Make Your Own Probiotics – Easy Homemade Sauerkraut

Did you know that Fermented Foods like Sauerkraut is a great way to get the health benefits of probiotics? You can easily make this Super Easy Sauerkraut at home and have your own homemade probiotics for a fraction of the cost that buying supplements would be. Healthier wallet - healthier you!

Though this is health blog, you might have noticed that I don't have fermented foods on my blog, but that is going to be changingProbiotics are super important for good gut health, but they can be pricey. Fermented foods are a great way to get good bacteria into your gut, and this easy homemade sauerkraut recipe is just the thing to empower you to do this yourself.

I've been meaning to make some for awhile now and even bought a bunch of organic cabbage this past weekend, but Naomi of Almost Bananas beat me to it – so enjoy the homemade sauerkraut recipe and improve your digestive health while you're at it:)!

Sometimes there are things that I want to do, that I know are good for me, and yet it can seem like such an overwhelming step to actually do it.

I wanted to make sourdough for years, and it was only when I was walked step by step (online) through it that I was able to actually do it, and it was easier than I thought.

Lactofermenting vegetables is like that. If you haven't done it, it can seem overwhelming.

Just to let you know, in case you'd rather buy sauerkraut, here is a great place to buy it.

Questions About Fermenting Vegetables

There can be many questions:

  • Is it safe?
  • How do I know if it's gone bad?
  • What should it look like?
  • Smell like?
  • What will taste good?
  • What recipe should I start with?

If you come back to Almost Bananas next week (the easiest way to do that is to subscribe so you get a reminder) I'll have a post about fermenting vegetables for beginners.

For now, I'll answer the first question with this tutorial on how to make lazy sauerkraut.

Did you know that Fermented Foods like Sauerkraut is a great way to get the health benefits of probiotics? You can easily make this Super Easy Sauerkraut at home and have your own homemade probiotics for a fraction of the cost that buying supplements would be. Healthier wallet - healthier you!

By the way, any of the following links may be affiliate links. If you click on them and make a purchase, I might make a commission. Your support is much appreciated and helps keep this free resource up and running.

About Homemade Sauerkraut

Once cabbage has been fermented, the combination of salinity, acidity, and preserving bacteria prevent spoilage. It can keep almost indefinitely, although cooler temperatures are better. After the initial stage, warm temperatures cause the cabbage to become soft and more sour.

Cabbage has been fermented into sauerkraut for at least 2,000 years, brought over to Europe from China. Both the Tatar and Roman soldiers considered it valuable enough bring it when traveling (maybe it was part of their secret?).

Sailors also took it with them to prevent scurvy, a lack of vitamin C.

Did you know that Fermented Foods like Sauerkraut is a great way to get the health benefits of probiotics? You can easily make this Super Easy Sauerkraut at home and have your own homemade probiotics for a fraction of the cost that buying supplements would be. Healthier wallet - healthier you!

And, crazy enough, fermenting the cabbage actually increases the amount of vitamin C and K. Yes, the same amount of sauerkraut contains more vitamin C and K than the same amount of cabbage.

Sauerkraut is also full of probiotics; bacteria that are vital to health. These beneficial bacteria heal and strengthen the health of the gut, which in turn impacts everything from immunity to food allergies to mental health. There are too many benefits of probiotics to list here, but I've written A Scientific Look at the Benefits of Probiotics, which is full of references to a slew of studies.

Basically, probiotics are absolutely necessary to good health, and fermented foods are the cheapest and freshest way to consume them.

I call this lazy sauerkraut because I let the cabbage sit with salt a while before massaging it and the salt brings out the water on it's own.

Did you know that Fermented Foods like Sauerkraut is a great way to get the health benefits of probiotics? You can easily make this Super Easy Sauerkraut at home and have your own homemade probiotics for a fraction of the cost that buying supplements would be. Healthier wallet - healthier you!

All you need is cabbage and salt–other spices and vegetables are optional.

For salt, make sure there is no anti-caking additives or iodine added. This means that your regular table salt is not the best. Unrefined sea salt is the best, but there are other (cheaper) salts available. I use a rough sea salt from an Asian food store.

