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Learn how to cook sauerkraut. A simple, quick German sauerkraut recipe, the perfect side dish for bratwurst or other sausages.
German Sauerkraut Recipe
German sauerkraut is one dish that many people associate with the country. And they are not wrong there, sauerkraut is such a typical German product or dish, it is hard not to think about it when you think about German food.
So German that even the original name was kept in English and other languages.
What is sauerkraut?
Finely sliced cabbage mixed with salt and fermented by lactic acid bacteria. During the fermentation or pickling process, microorganisms digest the cabbage’s natural sugars, which are converted into carbon dioxide and organic acids.
This super popular dish has a strong sour flavor and it is not only extensively prepared and eaten in Germany, but in many other European countries as well, for instance, Poland, Ukraine, Russian, the Baltic states, France and so on.
In my native country, Romania, we ferment whole cabbage heads. They are placed in huge barrels, where you could probably fit 10-15 huge cabbages and are fermented whole. The resulting cabbage has a rather different flavor than the German sauerkraut, but it is just as delicious.
And one of the best things about it, I love to drink the sauerkraut liquid. In my childhood, sauerkraut juice used to be part of a regular meal: some potatoes, maybe some meat or sausage and a glass of sauerkraut pickling liquid.
How to cook canned or sauerkraut from a jar?
In Germany, you can buy fresh sauerkraut at the butcher’s or, more conveniently, sauerkraut in a bag (refrigerated), canned sauerkraut or in a jar (Amazon affiliate link). I’ve used all of them and they are all great!
I would rather choose the butcher’s sort because is fresher and it uses a minimum of packaging, but otherwise, I always have a can or a jar in the pantry.
You don’t actually have to cook canned sauerkraut in order to eat it, you can have it as it is in a salad, for instance. However, cooking makes it not only warm and thus more suitable as a side dish, but the seasoning also enhances the flavors.
Ingredients and seasoning:
- When cooking sauerkraut you will add onions and apples, and some spices like black peppercorns, cloves, juniper berries, and bay leaves. You will not need any salt.
- I always add a grated potato as well, you will not be able to taste it in the finished dish, but it helps with binding the dish nicely.
- You will also need some stock, either vegetable, beef or chicken stock. I use homemade chicken stock most of the time, and if I don’t have it, vegetable or chicken stock from a cube.
How long to cook:
- Drain the sauerkraut.
- Finely slice the onion and the apple and cook until the onions are translucent about 4-5 minutes.
- Add the sugar, stir and let the sugar caramelize lightly. Pay attention that the sugar doesn’t turn too dark.
- Don’t skip the caramelization step, it really enhances the flavor of the dish and you will need something sweet to balance the sourness of the cabbage.
- Add the kraut, spices, grated potato and stock. Stir to mix.
- Bring to a boil, turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes.
How to keep cooked sauerkraut?
- Keep it refrigerated in an airtight container, it will keep for at least 4-5 days and you can reheat it several times. You can also eat it without reheating it again.
- If I make way to much, I also freeze it packed in freezer bags or small containers. It will be fine for at least 3 months, probably longer.
- It is a great thing to have in the freezer for a quick meal. It defrosts very quickly on the counter or you can defrost it the microwave as well.
How to eat sauerkraut?
- Uncooked in a salad. Drain well, taste and rinse if you feel that the kraut is too sour. Drain well again. Add other ingredients like grated carrots, finely chopped apples, chives or parsley, and a salad dressing, preferably made with sunflower oil, olive oil is not the best fit. Don’t add vinegar.
- Sauerkraut soup is always delicious and super healthy. Add some other vegetables like bell peppers and potatoes, some tomato puree or passata and some sausage slices, if you don’t want to leave the soup vegetarian.
- Bratwurst or brats with sauerkraut is a typical German dish, I think that is the way I serve it most of the times, it is a comforting, flavorful dish that everybody loves.
- Kasseler with sauerkraut and boiled potatoes, another very typical German sauerkraut dish. Kasseler is a cured and slightly smoked cut of pork. So good! So very German!
- Or you can add a piece of smoked pork belly on top of the sauerkraut and cook them together.
More sauerkraut recipes?
Meatball Stew with Sauerkraut – A hearty stew with meatballs and sauerkraut, a German sauerkraut recipe for the cold autumn and winter days.
Vegan Cabbage Rolls with Sauerkraut – Cabbage rolls with sauerkraut, rice, and vegetables, these vegan stuffed cabbage rolls will melt in your mouth.
Polish Bigos – A comforting and warming Polish stew recipe – Bigos – with sauerkraut, white cabbage, pork, and spicy sausages.
Vegan Sauerkraut Rolls with Rice – Delicious and comforting sweet-and-sour recipe for vegan cabbage rolls made with sauerkraut/fermented cabbage and filled with rice, walnuts, and raisins.
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- 500 g/ about 1 lb sauerkraut (See note 1)
- 1 medium onion
- 1 large apple
- 1 tablespoon sunflower oil
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 6 cloves
- 1 teaspoon juniper berries
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 large potato, about 200 - 250 g/ 7 - 9 oz
- 250 ml/ 8.5 fl.oz/ 1 cup chicken stock (See note 2)
- Drain the sauerkraut. Finely slice the onion and the apple. Set aside.
- Heat the oil in a saucepan and cook the apple and onions for about 3-4 minutes, until the onions are translucent.
- In the meantime, finely grate the potato. Set aside.
- Sprinkle the sugar on top of the onion and apple slices, stir lightly and let the sugar caramelize for a couple of minutes. Keep an eye on it and don't let it become too dark, it should be only lightly caramelized.
- Add the peppercorns, cloves, juniper berries, bay leaves, sauerkraut, grated potato, and stock. Stir well. Bring to a boil, turn the heat down to medium-low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Either sauerkraut from a bag, jar or can.
- Beef or vegetable stock can be used instead.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1/4 of the dish
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 186Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 2mgSodium: 932mgCarbohydrates: 34gFiber: 8gSugar: 14gProtein: 5g
Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.