jar or crock and a 2% – usually – brine is mixed and poured over them.

Calculating Salinity Percentage

For sauerkraut, the goal is to create a salinity ratio of 1.5% to 2.5% to ensure safe and flavorful fermentation. These numbers come from fellow fermenters along with studies on what salinity range is best for fermentation of sauerkraut.

Three ways to determine the right amount of salt:

  • Salt by Taste.
    When calculating salinity by taste, you mix salt with cabbage, take a pinch and taste. If it tastes somewhat salty, but not offensively so, you’re good.
    This is how I first made sauerkraut but was unable to achieve consistent results. I’ve since learned that the health of our adrenal glands may play a factor on how salty food may taste at any given moment. Our adrenals are nourished by the minerals in salt. If our adrenal health is compromised we will crave salty foods – for the minerals necessary to heal our adrenals – and will need to add more salt than usual to a dish to get it to taste salty. Not exactly a foolproof way to ferment sauerkraut.
  • Salt by Volume.
    When calculating salinity by volume, you use the volume of a measuring spoon to calculate the amount of salt. Hence, the one tablespoon of salt called for in my recipes.
    That 15 ml measuring tablespoon most of us use? That translates to approximately 2% of salt for the 1 ¾ pounds (800 grams) cabbage I have you weigh out.
    The drawback of this method is that not all measuring spoons are alike and not all salts measure the same.
  • Salt by Weight.
    When calculating salinity by weight, you set a digital scale to grams and first weigh your cabbage mixture, calculate 1.5-2.5% grams of salt for that weight. Step-by-step help in the box below.
    This is the most reliable and consistent way to determine the right amount of salt to use in any given batch of sauerkraut and allows you to effortlessly make any sized batch of sauerkraut.
    How do professional bakers make their chewy, flavorful bread? You guessed it. With a scale and using flour and water percentages!
    If you do not have a scale, check my supplies for recommended brands:
    Fermenting Supplies for Sauerkraut & Vegetables [The Classics, The Latest, The Greatest]

Choosing Your Salt

Refined Salts

Refined salt is a crystalline mineral made of two elements off the periodic table: sodium and chloride. Table salt, sea salt, iodized salt, kosher salt and pickling salt are all examples of processed or refined salts. Some contain additives – iodine, sugar or anti-caking agents such as calcium silicate. 

Refined salts are 97-99% sodium chloride.

Mineral-Rich Salts

Mineral-rich salts contain mainly sodium and chloride but also numerous trace minerals that give the salt a sweeter taste and provide additional nutrients for the bacteria that ferment your sauerkraut.

Mineral-rich salts (Himalayan Pink and Redmond Real Salt) are 97% sodium chloride.

Many people and companies now ferment with mineral-rich salts and use the recommended 1.5-2.5% salinity.

An overview of your salt options – in order from best to worst – and how they may impact the salinity and saltiness of your finished sauerkraut.

  • Himalayan Pink Salt – My Favorite Salt.
    The prized salt of fermenters and currently the only one I use for fermentation.
    Less salty taste to sauerkraut due to a slightly lower percentage of sodium chloride in addition to a range of trace minerals.
  • Redmond Real Salt – Also a Good One.
    Another popular salt for fermenting.
    Less salty taste to sauerkraut due to a lower percentage of sodium chloride in addition to a range of trace minerals.
  • Pickling Salt – Works Fine.
    A more affordable option than Himalayan Pink Salt or Redmond Real Salt.
    Sauerkraut might taste extra salty due to minerals removed by processing; only sodium chloride.
  • Industrial Sea Salt – Check the Label.
    Check the label to make sure it does not contain additives.
    Sauerkraut might taste extra salty taste due to minerals removed by processing; only sodium chloride.
  • Grey or Celtic Sea Salt – No Longer Recommended.
    I used this salt for a while but often ended up with mushy, moldy sauerkraut due to moisture content. In addition, it feels light and airy. So when using a measuring spoon, you’re getting less sodium chloride than you realize.
    I no longer recommend it due to due to higher levels of pollution found in our waters today.
  • Kosher Salt – Not Ideal.
    A larger grain that may take longer to dissolve during the brining process.
    Sauerkraut might taste extra salty taste; stripped of naturally occurring minerals.
  • Table Salt or Iodized Sea Salt – Not Recommended.
    A highly refined salt with trace minerals removed.
    Anti-caking agents and iodine added that may interfere with the fermentation process.

