Authentic German Sauerkraut Recipe
You will love this authentic German sauerkraut recipe, even or especially if you’re not a big fan of sour sauerkraut.
I think that there is nothing more synonymous with German cooking than sauerkraut.
In this post, I am showing you exactly how Germans actually cook it and it.
And I bet you will love this authentic German sauerkraut recipe as much as we do.
During the typically long and dark winters, there is not a whole lot that grows in Germany – and Eastern Europe for that matter. So Germans resorted to fermenting cabbage.
On one hand, it is a great way to preserve cabbage naturally and at room temperature. On the other hand, it is actually a very healthy dish that is high in vitamins C and K, as well as other nutrients. The fermentation process turns this humble vegetable into a probiotic-rich food.
For those reasons, and because I am German, I always have a big mason jar or two of fermenting green cabbage in my basement. I like the nice sour tartness and the health benefits of sauerkraut. You can really use it in so many healthy recipes.
I also love how the German word sauerkraut has made it into other languages as well. It literally means “sour cabbage”.
Keep reading to find out how to make this easy recipe for the best-tasting sauerkraut!
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Why you’ll love this German sauerkraut recipe
If you’re not a big fan of sauerkraut because you find it too sour, then you really need to try this recipe. It takes a very basic sauerkraut to the next level with some extra spices and ingredients. You then have the perfect side dish for many German recipes, mainly meat dishes.
Also, it comes together pretty quickly. While we’re braising it for a while, it is fairly hands-off. You can even make a big batch and keep it in the refrigerator for later use.
Last but not least, this is a very budget-friendly dish that you will love to keep in your back pocket.
Ingredients for this German sauerkraut recipe
This is what you’ll need for this recipe:
- Sauerkraut: Obviously, this is the main ingredient here. While you can absolutely make your own sauerkraut and in this recipe, I am showing you how to cook sauerkraut from a jar. Canned sauerkraut is pretty widely available. Since we’re cooking it, I like to save my homemade fresh sauerkraut for when I am looking for a raw, unpasteurized product that still has all the various lactic acid bacteria in it.
- Onions: Gently caramelizing onions helps mellow the sour taste of the sauerkraut with their natural sugars. Also, it adds more body to this dish.
- Apples: Apples add a hint of sweetness to this dish that balances the flavor of this sour cabbage nicely.
- Bacon: We are using bacon for its fat, slightly smoky taste, and crunch.
- Broth: We are simmering the sauerkraut in broth which helps round out the flavors.
- Juniper berries and caraway seeds: I am bundling them since they are completely optional. Germans traditionally add these spices to help with the digestion of the heavy cabbage. You can see below under substitutions and variations what to do if you’re not a big fan of them.
- Maple syrup: The sweetness of the maple syrup also helps balance the sourness of the sauerkraut.
Useful tools and equipment
These are some pieces that I often like to use:
- Large pot, skillet, or dutch oven: If you’ve been following me for a while, you might know that I absolutely love using cast iron. For this recipe, I like to use my 12-inch cast-iron skillet. I have a cast-iron lid from a dutch oven that fits it perfectly. But you can use any enameled cast-iron pot or stainless steel pot you like.
- Large strainer: This is very useful for draining the juice from the sauerkraut.
- Tea infuser: Especially if you don’t like the taste or texture of the juniper berries or caraway seeds you can use this to get the best of both worlds.
How to cook sauerkraut the German way
- Cut the bacon into small dice.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, fry the bacon until crisp and the fat has been rendered.
- In the meantime, drain the juice from the canned sauerkraut. You can keep the sauerkraut juice if you like.
- Peel and cut the onion in half. Then cut the onion into small rings.
- Peel, core, and quarter the apple. Then cut it into small pieces.
- Remove the bacon from the skillet and try to leave as much fat in the skillet as possible. Set the bacon aside.
- If there is less than about a good tablespoon of fat in the skillet, add some extra lard, avocado oil, or other oil with a high smoke point.
- Sautee the onion until translucent. Add the apple and saute for another few minutes.
- Add the drained sauerkraut.
- Add the broth, maple syrup, and spices if you are using them.
- Turn the plate to low heat, put a lid on the skillet or pot and gently simmer the sauerkraut for 30-45 minutes. You might like to check it every so often so it doesn’t burn at the bottom. However, it’s perfect if there is some browning since that gives it a nice caramelized flavor. At the end of the cooking time, all the liquid should have been absorbed.
- Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
- Serve with grilled German bratwurst and boiled potatoes for the perfect German dinner or however you like it. You could even make your favorite Reuben sandwich with it!
