11 Sauerkraut Substitutes [Unfermented & More]

Did you know that sauerkraut translated from German is “sour cabbage”? With a name like that, I can see why many people are turned off by sauerkraut. 

Even though the name and the overall description are not the most mouthwatering, I have to admit that I do like sauerkraut.

The sour and slightly sweet flavor is incredible on a hot dog or Rueben sandwich. 

However, my kids and husband do not like sauerkraut as much as I do. That is why I am an expert at finding delicious, appealing, kid friendly sauerkraut substitutes.

I want them to love it as much as I do! I also want to keep making reuben sandwiches for dinner…

The best overall substitute for sauerkraut is kimchi. Kimchi is a type of Korean  fermented cabbage that is a little spicy but very similar to sauerkraut. Thinly sliced dill pickles can be a great sauerkraut substitute and are easy to find. Use apple cider vinegar to replace sauerkraut juice in any recipe. A nice shredded carrot salad is a good, unfermented sauerkraut substitute. 

Sauerkraut Substitutes

1. Kimchi

Kimchi is a Korean dish made of spicy pickled cabbage. The exact ingredients may vary but kimchi is usually made with shredded red cabbage, garlic, ginger, chili powder and salt. The mix is left to ferment until spicy and sour.

Kimchi and sauerkraut are very similar since they are both a type of fermented cabbage.

While kimchi is a little spicier than sauerkraut, it has the tangy, sour taste like sauerkraut. 

Fermented kimchi has the same nutritional benefits that sauerkraut boasts. It is loaded with probiotics that will help with your overall health.

Kimchi has about 20 calories per half cup with zero grams of fat and about 4 carbs. It is quite similar nutritionally to sauerkraut! 

Substitute sauerkraut for kimchi using the same quantity of kimchi to replace sauerkraut.

Look for mild kimchi with less spice to get a flavor closer to sauerkraut. Use kimchi in place of sauerkraut to top a reuben sandwich, make an interesting hot dog, or as a side dish to grilled sausage. 

2. Dill Pickles

Dill pickles have a similar, fermented flavor as sauerkraut. The natural bacteria that is responsible for sauerkraut’s tart taste is also involved in fermenting pickles. 

Dill pickles are very easy to find. Almost every grocery store has a shelf full of pickles for you to choose from! 

Chop the pickles into small, skinny strips so they resemble sauerkraut more closely. The texture will be a little different but you can use sliced dill pickles to replace the same quantity of sauerkraut. 

Dill pickles are a great sauerkraut substitute, replacing it perfectly as a condiment. A hot dog topped with dill pickles rather than sauerkraut will be a winner!

Dill pickles are high in vitamin A and K, just like sauerkraut. They have healthy probiotics and only about 9 calories per half cup of pickles. Dill pickles are a healthy substitute for sauerkraut. 

3. Pickled Banana Peppers

Pickled banana peppers offer the same sour, sweet taste as sauerkraut. You can find cans of pickled banana pepper in most grocery stores, making them an easy sauerkraut substitute.

Slice the banana peppers into small strips and then use the same quantity to substitute sauerkraut. 

Banana peppers are not spicy which may make this substitute more desirable than kimchi.

The nice yellow color is also similar to sauerkraut so the appearance of your dish will not vary. 

Pickled banana peppers are low in calories, just like sauerkraut. In ½ cup of banana peppers, there are about 16 calories, zero grams of fat and 3 grams of carbs.

Banana peppers are lower in sodium with just 8mg per serving. This is great if you are looking for a low sodium substitute for sauerkraut. 

4. Homemade Sauerkraut

You will be shocked by how easy it is to make sauerkraut. It does take a little time as the sauerkraut needs to ferment. However, the delicious flavor of fresh sauerkraut is unbeatable. 

Making your own sauerkraut allows you to adjust the seasonings to suit your personal preferences.

Add pepper flakes to make your sauerkraut spicier or sugar to make it sweeter. You can even learn how to sweeten sauerkraut without sugar, making it healthy but delicious!

