Sauerkraut is often used as a sandwich topping or a side with fish or pork dishes. Many people love to have it directly from the jar! This sour and salty item needs refined taste buds to be appreciated. It is also quite the powerhouse of nutrients and good bacteria. But is sauerkraut gluten free?
Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage pickled with salt, both of which is free from gluten. So it is naturally gluten free, though there is a chance of cross-contamination in the facilities. Also, some tweaked recipes of sauerkraut may have gluten ingredients.
How can you ensure that the sauerkraut you’re having is safe for you? What are the other health benefits of this item that everyone loves? Today, we’re going to find out all about this specialty.
Table of Contents
- 1 Is Sauerkraut Gluten Free?
- 2 What is Sauerkraut?
- 3 Gluten Free Sauerkraut Brands
- 4 Gluten Free Sauerkraut Recipe
- 5 Final Words
- 6 FAQ
Is Sauerkraut Gluten Free?
Sauerkraut is nothing but pickled cabbage and contains two ingredients: cabbage and salt. When the slivers of the vegetable are allowed to sit in salt for several days, they start to release moisture – which is what we call pickle water. So it’s not an additional ingredient in this product.
Clearly, the product contains only two ingredients: salt and cabbage. The sourness in sauerkraut comes from natural lactic acid released during the fermentation process. This is when the bacteria and yeast in raw cabbage start to break down the carbs in the vegetable. No additional ingredient comes into play here.
So, is sauerkraut gluten free? Both cabbage and salt are gluten free and come from sources that are not related to gluten grains like wheat, barley, or rye. Hence, sauerkraut is naturally gluten free. The process of pickling or fermenting does not need preservatives that may or may not contain gluten.
There are, however, some variants of sauerkraut that deviate from the original recipe a little. These may contain sauces or other ingredients that contain thickeners or other additives. There’s a possibility that such additional ingredients will add gluten content to the sauerkraut.
In addition, there is always one thing that we keep warning you about: cross-contamination. Whether you make sauerkraut at home, eat it at a restaurant, or buy a bottle from the supermarket, cross-contamination is a possibility, adding traces of gluten to the item.
This can happen if the facilities where it gets made, processed, or stored deal with gluten ingredients. If the facilities or utensils are not cleaned properly, direct contact with gluten ingredients can contaminate sauerkraut. So be careful when you make it at home or purchase it from a restaurant menu or your local grocery.
Related Posts:- Is Hominy Gluten Free?
FDA’s Rule About Hydrolyzed or Fermented Products
In 2020, the FDA issued a new rule to confirm the gluten-free status of fermented or hydrolyzed products. The organization said that all such products must be tested and declared gluten free first before they undergo hydrolysis and fermentation. Only then can it be considered safe for celiac patients and gluten intolerant people.
That’s because the processes of hydrolysis and fermentation break down gluten protein particles. As a result, it becomes difficult to detect the gluten content in fermented and hydrolyzed products. They can only be considered free from gluten on the basis of ingredients and cleanliness maintained at the facilities.
So, fermented and hydrolyzed food products cannot be considered naturally gluten free on the merit of the breakdown processes. Contrarily, such a breakdown can actually make gluten undetectable. Thankfully, sauerkraut is naturally gluten free. But it’s best to choose a certified gluten free variant to be safe.
What is Sauerkraut?
Sauerkraut literally means “sour cabbage” in German. It is eaten as pickles, sandwich topping, soups, etc. Sometimes, it is served with fish and pork dishes. Sauerkraut prominently features in German cuisine, though it is also popular in Russia, Eastern Europe, and other regions.
Interestingly, though, pickled or fermented cabbage likely originated in China. When the Great Wall of China was under construction, fermenting cabbage as “suan cai” was quite popular in China, and the Tartars likely took the knowledge of this process to Europe.
Sauerkraut Ingredients and Preparation
Sauerkraut is prepared by pickling finely sliced cabbage with salt, leaving the seasoned vegetable for 20 days. During this time, the process of fermentation takes place, when the natural yeast and bacteria called probiotics start to break down the carbohydrate content in the vegetable.
This activates lactic acid, giving the pickle its signature sour taste. Meanwhile, the salt keeps drawing out moisture from cabbage which collects in the container as the pickle juice. Good bacteria and lactic acid also help sauerkraut last for a prolonged time. It keeps away harmful bacteria or fungi without preservatives.
You should also remember that besides this traditional two-ingredient sauerkraut, there are many other varieties that have other ingredients. Some of the other commonly used ingredients used to enhance the taste of traditional sauerkraut include sugar, spices, cider, or wine. Sometimes, turnip, apple, carrot, or onion is added.
