Authentic Polish Bigos Stew Recipe (2024)

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Making Polish bigos involves stewing sauerkraut, white cabbage, meat and sausage along with a handful of spices to create a warming, hearty dish that’s moreishly delicious. Bigos stew is incredibly simple to make, requires very little effort and makes a fantastic potluck party dish.

Authentic Polish Bigos Stew Recipe (1)

Polish bigos for me defines traditional Polish cuisine – hearty, deliciously comforting and great for sharing. This dish is equally popular as a family meal (served with mashed potatoes or bread) as well as party food, accompanying all celebrations including weddings, christenings etc. It has withstood the test of time and remains one of the most popular dishes in Poland today (along with Polish potato salad and pierogi). Poles love comfort food!

Because of its tremendous popularity countless versions of bigos exist and everyone will have their own way of preparing this dish that’s a little different from everyone else’s. What they all have in common, however, are the 2 essential ingredients: sauerkraut and meat.

Authentic Polish Bigos Stew Recipe (2)

Bigos Ingredients

  • Sauerkraut

As this is an essential ingredient in Polish bigos ensure you use good quality sauerkraut. I recommend buying the sauerkraut in a Polish delicatessen as it’s likely to be better quality and tastier than sauerkraut sold in large supermarkets. Look for organic, preservative free sauerkraut that has a light yellow/greenish, rather than grey colour.

  • White cabbage

Some people recommend rinsing the sauerkraut before making the stew (to make it less sour) but I prefer simply adding some white cabbage into the bigos to create a more balanced flavour. What is sauerkraut without its sourness?

Use common white cabbage or pointed cabbage, which is sweeter.

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  • Meat

Polish bigos can be made with any kind of meat, from game to pork (used most commonly) and chicken. Having said that I’ve never encountered bigos with lamb but this is probably because lamb is hard to come by in Poland. You can also use a combination of various meats. Whichever meat you choose it is important to use dark rather than white cuts (so for example not chicken breast, which tends to get dry when cooked for a long time). I used skinless chicken thighs. When it comes to pork use ribs or shoulder, not pork tenderloin.

You can adjust the amount of meat in this cabbage stew to suit your preference. I used a moderate amount as I didn’t want the meat to overpower the sauerkraut.

  • Sausage

Use smoked Polish sausage (kielbasa) for added flavour and texture. Most Polish kielbasa types are smoked so you’ll be able to find it easily (even large supermarkets tend to stock Polish sausage these days). Alternatively use pieces of smoked ham and/or smoked bacon (crisp it up first).

  • Porcini mushrooms

Dried porcini mushrooms are important to add for more depth of flavour but you don’t need to use too many. Again I recommend visiting a Polish shop as porcinis tend to be a lot cheaper there than in big supermarkets. Ensure you wash the mushrooms thoroughly by placing in a bowl, adding a little water and rubbing the mushrooms with your fingertips. Rinse again and add into the bigos.

Authentic Polish Bigos Stew Recipe (4)
  • Prunes

For me prunes are absolutely essential in a bigos recipe, adding a bit of natural sweetness as well as depth of flavour (along with the mushrooms). I think prunes are exceptionally well suited to sauerkraut dishes. I have used prunes in my sauerkraut casserole with chicken (with great results!), which is similar to this bigos recipe.

Step-by-step recipe instructions

1.In the pot heat up 3 tablespoons of oil, add the bay leaf, caraway seeds, allspice and juniper berries and onion. Fry gently for 3 minutes stirring often.

Authentic Polish Bigos Stew Recipe (5)

2. Push the onion mixture to the side and add the chicken pieces. Fry for 2 minutes on each side.

Authentic Polish Bigos Stew Recipe (6)

3. Add the sauerkraut, cabbage, prunes, mushrooms, paprika, marjoram, tomato paste and half of the water. Stir, close the lid and bring the mixture to the boil then simmer gently for 1 hour stirring occasionally.

Authentic Polish Bigos Stew Recipe (7)

4. In a pan fry the chopped sausage in 1-2 tablespoons of oil until lightly browned. Add into the stew and cook for 1 more hour. Add a little more water if needed.

Authentic Polish Bigos Stew Recipe (8)

5. Remove the bigos from the heat and take out the chicken. Separate the meat from the bone and place the meat back into the pot. Stir and serve!

