I am thrilled to share with you my recipe for Bigos Hultajski, a hearty and flavourful Polish stew prepared in a slow cooker. It is perfect for chilly nights and will warm both your body and soul with every delicious bite. The combination of sauerkraut, beef, potatoes and smoked sausage creates a symphony of flavours that will leave you craving for more. So, let’s put on our aprons and start cooking the best Polish Food!
Bigos Hultajski is a simplified version of the traditional Polish Bigos with fewer ingredients and it requires less preparation time as well. This peasant version is flavoured with beer, which gives it a unique taste, and also includes potatoes and carrots. It is opposite to Bigos Królewski that requires far more complex ingredients.
When you finish with this recipe I recommend you to check out my other Traditional Polish Recipes.
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Bigos – Traditional Polish Food
Introduction to the Bigos Hultajski
Bigos Hultajski, often contrasted with Bigos Królewski, is a simpler version of the traditional Polish dish known as “Hunter’s Stew.” While Bigos Królewski (Royal Bigos) is made with high-quality meats and more expensive ingredients, often reserved for special occasions or the elite, Bigos Hultajski translates to “Peasant Bigos” and represents a more rustic, everyday version of the dish. It typically incorporates whatever ingredients are on hand, such as less expensive cuts of meat, leftover vegetables, or other readily available ingredients. Notably, beer is used as the base of the stew instead of wine, which gives it a distinct flavour. This version celebrates the resourcefulness and creativity of everyday cooks, making do with what they have to produce a hearty and flavourful stew.
Variations of Bigos Hultajski:
- Vegetarian Bigos: Omit the beef and sausage from the recipe and use vegetable broth instead of beef broth. Add more vegetables, such as mushrooms and cabbage. Use Seitan to make up for the protein from the meat.
- Spicy Bigos: Add some chopped chili peppers or red pepper flakes to the recipe to give it a spicy kick.
- Bigos with mashed potatoes: Serve Bigos over mashed potatoes instead of bread. Boil some potatoes until soft, then mash them with butter and milk until smooth. Spoon the Bigos over the mashed potatoes and serve hot.
How to prepare Polish Bigos Hultajski:
Bigos Hultajski in Slow Cooker
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- 0.9 lbs Beef, stewing cut - (400g) cut into large dice (chuck, brisket, round steak, or short ribs)
- 0.9 lbs Kielbasa - (400g) Polish smoked sausage
- 1.1 lbs Sauerkraut - with liquid (500g)
- 4 Potatoes, medium size - halved, skin on
- 1 Large Carrot - peeled and diced
- 1 Large Onion - diced
- 4 cups Beef Stock - (1L) enough to cover all ingredients in the slow cooker
- 1 cup Beer - (240ml)
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 4 Juniper Berries
- 1 tbsp Marjoram
- 1 tbsp Caraway
- 1 tbsp Honey - (add enough to your taste to balance the sourness)
- 1 tsp Black Pepper
- 1 tbsp Tomato Puree
- Heat a frying pan over high heat and sear the diced beef until browned. Transfer the beef to the slow cooker, leaving the fat in the pan.
- Add sliced sausage to the same pan and continue frying until browned, then transfer it to the slow cooker.
- In the same pan, sear the diced onions, carrots, and garlic until they are softened and lightly browned. Transfer them to the slow cooker as well.
- Add all the remaining ingredients to the slow cooker and stir well to combine. Cover with a lid and set the slow cooker to high heat for 6 hours. After the first hour, give it a good stir and repeat every hour or so to distribute the flavours.
- When the Bigos is ready, remove the bay leaves and serve hot with buttered sourdough bread. Bigos tastes even 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!
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 bread, but you can also serve it with grains like pearl barley. Some people also like to serve it with a dollop of sour cream on top.
FAQs and Variations for the Bigos Recipe:
- Can I use a different type of meat instead of beef? Yes, you can use pork or venison instead of beef. The cooking time may vary depending on the type of meat used, so keep an eye on it and adjust the cooking time accordingly.
- Can I omit the beer from the recipe? Yes, you can omit the beer from the recipe or substitute it with beef broth or red wine.
- Can I use canned sauerkraut instead of fresh sauerkraut? Yes, you can use canned sauerkraut instead of fresh sauerkraut. Make sure to drain the liquid before using it in the recipe.
- Can I use different types of sausage in the recipe? Yes, you can use any type of sausage you prefer, such as chorizo, Italian sausage, or bratwurst.
- Can I make Bigos in advance and freeze it? Yes, you can make Bigos in advance and freeze it for up to three months. Thaw it in the fridge overnight before reheating it gently on the stovetop or in the microwave.
Few words from Chef
I trust you enjoyed making this traditional Polish food! I’m eager to hear your feedback on my family recipe for Bigos Hultajski. Thanks for trying out this staple of Polish Cuisine! Let me know in the comments below!