How Long Does Lacto-Fermented Sauerkraut Keep?

Eising/Photodisc/Getty Images

Sauerkraut was originally created to provide a way to put up excess cabbage for storage in the months in which fresh produce is scarce. Sauerkraut is highly nutritious, packed with vitamin C and more readily digestible than fresh cabbage; in addition, it holds up quite well when refrigerated. Lacto-fermented sauerkraut keeps fresh for months under proper storage conditions; though its firmness and flavors deteriorate over time, sauerkraut remains safe to eat much longer than its fresh counterpart.

Lacto-Fermented Storage Times

Lacto-fermented sauerkraut can be stored in the refrigerator for several months. You must seal it in a tightly covered jar or container and ensure that the liquid covers all the sauerkraut to prevent spoilage. Some types of sauerkraut, like wine kraut or sauerkraut with added vegetables, will deteriorate more quickly in its quality; however, unless spoilage occurs, it remains safe to eat. Use a plastic lid when possible, as the brine can cause rust formation when it comes in contact with metal lids.

Lacto-Fermentation Basics

Lacto-fermentation is an age-old process that uses a saltwater brine to ferment vegetables into sour, nutritious and probiotic-packed pickles and sauerkraut. When complete, lacto-fermented sauerkraut has high levels of vitamin C, is known for its mild laxative properties, and has a much longer shelf life than when it's fresh. Sauerkraut is fermented at low temperatures of 65 degrees Fahrenheit for the most flavor and highest nutritional makeup. Sauerkraut is typically fermented over four to six weeks to obtain optimal flavor.

Sauerkraut Spoilage

When stored completely covered in brine and capped, spoilage is very uncommon in lacto-fermented sauerkraut. Sauerkraut becomes softer over time, but this does not signal spoilage. If your sauerkraut begins to brown, it's a signal that it's been exposed to air. Remove the browned part of the sauerkraut, and you can eat the rest. If a pink color or other mold appears on the top of your sauerkraut, dispose of the entire batch to prevent foodborne illness.

Long-Term Sauerkraut Storage

If you plan to keep sauerkraut for longer than a few months, use one of two methods to store it. If you make sauerkraut and have a large batch, use waterbath canning to preserve it for up to a year and make it shelf-stable. If you bought a large container of sauerkraut, freeze some of it and save the rest for later. Place sauerkraut in a freezer bag or container, leaving at least 1-inch headspace to allow for expansion. Frozen sauerkraut can be thawed in the refrigerator and will retain its quality for up to eight months in the freezer.