Does Sauerkraut Go Bad? – Full Analysis

by Charlie
Sauerkraut

The word sauerkraut conjures up many images of stinky putrid cabbage and unhappy children who just can’t stand the smell. Sauerkraut is indeed an acquired taste, but many people love its fermented flavor and the crispy texture of cabbage.

Does sauerkraut go bad? Yes, sauerkraut does go bad. But if you treat freshly made sauerkraut right, then it can last indefinitely. A jar of grocery store sauerkraut can last up to 2 years in your pantry. But once it is open, its shelf life is 4-6 months, and it needs to be kept in the refrigerator. 

Freshly made sauerkraut must ferment in the pantry for 1 to 2 weeks. After the 2 weeks, it has to stay in the refrigerator, and it will just last 1 month.

How Long Does Sauerkraut Last?

With such a unique smell and unbelievable crunchiness, it is no wonder why some people who like pickles also enjoy eating sauerkraut. But how long will a jar of sauerkraut last in the pantry and the fridge?

As long as the sauerkraut is not open, it can last for up to two years in a pantry. You can also check the expiration dates on the sauerkraut jars before you place them in your grocery cart. That way, you’ll be able to purchase the sauerkraut that hasn’t been sitting on the shelf for months.

Once the jar of sauerkraut is open, it has to stay in the refrigerator. It will only last for 4 to 6 months. If you are someone who likes to BBQ and grill outside, then a great time to open up a jar of sauerkraut is in April, so you can eat it throughout the summer.

Depending on the type of sauerkraut, if you time it right, sauerkraut can last forever.

However, this rule does not apply to sauerkraut purchased from the grocery store. Sauerkraut from the grocery store has preservatives and vinegar as part of its ingredients. So, the major benefits that come in freshly made sauerkraut, like fiber and probiotic bacteria, are not as strong in store-bought sauerkraut.

So, as the sauerkraut disappears as you eat it, do not try to add extra cabbage, carrots or garlic. They will not come out the same. However, if you purchase sauerkraut from a specialty store that prides itself on creating probiotic foods or from a farmer’s market, then you may be able to keep making sauerkraut.

Just be sure to ask ahead if the sauerkraut has probiotics and if you’re able certain ingredients in the liquid. You will find that most naturally fermented foods allow a person to add vegetables and water to the mixture as long as the original liquid is also in the dark.

Technically, a freshly-made jar of sauerkraut will last 1 month in the refrigerator once it is done fermenting. But since fresh-made sauerkraut does not have preservatives, vinegar, or any other natural food that destroys bacteria, you can add pieces of cabbage, carrots, and garlic to the sauerkraut liquid to make more. So technically, sauerkraut will last indefinitely as long as you treat it well.

After fermenting your sauerkraut or purchasing freshly-made sauerkraut from a professional fermenter, it has to stay in the refrigerator. If you leave it at room temperature inside your pantry, it will continue to ferment. The good bacteria inside the sauerkraut will continue to grow, and you won’t be able to eat it after 1 or 2 weeks.

How Long Does Sauerkraut Last? Shelf Life [Chart]

ItemShelf Life
Sauerkraut, on the shelf2 years
Sauerkraut, opened4-6 months
Sauerkraut, fresh1 month

Sauerkraut Has a Strong Smell – Has it Gone Bad?

The smell of fermentation is not a smell that most people are used to or can handle.

However, if you were to place a jar of freshly made fermented cabbage and a serving of rotted cabbage side-by-side, their smells will be completely different. 

A rotted serving of sauerkraut will smell disgusting as if the cabbage has been sitting under the sun for several days and then placed in a bowl of water. It is hard to describe the smell of good and bad sauerkraut through words. But rotted sauerkraut will smell like a rotten vegetable.

How to Store Sauerkraut

Depending on the type of sauerkraut you purchase, there are one of two ways to store them:

Grocery Store Sauerkraut

Storing this type of sauerkraut is much easier than the fresh version. When you bring home a jar of sauerkraut from the grocery store, you just need to keep it in the pantry or storage until you are ready to open it. You can also place it in the fridge even if it is not open yet. 

Since this food comes in a jar, there is no need to worry about bugs or rodents. The thick glass jar protects the sauerkraut from all intruders. Once you pop the lid off the jar, then the sauerkraut has to be in the fridge. A jar of sauerkraut is heavy, so be sure to sit the jar at the bottom, so it does not fall on any items or break the shelving.

Freshly Made Sauerkraut

Freshly made sauerkraut is a whole other beast that you must tame. It is not like grocery store sauerkraut: you have to take care of freshly made sauerkraut. 

If you’re making yourself, then you already know that after you place all the sauerkraut ingredients, garlic, cabbage, carrots, salt, etc., into the brine, you must cover the vegetables with water and salt, place the lid on securely so air cannot get inside, and store it in a dark place that has stable, cool temperature around 70 degrees. 

After you store the big jar of vegetables, you have to wait at least a week for the vegetables to ferment. After the fermenting process finishes, the first thing you must do is remove it from the cupboard and place it in the fridge, so it stops fermenting. 

Indeed, this is all the work you must do to store freshly made sauerkraut correctly. Some people say it is not worth it, but those who love crunchy fermented foods never forget the first bite of their homemade sauerkraut.

Conclusion

  • Sauerkraut is a fermented condiment made from cabbage, garlic, salt, carrot, water, and a few preservatives.
  • It is known for its intense smell and or its crunchiness.
  • Store-bought sauerkraut vinegar and preservatives inside so it does not keep fermenting while it is on the grocery store shelf
  • Grocery store sauerkraut will last 2 years in the pantry.
  • Once the sauerkraut is opened, it has to be stored in the refrigerator, and it will last 4-6 months
  • Freshly made sauerkraut can last 1 month, but if you care for it and treat it well, you can continue to create new sauerkraut with it so it will last indefinitely.
  • Freshly made sauerkraut must ferment at room temperature for 2 weeks.
  • While sauerkraut does have a strong smell, it should never smell like it’s rotting.

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