Homemade Sauerkraut Recipe (Kvashenaya Kapusta)
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My mom has been making this homemade sauerkraut since I can remember. It is a classic Ukrainian/Russian tradition and it’s way easier than you might think! Did you know you could make a fantastic salad with it? It’s strangely delicious.
If you’ve tried a Slavic Kvashenaya Kapusta or Kysla Kapusta (our version of sauerkraut), you already know that there is nothing like a homemade sauerkraut. You can use it in anything that you’d put sauerkraut in (this is sauerkraut after all). Try it in the braised cabbage with beef … yum! I have two salad ideas detailed here, just for you. Because I like ya!
*A Note on the Cabbage: buy the ones that are light in color and NOT bright green (the light color indicates that it is a “late” in the year cabbage which works best for this recipe).
*The ones at the farmers market in Fall are best. Also, if you are using a soup pot for the fermenting process, don’t use aluminum.
Ingredients for Homemade Sauerkraut:
2 medium/large cabbages (2 1/2 kg or about 5 1/2 lbs) *See cabbage note above
2-3 medium carrots, grated
2 Tbsp fine sea salt
1 Tbsp sugar
Two ways to serve homemade Sauerkraut as a salad:
#1 Mom’s Classic Sauerkraut Salad:
1/2 small purple Onion, finely diced
2 Tbsp Sunflower Oil (preferred for more flavor), or olive oil
#2 Sauerkraut Apple Salad:
1/2 small purple Onion, finely diced
1/2 Apple (any kind; I used gala), diced
1/2 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp white grapes or dried cranberries
1-2 Tbsp extra light olive oil (not extra virgin)
How to Make Homemade Sauerkraut:
1. Remove the outermost leaves of the cabbage, cut it into quarters and shred cabbage finely (use a mandolin to do this if you know what’s good for you ;)). (discard the core, or trim it and eat it – it’s very tasty and good for you!). Grate the carrots.
2. In a large silver bowl, place cabbage, carrots, 2 Tbsp sea salt and 1 Tbsp sugar and scrunch and knead it together really well for the juice to be released from the cabbage (4-5 min). You don’t want it to be super juicy, just enough to cover the lettuce when you really pack it down in a jar.
And scrunch it good…
See the juice? All a result of good scrunching.
3. Fill a glass jar with the cabbage mixture and pack it in very tightly so that the juice from the cabbage covers the cabbage completely. You want a jar big enough to be filled only about 2/3 full so it has room to expand
4. Make a press over the top of the cabbage by pushing down with a plate (or the lid from a large sour cream container). Top with a small jar of water, a super clean rock or whatever else would make a good weight. Place the lid on the jar but do not tighten (this is just to keep bugs out). Its a good idea to keep the bottle in the sink or over a dish since there is risk of it overflowing (this is also why we only fill it 2/3 full; it grows!). Let stand at room temp for 4 days or until sour. It will stop fermenting/rising when it’s done
5. While it sits at room temperature, once each day: poke a few holes through the cabbage with the back of a wooden mixing spoon to release the gas that this process produces and pack the cabbage down tightly. I skipped a day with the poking and it was no big deal. If you are making a bigger batch, the poking process is more important to let the gasses escape.
6. After 4 days, refrigerate until ready to serve. Can be stored for a few weeks if kept very cold. Did you notice how the cabbage grew? Compare it to the photo in step 3.
And in the fridge it goes. Whoa is that our roasted salsa? Oh yes!
To serve, drain the amount of cabbage that you would like to eat by firmly squeezing out the excess juice with your hands. Add in your salad ingredients, mix well and serve. Easy peasy!
