Cortido: Latin American Style Sauerkraut | Homegrown Kitchen

*Find a detailed section on Fermentation including Everyday Sauerkraut, Kimchi and Lacto-fermented Vegetables in my new cookbook – Homegrown Kitchen: Everyday Recipes for Eating Well – available in bookstores and retailers around New Zealand and personally signed copies HERE.

Cortido: Latin American-Style Sauerkraut

I went to a fermentation workshop a while back with Irma Jager. Even though I have made fermented food for some years, I love learning from others. If you live in Nelson you will likely know this inspiring woman who lives and breathes everything she believes in. During the workshop we learned that one small serving of lacto-fermented food i.e. 1 large tablespoon of sauerkraut or homemade yogurt or a small glass of kefir, is equivalent to taking 2 probiotic pills. I am all for eating my vitamins (and essential nutrients) in food rather than taking a pills so I was very happy to hear this.


  • 1 green cabbage about 1.5kg - reserve 2 outer leaves
  • 2 onions optional
  • 6 large carrots approx. 800g
  • 2 tablespoons good-quality sea salt
  • 1 heaped tsp dried oregano
  • large pinch of cayenne optional


  • Using a food processor or sharp knife, thinly slice/ shred the cabbage and onions. Grate the carrots. I find it much faster to use my food processor for this and also achieves a nice uniform mix. Put the prepared vegetables into a large bowl or pot and add the salt, oregano and cayenne. Use your hands to combine the vegetables well. Using a pestle or rolling-pin beat the vegetables until bruised and the liquid is released. I find this takes about 3-4 minutes (less time than cabbage sauerkraut as the carrots are very juicy). Pack firmly into clean jars using the pestle to push the vegetables down until the liquid rises above them. Leave about 3 cm at the top of the jar. Fold a piece of the reserved outer cabbage leaf and snugly fit on top of the vegetables. Secure the lid.
  • Leave for 3 (summer) to 5 days (winter) at room temperature (I put mine on top of the fridge). After 3-5 days transfer to the fridge for at least 24 hours before moving to a cool dark place (pantry). Putting the cortido in the fridge will bring the rapid fermentation to a halt leaving it to slowly ferment until the jar is opened. You can leave the jars in the fridge if you have the space. The cortido is best after 3-4 weeks in the pantry (or fridge) but can be eaten after a week. I get into a routine of making it every 3 weeks as 1 jar lasts us about 1-2 weeks. Eat 1 - 2 servings (serving = 1 heaped tablespoon) a day as a side to meat, beans, lentils, eggs, and I also like it with my four-seed crackers and cheese as a snack.
  • I would love your feedback if you make this, or if you already make your own lacto-fermented foods please share any tips. So far I have had about 98% success using this method.


*Cabbage Sauerkraut. Personally I find the cortido more flavoursome and interesting than plain cabbage sauerkraut. However, if you want to make this with just cabbage, use a large approx. 2kg cabbage and omit the onion, carrot, oregano and cayenne, and use the same technique to bruise the cabbage before packing into the jars. Continue as above for the fermentation.

I am not a big city kind-of-girl. I just find them loud, dirty, busy, and everyone is in such a big hurry. I have visited many large cities (mostly in transit) during my travels, however, Panama City is my first Latin American ‘big’ city. And it ticks all the boxes listed above plus it is very hot and humid. I am seriously out of my comfort zone here.

To add to my discomfort we haven’t had the most accommodating first week here. Traveling with children is a challenge and we all arrived very tired. Although, I have to say they both traveled rather well, but jet lag is something they are not familiar with so getting back into any type of normal sleep routine just isn’t happening.

We have 3 more days in the city then we are off to visit my husbands brother in Colombia. He runs a backpackers in a small village called Minka in the hills above Santa Marta on the north coast of Colombia. Because it is elevated it is cooler and lower humidity than on the coast. I think I will like it better there. We have two weeks in Colombia with very little internet access so I won’t be around my usual places of social media and minimal email. Until then I leave you with one of our favourite (and coincidentally Latin American-style) accompaniments we add to almost every meal back home. You may remember I posted a photo of a fresh batch a while back on my Facebook page. And now I share the recipe.

