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How to Cook Store-Bought Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut and sausages

Many people love the strong sour note from sauerkraut, others not so much. By following my technique for how to cook sauerkraut, you’ll get the best of two worlds. A slight sourness but with a smoky sweetness that goes perfectly with the cabbage.

I’ve loved sauerkraut from the first time I ever tried it with some kielbasa many, many years ago. Like most foods I loved as a child, I’ve tried to improve on them by adding live fire and smoke.

I also love to experiment by making things from scratch that are normally purchased prepackaged. Like my homemade maple bourbon bacon jam, for example. Try that and I promise you’ll never buy another jar of store-bought jam again.

But I digress—back to the topic of sauerkraut. I’ve made this from scratch as well and what I found is that even the best homemade sauerkraut is only marginally better than the stuff you can buy in the store.

skillet of store-bought sauerkraut with seasonings

I try to keep things simple and the return on investment of time and effort required to ferment my own cabbage just isn’t worth it to me. 

It’s certainly fun to make from scratch so if you have the time and inclination, I say go for it. But comparing homemade sauerkraut to what we’ll do here with the store-bought stuff will quickly make you understand why I just “soup up” the kraut in a bag.

baking pan filled with sauerkraut

Anyway, my reasoning for buying sauerkraut from a bag isn’t what you came here for. You came here to learn how to cook store-bought sauerkraut. 

What you’ll find below is the perfect way to cook sauerkraut. I’m not sure I would call it a sauerkraut recipe because we’re not actually making a traditional German sauerkraut recipe here, but we are making store-bought sauerkraut even better! 

What is Sauerkraut Used On?

Sauerkraut can certainly be used as a side dish for just about any meat you’re serving for a main course. It goes especially well with pulled pork if you have some left over. 

It’s also a staple on a Reuben sandwich, and believe it or not, it goes well on pizza and grilled cheese.

reuben sandwich

That said, another perfect partner in crime for this sweet and sour sauerkraut are some savory and slightly spicy sausages.

I like to use a spicy sausage with sauerkraut; I find the spiciness pairs perfectly with the sweetness and sourness of our sauerkraut. If you’re not down with the heat though, by all means you can roll with a mild smoked sausage.

polish sausages

Remember earlier when I mentioned making childhood favorites even better with fire and smoke? Well, that’s exactly what we are going to do here.

grill with sausages and sauerkraut

Is Sauerkraut Really Sour?

Yes, it really is sour. Not from being pickled like you might think because sauerkraut isn’t pickled at all. It’s fermented and the lactic acid produced from the cabbage and salt is what gives sauerkraut the sour flavor.

crispy brown sauerkraut

How to Cook Store-Bought Sauerkraut Recipe

Serves: 8 | Prep Time: 10 minutes | Cook Time: 1 hour

Ingredients
2 lb bag sauerkraut
3 tbsp reserved bacon fat
1 medium Vidalia onion, diced
1 cup applesauce
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
8 Polish sausages
8 buns
1 jalapeño, sliced (optional)

Step 1: Light your grill or smoker and set up for indirect heat. Set temperature to 300 °F.

Step 2: While the grill is preheating, melt reserved bacon fat in a large sauté pan over medium heat until melted. Add diced onion to the bacon drippings. Stirring occasionally, cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. 

Then add applesauce, brown sugar, caraway seeds, and black pepper.

applesauce, brown sugar, pepper and carraway seeds added to the pan of onions

Step 3: Stir to combine all the ingredients thoroughly and remove from heat.

wooden spoon stirring mixture in pan

Step 4: Drain about one-half of the sauerkraut liquid off the sauerkraut. Add the drained sauerkraut to the onions. Stir until fully incorporated.

store-bought sauerkraut added to mixture

Step 5: Spread sauerkraut mixture out evenly on a medium-sized baking sheet. The idea is to form just a thin layer to ensure maximum exposure to your smoke or charcoal.

mixture spread in medium-sized baking pan

Step 6: Place baking sheet on the grill or smoker over indirect heat for one hour and allow the wood chunks, pellets, or charcoal to go to work. 

I prefer the flavor of a mild pecan smoke with sauerkraut, but use what you prefer. Add the sausages to indirect heat for the last 10 minutes of cooking time just to warm them up.

grill with sausages and a pan of sauerkraut

Step 7: Remove sauerkraut from grill or smoker. You’ll notice that all the water has evaporated and the edges of your sauerkraut are slightly crunchy.

Step 8: Place the sausages over direct high heat, cooking each side for about 90 seconds. You’ll see these links come alive over the fire. The color and smell are just incredible. You can also toast the buns here if you like, I prefer a little char on the bread personally.

grilled sausages

Step 9: Place your grilled Polish sausages on a bun with a generous portion of our smoked sauerkraut, top with some optional homemade mustard, and add a jalapeño slice or two if you’re up for it.

sausages and sauerkraut with peppers

Store Bought Sauerkraut on Omaha Steaks filet mignon hot links

How to Cook Store-Bought Sauerkraut

4 from 23 votes
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Course: Condiment, Side Dish
Cuisine: American, German
Servings: 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 lb bag sauerkraut
  • 3 tbsp reserved bacon fat
  • 1 medium Vidalia onion diced
  • 1 cup applesauce
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 8 Polish sausages
  • 8 buns
  • 1 jalepeño sliced (optional)

Instructions

  • Light your grill or smoker and set up for indirect heat. Set temperature to 300 °F.
  • While grill is preheating, melt reserved bacon fat in a large sauté pan over medium heat until melted. Add diced onion to the bacon drippings. Stirring occasionally, cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.
    Then add applesauce, brown sugar, caraway seeds, and black pepper.
  • Stir to combine all the ingredients thoroughly and remove from the heat.
  • Drain about one-half of the sauerkraut liquid off the sauerkraut. Add the drained sauerkraut to the onions. Stir until fully incorporated.
  • Spread sauerkraut mixture out evenly on a medium-sized baking sheet. The idea is to form just a thin layer to ensure maximum exposure to your smoke or charcoal.
  • Place baking sheet on the grill or smoker over indirect heat for one hour and allow the wood chunks, pellets, or charcoal to go to work. 
    I prefer the flavor of a mild pecan smoke with sauerkraut, but use what you prefer. Add the sausages to indirect heat for the last 10 minutes of cooking time just to warm them up.
  • Remove sauerkraut from grill or smoker. You’ll notice that all the water has evaporated and the edges of your sauerkraut are slightly crunchy.
  • Place the sausages over direct high heat, cooking each side for about 90 seconds. You’ll see these links come alive over the fire. The color and smell are just incredible. You can also toast the buns here if you like, I prefer a little char on the bread personally.
  • Place your grilled Polish sausages on a bun with a generous portion of our smoked sauerkraut, top with some optional mustard, and add a jalepeño slice or two if you’re up for it.

Notes

Many people love the strong sour note from sauerkraut, others not so much. By following my technique you’ll get the best of two worlds. A slight sourness but with a smoky sweetness that goes perfectly with the cabbage.

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