Homemade German Sauerkraut

Homemade German sauerkraut recipe

The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Fermentation Time: 250 hrs
Total: 250 hrs 30 mins
Servings: 10 to 12 servings
Yield: 1 quart
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
19 Calories
0g Fat
4g Carbs
1g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 10 to 12
Amount per serving
Calories 19
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 55mg 2%
Total Carbohydrate 4g 2%
Dietary Fiber 2g 6%
Total Sugars 2g
Protein 1g
Vitamin C 28mg 142%
Calcium 40mg 3%
Iron 0mg 1%
Potassium 155mg 3%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Sauerkraut might not be the national dish of Germany, but in the U.S., it is the one food most associated with German cuisine. It is easy to make your own sauerkraut, as you simply rely on the bacteria found on the cabbage leaves to assist in fermentation. The salt added draws out the water, kills off the spoilage bacteria, and fermentation begins.

With this easy recipe, you can adjust the yield to your liking since each batch ferments in a 1-quart Mason jar. It can take anywhere from one to three weeks to achieve a nice sour tartness in your sauerkraut; in the cool temperatures of winter, it will take longer, and in the warm days of summer, it will go more quickly. There are many ways to enjoy homemade sauerkraut, including right out of the jar, as a garnish or a salad, or cooked along with apples and sausage.

"Leave the hard work to the science of fermentation with this super easy sauerkraut. Be patient because the flavor is so worth the wait!" —Lauryn Bodden

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Ingredients

  • 8 to 10 cups loosely packed shredded cabbage (about 2 pounds)

  • 10 juniper berries

  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds

  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds

  • 3 teaspoons pickling salt, or other non-iodized salt, divided

  • 1 cup filtered water

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for homemade German sauerkraut
    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska 
  2. In a clean, non-metallic bowl, mix together the cabbage, juniper berries, caraway seeds, mustard seeds, and 2 teaspoons of the pickling salt.

    Mix together cabbage, berries, caraway seeds
    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska
  3. Stir to release the cabbage's juices.

    Stir cabbage
    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska
  4. Let it rest for 10 minutes and then mix again. If needed, you can let it rest longer, as much as 1 to 2 hours.

    Let it rest
    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska
  5. Sterilize a 1-quart, wide-mouthed Mason jar and the lid by boiling for several minutes in water and draining on a clean dishcloth.

    Sterilize a wide mouthed mason jar
    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska 
  6. Pack the cabbage and seasonings into the sterilized jar, pushing down with a wooden (not metal) spoon.

    Pack cabbage
    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska
  7. Combine the filtered water with the remaining pickling salt. Pour over the cabbage, filling it so it reaches up to the rim of the jar. Cap loosely with a sterilized canning lid.

    Add non-chlorated water
    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska
  8. Place the jar on a tray to catch overflowing juices. The mixture will begin to bubble.

    Place jar on tray
    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska
  9. After the bubbling stops, check the container. If the water level has fallen below the rim of the jar, top it off with more salt water (keeping a ratio of 1 teaspoon pickling salt per 1 cup of water) that has been warmed slightly so it will dissolve completely.

    Top off with salt water
    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska
  10. Keep the jar between 65 F and 72 F on the tray for 1 to 3 weeks to achieve a pleasantly sour flavor. After the first week, taste the sauerkraut every few days until it reaches the tartness you desire. 

    Set out on tray
    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska
  11. Once it is to your liking, skim any (harmless) white spots or film from the top, close the jar tightly with a sterilized canning lid and ring, wipe off the outside of the jar, and store it in the refrigerator. Enjoy as is, spoon on top of hot dogs, or cook along with pork chops for a satisfying meal.

    Sauerkraut in jar
    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

Recipe Tips

  • Pickling salt can be found in most grocery stores in the salt and spice section. Keep it in an airtight container away from moisture to prevent the salt from clumping.
  • Using pickling salt, a fine-grained salt that has no additives, will keep the sauerkraut liquid from clouding, which in itself is not harmful, but creates an unappetizing appearance. 
  • If you are increasing this recipe, make sure to use the ratio of 1 teaspoon pickling salt per 1 cup of water.
  • Whereas canned sauerkraut should be rinsed in a colander before eating to reduce the briny flavor, fresh sauerkraut like this one does not have to be.
  • Feel free to add other flavors to the sauerkraut, such as garlic, dill, lemon peel, fennel, and carrot.

The History of Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut, which in German means "sour cabbage," was made by fermenting cabbage in rice wine. It came to Europe from Asia, where it was the go-to dinner for laborers building the Great Wall of China more than 2,000 years ago. It is believed Genghis Khan first brought it to Eastern Europe about 1,000 years ago, and salt was used in place of wine to start the fermentation process. After this new taste sensation caught on, it found its way to Germany, France, and beyond.


When nutritionists discovered the vitamin C content of sauerkraut, it quickly became standard fare for long sea voyages because it didn't need refrigeration and helped to prevent scurvy. On land, sauerkraut is a way to preserve cabbage for consumption throughout the winter, and in times of drought and famine when crops weren't producing.

Article Sources
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  1. Peñas E, Martinez-Villaluenga C, Frias J. Sauerkraut. In: Fermented Foods in Health and Disease Prevention. Elsevier; 2017:557-576. doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-802309-9.00024-8

  2. Raak C, Ostermann T, Boehm K, Molsberger F. Regular consumption of sauerkraut and its effect on human health: a bibliometric analysisGlob Adv Health Med. 2014;3(6):12-18. doi:10.7453/gahmj.2014.038