Kapuśniak: Polish Sauerkraut Soup

Kapuśniak z Kiszonej Kapusty na Żeberkach

Kapuśniak (pronounced: capoo-shnyack; kapusta means cabbage) is one of the most characteristic Polish soups.

It’s traditionally prepared from cabbage (either sauerkraut or fresh chopped cabbage, sometimes both) and vegetables. Kapuśniak is based on smoked bacon or pork rib broth, but a vegetarian variant – based on veggie & dried wild mushroom broth – is just as flavourful.

For the full list of ingredients & detailed instructions, please see the recipe card at the end of this post. But before you scroll, there’s important stuff to know below.

Kapuśniak is such a fall classic. Soft pieces of tangy sauerkraut mingle with carrots, potatoes, and smokey bacon for a bowl of soul-soothing comfort. Making it at home is one of the simplest and most satisfying ways to treat yourself when the weather gets unpleasantly cold.

If you would like to try more Polish soups with a strong, sour flavour, try one of these favourites:

Do you need any special ingredients to make this Polish Sauerkraut Soup?

Yes. Kaspuśniak’s deliciousness relies heavily on one key ingredient: sauerkraut. But not just any sauerkraut! Forget cans and jars. It has to be a properly fermented cabbage, not soured unnecessarily with vinegar or any other boosters. 

A homemade sauerkraut is a world apart from the stuff that comes from a store. Fermenting foods at home may sound scary (it was for me!), but trust me – if you can chop the cabbage and pour some salted water over it, you’ll be fine. If in doubt, here’s a good step-by-step guide on how to make your own sauerkraut.

How should you serve this Kapuśniak Soup?

After all that cooking, separating all the bones from the meat is easy-peasy. It’s up to you if you serve up all that meat in Kapuściak Soup or not. I’ve added just a portion of it (about a half?), the rest went into a casserole.

I like it when the potatoes float in the soup, but if you prefer – you can serve them separately. In any case, potatoes must be cooked separately from sauerkraut.

The soup is salty already thanks to the sauerkraut, but have a taste. If it isn’t salty enough for you, season it a bit more.

Can you make this Sauerkraut Soup another way?

According to most recipes out there, a meaty broth makes the best base for kapuśniak. I have therefore followed the tradition and picked a generous piece of pork rib. If you prefer, you can use a vegetable stock instead.

In an attempt to re-create that characteristic smokey flavour, I dropped in some smoked bones off a pork loin.  If you struggle to fit all the ribs and bones easily into the cooking pot, try to break them apart into smaller pieces. 

If you enjoy your soup extra-sour, pour in some leftover sauerkraut juice.

What diets is this Kapuśniak Soup suitable for?

This Polish-style Sauerkraut Soup is gluten-free and dairy-free. If you decide to skip the potatoes in the recipe, the soup will become low -carb / keto friendly as well.

How long can you keep this Sauerkraut Soup in the fridge?

Once served, don’t keep Kapuśniak on the table for longer than 3 hours.

To store Kapuśniak in the fridge, wait for the soup to cool completely and move it into a container with a lid. Eat within 4 days.

Can I freeze this Kapuśniak?

Yes, this recipe can be frozen. I would avoid freezing it together with potatoes, they always turn gooey for me.

When freezing, remember to freeze the soup as soon as it is cool enough. Move it into a freezer-friendly container and label it with description and today’s date. Consume within 3 months.

How do I reheat this soup?

From chilled: Pour the soup into a microwave-friendly container, cover loosely with a lid. Heat up for 4 to 7 minutes until hot. Stir well with a spoon before serving.

For a tastier result, pour the soup into a saucepan and reheat on the stove an a medium heat, until hot throughout. 8 to 12 minutes is usually enough.

From frozen: Allow the soup to thaw, then reheat in the microwave for 3 to 5 minutes. Stir, then cook further for 5 to 7 minutes until hot.

Alternatively, allow the soup to defrost and reheat on the stove. Cook for 8 to 12 minutes on a medium heat, until hot throughout.

Smacznego!

Kapuśniak - Polish sauerkraut soup on a wooden table
Kapuśniak Polish sauerkraut soup

Kapuśniak: Polish Sauerkraut Soup

Yield: 6
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 40 minutes

Kapuśniak (also known as 'Polish Cabbage Soup' or 'Kapusta Soup') is a Polish classic. Soft pieces of tangy sauerkraut mingle with carrots, potatoes, and smokey bacon for a bowl of soul-soothing comfort.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb (450 g) pork ribs
  • 3-4 smoked pork bones (optional)
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 (200 g, 7 oz) medium white onion
  • ½ leek
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp dried marjoram
  • ½ tsp caraway seeds
  • 2 medium carrots (roughly 4.2 oz, 120 g)
  • ⅓ celery root (roughly 3.5 oz, 100 g)
  • 1 parsley root (roughly 2.1 oz, 60 g); can be substituted with more celery root
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 6 allspice berries
  • water (2 lq quarts / 2 litres)
  • 3 medium potatoes (roughly 8 oz, 230 g)
  • 10.5 oz sauerkraut (roughly 300 g); make sure it wasn’t soured with vinegar!
  • Salt, to taste
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

Instructions

  1. Divide the ribs into smaller pieces, ideally of such a size that they fit easily in the soup plate. Season them with salt and pepper. 
  2. Grab a frying pan and heat up 2 tablespoons of canola oil. Fry them on each side until they start to turn golden. Moved these fried ribs into a pot (ideally sized at 3 qt / 3 litres or bigger). Don’t wash the frying pan just yet! 
  3. Chop the leek and dice the onion finely. Fry these veggies on the fat that remained from frying ribs. At the end of frying, add crushed garlic clove and spices: one tablespoon of dried marjoram and half a teaspoon of caraway seeds. When heated, the spices release their essential oils, giving Kapuśniak its unique taste. Put the fried ingredients aside for now.
  4. Peel the vegetables (2 carrots, a parsley root and a chunk of a celery root). Dice them into squares (roughly with half-inch/1 cm sides). Drop them into the pot with ribs. Add 4 bay leaves and 6 allspice berries. Then, pour 2 quarts (around 2 litres) of water.
  5. Cook for 30 minutes on low heat, until both ribs and vegetables soften. 
  6. Peel and cube the potatoes, add them to the soup and continue cooking until they soften (that takes around 15 minutes)
  7. As you wait, drain the sauerkraut (keep the juices!) and chop it roughly. Add them to the soup, together with the onion, leek and spices we have fried before. 
  8. Continue cooking on a low heat for a further 30 minutes, in that time the sauerkraut will soften and release its aromas. 
  9. Have a taste. Season with salt and pepper. If Kapuśniak needs more sour ‘kick’, add some leftover sauerkraut juice.
  10. Pour the soup into bowls / soup plates, making sure that everyone gets some veggies and meat. Sprinkle each portion with chopped parsley.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 333Total Fat: 15gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 56mgSodium: 507mgCarbohydrates: 31gFiber: 6gSugar: 5gProtein: 20g

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Kasia Kronenberger

Kasia Kronenberger is the founder of Polonist, where she celebrates Poland’s very best food.
She’s a self-taught home cook, who – through her own culinary attempts – wants to show you how to recreate Polish flavours at home, wherever that is.
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