No, sauerkraut isn't solely for hot dogs and summer barbecues — this flavorful fermented food is way more versatile than a seasonal frankfurter topping and can add texture and tanginess to countless other dishes.
Plus, the zesty cabbage contains plentiful probiotics: the "good" bacteria that could help you reap gut health benefits year-round.
"The probiotics in sauerkraut may help improve the balance of bacteria in your gut, leading to a healthier gut lining while keeping harmful microorganisms away and helping your digestion," Jackie Newgent, RDN, chef, dietitian nutritionist and author of The Clean & Simple Diabetes Cookbook, tells LIVESTRONG.com.
But buyer beware: not all sauerkraut products possess probiotics. "Unfortunately, some jarred sauerkraut undergoes pasteurization, which can kill the good bacteria," Newgent explains.
“For sauerkraut that provides plenty of probiotics, ideally look for fresh, vinegar-free versions that are naturally fermented and often found in your local market’s refrigerated section,” Newgent says. Also, check labels for words like “probiotic,” “fermented” or “raw” to indicate the presence of probiotics.
Alternatively, to ensure that you're getting all the gut-healthy bonuses, consider making your own, Newgent says. Sauerkraut only requires simple ingredients: cabbage, filtered water and sea salt.
Whether store-bought or homemade, you don't want kraut that's been cooked (since the heat destroys the beneficial bacteria), Newgent says. And keep in mind that sauerkraut is a salty food, so you might want to add less salt to your recipe for the right taste (and health) balance, she adds.
To get started, try these six creative ways to serve sauerkraut that go way beyond a weenie on a bun.
Sauerkraut Brands We Love
1. Serve as Salsa
Sauerkraut supplies a rich umami flavor that'll spice up your boring bowl of salsa.
"To create a lively salsa, add chopped tomatoes, red onion and jalapeno to traditional sauerkraut," Newgent says. Take it a step further and stir some into your guacamole, too, for an extra zing.
2. Develop a Dip
Sauerkraut makes a stellar centerpiece for creamy party dips, ideal for dunking veggies and chips.
"Try combining well-drained sauerkraut with mayonnaise, sour cream, cottage cheese, plenty of fresh herbs (like parsley, chives and dill), garlic, a splash of Worcestershire sauce or tamari, a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper," Newgent says.
3. Sneak Into Smoothies
Sauerkraut in smoothies? A spoonful of sauerkraut in your morning shake can create complex, nuanced flavors rather than just a simple, straightforward sweetness.
"Whirling a tablespoon of sauerkraut into a fruity smoothie can provide a more balanced taste," Newgent says. But don't overdo it — a small scoop should suffice. And don't fret: Sauerkraut's savory flavor will be subtle, not overpowering.
Recipes to Try
4. Blend Into Your Burrito
Sauerkraut probably doesn't come to mind when you think of burrito stuffers, but it should.
"Sneaking sauerkraut into burritos or tacos gives them that wow-worthy taste twist," Newgent says. From fish to beef, chicken or veggie varieties, the piquant punch of sauerkraut will liven up any type of burrito or taco.
5. Top Your Toast
"Adding a couple of tablespoons of sauerkraut on top of avocado toast gives it new life," Newgent says. The tanginess of the kraut complements the mild flavor and creaminess of the avocado.
Similarly, sauerkraut would go great with gooey grilled cheese — or any sandwich, really. Feel free to experiment!
Recipes to Try
6. Pair With a Potato
From baked to mashed potatoes, sauerkraut makes a marvelous match to the tasty tubers, cutting through the taters' starchiness with its signature zest.
The fermented cabbage can even serve as the "secret" ingredient in a crowd-pleasing potato salad, Newgent says.