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How to Make Sauerkraut & Why it's Good for You!

In this video, I explain why sauerkraut is a total superfood! It's incredible for gut health and the immune system.
Aug 9, 2019 | Joy McCarthy

Sauerkraut is one of the oldest and most popular fermented foods. Even though sauerkraut is German for "sour cabbage", it actually originated in China thousands of years ago! It’s a very sensible superfood because when the cooler months hit, sauerkraut was a reliable source of nutrients when fresh fruits and veggies were scarce because no one had a refrigerator back then.

bowl of sauerkraut(And yes, I've been eating a LOT of sauerkraut here in Austria – it's on pretty much every plate of food when we eat out at restaurants. Follow along with my adventures on Instagram!)

Sauerkraut is one of those foods that's often considered mysterious because many people have no idea how it's made and assume it's a rather complicated process. I used to be intimidated by it (just like I was once intimidated to make my own yogurt !) until I made it for myself. I'm here to bust that myth and tell you how incredibly easy it is!

Once you see the process in my video, you'll realize sauerkraut is the furthest thing from mysterious.

I guess the mystique comes from the fact that it’s quite magical how the bacteria transform raw cabbage into a delicious and tangy kraut that's a superfood for your gut health. Superfoods for gut health benefit your microbiome , which impacts every system in your body from your immunity to your metabolism. Kraut is great for kids, too, and supports their microbiome as well! My daughter Vienna absolutely loves it as a side dish.


I talk about the health benefits of kraut in my video, as well as how to enjoy it, but I've written a more comprehensive summary below. 


Gut health: Rich in live probiotics that support your whole-body health such as Leuconostoc mesenteroides, Lactobacillus plantarum (this strain is in the kiddie probiotic that I give to Vienna every day), Pediococcus pentosaceus, and Lactobacillus brevis. More recent studies have uncovered even more bacteria than these four strains but it will also depend on a variety of other factors. My sauerkraut may differ from the kraut you make in, say, Hawaii, that's because of the temp in your home, the cabbage you’re using, etc.

But why does this matter? These various strains of probiotics help make foods more digestible and increase your gut’s ability to
absorb nutrients.

The more diverse the bacteria in your gut, the healthier your body, which is why consuming fermented foods is an excellent addition to supporting the health of your microbiome.

Immune health: The probiotics, vitamin C, iron and hundreds of phytonutrients in sauerkraut enhance your immune system. 80% of your immunity resides in your gut so the bacteria that live there can either dampen or enhance your immune system. This is because they maintain the integrity of the intestinal wall. Leaky gut is a perfect example of a condition where the microbes are not doing their job and the tight junctions in the gut have become loose letting food molecules and other bacteria in – this when the immune system gets compromised.

jar of sauerkraut

Cancer prevention: Cabbage is considered a cancer prevention superfood because it contains phytonutrients such as glucosinolates that enhance detoxification of certain carcinogenic enzymes and are toxic to many types of cancer cells. In fact, the consumption of cruciferous veggies has been linked in many studies with inhibiting the development of breast cancer. And evidence shows that eating them regularly lowers your risk of developing many different types of cancer. So if you’re not munching on sauerkraut, then make this Turmeric Cauliflower Rice or my Roasted Cauliflower Salad or Walker’s Spicy Brussels Sprouts from first cookbook Joyous Health!

Nutrient-dense: You’ve probably heard me say before that when a food is fermented it becomes biotransformed! That’s fancy for saying it becomes a whole entire new food because bacteria do this magical thing to nutrients in food.

For instance, cabbage has about 30 mg of Vitamin C per cup but when it’s fermented it can have up to 600 mg per cup – incredible right?

Then there’s vitamin K2, which over the last 10 years since I became a nutritionist I’ve seen this nutrient soar to popularity as research has revealed its importance for long-term bone health. This is because it has an ability to assist calcium and other minerals to bind into the bone matrix thereby strengthening bones. Vitamin K2, similar to vitamin D is not in many foods. You'll find it in many animal foods and fermented foods. And, cool fact – it's made by your gut bacteria too! 


Here’s the recipe!

Mains & Sides
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  • 1 large head organic cabbage*
  • 1-2 Tbsp high-quality salt (such as Himalayan or Celtic)
  1. Peel off the top 2 layers of cabbage leaves and set aside. You're going to use these to top the sauerkraut with.
  2. Shred or chop the rest of the cabbage. You can use your food processor to speed things up (either the grating attachment or the "s" blade), and place in a large bowl. Sprinkle on 1-2 Tbsp of sea salt (use more salt for a crunchier kraut).
  3. Using your hands, massage the cabbage until you start to see the water being drawn out of the cabbage and it's softening. This will take a few minutes. This water becomes your brine and it's essential for sauerkraut to work.
  4. Using a clean wide mouth mason jar, begin to stuff the cabbage bit by bit into the jar and press down with your hands or a utensil (see my video). You want to pack down the cabbage, limiting the amount of air in the jar.
  5. As you work your way to the top of the jar, the brine should eventually be higher than the cabbage. Leave about 1-1.5 inches of space from the top of the cabbage and the lid.
  6. Using the cabbage leaf you set aside, fold it up and press it overtop of the shredded cabbage inside the jar, press it down. You don't eat this cabbage, it is to keep the kraut beneath the brine.
  7. Place lid on mason jar, it doesn't have to be tight (see my video). Place the jar out of direct sunlight on a plate in case the juices start to seep out of the jar.
  8. Depending how warm your home is, the kraut will take anywhere from 3-7 days. Give it a taste test after 3 days if it's tangy to your liking, seal the top and place in the fridge. The fermentation will stop and it will keep for months in your fridge.
  9. Whenever your serving the cabbage, always use a clean utensil when dipping into the jar otherwise you introduce new bacteria and this can spoil the kraut.
  10. EnJOY your kraut! You're now a fermenting goddess!!


