Homemade sauerkraut is easy to make with just 2 ingredients. Let time do its work and sooner or later you’ll have a delicious probiotic-rich lacto-fermented food.
This salty sour low-carb vegetable recipe is naturally low-carb and sugar-free making it a great option for anyone interested in healthy eating.
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Why Make Homemade Sauerkraut?
Sauerkraut with red or green cabbage is a vibrantly complex food that really titillates the taste buds.
Don’t be confused by the sauerkraut you may have seen in a can on the grocery shelf, what we are taking about here is a lively combination of naturally fermented organic cabbage and salt.
It might not sound like much but through the process of lacto-fermentation, this becomes a soft, spritzy vegetable side.
Raw sauerkraut caught my attention back in 2008 and I’ve been making it ever since. It’s easy to make, budget-friendly, and pairs well with everything.
Not too long ago, there was a period of time when I sold it locally in a health food shop. Homemade sauerkraut is so good, I wanted to share it with everyone!
What is Lacto-Fermentation?
I’ve already said the phrase a number of times so before we go any further, I want to explain what it means.
Lacto-fermentation is the process by which our cabbage and salt turns into sauerkraut. The naturally occurring bacteria on the cabbage, namely Lactobacillus, converts the sugar (carbs) in the cabbage into lactic acid. You’ll see the process at work when bubbles start to form and rise to the top.
These beneficial bacteria have an important role in supporting digestive health and fortifying the immune system. They assist in healthy metabolic processes and facilitate the absorption of key nutrients. (2) In the event of a food borne illness, lacto-fermented foods may ease symptoms and help in recovery. (3)
Unfortunately the health benefits do not always translate to store-bought sauerkraut. Most of what you see on the shelves are pasteurized products. The live microbes are killed with heat so you are better off making sauerkraut yourself if you want to preserve the beneficial bacteria.
You may be able to find a raw option at the store but then you run into a price issue. In the US an 8 ounce jar of sauerkraut can easily sell for $7. Make your own and save money!
Is Sauerkraut Keto?
This raw sauerkraut recipe is approved for a keto diet.
Easy keto recipes like this one make meal prep and macro tracking easy. You never have to worry about hidden carbs. The make ahead element of sauerkraut is really nice too because you prep it when you can and then come back to eat it later on without any more input.
You can eat sauerkraut on keto as often as you like.
In fact, there are many fermented foods for a keto diet, I encourage you to try them all!
Raw homemade sauerkraut is naturally sugar-free, dairy-free, and safe for many wellness diet types. This is a traditional food made all over the world. Such a simple vegetable side dish, sauerkraut is low oxalate diet approved. It is also paleo and whole30 friendly too!
How Many Carbs in Sauerkraut?
Anyone tracking macros on a keto diet knows to be aware of creeping carbs. It’s understandable if you want to know “Does sauerkraut have carbs?”
There are small amounts of carbohydrate in homemade sauerkraut. But really, nothing to worry about!
For a typical 1/2 cup serving, there are 3 grams of total carbs, 2 grams fiber, and only 1 gram net carb.
How to Make Sauerkraut Recipe
Fermenting cabbage employs a simple technique that doesn’t require any fancy or expensive equipment.
Step 1: Prepare the cabbage.
Bring home a fresh cabbage from the farmers market or store and get to work. Remove any bruised outer leaves. Cut in half, straight down the middle. Remove the core and slice leaves into thin strips. Do this with a knife or with a food processor and the slicer blade attachment.
Step 2: Salt and rest.
Toss the cabbage in a large bowl with salt.
Once combined, let the mixture rest for 20 minutes until the cabbage wilts and releases some liquid. Squeeze as much as you like to break down the fiber and make way for the enzymes and bacteria to do their work.
If using any flavorful additions, add them to the bowl and mix well.
Step 3: Pack the cabbage.
Pack the cabbage tightly into a crock or clean glass jar. Press it down with wooden vegetable packer or just use your hands. Release all air bubbles until material is tight and compact.
A 2-quart mason jar (2 1-quart) or half gallon fermenting jar will be sufficient for a typical head of cabbage. It’s a good idea to have an airlocking fermentation lid if you can. This allows easy control over the environment and ensures a proper ferment by limiting oxygen exposure. If not, cover with a cheesecloth or loose fitting lid.
Ferment Cabbage the Right Way
Fermenting is an age old process that is safe to do at home. Always use fresh ingredients and clean tools for optimal results.
Step 4: Prepare for storage
In order for this to be a success, all the contents of the jar must remain under the brine at all times. Achieve this by placing fermenting weights over the cabbage or use a large outer leaf or two arranged over the top of the shredded cabbage to hold it all down. Keep an eye on it as the process goes along and press it down again as often as needed.
Step 5: Leave to ferment over time.
Store the jar at room temperature, away from direct sunlight for at least 1 month or until done to your liking. I recommend putting a label on the jar with ingredients used and the date the recipe was made on.
Feel free to taste it periodically and test if it is ready or not.
Once the cabbage is soft and sour, transfer the container to the fridge. Once refrigerated, sauerkraut will keep for at least 6 months and potentially, up to many years but it’s unlikely to sit around that long.
