Sauerkraut is more than just a hot dog topping, it is also a traditional condiment from Central Europe. This classic accompaniment to sausages provides a complex sourness that complements perfectly pork. If you don’t have access to it and need some for a dish, try one of the sauerkraut substitutes below.
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Your best bet: Make your own sauerkraut
Cabbage is one of the easier vegetables to pickle, so when it comes to replacing sauerkraut, you have a couple of options. If you are in a hurry, try quick-pickling the cabbage. This works exactly the way it does with any other vegetable. Start by finely shredding the cabbage leaves. Next, you will want to cook the shredded cabbage in a brine of water, vinegar, and salt. Cook until the cabbage has the consistency and appearance of fermented sauerkraut.
If you have time, you can try making sauerkraut the traditional way. The classic method involves fermenting the cabbage with salt, which will help you to get a result with the taste and nutritional profile of Central European sauerkraut.
If you plan to make sauerkraut this way, you will need to start this process at least three weeks before you intend to use the sauerkraut. Keep in mind that making classic sauerkraut at home requires care to keep it from being contaminated with microbes that could make you very sick.
A decent second choice: Kimchi
The lactic acid fermentation used to make kimchi — the famous Korean pickled cabbage— is similar to the process for making sauerkraut. With both of these cabbage pickles, bacteria and fermentation preserve the sugar in the cabbage and create a sour taste. Because of the similar processes, you can count on kimchi to share health benefits with sauerkraut. You will get the same kind of probiotic effects from both.
Kimchi has been made for centuries and is used as both a side dish and condiment in Korean cuisine. While the best-known kimchi is hot, there are mild ones that may be better European sauerkraut substitutes.
Mild kimchi may not be available everywhere. It is more common to see the kind with hot chili peppers. Note also that while it does share many flavor notes with sauerkraut, kimchi is typically sourer and saltier than sauerkraut. Also, a different kind of cabbage is used to make kimchi. Sauerkraut is typically made with green or red cabbage while kimchi is made with napa cabbage, but you can make it with many other kinds of produce, including root vegetables and herbs.
In a pinch: Dill pickles
You can get a similar sourness and fermented flavor from dill pickles as you can from sauerkraut. The same Lactobacillus bacteria responsible for sauerkraut’s flavor and nutritional value are involved in the fermentation of dill pickles. Not only can you use them in pretty much every application that requires sauerkraut, but they are also relatively easy to find.
The problem with using pickles as a sauerkraut substitute is that they don’t look like sauerkraut and won’t have the same texture.
Pickled banana peppers are another famous pickle that can give you much of what sauerkraut provides. They are sour, mild and can work in many of the same dishes. If you are in the US, you will be able to find them in most grocery stores.