As well, make sure all vegetable matter is under liquid, or it will mold. It is useful to have a weight to ensure the cabbage stays down. You can lay a cabbage leaf over top and weigh down with a small jar filled with water, a clean rock, or purchase pottery weights which are basically disks with a hole.

There is some debate over whether ferments should be in special airlock jars. My own opinion is that if you are just starting out, do not let that be a deterrent to beginning to ferment vegetables; the benefits of fermented veggies far outweigh the harm of delaying making them, or not getting around to it at all.

Start out with mason jars, and as you delve into the world of fermenting you can do more research.

Did you know that Fermented Foods like Sauerkraut is a great way to get the health benefits of probiotics? You can easily make this Super Easy Sauerkraut at home and have your own homemade probiotics for a fraction of the cost that buying supplements would be. Healthier wallet - healthier you!

If you are looking for more super easy ways to ferment vegetables, a delicious one is cauliflower, one of our favourites. Just break up florets, pour over salt water, and wait. Another super simple one is fermented red onions, which can be done just with onions and salt.

I don't like raw onions, but I am continually impressed with fermented ones. They are so versatile, and I can throw them in a salad, spread, or sandwich to add a dash of probiotic goodness. Mixed with other foods, you can't taste any sourness – it fact, the onions turn almost sweet.

If you are afraid you won't like the sourness of sauerkraut, try my fermented spiced apple chutney. It's so good, I've eaten a whole quart on my own at one sitting. In the name of health, of course. Kimchi, originally from Korea, is another great ferment of napa cabbage. I have a recipe for baek (white) kimchi that doesn't have any hot pepper in it, and I can barely keep up with our family's consumption. The red onions are also a good choice for a non-sour ferment.

Easy Homemade Sauerkraut
 
Author:
Recipe type: Condiments, DIY Foods
Cuisine: Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Sugar-Free, Grain-Free, Low-Carb, Vegan, Paleo, AIP
 
Probiotics are Great for Digestive Health, but they can be pricey. Here is an Easy Homemade Sauerkraut Recipe so you can make your own probiotics at home!
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Slice cabbage thinly. This can be done with a knife, a mandolin slicer, or the slicing attachment on a food processor.
  2. For every kilo of cabbage, mix with 20g of salt, or, for every pound of cabbage, mix with 9g of salt, about 2 tsp of finely ground salt.
  3. Toss cabbage and salt with your hands so it is well distributed and let rest, about one hour.
  4. Knead/massage the cabbage with your hands, to encourage more juice to come out. Add optional bay leaves (about 1 per lb) and/or caraway seeds (about 1 tsp per lb).
  5. Pack tightly into a jar. I usually grab a handful, drop it into the jar, and then use my fist to push it down well. You can also use a pounder, or something like a thick stick.
  6. Once all the cabbage is in, make sure there is enough liquid to cover the cabbage by about an inch. Weigh the cabbage down, as discussed above.
  7. Put a lid on the jar. Be aware that you will need to occasionally let the C02 out that will accumulate.
  8. Set it out of direct sunlight and let sit for at least 4-6 weeks. 4 weeks is the minimum required for the full cycle of probiotics to develop. Exact fermenting times will depend on ambient temperature and your tastes. The sauerkraut pictured has sat for a month, and it could use a little more time.
  9. Put in the fridge to slow fermentation. Enjoy probiotic goodness!

From Adrienne – my son saw me working on this post and begged me to make sauerkraut.  I guess I'd better get working on it asap!

I should share that there are several schools of thought about fermenting. Some say that easy is fine – as in this post. Others say that anaerobic fermentation is the way to go. If you are interested in learning more from someone whom I consider to be a real fermentation expert, Lisa's Counter Culture is the way to go. 

Here is where you can get a physical copy of her fabulous book:

Lisa's Counter Culture: Pickles and Other Well-Bred Foods

Lisa's Counter Culture: Pickles and Other Well-Bred Foods

Have you ever made sauerkraut?
Do you hope to?

