How to Make Sauerkraut in a Jar

How to make sauerkraut in a jar

The complete guide

This tangy homemade sauerkraut gets the stamp of approval from kids and adults alike. Grated carrots give it a touch of sweetness and minced garlic gives it a gentle bite. It is full of natural probiotics and essential enzymes for healthy digestion and is perfect for tossing into a salad, topping a grilled hamburger, layering into a sandwich, or eating straight from the jar.

This sauerkraut recipe is not “just a recipe,” but instead a mini fermentation course in which I teach you everything you need to know to successfully ferment sauerkraut using a jar and other items found in your kitchen. My proven tips, step-by-step photos, and helpful notes have you covered. Dependably delicious!

Today I’m going to show you how to make sauerkraut in a jar. 

Whether you are 7 or 77, klutzy with a knife or a gourmet chef, you can learn to make sauerkraut. My comprehensive recipe has been used by over 59,710 readers. Its many step-by-step photos and useful tips will have you:

Let’s dive right in.

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Grab the FREE Book Sampler for my book Fermentation Made Easy! Mouthwatering Sauerkraut that includes a PDF copy of this recipe AND... take my Mini Email Course: 7 days of helpful emails on how to ferment sauerkraut in a jar... like a pro

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Step 1: SET UP

Gather Supplies & Set Up Scale

For this first step, you will be buying what produce you need and pulling together the necessary equipment.

Even though there are many fancy—and quite effective—weights and air locks to make fermentation easier, you can start with readily found items. 

If you own some fermentation weights and air locks, by all means use them. If not, wait until you have fermented a few batches, have gained some knowledge and experience, and have developed a bit of fermentation intuition. 

Then you’ll know what additional equipment will work for your household needs and your fermentation preferences.

How to make sauerkraut in a jar; equipment. | makesauerkraut.com
Scale, jars, lid, and other equipment for making sauerkraut.

Gather Equipment

Here’s a list of what you’ll need. If you need to buy anything, there are recommendation at the end of this step.  

How to make sauerkraut in a jar; ingredients. | makesauerkraut.com
Carrot and garlic for flavoring a batch of sauerkraut.

Purchase Ingredients

In this recipe, we make Sweet Garlic Sauerkraut, cabbage lightly seasoned with carrots and garlic. It’s a popular flavor, even for children. 

If you prefer to ferment cabbage on its own, follow the recipe, omitting the carrots and garlic, though the carrots are nice to include. They add moisture and reduce the chance of your sauerkraut ending up dry. 

How to make sauerkraut in a jar; setting up your scale. | MakeSauerkraut.com
Press the TARE button to remove the weight of your bowl.
How to make sauerkraut in a jar; removing the tare weight of your bowl. | MakeSauerkraut.com
Scale now at zero.

Since you don’t want to include the weight of your bowl in your measurements, you need to know its weight.

Place your bowl on the scale. Zero out the scale (for a digital scale, press the “tare” button; for a mechanical scale, turn the small knob under the tray) or write down the tare weight.

Note: If you are using a digital scale that automatically shuts off after a few minutes—most do—you will want to write down the weight of your empty bowl.

Set Up Notes and Tips

My TOP PICKS for the Fermentation Ninja

If you don’t have the equipment you need in your kitchen, the following jars, weights, and lids are my top recommendations.

Fermentation Jar

Canning jars have endless uses around your home so don’t be afraid to have more on hand than you need for fermentation. I like the Ball brand because of the measurements (standard & metric) stamped on the side. 

67000 Ball Qt Mason Jar WM 12-pack
Ball Wide Mouth 32-Ounces Quart Mason Jars with Lids and Bands, Set of 2
67000 Ball Qt Mason Jar WM 12-pack
Ball Wide Mouth 32-Ounces Quart Mason Jars with Lids and Bands, Set of 2
Image indicates a 2-pack of 12; Select quantity on Amazon.
Just 2 jars.
$38.40
$19.59
1,068 Reviews
28 Reviews
67000 Ball Qt Mason Jar WM 12-pack
67000 Ball Qt Mason Jar WM 12-pack
Image indicates a 2-pack of 12; Select quantity on Amazon.
$38.40
1,068 Reviews
Ball Wide Mouth 32-Ounces Quart Mason Jars with Lids and Bands, Set of 2
Ball Wide Mouth 32-Ounces Quart Mason Jars with Lids and Bands, Set of 2
Just 2 jars.
$19.59
28 Reviews

Fermentation Weight

A fermentation weight is used to hold your ferment below the brine. Here are some available for purchase with more ideas about what to use around the home further down in the recipe. 