The amount of cabbage this recipe makes really depends on the size of the cabbage you start with. As you can see in my video, I started with a very large cabbage and this filled a large mason jar (32 oz/1 quart). I would suggest you have a couple of sizes on hand. You could also do 2 x small 16oz jars. It's up to you!

*Please choose organic, there will be more good bacteria present on the cabbage to help it ferment.

If you’re a sauerkraut virgin, leave your doubts at the door because you can do this - it's so easy!! You’ll be so proud of your kraut once enjoy the fruits of your labour! And if you're excited about making your own ferments, you must try these recipes next:

 Homemade Coconut Milk Yogurt

 Homemade Cashew Cheese

If you have more questions after watching this video, please comment below and I’d be happy to answer them.

Happy fermenting!

Joy xo

Cindy   •   August 11, 2019

So, I've tried to make sauerkraut twice now and failed miserably. I'm shaming my grandmother since she made big vats of it and, as a kid, my dad would step on the sauerkraut to press it down. You're right, they ate it all winter long. I LOVE it, and eat it pretty much everyday. Thanks for the inspo! It's great beside bratwurst. I'm sure your husband would agree :)

Joy McCarthy   •   August 12, 2019

Lianne   •   August 11, 2019

Mold developed on the top of my brine, is this normal?

Joy McCarthy   •   August 12, 2019

Carol M.   •   August 11, 2019

If you are adding things to your sauerkraut, like apples, do you add them after the sauerkraut has finished the fermentation process?

Joy McCarthy   •   August 12, 2019

eva   •   August 12, 2019

I used Savoy Cabbage ... will see how this works : )

Joy McCarthy   •   August 13, 2019

Nicole   •   August 16, 2019

this gave me so much confidence to make my own! it always seems so intimidating but you made it clear in the video :) THANKS!

Joy McCarthy   •   August 17, 2019

Rosa Fasching   •   November 3, 2019

Ty Joy, very good job! What about adding some caraway and bayleafs? And we should not forget, besides the vitamins and bacteriae, a good sauerkraut has beneficial acids and minerals as well.

Joy McCarthy   •   November 3, 2019

Rosa Fasching   •   November 5, 2019

Sorry, I forgot to mention juniper berries, they may block the acid attack in the stomach.


Lark   •   May 24, 2020

HI Joy, can I use red cabbage?

Joy McCarthy   •   May 25, 2020

Isabelle PichΓ©   •   June 25, 2020

Hello, I'm planning to do your recipe and I was wondering once we opened the jar, how long does it keep in the fridge?

Joy McCarthy   •   June 27, 2020

Au Yeong   •   May 5, 2021

Hi Joy Thank you so much for the recipe. The problem is that I stay in Singapore and the temperature is always 27c to 32c.May I know what can do. I read from somewhere low temperature fermentation is better, is that right? Since it is always so hot here, I am worry it will turn bad, how does a good fermentation taste and smell like? Tangy? Thank You Fen

Joy McCarthy   •   May 5, 2021

LILA VERGES   •   July 29, 2021

Hi my name is Lila and I really love Sauerkraut. Unfortunately I've Had to purchase it from the Market. Today my Daughter, Venus took me shopping at BJ's to purchase it in bulk. I was shocked 😲 and disappointed 😞 that that store doesn't carry it anymore. I saw your recipe and would love to see your video. Please send me the link to it. I'm not as technical savvy as my Daughter so I might have to be handled with kids πŸ˜… gloves. Thks. Much. Lila

Joy McCarthy   •   July 30, 2021

Lila Verges   •   August 13, 2021

Hi my name is Lila. I recently purchased your book "Joyous Detox" mainly for your sauerkraut recipe. I'm very disappointed because the recipe on page 205 in the book is not the same as the one on your YouTube video. The one in the book includes Carrots and Apples. I'm not pleased at all in fact I'm so disappointed that I'm seriously thinking about returning the book.

Joy McCarthy   •   August 13, 2021

Lila Verges   •   August 13, 2021

It's Lila again. Why do you keep sending me the sauerkraut video and the health benefits of it. I did not asked you that question. I stated to you that the reason I purchased the book was because I wanted to see the exact same recipe as your video on page 205 as you indicate in the video. I plan on returning your book because you obviously don't plan on answering my question and as I stayed before, the only reason I purchased the book in the first place was for the sauerkraut recipe.

Joy McCarthy   •   August 13, 2021

Lila Verges   •   August 13, 2021

Hi it's Lila again and I'm getting very tired and frustrated Because you're asking me the name of the book I'm comparing the recipe with when I indicated the name in my last text. It's called "joyous detox" this is the book that you stated that the sauerkraut recipe would be in on page 205. There is a recipe on page 205 for sauerkraut but it includes apples and carrots and that's not the one I purchased the book for.


Linda Klein   •   August 27, 2021

Hi Joy, can raw chopped cabbage be frozen?

Joy McCarthy   •   August 27, 2021

Cyndie Phillips   •   July 25, 2023

I try not to use salt, so this tasted extremely salty to me. Can I use less salt or rinse the kraut b4 eating? Or will this lose more of the nutrients? Otherwise I really like it.

Joy McCarthy   •   August 1, 2023

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