Is sauerkraut perishable or not? How can you tell if sauerkraut has gone bad and whether or not it is safe to eat?

If you have recently purchased one, then this article should help you. 

Cabbage and brine are both found in sauerkraut. Sugar, salt, and vinegar are the main components of brine. They aid in the fermenting process while also extending the shelf life of sauerkraut. It will last over a year if you create it at home and store it properly.

To make it last longer, manufacturers add chemicals, artificial flavors, and colors.

Does this imply that sauerkraut never spoils? Unfortunately, the answer is no. If there isn’t a pickle solution to keep sauerkraut fresh, it can deteriorate.

Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is a pickled food that is essentially a pickled cabbage that has been fermented to give it its distinct flavor. Sauerkraut is a versatile side dish that is strong in important vitamins and nutritional fiber. It can be served with a variety of meals.

Furthermore, because sauerkraut is a fermented food, it is high in probiotics, which might help with digestion. Digestion is also aided by fermentation.  The brine used to make fermented sauerkraut, like all fermented vegetables, is a part of the fermentation process.

Unpasteurized sauerkraut becomes edible as a result of the fermentation. Fermentation is a technique for boosting good bacteria while reducing bad bacteria.

If properly prepared, homemade sauerkraut can be a delightful vegetable. In mine, I like to use the red cabbage leaf. Digestion is aided by the helpful bacteria.

Is Sauerkraut actually beneficial to your health?

Steamed sauerkraut on old wooden background

Sauerkraut is a popular fermented food with a long list of health advantages. It is high in nutrients, which is one of its numerous advantages. The following are the benefits of 142 grams of sauerkraut:

  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Protein: 1 gram
  • Fiber: 4 grams
  • Carbs: 6 grams
  • Calories: 27
  • Folate: 9% of the DV
  • Manganese: 9% of the DV
  • Iron: 12% of the DV
  • Copper: 15% of the DV
  • Vitamin K1: 15% of the DV
  • Vitamin C: 23% of the DV
  • Sodium: 41% of the DV


Because the meal goes through a proper fermentation process, it is very nutritious. The microbe on the cabbage tends to digest the natural sugars and convert them to organic acids during the process. Furthermore, the fermentation process creates an environment that encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria called probiotics, which are present in foods like yogurt.

Boosts your immune system

Sauerkraut is high in minerals and probiotics, which can help the immune system. The microorganisms in your stomach can have an effect on your immune system. Sauerkraut contains probiotics, which help to maintain a healthy bacterial balance in the gut. This aids in the maintenance of a healthy gut lining. It aids in the prevention of undesirable components leaking into the body, triggering an immunological response.

Enhances digestion

More than 100 trillion bacteria are thought to live in the stomach. This is more than ten times the total number of cells in the body. Probiotics are good bacteria that act as a strong defense against dangerous bacteria in unpasteurized sauerkraut.

They can also help with digestion and overall health. These probiotics in sauerkraut can assist to restore the bacterial equilibrium in the gut after an antibiotic has disrupted it. Antibiotic-induced diarrhea can be avoided or reduced using this supplement.

Stress relief and brain health booster

Although your mood influences what you eat, the opposite is also true. Your mood and brain function are both influenced by the food you eat. The bacteria in your stomach may have the power to convey messages to your brain, affecting how your brain works and perceives the world.

Aids in weight loss

Consumption of sauerkraut may help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. Sauerkraut is high in fiber and low in calories.  The high fiber content keeps you feeling fuller for longer. It could assist you in lowering your overall calorie intake. As a result, probiotic content may help you lose weight.

Pasteurized vs. unpasteurized

On the market, there are two types of sauerkraut: unpasteurized and pasteurized. The key difference between the two is that the first is raw and alive, with a lot of probiotics, whilst the second is cooked and has mostly dead probiotics. And, because the first one is still alive and fermenting, it must be kept chilled so that it does not over-ferment and turn too sour.

The fermentation process has been stopped in pasteurized sauerkraut by applying heat, and there are no living bacteria as a result. This means that as long as the can or jar is unopened, no refrigeration is required. That’s why some sauerkraut is kept refrigerated and the remainder is stored on the shelves.

Some though fall somewhere in the middle. They aren’t completely pasteurized, but they don’t need to be refrigerated. Most kraut is either one or the other, which is fortunate. If you’re buying sauerkraut for its health advantages, go for the refrigerated kind. Let’s look at the deterioration, shelf life, and storage of both unpasteurized and pasteurized sauerkraut.

So.. does sauerkraut go bad?