Trellis + Co. Stainless Steel Fermentation Jar Kit | 3 Waterless Fermenter Airlock Lids & 3 Pickle Helix Fermentation Weights, For Wide Mouth Mason Jars | Recipe eBook Included With Fermenting Kit
Ball Mason 4oz Quilted Jelly Jars with Lids and Bands, Set of 12
The Easy Weight - Fermentation Weights with Grooved Handles - Small Batch Sauerkraut, Pickles or Other Fermented Foods- Fermenting for ANY Wide Mouth Mason Jars (4 Pack)
Trellis & Co. Pickle Helix. Set of 3. - MY FAVORITE!
Ball 4 oz. (12 ml) "Jelly" Jar. Set of 12.
Nourished Essentials Glass Fermentation Weight. Set of 4.
Comes with an airlock lid.
What I use in the recipe. You'll also need a lid.
Popular weight choice. You'll also need a lid.
162 Reviews
1,968 Reviews
916 Reviews
$38.49
$14.39
Price not available
Trellis + Co. Stainless Steel Fermentation Jar Kit | 3 Waterless Fermenter Airlock Lids & 3 Pickle Helix Fermentation Weights, For Wide Mouth Mason Jars | Recipe eBook Included With Fermenting Kit
Trellis & Co. Pickle Helix. Set of 3. - MY FAVORITE!
Comes with an airlock lid.
162 Reviews
$38.49
Ball Mason 4oz Quilted Jelly Jars with Lids and Bands, Set of 12
Ball 4 oz. (12 ml) "Jelly" Jar. Set of 12.
What I use in the recipe. You'll also need a lid.
1,968 Reviews
$14.39
The Easy Weight - Fermentation Weights with Grooved Handles - Small Batch Sauerkraut, Pickles or Other Fermented Foods- Fermenting for ANY Wide Mouth Mason Jars (4 Pack)
Nourished Essentials Glass Fermentation Weight. Set of 4.
Popular weight choice. You'll also need a lid.
916 Reviews
Price not available

Fermentation Lid

A fermentation lid is used to prevent excess air from entering your jar, but also allows gases to escape. 

Ball Wide-Mouth Plastic Storage Caps, 8-Count
Masontops Pickle Pipes - Waterless Airlock Fermentation Lids - Wide Mouth Mason Jar Fermenter Cap - Premium Silicone Top
Premium Easy Wide-Mouth Fermenting Kit. Track Day and Month. 3 or 6 Waterless Airlock Fermenter Lids, Pump, Help Guide. Ferment Sauerkraut, Pickls, plus all Fermented Probiotics. No Mold Time Saver
Ball White Plastic Storage Caps. Set of 8.
Mason Top Pickle Pipe. Set of 4. LOVE 'EM
Eden Farmhouse Essentials Waterless Airlock Lids. 3-Pack or 6-Pack.
I own at least a hundred of these and use them both for fermentation & storage.
As pressure builds, cross slit in nipple opens to releases gases.
Tabs make for easy removal of lid. Also use for storage, pumping air out first.
3,567 Reviews
1,139 Reviews
359 Reviews
$11.45
$21.95
$27.99
Ball Wide-Mouth Plastic Storage Caps, 8-Count
Ball White Plastic Storage Caps. Set of 8.
I own at least a hundred of these and use them both for fermentation & storage.
3,567 Reviews
$11.45
Masontops Pickle Pipes - Waterless Airlock Fermentation Lids - Wide Mouth Mason Jar Fermenter Cap - Premium Silicone Top
Mason Top Pickle Pipe. Set of 4. LOVE 'EM
As pressure builds, cross slit in nipple opens to releases gases.
1,139 Reviews
$21.95
Premium Easy Wide-Mouth Fermenting Kit. Track Day and Month. 3 or 6 Waterless Airlock Fermenter Lids, Pump, Help Guide. Ferment Sauerkraut, Pickls, plus all Fermented Probiotics. No Mold Time Saver
Eden Farmhouse Essentials Waterless Airlock Lids. 3-Pack or 6-Pack.
Tabs make for easy removal of lid. Also use for storage, pumping air out first.
359 Reviews
$27.99

Scale & Salt

The bacteria that make fermentation happen work best in a set range of salinity. A scale is used to weigh your cabbage and vegetables so that your are able to add the correct amount of salt. For salt, just make sure it does not contain iodine or other additives.

Kitchen Scale - Bakers Math Kitchen Scale - KD8000 Scale by My Weight, Silver
The Spice Lab Himalayan Salt - Fine 2 Lb Bag - Pink Himalayan Salt is Nutrient and Mineral Dense for Health - Gourmet Pure Crystal - Kosher & Natural Certified
REDMOND Real Sea Salt - Natural Unrefined Gluten Free Fine, 26 Ounce Pouch (1 Pack)
MyWeigh KD-8000 Digital Scale - FAVORITE!
Himalayan Pink Salt - FAVORITE!
Redmond Real Salt
If you're not ready to invest in this, you can pick up a simple, inexpensive digital scale for under $15.
A mineral-rich salt that imparts a depth of flavor to your ferment.
A mineral-rich salt that imparts a depth of flavor to your ferment.
2,155 Reviews
5,048 Reviews
5,522 Reviews
$46.00
$7.99
$10.39
Kitchen Scale - Bakers Math Kitchen Scale - KD8000 Scale by My Weight, Silver
MyWeigh KD-8000 Digital Scale - FAVORITE!
If you're not ready to invest in this, you can pick up a simple, inexpensive digital scale for under $15.
2,155 Reviews
$46.00
The Spice Lab Himalayan Salt - Fine 2 Lb Bag - Pink Himalayan Salt is Nutrient and Mineral Dense for Health - Gourmet Pure Crystal - Kosher & Natural Certified
Himalayan Pink Salt - FAVORITE!
A mineral-rich salt that imparts a depth of flavor to your ferment.
5,048 Reviews
$7.99
REDMOND Real Sea Salt - Natural Unrefined Gluten Free Fine, 26 Ounce Pouch (1 Pack)
Redmond Real Salt
A mineral-rich salt that imparts a depth of flavor to your ferment.
5,522 Reviews
$10.39
FUN FACT: Sauerkraut contains live and active probiotics that act like your first line of defense against various harmful bacteria or toxins that might enter your body.

