Introduction: Easy Sauerkraut

Picture of Easy Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut made at home has live probiotics for your GI tract health, good source of Vitamin C (or why Viking raiders didn't get scurvy on long sea journeys, despite having no citrus), has no nasty phthalates or BPA from can liners because it isn't canned, and is very economical. If people knew how easy it is to make, no one would ever buy it. So here goes!

Step 1: Tools and Materials

Picture of Tools and Materials

You will need:

- fresh cabbage,
- a way to shred it finely
(a food processor, or a hand-crank cone shredder of good quality, are both easy and quick), - salt
[so far as I can tell, it doesn't much matter what kind you use. That's a personal taste issue. It all makes kraut, because the purpose is allow fermentation by lactic acid-producing bacteria rather than spoilage by other bacteria, and all salt will do this]

The proportion of salt to cabbage I follow is roughly
3 TBSP salt to every 5 lbs cabbage.
I know that Kosher salt will measure differently than standard table salt, but Kraut is so forgiving, it really doesn't seem to matter. Let taste be your guide, and use less than the full amount, then taste, and add the rest if it seems desirable.


-a place to store it.
I use a glass gallon pickle jar, and it holds 4-5 heads of cabbage. Others may use a food-grade plastic bucket (but is there *really* such a thing as a food-safe plastic? Inquiring minds, wonder.) or if you are lucky, you have a stoneware or wooden crock specially made for pickling and fermenting. You will need something to weight the kraut down with, but more on that later.
It needs to be at a cool temperature, ideally in the 60-degree range, but can tolerate anything except "wam" and "cold" at which point, it will either spoil because it's warm enough that other microbes take over, or it will cease fermenting properly because it's too cold. That's why kraut was traditionally made in the fall. I keep my jar in the northeast corner of the basement. If you are unsure of the temperature you are keeping it at, a cheap weather thermometer helps. Just set it by the jar. Over about 75 or under about 60 degrees F may yield poor results.

Step 2: Shred Your Cabbage

Picture of Shred Your Cabbage

The cone shredder I have is one I bought from a West Bend Waterless Cooker demonstration, and I paid an embarrassing sum for it, but it has been worth it over the years. The cones aren't sharp enough to cut my fingers, never need sharpening, yet somehow do the job effortlessly. I admit to being stupefied. It's a heavy, gleaming hunk of chrome, and can go through a whole head of cabbage in short order, and 4 heads of cabbage before I get tired. You may find a food processor does the trick for you. But in case you have a cone shredder, use the slit cone, because that makes lacy shreds perfect for coleslaw and sauerkraut both.

I can't imagine how much work this would be, trying to slice the cabbage by hand. A mandoline might also work well for this though not as fast.

Step 3: Add Salt and Seeds (if You Like Seeds)

Picture of Add Salt and Seeds (if You Like Seeds)

Once you have your cabbage shredded, place it in a large nonreactive container and add your salt and, if desired, caraway, dill, or other savory seeds. I added dill seeds I grew and harvested last summer, and caraway I bought. You can also add seeds to half the batch and leave the other half plain, and ferment separately in jars. It's all up to you.

Step 4: Mix It Up

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And, if you have any, pour a little left over kraut juice into your new batch. This will get things going faster. Kind of like sourdough in that respect.

Step 5: Pack It, Punch It, and Weight It Down (oh Nooo...)

Picture of Pack It, Punch It, and Weight It Down (oh Nooo...)

If any time elapsed between salting and mixing it, and packing it into the fermentation jar, you will probably notice the texture is changing already, and there is more liquid forming. That liquid is good. As you pack it into the jar, punch it down and let the liquid rise over the cabbage.

Then place something on top to keep the cabbage submerged under the liquid, such as a clean smooth stone, a plate with a weight on it if you are using a bucket, or a smaller jar full of the same liquid (in case a spill happens) as I have shown here.

Then cover against flies and dust, with cloth or loosely placed lid.

Step 6: Find a Cool Spot

Picture of Find a Cool Spot

Place your jar somewhere protected from light, where it will be cool, but not cold. I use the northeast corner of the dirt-floored basement now that the weather is warmer, but in winter, the kitchen counter is fine. A thermometer can tell you if your kitchen counter is fine (think 60-65 degrees) or not (80 degrees is definitely too hot, and much below 50 may retard fermentation).

Depending on whether it ferments at the warmer or cooler range, and how much salt was in it, it may be ready in little more than a week, or it may take a month or longer. Taste it, smell it. If it smells and tastes like yummy kraut to you, it's ready. I noticed the color change to yellowish as it matured.

