Ultimate Guide to Making Sauerruben: Fermented Turnips for Gut Health

Imagine diving into the tangy, crunchy world of Sauerruben, a lesser-known cousin to sauerkraut, made from turnips instead of cabbage. This traditional German dish transforms the humble turnip into a vibrant, fermented delight. It’s not just a treat for your taste buds but also a boon for your gut health, thanks to the magic of fermentation.


Here’s what you’ll need to create your own Sauerruben, a tangy and gut-friendly fermented turnip dish that’s as nourishing as it is delicious.

For Sauerruben Fermented Turnips

  • 2 pounds of fresh turnips, peeled and grated
  • 1 tablespoon of sea salt
  • 4 cups of water, filtered if available
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds for an aromatic enhancement
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced, for additional flavor depth
  • A few black peppercorns for a subtle spice kick

Tools and Equipment Needed

To successfully ferment your turnips for Sauerruben, having the right tools and equipment is crucial. This ensures not only ease in preparation but also affects the quality of the final product. Here’s what you will need:

Fermentation Container

Opt for a clean, wide-mouth glass jar, which will be your primary fermentation vessel. A one-quart jar typically suffices for small batches. Ensure the jar is thoroughly washed and sterilized to prevent any unwanted bacteria from affecting the fermentation process.

Weights and Lids

To keep the turnips submerged in the brine and ensure anaerobic fermentation, you will need a weight. Glass fermentation weights are ideal, but you can also use a smaller, clean jar filled with water as a makeshift weight. Additionally, a fermentation lid or a regular jar lid that is slightly loose will be necessary to allow gases to escape while keeping contaminants out.

Mandoline or Sharp Knife

A mandoline slicer is recommended for thinly and evenly slicing the turnips, which helps in uniform fermentation. If you don’t have a mandoline, a sharp kitchen knife will do, but make sure to slice the turnips as evenly as possible.

Mixing Bowl

A large mixing bowl will be needed to toss the turnips with salt, and other seasonings before they go into the fermenting jar. Choose a bowl that gives you enough space to mix thoroughly, ensuring even distribution of salt and spices.

Measuring Spoons

Precision is key in fermentation to maintain the right salt concentration. Use measuring spoons to accurately measure the sea salt and any other spices you decide to add.

With these tools and equipment at hand, you’re ready to begin the exciting process of making your own Sauerruben. Each item plays a role in creating the perfect environment for fermentation, leading to delicious and healthful results.

Preparation Before Fermentation

Before diving into the fermentation process, it’s crucial to properly prepare your turnips to ensure the best outcomes for your Sauerruben. Let’s begin with the essential steps to get your turnips ready.

Cleaning the Turnips

Begin by thoroughly washing the turnips under cold running water to remove any dirt and impurities on the skin. It’s important to use a vegetable brush to gently scrub the surface to ensure no residue remains. This cleaning process is key to preventing unwanted bacteria from entering the fermentation container, which can affect the flavor and safety of your Sauerruben.

Slicing Techniques

To achieve the best texture and surface area for fermentation, slice the turnips thinly. Using a mandoline slicer is highly recommended for consistent thickness, which contributes to an even fermentation process. Set your mandoline to about 1/8-inch thickness. If you’re using a knife, aim to keep your slices as uniform as possible. Thin, consistent slices not only ferment more uniformly but also absorb the seasoning more effectively, essential for the rich, tangy flavor characteristic of Sauerruben.

Fermentation Process

Now that you’ve prepared your turnips, it’s time to start the fermentation process. This stage is where the magic happens, turning your sliced turnips into flavorful Sauerruben.

Salting the Turnips

Begin by placing your thinly sliced turnips in a large bowl. For every pound of turnips, evenly sprinkle about 1.5 tablespoons of sea salt. Use your hands to mix the salt thoroughly with the turnips. The salt not only flavors the turnips but also draws out moisture, creating the brine in which the turnips will ferment. Allow the salted turnips to sit for about 30 minutes; during this time, they will release water and soften slightly, readying them for the next step.

Packing the Jar

Take a clean fermentation jar and start layering your salted turnips snugly. Press down firmly on each layer to eliminate air pockets and encourage more brine to cover the turnips. Once all the turnips are in the jar, pour any liquid that was released during the salting stage over them. Ensure the turnips are completely submerged in the brine. If the liquid does not cover them, add a solution of saltwater (1 teaspoon of salt per cup of water) to cover.

Setting Up the Fermentation Environment

Place the jar in a cool, dark place to ferment, such as a cellar, pantry, or kitchen cupboard. The ideal fermentation temperature is around 60-70°F (15-21°C). Cover the jar lightly with a lid or a cloth to allow gases to escape while keeping contaminants out. Monitor the jar for signs of fermentation, such as bubbling or slight cloudiness in the brine, typically starting within a few days. The full fermentation process will take about 3-4 weeks. During this period, check periodically to ensure that the turnips remain submerged in the brine, adding more saltwater if necessary to keep them covered.