BONUS PDF: The Complete Guide + Mini Course

Grab the FREE Book Sampler for my book Fermentation Made Easy! Mouthwatering Sauerkraut that includes a PDF copy of this recipe AND... take my Mini Email Course: 7 days of helpful emails on how to ferment sauerkraut in a jar... like a pro

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

Step 2: CHOP

Chop Your Vegetables & Cabbage

Now that you have everything you need on hand and your scale is ready for weighing, it’s time to prepare those vegetables for fermentation.

Slicing cabbage for making sauerkraut. | MakeSauerkraut.com

You will need 1¾ pounds (28 ounces, 800 grams) of vegetables and cabbage in your bowl. When making sauerkraut, you first prepare the flavoring ingredients – carrots, ginger, radish, caraway seeds or whatnot – then add sliced cabbage. This allows you to add only as much sliced cabbage as necessary to hit 1¾ pounds on the scale.

Why? 

1¾ pounds (28 ounces, 800 grams) is the perfect amount of cabbage and vegetables to mix with 1 tablespoon of salt to create the right saltiness of brine to ensure perfectly fermented sauerkraut. 

And, it’s the perfect amount of sauerkraut to pack into a 1-quart jar. So, we always slice just enough cabbage to have 1 3/4 pounds of vegetables AND cabbage.

Grate carrots, mince garlic and add to bowl. | MakeSauerkraut.com
Flavoring ingredients (carrots & garlic) prepared and in bowl. Time now to slice some cabbage.

Peel and grate two to three carrots. Add these to the bowl. Finely mince two to three garlic cloves and add these to the bowl too.

Quarter cabbage and then slice thinly. | makesauerkraut.com
Cabbage quartered (core left in to make it easier to slice) and sliced into narrow ribbons.

Discard the limp outer leaves of the cabbage, setting aside one of the cleaner ones for use at the end of STEP 5: SUBMERGE & SEAL. 

Quarter the cabbage, leaving the core in. The core helps hold the layers of cabbage together, making the slicing job easier.

Place a cabbage quarter on one of its sides and slice the cabbage crosswise. I like thin ribbons; you may like a coarser texture. Just keep in mind that narrow ribbons will ferment more quickly than wider cut ribbons.

When you get to the core, turn it onto its round back and slice until just thick sections of core remain. (I don’t use the core, but instead, feed it to the worms in my compost pile.)

Other Ways to Slice Cabbage

Check out my post, How to Slice Cabbage [Which is the BEST for Perfect Sauerkraut?] for a thorough coverage on the topic. Here are some basic guidelines.

Can I use a food processor? Personally speaking, I don’t find a food processor helpful for slicing the cabbage. By the time I set it up and cut the cabbage to just the right-sized chunks to fit in the feed tube, I could have finished slicing with my knife.

The mandolin. Makes slicing thin ribbons of cabbage a joy. | MakeSauerkraut.com
I love to use a mandolin for slicing cabbage. It makes for an easy way to get beautiful thin slices.

However, if you’re looking for a handy tool, I highly recommend buying a wide mandolin for slicing cabbage effortlessly into beautiful thin slices. I bought one a few years back and it’s now the way I slice all my cabbage. 

See Fermenting Supplies for Sauerkraut & Vegetables [The Classics, The Latest, The Greatest] for a recommended brand along with “No-Cut” safety gloves that make slicing safer when working with such a sharp blade.

Add sliced cabbage to bowl until weight is 1 3/4 pounds for a manual scale or 800 grams for a digital scale. | MakeSauerkraut.com
My old trusty manual scale - since passed onto a newbie fermenter - and my beloved digital scale weighing out 1 3/4 pounds or 800 grams of vegetables and cabbage for a 1-quart (liter) batch of sauerkraut.

Add the sliced cabbage to your bowl until the weight of vegetables and cabbage is 1¾ pounds (28 ounces, 800 grams).

Amount of cabbage for 1 tablespoon of salt. | makesauerkraut.com

You are now ready for the magic.

CHOP Notes and Tips

FUN FACT: Sauerkraut is high in digestive enzymes that help to break down starches, proteins, and fats.