Naomi Huzovicova - Writer at Whole New MomNaomi is originally from Canada but is now a wife and mom in Slovakia. She tries to live each day as a follower of Christ in the chaos of caring for children. Using real food and creating an environmentally-friendly surrounding for her family is a priority. She dreams of a little farm while living in an apartment, enjoys handmade creations, and still doesn’t like brussels sprouts. Naomi shares her food creations and photos of Slovakia at Almost Bananas. She looks forward to connecting with you on PinterestGoogle+, and Facebook.

These comments do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Whole New Mom, LLC.

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  1. Great article and recipe. When you say set it out of direct sunlight, is this for the entire weeks? Weather here is crazy, it’s winter yet it’s been in the 70’s and 80’s and now it’s going down above freezing 40’s but this weekend the 70-80’s is coming back. Every week it’s different, so am wondering how the temperatures will affect it if in fact I have to place it outside.

    Thank you in advance!!

  2. Another great way of doing it is to ferment whole heads of cabbage. That way you can wedge the cabbages against each other in a large food grade plastic bucket (got it in a restaurant suppy store), add salt, pour water over it and voila! about a month after you have pickled cabbage. No floaters, no muss or fuss. Just chop as finely as you like, or wrap some meat/rice combo in whole leaves and make sarma. Pickling juice is great hangover cure as well 😉

  3. Vicki Hernandez says:

    Hi I haven’t tried this yet but I have a question. I can’t use salt but I just started using the substitute salt called Nu salt which has nothing in it but potassium and taste just like salt could you please tell me if I can use this to make my sauerkraut thank you your new subscriber Vicki

    • Hi Vicki and thanks for subscribing! You do not need salt to ferment but you will want flavor. So I think your method will work! Please do let me know!

  4. Mari Brown says:

    I made the saurkraut for the first time, my liquid bubbled out and I have know more liquid in the jar, is it OK to eat? I’m done fermenting.

    • I’m sorry but I don’t know. I will see if the author can chime in – thanks!

    • Hi Mari,
      Whatever is exposed to air will either mold or go yeasty. There are a few things you can do. You can pour in 2% salt water (or a little less salt, as there is already salt in the sauerkraut) until the sauerkraut is under water. You could also transfer the sauerkraut into bags and suck the air out with a straw. Divide it into smaller bags that you would use one up in a few days – the sauerkraut that is in closed airless bags will stay good in the fridge and what is opened will last a couple days.

      • Do you know what type of bacteria is formed from fermented vegetables? Because I saw that probiotic tablets have various strains in them and there are other factors that help particular problems.

        • Yes, not all probiotics act the same, each type carries out a particular function that can help a particular problem.
          Exactly which probiotics are present in sauerkraut depends partly on when you eat it and how it was made, but there are about 15 different types of bacteria that have been identified – and some that still have not been identified and there are different strains of many of those types.. The most numerous of these is L. plantarum, which will be the most numerous on any vegetable ferment.
          This article might be helpful: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2168044/

  5. Sheryl Jackson says:

    I love sour kraut definitely gonna make this

  6. How many tsp. or tbsp. are 20g of salt?
    Thank you for sharing your recipe!

  7. Hi its my first time making it , Have a question My jar is bigger than the amount of cabbage . The liquid covers the veggie by an inch ,. is it ok to have little empty space in the jar .Thanks

    • A little bit of head room is good, half a jar empty is too much.. If it’s something like two inches empty above the brine you should be fine.

  8. Cindy Young says:

    I love homemade kraut and have been making it for several years. I DO use a fido type jar for my fermenting, after doing a lot of research on my own. They are available at my local grocers, and are very reasonable in price, and for me have ensured a successful kraut each and every time. I have done variations on kraut also, with kimchi and cordito being my favorites!

  9. Hello and thank you for the wealth of info! I was just wanting to be sure I understood right; once the cabbage is pressed into the mason jar, you put a cabbage leaf over the top and then a weight and then the lid? Also, could you tell me the size mason jar you use? Thanks a bunch!