Experimentative recipes for sauerkraut include dijon mustard or tabasco sauce. Some variants even contain bacon or beef. There are different varieties, mostly depending on the regions where they’re made – and, of course, personal choice. But the healthiest and simplest is the traditional version.
Sauerkraut: Health Benefits
Sauerkraut is not just a tasty addition to soups, sandwiches, salads, meat-based dishes, and more. It is also eaten because of its fantastic health benefits. Because of the pickling process that gives it a slightly pungent taste, it contains probiotics. It is also rich in many nutrients like vitamins, iron, manganese, copper, folate, potassium, etc.
Taking sauerkraut is highly beneficial for your health in the following ways –
- The probiotics in sauerkraut improve gut health and digestion.
- By boosting good bacterial growth in the body, it enhances your immune system.
- Its enzymes break down food and help digestion.
- As a low-cal, high-fiber acidic food with probiotics, it can help lose weight.
- It reduces anxiety and protects the brain by maintaining gut flora.
- The fiber and probiotic content are good for your heart health.
- The nutrients present in sauerkraut are great for bone health.
Gluten Free Sauerkraut Brands
To get the best of sauerkraut, ensure that you pick varieties that do not have added sugar or preservatives. Also, avoid pasteurized sauerkraut varieties because the process of pasteurization kills all the good bacteria that are naturally present in sauerkraut. In addition, you should look at the package and the ingredients to see if it’s naturally gluten free or certified GF.
Some of the best gluten free sauerkraut brands are as follows –
- Vlasic – This brand shares nutrition reports on its site and mentions that its sauerkraut varieties are free from allergens.
- Claussen – This is yet another brand of sauerkraut that makes an explicit declaration that it doesn’t contain any allergen.
- Steinfeld’s – This brand markets its sauerkraut as a gluten free product because of the ingredients present in it.
- Kuehne – The sauerkraut manufactured by this brand is marketed as a gluten free product because it has no allergens.
- Gundelsheim – The sauerkraut produced by this brand is made of naturally gluten free ingredients to ensure it’s safe.
Gluten Free Sauerkraut Recipe
As we always say, the best way to ensure that any food item is gluten free is to make it at home in a clean environment. And when it’s something as simple as sauerkraut, you will have no trouble at all. Let’s take a look at an easy recipe for gluten free sauerkraut – with two ingredients!
- Cabbage – 1 medium head
- Sea salt – 1-3 tbsp
- Shred the cabbage into fine slices. Sprinkle a tablespoon of salt.
- Knead it with your hands. You can also use a rolling pin or potato masher to pound it.
- Continue for 10 minutes until the liquid from the cabbage is drawn out. Add more salt if required to ensure that there’s enough liquid to cover the cabbage.
- Stuff the salted cabbage and the liquid in a quart jar. Make sure to press the cabbage down.
- Put a lid on the jar and tighten it.
- Leave the jar at room temperature, preferably at 60-70 F.
- Open the lid slightly daily to “burp,” i.e., release the pressure building up inside the jar.
- Wait for 14-20 days till you attain the desired texture and flavor.
- Store the sauerkraut jar in a cold place.
Over time, the flavor of sauerkraut will keep developing. To add a bit of zing to the item, you can add a tablespoon of caraway seeds to the jar after kneading or pounding the salted cabbage.
Sauerkraut is a delicious and healthy addition to your diet. But is sauerkraut gluten free? The good news is that it is free from gluten if you go for the traditional recipe unless there’s cross-contamination. But you need to be careful about sauerkraut variants that may have other possibly gluten-containing ingredients.
Q. Is sauerkraut good for a gluten free diet?
A. Traditional sauerkraut, made with just salt and cabbage, can be a great addition to a gluten free diet. The ingredients are naturally gluten free, making sauerkraut safe for you. But some sauerkraut varieties have added ingredients that may contain gluten. So be careful about those.
Q. Do fermented foods have gluten?
A. Fermentation can break down gluten protein molecules – but that’s not necessarily a good thing. It doesn’t make the food product safe. It only makes gluten undetectable. So, unless the product is made from gluten free ingredients, like sauerkraut, fermented food isn’t always gluten free.
Q. Why is sauerkraut so good for you?
A. Sauerkraut is loaded with probiotics and enzymes, making it an excellent choice for maintaining healthy gut flora. This helps in digestion and weight loss. It also improves your overall immunity. Sauerkraut also contains many nutrients that are good for your brain, bones, and mental health.