Sauerruben (Fermented Turnips)

Big, bountiful turnips are easy to grow in a home garden, but are readily available and cheap in stores. Seed can be sown in late summer/early fall, or early spring in many places. The big green leaves have many uses as well.

When I first learned about sauerruben, I knew I had to make it. For one thing, I love sauerkraut. I’ve always enjoyed turnips, whether baked, grilled, in soup, shredded raw in salad, etc. It is also an incredibly healthy vegetable.

Sauerruben can be used in any of the ways you eat sauerkraut, on meats and sausages, as a side dish or banchan, as a soup topper, by itself, or any other way you enjoy your fermented veggies. (Try some thrown in a fried potato pancake… killer!) It has a sharp, tangy flavor with some bitter notes, so I prefer it added to other dishes and meats where it can serve as a contrast and a palate cleanser.

Turnips are also easy to grow in the garden and usually mature to a nice size. Many of mine reach about a pound each, but it also depends on the variety. If you’re not growing them, the good news is they’re plentiful and cheap, often around $1.50/pound or less.

This is a simple traditional recipe but some ideas for add-ons are included.


I love the matchstick cut but it is time consuming. A 1/2 gallon batch took me about an hour to cut, whereas a shredder or food processor would have taken minutes. It’s really up to you. The other thing to bear in mind is the less overall surface area you create (such as with cubes), the longer you will need to wait for the brine to form. In theory you could just allow this to happen in the jar, but you want to make sure you have enough brine to submerge everything fully. If for some reason you don’t come up with enough brine (e.g. from an older, dry turnip), making up the difference with a +/- 3% salt brine will take care of the problem.

You will need:

  • A cutting board and knife (for cubing, matchstick cutting, or julienning) or a mandoline, grater, or food processing slicer for fast, thin slicing
  • A quart jar or fermenting vessel for every 2.25-2.5 pounds of turnips (e.g. a 1/2 gallon jar for 4.5 – 5 pounds, as shown in the photos)
  • Suggested: fermentation weight to maintain submerged veggies (or small ziploc filled with water)


  • 2.25 – 2.5 pounds of turnips for every quart of sauerruben desired
  • 1/2 TBSP additive-free salt for every pound of turnips (e.g. 2 TBS for 5 pounds, a half gallon ferment), or use 2.5% salt by net weight of the turnips.
  • The featured photos used 1/2 TBSP mustard powder and 5 cloves of garlic for about 5 lbs. of turnips but see below for other options

Optional add-ons:

  • The pictures feature a garlic, mustard-powder sauerruben
  • Other ideas: “Turned-Up” turnips with cayenne powder or jalapeno slices, shallots, etc.
  • Get creative! What about an onion, cayenne, cumin, and coriander sauerruben? The sky is the limit. You can add your desired ingredients as you would with kraut. Just remember to track the weight and stay at the 1/2 TBS salt : 1-pound of turnips ratio


Before we get into things, don’t forget the big bountiful leaves (if you grow your own or they come intact) can be used for many wonderful dishes, including its own kimchi-style ferment, in soups, sauteed like spinach, juiced with apple and ginger, etc.

1.) Wash turnips and use a peeler either to remove the entire outer layer or just the blemish areas (e.g. dry/brown areas typical around the stem base) and rooty growth, as shown in the above picture.

2.) Cut in the desired manner. Matchstick cut (as shown in photos) or shredded will give a consistency like sauerkraut. It’s also fine to slice or cube. Just bear in mind the less surface area, the more time will be needed for the salt to pull water from the turnip to create its own brine.

3.) Add 1/2 TB salt for each pound of veggies (this includes any other veggies you’re adding to the ferment). If you aren’t sure of the exact weight, add 1.5-2 TB salt (according to taste preference) to a quart jar filled to an inch below the shoulder with turnips. If using cubed turnip, use slightly less salt as less turnips by weight will fit in the jar.

4.) In a bowl, gently massage the salt throughout all the prepared turnips (and any other veggies that are part of the ferment). Within just a few minutes, you should notice a softening up and brine forming. You can also add any spices at any point in this process.

5.) After 10-15 minutes, brine should be readily available and its time to transfer all the contents into your fermentation vessel. The turnips should be packed down and all the brine added. If there is excess brine, it may be discarded, but remember that all the veggies must be fully submerged. Avoid there being veggies and/or brine above the shoulder of the jar, especially as more brine could continue to form.

6.) Whereas I normally go for about a month for my krauts, turnip is a bit different than cabbage. It has a sharper flavor and is a denser vegetable. For these reasons, I advise a lot of patience with this ferment. I would advise a minimum of three months. Once you start eating it, store in the fridge. It will last there for a very long time, potentially years.

The first day of the ferment, the purple tannins are still visible
Within just a few days, the purple color will disperse into the ferment


  1. Lance K. Mertz

    OK, I made this and it is quite salty. Do you rinse it before using it?

  2. Daniel Berke

    Yes I switched to TBSP to make it easier to understand but older recipes may read like that. Thank you

  3. I made this recipe using coursely grated turnips and let it ferment for a month. It was well submerged in the brine. A white mold developed on the surface of the brine, which I scraped off and discarded. The turnips are quite mushy. They smell like turnip and I guess the flavor is OK. But is it supposed to be soft and mushy? Was hoping for more crisp like sauerkraut. Thank you!

    • It should be crunchy just like kraut. This must be a one off, it’s not the normal outcome at all. Did you have everything well submerged below the brine using a weight? That’s important.

  4. Hi, I made this. Grated the turnips. It is very soft/mushy. I that how it is supposed to be?

    Also, a white mold developed on top of the brine, which I just scraped off. I assume that is OK.


    • No it is normally quite crunchy. Perhaps the turnips themselves were too old or carried mold on them from the outset? It’s not a normal result when doing lacto-fermentation but it is certainly something that can happen. Try to consider what could have been done better and just keep trying. Was there an airlock? Was the salt level sufficient? Was the environment too warm? Etc. Best of luck and don’t give up, honestly mold formation is not a common result and you shouldn’t give up.


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