Pasteurized sauerkraut only lasts about a week after opening and quickly spoils. Unpasteurized sauerkraut, on the other hand, can be refrigerated and kept submerged in brine for months after opening. However, the quality will decline over time. In other words, pasteurized sauerkraut can spoil quickly, whereas unpasteurized sauerkraut does not, assuming proper storage.

Of course, if you don’t properly preserve your unpasteurized sauerkraut, it might quickly dry out or even mold. That is why it is critical to look after it. Now, before we get into indicators of rotting, there are a few things you might notice that seem strange at first but are entirely normal with unpasteurized sauerkraut. The phrase “hot-packed” is sometimes used instead of “pasteurized.” Essentially, it’s the same thing.

Unpasteurized Sauerkraut

Unpasteurized sauerkraut, as you may know, includes living organisms. This has various implications.

Bubbles and fizz

It’s usual for refrigerated sauerkraut to be fizzy and bubbling after opening. The continuous fermentation produces CO2 gas, which has nowhere to go because the lid is closed. Now that the lid has been removed, the CO2 buildup may be expelled, resulting in bubbles.

This is also why some manufacturers include release valves on their packaging.

Lid with bulge

As previously stated, gas buildup can cause the lid to expand, which is natural. It’s not common, but don’t be alarmed if it happens to you.

Lid that’s difficult to unscrew

The last effect of CO2 buildup in unpasteurized sauerkraut is that the lid may be difficult to remove if it’s jarred. Here are two options for finally breaking open that jar:

  • Allow 5 minutes for the jar to come to room temperature. It may ease some of the pressure and allow you to enter.
  • For a few seconds, run the edge of the lid under warm water. We use temperature change to help release the pressure, just as we did before.

Flavors may vary

Every batch of refrigerated sauerkraut is slightly different because it is a live thing. So don’t be shocked if this container tastes a little different than the previous one. Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done about it.

Let’s talk about storage signals now that you know what’s okay for refrigerated kraut. If your pasteurized fermented cabbage exhibits either of these symptoms, it’s almost probably rotten. You should double-check the brand’s website’s FAQ section for confirmation.

How long does sauerkraut hold?

fermented white cabbage, called sauerkraut in Germany

Your jar of sauerkraut will have a best-by date on it, which is normally about 6 months after manufacturing. If you want to get the most out of your sauerkraut, this is the time to do it. However, your sauerkraut will most likely be edible beyond this time. Here are some general guidelines:

  • After the best-by date, unopened, refrigerated sauerkraut should last at least 6 months.
  • Sauerkraut that has been opened and refrigerated for 6 months is still edible.
  • After the expiration date, unopened, unrefrigerated sauerkraut will survive 3-6 months.
  • Sauerkraut that has been opened and not refrigerated will only last 5-7 days if not chilled.
Type of sauerkrautPantryFridge
Unpasteurized and unopenedSell-by date + 3+ months
Unpasteurized and opened4 to 6 months
Pasteurized and unopenedBest-by date + 3 to 6 months
Pasteurized and opened5 to 7 days

Shelf life of sauerkraut unrefrigerated

The only type of sauerkraut that should be avoided is unrefrigerated sauerkraut. It will last a little longer if kept in an airtight container. Otherwise, it will become dry and flavorless. If you buy unopened sauerkraut that hasn’t been refrigerated, it can last anywhere from 3 to 6 months. Keep it in a cool, dry location, such as the pantry. If the sauerkraut was purchased unrefrigerated but opened, it should be consumed within 5 to 7 days. It does not thrive in hot, humid conditions.

What is the shelf life of sauerkraut in the refrigerator?

Sauerkraut that was purchased chilled should be kept refrigerated and can survive for 4 to 6 months, depending on whether it has been opened or not. If it’s been opened, it should be kept in an airtight plastic or glass container. Sauerkraut is commonly stored in glass jars, especially if it is handmade sauerkraut.

If you take out a couple of forkfuls of sauerkraut after it’s been opened, make sure whatever sauerkraut remains in the container is pushed down so it’s covered by the brine. It will last longer if you keep it covered.

When it comes to sauerkraut, how long does it last in the freezer?

Sauerkraut can be stored in the freezer for up to a year. It can be safely eaten indefinitely if it has been kept frozen at 0°F. Because sauerkraut has such a lengthy shelf life in the refrigerator, most people only freeze it when they have an abundance of it that won’t be eaten in a timely manner.

Cooked sauerkraut can be frozen. All of the probiotics will be killed if you cook or freeze it. It must be used right away or thrown away once it has been prepared, frozen, and thawed. Don’t put it back in the freezer. Because sauerkraut comes in a variety of containers and can be stored in a variety of ways, being aware of it is the best approach to ensure that your sauerkraut lasts as long as possible.

