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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thank you and one comment

Thank you for your answer...please understand I am not familiar with this process but I want to learn so I checked out other sites...naturally not everyone says the same things and it can be confusing. Some others use their hands to rub the salt into the cabbage....I am assuming there might be a good reason you say to keep hands of the as not to transfer bacteria that may be under your nails? Also I need to discuss a previous question regarding heating the sauerkraut in the caner...I read that heat will destroy the lactic acid which is what makes the kraut a specially good food....but your answer is you mean it will not affect the other nutritional value, or the lactic acid as well? (beneficial lactobacillus)...thank you......Gisele


The Sauerkraut recipe says to store in a cool basement...why not in the fridge? Also won't the simmering and processing in the caner kill the desirable fermenting elements which make Sauerkraut a special good food....and why not place the product in smaller individual glass jars after it is done rather than to leave it in the crock...wouldn't it be more sanitary? and how long will it last at correct storage temperature if not processed (simmered and canned).........also it says to use a potato masher but that is metal and it had just said not to use metal........any sensible answers to my many questions please?......Gisele

You can store the fermented

The Editors's picture

You can store the fermented sauerkraut in the refrigerator using smaller containers than the crock. It will be good for 6 months to 1 year. The hot water canning process is not going to hurt the taste or nutrition value of the sauerkraut. We do say in the introduction to only use wooden spoons or mashers. Do not use your metal masher.

Sour Kraut

My first attempt at make this Involved 50# of Cabbage. we slice it on a meat slicer into shreds. I went to the wine making section at the hardware store bought a 6# gal bucket w/ lid (food grade) and a wine fermenting water check. I also bought a Nylon bag. I salted and packed my cabbage into this bag in the bucket. this bucket and bag allowed me to twist the bag down tight, The brine just covered the bag. The whole bag wanted to float so I used a old glazed stone plate up side down and a Large zip lock bag filled clear sterile brine. to hold everything down. Snapped the lid on, filled my water check, and placed the hole mess on the entry landing. After about 2 months we opened it up No Mold present and the fermenting process was done. but we had over salted the cabbage. so we took out some and rinsed it with cold water and used it as normal what a great taste crunchy and tart. That bucket sat on the landing for 3yrs we would take out what we needed and close it back up. now about the third year it was getting a bit strong in taste so we opted to toss the remainder to the chickens who thought they was in heaven.

Now this brings us to this year, I used the same process. I have used less salt, today is 12/31/2015, we have just opened it up from its sleep on the landing. This is the finest batch so far great taste and not salty. I feel blessed. now this year we used the last pick of the garden and there was several heads of purple cabbage the color of the brine is purple and the Kraut is a light pink purple. now that's exciting that the color came out that way. expected some but not all of this. So people stay strong don't give up and don't be afraid to try different things. Happy New Year! Enjoy!

No brine, but turned out OK

My first time making sauerkraut. I don't have a big jar so I decided to cut out the brine part. What I did was to marinade the chopped cabbage for half an hour with lots of salt, then wash it off completely. The cabbage tastes slightly salty and looked a bit limp but still holds its shape. I packed the lot tightly into an air-tight "Glasslock" without adding any liquid. No towel or plate needed. I could see cabbage liquid coming up half way the glasslock. Left it untouched for 3 days. The kraut came out nice colour, crip and suitably sour. No scum. I guess as long as the cabbage is initially made salty, there is no need to use brine or weight for the fermentation to take place? Is this true?

Which type of cabbage is best to use??

I know there are several different kinds of cabbage, but which is best for making sauerkraut?? Does one type give it a more sour taste than other types??

Most mid to late-season

The Editors's picture

Most mid to late-season cabbages that produce big heads without splitting are excellent for saurekraut. As long as the heads are firm and fresh. One variety, Kaitlin, is superior for sauerkraut and is bred for that purpose.

Bottled sauerkraut keeps forever!

I just found an old jar of sauerkraut in my cellar. It was made by PEK in Poland, and the lid said Best Before February 1998. The kraut was a little darker than normal, but it was the best I've ever, ever, ever tasted!


Sorry this is a question, Can I use a stainless steel milk can that I got from a local farmer to make sauerkraut? please let me know ASAP.


Stainless steel, glass, or

The Editors's picture

Stainless steel, glass, or food-grade plastic containers are all suitable for making sauerkraut.