Homemade Sauerkraut Recipe (Kvashenaya Kapusta)
Ingredients for Homemade Sauerkraut:
- 2 medium/large cabbages, 2 1/2 kg or about 5 1/2 lbs
- 2-3 medium carrots, grated
- 2 Tbsp fine sea salt
- 1 Tbsp sugar
Two ways to serve as a salad:
Mom's Classic Sauerkraut Salad:
- 1/2 small purple Onion, finely diced
- 2 Tbsp Sunflower Oil, preferred for more flavor, or olive oil
Sauerkraut Apple Salad:
- 1/2 small purple Onion, finely diced
- 1/2 Apple, any kind; I used gala, diced
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 2 Tbsp white grapes or dried cranberries
- 1-2 Tbsp extra light olive oil, not extra virgin
How to Make Russian Sauerkraut:
Remove the outermost leaves of the cabbage, cut it into quarters and shred cabbage finely (use a mandolin to do this faster and discard the core.
In a large silver bowl, place cabbage, carrots, 2 Tbsp sea salt and 1 Tbsp sugar and scrunch and knead it together really well for the juice to be released from the cabbage (4-5 min). You don't want it to be super juicy, just enough to cover the lettuce when you really pack it down in a jar.
Scrunch it until juices start to come out.
Fill a glass jar with the cabbage mixture and pack it in very tightly so that the juice from the cabbage covers the cabbage completely. You want a jar big enough to be filled only about 2/3 full so it has room to expand.
Make a press over the top of the cabbage by pushing down with a plate (or the lid from a large sour cream container). Top with a small jar of water, a super clean rock or whatever else would make a good weight. Place the lid on the jar but do not tighten. Its a good idea to keep the bottle in the sink or over a dish since there is risk of it overflowing (this is also why we only fill it 2/3 full; it grows!). Let stand at room temp for 4 days or until sour. It will stop fermenting/rising when it's done.
While it sits at room temperature, once each day: poke a few holes through the cabbage with the back of a wooden mixing spoon to release the gas that this process produces and pack the cabbage down tightly.
After 4 days, refrigerate until ready to serve. Can be stored for a few weeks if kept very cold.
To serve, drain the amount of cabbage that you would like to eat by firmly squeezing out the excess juice with your hands. Add in your salad ingredients, mix well and serve.
*A Note on the Cabbage: buy the ones that are light in color and NOT bright green (the light color indicates that it is a "late" in the year cabbage which works best for this recipe).
*The ones at the farmers market in Fall are best. Also, if you are using a soup pot for the fermenting process, don't use aluminum.
Start to finish, recipe takes 4 days.
Read comments/reviewsAdd comment/review
Love your Recipes ! Question about the sauerkraut … can you substitute a sugar replacement ? I’d like to try one of your recipes as a side vegetable for my diet plan which excludes sugar.
Hi Donna, I checked with my Mom in the past to be sure, and she said yes! Her mother used to make it without any sugar at all. I hope you love it!
Can I do this with white and red cabbage? I have never seen it done but always wondered. Also can I use a plastic pail?
Hi Alla, I haven’t tried that to advise but I think it’s worth trying. If you do an experiment, please share with us how it goes.
Using my first batch of homemade sauerkraut for dinner tonight. Even though I left out carrots in this first batch it’s excellent. That vintage countertop fermenting crock I found at Etsy will be getting a workout!
I’m so glad you enjoyed it!
I don’t commonly comment but I gotta tell thankyou for the post on this perfect one : D.
Thanks for the recipe! I bought some cabbage at the grocery store to try this, I’m wondering if I should wash it, or will that rinse away the good bacteria that makes this ferment?
Hi Diana, to be safe, remove the thick outer leaves, and rinse them in a colander under running water.
I boiled a head of cabbage for rolls and didn’t use all of it, can I make sauerkraut with it tomorrow
Hi Jeannie, I haven’t tested it with leftovers like that but I think it could work. If you experiment, let me know how you liked the recipe.
Do not use boiled cabbage. The good bacteria that live on the raw cabbage will be destroyed by boiling, so you won’t get any fermentation and will just end up with stinky cabbage water.
I’m curious about why you say to store it for only a few weeks. I’ve made your sauerkraut recipe (and others as well). Your recipe was great…I loved the addition of carrots. But if I’m using my garden vegetables to made sauerkraut batches, I want to store them for use into the winter.
Have you heard of others (or tried yourself) using any other ways of saving this recipe for longer? Canning? Freezing?
