Why I Always Have Sauerkraut on Hand

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Why I Always Have Sauerkraut on Hand

I go through phases with food, switching out my fridge and pantry staples on a regular basis depending on the season, my mood and food prices (especially food prices lately). But there’s one ingredient I always have on hand: sauerkraut. Sour, crunchy, fermented cabbage may not be for everyone, but hear me out—you may just realize it’s something you need to keep stocked in your fridge too.

The Different Types of Sauerkraut

Before we get into all the reasons you may want to grab sauerkraut the next time you’re at the grocery store, let’s take a look at the different types of kraut you may see on store shelves. Go down the aisle with cans of beans and tomato paste, and you’ll likely see cans and glass jars of sauerkraut. I love this stuff because it’s one of the most affordable ways to get more veggies into your diet. You won’t pay more than a few dollars for these versions of kraut, and they’re easy to store for several months at a time. However, because these forms of sauerkraut have been pasteurized, they won’t give you quite the same health benefits (which will get into shortly) as their fresher counterparts do.

Head to the refrigerated section, and you’ll find fresh sauerkraut. If you’re looking for maximum health benefits, you’ll want to opt for this stuff. It hasn’t been pasteurized, which means you’ll get to take advantage of those healthy probiotics, and it also usually tastes greener and fresher than the jarred stuff. You might even notice more of a crunch, which is half the fun of eating sauerkraut anyway. This type of sauerkraut tends to be more expensive than the kind you’ll find in cans, though, so you’ll want to keep the price point in mind if you’re on a tight grocery budget.

Yes, Sauerkraut Really Is That Good for You

I don’t make the majority of my food decisions based on health, but sometimes, after eating frozen hashbrowns for two meals in a row, getting some vegetables into my body feels like a dire necessity. It turns out that sauerkraut is an excellent choice if you want to eat something that’ll make you feel your best. As we’ve already covered, unpasteurized kraut is especially good for you because it packs plenty of probiotics, which can make it easier for you to digest the nutrients in your food. It’ll also deliver a kick of Vitamins C and B6 along with iron, manganese and more. Granted, it is high in salt, so if you’re on a low-salt diet, you may want to watch your sauerkraut intake.

It’s Not Going to Spoil Quickly

Sauerkraut can last several months in the fridge, which means you don’t have to worry about it spoiling quickly. If you’re like me, you buy a ton of veggies with the best intentions to use them. Then, a week later, you realize the only vegetables you have on hand are a soggy bag of spinach and some watery tomatoes making a mess in your fruit bowl. By keeping sauerkraut in your kitchen, you can guarantee you’ll always have something fresh to add to your meals—even if you haven’t been grocery shopping in a few weeks.

How to Incorporate Sauerkraut into Your Meals

Wondering how to incorporate sauerkraut into your meals? Although it’s delicious enough to eat on its own, harnessing its flavors in conjunction with other ingredients really allows kraut to shine. These are some of my favorite ways to eat sauerkraut:

1. Add a fresh topping to a sandwich: Every good sandwich has some crunch to it, and sauerkraut is a great way to make it happen. I love putting kraut on sandwiches because it packs a ton of flavor, adds an interesting textural element and gives you that freshness you need to contend with all that bread and protein. It also makes a solid topping for toasts and bagels.

2. Give your eggs some flavor and crunch: Tired of the same old boring scrambled eggs day after day? Adding some sauerkraut to your eggs requires basically no effort, and it’ll transform the flavor of your eggs. I prefer adding kraut during the cooking process, but you could also pile some on after you’ve plated your eggs.

3. Make your salad even more savory: Ever make a salad but just feel like there’s something missing? All too often, it’s a salt or a texture issue. Either way, sauerkraut can come to the rescue. Fresh sauerkraut especially adds a lovely crunchiness to your salad, and the briny flavor works well with just about any other salad ingredient you choose to use.

4. Use sauerkraut as a briny taco topping: If you want to take your tacos to the next level without taking the time to make a slaw, sauerkraut may just be your best option. It’s possible to pile the kraut onto tacos of any kind, but I think it’s especially delicious on fish tacos, where the bold flavor can really shine.

5. Cook a flavorful soup: Sometimes, soups made from scratch can taste somewhat plain, but adding sauerkraut to the pot is an easy way to give your meal a ton of extra flavor. In fact, some soups, like Ukrainian kapusnyak, are literally based on sauerkraut.

Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.

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