Does Sauerkraut Go Bad


If you know anything about sauerkraut, you’ll know it’s a fermented food that can be purchased at your local grocery store or homemade at home. But one of the questions that might arise is does sauerkraut go bad?

Sauerkraut with green onions in rustic bowl
Sauerkraut with green onions in rustic bowl

We’ll give you the answer to that question, plus help you know how to tell if it has gone bad. Want to try your hand at making delicious homemade sauerkraut? We’ve included our recipe and process.

Unpasteurized vs. Pasteurized Sauerkraut

Let’s face it, unpasteurized sauerkraut is better for your health, especially if you’re eating it for the probiotic properties. And another benefit is will last longer when stored in the refrigerator.

On the other hand, the process of pasteurizing sauerkraut kills all the beneficial bacteria and shortens the length of its shelf life. 

There are, however, some benefits of pasteurization that include the killing of harmful bacteria that can cause illness and diseases.

When consuming it, you’ll want to weigh the benefits and risks to determine which variety is best for you.

What to Expect When Storing Unpasteurized Sauerkraut

Unpasteurized sauerkraut will last potentially for months if stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It should be kept submerged in brine and refrigerated.

After about a month, it will begin to dry up and will start to lose its probiotic effects.

Sauerkraut in rustic bowl
Sauerkraut with green onions in rustic bowl

How Long Does Sauerkraut Last? Does It Ever Go Bad?

Yes, sauerkraut can go bad. The potential is greater for your sauerkraut to go bad after it’s opened and if it’s contaminated with other food or bacteria.

Sauerkraut that has been unopened should last until the best if used by date.

How Long Does Sauerkraut Last Once Opened?

How long sauerkraut lasts after it’s opened depends on the sauerkraut. Has it been stored properly? Is it contaminated? Is it pasteurized? These are determining factors for how long it can last after it’s been opened. Below are some approximations:

Unpasteurized sauerkraut can last 4-6 months in the refrigerator.

Pasteurized sauerkraut lasts for about 7-10 days in the refrigerator.

If you suspect it has gone bad, do not risk eating it. Instead throw it away.

Does Sauerkraut Need to Be Refrigerated?

There are three circumstances that require it to be refrigerated. If yours fits into this category, you’ll want to be sure to refrigerate it.

After it’s opened. When buying jarred sauerkraut from the store, you’ll want to transfer it to the refrigerator after it’s opened. This will help to prolong its shelf life.

After it’s fermented. When you make homemade sauerkraut, you’ll want to transfer it to the refrigerator after it’s reached the desired point of fermentation. We’ve included recipe instructions below for how to make it homemade.

Sauerkraut in rustic bowl
Sauerkraut in rustic bowl

If purchased in the refrigerator section. Bagged sauerkraut is usually sold in the refrigerator of the grocery store.

If you purchase anything in the refrigerator section of the grocery store, a good rule of thumb is to plan on refrigerating it at home too.

How to Store Sauerkraut?

Sauerkraut is best stored as you purchased it at the store, until it’s opened. For example, if you purchased it from room temperature shelving at the store, it’s fine to assume it can be stored at room temperature until it’s opened.

After it’s opened, you’ll want to transfer it to the refrigerator.

The same is true if your purchased it from refrigerator section at the grocery store, you’ll want to store it in the refrigerator once you get it home.

Can You Freeze Sauerkraut?

Yes, technically you can freeze sauerkraut. To do so you’ll want to place it in a zipped freezer bag or freezer safe airtight container. We don’t recommend using the jar that you purchased it in from the store.

Freezing sauerkraut removes any beneficial properties from the living probiotics that were present before it was frozen.

What is Sauerkraut?

Sauerkraut is a German dish. It is made from shredded cabbage that’s been fermented with lactic acid. It has a long shelf life and a distinctive sour flavor.

How Long Does Sauerkraut Last in The Fridge

It can potentially last for months in the refrigerator.

Because it is a fermented food, it has a long shelf life when sealed in an airtight container in the refrigerator and kept from contamination.

Sauerkraut with green onions in rustic bowl
Sauerkraut with green onions in rustic bowl

Extend the Shelf Life of Sauerkraut

The four best ways to extend the shelf life of sauerkraut are to keep it refrigerated it, keep it off the refrigerator door, store it in a sealed glass jar, and avoid cross contamination with other foods.

How To Cook Sauerkraut from a Bag

To cook sauerkraut that’s purchased in a bag, you’ll want to follow the packaging instructions. But in most cases, it just needs to be heated through.

To do this, you can transfer the contents from the bag into a saucepan and heat it on the stovetop over medium to low heat. 

Be sure there is a bit of liquid in the pan and be sure to stir the contents regularly and keep it from burning. Once heated through, it’s ready to serve.

How To Make Homemade Sauerkraut

Making homemade sauerkraut can be a delicious way to enjoy fermented cabbage. Here’s how to do it.

1 head green cabbage

1 ½ tablespoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon caraway seeds (optional)


Shred the cabbage then place it in a mixing bowl.

Add the salt and begin to work the salt into it, continuing for about 10 minutes.

