Smoked Sauerkraut is the best thing since regular sauerkraut
Smoked Sauerkraut is a deliciously savory and tangy topping/side dish that you just don’t see everyday. It’s a shame because smoked sauerkraut is exceedingly good. Sauerkraut is often served raw or slow cooked, and I find this smoked sauerkraut to have elements of both and a layer of smokey flavor on top. Some of the raw tangy bite is retained, there are elements of sweetness from cooking, and the smoke flavor makes this recipe all its own.
When you have a large cabinet-style pellet smoker like I do, you can’t help but look at the extra smoking racks and wonder what else you can slip in while it’s running. While working on another recipe, I managed to slip in a German chocolate cake.
What kind of sauerkraut should I smoke?
There are many types of sauerkraut out there:
- Bavarian or German sauerkraut made with caraway seeds and sometimes juniper berries
- Polish or Ukrainian sauerkraut which can also include grated carrots.
- Apple or pear sauerkraut, that includes grated fruit and is a bit sweeter.
- Countless other regional twists or flavors, like dill kraut, kraut with shredded beats, etc.
Regardless of the regional variety or flavor, you can smoke any of these sauerkrauts as long as the kraut is still uncooked. If you buy pre-cooked sauerkraut, the end smoked product will come out mushy and with too many competing flavors.
What is the best way to eat Smoked Sauerkraut?
It might seem obvious to serve Smoked Sauerkraut with a meal of smoked meats. This works and is delicious. In fact you’ll probably make this recipe while smoking some other wonderful meat at the same time.
I want to highlight though that this kraut really shines when used as a topping or side dish for non-smoked meals. It gives you a chance to introduce a savory smoky flavor where there otherwise is none, and create a great contrast in flavors. Try putting some on your next hot dog or on the side with some perogies. This kraut is even great on burgers.
Some Smoked Sauerkraut meal pairings:
Here are some meals that I think would pair well with this recipe. In general, any of our smoked meat recipes can be cooked at the same time as this meal:
These non smoked recipes are great to eat sauerkraut with:
How to control the smokey flavor in my sauerkraut?
The below recipe is a sure fire way to success, but I want to give a more general approach to smoking sauerkraut. Since kraut is a preserved vegetable that you can just eat raw, you don’t need to target a specific length of cook time or temperature, you can simply cook it until it tastes like something you’d be happy to serve.
What this means is that if you’re already smoking something, you can probably just stick a tray of sauerkraut right in alongside it. We’re more focused on imparting a smokey flavor, so I would taste the kraut after 1 hour of smoking, and if you want a stronger flavor try for 2 hours.
If you’re using a pellet grill without a smoke tube, you might need to cook it longer. I find pellet grills on their own are pretty efficient at cooking without generating a lot of smoke.
Recipe alterations for Smoked Sauerkraut
My recipe is fairly minimalist because I enjoy letting my garden cabbage’s flavor shine. When you look up at all the types of sauerkraut out there though, its hard not to want to experiment.
- Mix in a quarter cup of brown sugar before smoking to create a sweeter product. My grandma used to make it this way with sliced up kielbasa around the holidays.
- Add grated carrot or apple, again for a sweeter flavor profile.
- Add some thin sliced peppers to add in heat
Recipe for Smoked Sauerkraut
- 1 Smoker
- 1 9x13 foil pan or other tray for smoking
- 32 oz Sauerkraut uncooked
- 1 onion
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- Start off by slicing up an onion, and frying it on medium high heat with a bit of oil until the onion browns. Stir occasionally, and it should take about five minutes.
- Add in the minced garlic and fry for another minute, then remove from heat.
- Spread the raw sauerkraut out in a 9x13 pan. You can use a baking sheet, metal pan, or foil pan for this, wherever you feel comfortable putting into the smoker. Spread the sauerkraut out so that it forms a thin even layer, and then spread the onion and garlic mixture on top. The goal is to create as much surface area for the kraut to pick up smoke as possible.
- Smoke the tray at 250F for 1 to 2 hours. Check the kraut after 1 hour and evaluate how strong the flavor is. If you want a stronger flavor, go for the second hour.