STEP 3: SALT

Create Your Brine

This is the stage where you create the brine in which your sauerkraut will ferment. Believe it or not, that big bowl of sliced cabbage really will fit into your jar.

Creating the brine for your sauerkraut. | MakeSauerkraut.com

Add salt to create the brine in which your sauerkraut will ferment. Salt pulls water out of the cabbage and vegetables to create an environment where the good bacteria (mainly lactobacillus) can grow and proliferate and the bad bacteria die off.

Sprinkle with salt and mix well. | MakeSauerkraut.com
Adding salt prepared vegetables and sliced cabbage. | Thoroughly mixing in salt.

Sprinkle vegetables and cabbage with 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of salt and mix well.

Massage cabbage with strong hands until good sized puddle of brine. | MakeSauerkraut.com
Cabbage glistening as water is pulled out of the cabbage cells. | A nice puddle of brine. | Plenty of brine and ready to pack into your jar.

Massage and squeeze the vegetables with strong hands until moist, creating the brine. You should be able to tilt the bowl to the side and see a good-sized puddle of brine, about 2–3 inches in diameter. This process can take anywhere from 2 to 10 minutes.

Salt Notes and Tips

FUN FACT: Sauerkraut has high levels of Vitamin C, for collagen production and as a natural antioxidant for immune system support.

STEP 4: PACK

Pack Mixture into Jar

Your big bowl of cabbage and carrots has now shrunk to a manageable, moist mass. The brine that was created will keep your sauerkraut safe from harmful bacteria while it is fermenting. It’s time to pack the cabbage mixture into your jar.

Now that you have a puddle of brine, it’s time to pack the cabbage mixture into your jar.

Grab handfuls of cabbage mixture and pack into jar. Pour in any extra brine. | MakeSauerkraut.com
Handfuls of cabbage mixture added to jar. | Packing firmly into jar. | Pouring the precious brine into the jar.

Grab handfuls of the salty, juicy cabbage mixture and pack them into your quart-sized wide-mouth canning jar, periodically pressing the mixture down tightly with your fist or a large spoon so that the brine rises above the top of the mixture and no air pockets remain.

Use firm pressure; just enough to remove large air pockets but not so hard as to possibly break the jar.

Be sure to leave at least 1 inch of space between the top of the cabbage and the top of the jar. Because we weighed out just the right amount of cabbage to fit in your jar, this should happen automatically.

Pour any brine left in your mixing bowl into the jar and scrape out any loose bits stuck to the sides of the bowl.

It helps to hold the jar in one hand – my clean hand – and pack with the other hand, holding everything over the bowl. This helps to keep the mess to a minimum.

Push down any tidbits on the inside of the jar. | MakeSauerkraut.com
Pushing any tidbits down into the jar.

Lastly, wipe down the outside of the jar and push down any tidbits on the inside of the jar that may remain above your packed ferment. Remember: “Under the brine, makes it fine!”  🙂

PACK Notes and Tips

FUN FACT: Sauerkraut is rich in fiber for bowel health, lowering blood cholesterol and controlling blood sugar levels.

STEP 5: SUBMERGE AND SEAL

Hold Below Brine

Now that your jar has been packed with that beautiful cabbage mixture, you need to make sure it remains submerged in the brine throughout fermentation, safe from harm.

Holding the sauerkraut mixture below the brine. | MakeSauerkraut.com

Now make sure your fermenting mixture is in a safe anaerobic (no air) environment. This means that you need to keep the cabbage mixture submerged in the brine while it ferments.

Air is bad for the fermenting sauerkraut and can enable the bad bacteria to grow and proliferate, creating mold and other undesirable by-products.

Tear cabbage leaf to size and place in jar. | MakeSauerkraut.com
Different items you can use as a Floaties Trap to prevent loose bits from floating to the surface.

Floaties Trap. Take that cabbage leaf you saved in Step 1, tear it down (Or, be a bit obsessive. Trace the jar lid and cut cabbage leaf to size.) to just fit in the jar.

Forgot to save a cabbage leaf? No problem. You can fold a narrow piece of parchment paper to size or even cut an old plastic lid to size.

Place weight in jar and lightly screw lid on. | MakeSauerkraut.com
Floaties Trap added to the jar. | Small jar to act as a weight goes in next. | Lid lightly screwed on.
A jar filled with water makes a great fermentation weight. | makesauerkraut.com
If you can't find just the right small jar, you can also use a jar filled with water and capped as your weight. You won't be able to put a lid on but all is fine. You still have your packed cabbage under the brine.

To prevents bits floating to the surface, place your torn cabbage leaf over the surface of the packed cabbage.

To hold the vegetables below the brine, place the 4-ounce jelly jar on top of the cabbage leaf, right side up with its lid removed. The jar might stick out of the top of the jar a bit. Don’t worry: when you screw on the lid, it will get pressed down into place.

Lightly screw the white plastic storage lid onto the jar. By leaving the lid on somewhat loose, CO2 gases that will build up during the fermentation process can escape.

