Sauerkraut is a fermented food just like yogurt or kimchi. It's made by fermenting fresh cabbage leaves with lactic acid bacteria for about 5 to 6 weeks, according to Clemson University. Fermented foods are a wonderful source of probiotics, which support digestive and vaginal health, per Harvard Health Publishing.
One cup of drained, canned sauerkraut contains 27 calories, 1 gram of protein, 6 grams of carbohydrates (4 grams of which are fiber) and 0 grams of fat, per the USDA. It's a nutritious option if you don't like cabbage in other forms or if you want to add more vegetables to your rotation.
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Cooking sauerkraut isn't something that needs to be overthought: "For the most part, you're simply heating up the sauerkraut," says Ebony Austin, chef and owner of Nouveau Bar & Grill, an Atlanta-based restaurant.
If you have a package of sauerkraut and you're ready to enjoy it when it's simmering or simply warm, here's what to do.
Things You'll Need
1 can or jar of sauerkraut
Microwave-safe dish or bowl
Optional seasonings and garnishes: horseradish, pepper, apple cider vinegar, carrots or garlic
1. Remove Sauerkraut From Packaging
Depending on what type of packaging your sauerkraut comes in, you won't need to do any more prep work than removing it from the package.
If it's in a can, it will likely be in a saltwater brine. Canned sauerkraut does not require any rinsing or straining, Austin says. "Not rinsing it helps keep the flavor in canned sauerkraut," she says. "However, some people rinse it before straining for a milder taste."
2. Heat It on the Stovetop, in the Microwave or in the Oven
On the stovetop: Stovetop heating is the most conventional way of preparing packaged sauerkraut. "Cook on low to medium heat for about 25 minutes," Austin says.
In the microwave: If you're short on time, you can microwave the sauerkraut for 4 to 5 minutes.
In the oven: Oven-cooking is the ideal method if you're adding other ingredients that pair well with the sauerkraut, Austin says. For example, you might choose to add smoked sausage and potatoes to your sauerkraut.
If you go that route, place your cooked potatoes and sausage in an oven-safe dish, top with strained sauerkraut and cover it with aluminum foil. Set it in an oven heated to 350 F and allow it to warm until the sauerkraut is tender, about 15 minutes.
Whichever method you prefer, take the tenderness of the sauerkraut as an indicator of doneness. “You want to [heat it until] the sauerkraut is tender,” Austin says. “Most people like to slow-simmer it to soften the texture and flavor.”
3. Add Flavorings
The most exciting thing about cooking sauerkraut is that you can do it differently every time. Sauerkraut already has a unique flavor, but don't be afraid to add seasoning and sauces, Austin says.
Some flavorings she recommends include horseradish, pepper, apple cider vinegar, carrots or garlic. "Onions and bacon fat also go well with sauerkraut," she says.