The ultimate way to build up the tangy flavor of sauerkraut – braise it in beer, along with with a few tasty additions and serve it with bratwurst.
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- Read on for step by step pictures, video demo and relevant tips (2 mins)
Cooking Sauerkraut with Bratwurst and Beer
When one orders sausages and sauerkraut in a Bavarian beer garden or at the Oktoberfest Wiesn the kraut is rich and aromatic – it is not simply added to the plate, cold and straight from a container. On the contrary, usually it has been simmered with sauted onions, spices, broth and/or beer.
This recipe is about how to warm up sauerkraut and boost its flavor before serving it as a side to bratwurst or pork knuckles. Be sure to note our tips on suitable beer styles and braising flavor additions by way of extra spices.
You Will Need
- Bratwurst. Use your favorite type of bratwurst, whatever it happens to be. We share a preference for the smooth ground, exquisitely spiced combination veal and pork sausages of Bavaria. In the US you can find them at Trader Joe’s (imported) and in almost any other grocery store that carries Boar’s Head (theirs are made in the US, but have absolutely genuine flavor). Both are in natural casing, precooked.
- Sauerkraut. Naturally fermented, drained (be sure to squeeze out the brine before braising it).
- Aromatics and spices. The ultimate aromatic vegetable – onion, is always the base for braised sauerkraut and brings sweetness and savory aromas. We also add bay leaf, caraway seeds and season with salt and pepper.
- Flavorful liquid. Braising sauerkraut requires a flavorful liquid and traditionally this is either a broth/stock or beer or a combination of both.
- Other. A neutral cooking oil to sauté the onion and dark brown sugar if braising with beer to subdue any residual bitterness and tune down the sharpness of the kraut.
What type of Beer to Use
The Germans have a long standing tradition of using beer in cooking and when it comes to sauerkraut braising it with beer is a delicious solution. Almost any German lager will do the job successfully but we tend to like the darker malt ones the most as they bring nuances of caramel. To that end we recommend:
- Vienna lagers (including dark Mexican lagers like Negra Modelo and Dos Equis which are based on the style, originally brewed with imported Vienna malt, and easy to find)
- Bock lagers or Marzen (Oktoberfest style amber lager)
- Dunkel lagers
- Munich helles or Czech pilsner – both have a strong malty backbone and even though pale are very complementary in this recipe
Step by Step Pictures
- Once you brown the bratwurst (alternatively you can grill it or at least mark it on the grill for several minutes), set it aside.
- Sauté the onion until softened and just beginning to caramelize, then add the drained sauerkraut, brown sugar, bay leaf, caraway seeds and stir everything together.
- Add the beer (use stock if you’d rather not employ beer) and bring to a simmer. Allow to braise uncovered for 10-15 minutes until most of the liquid evaporates. Nestle the bratwursts on top (see below for how long to braise them).
How to Cook Beer Bratwurst and Sauerkraut
The type of bratwurst you use will determine how long you need to cook it for. The overall method does not differ.
Pre-cooked. Here we use a precooked Bavarian veal and pork combination bratwurst, the type that is also very suitable for Currywurst. It only needs to be blistered up in the pan to taste great and we don’t braise it for very long, we add it towards the end of the cooking time.
Raw. If you intend to use raw American style bratwurst or raw traditional Munich style beer garden pork sausage (or similar raw sausage), then you need to brown it a bit longer in the beginning and braise it along with the sauerkraut for almost the entire time in order to make sure it is cooked through.
TIP: Why do you cook a fully cooked brat? Just because it has been cooked does not mean that you cannot impart extra flavor while warming it up. You can grill these genuine veal/pork combo brats or sear them to create flavors on the outside and then briefly simmer them with the sauerkraut.
Tips on Adding Even More Flavor to Braised Sauerkraut
- If you will be using a Marzen or German pilsner, taste it first to assess the hops bite and feel free to increase the brown sugar accordingly.
- Add a tablespoon of chicken or beef base to the sauerkraut, after the beer has gone it and stir around to make sure it dissolves into the liquid.
- Either substitute chicken, vegetable or beef stock for the beer or use a combination of beer and your stock of choice (about 1/3 cup, reduce beer by same amount).
- Compatible spices you can add to the braise are: cloves (1-2 is enough), peppercorns (1/2 tsp), juniper berries (1/2 tsp).
Oktoberfest and Beer Garden Recipes You Might Enjoy
Sauerkraut and Bratwurst Balls
Bavarian Potato Salad
Choucroute Garnie (Alsatian Braised Sauerkraut, Smoked Meats and Potatoes)
German Cabbage Salad with Bacon
Beer Bratwurst with Onion Gravy
German Beer Cheese Dip
- 4 bratwursts*
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 tbsp neutral cooking oil
- 3 cups sauerkraut, drained**
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp caraway seeds
- 1 bay leaf
- 12 oz dark, malty German lager (see post for more beer options)
- pinch of each salt and pepper, season to taste
- Heat a skillet over medium-high, add the cooking oil and brown the bratwurst. If using pre-cooked do so just until the skin is blistered, if using raw brown nicely on all sides until semi-cooked (6-7 mins). Set brats aside.
- Lower the heat to medium and sauté the onion until soft and just beginning to caramelize. Stir in the drained sauerkraut.
- Add the brown sugar, caraway seeds and bay leaf. Add the beer and stir everything well. Bring to simmer. Season with salt and pepper.
- Simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes until most of the braising liquid evaporates. Nestle the browned bratwursts within the simmering sauerkraut and braise together to cook them through. If using pre-cooked do so at the very end, if using raw braise add them to the skillet in the beginning.
- Serve bratwurst and sauerkraut on a bun or plate as an entrée. (Be sure to remove bay leaf before you serve.)
*You can use raw pork bratwurst (American style) or raw Munich style pork sausage. Alternatively, precooked Bavarian style veal/pork combination bratwurst is ideally suited to be served with beer braised sauerkraut on a bun.
**Use naturally fermented sauerkraut and drain it well before you braise it.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 401Total Fat: 29gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 18gCholesterol: 63mgSodium: 1680mgCarbohydrates: 17gFiber: 5gSugar: 6gProtein: 14g