Does Sauerkraut Go Bad? (Pasteurized And Raw)

Quick summary: Sauerkraut will surely go bad, but depending on whether it is pasteurized or not, its duration may vary for several months. Storage conditions play a significant role in shelf life as well. 

Sauerkraut is an excellent source of vitamins and probiotics and is primarily a favorite salad in winter. It’s no wonder because vitamin C is associated with winter days and protection against colds. But how durable is cabbage prepared this way, and how should you store it?

In some countries, it is customary to sauerkraut with other winter vegetables, and many people do it themselves. Or you can simply buy the prepared product and enjoy it. But you will find two versions on the market, pasteurized and unpasteurized. Storage instructions and shelf life will depend on which sauerkraut you bought. So let’s start in order.

How Long Does Sauerkraut Last?

As already mentioned, two different versions of sauerkraut will have different durations. Here are roughly the estimates you can count on.

Unopened pasteurized sauerkraut

As long as it is not opened, you do not need to keep sauerkraut that has been pasteurized in the refrigerator. And in the store, you will probably find it on an ordinary shelf without a cold regime. This product has been thermally treated and is stable at room temperature until opening. You can count on it being fit for at least two to three months after the best-by date written on the package.

Opened pasteurized sauerkraut

After opening, the pasteurized product spoils at a record speed. You have maybe a week to use everything up, although it’s safer to say five to six days.

Unopened unpasteurized sauerkraut

We can also say raw kraut because it has not been thermally processed. Kraut like this must be kept cold all the time, even before opening. For many, this means the refrigerator, and in some countries, it is also the basement or pantry. But only because the outside temperatures are equal to or even lower than those in the fridge. You can also count on an extra month or two from the best-by date written on the package.

Opened unpasteurized sauerkraut

It is important that the sauerkraut is in the refrigerator and that it is immersed in the brine the whole time. After opening, it will certainly last for several months. You can count on two to three months of the best quality. After that, the product will not spoil, but the kraut will start to soften a little and become sourer over time because the fermentation process does not stop. As long as the taste is okay, you can eat sauerkraut.

Can Sauerkraut Go Bad?

Yes, sauerkraut can go bad over time. How much time you have depends on whether the product is pasteurized, so please see the previous section. Here are the signs that will indicate that the product is off.

Sign 1: A rotten smell

The smell of sauerkraut is recognizable, fermented, and refreshing. Anything that smells unpleasant and rotten clearly indicates that the product is no longer safe for consumption.

Sign 2: Mold

If you leave the kraut dry by pouring too much brine out of the jar, mold is possible. In this case, do not eat the submerged leftovers either but throw everything away.

Sign 3: Too much acidity 

Excessive acidity is not necessarily spoilage, but it can be unpleasant to eat so you will want fresh sauerkraut for quality.

Which is the Best Way to Store Sauerkraut?

A lot depends on the quality of storage when it comes to sauerkraut. Here’s what you need to do to keep it fresh for as long as possible.

Tip 1: Keep at a suitable temperature before opening

For pasteurized sauerkraut, this means comfortable room temperature. So, regardless of not needing refrigeration, keeping it at high temperatures or exposed to the sun is certainly not desirable. Unpasteurized kraut must be in the refrigerator before opening.

Tip 2: Keep refrigerated after opening

Be sure to move the pasteurized sauerkraut to the refrigerator after opening it as well as the raw one. Try not to keep sauerkraut on the table for too long. Take out the needed amount and immediately transfer the rest to the refrigerator.

Tip 3: Keep the brine in the jar

Brine is the main protector of sauerkraut, so do not spill it under any circumstances. Always keep the kraut well submerged; this will give it the best protection from drying out and eventually spoiling.

Read all our valuable tips on freezing sauerkraut to preserve it throughout the year.


How can you tell if sauerkraut is bad?

If you notice any organic growth on the surface, throw everything in the trash. Also, a nasty, rotten smell will clearly indicate that the product is bad.

Can you use expired sauerkraut?

If the jar is not opened, you can use the sauerkraut several months after the expiration date written on the product. Let’s say a month or two, and you should be completely safe, although more months are possible.

Can sauerkraut give you food poisoning?

If the sauerkraut is very rotten or has mold, you can get food poisoning from it. Better not to consume food that seems suspicious to you.

Sauerkraut is one of the popular salads when winter comes. But this salad is suitable for any time of the year and can bring many health benefits because it contains vitamins and probiotics. This refers to unpasteurized sauerkraut primarily, which you will most often find in stores. 

However, there is also a pasteurized version that has been thermally processed. It clearly has less nutritional value, but it is certainly a tasty addition to the meal. Store sauerkraut adequately, and don’t spill the brine because it is the best guarantee of preserving freshness.

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