Authentic Polish Bigos Stew Recipe (9)

Top tips for making Polish bigos

  • I recommend buying the sauerkraut in a Polish delicatessen. Look for organic, preservative free sauerkraut that’s yellowish in colour, not grey.
  • Use any meat you like but ensure it’s dark, not white (not chicken breast or pork tenderloin for example).
  • Use any Polish sausage (kielbasa) but ensure it’s smoked (most are). I used smoked chicken sausage. You can also add crisped up bacon or pieces of chopped ham.
  • Wash the porcini thoroughly by placing in a bowl with a little water and rubbing with your fingertips to get rid of any grit. Then rinse under cold water and add into the bigos.
  • Add the water The stew should be full of moisture though adding too much water may result in a soupy consistency, which is not what you want.
  • Do NOT add any salt into your bigos. Both sauerkraut as well as Polish sausage are quite salty so all you’ll need is pepper to taste.
  • Serve with mashed potatoes or bread.
  • Keep refrigerated for up to 5 days.
  • Freeze individual portions for up to 3 months.
Authentic Polish Bigos Stew Recipe (10)

More sauerkraut recipes

  • Polish Sauerkraut Pierogi (Kapusta) Dumplings
  • Polish Sauerkraut Salad
  • Polish Sauerkraut Soup Recipe
  • How To Cook Sauerkraut (Tips and Recipes)

You might also like sausage and bean casserole as well as this collection of easy one-pot chicken recipes.

Keep in touch!

If you make this bigos recipe I'd love to know how it turned out for you. Did you use any other ingredients? Let me know in the comments below, thanks!

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Recipe

Authentic Polish Bigos Stew Recipe (11)

Authentic Polish Bigos Stew Recipe

Making Polish bigos involves stewing sauerkraut, white cabbage, meat and sausage along with a handful of spices to create a warming, hearty dish that’s moreishly delicious.

5 from 24 votes

Print Pin Rate

Course: Dinner, Party Food

Cuisine: Polish

Prep Time: 10 minutes minutes

Cook Time: 2 hours hours 10 minutes minutes

Total Time: 2 hours hours 20 minutes minutes

Servings: 8 servings

Calories: 335kcal

Author: Monika Dabrowski

Ingredients

  • 1.1 pounds (500 g) sauerkraut drained, chopped
  • 10.58 ounces (300 g) white cabbage chopped
  • 4 chicken thighs or other meats, see Notes*
  • 14.11 ounces (400 g) Polish smoked sausage kielbasa, diced
  • 0.25 ounces (7 g) dried porcini mushrooms small handful
  • 8-10 prunes pitted, halved
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • 1⅓ teaspoons caraway seeds, dried marjoram and paprika each
  • 3 allspice and juniper berries each
  • 1-2 bay leaf
  • tablespoons tomato puree
  • 5 tablespoons vegetable/olive oil
  • 1½-2 cups (360-480ml) water

Instructions

  • In a large pot heat 3 tablespoons of the oil, add the caraway seeds, juniper and allspice berries, bay leaf and onion and gently fry for 3 minutes stirring often.

  • Push the onion mixture to the side and add the chicken thighs. Cook for 2 minutes on each side.

  • Add the sauerkraut, cabbage, prunes, tomato puree, mushrooms, marjoram, paprika, pepper to taste and half of the water and stir to combine. Cover, bring to the boil then simmer for 1 hour stirring occasionally. Top up with more water as needed (make sure the bigos doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan).

  • In a frying pan heat the remaining oil (1-2 tablespoons) and fry the chopped sausage until crispy stirring often. Add the sausage into the stew and continue cooking gently for 1-1½ hours. Add a little more water if needed.

  • Remove the chicken from the pot, separate the meat from the bone and put the meat pieces back into the pot. Serve with boiled/mashed potatoes or rye/pumpernickel bread.

Notes

  • I recommend buying the sauerkraut in a Polish delicatessen. Look for organic, preservative free sauerkraut that’s yellowish in colour, not grey.
  • *Use any meat you like but ensure it’s dark, not white (not chicken breast or pork tenderloin for example). Pork ribs or pork shoulder are good options.
  • Use any Polish sausage (kielbasa) but ensure it’s smoked (most are). You can also add crisped up bacon or pieces of chopped ham.
  • Wash the porcini thoroughly by placing in a bowl with a little water and rubbing with your fingertips to get rid of any grit. Then rinse under cold water and add into the bigos.
  • Add the water The stew should be full of moisture though adding too much water may result in a soupy consistency, which is not what you want.
  • Do NOT add any salt into your bigos. Both sauerkraut as well as Polish sausage are quite salty so you might only have to add pepper to taste (you can adjust the seasoning towards the end of cooking).
  • Serve with boiled/mashed potatoes or bread.
  • Keep refrigerated for up to 5 days.
  • Freeze individual portions for up to 3 months.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 335kcal | Carbohydrates: 15g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 25g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 73mg | Sodium: 793mg | Potassium: 502mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 233IU | Vitamin C: 27mg | Calcium: 54mg | Iron: 2mg

*Nutritional information is automatically generated and should be considered as an estimate.

**A note about baking: If using a fan-assisted oven refer to your appliance's instructions and adjust the temperature accordingly.

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Authentic Polish Bigos Stew Recipe (2024)
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