If you’re looking for a delicious new cabbage recipe, then I’ve got a dish for you! Kapusta is sauerkraut’s less sour cousin, and this hearty Polish recipe is loaded with flavor.
I fell in love with Kapusta when I first tried it at the Polish deli around the corner from my house.
It was so easy to stop on my way home for an order of this side dish plus some of their breaded pork cutlets, to make an easy and tasty dinner. They sadly closed a few years ago, but I was up to the challenge of recreating this amazing recipe.
- Easy to make
- Simple, Common ingredients add up to tons of flavor
- Freezes well for meal prepping or for storing leftovers. It’s even better the second day and is great at room temperature.
What is Kapusta?
Kapusta is the Polish word for cabbage, which is what forms the base of this dish.
The shredded cabbage (or sauerkraut) is cooked in bacon grease with sauteed onions and crispy bacon bits.
Like many Polish dishes, it’s hearty and comforting and perfect for winter weather. It’s traditionally eaten on Christmas Eve or for a Sunday dinner, but it’s one of my favorite easy recipes to make during the week–it’s the perfect side dish to go with kielbasa or pierogi.
There are so many ways to make kapusta and every Polish grandmother has her own recipe. There’s really no right way or wrong way, it’s all about what you grew up with and what you prefer.
To make my version, you’ll need:
- Sauerkraut. Use your favorite sauerkraut for this recipe. I typically buy fresh sauerkraut from the deli, but it’s also delicious with homemade sauerkraut. Whatever you choose, just be sure to drain it well before adding it to your pan. If you prefer, you can also make kapusta with fresh cabbage.
- Bacon. Good-quality smoked bacon adds so much flavor to this recipe. Get the good stuff from your favorite butcher.
- Onions. The onions add another layer of sweet flavor to this dish, and they cook down to almost nothing.
- Brown sugar. You don’t need much, just a bit to offset the sharp sourness of the sauerkraut.
- Salt and pepper.
I keep my version of kapusta super simple, but many people also like to add caraway seeds or bay leaves to theirs. Wild mushrooms are also a popular addition!
How to Make Fried Sauerkraut
First, heat a large skillet on the stovetop and cook the bacon. I like to cook the bacon until it is crispy. When it’s cooked, pull it out of the pan and set it aside.
Dice the onions and sautee them in that wonderful bacon fat. Cook them until they’re translucent and soft but not brown.
Add the sauerkraut and brown sugar to the onion mixture and cook until everything is warmed through.
Adding a little bit of brown sugar balances out the sauerkraut’s tart flavor, making this a very mellow dish. Give it a try even if you don’t usually like the sharp flavor of kraut!
Is This an Authentic Kapusta Recipe?
There are countless ways to make kapusta, with each chef, Polish family, or just a fan of the dish making it their own special way.
There are, however, some commonalities between many kapusta recipes. They all start with cabbage (either fresh or fermented like sauerkraut), they’re all slowly cooked, and many of them have bacon in them.
What to Serve with Kapusta
My favorite way to enjoy this humble Polish dish is with kielbasa and homemade pierogies. The garlicky kielbasa and the soft, pillowy pierogies are comfort food for me, and the meal is complete with delicious kapusta on the side.
Other options that pair well with this Polish recipe are mashed potatoes, egg noodles, or cabbage rolls. And you can never go wrong with a slice of hearty Polish rye bread.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can kapusta be frozen?
Yes! Sauerkraut freezes nicely. Simply chill any leftovers and then package them in zipper-top plastic bags or air-tight containers. It’ll keep frozen for 2-3 months. If I need to keep it frozen for longer, I use a vacuum sealer and then it’s okay for up to a year.
Is this kapusta recipe easy to make?
Yes! This recipe is quite simple. Once you’ve chopped the bacon and onion, there’s just a bit of frying involved.
What’s the difference between kapusta and sauerkraut?
Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage that can be eaten right out of the jar or heated and eaten. Kapusta uses sauerkraut and braises it or slow-cooks it with other ingredients to temper the flavor.
Can I make kapusta in a slow cooker?
Absolutely! This is a really common way to make this delicious recipe. Cook the bacon and onion on the stovetop and then add to your crockpot with the rest of the ingredients. Cook on low for 6 hours. You can also add your favorite Polish sausage right to the crock to cook at the same time!
More healthy side dishes you’ll love:
- Horseradish Mashed Potatoes with Crispy Shallots
- Vegetarian Rice Pilaf
- Healthy Broccoli Casserole
- Cauliflower Tabbouleh Salad
- Roast Frozen Vegetables
- Brussels Sprout Salad with Maple Vinaigrette
- 4 slices bacon cut into small pieces
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 16 ounces sauerkraut drained
- 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
- ¼ cup water
- Add the bacon to a large frying pan over medium high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 6-8 minutes, or until the bacon is crisp and the fat is rendered.
- Add the onions an cook for 3-4 minutes, until softened and light golden brown. If the pan is too dry, you can add a teaspoon or two of olive oil.
- Stir in the sauerkraut, brown sugar, and water. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes, until heated through and light golden brown.