For a complete discussion on salts, see:

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

Calculating Salt by Weight When Making Sauerkraut

Now, how to calculate how much salt to use by weighing both your cabbage mixture and your salt.

  1. Set scale to grams.
  2. Place bowl on scale and note tare or zero out scale.
  3. Add your shredded cabbage and prepped vegetables and note weight.
  4. If necessary, subtract tare.
  5. Multiply actual weight (without tare) of cabbage mixture by 2% (.02), the recommended salinity for sauerkraut.
    For example, the weight of your shredded cabbage and vegetables is 800 grams.
    800 x .02 = 16.00
    Add 16 grams of salt.
    NOTE: The recommended salinity for sauerkraut actually ranges from 1.5-2.5%. I use 2.0% because the math is easy; feel free to use 1.5% (x .o15) or 2.5% (x .025) or play around with what works best for the salt you use and your fermentation environment.
  6. Sprinkle salt into bowl until scale reads 816 grams. This is the weight of your cabbage, seasoning vegetables, AND the salt.

Now a simple way to get super-consistent results… batch after batch. And, if you’ve been unhappy with the “saltiness” of your sauerkraut try a different salt. You might just be pleasantly surprised.

Here’s Robb Wolf, author of [amaozn link =”0982565844″ “The Paleo Solution”], making a batch of sauerkraut with his daughter.

Now, time to make some sauerkraut calculating salt by weight. Grab your scale, pick a recipe to please your palate and start slicing:

Sauerkraut Recipes to Please Any Palate

SureFire Sauerkraut Recipe Collection

Last update on 2021-10-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

36 thoughts on “Salt by Weight for Delicious Sauerkraut… Batch after Batch”

  1. Wonderful discussion on the science involved.I happened to have a digital kitchen scale before i started making kraut so i’ve always weighed the salt rather than measured.2% of 800 g = 16 g of Salt.I use Kosher Salt that’s been ground up fine in a Magic Bullet ( mini blender) and like to salt the veggies for about an hour before doing the hand massage,Makes it go so much easier and you really get a lot of brine to start off with.

    Reply
  2. I tried to get a straight answer out my grandmother when I asked the question about how much salt they used when making their sauerkraut. It seems they would not even measure and simply sprinkle salt until they “felt” It was the right amount. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner for the past 30 years that we went they would have great sauerkraut.

    I know there is science behind everything, and I see great benefit of weighing your ration to keep some consistency but as long as you are in the ball park of %salt of your brine you should be safe. Like you said, it shouldn’t be overly Salty but present.

    I just started making kraut a few months ago to more less carry a trading that seems to have skipped a generation (my mom) and it fun. My wife catches me checking my mason jars and asks if my babies are ok! But she has no issues eating it on me?

    Reply
    • Hello Jesse, Thank you for jumping in and sharing your perspective and family history.

      Like I said, there is more flexibility in this ART than I care to admit. I have a hard time staying away from my mathematical brain. But, being in tune with what we’re making and able to “feel” what the right amount is, is a very worthwhile skill. Keep those “babies” happy and glad to hear the tradition continues, even with a skipped generation.

      Reply
      • i like the mathematical approach especially when you’re doing something that takes 2-3 weeks to reach fruition.some people like to wing things and are successful, myself i like to be exact whenever i can.

        Reply
        • I agree 100%. I just find myself wondering if I got the right % using a scale, yet my grandmother would simply wing it. I’m sure a few batches would not turn out every now and then.

          I’m currently using 1l mason with a airlock lid. I found my 1st week fermentation to be quite active and pushing brine into the airlock. I’ve read that to deal with this you can use a blow off hose which I just set up. Anyone else run into this issue?

          Reply
          • I had to look that one up, a “blow-off” hose. Lots of neat ideas to grab from the beer & wine-making world. Let us know how it works for you. Are you running the hose into a jar of brine?

            One drawback to the airlock is just what you state, especially during the first week when all is active. There is also brine overflow with just a lid. Then you end up with a mess to clean up. These Pickle Pipes – not yet tried – would solve the mess but not the overflow. I like their low profile. I want a way to prevent the loss of brine, so we continue to experiment.

          • Yes I use brine in both airlock and blow-off. I’ve read for beer they use vodka or mild bleach solution as a sanitizer. Im not keen of the bleach but vodka might be interesting if it gets pulled into the kraut ?

            Just set them up yesterday and this batch is about a week so I’m not sure how helpful it will be. The next batch will be a good test.