Panama City | Homegrown Kitchen

Panama City | Homegrown Kitchen

Panama City | Homegrown Kitchen

Cortido: Latin American Style Sauerkraut | Homegrown Kitchen

Cortido: Latin American Style Sauerkraut | Homegrown Kitchen

Cortido: Latin American Style Sauerkraut | Homegrown Kitchen




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  1. Nadia Dysart says:

    Great to hear how you guys are going…hopefully the worst is over and its all plain sailing from here! Kia kaha and Arohanui! xxxNGK&toots

    1. Thanks Nadia and family. Looking forward to our next stop 🙂 Hope you are all well lovely xx

  2. Oh Nicola, your first few days over there sounded rough. I can’t even imagine how stressful it must have been! Glad to hear you are all doing much better and I hope that this continues for the rest of your trip xx

    1. Thanks Emma, yeah not a great start to the holiday but things are looking up and getting ready for our next stop… Colombia 🙂

  3. I’m a new follower, but have children the exact same age (within a few weeks from what I have read), and that first week sounds just awful and SO stressful. Glad everyone is feeling better now, and hope the rest of the trip is only full of good highlights :-)!

    1. thanks for your kind words. yes it wasn´t the best start to our trip but I think it was probably the exhaustion of the travel more than anything. now we are back into a sleep routine everyone is happy and healthy again.

  4. Hi! Mum and I made a batch of this sauerkraut which looks INCREDIBLE but unfortunately the jars we used were not screw top, and I noticed that the tops had lifted slightly after the second day. I used some heavy books to weigh them down but will this have interuppted the fermentation? I popped them in the fridge last night and the same thing has happened again. Will they be ok left in the fridge now, should I transfer into screw top jars OR do we toss the lot and start over?! Thanks!

    1. Hi Lauren, I think your cortido will be OK but you do need to keep the weight on top as it may bubble over. After a week in the pantry or fridge you could transfer to screw top lidded jars. And Next time you make I recommend using screw top lids 🙂 Good luck, I hope it turns out.

  5. Hi Nicola, its really exciting to see cultured foods becoming more mainstream. My family love cortido (and anything lacto-fermented) too! From what I understand, an anaerobic environment (eg a jar with an airlock) is preferable. This ensures that mould will not form, especially during longer ferments such as for cabbage, which ideally would culture for about 3 months. and have some great info.

    1. Hi Sarah, thanks for sharing that info, that would make sense about the anaerobic enviroment for the sauerkraut. I will check out the websites too.

  6. As I make my own yoghurt I often get a bit of whey at the top but it is rarely clear – i.e. it has a threads of yoghurt in it. Is this ok to use in the sauerkraut or would the bit of dairy make the whole thing go off ?

    1. Hi Gillan, if you strain it through some cheesecloth or a clean cloth to remove any dairy protein first or it may contaminate the sauerkraut.

  7. This is definitely my favourite variation of the sauerkraut. I have made the plain cabbage, cabbage+garlic+ginger+carrots, cabbage+kale+apple+carrots. I have also tried making all of these with and without the body ecology veggie culture packet. All have worked out well but this cortido is the best. I still use the body ecology cultures in place of whey, but once I run out of my starter culture I think I will just use the whey+salt. However, they are pretty potent with the culture starter if that is desired. Also, the culture starter doesn’t require salt, but I find it a very different taste. The salt makes it way more palatable, in my opinion, and I actually enjoy eating this one. I really want to try other lacto-fermented foods. Hey Nicola, have you had many other lacto-fermented things, like gherkins? I would love to hear what other people think about lacto-fermented foods, and if they have any favorites. I’m only familiar with the cabbage and cabbage variations.

  8. Thanks for this recipe Nicola! I made it a couple of weeks ago and we have just started eating it. Even my little 4 year old likes it. A very yummy variation of the original sauerkraut.

    1. Hi Shell, Great to hear that it has been a success in your family too! I agree it is a flavoursome addition to our meals 🙂

  9. Hi Nicola, As I said i was thinking of having a go at it just before you posted on FB, but i bought purple cabbage instead, does it matter?