Substitutions and variations
While many of the ingredients are not absolutely necessary, you can substitute them with other ingredients. As you might imagine, every family and every region in Germany has its own favorite fried sauerkraut recipe. In fact, this recipe is more of a Bavarian sauerkraut.
- Bacon: I personally feel that this is an essential addition. If you would like to make it a vegetarian dish, you can leave it out entirely.
- Broth: The same goes for the broth. You can use vegetarian bouillon, white wine, or rice wine instead. You might even like to replace a portion of the broth with white wine.
- Juniper berries and caraway seeds: if you don’t like either or both of them, leave them out. We really like both because their taste reminds us of so many typical German dishes. Also note, that both of them are healthy and help with the digestion of the fermented cabbage. Alternatively, you can use a tea bag or tea infuser that you place right into the sauerkraut during cooking. Afterward, you simply remove it.
- Bacon fat: Hopefully you will get a lot of fat out of your bacon. If not you can use another fat such as lard, goose fat, duck fat, or, for vegetarians, avocado oil. You could use olive oil but I feel that the previous options impart a better flavor.
- Bay leaves: this is another spice that would work really well in this German food.
- Maple syrup: I really like the complex flavors of the maple syrup. If you don’t have it or don’t like it, you can use regular granulated or brown sugar as well.
- Cream: To make this German sauerkraut dish taste even more mellow, you could add a good dollop of sweet cream or sour cream to it.
Other German recipes you might like
German Onion Tart | Zwiebelkuchen
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Traditional German Sauerkraut
- 1 jar sauerkraut (about 28 oz drained)
- 1 whole onion, large (or 2 small ones), cut into thin slices
- 1 whole apple, peeled, cored, cut into small dice
- 2-4 oz bacon, cut into small dice
- 4 oz broth or bouillon
- 2 TBSP maple syrup
- 1 TBSP juniper berries – optional
- 1 TBSP caraway seeds – optional
- salt & pepper to tastee
- Drain the sauerkraut. You might like to keep the sauerkraut juice.
- In a large skillet or pot, saute the bacon over low-medium heat. When crisp, remove the bacon from skillet, leaving as much of the bacon fat in the skillet as possible.
- If there is less than 1 TBSP of fat in the skillet, add some extra lard, goose fat, avocado oil, or other oil with high smoke point.
- Add the onions and saute until translucent.
- Add the apples and sautee for another 2-3 mins.
- Add the sauerkraut, broth, maple syrup, and spices (if using), stir until combined, lower the heat to low, put a lid on, and gently simmer for 30-45 mins or until all the liquid has been absorbed.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Serve with German bratwurst and boiled potatoes or with your favorite meat dish and sides.
- If you don’t like the spices, you can add them to a tea bag or tea strainer and keep that in the sauerkraut during the simmering. Remove before serving.
- If you like your sauerkraut a bit more sour, you can add the sauerkraut juice and use a little less sweetener.
- If you like your sauerkraut a little less sour, be sure to drain all the sauerkraut juice and add a little bit more broth and sweetener.
Shelley here again. I forgot to mention I made my own sauerkraut (36-one pound bags). Yummy
Yay! That’s so awesome!! Thank you for sharing ~ Anja
Great recipe! Balanced flavours, not to sour nor sweet. The whole family loved it with German sausages. Thanks for this lovely and authentic recipe, Anja.
That makes me so happy to hear! This is definitely one of our favorites ~ Anja
Holy smokes, this was DELICIOUS!!!
I used beef broth and did not add juniper berries (didn’t have any)— it was FABULOUS!
Great!! Good for you for making it! As you can see, the recipe is very flexible 🙂
***** recipe. This is my third time making this recipe. Delicious and so much better than just caraway seeds that I had made prior. No leftovers here, family loved it. Thanks for the recipe. Happy in Nova Scotia, Canada. 🙂
Nice! Love that you love it! Thank you so much ~ Anja
What kind of broth? Chicken? Beef? Help!
You can use both; chicken will create a milder, and beef broth a bolder taste ~ Anja
I use the chicken broth but just don’t forget to put the bacon pieces back in. It does not remind you that on the recipe lol.
Good catch! Will fix that! Thank you ~ Anja
The first time I ever had sauerkraut and liked it was when my aunt uncle served it slightly sweetened over mashed potatoes and topped with diced pork chop. Sounds odd but it was so good! I can’t wait to try your suggestions!
That sounds great! The added sweetness definitely help balance the sourness of the kraut ~ Anja
I had no idea you could use juniper berries in sauerkraut! It sounds delicious.
Oh, yes! They add so much flavor (both during fermentation and cooking) ~ Anja