If you have ever wondered how to make sauerkraut better, the answer is to simply make your own.

Fresh sauerkraut is far better than any canned or jarred sauerkraut you get in the grocery store. Try out our recipe below to make sauerkraut at home. 

5.Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is made with apple juice. Adding yeast to the juice turns the sugars into alcohol and ferments the juice. The vinegar has a sweet and sour taste that is very similar to sauerkraut juice. 

Replace sauerkraut juice in any dressing or marinade recipe with the same amount of apple cider vinegar.

Apple cider vinegar has about 25 calories, zero grams of fat and only 6mg of sodium. It is easy to find in any grocery store and will keep in your pantry for years. 

6. Lemon Juice

Do you have a lemon on hand? Then you have a perfect substitute for sauerkraut juice. Lemon juice is tart, sour and a tiny bit sweet, just like sauerkraut juice. It is also very easy to find!

Lemon juice may taste sour but it is not fermented. It will not have that yeasty, fermented flavor so many will find this substitute desirable. 

Lemon juice is perfect to replace sauerkraut juice in any dressing recipe. Use the same quantity of lemon juice to substitute sauerkraut juice. ½ cup of lemon juice has 25 calories with 8 grams of carbohydrates. 

7. White Vinegar

White vinegar is such a multi-purpose ingredient. It can quickly give you the sauerkraut taste you are looking for.

White vinegar is made from fermented grains which is why it has that fermented flavor similar to sauerkraut.

White vinegar is very inexpensive. It is a fantastic, thrifty substitute for sauerkraut juice. 

Use white vinegar in place of sauerkraut juice in any marinade or dressing recipe. Use about ¾ of the amount of white vinegar to replace sauerkraut juice. It does have a much stronger taste!

8. Stovetop Sauerkraut

Looking for a quick sauerkraut recipe? Apple cider vinegar, shredded napa cabbage, mustard, garlic and salt is all you need! Add a little brown sugar is exactly how to make sauerkraut even better without fermenting. 

The ingredients are sautéed in a skillet, making the shredded cabbage soft. It will be ready to eat in just a few minutes!

Try this recipe from My Bizzy Kitchen to make your own unfermented sauerkraut. 

This is the perfect substitute to use to top a hot dog or serve with your favorite kielbasa. 

Grilled Sausage with Sauerkraut on a Bun

9. Shredded Carrots

A simple shredded carrot salad can be a great substitute for sauerkraut. Shredded carrots have a crisp, crunch just like shredded cabbage. They are also fairly mild. 

Shred carrots into thin strips and then toss them with apple cider vinegar and your favorite seasonings.

The apple cider vinegar will make the shredded carrots have a similar flavor to sauerkraut. 

This recipe from Tara Teaspoon is especially great thanks to the addition of apples. Sauerkraut and apples are often paired together so carrots, apple cider vinegar and apples are a great replacement! 

10. Raw Cabbage 

Can you substitute sauerkraut for cabbage? Definitely! Sauerkraut is made from cabbage, after all.

It is a great, quick substitute to get the flavor and crunch of cabbage without having to wait for it to ferment. 

Slice cabbage into thin strips. Toss it with a little salt and some vinegar. Use the quick, simple sauerkraut as a side dish or condiment for your favorite foods. 

11. Relish

Relish is a classic condiment that has a similar taste to sauerkraut. Classic relish is made from pickled cucumbers. It has a sour, sweet taste with just a little crunch.

Relish is a little more like a jam than sauerkraut. It is best when used to replace sauerkraut as a condiment, on a hot dog or as a topping for a sandwich. 

Use about half the amount of relish to replace sauerkraut. It is a little more dense than sauerkraut.

Relish is sweetened with sugar so it has more calories than sauerkraut, with about 80 calories per ½ cup. 

What is Sauerkraut?

