DIY Sauerkraut in Less Than 15 Minutes

One of the best things your can do for your microbiome health is to eat probiotic foods. Probiotic foods actually have live bacteria in them--common examples are yogurt, kefir, and (you guessed it!)... sauerkraut!

In my house, we generally just plop some sort of probiotic on our dinner plates at every meal (yes, even on pizza)--not only does the probiotic directly inoculate your gut with good bacteria, it also helps with digestion of your meal.

You can, of course, get terrific sauerkraut at the grocery store (though do be sure you stick to the refrigerated kind), but there some great reasons to try making it on your own.

  • It’s cheaper! Even at an upscale market like Whole Foods, organic cabbage only costs about $1.40 a pound
  • You can make your own custom flavors and blends
  • If you can get your paws on locally-grown cabbage, your sauerkraut will have added microbial diversity from the farm's soil
  • It’s EASY!

With a little practice, you can get a small batch of sauerkraut in the jar in about 10-15 minutes. You will need to let it ferment for about a week before you can eat it, but otherwise it's generally a “make it and forget it” type recipe.

Ready to get started?

Here’s what you will need:

  • One head of cabbage (about 1lb… weigh it at the store, or give it your best guess)
  • 2 tsp of salt (about 1 tsp per ½ lb)
  • One empty medium-size jar (like an almond butter jar or mason jar)
  • One smaller jar filled with water (like a spice jar) that can fit inside the mouth of the medium-size jar
  • A piece of thin/breathable cloth, large enough to cover the mouth of the medium-size jar
  • A rubber band

And that’s it! Surprised? Yup, no vinegar, high fructose corn syrup, or other weirdness. The flavor comes from the fermentation--all you really need is the cabbage and salt. The bacteria are already on board!

Anyway, now that you have your ingredients and supplies, let's proceed:

  1. Core the cabbage and cut into ¼ inch to ½ inch wide strips. No need to get all fancy here--you’re going to smoosh the heck out of it in a moment.
  2. Put the cabbage strips in a bowl and sprinkle with the salt.
  3. Start gently massaging (well... more like "viciously crushing") the cabbage with your hands. This will take about 5-7 minutes for fresh cabbage, a little longer if your cabbage is limp and floppy. Get in there and show that cabbage who’s boss!
  4. Continue with step three until there is about 1 inch of liquid in the bottom of your and the strips are soft and slightly translucent. See the bottom left corner of the image above for an idea of what this should look like.
  5. Put the cabbage into a clean glass jar and pour the remaining liquid on top. Push the cabbage down so that it is completely covered by the liquid.
  6. Use your small water-filled jar to weight down the cabbage.
  7. Cover both jars with the cloth and secure with a rubber band.
  8. Place the whole kit and caboodle in a cupboard and check it after 7-10 days. If you like the taste, you’re done! Put it in the fridge and enjoy.

And there you have it! Your very own sauerkraut. Once in the fridge it will continue to ferment, though at a much slower rate, so the flavor will continue to evolve. And it will last for months (though you'll probably polish it off much more quickly than that!).

Homemade sauerkraut: quick, easy, delicious… and way more fun than Sea Monkeys. Enjoy!

Sarah Gupta