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Bigos – Polish Hunter Stew – is a traditional Polish dish that originated in Medieval times. Sauerkraut, Kielbasa, Wild Mushrooms, Prunes, and spices are braised in red wine for hours to achieve this amazing comfort food.
Bigos – Delicious Polish Hunter’s Stew
Today I’m going to share my recipe for Bigos – Polish Hunter Stew. Ever since I posted my Authentic Polish Pierogi with Potatoes and Cheese I have been getting requests from the readers to post a recipe for Bigos.
Apparently, a lot of people remembers their grandmothers making it and they really wanted to recreate the dish. Unfortunately, I don’t really have the best photos of this dish (they were actually taken a while ago), but since the requests are coming, I just decided to post it and deliver the recipe. That’s the most important part anyway, right?
Traditions of Bigos
So in Poland Bigos is like Turkey in the US. It’s the go-to dish for ALL of the holidays, small or large, and even on Birthday and Name Day parties. Yes, there is such a thing as Name Day celebrations in Poland.
Every calendar will tell you when your name day it is. Mine is on September 16th, which is just a few days after my birthday so I usually didn’t get to celebrate it. But the idea is pretty cool. You can have YOUR party twice a year. And both of these parties involve gifts. Isn’t that cool? And, as mentioned, Bigos would be served at all of them.
Bigos is also called ‘Polish Hunter Stew’ as its origins date back to Medieval times; when hunters would bring home game and it would be added to a stew which was cooked for hours. Sauerkraut was widely used then because of its high vitamin content and the fact that it could survive winter.
If you think about it, it was a dish that was supposed to keep them warm and healthy. Sauerkraut with wild mushrooms, prunes, and wine? Sounds super good to me. Then they would add whatever meat that was brought home. Nowadays, you can use any meat you want, or you can skip it and make it a vegan version. I like mine with Polish Kielbasa, but it is totally fine to add cubed beef or pork.
How to Serve this Polish Hunter’s Stew
For the holidays or other gatherings, Bigos would be served as an appetizer with a Crusty Bread which could be dunked into the sauce.
I also like it served for dinner with mashed potatoes, or even as a side dish to other meats like Brown Sugar Pork Chops with Garlic & Herbs.
Feel free to experiment and let me know how you like it.
Without further ado, here is the recipe:
Bigos - Polish Hunter Stew
- 6 cups Sauerkraut or 2 - 1 pounds jars
- 1 package porcini mushrooms about 20 grams
- 1/4 cabbage shredded
- 1 carrot medium, shredded
- 10 oz Baby Bella Mushrooms cut
- 1 cup red wine
- 1/2 cup prunes pitted, roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 onion medium, yellow, chopped
- 2 cups Kielbasa cubed
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon rosemary dried
- 1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic granulated
- 1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds granulated
- 1/4 teaspoon coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- Salty & Black Pepper to taste
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- Place dried mushrooms in a bowl, submerge them in water and let sit for an hour;
- Rinse the sauerkraut and chop it. Place it in large pot and submerge with water, cook it for about an hour, adding water if needed so that the sauerkraut is fully covered. After fully cooked, let the water reduce by half;
- In a frying pan, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, a chopped onion and fry it for about 5 minutes until golden brown;
- Remove the onions and set aside. Add another tablespoon of oil to the same pan, baby bella mushrooms, and season with salt & pepper and cook for about 5 minutes, until soft and cooked through;
- Remove the mushrooms and set aside. Add another tablespoon of oil to the same pan and your kielbasa. Cook until golden brown, or for about 5 minutes;
- When sauerkraut is soft and the water has reduced by half, add chopped cabbage, and carrot; mix together and let cook for about 5 minutes;
- Carefully remove dried mushrooms from the bowl and chop them. Be careful not to grab the dirt which inevitably fell down to the bottom of the bowl;
- Into the pot with your sauerkraut, add cooked onions, mushrooms, kielbasa, red wine, tomato paste and all seasonings;
- Let it cook for another half hour to an hour, mixing often until all the ingredients are well blended;
- Season with salt and pepper, if needed;
- It can be served immediately with bread or potatoes. Additionally, it can be reheated the next day and I suspect you'll be presently surprised at how well the nicely the dish aged!
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If you like this recipe, you may also like these Polish recipes:
Sauerkraut and Mushroom Pierogi from Scratch
Traditional Polish Dill Pickle Soup
Polish Stuffed Cabbage Rolls – Skinny Golabki
Cabbage and Kielbasa – Summer Hunter’s Stew
This looks so good! Those other Polish recipes look pretty enticing as well. Yummy!
Awesome! Let me know which one is your favorite 🙂
You can’t beat a strw at thisi time of year and I am a sucker for anything with mushrooms
If you like mushrooms, I’m sure you will like this stew Jacqueline. It’s delicious!
I love discovering traditional dishes! This looks amazing will have to give it a try.
Thank you Pretty! I would love to hear how you liked it.
I like Polish cuisine, and always make pirogi and apple pancakes. Never heard of this stew before but it sounds perfect for the cold winter days!