I have made a batch of kraut

I have made a batch of kraut using green and red cabbage together and the colour is darker pink/purple on the top couole of inches.
It is still under brine and tastes and smells like kraut but just checking if this is normal and ok to eat?

Hi Annette, I'm surprised

The Editors's picture

Hi Annette,
I'm surprised that more people don't use red cabbage. It makes such a pretty sauerkraut and tastes about the same as green. If your sauerkraut tastes and smells normal it should be fine to eat.

This is my first time making

This is my first time making kraut, my question is as long as we can it we shouldn't have to worry about any bad effects? Had some mold on top twice in three weeks, pulled it off and removed any discolored cabbage from the top. Tastes fine, just want to be sure no one gets sick, thanks for any and all input.

Mold takes advantage of any

The Editors's picture

Mold takes advantage of any air-contact space on the top of the brine. Scrape it off. The sauerkraut is still edible

my husband has been making

my husband has been making kraut for years and instead of using a plate he puts water into a large heavy plastic bag to put on top and it seals better than a plate. It works better for us! He uses a large crock and when done we bag it up and put in freezer.

So many recipes call for the

So many recipes call for the use of a layer of olive oil floating on top of the brine to block out oxygen which is supposed to cause the brine to become aerobic thereby stopping the fermenting process. Is the use of oil a necessary step? Will I get good sauerkraut without the oil float?
Thank You... Doc

Our recipe above does not use

The Editors's picture

Our recipe above does not use olive oil. It uses a towel and weights to push the sauerkraut down into the brine. This method has worked for many generations and makes delicious saurekraut.

Never did I hear of 'Olive

Never did I hear of 'Olive Oil' in Germany and we had been making Sauerkraut for Centuries. So O,O.! is definately a product of someones fantasy and is to be discarded.!

Never did I hear of 'Olive

Never did I hear of 'Olive Oil' in Germany and we had been making Sauerkraut for Centuries. So O,O.! is definately a product of someones fantasy and is to be discarded.!

Just tried a sample from my

Just tried a sample from my first ever batch of sauerkraut and it's great. Thanks for posting your instructions. Mine fermented for about eleven days with the crock sitting on the concrete floor in the basement. Thanks also to the person who suggested placing an apple in the bottom of the crock. Will be making more of this soon.

Hi, first batch here and in

Hi, first batch here and in the very first few days. Using the boiled towels with a plate and quart canning jar on top. What I've noticed is that the towel seems to be wicking up the brine over night so that I have to put in up to 1/2 gallon new brine the next day to cover cabbage and replace towel. Is this normal? Should I be losing brine this fast? Should I just keep the towel on top for a while? I don't see any white film forming since I keep adding brine mix. Thanks in advance.

Try removing the towel. Make

The Editors's picture

Try removing the towel. Make sure that the plate you have sitting on top of the cabbage fits snugly in the crock and does not allow air to pass through. After putting the weight on top of the plate, cover the entire thing with a towel or cloth of some sort to keep dust out of your crock.

Okay, so I am trying this for

Okay, so I am trying this for the first time, in your directions you say to boil a dish towel for 5 minutes, does this towel then need to be wrung out and cooled before using it and does it get placed directly onto the cabbage?

It is not necessary to wring

The Editors's picture

It is not necessary to wring out the towel, but you can certainly remove some of the water if you are afraid of making a mess. Yes, you would place it on the cabbage.

Well I'm stumped. Nobody

Well I'm stumped. Nobody anywhere has any insight into the problem of dark brown brine (not yellow, not golden but dark brown). I'm coming to the conclusion that I might as well dump this batch as it has never really fermented and remained a salt lick in spite of everything. It's discouraging the absolutely nobody knows anything about this problem. What a shame that this effort had yielded nothing but waste.

We checked a food chemistry

The Editors's picture

We checked a food chemistry book and the only suggestion we can offer is that your kraut may have experienced oxidation.

Could it be caused by iodine

Could it be caused by iodine in iodized salt?

brown kraut

Had this happen to me with one of my crocks.Glaze could be thin and if crock is brown inside it could be leaching in the brine . I personally wouldnt use that crock.

dark brine ,no fermentation

it could be caused by using iodized salt which would cause a browning effect of the cabage and water and might have caused it to not ferment as well check your salt

dark brine

always use distilled water some tap water contains minerals that will make the brine dark and cloudy also use pickling salt table salt has iodine which also will make the brine dark hope this helps