What Happens When You Add Salt to Cabbage: A Tasty Science Experiment

If you love science and cooking, this experiment is perfect for you! Adding salt to cabbage can make it taste amazing, but it can also lead to some interesting chemical reactions. In this article, we will explore the science behind what happens when salt is added to cabbage, and how you can use this knowledge to create delicious meals.

The Science Behind Adding Salt to Cabbage

When you add salt to cabbage, it triggers a process called osmosis. Osmosis is the movement of water molecules from an area of high concentration to an area of low concentration. In cabbage, the salt causes the water molecules to move out of the cells of the cabbage and into the surrounding brine. This process is also known as dehydration.

In addition to osmosis, adding salt to cabbage can also cause fermentation. Fermentation is a process where sugar and salt act as preservatives, allowing good bacteria to flourish and preventing harmful bacteria from growing. This process is commonly used in making kimchi and sauerkraut.

The Effects of Osmosis on Cabbage

When osmosis occurs in cabbage, it causes the cabbage to become limp and wilted. The salt draws water out of the cells of the cabbage, causing it to lose its crispness. This process is usually desirable when making sauerkraut or kimchi, as it softens the cabbage and allows it to absorb the flavors of the spices and other ingredients added to it.

However, if you don’t want your cabbage to become overly soft, you can control the effects of osmosis by adding less salt. The less salt you add, the less water will be drawn out of the cabbage, and the less wilted it will become.

The Effects of Fermentation on Cabbage

When the salt in cabbage triggers fermentation, it creates an environment where good bacteria can thrive. These good bacteria produce lactic acid, which gives fermented foods their characteristic sour taste. Fermentation also has a number of health benefits, as it can help to improve digestion and boost the immune system.

In addition to improving the flavor and nutrition of cabbage, fermentation can also be used to preserve it. Foods that are fermented can last for months without refrigeration, making them a useful tool for people who live in areas without reliable access to refrigeration.

How to Use Salt to Make Delicious Cabbage Dishes

Now that you understand the science behind adding salt to cabbage, you can use this knowledge to create delicious meals. Here are a few tips for using salt to make tasty cabbage dishes:

1. Make Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is a classic cabbage dish that has been enjoyed for centuries. To make sauerkraut, simply chop up cabbage, add some salt, and let it sit for a few days. The longer you let it sit, the more sour and flavorful it will become. You can eat sauerkraut on its own or use it as a condiment for sandwiches, hot dogs, and other dishes.

2. Create Kimchi

Kimchi is another fermented cabbage dish that originates from Korea. To make kimchi, you will need a variety of seasonings, including chili flakes, garlic, and ginger. Once you have mixed the seasonings together, you can add them to chopped cabbage and let the mixture ferment for a few days. Kimchi is a spicy and flavorful dish that can be used as a side dish or added to soups and stews.

3. Make Coleslaw

Coleslaw is a refreshing and delicious dish that is perfect for summer picnics and barbecues. To make coleslaw, simply shred some cabbage and mix it together with mayonnaise, vinegar, and seasonings. You can also add other vegetables, such as carrots and onions, to give your coleslaw some extra flavor and crunch.

4. Add Salt to Stir-Fry

If you love stir-fry, adding salt to your cabbage can give it a delicious flavor and texture. Simply chop up cabbage and stir-fry it with some salt and other seasonings, such as garlic and ginger. You can also add other vegetables, such as peppers and broccoli, to create a colorful and nutritious dish.


Adding salt to cabbage can have a number of interesting effects, including osmosis and fermentation. By understanding the science behind these processes, you can create delicious and nutritious cabbage dishes that will impress your friends and family. So next time you’re in the kitchen, try experimenting with some salt and cabbage, and see what tasty treats you can come up with!

Frequently Asked Questions About Adding Salt to Cabbage

  • What happens when you pour salt into cabbage?
    When salt is added to cabbage, it triggers a process called osmosis. Osmosis causes water to be drawn out of the cells of the cabbage, leading to dehydration and wilting of the cabbage. Adding salt can also trigger fermentation, which creates an environment where good bacteria can thrive and improve the flavor and nutrition of the cabbage.
  • How much salt should you add to cabbage?
    The amount of salt you add to cabbage will depend on the specific dish you are making. In general, you will want to add enough salt to trigger the desired amount of osmosis and fermentation. For sauerkraut and kimchi, you will need to add enough salt to create an environment where good bacteria can thrive. For coleslaw and stir-fry, you will want to add enough salt to enhance the flavor of the cabbage without making it too salty.
  • What are some other vegetables that can be fermented?
    In addition to cabbage, there are many other vegetables that can be fermented, including carrots, beets, cucumbers, and radishes. Fermented vegetables are a great way to add nutrition and flavor to your diet.


  • Ball, S. (2021). How to Make Sauerkraut. Serious Eats. https://www.seriouseats.com/how-to-make-sauerkraut-easy-homemade-recipe
  • Cross, P. (2017). How to Make Kimchi at Home. Bon App├ętit. https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/easy-kimchi
  • Mattila, J. (2016). The Many Health Benefits of Fermented Foods. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/fermented-foods

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