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Sauerkraut Without a Culture


Cultured Veggies with Salt

This is something special to know about sauerkraut. You don’t actually need a culture to make it. The cabbage combined with salt will make its own good bacteria. These bacteria dominate and crowd out the harmful ones and preserve the food in a safe way. You can make sauerkraut with just salt. You must add salt with this method to inhibit the growth of bad bacteria and to create an environment that is safe.

When you add salt, submerge the vegetables under the water, the good bacteria will dominate and keep out harmful pathogens. The salt pulls water out of the cabbage (through osmosis), and this creates the brine in which the cabbage can ferment and sour without rotting. The salt also has the effect of keeping the cabbage crunchy, by inhibiting organisms and enzymes that soften it. I do believe that using a starter culture has a lot more benefits, including more probiotics, but this is a good method as well and the health benefits are many. You can check out all the pros and cons on this article. Do Cultured Veggies Need a Starter? Click here

Note: I don’t recommend culturing vegetables other than cabbage without a culture. Cabbage has its own special properties that make it safe and easy to culture with just salt and water.

Cultured Vegetables without a Culture
This is delicious with just cabbage but you can add other ingredients such as spinach, carrots, seasonings, etc. You must use salt if you don't use a starter culture. It is necessary to keep the PH correct and keep the bacteria at a safe level. ~Donna
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Servings: gallon
  1. Remove outer leaves of cabbage.
  2. Shred cabbage into desired length.
  3. You can use a food processor or by hand.
  4. Add salt and toss with cabbage to combine evenly.
  5. Pack cabbage into a gallon jug with a clamp down lid or an airlock or canning jar.
  6. Cover with water.
  7. Leave 2 to 3 inches for kraut to expand.
  8. Set in a cool place, out of sunlight for 6 to 7 days.
  9. Check the vegetables every day to make sure they are fully submerged in the water. If they have risen above the water, simply push them down so they are fully covered by the water. If any white spots formed because the veggies rose above the water, do not worry. Remember, this isn’t harmful. Just scoop out the vegetables that have the white spots on them and push the rest back under the water.
  10. After 6 days place in the refrigerator.
  11. They will last at least 9 months or longer in your fridge.



42 Responses to "Sauerkraut Without a Culture"
  1. Hi Donna,
    I just made this yesterday and I cannot keep the cabbage under the water, no matter what I try more pops up through! I do have an airlock lid that I am using. SHould I be opening it to keep pushing it down or just leave it? This is the first recipe I’ve tried and I was super excited about it, I just want it to turn out right. Thank you!

  2. Hi Donna I am new to your site but think it is very interesting. I am still a bit confused as to how to remove the build up of gas if using a sealed jar which you recommend. Should I open it regularly if making say sauerkraut to let out the gas or will I risk spoiling it by adding some oxygen to the jar. Also once decanted into smaller jars do I have to open them periodically as well. I live in England and it’s hard to find the air locks. Thanks a lot.

  3. Hi Donna, lovely site, just wondering, I hear from different sources about the length of time you need to culture sauerkraut. Could you set the record straight?

    Basically, there seem to be two schools of thought. One says that you can eat the kraut after the bubbling stops, while the other says that the beneficial bacteria don’t really get going for a least another few weeks. So if you start eating it after the bubbling stops, you are not really getting the full benefit.

    Do you know what the chemistry is here? I have a batch now that’s been going for two weeks. The bubbling has stopped, but is there anything in there that I can benefit from, or should I leave it for another week or so.

    Much thanks for your reply.


    • The bacteria runs out of food at three weeks so there will be less probiotics. The benefits are usually the highest after a few days on the counter. Someone had them tested and those fermented 3 weeks or longer had very little probiotics while those at 6 days at the highest, but the ones that used Caldwell’s starter culture had the most. The ones done with just salt at the least.

  4. Hi Donna,
    Would you please clarify something about the recipe above? In one place you say: “I don’t recommend culturing other vegetables without a culture. Cabbage has its own special properties that make it safe and easy to culture with just salt and water.” Then in the recipe you say: “It will expanded and bubble. That is the fermentation and lactic acid developing. You can really add any kind of vegetables you want.” Does this mean that I can add different veggies to my sauerkraut and the special properties of the cabbage will make it safe to culture the other veggies with just salt? I have signed up to receive your free e-book but haven’t gotten the chapter on cultured veggies yet.

    A couple of other questions:
    – Does the cabbage continue to ferment in the fridge?
    – I made my first batch without a starter recently and while the taste is great the texture is tough and feels kinda “squeaky” when I chew it. Is there a way to make this sauerkraut less tough?

    Thanks for all your help!

  5. Hi Donna. I have some kraut that has aged in the frig with the airlock for 9-12 weeks. I took it out to start eating it and noticed there is only approx. 1 inch of brine in the jar. There is no mold and it did not taste bad but the color is not the typical bright color I usually have. Is this batch ruined or can I save it by adding fresh brine ? Thanks

  6. Donna, I just had to tell you my latest weird culturing experience…LOL

    I made my latest gallon of sauerkraut. I’ve been using culture with it because I think it ferments faster and has more probiotics. So I made it and it was ready in a week. But it smelled TERRIBLE!! Not bad-for-you terrible but super, super strong fermented. When I tasted it, it was the best sauerkraut I’ve ever had. But seriously, it smelled incredibly strong. My daughter in another part of the house even asked me if we had a sewage backup! ROFL – I even warned my doctor not to open it up in the office but to take it outside if he wanted to nosh on it before taking it home.

