Bigos (Polish Hunter’s Stew)

Hi everyone, and welcome to 2018! It’s downright chilly across the US today, so let’s enjoy some stew.

Bigos is a Hunter’s Stew most associated with Poland, but likely of German origin. This dish, in one form or another, has been a part of Eastern European cuisine since at least the Middle Ages. The stew derives most of its flavor from a combination of meats, sausage, sauerkraut, cabbage, and mushrooms. I’ve found that adding dried plums (prunes) to the mixture adds a light sweetness to the dish that perfectly balances the sauerkraut.

It is likely that the original version of this dish was mostly meat, and reserved for the upper nobility; sauerkraut and cabbage were added to stretch out the meal, but eventually were incorporated into all preparations. Today, there remains significant variation of this dish – it is said that there are as many variations of Bigos as there are cooks in Poland.

Bigos - Polish Hunter's Stew (Gluten-free, Paleo, Primal, Perfect Health Diet, Whole30)

  • Servings: 4 to 6
  • Difficulty: Easy

2 tbsp lard, bacon grease, ghee, or olive oil
1 lb stew beef, venison, elk, or reindeer, cut into 1” pieces
1 lb pork shoulder, cut into 1” pieces
1 lb kielbasa or other smoked sausage, sliced
1 yellow onion, sliced
4 cups chicken broth
1 lb sauerkraut + juice
1 small head green cabbage, about 1 lb, shredded
¼ tsp caraway seeds
¼ tsp ground allspice
½ oz dried porcini mushrooms
2 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic, smashed
3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
10 prunes
salt to taste
black pepper to taste

1. Warm the lard in a stockpot or a dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season the beef and pork liberally with salt and pepper. Brown the meat until dark brown and crispy, about 4 minutes per side, in batches if needed to avoid overcrowding. Transfer the meat to a plate and set aside; reduce heat to medium and add the kielbasa. Saute until browned, about 3 minutes per side, then set aside.

2. Add the onion and saute until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the chicken broth, sauerkraut and its juices, cabbage, caraway, and allspice; stir to combine. Add the beef and pork and any accumulated juices. Bring to a simmer then reduce heat to medium-low; simmer, uncovered, for 2 hours without adding any liquid as it evaporates. About 30 minutes before the end of the 2 hours, place the dried mushrooms in a bowl and cover with warm water, about 1 cup.

3. Stir in the kielbasa, bay leaves, garlic, carrots, and prunes. Remove the mushrooms from their water, then coarsely chop; add the mushrooms and the water you soaked the mushrooms in, minus any sediment that collected at the bottom of the bowl. Simmer until the meat is very tender and starting to shred, about 1 to 2 more hours. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then serve.

Note: In the year leading up to my new cookbook’s release, I will be regularly releasing these recipes to 1) maintain a continuing conversation with my readership and 2) give visitors to this site an opportunity to test and provide feedback before editing. For more information on this new approach, read my post here.

20 thoughts on “Bigos (Polish Hunter’s Stew)

    1. Hi Jo, I didn’t add Instant Pot instructions because I think that a major component of this dish’s flavor is its long simmering period, which reduces and concentrates the flavors – it’s difficult to achieve that subtlety in a pressure cooker. Also, some ingredients need more time in the pot than others, which is also a challenge for the IP. If I was to go about it myself, I would brown the meat in the IP, then throw it all in together, using half of the broth. I would cook everything at high pressure for 35 minutes, then let the pressure cooker depressurize naturally (another 20 mins or so). I think there will be a bit of compromise in terms of texture, but should taste pretty great nonetheless. Hope that helps!

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    1. Hi, I didn’t add Instant Pot instructions because I think that a major component of this dish’s flavor is its long simmering period, which reduces and concentrates the flavors – it’s difficult to achieve that subtlety in a pressure cooker. Also, some ingredients need more time in the pot than others, which is also a challenge for the IP. If I was to go about it myself, I would brown the meat in the IP, then throw it all in together, using half of the broth. I would cook everything at high pressure for 35 minutes, then let the pressure cooker depressurize naturally (another 20 mins or so). I think there will be a bit of compromise in terms of texture, but should taste pretty great nonetheless. Hope that helps!

      Like

  1. I’m glad I don’t have an Instant Pot as it appears that it takes away a person’s ability to cook a recipe that doesn’t have programming associated with it. C’mon, People, it’s not rocket surgery! :-)

    That said, this recipe does seem like a good candidate for pressure cookers in general.

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    1. Hi, Ernie! Converting a recipe to use in a pressure cooker certainly isn’t rocket science, but it could take some trial and error to get the timing right, especially in a recipe that has you adding ingredients at different times. If someone has already done the work to figure all that out, why not share it?

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      1. I had the same question. Might want to include the direction of leaving the lid off for the entire cook in the directions, as most stews are cooked at least part of the way with the lid on. Also, are the prunes supposed to remain whole? Maybe they just fall apart naturally… Thx

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  2. We have this simmering on the wood cook stove right now, about an hour and a half in and I had to take a taste! It is already phenomenal, I can’t imagine how amazing it will be once the rest of the ingredients are in. We won’t be adding the mushrooms- I don’t do well with them, but followed the recipe otherwise. Used venison, pork my parents raised, and Russian sauerkraut we fermented this fall. Thank you for the amazing recipe- I can’t wait to see your cookbook!

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