How to Make Sauerkraut

Homemade Sauerkraut Recipe & Tips

July 30, 2020

Learn how to make a delicicous bowl of sauerkraut from fresh cabbage.


Store-bought sauerkraut can’t compete with the homemade stuff. Follow our sauerkraut recipe to learn how to make sauerkraut of your own!

Tips Before You Start

  • Sauerkraut is prepared entirely in a brining crock. Don’t worry about going out and buying an expensive stoneware crock—”crocks” can be any unchipped enamel pot or large glass jar. The gallon, wide-mouth jars work beautifully. 
  • If you have an old crock you want to use, don’t use it if there is a white film on the inside that disappears when wet and reappears upon drying. That crock has been used for waterglassing (preserving) eggs; there is no way to remove it and it will ruin your sauerkraut. 
  • The old jingle “A hand in the pot spoils the lot” is completely true. Keep your hands, and any metal object, out of the crock. Use wooden spoons and mashers and glass or crockery for dipping and weighting. 
  • The best and freshest ingredients will yield the best sauerkraut. You can make relish with your old, tough cabbage, but use your young, fresh, tender cabbage for your sauerkraut.

How to Make Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut has many uses; from piling it on sandwiches to covering bratwurst—to even making a cake with it—you will have no trouble finding uses for your homemade sauerkraut.

  1. For a 1-gallon container, core and shred 5 pounds of cabbage. Measure out 3 tablespoons of pickling (or kosher or dairy) salt.
  2. Alternate layers of cabbage with a sprinkling of salt, tapping each layer with a clean wooden spoon or potato masher. The top layer should be salt. This will not seem like it’s enough salt, but it will give you a 2.5% solution, the perfect strength for fermentation. 
  3. In a saucepan, boil an old dish towel or piece of sheeting for 5 minutes and cover the crock with it. Weigh this down with a flat plate the size of the inside of the crock and weigh it down with a canning jar full of water. If you’re using a glass jar instead of a crock, you might not need to weigh it down. Let it sit like this for a day. 
  4. If you used fresh and tender cabbage, by the next day you should have enough brine to cover the cabbage. If you don’t, make more brine by adding 1 ½ teaspoons salt to a cup of water and add enough to cover the cabbage.
  5. In 2 or 3 days, white scum will form on the top. Skim this off, replace the cloth with a newly boiled one, wash the plate, and replace it all. Repeat this skimming (a 5-minute job) each day until the bubbles stop rising, or for about 2 weeks. Then your sauerkraut is done!
  6. At this point, simply keep the cabbage below the brine with the plate, cover the crock tightly, and store at 40°F to 50°F. If your cellar isn’t that cool, heat the sauerkraut just to simmering, pack in canning jars, seal, and process in a water bath 20 minutes for quarts, 15 minutes for pints.

Sauerkraut Recipes

Try your freshly made sauerkraut in these recipes!

More Pickling Projects

Interested in pickling or fermenting other garden vegetables? Here are some tips on how to make kimchi, another fermented dish made with cabbage—and good for digestion, too! Also learn how to make dill pickles, an old-fashioned classic.

Wondering when to make sauerkraut? Some folks swear that the best days are by the Moon’s sign. See our Best Days timetable.

How did your sauerkraut come out?


The Forgotten Arts, Book Five, 1982


Reader Comments

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I love real, fermented sauerkraut, but generally just buy it because I've never had good luck making it ( is my favorite BTW!) but I think I'd like to try it again using your directions. Part of my problem, I think, was I was fermenting during a really warm summer and had the wrong salt content. Oh well, fermenting is definitely a learning process!

70 degree temp?

It's already getting warm here in south Texas, even in the house maintaining cooler than 70 degrees will be hard to do. Making my first batch, is being less than 70 critical to the process of making the kraut?

proper temperature for making sauerkraut

The Editors's picture

Yes, it must be kept cooler than 70 degrees F. That is important. One reader posted below that they buried their crock in the ground because they couldn’t maintain a temperature lower than 70.

Sauerkraut and Rhine wine ?

I would like to add white wine to the brine , is that possible , I used to get sauerkraut in Rhine wine in Germany and it was the best ?

add wine to sauerkraut brine

The Editors's picture

Yes, you can add some wine.


People talk about sauerkraut being ready in two to three weeks. The first batch I made I left for five months. My second batch (which I'm working on now I will leave at least that long... I might even try six). This batch has been setting four.... can hardly wait. I've been without sauerkraut too long.


How do I keep the cabbage under the brine? I know this sounds silly, but if I put the cloth down and tge plate and Mason jar on the top, won't the cloth wick all of the brine and keep the top exposed?

Erik, use a 1 gallon crock,

Erik, use a 1 gallon crock, place as many saucers on top of shredded cabbage as you have heads of cabbage. Place an 8 pound weight on the cabbage. 3 heads of cabbage means 3 saucers. This allows enough room for juice to accumulate for fermentation and should keep juice from overflowing. I use a 4 liter wine bottle mostly filled with water as a weight. Wrap with plastic wrap, punch 1 small hole in plastic for gas to escape, wait 3 weeks.......sauerkraut.