It is absolutely delicious and perfect for the winter cold days. Btw you can find recipes for pierogi and apple pancakes here
I have no idea why I have not heard of this dish before. It’s not common in Austria for sure! I like that this is a typical autumn dinner with the ingredients that you add. We will have to wait for a little while to make this as our Sauerkraut needs to ferment first.
It’s amazing. I’m sure you will love it 🙂
Cathleen @ A Taste of Madness
This stew looks amazing!! One of my friends is Polish and is always making her favourite traditional dishes, but I don’t think I have ever tried a stew.
Ask her about it 🙂 Or even better make it and surprise her!
I have a big favor to ask of you. One on my best friend’s family was from Poland ( both sides). Sadly when Gayl Gonszewski Czaplaki’s Mother died, her sister who doesn’t cook or sew gave all of their Mother’s recipes and sewing materials away . It broke Gayl’s heart. When I saw that you are Polish, I thought you might be willing to email me some of your Polish recipes not on your website.
I would like to collect them and put them in an album for Gayl’s birthday.
Please think of your recipes as well as your Mother and Grandmother’s recipes.
Thank you so much for reading my request.
Darlene, this is so nice of you that you want to create a collection of Polish recipes for your best friend. I don’t have written recipes except for those on the blog. I create them as a I go. But they are all printable. You can print them out and put them in a binder for your friend. You can find all my Polish recipes here: > You can also find a lot of great Polish recipes on Anna’s blog: All her recipes are also printable so you can get a nice collection for your friend. I hope it helps!
What wine? It’s not a traditional ingredient
In a lot of houses in Poland is. I agree that it wasn’t always a traditional ingredient but nowadays a lot of people are using it because it really makes a difference in taste. But as I said in a post it is optional;.
Being of Polish/Lithuanian extraction, I have made many pots of bigos. Here’s a few things I have learned:
I personally prefer it with chunks of browned, simmered meat rather than kielbasa. I always add some kielbasa, ham hocks, or bacon, but you really can’t skimp on the quality. If you add kielbasa, don’t add the cheapest stuff you can find. Get a good, authentic smoked sausage. If you can’t find a good kielbasa, try Portuguese linguica or corizo, thinly sliced. These are best added in the later hour or so of cooking.
If you can find real smoked bacon “ends and pieces,” they are excellent. I buy them for about two dollars for a pound here in northern Vermont. Dice them up and crisp them down. Reserve the meat, and use the fat to fry other ingredients.
A vastly simplified Russian version, AKA “bigus” eliminates the sauerkraut. The sauerkraut is the soul of the dish. I have found the Polish Belvedere brand to be excellent, and is readily available near me. It is the real deal, and economical. You want real lactic-fermented kraut for this. Nothing else will do. The Sure-Fine brand is also surprisingly good, and inexpensive.
Don’t be afraid to add chopped dried fruit. Dried apricots, coarsely chopped, dried currants, raisins, they all work. Those little sweet bits are crucial to the depth of flavor.
One can get a truly magnificent stew that would make any hunter proud in a quarter of the time in an electric pressure cooker, AKA “Instant Pot.”
If you like robust flavors, press several cloves of garlic and add them to the hot stew about 10 minutes before serving, and serve the dish with sour cream. Eastern European sour cream is much closer to creme fraiche than the US product. You can find creme fraiche at a good market, but it’s simple to make your own as well.
The Poles aren’t pansies. If you like things hot, search up some local hot peppers. Everyone is mad about ghost peppers right now, but I think they taste like gasoline. If you can find a good sharp paprika and saute it in, you’ll be much happier.
A very nice side dish to this is steamed buckwheat groats. Buckwheat is not wheat. It is a seed that is gluten free, has a low glycemic index, and is light and fluffy. It’s simple to cook. It is far better for you than polished rice or potatoes.
“The steam from cabbage cooking was like breathing incense in a church.” The Reverend Doctor Taddeuz Gurdak.
A key point in Polish cooking is the interplay between sweet and sour flavors.
I had a stew in Hungary like this. I tried this recipe w a French style twist of carmelized onions, garlic w a sherry reduction, etc, which tasted much much better than the typical bigos in Poland, which doesn’t have red wine, etc. Take most eastern dishes and put a French twist into it and it will be the best one you’ve ever had! I’m not French, but I do enjoy living and traveling many countries for their cuisine, culture and people. My husband is from Poland, and enjoys the additional twists to make it even more special than he remembered growing up. His cousin Agnieszka made her traditional bigos; There were many people
In the kitchen when her husband lifted the cover off of it, and w her back turned the other way, Agnieszka asked, “Who burped!?” So is typical Polish cuisine, and everything polish in general w exception to polish ceramic dishes. Eastern cuisine is not a popular go-to food like Italian, Mexican, French, Indian, Chinese, etc. But it can achieve almost the level of these popular cultural dishes w a bit of international twists from these cultures.
What brand of red wine ? I never cooked with wine
I gave this 4 stars because I have not attempted to create it but I was wondering when do you add the prunes? Did I miss this part? Thanks.