Recipe: Zesty Hawaiian Sauerkraut Is An Ode To The Big Island

Inspired by a pineapple slaw encountered at a burrito shop, this Hawaiian sauerkraut is a fine ferment for everyday memories of vacations past.

by Stephanie Thurow
PHOTO: ximich_natali/Adobe Stock

When I was in Hawaii almost five years ago, we often went to a made-from-scratch burrito shop for lunch on days I had class. The eatery put a pineapple coleslaw on the burrito I’d order, and it took things to whole new level. It was great! My husband had the delicious idea that I should develop a sauerkraut inspired by the tasty slaw.  

This Hawaiian sauerkraut recipe is an endearing ode to one of our favorite places to visit, the Big Island. We also add this kraut to our kalua pork bowls (our Minnesotan version of it, at least); it’s the perfect accompaniment, along with some kimchi and nori furikake.

This recipe is published in my cookbook, WECK Home Preserving. But considering I’m in Hawaii once again as I type this, I decided to share the Hawaiian sauerkraut recipe here. 

Yield: 1 quart jar 


  • 1 head of green cabbage (2 to 2.5 pounds) 
  • 1/2 cup (1 to 2) carrots, grated 
  • 1/2 cup fresh pineapple, grated 
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, thinly sliced 
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped 
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper 
  • 1.5 tbsp. kosher salt  

Remove the outer leaves from the cabbage and discard. Wash the cabbage. Cut the cabbage in half lengthwise and remove the core from each half.

Shred the cabbage into thin shreds, 1/8 inch or so. You can also use a mandolin or cabbage shredder for this step if you have one. Try to keep the shreds uniform in size so that it ferments evenly. Collect the cabbage shreds in a large nonreactive bowl. 

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Sprinkle salt over the cabbage and mix together. Massage the salt into cabbage until you are able to squeeze a fistful and liquid drips out. This process could take a few minutes or many—it just depends how fresh cabbage is. The liquid we create in this step is the natural brine that the sauerkraut will ferment in.  

Once you can squeeze out brine, add in the remaining ingredients and mix well. Transfer the mixture into a clean quart canning jar, using your fist to pack down the mixture as you fill the jar. You can also use a wooden tamping tool for this process, but be intentional about not over-mashing the shreds or it will turn into a mushy ferment.

Leave 1 to 2 inches of headspace (room from the produce/brine to the rim of the jar). Pour any leftover brine into the jar to cover the mixture as well.  

Once the jar is filled, there should be enough brine to cover the shreds. If there is not enough liquid, check again in the morning. More often than not, there will be enough.

You will need some sort of weight to keep the cabbage pushed under the brine. Keeping the shreds submerged under the brine is the key to a successful ferment. There are weights specifically made to fit jars, but you can also get creative. See the Notes section below for alternative options.

Wipe off the rim of the jar with a clean dampened towel and add the canning jar lid. Tightly screw on the ring. 

Read more: These are the top 5 supplies you need to start fermenting at home.


Making Hawaiian sauerkraut takes a 10 to 14 day ferment. The temperature in the space where you are fermenting in will determine how long it takes. The warmer a room, the faster it will ferment. Ideally, you’ll ferment between 60 to 75 degrees F (15-23 degrees C) out of direct sunlight. 

Burp the jar daily, especially at first when the ferment is very active. Just unscrew the lid briefly and tighten it back on to allow any built-up gas to release. At least once per day, you’ll have to use a clean utensil to push down the weight and submerge the cabbage again.

Scoop away any pieces of food floating on top of the brine to avoid mold. 

Taste test the ferment after one week to 10 days. If it still tastes of raw cabbage, allow it to ferment another week and taste again. Once fermentation is complete to your taste, transfer the jar into the refrigerator, with the brine and all. 

Fermentation does not stop once the ferment is transferred to the refrigerator, however it does slow the process way down. The taste and texture will continue to change, therefore it’s best enjoyed ideally within six months.  


If you do not have a glass jar weight, you can improvise by using an easily removable small food-grade glass dish that fits inside the jar to hold down the Hawaiian sauerkraut. Or, if you have a smaller glass canning jar that can fit into the mouth of the jar you are fermenting with, you can use that to keep the produce pushed under the brine. 

You may substitute fine sea salt instead of coarse kosher salt if you prefer. Consult a salt conversion chart. 

Expect foam-like bubbling, at least in the first week of this ferment. It’s completely normal. 

This recipe has been adapted from WECK Small-Batch Preservingwith permission from Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.


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