Experimenting on an idea. So I can make the best Reuben.

Making sauerkraut for the first time. Using a basic recipe, 1 head of cabbage(3lbs.) To 1 1/2 Tbl. Salt. + Aromatics

Rid of surface bacteria, wash hands, julienne cabbage, massage salt in. Make sure submerged, cover with cheese cloth, room temp, 3-10 days, etc.

My question is a) does above sound correct and b) could I substitute nam pla (fish sauce) for the salt? And if so, what ratio would make sense?

  • check the sodium content of the fish sauce, I'd say 4:10 sodium to salt conversion ration seems about right, since the sodium in fish sauce mostly comes from salt. Commented Nov 6, 2017 at 23:47
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    I wouldn't expect this to work, because part of the role of the salt is to extract moisture from the cabbage and start lactic acid fermentation. Fish sauce is already liquid, so it wouldn't extract moisture.
    – FuzzyChef
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 0:26
  • Fuzzy Chef should be right. You can add a fishy taste afterwards
    – Alchimista
    Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 16:16
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    @FuzzyChef I think osmosis would still remove some of the moisture from the cabbage, but the saltiness of the resulting brine would actually be less. The saltier the brine, the less the cabbage retains. Careful control of liquid and salt content are key. If the traditional methods are any indication, the water naturally in the fresh cabbage is enough to form a brine of the correct salinity to ferment it.
    – AdamO
    Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 18:21
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    Look up Kimchi recipes. They are basically sauerkraut recipes with fish sauce and hot pepper. Usually solid salt is used in in a pre-fermentation step to pull much of the water out of the cabbage/bok choy etc. Then the mix is drained/rinsed and fish sauce is added before ferment. Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 0:01

1 Answer 1


Salt is needed to give the good bacteria an edge over bad bacteria that do not handle salt so well. The amount of salt necessary differs from maker to maker. While the salt does draw the moisture out of the cabbage, you can also make tasty sauerkraut in a typical fermented pickle manner - shred your cabbage, pack it in a jar, pour salty water over it and let it ferment. Initially the texture will be more "pickled cabbage" than traditional "sauerkraut", but if you leave it long enough it yields the softer texture. Now if you don't want to use the salt plus water try fish sauce plus water. A frequent concentration for pickling vegetables is one tablespoon of (kosher) salt in two cups of water. Make some up and taste it. Then see what mixture of the fish sauce and water has a similar salty taste level. Pour that mixture over the shredded cabbage. Let us know in a few weeks if you survive!

  • 4
    I'm not going to upvote you because you are suggesting to use taste to gauge salt levels rather than using an objective method, and this is a food safety issue.
    – GdD
    Commented Dec 11, 2017 at 9:00
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    Not much risk. There is variation in cabbage moisture content and so salt is adjustable to some degree. Trouble shows up early with black or fuzzy surface. Generally, if it smells good in a few weeks...
    – Pat Sommer
    Commented Jan 12, 2018 at 19:57

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