A Note About Salt
We use good quality mineral salt with a specific purpose in mind. The salt creates a safe environment favorable for the Lactobacillus Bacteria to thrive in. This same environment inhibits bad bacteria that would otherwise spoil the ingredients.
There’s a general rule for homemade fermented vegetables. Use 3% salt by weight.
In plain terms, use 2 teaspoons of salt per pound of cabbage.
If you’re more familiar with kilos, use 30 grams of salt per kilo of cabbage.
There are many types of salt to choose from. Explore a little and find your favorite!
How Long Does it Take to Make Sauerkraut?
Fermentation time depends on the amount of material you begin with as well as ambient temperature and humidity.
We store the cabbage at room temperature either on the kitchen counter, in the pantry, or on a shelf. There will be temperature variations based on seasonal changes and geographic location.
Ferments are faster in warmer environments, slower in cooler ones.
The ideal temperature for home ferments is 50-60°F (10-15°C).
The absolute minimum time you need is 3 days before you start to see some activity. However, as with aging cheese and fine wine, the longer you leave it to mature, the better the flavor.
I recommend you wait a month before trying the sauerkraut. I know it can be hard, but it is worth it. At this stage, the cabbage is usually well broken down, soft and very tender with a well developed sour tang.
You may like a crunchier texture and less flavor, in which case it’s fine to pull the jar early. I notice the cabbage is more like coleslaw in the earlier phases of fermentation.
The choice is up to you, it’s all just preference. There is no technical right or wrong way.
Watch for signs of purification. If the contents get contaminated somehow you will be able to tell. Visible mold, slimy texture, or offensive smell are all signs that something went wrong. It’s best to discard the project and start again.
Raw Homemade Sauerkraut Flavor Variations
Once you get comfortable with the base of the recipe and have regular ferments, you can start experimenting and put almost anything in a kraut.
Fresh herbs like dill weed, basil, oregano and rosemary are savory flavors that compliment cabbage well. Carrot, beet, and all different types of radishes are some of the root vegetables that also ferment well. I can’t think of a single combination I tried that didn’t come out pleasantly.
Get creative with your favorite ingredients!
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Mix green cabbage with seaweed and minced garlic
- Combine green cabbage with horseradish and caraway seeds
- Toss green cabbage with dill weed and garlic
- Use purple cabbage with stemmed and seeded jalapeños
- Mix purple cabbage with shredded carrot, ginger root, turmeric root and black pepper
What to Eat with Homemade Sauerkraut
Sauerkraut is great to have on hand for all kinds of meals. It’s the perfect topper for sandwiches (my favorite is Tuna Melt Sandwich with avocado!), salads, lettuce wraps, keto fritters and just about anything you can think of.
I love fresh kraut with comfort foods like slow cooked Braised Beef Shank and Beef Stew. To preserve the beneficial bacteria you worked so hard to cultivate, add the fermented cabbage to the soup just before serving. Avoid heating raw sauerkraut to maintain the live enzymes and microorganisms.
If you’re looking for other ways to use up cabbage, this easy Braised Cabbage recipe is another great way. Be sure to try this next!
Raw Homemade Sauerkraut
- 2-quart wide-mouth canning jar (or 2 1-quart mason jars)
- Fermentation weights, optional
- Air locking lid, normal jar lid, or cheesecloth
- 1 medium cabbage about 3 pounds
- 1 ½ tablespoons salt
Carrot & Onion Sauerkraut
- Basic Sauerkraut
- 1 large carrot shredded
- 1 small white onion sliced
Dill & Garlic Sauerkraut
- Basic Sauerkraut
- ¼ cup fresh dill chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- Basic Sauerkraut
- 1 tablespoon caraway seed
- Discard the outer leaves but save one or two of the clean inner ones, if needed, to press down the final mixture and keep all contents under the brine.
- Shred cabbage into thin slices. Dice or slice any of the optional add-ins.
- Combine the cabbage and salt in a large bowl. Mix with your hands, squeeze and massage as you go.
- Leave the salted cabbage to sit for about 20 minutes and break down. Liquid will slowly pool up.
- Add any optional vegetables or herbs you like. Toss to combine.
- Pack all ingredients together into a clean glass jar. Press down firmly so all air bubbles escape. Cover this mixture with a cabbage leaf or use a weight to hold the contents down under the water line.
- Tighten the air-locking lid, cover loosely with a normal jar lid or secure a cheesecloth with a rubber band.
- Leave in a cool place, out of direct sunlight for at least 3 days and up to a month. Taste occasionally to see if it is ready. Once to your liking, transfer to the refridgerator for long-term storage.
Macros and Nutrition
Meet Jessica Haggard
Jessica Haggard is the creator of Primal Edge Health, where she shares simple, nourishing low-carb, keto and carnivore diet recipes. With a focus on from scratch, homemade cooking, animal-based nutrition, and easy DIY beauty and personal care recipes, there’s always something new going on in her kitchen! Jessica will teach you exactly how to thrive with all the best ingredients and enjoy the journey along the way.