    1. Hi Cristina that is fine I used purple cabbage last time but green is better!

  10. I have tackled kimchi and loved it (even though I had to store it in the shed because Stevie-boy pulled rank on me because I used sea veggies in it and it smelled err…”delightfully of the sea” 😉 ) but haven’t tried saurkraut yet. This cortido is more up my alley. I love mixing veggies and flavours (that way if you don’t like one veggie there is usually another one to take your mind off it 😉 ). Excellent share and clear concise instructions. Do you brew booch? I converted some milk kefir to non-dairy milk kefir (I make my own sesame milk to use in tea and cooking) with sesame and date paste and it did really well but I dehydrated my grains over winter as its a whole lot easier to manage it in the summer. Cheers for this recipe. I had seen it elsewhere online but you make it sound easy so I am going to give it a go and here in Tassie, carrots are cheap as chips.

  11. We LOVE this recipe. I added fresh oregano and coriander as well. Personally I prefer to just use salt then let it sit for 6-8 weeks or longer. Yummy doll thanks so much Mx

    1. I know, isn’t it good! My kids have it everyday with their dinner. You can eat it after about 4 weeks if not using the whey but it does improve with time 🙂

  12. Hi Nicola, Thank you for sharing the recipe. I had to ask for it when I tried some cortido at a friend’s place. It’s so yummy. Since then, I have made it a few times with success but this time something went funny. The brine seems kinda slimy… vegetables are not slimy, and tastes ok but rather crunchy as if not fermented as much as usual. This was the first time I made it without whey. I wonder if it’s something to do with it. Have you ever had this kind of issue with cortido?

    1. Hi Kanae, that sounds a little odd. I haven’t come across this before. Did you increase the salt to account for not using whey as in the recipe? Also maybe try leaving it longer as the whey will speed up the fermentation. I usually wait at least 3 weeks before eating cortido or sauerkraut. I hope that help, Nicola.

  13. Hi Nicola, thank for the reply. I googled a bit about it and it seems not that uncommon when making sauerkraut. No one had a clear answer to it, though. Possibly not enough salt in brine. When I made it, I did increase the salt but I also remember the amount of veg was a bit more than usual. I poured some slimy brine off (maybe I shouldn’t have) and add brine (3% salt) to cover the veg and it seems ok now. Hopefully, next batch will be fine (I will use whey next time, though)!

    1. I am glad you could recover the kraut, be a waste to throw it out. I would say not enough salt was the culprit as it is so key to fermenting. Good luck with your fermenting journey, so much fun!

  14. Hi Nicola,
    I am looking forward to trying this recipe. Does the piece of cabbage at the top need to be covered with liquid as well or is that to hold the rest of the sauerkraut down?
    Thanks 🙂

    1. Hi Maria, the cabbage leaf is to hold the kraut below the liquid, however, the liquid will rise during the fermentation process and essentially bath/soak the cabbage leaf in a salty brine so it doesn’t turn bad. I hope that makes sense. This is still our family favourite kraut!

  15. Fun to stumble upon this recipe and then realize that I stayed at an ecolodge outside of Minca last year. Is it Casa Elemento? Positive vibes from the states.

    1. Hi Ben, it was San Souci about 1km above the township 🙂 Happy times!

  16. Hi! I’ve made the cortido…. It’s in the fridge. .. Do I take out the cabbage leaves…. or need to release any gases? It seems have absorbed all the brine!

    1. Hi Katarina, you can remove the cabbage leaves once the kraut is in the fridge. If the brine has dropped below the cabbage then make a simple brine of 1 tablespoon salt with 500ml hot water, cool, then pour over the kraut to just cover the cabbage. The brine can be kept in the fridge between batches. Good luck!

  17. Janene Carmody says:

    Thanks for the recipe Nicola. Is the leaf on the top meant to be submerged under the liquid? And does it go bad if it isn’t ,in which case do you just remove the top bit. I have a fermenting lock as well so would this do the same job? I find there’s always a few floaters on top.

    1. Hi Janene, the leaf on top doesn’t have to be completely submerged as it will be washed in the brine as the Cortido ferments. I remove and compost it when I put the kraut into the fridge. If you have a fermenting lock by all means use that. I shared this recipe before you could easily purchase fermenting equipment in NZ – way back in 2013! It is still the method I use as all the equipment you require is glass jars, which everyone has on hand.
      Happy fermenting 🙂

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