If you have lots of brine in the jar, you may have to remove some of the brine to get the lid on without the liquid overflowing.

Painter's tape and permanent marker to label jar.Sauerkraut Jar labeled with flavor and date. | MakeSauerkraut.com
Be sure to label your jar.

I like to label my jars using green or blue painter’s tape and a permanent marker. I note the flavor of sauerkraut I made and the date I started fermenting.

submerge Notes and Tips

FUN FACT: The Germans gave sauerkraut its popular name but the Germans did not invent sauerkraut.

STEP 6: FERMENT

Ferment for 2 to 4 Weeks

Now sit back and relax as the friendly bacteria eat the sugars in the cabbage and carrots, multiply, and release copious amounts of lactic acid, which creates an environment inhospitable to pathogenic bacteria, acts as a natural preservative for your ferment, and gives your sauerkraut that familiar tang.

Fermenting your sauerkraut. | MakeSauerkraut.com

It is time now for the friendly bacteria to do their work while you watch and wait. They know how to make sauerkraut FOR YOU!   🙂

Can you wait seven days to taste the tangy crunch?

During this time, the friendly bacteria that live on the vegetables will be eating the sugars in the cabbage and carrots, multiplying and releasing copious amounts of lactic acid that act as a “poison” for any of the bad bacteria. Let them work while you rest.

Jar of sauerkraut in bowl to catch brine. Microbes making bubbles during the first 24 hours. | MakeSauerkraut.com
Jar packed, sealed, and ready for fermentation. | One day later. Active with brine overflowing.

Place your jar of fermenting sauerkraut in a shallow bowl (to catch the brine that may leak out during the first week of fermentation), out of direct sunlight. 

Cover it with a towel if you’d like to, although I don’t. I enjoy watching the changes my beautiful kraut artwork undergoes over the ensuing days or weeks. I just finished packing the jar on the left; the jar on the right shows how much brine was created in just 24 hours.

The ideal fermentation temperature is between 65 and 75°F (18–23°C). The lower the temperature, the slower the fermentation. The higher the temperature, the faster the fermentation. Ideally, you want the temperature to be somewhat stable, not fluctuating more than 5 degrees in either direction.

For what to expect as your sauerkraut ferments, see SALTY Cabbage to SOUR Sauerkraut: Fermentation Signs to Monitor

The first week is when you’ll see the most action in the jar. The mixture will get bubbly and the brine will rise in the jar, likely seeping out from under the lid. Your home may even start to smell like sauerkraut! During this first week, keep an eye on the level of the brine. It will rise and fall with the temperature in the house.

If the lid is bulging or you don’t see brine seeping out, carefully loosen the lid just a tad, stopping the second you hear gases escaping or see liquid seeping.

Should the brine level fall (very unlikely) and remain below the level of the sauerkraut during this first week, dilute 1 tablespoon of salt in 2 cups of water

Extra brine for sauerkraut: 1 tablespoon salt to 2 cups water. | makesauerkraut.com

and pour some of this brine over the sauerkraut (removing the little jar first) until it just covers the mixture. Put the little jar back in, screw the lid on lightly and let the fermentation continue.

Don’t worry if the brine disappears after the 7- to 10-day mark. By this time, you’ve created a safe environment in which the bacteria that would cause mold or slime has been chased away by the beneficial bacteria produced during the fermentation process. Here’s how my jar of sauerkraut looks over time:

Sweet Garlic Sauerkraut at various stages of fermentation.

At the 1-week period, open the jar, pull out the small jar, and smell and taste your sauerkraut. At this point, you can decide to start eating it or let it ferment for bit longer.

You can ferment your sauerkraut for up to 4 weeks. The longer you ferment it, the greater the number and variety of beneficial bacteria that can be produced. Research that I’ve come across indicates that bacteria numbers peak at 21 days. Keep that in mind, but ferment for flavor. You have to like the stuff to eat it.  😀

I suggest that people ferment their first jar for 1 week, and then the next jar for 2–4 weeks, tasting it at 1-week intervals to determine the level of tang and crunch they personally prefer. See How Long to Ferment Sauerkraut?

Ferment Notes and Tips

What follows are some images readers left in the comments below for you to see the many ways that your jar of sauerkraut may look.

Readers' sauerkraut in action. | makesauerkraut.com
Readers' images of their batches of sauerkraut.
FUN FACT: Sauerkraut originated nearly 2,000 years ago in ancient China. In summer, slaves building the Great Wall of China lived on cabbage and rice. In winter, the cabbage was preserved with rice wine which soured the cabbage to keep thousands of laborers healthy in the worst of conditions.

STEP 7: STORE

Store in Refrigerator for up to One Year

After your sauerkraut has fermented to your liking, it’s time to move it to cold storage until you are ready to effortlessly add its probiotic-rich flavors to your meals.

Sauerkraut stored in the fridge. | MakeSauerkraut.com

After fermenting your sauerkraut, it’s time to move it to the refrigerator and is ready to be eaten. Refrigeration slows the fermentation process to the point where you won’t notice significant changes in texture.

