For The Best Fried Sauerkraut, Cook It In Smoky Bacon Fat

Fried or sauteed sauerkraut is a wonderful side dish that still brings tangy acid and fermented funk, but in a much more mellow form than its raw counterpoint. In European cuisine, fried sauerkraut is often nestled with hunks of roasted meats, potatoes, and boiled dumplings. Typically it is prepared by sauteing the sauerkraut — occasionally rinsed to further mellow its flavor — with salt, pepper, and a good deal of butter to add a creamy rich balance to its incumbent tang. But if you want to up the meat quotient in your meal, or just create a savory standalone fried sauerkraut, swap out the butter for bacon fat.

German cooking is rife with pork, often smoked, and sauerkraut is often served right along with it as they pair so well. So, it only makes sense to incorporate pork into fried sauerkraut. It's as easy as swapping out the butter for an equal amount of smoky bacon grease and proceeding as instructed. Of course, if you're not one to keep excess bacon fat lying around — you should, though — adding it to fried sauerkraut is the perfect excuse to cook up some minced bacon. As a bonus, you'll have crunchy bacon crumbles to add back into the sauerkraut at the end for a savory, textural pop.

Choose your bacon

As you know, bacon is no monolith, so when you're thinking about the bacon fat to use for fried sauerkraut, it's important to consider what you're serving it with. Smoked cuts of meat, generally pork, are a popular protein to accompany the fermented cabbage. As such, you may want to opt for smoked bacon to elevate the flavor. But roasted and braised meats are also common, or maybe you just don't cotton to smoky tastes. In this case, reach for unsmoked bacon or even salt pork, though the latter can add quite a bit more fat to meat than regular bacon.

Don't be mistaken; butter is just as delicious as bacon and definitely adds its own dimensions to fried sauerkraut. If you want to add in the savory warmth of bacon and still retain the nuttiness and creaminess of butter, use both. All that is required is to halve the fat you plan on using between bacon fat and butter. You can even play with the ratio for more or less of either flavor.