At that point, I transferred the contents to quart jars to cap and keep in the fridge, but you can also keep the remainder in the jar in the cool spot to continue developing. Since all fermentation is essentially going bad in a way we find good, use your own senses to judge what is ready.

This stuff is great in sandwiches, as a condiment, alone, in soups, and as a gift. Don't forget to save some juice to speed up the next batch!


offseid made it! (author)2016-09-26

Just finished a 4-week batch of sauerkraut and it's great! Keeping all the cabbage under the brine is key. This time I used a baggie filled with brine (in case it opened). Cabbage is not as crunchy as 1-week sauerkraut but has much more probiotic goodness. :)

megmaine (author)offseid2016-09-26

Glad to hear you had success, and I hope you continue to enjoy making your own sauerkraut, and check out some of the interesting variations others have shared here on Instructables, too! :) I agree that the degree of crunchiness does seem to be inverse to the degree of fermentation. Sometimes if a kraut batch seems to go soft too quickly, it can mean it will not hold long before spoiling, and in that case, using it up quickly may be a good idea. Thanks for sharing your success!

fritsie123 (author)2009-04-05

With the pictures you made this is so easy, even I can do this! :-) Can this be done with any type of cabbage? I'm thinking red cabbage could be interesting. I'll have to find a large glass pot and just try it, I guess.

megmaine (author)fritsie1232009-04-05

I'm so glad it was helpful! Yes, you can use any type of cabbage, and red is great also, making a very pretty kraut with extra antioxidants. In fact, there is even such a thing as Turnip Kraut, but I will refer you to the Wild Fermentation book or website (by Sandor Ellix Katz) because the book is how I learned to make this and much more. Let us know how it was, when you do it! It is amazing how easy some of these "lost arts" are, that I now wonder why they ever got lost in the first place.

fritsie123 (author)megmaine2009-04-15

I followed your description exactly, except I used red cabbage. Now I have a pot full of purple soon-to-be-kraut. So far everything seems OK. I can hardly wait! I'll follow up with a taste test! :-)

just BTW,

Kraut == Cabbage

Sauer == Sour


megmaine (author)fritsie1232009-04-15

Congratulations! Now all you have to do is keep it cool and dark. A cheap room thermometer set next to your pot should tell you whether it's in a cool enough spot. You want to keep it below 70 for sure. One thing I have noticed, is when mine tastes ready, it turns from fresh whitish green, to yellow. I wonder if the acidification from the fermentation will also turn your purple kraut to a pink color? I suspect it will, but do let us know! And remember, if it ferments at the warmer end of the temperature range, it will be ready sooner, but if it ferments cooler, it will take longer, and have perhaps a more complex flavor. Can't wait to hear how it went!

fritsie123 (author)megmaine2009-05-24

I've just tasted the red kraut. It is very sour when raw! I'll cook some for dinner tonight, see how that goes. Taste is pleasant enough, but it should be a bit more mild... The color is still purple, but less intense now than at the start. I'm not sure how long it has been ready. To be honest I kind of forgot the jar in the closet :-)

megmaine (author)fritsie1232009-05-24

The sourness reflects the degree of fermentation (which produces natural vinegar as fermentation continues) and the amount of salt, which both slows fermentation, and tends to mollify the degree to which sourness is tasted. Sugar also will make things taste less sour. So, if it is too sour for you, you may have left it fermenting longer than you would wish to next time, or add more salt. As to rawness, raw is the usual state that sauerkraut is consumed, and is one reason it is so healthful. Cooking destroys much of the vitamin C depending on length of cooking and temperature, as well as the beneficial lactobacilli probiotics. However, heating it through has also been a traditional way to consume it. But anyway, unless your closet was 60 or at most 65 degrees F, it was probably fermenting quite fast, and you would get a high degree of acidity in very little time compared to kraut that had been sitting in a cool winter basement. If it tastes good otherwise, but is just too sour, I would add a little sweetening of your choice, and possibly some dill seeds or caraway seeds, and stick it in the fridge to slow down the progress of the fermentation, and try to eat it before it gets past the point of palatability according to your taste. Congratulations on your first step in a journey of discovery! You'll probably get a feel for what degree of fermentedness tastes best to you, by going back to your fermenting kraut frequently and tasting the contents periodically. When it tastes right, that's when to transfer to the fridge (unless you have a nice chilly cellar to keep it in instead!). It won't last forever in your fridge either, but will last a lot longer there than if left in a warm room. Do you have a picture of your fascinating purple kraut to share? I think it would be fun to serve purple kraut with other food at a party... maybe with blue borage flowers in the salad, and purple califlower and blue corn chips. Spaceship food, or Halloween food, or maybe a Parrothead tye-dyed picnic. Food for thought anyway! :) -Meg

megmaine (author)fritsie1232009-05-13

Yes, red cabbage makes a sort of wild pink kraut that may resemble science fiction food. Fun to serve at parties! Plus more bioflavonoids.