Rinse off the outside of the jar. You can take the little jar out. Clean the rim if necessary (sometimes it can get sticky from the brine that overflows), and screw the lid back on tightly.

Add to your label how long you fermented the contents.

Enjoy a forkful or two of your sauerkraut with your meals. It will continue to ferment – aging like a fine wine – but at a much slower rate that before. If the flavors are too intense, leave it – in your refrigerator – for a month or two and then sample it. You will be amazed at how the flavors have changed.

If successfully fermented (tastes and smells good), your sauerkraut can be kept preserved in your refrigerator for up to a year.

Store Notes and Tips

FUN FACT: The heat processing of canned sauerkraut destroys live probiotics and viable digestive enzymes.

The Best Part

ENJOY! ENJOY! ENJOY!

With a jar of sauerkraut at the ready in your refrigerator, you will be able to effortlessly add an extra dimension to any meal, unlocking flavors you never knew existed and reaping the added bonus of improved digestion to supercharge your health. 

Enjoying some homemade sauerkraut. | MakeSauerkraut.com

When trying to incorporate sauerkraut into your diet, keep it simple. And remember, if you want to take advantage the benefits of lacto-fermented sauerkraut, don’t destroy the good enzymes and probiotics by heating your sauerkraut. 

It’s fine to stir sauerkraut into a warm bowl of soup or sprinkle some on the top of your meal, you just don’t want to cook or bake with it. 

Or… if your favorite recipe calls for sauerkraut, just be sure to serve some uncooked sauerkraut alongside it. The best of both worlds.

Here are a few ways to enjoy your tasty, probiotic-rich sauerkraut!

Ways to eat sauerkraut. | makesauerkraut.com
Passion Pink Sauerkraut with oranges. | Firecracker Sauerkraut with eggs. | Sauerkraut on a hot dog. | Sweet Garlic Sauerkraut on its own.

Condiment to the Main Meal

The easiest way to add sauerkraut to your diet is as a condiment. It pairs well with almost anything.

Don’t like cold sauerkraut? Try to remember to pull it out of the refrigerator as you begin to prepare the meal.

Almost Instant Salad

In a bowl, mix lettuce, a few forkfuls of sauerkraut, some brine, a splash of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon and a fresh ground black pepper. For a more filling salad, add chunks of cheese or leftover meat.

Quick Pick-Me-Up

Have that afternoon slump and wish you could take a nap? Try a few bites of sauerkraut – yes, you can eat it right out of the jar – and see if you are soon re-energized.

Hot Dog!

Last, but not least: add sauerkraut to that hot dog for the classic combination and for a bit of heat, add a sprinkle of red pepper powder, the same powder that is used to make kimchi.

For more than 7 – it’s an ever-expanding list – ideas see: 7 Easy Ways to Eat Sauerkraut

ENJOY Notes and Tips

FUN FACT: In the 18th century, explorers like Captain Cook used sauerkraut to prevent scurvy during long sea voyages, bringing as much as 25,000 pounds of the Vitamin-C rich ferment along on voyages.

Below is a quick summary of the recipe.

How to make sauerkraut in a jar. | MakeSauerkraut.com

How to Make Sauerkraut in a Jar [THE COMPLETE GUIDE]

FERMENTATION LENGTH: 1-4 weeks

This is a quick summary of the recipe above.
For a PDF version of this recipe, including all the Notes and Tips, scroll to the end of this recipe inset. 

Course Breakfast, Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine Fermented, Paleo, Primal, Vegan, Vegetarian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Fermentation Length 21 days
Servings 28 - 1 ounce (30 grams)
Calories 7 kcal
Author Holly Howe

You Will Need

Ingredients

  • 1 medium head fresh green cabbage, 2 ½–3 pounds (1 kg)
  • 2-3 carrots
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 1 level tablespoon (15 ml) iodine-free salt (fine-grain)

Supplies

Instructions

1 SETUP: GATHER SUPPLIES & SET UP SCALE

Using a scale to make your sauerkraut will ensure that you add the correct amount of salt for a safe fermentation environment.

  1. Pull together all the ingredients and equipment listed above.

  2. You don’t want to include the weight of your bowl in your measurements, so either zero out the scale (usually done with a button on a digital scale or a knob under the tray on a mechanical scale) or write down the weight of your bowl (tare).

2 PREP: CHOP YOUR VEGETABLES AND CABBAGE

Now that you have everything you need on hand and your scale is ready for weighing, it’s time to prepare those vegetables for fermentation. You will end up with 1¾ pounds (28 oz or 800 g) of vegetables and cabbage in your bowl.

  1. Prep carrots and garlic. Peel and grate two to three carrots. Add these to the bowl. Finely mince two to three garlic cloves and add these to the bowl, too.

  2. Slice your cabbage. Quarter the cabbage, leaving the core in, though you won’t end up actually slicing the core. Place a cabbage quarter on one of its sides and slice the cabbage crosswise. Aim for narrow ribbons, which will produce liquid faster—and ferment more quickly—than wider-cut ribbons. Slice until just the core remains.