Hi Leah, we haven’t tried canning or freezing this so I can’t speak to that. If anyone else has any thoughts on that, please let us know and thank you in advance!
I was reading “Wild Fermentation” and he suggests you could boil it and can it to keep it shelf stable, but then you kill off the probiotics. You should probably wait until it’s reached it’s full sourness (4 weeks) before trying that though.
You can definitely leave the saurcraut fermenting on the table for additional 3-6 weeks. It will be a lot healthier—packed with way more probiotics, but a lot more sour as well (which doesn’t mean it’s gone bad). After that you can put it in the fridge and it will stay there for much longer.
I wasn’t able to find the light cabbage in my local stores. Do you think the green one will still work?
Hi Katie, yes that will still work. 🙂 I hope you love this sauerkraut!
Wow. I have been looking for this for absolute ages. I used to work in a Russian restaurant many years ago and every table would get a basket of bread and a bowl full of something like this-cabbage, carrots, raisins, apple, olives and olive oil. I didn’t bother to get the recipe when I left, but I have tried and failed to recreate it. This gives me a great place to start.
I’m so happy you discovered our blog. Welcome! 🙂
Hi Natasha!! I love all your recepies; they are delicious ❤
I just have a question regarding the “sour cream lid” used for the press… Do you leave that lid in there through the entire fermenting process or do you just use it to push the cabbage down?
Hi Melissa, we keep the press on while it ferments so the cabbage stays submerged, otherwise it rises and goes above the level of the liquid.
Great! Thanks! 🙂
Natasha hi, I am making 2d one. After 2d day it became slimy and smells funny… Any ideas?
Hi Sue, did you make sure your sauerkraut was submerged in the liquid before leaving it to ferment? Did you use any substitutions in the recipe?
Fresh home made sourkraut is full of healthy probiotics! Don’t cook it as this will kill the little good guys to n there!
Why kvashena kapusta became slimy?
Hi Natalya, that can occur if you do not have the top layer submerged in the liquid – this is why I create a press to keep it pushed down. Also, be sure to store in the refrigerator when directed in the recipe
Hi, I have tried to make this a few times and my liquid gets slimy the second day. Not as liquidy when I first start it. Is this normal or am I doing something wrong or is this part of the process? I follow your recipe instructions exactly. The bubbles at the top look the same.
Hi Anna! Did you make sure your sauerkraut was submerged in the liquid before leaving it to ferment? I would recommend reading this article about slimy sauerkraut causes HERE. It contains some helpful information.
I figured out the problem. It was the sugar. I talked to my dad and asked him how he makes it. He doesn’t not add sugar. This is what caused it to get slimy. The proportions he uses is 1 medium cabbage – 1 carrot – 1 tablespoon salt. He also scrunches the cabbage like you directed in your recipe. He also makes it in a bucket because you can push it down well with a glass dinner plate and something heavy to hold it. I filled a large jar with water to help press it down. He mixes all the cabbage in the bucket after 48 hours rather than just poking it daily. At 72 hours the cabbage is ready to be put in jars and into the fridge. The liquid is not slimy this time around making it. I hope this can help someone too if they are having issues with slimy liquid.
Thanks for sharing, Anna. I’ve never had issues though using the same exact recipe but feel free to omit the sugar, that will still turn out great!
Natasha, thank you for the recipe. I love your website and use it a lot.
Just made the sauerkraut, packed it tightly and decided against the weight on top. Will wait and see what will happen. Your little tips are very helpful- like placing the jar on a plate to prevent overflow spills.
Hello Tatiana! Thanks for following! Please let me know how it turns out!
Natasha, where did you get that glass container? Thank you!
Hi, It was from TJ Max Home Goods.
Natasha, what size glass jar do you use? I want to make some for myself and some for my sisters. Thanks!
HI Bonner the glass jar is about 2 liters in size.
Delicious and easy way to add fermented food to my diet. I am really loving every recipe I have tried from your website. Thanks!
My pleasure Amy! I’m glad to hear you love the recipes! Thanks for following and sharing your great review!
Perfect!! Left it to ferment for 4 days and it came out PERFECT. Very crunchy and great tart taste without an overpowering vinegar scent to it like storebought. Thanks so much.