How to tell if your sauerkraut is bad

It could spoil if air gets into the container or if there is a microbial imbalance. Stale sauerkraut may have the following signs:

  • Drying out
  • Turning brown
  • Rancid smell
  • Flavor loss
  • Presence of pink scum
  • Mold growth

You can continue to use your sauerkraut if there are no indicators of this type. Before you toss your sauerkraut in the trash, consider what that white layer on top of your cabbage means. This white coating is yeast, and it is perfectly harmless. It’s also because of the iodine in the salt that your sauerkraut has turned hazy. This cloudiness is nothing to be concerned about.

Last but not least, if your sauerkraut smells and looks okay but tastes mushy and not as nice as it once did, try cooking it in a dish. That way, you won’t notice any difference in the quality of your sauerkraut, which is totally safe to eat.

How to keep sauerkraut fresh

Sauerkraut in open glass mason jar. Pickling cabbage at home on table. The best natural probiotic. Homemade kraut., copy space for text. Vertical.

You can keep sauerkraut in one of two ways, depending on the type of sauerkraut you buy:

Sauerkraut from the supermarket

This type of sauerkraut is significantly easier to store than fresh sauerkraut. When you go home from the supermarket with a jar of sauerkraut, all you have to do is keep it in the pantry or storage until you’re ready to open it. Even if it isn’t open yet, you can put it in the fridge.

There’s no need to be concerned about bugs or rodents because this meal arrives in a jar. The sauerkraut is protected from all invaders by the heavy glass container. The sauerkraut must be refrigerated once the lid is removed from the jar. Because a jar of sauerkraut is hefty, make sure it sits at the bottom of the shelf so it doesn’t fall on anything or destroy the shelving.

Sauerkraut made from scratch

Sauerkraut that has been freshly produced is a beast that must be tamed. It’s not like store-bought sauerkraut. Freshly prepared sauerkraut requires special attention. If you’re making your own sauerkraut, you already know that after adding all of the ingredients to the brine, such as garlic, cabbage, carrots, salt, and so on, you must cover the vegetables with water and salt, secure the lid so air cannot get inside, and store it in a dark, cool place around 70 degrees.

You must wait at least a week for the vegetables to ferment after storing them in the large jar. The first thing you should do after the fermentation process is to take it out of the cabinet and put it in the fridge to stop it from fermenting. This is all there is to it when it comes to properly storing freshly prepared sauerkraut. Some may argue that it is not worth the effort, but those who enjoy crunchy fermented foods will never forget their first bite of homemade sauerkraut.

Is sauerkraut freezable?

Sauerkraut may be frozen and kept for virtually endless periods of time if done correctly. 

  • Freeze sauerkraut in little batches: Rather than a huge batch, freeze in small batches in the same bag or container. It should be portioned up into single-serving sizes. This will aid in the defrosting procedure.
  • Make use of bags: If the sauerkraut is in a jar, move it to a freezer-safe plastic bag or container.
  • Reduce the amount of liquid used: When the sauerkraut is thawed out, reducing the liquids helps to keep the vegetable’s quality.
  • Leave some room in the bag: The liquid in the sauerkraut will expand as it freezes, so leave some room in the bag. Squeeze out as much air as you can before putting the bag in the freezer. If you have a vacuum sealer, using it to store sauerkraut is a fantastic choice.

Thawing instructions

It’s easy to defrost sauerkraut, and there are several methods for doing so. Move it from the freezer to the refrigerator the night before you want to use it to defrost it. The sauerkraut will be ready in 3 to 5 days if you use this approach.

  • Microwave it to defrost it: Place it in the microwave and heat for 10-20 seconds at a time until it has defrosted. If you follow this method, you should utilize the sauerkraut right away.
  • On the counter: Place the sauerkraut box on the counter for a few hours, depending on how big the bag is.
  • Defrost it in cold water: Place the sauerkraut package in a sink of cold water and consume as soon as possible.

Is it true that freezing sauerkraut destroys the probiotics?

Sauerkraut is high in probiotics, which are good microorganisms that help with digestion and overall health. Probiotics are temperature sensitive, and many will perish if they are frozen. Some of the beneficial bacteria may survive by lying dormant, but boiling frozen sauerkraut will almost certainly destroy all of the probiotics.

Final thoughts

Sauerkraut may be kept edible for a long time if kept in the right circumstances. However, if there isn’t enough liquid to cover it and it comes into contact with air, it may spoil. There are a number of foolproof techniques to keep your sauerkraut from spoiling and keep it for a year. All you have to do is store it in a cool place, keep it in the fridge or freezer, or heat it to kill the bacteria that cause spoilage.