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Bigos Recipe- Prepare a Delicious Polish Hunter Stew in 7 Hours

Bigos Recipe- Prepare a Delicious Polish Hunter Stew in 7 Hours

If you like Eastern European food and Slavic cuisines, you’ll probably like this post. Here, we’ll share the traditional Polish Bigos recipe and show you everything there is to know about this delicious, hearty stew, including its history, origins, variations, serving tips, and much more.

But first things first…

What Is Bigos?

bigos
by Laurel F CC by SA 2.0

Bigos is a Polish stew that consists of meat (it can be any kind of meat from pork to rabbit), vegetables, spicy Polish sausage (or smoky bacon), and sometimes- rice. It’s usually eaten with bread and the leftover can be heated up to a few times. Some Polish people say that bigos actually tastes better after it’s heated up a few times.

Many people also make bigos when they have a huge amount of leftover meat but don’t let this fool you; bigos is not a poor man’s dish, it’s actually one of the national dishes of Poland.

History

bigos recipe
by MOs810 CC by SA-4.0

This dish has its origins in medieval times and traditionally, bigos was served to commemorate the hunting season and celebrate the pray that hunters would bring back home. During this era, people didn’t have access to a lot of fresh vegetables during the winter months which is why sauerkraut became one of the main ingredients because it can survive the winter without going bad and without losing its nutritional value and vitamins.

Traditionally, bigos is prepared by chopping the vegetables and meat and layering it inside an earthenware thee-ledged oven. If you’re curious about this traditional bigos recipe and want to know how it was made like back in the days, you can find it in this Medieval Russian cookbook.

In more recent times, the tradition was slightly altered. Throughout the years, people started preparing bigos as stew and serving it from the beginning of fall until Shrove Tuesday. So, one could probably say that bigos is traditionally a holiday food, similar to the Turkey dinner in the US. Except nowadays, people enjoy bigos throughout the year. It’s served for special occasions, birthdays, name-day parties, etc.

Origin & Etymology

bigos recipe
by atos CC by SA 4.0

The word „bigos” was first mentioned somewhere in the 17th century but its exact etymology is not clear. At the time, it was used to refer to dishes that consist of finely chopped components, often meat or fish, but rarely cabbage and other vegetables. The first written mention of bigos dates back to Stanislaw Czerniecki’s cookbook from 1862 (written in Polish).

In the beginning, bigos was made entirely of meat and exotic herbs and spices, and was dotted a royal dish. However, throughout the years, a “poor man’s version” of this dish was developed. People called it bigos hultajski (transl. bigos for rascals) and sauerkraut was used to cover the lack the meat and to add some sourness that should have replaced vinegar and lemon juice (ingredients that were not available to most poor people). 

However, throughout the years, this version became very popular and everyone started using less meat and more sauerkraut. Today, this version of the bigos recipe is one of Poland’s favorite national dishes. 

Variations

bigos hunter stew
by atos CC by SA 4.0

The bigos recipe is flexible and allows a lot of variations, so if you don’t have some of the ingredients on our list, it’s no biggie- you can just replace them with something that’s available. Locals often joke that there are as many bigot recipes as there are cooks in Poland.

The most famous variation is probably bigos mysliwski (hunter’s bigos) and the main difference here is that a part of the meat used for the stew comes from the game (something the hunter brought back home), such as venison, hare, or wild boar. Bigos mysliwski is usually seasoned with berries to neutralize off-flavors that are often present in the meat of wild animals.

There are also a couple of regional variations you can come across. For example, in the region of Greater Poland, they usually use tomato paste, marjoram, and garlic. In Kuyavia, bigos is made with red cabbage while in Silesia, they add small dumplings filled with mashed potatoes known as kopytka.

Lastly, we should also mention that bigos is popular outside of Poland as well, mainly in Lithuania, Belarus, and parts of Ukraine. In these countries, the bigos recipe also contains apples (most commonly Antonovka) that give the stew a winey tart taste.

Serving

polish bigos recipe

Bigos is traditionally served with rye bread, puffed pastries (i.e. piragi), or boiled/mashed potatoes. It can also be served inside a bread as shown on the image above. People often drink vodka when having bigos for the main course but if vodka feels too strong, my personal suggestion is to have it with beer or red wine. In addition to main course meal, bigos can also be served as a side dish to other meat-based dishes (i.e. pork chops) but it can also be served as an appetizer alongside some crusty bread.