This should change the consistency of the cabbage to appear more like coleslaw.  Add caraway seeds if desired.

Place the cabbage in a jar and press it down. Seal with a lid. Store in a cool location out of the sun, at room temperature for 3-10 days until the cabbage ferments. 

Transfer homemade sauerkraut to the refrigerator.

Sauerkraut with green onions in rustic bowl
Sauerkraut with green onions in rustic bowl

Keep Cabbage Submerged in Brine

One of the keys to making it yourself is to keep the cabbage submerged in brine. You’ll want to keep pushing the cabbage down into the jar as time goes on.

Making Extra Brine

If you want to make extra brine, you can do so by adding white vinegar and salt to the jarred cabbage. Let it sit at room temperature to continue its fermentation process.

Sauerkraut Shelf Life and Spoilage Summary

It is a great option for lengthening the shelf life of cabbage. It can literally keep for months in the refrigerator.

However, if you suspect it has spoiled, you’ll want to discard it and not risk consuming it for food safety reasons.

What To Eat with Sauerkraut

Here are some of our favorite dishes to serve with sauerkraut.

Ruth Chris Stuffed Chicken
Frozen Popcorn Chicken in Air Fryer
Crockpot Chicken Potatoes and Green Beans
Frozen Turkey Burger Air Fryer
Easy Chipotle Chicken Avocado Melt Panera Copycat

Can Sauerkraut be Eaten After it Has Gone Bad?

No. We don’t recommend eating it after it’s gone bad. Throw it away instead and do not risk eating it.

sauerkraut and fork
sauerkraut and fork

How Can You Tell if Sauerkraut Has Gone Bad?

How to Tell if Sauerkraut Is Bad? If you’re not sure if your sauerkraut has gone bad, you’ll want to check its appearance, flavor, and its smell.

These can all be signs that sauerkraut has gone bad. If the color or texture seems off, likely it has gone bad.

The same is true with the flavor and the smell of the dish, if it seems off in any way, it’s likely it has spoiled and should be thrown away.

What Causes Sauerkraut to Go Bad?

Can Sauerkraut Go Bad? Yes, there are a variety of things that can cause it to go bad. Contamination of other food items can cause the growth of mold to occur.

When does my sauerkraut go bad? Among other things, the growth of bacteria in it can cause it to spoil. The main thing to know is if you suspect it has spoiled, you’ll want to throw it away. Don’t risk eating it.

What Are the Consequences of Eating Bad Sauerkraut?

The consequences of eating bad sauerkraut can vary from person to person, depending on the quantity eaten.

What Should You Do if You Think Your Sauerkraut Has Gone Bad?

Does Sauerkraut Go Bad? Yes, we’ve established the fact that it can indeed go bad.

If you think it has gone bad, there’s only one thing to do. Throw it away. Do not risk eating it as it could cause food poisoning.

Frequently Asked Questions

Following are frequently asked questions that relate to does sauerkraut go bad. If you have a question that’s not answered here, feel free to drop it in the comments box below and we’ll be happy to answer it.

How long can you keep sauerkraut in the refrigerator?

How long you can keep sauerkraut in the refrigerator depends on the type of it is.

Properly fermented sauerkraut can keep in the refrigerator for months, as long as one is careful to not contaminate it and seal it well each time it’s opened.

homemade sauerkraut in wooden bowl
homemade sauerkraut in wooden bowl

Can jarred sauerkraut go bad?

Yes, just like any food, sauerkraut can go bad even if it’s kept in a jar. If you notice any signs of spoilage, you should throw it away rather than eating it.

How long is a jar of sauerkraut good for after expiration date?

Eating sauerkraut after the expiration date is like walking a fine line. There is no defined length of time that it lasts after its expiration date.

You’ll want to check its taste, smell, and appearance. If any of these items seems off, you should discard it without eating it.

Does sauerkraut go bad if not opened?

Yes, it can go bad even if it’s not opened. If you suspect it has gone bad, don’t risk eating it and throw it away.

Can dogs eat sauerkraut?

You should consult your dog’s veterinary before feeding your dog sauerkraut.

Is sauerkraut gluten free?

Yes, it is naturally gluten free. It is not made with any gluten containing ingredients and is safe for gluten free eaters.

How to make sauerkraut less sour?

Sometimes it tastes too sour for one’s preferences. This can be adjusted by adding fatty ingredients such as olive oil or avocado oil to the mix to tone it down. 

What is the difference between kimchi and sauerkraut?

Kimchi and sauerkraut are similar in that they’re both made from fermented cabbage. The difference between the two dishes is that kimchi is a spicy Korean dish that includes chili flakes, shrimp, fish sauce, along with a host of other seasonings.

On the other hand, sauerkraut is mainly made from fermented cabbage, vinegar, and salt. And the overall flavor is a sour flavor.

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Sarah is known for her extra fancy yeast breads, melt in your mouth pies, and everything salads. She has won awards as a home cook, and is passionate about helping others feel smarter in the kitchen. Sarah is the cooking genius of the sister duo.

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