  3. Add sliced cabbage to your bowl until the weight of your vegetables and cabbage is 1¾ pounds (28 oz or 800 g). I find it easiest to work in grams

3 SALT: CREATE YOUR BRINE

This is the stage where you create the brine in which your sauerkraut will ferment. Believe it or not, that big bowl of sliced cabbage really will fit into your jar.

  1. Sprinkle vegetables and cabbage with 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of salt—16 grams, if weighing—and mix well. Don’t rush this step. You want to ensure that the salt is evenly distributed. For me, once I’m sure it is well mixed, I stop and clean up my workspace. By leaving the salted cabbage to sit in the bowl while I do so, I’m letting the salt start to pull the moisture out of the cabbage, making the next task simple and rather pleasurable.

  2. Massage and squeeze the vegetables with strong hands until moist, creating the brine. The mixture will shrink in size and want to clump together. You should be able to tilt the bowl to the side and see a good-sized puddle of brine, about 2–3 inches (5–8 cm) in diameter. This process can take anywhere from 2 to 10 minutes.

4 PACK: PACK MIXTURE INTO JAR

Your big bowl of cabbage and carrots has now shrunk to a manageable, moist mass. Now that you have a puddle of brine, it’s time to pack the cabbage mixture into your jar.

  1. Grab handfuls of the salty, juicy cabbage mixture and pack it into your 1-quart (1 L) wide-mouth canning jar, periodically pressing the mixture down firmly with your fist or a large spoon so that the brine rises above the top of the mixture and no air pockets remain.

    Be sure to leave at least 1–2 inches between the top of the packed cabbage and the top of the jar.

  2. Pour any brine left in your mixing bowl into the jar and scrape out any loose bits stuck to the sides of the bowl.

  3. Lastly, wipe down the outside of the jar and push down any tidbits on the inside of the jar that may remain above your packed ferment.

5 SUBMERGE & SEAL: HOLD BELOW BRINE

Now that your jar has been packed with that beautiful cabbage mixture, you need to make sure it remains submerged in the brine throughout fermentation, safe from harm.

  1. Floaties trap. Take that cabbage leaf you saved earlier and tear it down to just fit in the jar. Place over the surface of the packed cabbage.

  2. Fermentation weight. To hold the vegetables below the brine, place the 4-ounce jelly jar (or your weight of choice) on top of the cabbage leaf, right side up with its lid removed. It might stick out of the top of the jar a bit, but don’t worry—when you screw on the lid, it will get pressed down into place.

  3. Lid. Lightly screw the white plastic storage lid onto the jar. Leaving the lid a bit loose allows for the escape of the CO2 gases that will build up during the first few days of fermentation.

6 FERMENT: FERMENT FOR 1-4 WEEKS

Now sit back and relax as the friendly bacteria eat the sugars in the cabbage and carrots, multiply, and release copious amounts of lactic acid, which creates an environment inhospitable to pathogenic bacteria, acts as a natural preservative for your ferment, and gives your sauerkraut that familiar tang.

  1. Label your artwork. Label your jar with the flavor of sauerkraut you made and the date you started fermenting it.

  2. Place your jar of fermenting sauerkraut in a shallow bowl to catch any brine that may leak out during the first week of fermentation.

7 STORE: STORE IN REFRIGERATOR FOR UP TO 1 YEAR

After your sauerkraut has fermented to your liking, it’s time to move it to cold storage until you are ready to effortlessly add its probiotic-rich flavors to your meals.

  1. Rinse off the outside of the jar and remove the little jar, or whatever weight you used. Leave the cabbage leaf in place until you start eating from your jar of sauerkraut. Clean any sticky brine off the rim and jar, and screw the lid back on tightly. If you used a special airlock lid, replace it with a simple lid.

  2. Add the fermentation time to your label. It is always nice to know how long a batch fermented, so you can adjust for future batches

  3. Place at a handy location in your refrigerator. Seeing your jar of sauerkraut when you open the refrigerator is a nice reminder to add it to your meals.

ENJOY! ENJOY! ENJOY! ENJOY! ENJOY!

  1. Enjoy a forkful or two of your sauerkraut with your meals. It will continue to ferment—aging like a fine wine—but at a much slower rate than before.

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Taking the Guesswork Out of Fermentation

Frequently Asked Questions

In this section, I answer some of your most frequent questions about fermentation.

How to make sauerkraut in a jar, useful tips. | MakeSauerkraut.com

What is the best temperature to ferment at?

The ideal fermentation temperature for producing sauerkraut with the most complex flavors is between 65 and 70 °F (18–21 °C). Ideally, you want the temperature to be somewhat stable, not fluctuating more than 5 °F (3 °C) in either direction.

If you live in a warm climate, many are able to create a cooler space using an ice chest with frozen jugs of water. See 11 Cool Fermentation Tips for Hot Weather for further details. 

Is my home fermented sauerkraut safe to eat?

Yes. Very.