krowii (author)fritsie1232009-04-06

Korean kimchi uses endless varieties of vegetables. I second megmaine, Sandor Katz is awesome (

tonygoffe (author)2009-10-17

Hi, I love sauerkraut ..from my days at junior college in Miami in the 60's..  but  living in Jamaica, where the temp is never below 70 F in the house, so by what you say, it would NEVER ferment??  .. the fridge runs at least 35-40 F, so, THAT's too cold ? Any suggestions?     Oh, let me say that this is the MOST useful site I have come across, bar none !    This is particularly for those living in the developing countries where one often has to "make do"   tonyJamaica

Tigertame4 (author)tonygoffe2012-04-29

maybe an ice chest? You could put jars of cool water in to keep it the correct temp.

megmaine (author)tonygoffe2009-10-17

Jamaica has its own glorious fermented traditions, not just ginger beer, but also fruits and root vegetables. The beauty of fermentation lies in its infinite versatility and availability in every part of the world, without the need for expensive equipment or electricity. You just have to choose fermented foods that work in your region and by the seasons there (Sauerkraut isn't traditionally made in summer even in the cold-climate regions of its origin).

If you want a similar dish to sauerkraut that you can make in Jamaica, you can check out my instructable on Tsukemono, which is a Japanese fermented cabbage that is done in days rather than weeks and can be made even in tropical climates. However, unless cabbages grow in Jamaica, it may be better to discover your region's unique treasure of fermented traditions that people in colder climates cannot easily duplicate.

Hope this helps, and I do hope you will share with us what you discover of Jamaica's wealth of fermented food traditions!

megmaine (author)megmaine2009-10-17

Oh, and to add: you can probably make sauerkraut at 70 degrees, but you run the risk of other microbes taking over. It may or may not come out as you like.

henryinpanama (author)megmaine2010-04-02

I have been making sauerkraut and kimchee for years at 80+ degrees with never a problem. Sauerkraut makes in about a week at that temperature.

offseid (author)henryinpanama2011-09-05

Just finishing my first batch (6 days now, will wait one or two more) in the tropics of Malaysia. I've kept the kraut in the back of a kitchen cabinet. And it tastes fantastic! So I can vouch for what Henry says. Thanks for a great Instructable.

henryinpanama (author)tonygoffe2010-04-01

I make sauerkraut and kimchee all the time here in Panama. The only effect of the higher temperature is that the kraut makes quicker. Go for it.


drawe21 (author)tonygoffe2009-11-06

Dig a hole 2 or 3 feet down in the sand/dirt.  The temp will be 50 to 60 deg F. (Think Kimchi)

Quester55 (author)2011-10-30

If you really want an extra treat, at the start, add Fresh Onions {Whole} & or Cucumbers {Pickles} At the top, As well as extra water to cover all. This is best when using Crocks of 3 Gal. or larger Mom's was a whom-ping 20 Gal. size, Purchased at an old cannery. In some cases, Whiskey or Wine barrows could work.

Quester55 (author)2011-10-30

If using a Crock, My mom had a Wood Disk Cut 2'' Thick from a Fresh Black Oak Log about 1 1/2 " smaller than the opening of the Crock to keep our Burlap covering & the cabbage in place. The wood was Air Cured & dried before use.

Quester55 (author)2011-10-30

Whenever we made Sauerkraut mom would get out a wooden slide cutter made for that purpose. These were large slicers but better to use than those Cheep plastic versions Ronco sold. The blades were made with Demaskus steel ? [Spelling maybe off] & needed to be washed & dried carefully for storage, but would retain a cutting edge better than most blades today. Just enter Cabbage Cutters on search & you'll find all kinds. Note, Cheaper isn't always better. as for Crocks, Check out your local Farm Supply Stores, Even your local Co-Ops Can get you one. Mine is rated at 3 Gal. is over 1 inch thick & has lasted me more than 20 years.

AR10NZ (author)2011-06-03

As a kraut / kimchee fan, my wife & I made about 1 1/2 gallons of kimchee 3 weeks ago. A neighbour came over, acted as official weigher of salt, finished off the last of last years kimchee ( still finely preserved in the fridge). She pronounced it " Yummy ! " We make it in the autumn, with Jereusalem artichokes, chokos, apples, garlic, onion, green onion, ginger, chillies, and nettles. We ferment in large glass jars, placed in buckets, in hot water closet. Jars are " semi sealed " with a plastic bag filled with water, which allows the CO2 produced to force some of the liquid out, to be retained in said bucket. Start to finish is short. Cheers, AR10NZ.

