Kapusta (Polish Braised Sauerkraut with Bacon)

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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.

Closeup image of a serving bowl fileld with kapusta and a platter of pierogi and kielbasa in the background.

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.

What you’ll love about this kapusta 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.
Ingredients ofr making Polish braised cabbage, or kapusta, including bacon, sauerkraut, onion, and brown sugar.

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.

Kapusta Ingredients

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!

Overhead view of sauteeing bacon and onions to make this delicious kapusta recipe.
The next step to making kapusta is to add sauerkraut, brown sugar, and water to the onion mixture.

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.

Handy tip

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!

A white dinner plate with kapusta, kielbara, and sauteed pierogi.

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:

Serving dish filled with braised sauerkraut and bacon.
Serving dish filled with braised sauerkraut and bacon.


This is Polish comfort food at its finest. Fried sauerkraut is a simple recipe that can be made with just a few ingredients, and it's perfect for a winter meal. The bacon and onion add a delicious depth of flavor to the sauerkraut, and it's all cooked until it's nice and mellow. Serve this kapusta with your favorite side dish, like mashed potatoes or egg noodles, and for a simple but satisfying weeknight treat.
4.80 from 5 votes
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Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: braised sauerkraut, kapusta, polish recipes, sauerkraut
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 147kcal


  • 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.
Nutrition Facts
Amount Per Serving (1 serving)
Calories 147 Calories from Fat 81
% Daily Value*
Fat 9g14%
Saturated Fat 3g19%
Trans Fat 1g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 4g
Cholesterol 15mg5%
Sodium 899mg39%
Potassium 284mg8%
Carbohydrates 14g5%
Fiber 4g17%
Sugar 9g10%
Protein 4g8%
Vitamin A 29IU1%
Vitamin C 19mg23%
Calcium 47mg5%
Iron 2mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Tried this recipe?Mention @HealthyDelish or tag #HealthyDelish!


Hi, I'm Lauren!

I'm a certified plant-based cook and enthusiastic omnivore who loves looking for creative ways to make weeknight meals more nutritious. I'm the author of Heathy Eating One Pot Cookbook and Healthy Meal Prep Slow Cooker Cookbook. I also blog at The Busy Foodie. Read more...


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15 thoughts on “Kapusta (Polish Braised Sauerkraut with Bacon)”

  1. 4 stars
    Definitely too sweet, so next time there won’t be any brown sugar, but other than that, it’s close to what I had growing up. Works well in a instant pot where you can saute the bacon and onion, then slow cook the rest for 90 minutes or more. I added some sliced Polish sausage for more protein

  2. Exactly like my Polish grandmother taught me to make it. I don’t fry the sauerkraut though. I add everything to a pot, add a cup of hot water, and let simmer for an hour.

  3. I watched my grandmother from Poland Ukraine border and my mother makes their Kapusta and also my older sisters, grew up eating it every week. My grandfather had chickens and we peasants like to add a bit of broth to everything. I add some chicken stock to allow it to burn off when cooking and simmering longer. I don’t add any sugars or syrups of any kind, because it’s the fermentation that is good for the gut and bowels Also you can use a cow or ham hock to cook with it for a better taste. We add a pound of bacon to two jars of kraut or if it’s homemade cabbage into kraut, we still add that much bacon. It’s always better the second day.

    • I rinse the sauerkraut in cold water to remove most of the brine.
      Bacon,onions,mushroom and a can of split pea soup.
      That was my great polish grandmothers recipe.

  4. We make kapusta with cabbage left over from making stuffed cabbage rolls (golobki)
    Mix approximately equal amounts of fresh cabbage and commercial sauerkraut. Add sautéed onions and a can of diced tomatoes. (In a pinch, my grandma sometimes used ketchup;)) We also added fried salt pork, but that is getting harder to find, so using bacon instead.

  5. I have a question re sauerkraut recipe. When cooking in skillet you state to do it like total of 10 minutes but in Slow cooker 6 hours? Am I missing something. It seems like the 2nd way would be the right way. What are your thoughts?

    • The slow cooker takes a while to heat up, so it takes longer to warm the sauerkraut through. It’s delicious both ways!

  6. 5 stars
    Great recipe! Made this last night and it was delicious. It was actually so good that I had a little for breakfast. It’s even better the next day after sitting in the fridge overnight!

    If I was to make any changes, it might be to use a fatty Polish Sausage instead of bacon (and it would be real Polish sausage from a deli, not that over processed Eckrich fat-hot-dog-in-thicker-skin garbage sausage).

    • 5 stars
      I am 74 years old. When I was a young boy, You could always tell when relatives would be visiting, by late Sunday morning. The house was filled with the aroma of Kapusta and kielbasa cooking. Of course, Pierogi, sour cream, room temperature tub butter and a fresh rye bread (seeded, of course), picked at the bakery right after church, found their way to the table, as well. I can’t count the number of times we had to wait for the rye bread to cool down before it could be sliced by the baker.

      Mom & Dad didn’t drink but, there was always plenty of ice cold beer for guests (Uncle Stashu always found a way to let me sneak a few sips) and the meal would start with a blessing, in Polish, followed by a Toast, in Polish, and a shot of whiskey.

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