Sweet on Sauerkraut

Sweet on Sauerkraut

On Beat Bobby Flay, when chef Bobby Flay’s world-famous tacos were bested by Brian Tsao’s Korean beef and kimchi version, the not-so-happy Bobby found out the hard way that fermented cabbage (that’s sauerkraut and kimchi) is just what’s needed to create a tasty, healthful meal (and an entertaining TV show). 

Related: What are the health benefits of eating fermented foods?

Want to give homemade sauerkraut a try? Shred about five pounds of cabbage; then sprinkle it with three tablespoons of salt (it preserves the cabbage while fermentation begins). Place the cabbage in a pot with a weighted lid. After a couple of days, or longer, in a cool environment, the sugar in the cabbage converts into lactic acid. That prevents the cabbage from rotting and encourages the growth of lactobacilli—the same probiotics also found in yogurt. (These bacteria bolster immune strength and help ease intestinal distress, including constipation and irritable bowel syndrome.) For kimchi, before you start fermenting, add red pepper paste, ginger and garlic to the basic sauerkraut recipe.

If you don’t make the sauerkraut or kimchi yourself, just make sure you’re getting all their health benefits and flavor when you buy them: Choose only raw and unpasteurized products, surrounded by a lot of liquid in the jar. It’s true that all fermented foods—that’s also miso, tempeh and kefir—contain gut-friendly bacteria. But cabbage (broccoli and Brussels sprouts too) also has anti-cancer compounds called glucosinolates. So get sweet on sauer and add kimchi or sauerkraut to veggie dumplings or toss into a slaw and use them as condiments with stew or soup.

Related: The Benefits of Probiotics

Medically reviewed in October 2019.

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