    Well, I found out why. By mistake, I had used BUTTERMILK STARTER instead of VEGETABLE starter! Oh my gosh it is the best tasting EVER! But I will never make it this way again! Live and learn! LOL Just had to share.

      • Hi donna how many strains of bacteria does sasauerkraut contain and does it have the ability to inhabit candida overgrowth. My sauerkraut stop bubbles after 3 days, is it normal or has it stop fermentin? Thank.

        • It can stop after the initial fermentation depending on what you are using to culture it with so this is fine. The strains depend on what culture you use.

          • Hi Donna I just downloaded your free ebook you sent to my mail, they are many types of fermentation sent to my mail with hundreds of pages on it I have been looking for such information since. Am very grateful for the heart you have for helping people, that very kind of you and God will reward you for that thanks

  7. Donna,
    I have made the Dilly Green Beans, the Cherry Tomatoes, and the Rainbow Carrots and I am growing mold! I am so sad. They looked beautiful in the jars. I used Body Ecology Starter Culture as suggested in your book and I am in shock that I have mold. I let them sit out on the counter for four days before I was about to put them in the fridge. I popped open the quart mason jars, one metal and one with the plastic lid you suggest and both had mold. 🙁 Help!

  8. Hi Donna,

    If I have a gallon jar of fermented sauerkraut and I want to divide it up into pint Mason jars (so I can use my big jar again and so that it’s easier to handle for serving), do I have to sterilize the little jars before I pack them, or is washing enough? Also, my kraut is now white, but it still tastes “cabbage-y”. Does that taste improve over time, or should I leave it in the fermenting jar longer? Thanks.

      • About a week and a day, maybe? I used salt and some of the Bubbie’s sauerkraut juice (5 tsp salt, 1/2 cup juice for 1 head of cabbage)

            • They didn’t have time to ferment slowly in the fridge. 🙂 The entire gallon is GONE. I took some to church for people to sample and now they all want to make their own! I had a LOT of it (I never thought I would want to snack on sauerkraut, but this is AWESOME) – I even took a pint to my doctor’s office because he was sick with a respiratory infection and felt terrible. He was absolutely excited to get it and couldn’t wait to eat it. I think I have crossed over into the realm of sauerkevangelist. 🙂

              Thanks for the help!

  9. I’ve just started culturing veggies (I love your book, it started me on this fermentation lark), and I’m doing sauerkraut first. Having read up on it elsewhere, most places say you need to weigh the cabbage down, as it will float (I am finding this happening – do you?), and that you should never put it in an airtight container. Is there a reason for this, and why do you personally use airtight jars and not a cheesecloth or something?
    Many thanks,

  10. Hi Donna, I am culturing my veggies with salt and whey and you say that they have the most beneficial bacterias the first week and then they diminish. I don’t understand this since I am from Eastern Europe where saurkraut “was born” and everybody knows that it is best to eat it after two months and the longer the better taste and also best for killing candida which hates sourness. So does it mean that eventhough it taste better after a month (which you also say) it doesn’t have such health benefits?

    • When bacteria runs out of food it dies unless it is a stronger strain of bacteria and has an unlimited food supply. I have someone I know who tested the levels of bacteria and the probiotics were gone after a few weeks but in the ones with starter cultures the probiotics remained but were highest in the first month.There are still benefits to eating sauerkraut even if it is fermented for a long time but there are more in the shorter fermentation times. But if you believe differently than you should follow your own life experience. It is the best teacher.

      • Thank you for this answer. I was reading around and some places said to ferment sauerkraut for 4-6 weeks. But I would prefer the shorter time myself! I just bought some garlic dill kraut from the health food store today, and my son loves it (it’s raw; the package even has an air vent to let out air). He has eczema and gut issues, so I’m interested to see if fermented veggies will help him. I’ve never liked canned sauerkraut, but I love this one (it tastes like pickles). You don’t think adding dill and garlic to the recipe above would be a problem, do you?

        And after that, I’m going to make Kimche. Because I love the stuff. Might have to eat it all by myself, but that’s just fine with me!!!

          • I did. It’s got until Wednesday. But yesterday I was talking to some friends who culture veggies, and they said they wouldn’t add the garlic, since it has antibacterial properties. At this point, I figure if it helps my son eat it, I’ll do it, but it would be nice to have the higher probiotic count. What are your thoughts on that?

              • I thought about it, and I decided that if raw garlic would negatively affect the kraut, then it would negatively affect my gut too. It doesn’t, so I quit worrying about it!

                I had a little trouble with the first batch–it rose up above the water and got slimey, so I threw it out (it didn’t have the dill and garlic). This time, I put a sheet of plastic wrap over the top of the cabbage, then added canning jar lids around it, then topped it off with a glass peanut butter jar of water. This kept the kraut under the water, and the plastic helped keep it from coming up around the jar lids. Now I have a crock, but it doesn’t have a lid (just a 3-gallon crock), so I am going to use an old plate and jar with water for a weight, and put plastic wrap over the top of it to keep air out.

  11. When you say “set in a cool place, out of sunlight” my basement comes to mind… Can the temperature be too cool?

  12. Donna
    Do you use organic cabbage which is quite expensive and you can buy a jar of organic kraut for the same price of making it.
    Is regular cabbage just as good

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