Canned Vs. Bagged Sauerkraut: Which Is Best?


Top view: sauerkraut  with carrot flecks and peppercorns in a bowl on a worn painted wood surface with a spoon full of sauerkraut to the side out of focus.

If you are looking for some sauerkraut, you may have discovered that it can be packaged in different ways: canned in a jar or tin and bagged. So, does the way sauerkraut is packaged affect it in any way, and which one is best?

Canned sauerkraut is overall far better than bagged. It’s better for:

  • your health
  • taste
  • hygiene of the product

Although buying bagged sauerkraut may be more convenient for a small portion, canned sauerkraut is a better product.

To understand what would make one way of packaging a product better than another, let us look at how those different packages may affect the product inside.

TIP: If you want to make your own sauerkraut at home for maximum probiotics, read this how-to article I wrote!

Are There Pros And Cons To Canned And Bagged Sauerkraut?

So, which sauerkraut is the best? Canned or bagged? Is there a difference between the two? Before we can confidently say that one type of sauerkraut is better than another, we should take a closer look at the pros and cons of both types.

About Bagged Sauerkraut

Bagged sauerkraut may be a good option for you if you don’t care about the health benefits of sauerkraut, and you just need enough sauerkraut to go as a topping on two hotdogs. You can buy much smaller quantities of bagged sauerkraut than you can if they are canned.

Other than small quantities, though, are there any other pros to buying bagged sauerkraut?

Pros Of Buying Bagged Sauerkraut

  1. As was mentioned above, being able to buy a much smaller portion of sauerkraut at a time may be very convenient, especially for a single serving. 
  2. Bagged sauerkraut is easy to travel with if you are taking it to a friend or family member’s house for lunch or dinner.
  3. If you do not enjoy the strong taste of sauerkraut, bagged sauerkraut may be a good option. The bagging process takes away a lot of the sauerkraut’s taste – it definitely still tastes like sauerkraut, just not as strong.

Cons Of Buying Bagged Sauerkraut

  1. Bagged sauerkraut has very little beneficial bacteria left in it. Due to the process of bagging the sauerkraut, most of the probiotics are killed.
  2. There are preservatives in bagged sauerkraut – unlike canned sauerkraut, which usually only contains cabbage and salt.
  3. The plastic bags leak small amounts of air into the bag over time. This is the main reason that the sauerkraut is less strong, and for the use of so many preservatives since it also creates a risk for microorganisms growing.
  4. Bagged sauerkraut is often more tough and crunchy, instead of the preferred soft and tender texture of traditional sauerkraut.
A jar of fermented sauerkraut, sitting on a wood surface.
Canned sauerkraut has probiotic benefits

About Canned Sauerkraut

Traditionally, canned sauerkraut is made with only two ingredients, cabbage, and salt.

The cabbage is finely chopped and crushed in a bowl with salt, which releases the cabbage juices. The mixture is then put aside in a sterilized jar to ferment. The fermentation process creates probiotics, making sauerkraut one of the best foods for gut health

Traditionally made sauerkraut is a healthy food that is good for your:

  • gut health
  • overall health
  • immune system

So, does canning make a difference in how good sauerkraut is for you like bagging does? Here are some of the pros and cons of canned sauerkraut.

Pros Of Buying Canned Sauerkraut

  1. If the canned sauerkraut is made the traditional way, it will contain all of the great health benefits mentioned above.
  2. Canned sauerkraut comes in a much larger quantity, so if you eat it regularly you can purchase one large tin or jar of it.
  3. Canned sauerkraut has the perfect traditional texture which is soft and tender, not hard or crunchy.
  4. There is low to no risk of microorganisms getting into a canned jar or tin of sauerkraut. If the jar or tin is sterilized and sealed correctly, the sauerkraut will last perfectly without any problems.
  5. It depends on the brand of sauerkraut, but most canned sauerkraut does not have any preservatives.
  6. Canned sauerkraut will have a full sauerkraut taste. If made and packaged correctly, canned sauerkraut will keep the full taste of sauerkraut in all its sour goodness.

Cons To Buying Canned Sauerkraut

  1. Canned sauerkraut comes in a large quantity, so if you only eat it occasionally it may feel like you are buying too much.
  2. Because there are so much good live bacteria in canned sauerkraut, once it is opened and used it grows mold easily.
  3. If you do not really enjoy the strong taste of sauerkraut, you may not enjoy canned sauerkraut as it is very pungent and strong in flavor.

So now that we have covered those bases, you can see that there are far more pros to buying canned sauerkraut than there are to buying bagged sauerkraut, which means that canned sauerkraut is the best sauerkraut to buy.

Hot dogs in buns topped with sauerkraut and mustard on a wood surface.
Cold sauerkraut is better for you

Can You Eat Canned Or Bagged Sauerkraut Cold?

Although most people eat sauerkraut heated up as a side dish to a meal with pork or as a topping on a hotdog or Rueben sandwich, sauerkraut is perfectly safe to eat cold.

