Science - October 10, 2013

Sauer­kraut just as tasty with less salt

Rob Ramaker

Master’s students come up with solution for soggy texture.

Food technologists have produced a low-salt sauerkraut that tastes just as good as regular sauerkraut. This is pretty useful given that the Dutch eat unhealthily large quantities of salt. The Wageningen scientists will be publishing their findings this autumn in the journal LWT.

Previous experiments aimed at reducing salt have failed, says Judith Wolkers-Rooijackers, a researcher in the Food Microbiology laboratory. ‘Consumers expect sauerkraut to have a crispy bite but it turns soggy without salt.’ During a case study, a group of Master’s students came up with a solution. The idea was the sauerkraut would keep its bite by using other - less unhealthy - salt varieties to make up for the reduction in table salt.
Master’s student Sharin Thomas then put the idea into practice by comparing low-salt sauerkraut with sauerkraut where the salt had been partly replaced by a cocktail of calcium, potassium and magnesium salts. The sauerkraut turned out to be considerably less tasty without these substitutes. Mechanical tests showed that it was less crispy and this was confirmed by a team of sensory experts in a blind test. The tasters also found the sauerkraut smelled and tasted less appetising. The sauerkraut with the compensating salts tasted just as good as regular sauerkraut.

Wolkers-Rooijackers admits that the Dutch do not eat so much sauerkraut that this will have a dramatic effect on their salt consumption. She sees it primarily as proof that a reduction in salt is often possible without loss of quality. And indeed, the food industry has expressed interest in this sauerkraut.