  3. So if I am understanding this right, for every 5 pounds of veggies=3 tbls of pink salt, and for every quart (900 gms) of veggies= 18gms of pink salt. Himalayan pink salt is the only kind of salt I use at home also.

    Reply
    • Yes! You can either measure the salt by volume which would be the 3 tblsp of salt (5 pounds veggies) or weigh the salt instead which is the 16 grams for 800 grams of cabbage/veggies. You could also instead of 5 pounds, use grams (2400) and then weigh your salt which at 2% is 48 grams of salt. Just depends what kind of brain you have and how you like to use it. 🙂

      Reply
      • I use himalayan pink salt also, three tabelspoons for every five pounds of sauerkraut mixture, sometimes with caldwell starter 1 packet per gallon, sometimes with just the salt, I have never had a batch go bad in three years. I also make my own kefir and kombucha tea, also never a bad batch in two years. As soon as i figure out how to use windows 10 I will send you a photo of my new 6 quart fermenting crock from Mark Campbell, he is a wonderful potter and has awesome colors!

        Reply
    • I use Himalayan pink salt at 3 tablespoons per 5 pounds of sauerkraut mixture, sometimes with 1 packet of Caldwell starter per gallon, sometimes with just the salt and have never had a batch go bad in 3 years. I also make my own Kefir and Kombucha, also no bad batches in 3 years, knock on wood,lol. As soon as I figure out windows 10, I will send you a photo of my new 6 quart fermenting crock from Mark Campbell he is a great potter and has awesome colors.

      Reply
  4. Brand new to fermenting. 🙂 Started my first “veggie sauerkraut” last night. I sort-of winged it on the amount of salt. I added fresh whey to the mix and it is bubbling this morning! I am pretty excited.

    As a scientist who likes precision, I am glad to find info about weighing the salt. Thanks! I will definitely be weighing in the future.

    However, using your weighing method, you mention that the percent sodium chloride in the salt used will affect the salinity percent, but this is not accounted for in your calculations.

    For example, if you are shooting for 2% salinity:

    For Kosher salt with 98% sodium chloride content: 2% x 0.98 = 1.96% final salinity
    For Himalayan salt with 84% sodium chloride content: 2% x 0.84 = 1.68 % final salinity

    You could calculate the exact amount of salt you need to get 2% salinity by this formula:
    weight of veggies x salinity desired / sodium chloride percent of salt

    So for example: 800 grams of veggies with 2% desired salinity using Himalayan salt:
    800 x 2 / 84 =
    19.047 grams of Himalayan salt
    That is 3+ extra grams to get to the desired salinity!
    (For kitchen scale, round to the nearest gram or half-gram.)
    If you are good at math, you could do that calculation on paper. Most of us, including me, will use a calculator!

    Plus, if your salt is wet, you would need even more salt to get the right salinity.
    (Salt can be dried in the oven at 250 degrees for 30 minutes. Store dried salt in an airtight glass jar. Maybe I will test how much difference wet vs moist salt makes and report back here. However, it is unclear whether percent sodium chloride reported for the various salts is on a dry or wet basis.)

    Maybe it doesn’t matter, but like I said, I like to be precise!

    Looking forward to exploring your site and nerding out with a new hobby.

    Best,
    Mary Anne

    Reply
    • Hello Mary Anne and fellow math-brain, 🙂

      Yes, you are correct on my numbers not taking into account for the % sodium in the salt. I was using those numbers before I realized the “error.” However, recommendations are for 1.5-2.5 % using a DRY salt.

      The HPSalt results in a less-salty sauerkraut, a common concern for many. And, you’re right about “wet” salt which is probably why some of my batches didn’t work when using Celtic salt.

      Sooo, fine turn the % to your liking making sure you get good, consistent batches then use that to get creative with ingredients and whatnot and make some extra delicious sauerkraut. And, continue to enjoy the nerding out, a fault we share in common.

      Reply
  5. Great site! I came by for a refresher on making sauerkraut since it’s been a while, and I’m enjoying your articles.

    One thing jumped out at me in this post though. Where did you get the 84% sodium chloride percentage for the unrefined salts? That seemed surprisingly low, so I did a little searching.

    One site lists all the minerals in Himalayan Pink Salt, and they have sodium chloride at 97.53%
    https://themeadow.com/pages/minerals-in-himalayan-pink-salt-spectral-analysis

    And Redmond Real Salt has a mineral analysis of their salt, with sodium chloride at 97.97%
    http://www.realsalt.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/realsalt_analysis.pdf

    Reply
    • Thanks Adam, I’ll have to look for my source and do some more thorough investigation… and make corrections (on more than this post). Thank you for the sources. How do you go from g/kg on a spectral analysis to %?

