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Red cabbage sauerkraut
Fermented red cabbage

Ingredients: red cabbage, salt
Taste: primarily acidic, pickley, and salty, can be slightly sweet
Popular in: Northern/Eastern Europe
Time: 2-4 weeks
Dominant microbes: Lactic acid producers
Tools: crock/jar, weight

red cab·bage sau·er·kraut   

ˈred ˈka-bij ˈsau̇(-ə)r-ˌkrau̇t   



Purple cabbage
Red kraut
Blue kraut
Crauti rossi

*this name also refers to the nordic winter holiday side dish (often served with roast pork or duck) of lightly braised red cabbage prepared with apples, juniper berries, cinnamon, in addition to other ingredients

Basic Red Sauerkraut

red cabbage
kosher salt

mixing bowl
clean jar with lid or crock
kitchen scale
fermentation weight
knife or mandolin
  1. Rinse the cabbage and remove any damaged leaves
  2. Remove the core, slice thinly with a knife or a mandolin
  3. Weigh the cabbage, and add 2% salt by weight
  4. Mix the cabbage and salt well in a bowl, until cabbage is wilty and water can be easily squeezed out; you can let it sit in the bowl, covered for 30min
  5. Pack the salted cabbage in the jar, pressing it down so that brine covers the surface (none of the cabbage solids should be exposed to air)
  6. Add the fermentation weight on top , and cover the jar with a loose lid or (see here for materials)
  7. Ferment at room temperature for 12-14 days. On day 12 taste the sauerkraut. If you think it’s ready, move it to the fridge; otherwise, keep fermenting! 

For the non-fermented sweet red cabbage recipe, look here or here

on timing
Depending on your preferred texture, you can always ferment for less time (4-7 days), but less than 3 is not recommended. Red cabbage tends to take longer than common cabbage to achieve a desired ‘sauerkraut’ texture

red sauerkraut microbiology

Little research has focused on red cabbage fermentaton, mainly due to the assumption that the same key microbes dive both common cabbage and red cabbage fermentation.

Red cabbage is of particular interest because of its higher anthocyanin levels compared to green cabbage.

A 2014 paper from the Berlin University of Technology compared antioxidant availability in autochthonous and inoculated red cabbage ferments. They found:

  • Compared to fresh red cabbage, fermentation increased total antioxidants (using DPPH and TEAC  techniques, which measure free radical scavanging activity)

  • The highest level of antioxidants was identified in red cabbage inoculated with L. plantarum

  • However, levels of total anthocyanins decreased over the course of fermentation across all ferments (supported by a 2016 paper that found lower levels of anthocyanins in plasma of patients who consumed fermented red cabbage comapred to fresh red cabbage)

  • But, this may only be indicative that there are other antioxidants that do increase over the course of fermentation

red cabbage
Brassica oleracea var. capitata f. rubra or red cabbage is closely related to common green cabbage. The red color is primarily due to defective expression of the BoMYBL2–1 gene, which  leading to increased anthocyanin expression and red/purple pigment


a type of pigment found in plants, appearing red in acidic conditions and blue in alkaline conditions. It is a subclass of phenolic phytochemicals, secondary plant metabolites characterized by their aromatic rings with one or more hydroxyde group, acting as antioxidants

from the Greek αὐτός (autós = “self”) and χθών (khthṓn = “earth, soil”). Literally “native to the soil”

microbes from the plant surface that participate in the fermentation process

red kraut and IBS

While there are initial indications that small servings (75g) of sauerkraut may decrease IBS symptoms, whether red sauerkraut has similar effects has not been studied.

According to work by Monash University, while both raw green cabbage and red cabbage are  low-FODMAPs in 75g servings. However, once fermented, only 20g of sauerkraut is considered low-FODMAP (with increasing levels of mannitol over 30g) and up to 75g of red sauerkraut is considered low-FODMAP (with increasing levels of fructans at 140g)

While this requires further investigation, it may indicate that fermentation changes the availability of certain FODMAPs correlated with specific IBS sensitivities, with red cabbage having lower levels of FODMAPs compared to green cabbage following fermentation. Whether red sauerkraut is more suitable for those with IBS remains to be studied.
Fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. They represent a group of carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed or indigestible to certain people, putting them at greater risk for IBS. Which FODMAPs trigger IBS are specific to the individual, and identification and avoidance of these carbohydrates are part of the current recommended treatment.

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