Traditionalist here

We make sauerkraut in an old crock. The wood lid's diameter is smaller than the crock's opening.. The top with a brick or so keeps it submerged. I'm the 3rd generation to ferment in the crock. :)

We made a very large batch of

We made a very large batch of sourkraut and used a granite slab to hold down the mix. At the end of the 6 weeks the brine had disolved part of the stone turning it into a sand like feel. Was this a bad idea and should I discard this batch and start over.?


GREAT TIPS - First, Use Morton Natural Sea Salt !!! It is like pickling salt, no additives or caking agents, HUGE DIFFERENCE !!! NON-IODIZED SALT with NO ADDITIVES. 2nd, add a teaspoon of sugar in the bottom, it kick starts the fermentation, and converts to harmless alcohol. Third, if you have a little juice from a good batch, throw that in, its called a "mother" and it also kicks start the fermentation. All natural mother please, no vinegar. Happy, happy, happy...

Aye-aye, Captain. We’ll run

The Editors's picture

Aye-aye, Captain. We’ll run this up the flagpole to readers. (Salt is a critical ingredient, readers, so be careful to use the proper type.)

Thanks for the advice! Smooth sailing!



i made some sauerkraut and it the water is real cloudy, do you think it is OK? it smells like it is gone bad, can that happen? in the be gaining i added some water because it was starting to smell, is that why?

Cloudy is seldom a good sign.

The Editors's picture

Cloudy is seldom a good sign.  Plus, if it smells bad, Gary, if probably is bad (sorry it took us so long to get back to you).

bad kraut

when I make kraut in a 5 gallon food grade plastic bucket . I only use distilled water. also I always make mine during the new of the moon. you have a three day window to start the day before the day of or the day after the new moon and let it ferment until the next new moon I been doing it this way for years and never had a bad batch hope this helps

White curds on sauerkraut scum

I make my sauerkraut in a 15 gallon crock, and then can it. This year it got white curds on the sterilized sheeting, between tamping and cleaning the scum off. I never had those before. Is my sauerkraut still going to be o.k.? It smells good and is probably almost ready to can. I also sterilized my cloth, plate, and weight (a big rock), in my microwave on high for 3 minutes, which worked great.

Sorry to be so late in

The Editors's picture

Sorry to be so late in responding, but we are not certain about your method, especially “sterilized sheeting.” The white sediment may be the result of the salt you used; or it could be yeasts. It may have developed because the kraut was not submerged in the brine. It should not be a problem/harmful.


I have a stone crock but no lid to fit in it to cover the kraut. Can I make one from wood.

You do need a lid. Anything

The Editors's picture

You do need a lid. Anything that covers the opening is fine. We’d suggest a heat-proof plate or serving platter.  Or, you could cut a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil so that it’s a little larger than the width of your slow cooker. Lay the foil over the top and crimp it gently around the sides of your slow cooker for a tighter fit. Don’t turn on the heat until the lid is secure.

caraway seed

I would like to add caraway seed when making the sauerkraut. Do you have any suggestions regarding this idea?

getting carried away with caraway in your kraut

The Editors's picture

That’s a good thing, Jeanne. Caraway is a common addition to sauerkraut. Add it to the cabbage before you pack the mixture into jars. Estimate about a tablespoon of caraway per head of cabbage. Call us when it’s ready!

Taste is in juice

Do not add a brine. It will dilute the taste plus add unnecessary salt. The taste of kraut is in the juice. Instead, I use a 1 gallon crock with the weight a 4 liter wine bottle half filled. Place a saucer on the cabbage then the wine bottle, leave alone for 3 to 5 weeks. 3 weeks gives the sourest and crunchiest kraut.

water, salt, brine

If no water is added at the beginning of the process how does the brine form?

The salt draws liquid from

The Editors's picture

The salt draws liquid from the fresh cabbage. If you use fresh and tender cabbage, by the 2nd day you should have enough brine to cover the cabbage. If you don’t, make more brine by adding 1-½ teaspoons to a cup of water and add enough to cover.


So, there's no water added to the mix? Just chopped cabbage in layers with salt on each layer?
Where does the liquid come from or is that part of the fermenting process?

Learning how to fermenting foods.

Does anybody know any other recipes for fermenting foods.

I am fairly new to krauting.

I am fairly new to krauting. I obtained a two gallon crock and filled it with salted cabbage on the 25th of last month (7 days ago). It foamed nicely for the first 5 days and then precipitously dropped off. I am wondering what the change means and how long I should expect this larger batch to take before it is ready. Thanks in advance for the advice!

It’s OK that it stopped

The Editors's picture

It’s OK that it stopped foaming. You can taste the suerkraut and decide if you need to wait a little longer. Don’t go past 2 weeks.

I have used a method with

I have used a method with some leftover cabbage leaf's shoved on top to hold the kraut under the brine. When I store the kraut in the refrigerator, do I remove that cabbage leaf from top? Or does the kraut have to stay submerged under brine even in the fridge? Thanks!

Yes, when the sauerkraut is

The Editors's picture

Yes, when the sauerkraut is done and you store it in the fridge, the cabbage leaf should be removed.