As far as storing goes, bigos is a dish that doesn’t spoil quickly and actually gets tastier with each reheating (according to most Polish housewives).

Preparation Tips

  • Most of the time, the longer the stew cooks, the better it tastes. Therefore, you don’t have to stick to the timelines provided in this bigos recipe. If you have the time and patience to cook the stew longer, by all means, do so.
  • If you have a backyard, you’ll be happy to hear that bigos is a great fit for outdoor cooking. This way, you’ll avoid the (sometimes) unpleasant smell that comes from boiling meat.
  • One of the main ingredients for bigos is the Polish kielbasa sausage. If this isn’t available in your region, don’t worry; you can substitute it with another spicy (hot) sausage.
  • You can make bigos with any kind of meat. After all the spirit of this stew is to use whatever you have available.

Are you a fan of hearty stews? Then you may enjoy some similar recipes below:

Dimlama Recipe

Shkembe Chorba Recipe

Laghman Recipe

Brudet Recipe

A Few Things You May Need

Yield: 10 Servings

Bigos Recipe

polish bigos recipe

In this post, we’ll share the traditional Polish Bigos recipe and show you everything there is to know about this delicious, hearty stew, including its origins, variations, and much more!

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours 30 minutes
Total Time 5 hours

Ingredients

  • 1 Lb Boneless Meat (it can be anything you like)
  • 1 Lb Sauerkraut (rinsed and drained)
  • 1/2 Lb Kielbasa Sausage (or any other spicy-hot sausage)
  • 1/2 Lb Fresh Sausage
  • 4 Cups Water/Beef Stock
  • 2 Cups Fresh Cabbage (chopped)
  • 1 Onion (chopped)
  • 6 Garlic Cloves (crushed)
  • 2 Carrots (chopped)
  • 3 Strips Bacon (chopped)
  • 4 Tomatoes (peeled and chopped)
  • 1/2 Oz Borowiki Mushrooms (or other types of forest mushrooms)
  • 1/2 Cup Prunes
  • 1 Tablespoon Paprika Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon Parsley
  • 1 Tablespoon Cumin (ground)
  • 1 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons Salt
  • 1/2 Tablespoon Black Pepper
  • 2 Bay Leaves

Instructions

1. Cook the bacon over medium heat until it gets crisp. When done, place the bacon in a small bowl and set it aside.

2. Next, cook the kielbasa in the bacon fat until it becomes golden brown. Stir occasionally. When done, transfer the sausage to a separate bowl and keep it aside.

3. Start your stove and set it to medium-low temperature. After a few minutes, add the crushed garlic cloves and cook until it becomes golden brown.

4. In the meantime, cut the tomatoes in pieces as small as possible.

5. Add the chopped tomatoes to the pan with the garlic and stir until it blends in.

6. Add the cumin seeds, paprika powder, and cayenne pepper, and fresh parsley, and stir until everything is mixed together.

7. Next, chop the onions and add them to the mix.

8. Increase the temperature to medium-high. If you want to, you can pour some white wine for this step but that’s optional.

9. Add the water/beef stock and let it boil.

10. Season with salt and black pepper.

11. In the meantime, chop all the other vegetables and add them to the stew together with the bacon, sausage, and other meat.

12. Cover the stew and let it simmer at medium-low temperature for at least 4-5. Don’t forget to stir every 10-15 minutes.

13. Turn off the heat and start adding the stew in separate bowls (for as many people as you need).

14. Add some dill on the top (optional), serve with some bread and butter on the side (or some other pastry), and enjoy! 

Nutrition Information:

Serving Size:

1 bowl

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 410Total Fat: 20gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0.5gUnsaturated Fat: 0.5gCholesterol: 97mgSodium: 1580mgCarbohydrates: 35gNet Carbohydrates: 35gFiber: 8gSugar: 17gSugar Alcohols: 0-20gProtein: 28g

Did you ever try bigos? How did you like our bigos recipe? If you tried to make it at home, don’t forget to leave us a rating and if you have any questions, feel free to share them below.

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Homemade Polish bigos recipe
Bigos recipe
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