      Reply
  6. Good tip to weigh ingredients rather than relying on volume. I used RealSalt for a batch and find that it leaves noticeable grit in the end product. Look closely at the salt and you’ll see brown flecks. Dissolve the salt in water and they are still there. I don’t know what they are but they are noticeable so I don’t use this anymore. Eden salt is my choice.

    Reply
    • Yes, that is a comment I hear once in a while about the Real Salt. It is a mineral-rich salt that is available in many grocery stores so many can readily get it. I need to add that to my review of it and check with Real Salt to see what it is, however. Glad to hear you found a salt that works for you. Is the Eden you’re using a Celtic Sea Salt?

      Reply
  7. can i use a hard plastic jar with a clamp down lid to make the kraut? doesnt have a metal lid, just a hard plastic seal, and clamp. Does it have it be glass for fermentation?

    Reply
    • Yes, as long as it is a food-safe container. (#2, #5 or polycarbonate/restaurant storage containers). Glass/ceramic is ideal, but use what you have available so you can start fermenting!

      Reply
  8. So I haven’t seen this posted or talked about anywhere, but I use the food processor to shred the cabbage, then I put it in the stand up kitchen aid mixer with the regular attachment and then sprinkle the salt all over it, then mix it for about 1-2 minutes, then let it sit for an hour to bleed the juice out of it. Then stir it with a spoon and then pack it into the canning jar. Does anyone know if this is an ok way to process the cabbage for fermentation? Would really appreciate everyone’s input! I live in Florida and it’s hot, so I leave it on the counter for 36 hours , then move to the fridge, but the next day it is already light brown about 3 inches from the top and I end up throwing it out for the 15th time! I use ORGANIC fresh round green cabbage.
    I’m using all the correct proportions please help so I can have some healthy sauerkraut!!!!
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Hello, Others like you got me to check out ways to slice cabbage other than my handy mandoline. https://www.makesauerkraut.com/how-to-slice-cabbage/

      The mixer has also been useful for some, especially those with arthritis issues.

      The browning is interesting, because I had that with my batch of sauerkraut I made with the food processor. I thought it an oddity but now question if it has sometime to do with using the blade of the food processor. Throw out just the browned section – oxidized – the rest is fine. Maybe try a batch slicing another way.

      Reply
  9. Thank you so much for this. I’ve seen a lot of conflicting advice about how much salt to add to a certain weight of cabbage and now I have a plain and simple guide. I’m heading off to the interweb now to buy some pink Himalayan salt.

    Reply
    • Happy Shopping! And, feel free to drop this to 1.5% if you are finding 2.0% to be too salty. Many current bloggers in the fermentation world are having great success with 1.5%

      Reply
  10. Thank you! I do my kraut in quite a large jar because I make the long fermented kind. I had to throw out my last batch after a couple of weeks of fermenting because it seemed off and all I could think of was that I had used different salt than previously. Well, there ya go! I used grey sea salt from France last time (I guess that is the same as Celtic sea salt?) and used way too little as a result. You confirmed my suspicions! Also, I saw the box of Vancouver Island Salt in your photo and thought “hey, where is this gal from?” I’m on Vancouver Island too! Hey there from a fellow islander. 🙂

    Reply
    • Hello fellow Islander, Yes, grey sea salt is the same as Celtic sea salt. It’s easy to not use enough salt with these type. I also learned this the hard way. The Vancouver Island Salt company gathers their sea water from Cherry Point. Know that place?

      Reply
      • Indeed I do! My mom lives just a stone’s throw from that beach. In fact, if you know the area and you are heading down the hill to the beach, you will see a little 1930’s cottage with a horse and a donkey and some ducks. That is my mom and stepdad’s place and we have been to the beach and seen the water being gathered to make the salt. I do wonder about the purity of the water there and whether it is the best place to gather ocean water for salt from, but that’s another story.

        Reply
        • Yes, I know that donkey – that we’re not suppose to feed. 🙂 And, yes questioning the purity of our sea water was the last straw for me to make the shift to mineral salts mined from ancient deposits.

          Reply
          • Haha, yes! Benita can’t have too much sugar. Her ancestors would have come from Sicily or thereabouts where the grass is dry and low in sugars. What a small world it is! 🙂

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