{tauney} (author)2010-01-25

Slicing by hand isn't that bad, so long as you have a sharp knife. I did two heads in under five minutes. Of course, I also cook for a living.

lubinka (author){tauney}2010-02-18

but honestly, if you use cabbage for your salads, it IS an easy task :-)

WanderingOak (author)2009-10-13

My Grandfather's parents were from the old country. Their traditional family recipe involved mixing shredded apples (peeled and cored) in with the Kraut. I have a spare brew-bucket, so I need to try this sometime. I would think an airlock would be useful, as pressure builds up. I'm surprised your glass jar didn't shatter, unless the lid was less than finger-tight.

megmaine (author)WanderingOak2009-10-14

Oh, my glass jar doesn't shatter because it isn't desirable or necessaryto seal it up. A cloth tied on with twine to keep out dust and bugs isall that is needed, or else a loosely placed lid that is merely set ontop and not screwed down.
Definitely no tight lids, as the gasses from the fermentation do need to escape!

Calis (author)megmaine2010-01-02

I think I may try this.  I will want a tight lid though to ensure no pests get in, so I will probably drill the lid and insert an airlock from my wine making supplies.

tonygoffe (author)2009-11-09

Drawe21, and Megmaine,  not close to sand(the coast) but will do the soil thing)   ...I know this is not a social-networking site, but .."Hi, "Megmaine",.. ( is that Meg from Maine )...looks like you've visited my home.. yes, we do grow cabbages here, and blueberries up in the 5-7000 ft Blue Mts. I, however, only  live at 2200ft up in the central hills, and used to process smoked marlin with a clod-smoke process. ( about to re-start with chicken and pork)...  At present, I "mine" and process local agates and jasper..  I'm thinking of doing a recipe, for here, but most of the ingredients are difficult to obtain in Maine (??)  Do you have an instructable on how to write an auto-biography ? I had a "sad-happy-life-changing-all-about-a-girl-and-international-travel" experience in the late 70's, time flies, the LESS serious it seems, retrospectively..some parts now REALLY hiarious! ( Youth wasted on the Young??  Oh yeah! )   Recipes..  Pimento Liquer, Mango Chutney, guava jams..etc any enquiries abt Ja. history, fruits, cooking traditions, etc..  I'll try and answer  (..Its OK, I have a Great anti-spam device my nephew in Wyoming set up for me..)  One Love from Ja.          p.s. INSTRUCTABLES IS AN amazing SITE..Pls continue.... 

krissi (author)2009-10-13

I enjoyed reading your insrtuctions on how to make homemade sauerkraut !I have been making sauekraut for yrs and will never buy sauerkraut again in the stores. It is so much less salty and you just can't beat the great taste of it! What we do is use 5 gallon pails to store the sauerkraut while it is fermenting. We use a large wooden shredder with a blade to slice the cabbage into smaller pieces. Then put that into the pail and we have a wooden stomper that we use to stomp down the cabbage adding pickling salt into  the layers of cabbage. About 2 tablespoons on each layer.When the pail is 3/4 full I cover it with cabbage leaves, add a plate on top of that ,then filled a empty milk jug filled with water to lay that on the plate. Now everything is weighed down. I ferment the kraut for 3- 6 wks checking it everyday. Also I check and scoop off any foam each day until ready. When it is ready we put the kraut in freezer bags and we freeze it.

megmaine (author)krissi2009-10-14

Thanks for the great description for a larger amount!

Do be aware that freezing may kill any or all of the probiotic bacteriathat are beneficial to your gut health and immune function, although itpreserves more nutrients than canning or other heat processing would.

However, it does store a fairly long time in a jar in the refrigeratorin case that is helpful, and if you have a sufficiently chilly basement,you can store the whole 5 gallons safely there, and eat it throughoutthe winter as they used to do before basements were overheated byfurnaces. The length of time it will keep depends on being stored in acold enough space, and having enough salt.

JettaKnight (author)2009-10-01

Kosher salt doesn't dissolve well in cold water. Pickling or canning salt is a wise choice for this. The salt concentration is key for creating the right "envrionment" that is inhospitable for nasty bacteria.
Here's an equation that ilustrates
9T of Morton Kosher Salt = 8T Morton Canning & Pickling Salt

megmaine (author)JettaKnight2009-10-09

Thanks for the helpful conversion and advice!
I haven't actually found dissolution in cold water to be an issue, since I don't "dissolve" the salt in water... I just mix it with the cabbage and it dissolves itself over time as the cabbage juices out. Kosher salt was just the kind I had to hand when I made the Instructable.

