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Bigos Królewski - Polish Hunter's Stew

Updated: 2 days ago

I am excited to share with you my family winter recipe for traditional Bigos Królewski, a hearty and flavourful Polish Hunter’s Stew fit for royalty. This dish is perfect for chilly winter nights, as it will warm both your body and soul with every delicious bite. The combination of sauerkraut, cabbage, beef, and smoked sausage creates a symphony of flavours that will leave you craving for more. So, let’s grab our aprons and get cooking!

Another option is to make a more affordable version of Bigos, known as Bigos Hultajski. This variation calls for fewer ingredients and yields a distinct flavour profile.

  1. What is Bigos?

  2. Skip to Recipe >>>

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What is Bigos?

Bigos is a traditional stew dish from Poland that has been enjoyed for centuries. Often referred to as the "Polish hunter's stew," bigos has a rich history dating back to the 16th century when it was a staple food for hunters and farmers in the rural areas of Poland.

Bigos Królewski was eaten only by the nobility who could afford exotic spices. A poor men's version of this dish was called Bigos Hultajski and had more cheap ingredients like carrots and potatoes.

The dish is made by slowly simmering a mixture of sauerkraut, cabbage, and a variety of meats such as pork, beef, and sausage, along with other ingredients like onions, mushrooms, and red wine. For Polish Hunter's Stew, I prefer to use a slow cooker but you can also prepare it in the pot on the stove.

The end result is a hearty and flavourful stew that has become a staple of Polish cuisine and is enjoyed as comfort food during the colder months, perfect winter recipe!

The traditional recipe for bigos is simple and straightforward, but there are several variations of the dish, depending on regional and individual preferences. Some people add other vegetables, such as carrots, potatoes, or tomato paste, to their bigos, while others like to include spices like bay leaves, juniper berries, or black pepper. Some versions of bigos also include wild game meats, such as venison or wild boar, while others use smoked meats like kielbasa or bacon.

One of the things that makes bigos so special is the slow cooking process. The ingredients are simmered together in a large pot for several hours, allowing the flavours to blend and deepen over time. This slow-cooking method also helps to tenderize the meats, creating a rich and flavourful stew that is both filling and satisfying.

Bigos is a staple of Polish cuisine and is often served during special occasions and holidays. It is a dish that brings people together and is enjoyed by generations of families. In recent years, bigos has gained popularity outside of Poland and is now widely enjoyed as a comfort food dish. Despite the variations, the dish remains a staple of Polish cuisine and is a testament to the country's rich culinary heritage.

Bigos is a traditional stew dish from Poland that has been enjoyed for centuries. With its simple yet flavourful ingredients and slow cooking method, bigos is a dish that is both hearty and satisfying. Whether enjoyed as comfort food during the colder months or served during special occasions and holidays, bigos is a staple of Polish cuisine that continues to bring people together and is enjoyed by generations of families. Enjoy Zajebisty Bigos!

Bigos with bread

This recipe makes: around 6 portions

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 5 hours

Download the recipe for Bigos here:

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Ingredients for Bigos

  • 14.1 oz stewing beef (400g) cut into large dice (chuck, skirt, leg, or flank works well)

  • 8.8 oz kielbasa (250g) smoked sausage, such as podwawelska

  • 5.3 oz lardons (or chopped bacon)

  • 17.6 oz sauerkraut (500g) drained from liquid (you can add liquid to Bigos if you prefer sour version)

  • 17.6 oz white cabbage sliced

  • 1 large onion diced

  • 1 apple peeled and diced

  • 1 cup dried mushrooms (50g) (porcini or boletus)

  • 4 cups boiling water (1L) enough to cover everything in the slow cooker

  • 1 glass dry red wine (240ml)

  • 1 prune

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 4 allspice berries (or 1/4 tsp allspice powder)

  • 1 tsp marjoram

  • 1 tsp caraway (helps with digestion)

  • 1 tsp honey (add enough to balance sourness)

  • 2 tsp salt

  • 1 tsp ground black pepper

  • 1 pinch nutmeg

  • 1 tbsp tomato puree

How to prepare Bigos

1. Begin by hydrating the dried mushrooms in 1 L of boiling water for around 15 minutes. When ready, remove the mushrooms and strain the water through a fine-mesh sieve to remove any grit or sand. Transfer the mushroom water to a slow cooker dish, leaving behind the last 50 ml (1/4 cup) of water that may contain sediment.

2. In a frying pan, sear the lardons and sausage over high heat until browned. Transfer the meat to the slow cooker, leaving the fat in the pan.

3. In the same pan, brown the diced onions until softened and lightly browned. Transfer them to the slow cooker.

4. Next, brown the diced beef in two batches until browned on all sides. Transfer it to the slow cooker.

5. Add all the remaining ingredients to the slow cooker, including the hydrated mushrooms, and stir well to combine. Cover with a lid and set the slow cooker to high heat for 5 hours. After the first hour, give it a good stir and repeat every hour or so to distribute the flavours.

6. When the Bigos is ready, remove the bay leaves and serve hot with sourdough bread or boiled potatoes. Bigos tastes better with time, so you can store it in the fridge for up to three days, freeze it, or store it in jars if you make a bigger batch. Reheat it gently on the stovetop or in the microwave before serving. Enjoy!


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Tips on cooking Bigos

  • Use a slow cooker: A slow cooker is ideal for making Bigos as it allows the flavours to develop slowly over time. If you don’t have a slow cooker, you can also use a Dutch oven or a large pot on the stove, but you’ll need to keep an eye on it and stir it regularly to prevent sticking or burning.

  • Adjust the seasoning: Taste the Bigos as it cooks and adjust the seasoning as needed. You may need to add more salt, pepper, or honey depending on your preferences.

  • Let it rest: Like many stews, Bigos tastes even better the next day, once the flavours have had a chance to meld together. Consider making it a day in advance and reheating it gently on the stovetop before serving.

  • Serve with traditional accompaniments: Bigos is traditionally served with sourdough bread or boiled potatoes, but you can also serve it with other hearty breads or grains. Some people also like to serve it with a dollop of sour cream on top.

  • Add Beer: Instead of water and wine use beer.

Check out my other recipes:

  • Żurek - traditional Polish soup with a tangy and hearty flavour that will warm you up from the inside out - give it a try and experience the delicious taste of Poland!

  • Racuchy z Jabłkami - Racuchy are fluffy, delicious Polish apple pancakes that are easy to make and perfect for breakfast, brunch or even dessert - give them a try and indulge in their sweet and fruity goodness!

  • Krokiety - Krokiety, a delicious Polish dish made of rolled crepes stuffed with mushrooms and sauerkraut, is the perfect comfort food to try at home!

  • Beetroot Kvass - Tangy, probiotic-rich drink that not only boosts digestion but also supports liver function and immune system, so give it a try and experience its numerous health benefits!

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