Chinese Sauerkraut (Suan Cai)

Chinese sauerkraut dates back almost 5,000 years! Traditional varieties are made with Chinese (Napa) cabbage or mustard cabbage (gai choy).

I consider this recipe to be a hybrid of sauerkraut and kimchi, mainly because we chop the cabbage or greens into large pieces rather than shred them.

Chinese Mustard Green Sauerkraut (Suan Cai)

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Prep Time 1 hour
Fermentation Time 14 days
Course Fermented vegetable
Cuisine Chinese
Makes 1 quart/liter


  • 2 lbs. (1 kg) Mustard greens (gai choy) or Napa (Chinese) cabbage
  • 6-8 fresh or dried whole chilies, like Thai
  • 1/2 ounce (15 g) fresh ginger root
  • 3 tsp. (15 ml or 10 g) sea salt


  • Lightly wash the cabbage or greens leaves to remove any dirt or debris.
  • Sprinkle leaves with salt, lightly massage them and place in a bowl for 30 minutes to an hour, to let the leaves begin to wilt and give up some water.
  • Chop the cabbage or greens into 2 inch (5cm) pieces.
  • Mince or slice garlic into matchsticks.
  • For a hotter dish, chop the chillies. For less spicy, leave them whole.
  • Mix all veggies together and any brine that forms, and pack into a jar.
  • Add a weight to the mixture. Enough brine to cover the veggies should form on its own over the next day.
  • Cover with an airlock device, or a clean breathable cloth, then secure with a rubber band, or the lid ring (if using a mason jar).
  • Stash it in a cool, dark place– a cellar, in a kitchen cabinet, or under the stairs or the kitchen sink. It will ferment fine in a brighter environment, too, but do your best to avoid putting the containers in a sunny spot. In fact, I ferment my sauerkraut in a conspicuous spot, only so that I am reminded to check on it every few days.
  • During fermentation, the veggies should take on a slight golden color.

Care and Storage

  • Remove weight and replace lid with regular tight fitting lid.
  • Store in refrigerator. Enjoy within 2 months.
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