But it's great to have the conversion factor right there, thanks!
For those who might worry over it, my personal experience has been that it hardly seems to matter what salt I use, so long as I don't use too much or too little (there is a lot of room for variation there before it affects the kraut adversely), so let your tastebuds be your guide.

If you find iodized salt tastes objectionable, don't use it, and if you feel that gourmet sea salt adds that special something, go for it. But it all makes kraut. Still, good to note that the different coarsenesses will affect the amount, so use tastebuds as well as general measure.

JettaKnight (author)2009-10-01

Clean your hands thoroughly to avoid introducing anything nasty at this stage.

meowmeowcatcat (author)2009-07-29

I've never tried sauerkraut before, but I love kimchi! Does kimchi have the same taste as sauerkraut, save for the spiciness?

megmaine (author)meowmeowcatcat2009-07-30

Not the same, but if you already enjoy fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut by comparison would taste like a mild fermented pickle. Imagine kimchi without garlic, ginger, or pepper, and it's similar (but who wants to imagine kimchi like that?) Sauerkraut is a basic element of German cooking much as kimchi is basic to Korean cooking. Kraut goes really well with many German dishes. If you want to try good sauerkraut as your first experience, try to get some either homemade or else handcrafted artisanal kraut, or failing that, some of the refrigerated fresh deli type. Supermarket canned would be the least likely to impress the palate. Happy gastronomic adventuring! -Meg

Yerboogieman (author)2009-07-27

I like to eat sauerkraut plain from the jar. Kinda like spam.

megmaine (author)Yerboogieman2009-07-28

It is delicious as a pickle in its own right, isn't it?

Yerboogieman (author)megmaine2009-07-28

It's really good on Ruben sandwiches with thousand island dressing.

Hvysteel (author)2009-07-19

I've always wanted to do this but just haven't made the time yet. One question, how long does this keep?

megmaine (author)Hvysteel2009-07-21

In the refrigerator, several weeks to several months depending on temperature, whether you reach in with unwashed hands or a clean utensil, and how ripe your kraut was when it first went in the fridge.

shouldhavezagged (author)2009-04-05

The BBD reference in the title of step 5 cracked me up! :-) I'm favoriting this. Someone was selling fermented sauerkraut @ our local green market and charging $8 for a quart jar.

cerene (author)shouldhavezagged2009-07-18

Now I was thinking Cypress Hill.... :)

cerene (author)shouldhavezagged2009-07-20

*Forehead Smack* I knew that!
But what popped into my head was Cypress Hill's Hits From The Bong. "Pick it, Pack it, fire it kinda has the same cadence.
We must both be old. :)

Cycrolus (author)2009-07-20

Awesome I need to try this.

MadBricoleur (author)2009-07-17

Mmmm... Mmmmm... Goodd... looks tasty! I want to try this. :D Does it taste like commercial sauerkraut?

Very detailed 'ible. 5* and FAVED!

megmaine (author)MadBricoleur2009-07-18

Thank you! As for the flavor, I find it vastly superior to commercial sauerkraut, which is sold either canned, or at least pasteurized. The 'deli' type, which is pasteurized but not canned, tastes closer to homemade but isn't as healthful. The nicest thing about making it yourself is, you can customize it to your own preference by tweaking the salt, adding a little sugar and caraway if you like Sweet Bavarian Style Sauerkraut, adding dill seeds for a more dill pickle taste, etc. This stuff makes fabulous deli sandwiches such as Reubens and is good on any sandwich or wrap where pickles would be used. Also a good accompaniment to baked beans. The kraut juice is also great in vinaigrette, certain marinades, and taken straight to help settle a sick stomach. I must credit Sandor Ellix Katz and his book "Wild Fermentation" with my discovery, enjoyment, and success with sauerkraut, kimchi, and other wonders of home fermentation. Thanks for your feedback and very glad you enjoyed this instructable! -Meg

Lintballoon (author)megmaine2009-07-18

I got Sandor's book too, and tried kraut with it. It was so easy, and sooooo good! You can make "Preserved Lemons" in a very similar way, by quartering lemons and salting them. I did those in the fridge and in about 3 weeks they turned into gooey, salty, yummy lemon great for use in cooking.

sheepishlion (author)2009-07-18

A pic of my sauerkraut. 1 purple cabbage, 2 green cabbage and about 5 lb of carrots. Great Instructable.

About This Instructable




Bio: Raising and educating several children over a wide range of ages with my husband and learning along with them as a way of life.
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