Aye, I meant to put down 5 stars
Thank you!!!! <3
My pleasure Lena1 Thanks for sharing your wonderful review!
I’ve never used sugar when making sauerkraut and I’ve never scrunched it either, although my mother does scrunch hers. I simply fold the salt in and then pack it down well. It doesn’t take long before the salt draws the moisture out. I check it every now and then and if the liquid hasn’t covered the cabbage, I simply add more weights until it does. We also add some chopped fresh dill to the Classic Sauerkraut Salad.
That’s great Vic! Thanks for sharing your tips! 🙂
Is it possible to do it without sugar?
Hi Elena, I just checked with my Mom to be sure and she said yes! Her mother used to make it without any sugar at all. I hope you love it!
Hi Natasha, have to comment on your kapusta recipe. THANK YOU and SPASIBO. Kapusta turned out totally super great, sour, crispy …. perfect. Thanks.
You’re welcome! Thanks for sharing your review!! 🙂
How do you get rid of the gas that follows when eating cabbage?
lol. I don’t have an easy answer for that. Stand against the wind I guess. Lol. 🙂
Will this recipe work with store bought cabbage?
Hi Tanya, yes, please see the note at the top of the post about selecting the right kind 🙂 Enjoy!!
I have made sauerkraut for 50 years and I use coarse salt and caroway seed. Unique taste for sure. After making cabbage rolls I cover them with sauerkraut and tomatoes. Baked for 1 1/2 hours Freezes very well. I bought a fermenting/burping crock today and will make it fresh all winter. I usually use my very large crock which makes 75 ibis of sauerkraut and process it to can for the winter. Everyone wants a quart or five. Lol. Super food for sure.
I’ve never even heard of a fermenting crock. I’ll have to look into it! 🙂
This капуста came out perfectly used the same jar worked great as it has a wide mouth opening! Thanks!
That’s wonderful!! Thank you so much for your awesome review! 🙂
I’ve been dying to get my hands on a recipe like this. Thanks a million. Look forward to making it. Seashalia
I hope you love it!! We grew up eating this. 🙂
What size jar are you using for this amount of cabbage? Is it a 32oz or a gallon size jar! Thank you so much for your recipe.
It’s about 2 liters, and you are welcome 😄.
Thank you so much for the recipe – I had some Ukrainian cabbage at a Church pot-luck made by my Ukrainian friends who gave me virtually the same recipe without your instructions – yum- cannot wait to make some tonight!
Welcome to the site Barnabas 😀. Let me know how it turns out and I hope that you’ll find many more favorites.
Hi Natasha, GREAT blog. I have a quick question. I’m making the sauerkraut. It’s been sitting out for 3 days now and I’m noticing more bubbles around the edges, like in your picture where the jar is in the refrigerator. When I removed the weight and the plastic lid from the surface to poke through it with the spoon I noticed that the liquid seems to be slightly viscous (like boiled okra, but not so much). The foam kind of clings to the spoon when I skim it off. Is this a normal development, or does this indicate there’s a problem with it? It smells normal, and looks pretty much like your pictures. Thanks in advance for your feedback!
Hi Jim. Thank you! 🙂 I haven’t had the experience of the liquid becoming viscous. Was your cabbage submerged in the liquid? Were you poking holes daily to release the gases? The foaming is normal but I’m not sure about it being viscous. Did you use a different kind of cabbage possibly?
Just wanted to let you know, this condition, which was only just noticeable, seemed to improve after I refrigerated the batch. It still looked and smelled fine, so we sampled it and it was delicious–fully soured and no strange or “off” tastes at all. We’ve since used almost all of it uncooked as salads. I’m making more–great recipe!
Oh that’s great! Thanks Jim 🙂
Natasha , you mentioned in your recipe 2 tbs of sea salt . There are so many kinds of salt now and they all have different level of saltiness . I use kosher salt for everyday cooking , but probably it will be to mild for this recipe . Can you please suggest right kind of salt for this recipe ? I assume it has to be a coarse salt , right?
