Often eaten at the Christmas Eve dinner, this Polish sauerkraut and mushrooms dish is fairly easy to make. Known as kapusta or kapusta z grzybami, it’s also used as a filling for pierogi or krokiety.
What Is Kapusta?
Kapusta is a traditional Polish dish made by frying sauerkraut with mushrooms and onions. Traditionally, the mushrooms used to make kapusta were always foraged from a neighboring forest and added fresh to the dish.
Kapusta is also spiced with bay leaves, allspice berries, cumin, or other spices, and can be soupy or thick. It really depends on the family’s tastes.
When kapusta is served for the Christmas Eve dinner known as Wigilina, it’s meat-free and called Wigilina Kapusta z Grzybami. But at other times of the year, it can be topped with fried bacon or smoked kielbasa sausages.
The Polish kapusta is also used as a filling for uszka dumplings, pierogi, golabki, or krokiety.
Who Invented Kapusta?
Kapusta or kapusta z grzybami has been a part of Polish culture for centuries. But we’re not certain it was invented in Poland.
Although mushrooms grow wild in the country and cabbages reached Poland in the Middles Ages, kapusta may have first been eaten in another land.
The first written mention of Kapusta was in the 17th century by the priest Hiacynt Przetocki in his book on Lenten lunches. He described it as a Lithuanian dish of mushrooms and cabbage.
But some historians say cabbage was eaten in Poland both in royal courts and by peasant farmers for centuries, even before Queen B. As a cheap and filling dish, it also gave farmers the strength they needed for harvest work.
The extra heads of cabbage were pickled for winter in huge hardwood barrels in basements or at the bottom of ponds till they were ready to be eaten in summer.
When the sauerkraut was ready, it was eaten as is, or it was fried with mushrooms to make kapusta or added as a filling to pierogi and other dishes.
What To Serve With Kapusta?
Kapusta is usually served at Christmas Eve along with a side of fish-based dishes. You can also serve kapusta with boiled potatoes, sourdough bread, pierogi, or fried kielbasa sausages.
Recipe Pointers For Tasty Polish Kapusta
- This sauerkraut with mushrooms recipe is vegetarian, vegan and gluten free!
- Do not add butter! You can top the kapusta with a splash of olive oil before serving!
- If you cannot find dried wild mushrooms, use portobello mushrooms and wild mushroom stock.
- If you find fresh wild mushrooms, skip step 1 in the recipe.
- If made without the mushrooms, the sauerkraut is called kapusta zasmazana.
- If you want the dish tangier, leave some of the sauerkraut juice in it.
- You can skip the apple if you wish.
- You can use fresh cabbage if necessary.
- If you do not have sauerkraut at home, you can buy Bubbies sauerkraut online and use that.
- Kapusta always tastes best after a few days!
FAQs about Polish Sauerkraut with Mushrooms
How to pronounce Kapusta?
Kapusta is pronounced kah-poos-tah or ca-puhs-tah.
What is the difference between Kapusta and Kapusta Kiszona?
Kapusta kiszona is the real sauerkraut made by the fermentation of grated or shredded cabbages, while kapusta is the Polish dish made by frying kapusta kiszona with wild mushrooms.
Where can I buy dried wild mushrooms?
You can purchase dried wild mushrooms at any Polish grocery store near you. If there isn’t one, you can also buy them online here.
What if I cannot find dried wild mushrooms?
If you cannot find dried wild mushrooms you can replace them with portobellos. In that case, I usually replace the simple vegetable stock with wild mushroom stock.
Do I have to use Sauerkraut to make Kapusta?
No, although it is traditionally made with sauerkraut, you don’t have to use sauerkraut to make this kapusta. You can use fresh cabbage to make the kapusta z grzybami if you want, but it even tastes better with sauerkraut!
Alternatively, you can also purchase canned or jarred sauerkraut. I tried it and it works fine.
How long can I store Kapusta?
Kapusta can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 5 to 7 days, or in the freezer for 3 to 4 months. Reheat before serving.
- 2 oz of dried wild mushrooms (see notes for replacements)
- 1 lb of sauerkraut
- 1 medium onion
- 1 small apple
- 2 tablespoon linseed or olive oil
- 1 tablespoon parsley leaves, chopped
- A few allspice berries
- 1/4 teaspoon of cumin
- 1/2 tbsp of sugar
- salt & pepper to taste
- Thaw the mushrooms overnight, then chop them into small pieces. Put them back into the same water and cook for about an hour.
- Chop onion into small pieces and fry it on a pan until slightly golden.
- Squeeze the juice out of the sauerkraut and chop it all finely. Add cumin, salt & pepper, sugar and add it to a frying pan. Cook for about 4 minutes mixing it often, then add parsley and allspice berries and cook for another 3 minutes.
- Remove allspice berries. It's ready to eat on its own or can be used as a filling.
- If you cannot find dried wild mushrooms you can replace them with portobellos. In that case, I usually replace the simple vegetable stock with a wild mushroom stock.