Sauerkraut is shredded cabbage that has been fermented in a brine. It has a very distinctive, sour flavor that comes from the lactic acid and natural bacteria in the cabbage.

Ways to Use Sauerkraut

There are lots of different ways to use sauerkraut. How you use sauerkraut and what you are using it for will help determine the best sauerkraut substitute. 

So what are the most popular ways to use sauerkraut? Take a look!

  • Add sauerkraut to a reuben sandwich for a classic meal
  • Top your hot dog with a heaping serving of sauerkraut
  • Serve sauerkraut with apples alongside some hot german kielbasa
  • Fold sauerkraut into an omelet for a tasty breakfast
  • Use sauerkraut juice to make a salad dressing
  • Marinate meat in sauerkraut before cooking to add a nice tangy flavor

Sauerkraut is a very versatile food. You may find it in quite a few recipes. That is why you need to know a few substitutes, just in case you ever run out of sauerkraut in the middle of cooking a tasty meal! 

Is Sauerkraut Healthy?

Sauerkraut is a very healthy food. It is packed with probiotics which help improve your overall gut health.

Probiotics help reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol, improve immunity and help you absorb nutrients better. 

Sauerkraut is a very low calorie food. It is high in vitamin K, vitamin C, calcium and potassium.

Adding just a few tablespoons of sauerkraut to your daily diet can really give your body a healthy boost it needs. 

Here is a quick look at the nutritional facts for a half cup of sauerkraut. 

Fat0 grams
Carbohydrates3 grams
Protein1 gram
Fiber4 grams
Sodium496 mg

Oh, and one more thing- sauerkraut can help you lose weight. A little bit of this powerful food will fill you up and make you want to eat less. It really is amazing! 

How to Make Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is not very hard to make. Once you learn how to make sauerkraut, you will never need to buy it ever again.

Homemade, fresh sauerkraut is by far more delicious than anything you can get in a store.

While my family does not like the store bought stuff, even my kids love this homemade sauerkraut. 


Homemade Sauerkraut Recipe

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

Take a look at my sauerkraut with napa cabbage recipe below for a detailed description of how to make sauerkraut. I think the sweetness and crunchier texture is what makes my kids love my sauerkraut better than any jarred, grocery store sauerkraut.


  • 1 head napa cabbage
  • 2 Tbsp sea salt
  • 4 cups water


  1. Wash the cabbage and remove any brown leaves. 
  2. Cut the cabbage into thin strips and place them in a large bowl. 
  3. Sprinkle the shredded cabbage with 1 tablespoon of sea salt and let the mix sit for about 15 minutes. The salt will pull out a lot of the liquid from the cabbage leaves. 
  4. Use your hands to mash the cabbage leaves. You want to knead the leaves, running the salt into the shredded cabbage as you mix. Do this for about 5 minutes to really soften the cabbage. 
  5. Stuff the cabbage into a quart sized glass jar. Press it down as you add the cabbage, removing as many air bubbles as possible. You want it to be very packed.
  6. If your jar is not full of liquid, you should add a little more. You want it to be completely full with brine. Mix together the 4 cups of water and remaining tablespoon of salt. Pour as much of this mix as you need into the glass jar to completely cover the cabbage with liquid. It needs to be covered in order to ferment correctly.
  7. Place a lid on the jar and set the cabbage in a safe, room temperature spot. Let the cabbage sit for one week. 
  8. After a week, taste the sauerkraut. If it is tangy enough for you, move it to the fridge and it is ready to use. If you want it tangier, let it sit at room temperature for another week. 


After your sauerkraut is fermented, feel free to add spice or sugar. Make the sauerkraut seasoned for your personal tastes. If you figure out how to make sauerkraut better, let me know how! I wish my family loved it as much as I do!

Final Considerations

Fermented cabbage sauerkraut is quite an interesting food. Some people love it and some people can’t stand that powerful taste.

A perfect sauerkraut substitute is sometimes needed! And each one on my list will work great. Enjoy!

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