When can babies eat sauerkraut?
Sauerkraut may be introduced in small amounts as soon as your baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. While not a traditional first food in many cultures, sauerkraut is a great way to expose your child to sour flavors and work in some probiotics.
Background and origins of sauerkraut
Sauerkraut is a German word that translates to “sour cabbage” in English and hints at the preparation method. To make sauerkraut, thinly sliced cabbage is mixed with salt and flavorings and left to ferment. Over time, the cabbage develops a funky, savory crunch and lots of probiotics (healthy bacteria) to power our body’s functions.
Salting foods is an ancient preservation method with origins in the Middle East but that has been widely used in cultures around the world for centuries. In fact, while its name has ties to Germany, sauerkraut is made in countries throughout Europe and is a close cousin of kimchi, the popular fermented vegetable dish with Korean origins. In many European cultures, sauerkraut is an everyday staple at breakfast, lunch, and dinner—just like kimchi in Korean households.
Is sauerkraut healthy for babies?
Yes, in small amounts. Sauerkraut is packed with vitamins B, C, and K—essential nutrients to power many functions within your baby’s developing body—but is also very high in sodium, which you want to limit in your baby’s diet.
Because sauerkraut is fermented, it offers essential bacteria (probiotics) that helps to diversify your baby’s gut microbiome, where the majority of the immune system originates. Since babies are born with microbiome DNA—but not the bacteria themselves—it’s important to help cultivate friendly flora in their gastrointestinal tracts.
When shopping for sauerkraut for your baby, look for sauerkraut brands that are refrigerated and fermented with salt. Canned sauerkraut, while perfectly acceptable, tends to lack probiotics, which are lost in the heat-processing of the product.
★Tip: Keep sauerkraut refrigerated to extend its shelf life and minimize the risk of bacterial growth.
Is sauerkraut a common choking hazard for babies?
No. Sauerkraut is not a common choking hazard, but in theory, an individual can choke on any food, so always remain close to your baby during mealtimes. For more information, visit our section on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with common choking hazards.
Does sauerkraut contain common allergens?
It’s possible, though unusual. Allergies to cabbage itself are extremely rare, though if babies are allergic or sensitive to mustard greens or mustard seed, they may be sensitive to sauerkraut.1 Be sure to read the labels when buying store-bought sauerkraut, as there are often many ingredients, from garlic to ginger and more!
As you would with any new food, introduce sauerkraut by offering a small quantity on its own for the first couple of servings. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future meals. And of course, if you have a family history of allergies, or suspect your baby may be allergic, consult an allergist before introducing sauerkraut.
How do you prepare sauerkraut for babies with baby-led weaning?
Every baby develops on their own timeline, and the suggestions on how to cut or prepare particular foods are generalizations for a broad audience. Your child is an individual and may have needs or considerations beyond generally accepted practices. In determining the recommendations for size and shape of foods, we use the best available scientific information regarding gross, fine, and oral motor development to minimize choking risk. The preparation suggestions we offer are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for child-specific, one-on-one advice from your pediatric medical or health professional or provider. It is impossible to fully eliminate all risk of a baby or child choking on any liquid, puree, or food. We advise you to follow all safety protocols we suggest to create a safe eating environment and to make educated choices for your child regarding their specific needs. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen here.
6 to 12 months old: Rinse the cabbage in a colander to remove as much salt as possible. Cooked or fermented cabbage can be difficult for new eaters to chew, so try finely chopping sauerkraut before serving on its own or mixing into other foods, such as applesauce. As your baby becomes more skilled at chewing and swallowing, you can gradually serve larger pieces.
12 to 24 months old: Try serving sauerkraut on its own, folded into grain dishes, or mixed with complementary fruits and vegetables, like diced apples, shredded carrots, or thinly sliced sweet peppers.
Get some inspiration for all those daycare lunches from our guide, 75 Lunches for Babies & Toddlers.
Recipe: Sauerkraut Dumplings
- 2 large russet potato
- 2 tablespoons sauerkraut
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons flour
- Pinch of nutmeg (optional)
- Peel and chop the potatoes. Add to a large pot of water and place over high heat. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and gently simmer until the potatoes have softened, about 20 minutes.
- While the potatoes are cooking, wash the sauerkraut to remove excess salt, then finely chop. Transfer to a mixing bowl or a food processor.
- Drain the cooked potatoes in a colander then transfer to the mixing bowl or the food processor with the sauerkraut. Pulse or mash with a spoon until no lumps remain.
- Once the mixture has cooled, add the eggs and flour, along with the nutmeg if you’d like to add a little flavor. Processor until a dough forms, or use your hands to mash all the ingredients in the mixing bowl until they’re combined and the dough has come together.
- Roll a spoonful of dough between your hands to form a dumpling, and continue until all the dough is used up. Set aside a number of dumplings to serve right away, and store the rest in a sealed container in the freezer for future mealtimes.
- To serve, bring a pot of water to a boil. One at a time, lower the dumplings into the boiling water (do not crowd the pot), and cook until they float, then cover the pot and lower the heat to medium. Cook for 15 minutes more.
- Use a slotted spoon to remove the dumplings from the water and let cool. Serve on a plate or in a bowl that suctions to the table, alongside a little applesauce, ricotta cheese, or yogurt for dipping.
Sauerkraut offers crunch and a funky, sour taste that pairs well with meats and fish, pasta and grain dishes, creamy foods like avocado, cheese, and yogurt, and sweet fruits and veggies like apples, carrots, and peppers. Think of sauerkraut like a “spice” and try pairing it with your favorite dishes. The possibilities are limitless!
- Blaiss, MS., McCants, ML., Lehrer, SB. (1987). Anaphylaxis to cabbage: detection of allergens. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunology, 58(4):248-50. Retrieved April 2, 2020