During fermentation, the bacteria eat the sugars in the vegetables and cabbage and make lactic acid, the vinegar-like tang you taste when you eat fermented vegetables. As this happens, the pH of your jar of sauerkraut is lowered to a range at which harmful bacteria cannot survive. The result is a safe, preserved, ready-to-eat ferment containing trillions of beneficial bacteria. 

As longs as the color of your cabbage has faded from bright to dull green, there are no noxious, knock-your-socks-off odors (you’ll know), and it tastes tangy (somewhat like vinegar), it is perfectly safe to eat.

How do I protect my sauerkraut from mold?

Mold grows from mold spores that are present everywhere in the air and begin growing when they land on a wet surface that has nutrients (such as your bits floating on the surface of your ferment). They can actually survive in acidic foods so it’s not necessarily the acidity that deters them.

To reduce the chances of mold growing on your sauerkraut, keep it under the brine, use the right amount of salt, and ferment at ideal temperatures. Here are some ideas for how to keep your ferment below the brine:

3 Key Items for Keeping Your Ferments Safe [BELOW THE BRINE]

Why is my sauerkraut dry?

You can end up with a batch of dry sauerkraut for many reasons, the most common ones being fermenting with old cabbage, not including moisture-rich vegetables in your sauerkraut, and fermenting in the smaller environment of a jar (a good way to learn) vs. a large crock.

I have a complete post devoted to this—Dry Sauerkraut? 17 Transformative Tips—with many more tips and suggestions. Here are a few:

Use fresh cabbage. Even though cabbage is approximately 92% water, if it is June and you’re about to make a batch of sauerkraut, that cabbage has most likely been in cold storage for 6 months and will have lost much of its moisture. 

Loss of moisture means less brine. The closer to harvest that you purchase your cabbage—and make sauerkraut—the more brine it will produce and the less chance there is of dry sauerkraut.

Add moisture-rich vegetables. The carrots in this recipe add valuable moisture—and flavor. When you’re packing your jar, it you don’t have enough brine, that’s the time to add moisture. You could add the juice from one lemon or some grated radish. 

Graduate to fermenting in a water-sealed ceramic crock. I love the ease and simplicity of fermenting in a jar, but the larger environment of a crock can be a game changer, both in flavor and moisture. 

In addition, brine levels ebb and flow throughout the fermentation process and with temperature fluctuations. There will be copious brine during the first active phase of fermentation and less during the later, quiet stages of fermentation. Water is naturally pulled back into the cells of the cabbage in the cold of your refrigerator. 

How will I know when my sauerkraut is done fermenting?

Easy answer? When the taste and crunch is to your liking. Taste along the way to understand how the flavors evolve over time. 

Yes, you are introducing air into your jar but this is a learning process. Just wait until your past the 7-day mark so as to not disturb the crucial first stages. When done tasting, just repack and push everything back below the brine. 

You do want to ferment for at least 7-10 days to make sure the bacteria have produced enough lactic acid and the pH of your ferment has dropped to a safe level (below pH 4.0). 

If you’re trying to “maximize” the probiotic count—which I’m not sure exactly how/if this is done—one study points to 21 days as being where numbers peaked. 

Can I ferment without salt, or make a low-sodium sauerkraut?

Salt is used to establish a safe fermentation environment. You cannot ferment without it. 

When you mix salt in with your sliced cabbage, the good guys (the salt-tolerant bacteria) grow, thrive, and convert sugars naturally present in vegetables into lactic acid, the preservative. This lactic acid then lowers the pH of your ferment to create an environment in which the salt-phobic, pathogenic bacteria cannot live.

Microbiologists have studied the growth of pathogenic—harmful—bacteria and beneficial bacteria in fermentation and have determined that this process safely unfolds at a salinity range (created by the amount of salt you add) of 1.5% to 2.5%. 

This is why I have you use a scale to weigh your vegetables and cabbage and then add the right amount of salt to create this recommended salinity range.

Calculating the amount of salt you add by using a measuring spoon generally works, but is dependent upon the accuracy of your measuring spoon and the type of salty you’re using. Weighing your salt is even better. For instructions on how to do so, see:

Salt by Weight for Delicious Sauerkraut… Batch after Batch

A low-sodium sauerkraut can be made at the low end of this range (1.5%). For a safe fermentation environment, I do not recommend going any lower. 

How long will my sauerkraut last for in the refrigerator?

A jar of sauerkraut should easily last a year, or longer. That’s the beauty of fermentation. You can enjoy the fruits of your labor—and the work of the microscopic bacteria—for many months. 

You can stock your fridge with vegetables fermented at their peak of freshness and then enjoy them throughout the year. Traditionally, sauerkraut was made in the fall for consumption throughout winter when fresh vegetables were scarce. 

Now It's Your Turn

What was the most helpful thing you learned?

The importance of weighing your ingredients?

How to keep your ferment below the brine?

Simple ways to add sauerkraut to your diet?

Or, maybe you have a question about something you read.

Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below right now. 

BONUS PDF: The Complete Guide + Mini Course

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