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Bigos, A Traditional Polish Recipe

Updated on August 17, 2012
Bigos, Polish Hunter's Stew
Bigos, Polish Hunter's Stew
5 stars from 1 rating of bigos

Bigos: a hunter's stew of meat and sauerkraut

If I had to name one recipe that is the national dish of Poland I would not hesitate to name bigos. Poles are so fond of this stew of sauerkraut and meats that the greatest Polish Poet, Adam Mickiewicz, included an ode to it in his epic work Pan Tadeusz. It is called a hunter's stew because it was traditionally prepared on hunting trips. Cabbage and cured and smoked meats were taken by the hunters, and were then cooked with wild mushrooms and whatever meat was killed in the forest.

The more different types of meat, chicken, pork, beef or game that you add to bigos the better it is. It is an excellent way of using up leftover roasts, but if you are cooking the meat from scratch, just add some vegetables such as carrots, onion and celery, cover the meat with water and simmer until it is done, as you would cook chicken soup. When the meat is cooked, cut it into strips and use the stock for cooking the sauerkraut.

Bigos keeps very well in the fridge, and is much better when reheated, so it is worth making double the quantity. As with most national dishes, each family has a slightly different version of cooking it. Common additions include red wine, tomato paste, or prunes. There is even a Lithuanian version which uses cabbage instead of sauerkraut. This version was made in my family, it is simple but I think it has a great balance between the sour cabbage, the smokiness of the bacon and the savoury meat.

Cook Time

Prep time: 30 min
Cook time: 2 hours
Ready in: 2 hours 30 min
Yields: 4 people
sauerkraut is the main bigos ingredient
sauerkraut is the main bigos ingredient


  • 1 onion
  • 2 lbs Sauerkraut
  • 1 lb mixed cooked meat cut into strips, the more different types of meat the better
  • 1/4 lb smoked bacon in one piece, Polish bacon or Italian pancetta have a better cured flavour
  • 1/4 lb smoked kielbasa sausage or ham, In Poland kielbasa is the generic name for sausage
  • 1cup meat or vegetabel stock
  • 1 oz dried porcini mushroom, also known as cep mushrooms
  • 2 allspice seeds
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
Chop the onion, bacon and kielbasa
Chop the onion, bacon and kielbasa
soaking dried porcini mushrooms
soaking dried porcini mushrooms
start by frying the onion, bacon and sausage
start by frying the onion, bacon and sausage
  1. Start by chopping the onion, bacon and kielbasa sausage or ham.
  2. Fry the onion and smoked meats on medium heat for 10 minutes until the onion i soft and the fat is rendered from the bacon
  3. Meanwhile cover the dried porcini mushroom with boiling water to soften them
  4. Drain the sauerkraut, keep the brine solution in case the bigos ends up not sour enough.
  5. Add the sour cabbage, cooked meet, soaked mushrooms, bay leaves and allspice to the onion/bacon mixtures. Cover with water in which the mushrooms soaked and the stock and simmer gently for 1hr 30 minutes.
  6. Stir several times during the cooking to make sure the bigos doesn't stick. If it looks like there is not enough liquid add some stock or water. At the end of cooking season to taste with plenty of black pepper and sugar. It will probably not need more salt because the sauerkraut is salty. If it is not sour enough add some of the sauerkraut brine.
  7. Serve with boiled potatoes or good bread. Frozen vodka is the traditional accompaniment but you might prefer red wine
add the sauerkraut and other ingredients
add the sauerkraut and other ingredients
The finished bigos
The finished bigos


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    • Monis Mas profile image


      4 years ago

      I just published my own Bigos recipe, hahaha! Now I gotta try yours :-)

    • aa lite profile imageAUTHOR

      aa lite 

      6 years ago from London

      @WriteAngled, I am sure there are regional differences in the ingredients used. Before the war, there were more Poles in Lwow, than there were Ukrainians, similarly I suspect it was the Poles in Lithuania who ate bigos. I'm not sure if Lithuanians actually know of the dish.

      @moonlake, ahh kielbasa, it is so good. My mother always remembers how when I was a toddler she was trying to feed me with healthy cottage cheese, and I used to scream: I want kielbasa!

    • moonlake profile image


      6 years ago from America

      This looks really good we love kielbasa. It's also not a hard to make recipe. Voted up.

    • WriteAngled profile image


      6 years ago from Abertawe, Cymru

      My mother, although Polish not Lithuanian, used white cabbage for her bigos, and added tomatoes to get some sourness. She was originally from Lwow. I wonder if there are regional preferences with respect to using cabbage or sauerkraut.

    • aa lite profile imageAUTHOR

      aa lite 

      6 years ago from London

      Thanks rjsadowski, I was a bit worried about the pictures, bigos is not the most visually appealing food, at least on photographs. Should put in some recipes for pretty food with nice colours next.

    • rjsadowski profile image


      6 years ago

      Good recipe - great pictures.


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