Monitoring and Maintenance

Once you set up your Sauerruben, the next phase is crucial for ensuring a successful fermentation. Here’s how you can monitor and maintain the turnips to achieve that distinctive tangy flavor and nutritional value.

Checking for Fermentation Signs

To gauge the fermentation process, check the jar daily for specific signs. Firstly, look for bubbles appearing in the jar, starting from days 2-3, which indicate active fermentation. The turnips should gradually become translucent, showcasing that they are fermenting correctly. Additionally, you may notice a tangy smell emanating from the jar; this is a good sign and means everything is proceeding as expected.

It is also essential to observe any color changes or foul odors. If you spot any mold on the surface, do not worry—simply remove the top layer where mold has formed. Typically, the rest of your Sauerruben should be perfectly fine, as the brine environment naturally wards off most contaminants.

Daily Maintenance Tips

Each day, press down the turnips to make sure they are submerged in the brine, which prevents unwanted air exposure and promotes an anaerobic environment necessary for proper fermentation. Ensure the jar’s rim and lid are clean to avoid any impurities entering the mix.

If the brine levels seem low, prepare a small amount of saltwater solution (1 teaspoon of salt per 1 cup of water), and add it to the jar to keep the turnips covered. This step is crucial in maintaining the right salinity and moisture levels.

Keep your fermenting turnips at a consistent room temperature, ideally between 60°F and 70°F (15°C and 21°C), away from direct sunlight to stabilize the fermentation pace and prevent overheating, which could halt the fermentation prematurely. By following these steps, your Sauerruben will develop its flavors harmoniously and be ready for tasting in 3-4 weeks.

After Fermentation

After patiently waiting for 3-4 weeks, your Sauerruben should be fully fermented and ready to be tested for doneness, followed by proper storage.

Testing Doneness

To test if your Sauerruben is adequately fermented, check for a few key indicators. The turnips should be tender but not mushy, and possess a pleasantly sour aroma without any off-smells. The color may have changed to a more translucent appearance. Taste a small piece; it should be tangy with a hint of crunchiness. If the flavor and texture meet these criteria, your fermentation process has been successful. If not, you may need to allow a few more days for the fermentation to continue.

Storage Recommendations

Once your Sauerruben is fermented to your liking, it’s crucial to store it properly to maintain its quality and extend its shelf life. Transfer the fermented turnips, along with their brine, into an airtight container. Store it in the refrigerator, which will slow down any further fermentation and preserve its tangy flavor. Properly stored, your Sauerruben can last for up to 4-6 months. Always use a clean utensil when serving the Sauerruben to keep the rest uncontaminated.

Serving Suggestions

After you’ve patiently crafted your Sauerruben, it’s now time to explore various delightful ways to serve this tangy, fermented delicacy.

Serving as a Side Dish

Sauerruben makes a fantastic side dish that can complement a vast array of main courses. Traditionally served alongside meats like pork or sausage, its tangy zing cuts through the richness of fatty foods, balancing each bite.

To serve, simply drain the Sauerruben slightly; a little brine can remain for moisture and flavor. Adjust seasoning by sprinkling a little black pepper or drizzling a bit of olive oil over the top. Another popular variation is to mix it with a bit of apple cider vinegar and a pinch of sugar to enhance its natural flavors before serving it chilled.

Incorporating Into Main Dishes

Sauerruben isn’t just for serving on the side! Incorporate it directly into your main dishes for an added layer of flavor and texture. Stir it into stews or soups to add a tangy twist—they meld particularly well with hearty, meaty recipes or creamy potato-based broths.

Alternatively, consider using Sauerruben as a topping for burgers or hot dogs for an unexpected treat. Its crisp texture and tangy flavor enhance traditional recipes with a pleasant zesty punch. Lastly, you can toss it into salads to boost their freshness or mix it into mashed potatoes for a zesty, creamy side dish that is unlike any other.


Diving into the world of Sauerruben not only adds a burst of tangy flavor to your meals but also enriches your diet with probiotics that are great for your gut health. Whether you’re tossing it into a stew enhancing a burger or simply enjoying it alongside your favorite sausage the versatility of Sauerruben makes it a must-try. Remember the key to a successful batch lies in the care you take during the fermentation process—patience and attention to detail are your best friends here. Ready to enjoy your homemade Sauerruben? Don’t forget it can be stored for months ensuring you have a delicious and healthy side dish on hand whenever you need it. Happy fermenting!

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