Here's What You Can Do With Leftover Sauerkraut Juice

We don't know about you, but we love sauerkraut, the tangy fermented cabbage that's as at home nestled atop a hot dog as it is folded into creamy mashed potatoes. While sauerkraut surprisingly has its origins in China, it's popularly associated with German and Eastern European cuisines (via New York Times). No matter where it came from, sauerkraut remains a popular condiment.

If you've hopped on the kraut bandwagon, chances are you've been met with a phenomenon familiar to krautheads: leftover sauerkraut juice. Let's say you're getting to the bottom of a container of your homemade sauerkraut or encountering the dregs of a jar of the store-bought stuff: you find that you're all out of strands of cabbage, but left with plenty of the salty, zingy juice. This stuff is delicious, so it seems a shame to waste it. Here are some surprising ways to put that juice to good use.

Don't waste that juice

Jean Choi of the recipe blog What Grandma Ate has a lot of suggestions for how to utilize leftover sauerkraut juice. First up, she recommends pounding it like a shot. Sound strange? Hear us out: According to Dr. Vincent Pedre, the author of Happy Gut, "a shot of a sour, probiotic-based drink can help stimulate the release of gastric enzymes, which prepare your stomach for the food that it is about to begin digesting" (via Vogue). So the next time you're about to indulge in a large meal, you can chug a shot of kraut juice.

If you don't want to do a straight shot of brine but you tend to enjoy savory mixed drinks such as Bloody Marys, go ahead and mix some flavorful sauerkraut juice into your tomato juice base, or incorporate it into a beer-based michelada or a dirty martini in the place of olive brine.

We also regularly employ Choi's suggestion to use some sauerkraut brine in a salad dressing. As Choi notes, tangy, acidic kraut juice can easily take the place of the vinegar or lemon juice you'd typically include in a homemade dressing — a neat trick if you're out of those, but swimming in sauerkraut.

Meat meets sauerkraut

Because meat can be naturally rich, some of the best ways to use sauerkraut juice include pairing it with meat: the brininess of the kraut helps cut through that fattiness, making a nice complement to pork, beef, chicken, and even salmon. As Choi suggests on her blog What Grandma Ate, you can splash a bit of kraut juice over cooked cuts such as baked pork ribs, grilled chicken, or salmon filets; the brine even makes a nice addition drizzled over veggie sides such as wilted spinach or grilled zucchini

Another excellent union of meat and sauerkraut juice comes in the form of marination. You can add a ton of briny flavor to meat when you marinate it in a mixture of kraut juice and other aromatics of your choice, such as garlic, onion, and fresh herbs. According to Choi, another benefit of a sauerkraut marinade is its tenderizing properties: The acid in the juice helps break down protein bonds, resulting in more tender meat.

Still long on sauerkraut juice and short on ideas? We like Choi's suggestion to blitz it into your favorite dip recipe, adding tang to hummus or onion dip that would usually be provided by lemon juice or vinegar. Sauerkraut juice can add a nice zippiness to a bowl of tzatziki or baba ganoush, as well.

If you're finishing up a batch of kraut, you can use the dregs of the juice to start a new batch of sauerkraut. Choi says that adding a little bit of leftover sauerkraut brine helps the new batch ferment faster.