Salt is an essential ingredient in making sauerkraut. It turns water into brine and prevents the growth of bad bacteria. But too much of a good thing is often a bad thing. In the case of sauerkraut, you’ll notice immediately when you’ve overdone it with the salt.
So, how do you fix too salty sauerkraut? The easiest way to remove excess salt from sauerkraut is to dilute the brine with filtered tap water. If your sauerkraut is still too salty, rinse it carefully with filtered water. Then, let it soak in unsalted water for a few days.
In this article, we’ll go over how to fix sauerkraut that has gotten a little too salty. I’ll provide a few simple steps you can take to remove excess salt from your fermented cabbage. I’ll also cover why sauerkraut gets too salty, how much salt to use in the fermentation process and how to prevent overly salty sauerkraut in the future.
How to fix too salty sauerkraut
Overly salty sauerkraut is one of the most unpleasant surprises after a few weeks of diligently fermenting your cabbage. Instead of biting into some sour deliciousness your left with a salty aftertaste in your mouth.
Luckily, there some simple steps you can take to make your sauerkraut very edible and even delicious again. So, let’s go over these, one-by-one!
Dilute the brine
If you’ve noticed that your sauerkraut has gotten too salty while it’s still fermenting in its very own jar and brine, you’re in luck! One of the simplest ways to fix too salty sauerkraut is to dilute the brine with fresh, filtered water.
- Remove the brine: To do this, remove some of the brine from the top of the jar with a ladle. How much brine to exchange for freshwater depends of course on the saltiness. I’d recommend starting by removing about 1/8 of the total brine. We can always repeat this process later on.
- Add freshwater: Once the brine is removed, fill up the fermenting jar with clean unsalted water. It’s best to use filtered water or even distilled water as regular tap water can contain plenty of heavy metals and other unwanted minerals that can negatively impact the fermentation process.
- Let it sit: Let the diluted brine sit for another couple of days and then taste your sauerkraut again. If it is still too salty remove 1/4 of the brine and replace it with fresh water. Continue to do so until the sauerkraut is just salty enough.
Rinse the sauerkraut
Perhaps you have already strained your fermented cabbage and removed the brine. In that case, the above method is not available to you. However, we can effectively get rid of any excess salt on the surface of the cabbage by rinsing it gently with clean water.
- Rinse with a plastic strainer: Pour your sauerkraut into a large plastic strainer and use some filtered or distilled water to rinse the cabbage thoroughly. You can use your hands to stir the sauerkraut and make sure that every little piece gets rinsed.
- Rinse, taste & repeat: After every rinse, taste the cabbage to see if it is still too salty. Sauerkraut will naturally taste somewhat salty but you’ll know when it’s over the top. Continue the rinse until the excess saltiness is removed.
Ideally, we want to make sure to fix our salty sauerkraut before taking it out of the brine. Rinsing sauerkraut will strip away some of the good bacteria that have gathered on the cabbage’s surface. Nonetheless, you’ll still get plenty of probiotic benefits even with rinsed sauerkraut.
Let it soak
If all else fails and the sauerkraut is still inedible, we’ve got one last drastic measure to remove the salt: soaking!
- Mix sauerkraut and freshwater: Place your salty sauerkraut in a glass jar and fill it up with clean (filtered or distilled) water. Place the jar somewhere away from direct sunlight and let it soak for a couple of days.
- Taste and strain: Taste the sauerkraut ever now and then and once the freshwater has stripped the sauerkraut of excess salt, strain the water and store the fermented cabbage in your fridge.
If your sauerkraut is still overly salty after any of the above steps just repeat them. Be aware that with every rinse and soaking you will sacrifice more and more live cultures that have grown during fermentation.
In my experience, the rinsing and the soaking usually do the trick. I have never had to do these steps more than once, even with my severely over-salted batches.
Why does sauerkraut get too salty?
Since removing excess salt after fermentation is more difficult and strips the kraut of helpful microorganisms, let’s look at how we can prevent overly salted sauerkraut in the first place. Here are a few tips for making sure your sauerkraut is perfectly salted every time:
- Use the same jar: One simple trick I use to make sure my sauerkraut does not get too salty is to use the same fermentation jar every time. This way I know exactly how much cabbage I’ve got in a batch and can add exactly the same amount of salt every time. I can then also experiment with varying salt levels to see which gets the best result.
- Use the same salt: Another big factor that affects the saltiness of your cabbage is the type of salt you use. Get some high-quality sea salt and ditch the iodine-filled table salt. Make sure to get the same salt every time since different types of salts can impact how much salt the sauerkraut absorbs during fermentation.
- Adjust the amount of salt: Once you’ve discovered the perfect salt for you (mine is pink Himalayan sea salt) you can start adjusting the amount of salt you use per batch and see how little you can get away to reduce the saltiness while still preventing the formation of mold. To start out I’d recommend using about a handful of salt per 1kg / 2 lbs of cabbage.
- Experiment with fermentation time: The longer you let you cabbage sit and ferment, the more salt it will be able to absorb. If you are consistently getting overly salted sauerkraut try reducing the fermentation time and see if that helps.
When sauerkraut is too salty it’s not fun. A slightly salty taste is common for sauerkraut as it soaks in brine for several weeks but too salty cabbage will make you never try sauerkraut again.
Fortunately, there are many ways to fix too salty sauerkraut: diluting the brine, rinsing the sauerkraut and letting it soak in freshwater for a few more should all help in reducing the salt content of your sauerkraut batch.
But in the end, it’s best to prevent overly salty sauerkraut from the get-go by measuring the amount of salt you use and adding more over time.