    • Once the cabbage is pressed into the jar it needs ‘something’ to keep all the cabbage under the brine. If you have a good (wide) weight, then the cabbage leaf isn’t necessary. Yes, cut cabbage, leaf/weight, lid. I vary the size of jar depending on how much cabbage I’m using, everything from a quart to a gallon, a whole head of cabbage would probably fit into two quart sized jars (don’t quote me on that though). Happy sauerkraut making!

      • Mary Pritchard says:

        I’m always at a loss as to what to use as a weight. Can you give a few suggestions please. And thanks, I’m ready to make a batch!!!

        • A weight can be really anything – a small jar, a clean rock, a plastic bag filled with water (not my favourite option, but an option none the less). I’ve even seen beet slices used (although then everything will be pink). It is also possible to buy fermenting weights, both glass and ceramic. Good luck fermenting!

  10. I always look for other’s comments before posting and didn’t see any comments. I posted my question regarding liquid and BOOM! Now I see the comments from others. I’ve got my answer. Thanks!

  11. What “liquid” do you use to cover the cabbage? I’d like to get started, but am a little apprehensive. 🙂

  12. Thank you for the recipe and especially for answering the questions. This seems very doable!

  13. Ok- I have tried try make a batch from a different recipe but thought there was something wrong with it. Here’s my question: will the jar smell pretty strong while fermenting? My whole pantry got quite an odor!!

    • Maira, yes, a strong smell when it starts fermenting is totally normal. My inlaws have a huge crock in a corner, and whenever someone sits there they wonder, ‘what smells?’ As long as there is no mold growing, it should be all good.

      • Hi. When you said to put a lid on the jar, should the lid be tightened or just laid on loosely? And if any cabbage that is not covered in liquid will mold, what about the cabbage leaf covering the top. You also mentioned in #7 above, “you will need to occasionally let the C02 out that will accumulate.” How often do you estimate that may need to be done? ( My house runs an average temp of 65-70 in the winter, if that matters.) TIA

        • Hi Sue, yes, the top cabbage leaf needs to be covered in brine as well. It’s main function is to keep down little floaties. Put the lid on the jar tightly, and about once a day just loosen it enough for the air to hiss out. Once a day, max twice, should be plenty. Good luck!

  14. That is such a wonderful note about not worrying about getting special fermenting jars. It’s more important just to get started and start getting the healthy probiotics! The confusion about what the “best” way to ferment held me back from trying it for a long time, but in the end it was so simple. I wish I had started sooner! Also, thanks for the tip about adding the salt and letting it sit to bring out the water naturally. I do hate trying to do this manually!

  15. Thanks for this recipe! I have always followed a recipe that requires 5 lb increments of cabbage. I cannot rely on my garden to produce that (when I need it) and have never been able to figure out the salt for small amounts! Cultures for Health had a truly poor recipe that I followed this fall. It does not even mention salt to weight! My batch turned out horrible! I cannot wait to try this tomorrow morning!

  16. Hi there, I was wondering if the liquid in the jar that is supposed to cover the cabbage, is the liquid that comes out of the cabbage when you press it down, or is there a liquid that you are supposed to add that was accidentally not placed in the recipe? I am also curious as to how long the sauerkraut stays good in the fridge?
    Thanks!

    • Darlene, the cabbage should make enough juice to be able to cover, the more you massage it the more juice it will make. If, for some reason, it doesn’t make enough, you can mix 1 1/2 tsp of salt in a cup of non-chlorinated water (filtered or boiled and cooled) and pour it on top. As long as the sauerkraut is under the juice, it will stay good for ages and ages in the fridge. As in, months, even a year. It does continue to get stronger, though at a much slower pace, so while it probably won’t go bad, as in inedible, it may be too strong for your tastes.

    • wondering the same thing… Do I add water to cover it or where does the liquid come from…

      • The liquid should come from the cabbage itself, the salt draws it out. The more you knead it, the more will come out. Covering it with brine is just in case.

  17. I had to share it on Facebook and tag hubby’s name to it so he would get the recipe. He usually won’t read blogs…even mine! But this looks good….and easy!