Thank you in advance . You blog is wonderful and my place to go for ideas and recipes.
It doesn’t have to be coarse salt. I think this salt conversion chart will help: http://www.mortonsalt.com/for-your-home/culinary-salts/salt-conversion-chart. I used a fine sea salt. It’s not as important what kind of salt it is as long as it is not iodized salt since alot of it can alter the taste of pickled recipes.
I should have made a double batch. I finally made it, and it went in the fridge yesterday. Today morning, my husband ended up eating some for breakfast with his bacon and eggs. He liked it that much.
Thanks to you, now I won’t have to go begging my mom for some kvashenaya kapusta every time I’m craving that salad or the kapustnyak soup 😉
Oksana, thank you for the great review on the sauerkraut and I’m looking forward to trying your recipe for kapustnyak! 🙂
Privet Natasha! Thank you for such a wonderful sauerkraut recipe! I made and fermented it 3 days, used only 1 carrot, it’s perfect! Will try it with apples and raisins! Thanks again and Happy March 8th! God bless!
Thank you so much Cher 🙂
made it again this afternoon, we love, LOVE, lOVe it!!!! Can’t wait, 3 days seem forever! Thank you!!!
Hi Natasha, I’ve never made sauerkraut before but wanted to try your recipe I have one red cabbage and half of a green one. Can I mix both and adjust the salt to just under 2 tbsps? I mainly want to know if red (purple) cabbage can be used. Thanks in advance.
Hi Sam, that should work. I have this note in the recipe you may find helpful: “A Note on the Cabbage: buy the ones that are light in color and NOT bright green (the light color indicates that it is a “late” in the year cabbage which works best for this recipe)” I hope that helps.
Do you know if it would be able to be frozen to keep longer then a few weeks?
Mindy, I never tried freezing it before, it would have to be an experiment :).
My Ukrainian mother used her homemade sauerkraut as a filling for a vegetarian version of stuffed peppers. It would be served at room temp., though personally I loved it straight out of the fridge as a cool summertime snack.
It’s amazing how our parents and grandparents came up with all kinds of recipes, while using just a few ingredients :).
Another awesome recipe. I have been pickling cabbage Ukrainian style all my conscious life in pretty much the same way:) Just a couple of notes for first-time picklers in the US. You might have a problem where the cabbage is just refusing to ferment. This is due to preservatives that large stores add to produce to keep it fresh. Same problem with trying to get milk to sour – it just does not work like Ukrainian milk. I get my cabbage at the farmers’ market, it is adequate. DO NOT use the Cole slaw mix:) same reason
Natasha, Can this recipe be canned in a pressure caner? I’m looking for a good recipe for my pantry. Thanks!
To be honest, I haven’t tried that and I’m not sure it would work since it needs to get sour at room temp first. I don’t know how heating it up again to can it would change the flavor or texture of the sauerkraut. If you do experiment, let me know how it worked out. Sorry I can’t be more helpful.
Natasha what you think to do sauerkraut in oak barrel, like they used to do in old days?
I’ve never tried that method so I don’t know how it would change the flavor. We’ve always used glass or plastic but I prefer glass over plastic 🙂 Let me know if you try it. I wouldn’t even know where to find an oak barrel! 😉
Oh, I remember my mother making huge glass jars of this! She would use it as a stuffing for a Lenten version of stuffed peppers, served cold or at room temperature. It was one of my favorite vegetable dishes.
That’s awesome that it reminds you of something your mom made. Nothing beats homemade sauerkraut!
when you poke the kapusta with the wooden spoon, do you have to put the plate and the pressure back on? Made it yesterday and going to make some holes in it today. Thanks
Yes keep the pressure in it the whole time, even when it goes in the fridge at the end.
Thank you for this recipe, i made it this morning and cannot wait till its ready, i can see myself tasting it every day, hopefully I will have some left by the 4th day 🙂
ha ha. It’s good stuff! 🙂
Can you please tell me what brand of mandolin are you using?
It’s unbranded and I haven’t been able to find the same one anywhere because I’m not sure how to search for it. I do recommend one in the shop tab at the top of my blog. Sorry that is not super helpful.