You can eat sauerkraut just as-is out of the bag, jar, or tin. In fact, it is actually better for you when eaten cold. When the sauerkraut is heated up it kills most of the bacteria, including all of the health-beneficial bacteria.

Since eating sauerkraut right out of the bag or jar involves no heat, you will still get all of those good probiotics in your system.

NOTE: There are much fewer, if any, probiotics left in bagged sauerkraut by the time it is sold. 

So, if you want to buy and eat sauerkraut cold, specifically for health reasons, it is better to buy canned sauerkraut instead of bagged sauerkraut.

Once opened, make sure to keep the sauerkraut in the fridge to keep it cold. You can simply put a serving of sauerkraut on your plate with dinner at night just as is – straight out of the jar just like a pickle!

What Should I Look For When Buying Canned Sauerkraut?

Since canned sauerkraut is overall better than bagged sauerkraut, is there anything specific to look for when buying canned sauerkraut from the store? There are so many different kinds of sauerkraut available that it may be confusing to find which is “the best”.

The best type of sauerkraut will completely depend on what you are looking to get out of your sauerkraut.

If you are mostly looking for a good topper for your hotdog and aren’t super picky about it, it doesn’t really matter what kind of sauerkraut you go with. A simple type of sauerkraut will work just fine.

But, if you want sauerkraut for the health benefits, it is important to read the ingredients.

Naturally-fermented sauerkraut is what to look for when it comes to the health benefits. Ideally, get a brand of sauerkraut where the only ingredients are cabbage and salt, without:

  • vinegar
  • wine
  • any kind of preservatives

If you want sauerkraut with a unique flavor, there are many sauerkrauts mixed with other vegetables. Some examples of this are sauerkraut blended with:

  • beets and ginger
  • caraway and dill
  • dukkah (an Egyptian mix of herbs and nuts) 
  • fennel
  • lemon and ginger
  • carrots and caraway
  • beets and garlic
  • pumpkin and cranberries
  • rhubarb, lime, and ginger

These are just a few examples of the many different kinds of sauerkraut that you can find to buy.

A large jar of sauerkraut with other red and orange vegetables added in with a red lid, on a wood surface and background.
Sauerkraut blended with other vegetables, herbs, and spices, has unique flavors

Is Bagged Sauerkraut Bad For You?

Even though sauerkraut can be very beneficial and healthy, it loses all of its health benefits when it sits in preservatives. However, this is not what makes bagged sauerkraut unhealthy.

Any food item that is left in plastic for extended periods of time will eventually contain microplastics, due to the plastic packaging beginning to break down and slowly leaking into the product.

When humans ingest microplastics, it can negatively impact health. Bagged sauerkraut is already less beneficial, and the bag it is in is also not good for you.

Does Canned Sauerkraut Have A Longer Shelf-Life Than Bagged Sauerkraut?

Canned sauerkraut has a much longer shelf-life than bagged sauerkraut.

Bagged sauerkraut also needs to be kept in a refrigerator and has a much shorter expiration date than canned sauerkraut does. Canned sauerkraut generally has an expiration date of a year or longer and can be kept on a shelf.

Bagged sauerkraut might seem like better quality and fresher than canned sauerkraut, however, this is misguided. Bagged sauerkraut does not keep as well and needs to be refrigerated to prolong its shelf life. It also needs a lot of preservatives, which seems to defeat the purpose.

Canned sauerkraut is actually the fresher product of the two. Most brands of canned sauerkraut only contain cabbage and salt, and occasionally other natural ingredients like:

  • carrots
  • herbs
  • spices

Since canned sauerkraut is fermented and is therefore well preserved. When stored in an airtight container, it does not need to be kept in a high-maintenance manner.

So even though bagged sauerkraut needs to be stored in a way that suggests that it is fresher than canned sauerkraut, it is actually the opposite. Bagged sauerkraut needs to be stored that way because it is not a well-packaged product.

Conclusion

When it comes to which packaging of sauerkraut is the best: canned vs. bagged, it seems that the benefits of canned sauerkraut outweigh the benefits of bagged sauerkraut. If there is the best store-bought sauerkraut, it is definitely canned!

Bagged sauerkraut can lose its taste making it a far less flavorful version of sauerkraut, expires very easily, and is bagged in plastic leaving room for microplastics to enter your food. It also tends to be a far less healthy version of sauerkraut, as it loses most of the probiotics and nutrients in the process of being bagged.

As long as you are buying a naturally fermented recipe, canned sauerkraut will not only last far longer before expiring but it is also packed full of probiotics and other nutrients that will benefit your health. 

If you love naturally fermented sauerkraut and buy it often, try canned sauerkrauts that come with other ingredients, such as:

  • carrots
  • ginger
  • garlic
  • herbs and spices

Most people who eat sauerkraut on a regular basis tend to agree that canned sauerkraut is the way to go. So if you have been wondering what the best sauerkraut to buy is, go with canned!

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