I’ve been craving it for a long time! I didn’t know how to do it, as you know our moms everything ” na glaz “. Now I’m so excited that ill be doing it my self!! My mom makes piroshki with them too they’re delicious!!
Does she mix it with anything else or is it just straight sauerkraut?
She do it half fresh cabbage and half sauerkraut. First sauté cabbage, diced onion and shredded carrot then add a little bit of tomato sauce or paste and then add sauerkraut (rinse sauerkraut in colander) and sauté that for I don’t know how long:) (mom said you will see when its ready)
It’s kind of like the recipe I have for braised cabbage with beef. That sounds wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing.
Did you know sauerkraut is really great for your health? Heres an article: http://www.naturalnews.com/033659_sauerkraut_health_benefits.html
Very cool!! I had no idea there were special health benefits. Double cool! I’m excited. Thanks Zoya! 🙂
How big is that jar you put it into and where did you get it? Thanks for the recipe, I will be trying it soon!
I think it’s a 2 1/2 liter jar (kind of a strange size), it’s from TJ max and it came with a rubber ring to seal the lid, but I took that off since it’s not supposed to be airtight. You can use a regular 3 Liter jar.
Awesome post. My mom also makes this type of kvashenaya kapusta (I was never brave enough to try it). She also makes them in big buckets. Here’s an idea with the apples also. She would cut apples in quarters or eighths and bury them inside the ready made kapusta for few days. Take them out, and I know it sounds kind of weird, but the apples tasted really good, I can’t really describe the taste, but we all loved it.
We love kapustnyak (saurkraut soup), made with beans that you actually have to soak overnight. I crave that soup anytime cold weather hits. And my husband has been asking for me (not our moms) to make saurkraut, because the store bought ones are overpriced, and don’t even come close to tasting homemade.
I’ll have to make this soon. Thanks.
Oksana, yes it’s definitely less intimidating if you aren’t making an entire bucket of it! I’ll have to try the apple trick next time (we finished off the sauerkraut yesterday!). P.S. do you have a great recipe for kapustnyak you could share? I’d love to try your families version of it!
Sure, I’ll try to make the saurkraut first and than make the soup with it. I’ll write it step by step then. My mom’s version is a little bit of this, a handful of that. So I can’t remember to make it off the top of my head
That’s why I love to cook next to my mom when she’s teaching me a recipe. I have no idea how to gauge a little bit of this and that 😉
My family loves Sauerkraut. I adore the way it cuts through the richness of meat.
Very we’ll put! It’s awesome with meat and potatoes. Now you’ve got me craving dinner and I haven’t even had breakfast! (7:30am) 🙂
I haven’t made this kapusta recipe for a while mostly because English fridges are SO small and I am always running out of space but I am set on making a small batch soon! Thank you for a good reminder. And you are so right Russian/Ukrainian sauerkraut is nothing like its German counterpart! I actually read that there is higher content of vitamin C in this recipe than in regular cabbage!
Oooh I didn’t know that it has a higher Vit C content! I do like that this makes a smaller portion and not the traditional bucket-sized kapusta that my mama makes. I really haven’t experimented much with German food, have you?
I never cooked German sauerkraut but I still have college memories of annual Octoberfest! It always seemed a bit too smelly and not as fresh as ours. That’s my very ethnocentric opinion. 🙂
Haha you’re funny. I like your opinion. 😉
Never had with apple. Definitely will try. Looks good 😉
It’s a nice add-in. We loved it! But I also love the easy version with onion and sunflower oil just as much! 🙂
Thank you ! ! ! …. thank you to you and your mom…
I’ll make this tonight 🙂
Дякую – – – Спасибо
You’re so welcome 🙂
Natasha you have perfect detailed pictures, that’s why I love your site :). I made kvashenaya kapusta last year and I still have some in my fridge. It still tastes perfect in venigret. I never tried it with apple before but it sounds so good. I will give it a try.
Thanks for sharing 🙂
It’s great in the salad; adds some nice contrasting sweetness, plus the white raisins; yum!!!