Bigos (hunter's stew) with fennel seed & honey pork

As featured in The Guardian's Readers' Recipe Swap: Braised 17.10.15

cooking at De Tout Coeur Limousin
Bigos is a hearty Polish stew - made with cabbage, sauerkraut and pork. Thought of by many as the Polish national dish. Legend has it that the Polish hunters would cook their bigos in containers strapped to their horses - the heat from the horse gently stewing the bigos as they rode. I however prefer to cook my bigos in a more contemporary manner! There are numerous recipes and different additions you can include in your bigos, from wild mushrooms to beer. It was a staple meal in my Babcia's house when I was growing up - particularly around the festive season.  I remember the large pots of cabbage and pork simmering away for what seemed like days on end.  Although I have added a few (non traditional) twists to this recipe it is inspired by the flavours of my babcia's version.

Bigos is very similar to the French choucroute garnie - a dish I also love for it's use of sauerkraut and pork, and again with as many different recipes and variations as there are cooks.

I cook my bigos in the slow cooker but you can let it simmer away on a low heat on the hob or even in a casserole dish in the oven.  My tip is cook it low and slow - the longer you can leave it the better. Check it regularly to ensure it doesn't dry out - adding some stock or more wine if necessary.  

Bigos, like most stews, is always better the day after you make it when the flavours have all had a chance to mingle - but you can of course eat it as soon as it's cooked.  

I usually serve my bigos with mashed potato or buttered rye bread - but it's great as a side dish too with turkey at (or after!) Christmas. It's also handy to have a big pot of this simmering away during the festive season as an easy and tasty meal for any guests that may pop by to say hello. Smacznego and enjoy!

Do you have any seasonal family favourite recipes? Get in touch in the comments below and let us know. It's always great to find new recipe inspiration.

recipe by: Ema at De Tout Coeur Limousin 

preparation time:  15 minutes
cooking time: 3-6 hours
serves 6-8 people

1 kg boned pork shoulder - fat trimmed and cut into large chunks
200g smoked bacon lardons
200g smoked sausage (such as kielbasa)
400g mushrooms (a full flavoured mushroom is best here - like a porcini or chestnut mushroom)
1 kg sauerkraut
1 white cabbage - shredded finely
2-3 medium potatoes - quartered
2 onions - finely chopped 
2 garlic cloves crushed
800g tinned tomatoes
250ml red wine
2 tsp fennel seeds
1 tbs honey
1 tsp allspice (or a few allspice berries)
4-5 bay leaves
1 tbs smoked paprika (not traditional - but I love the smokey flavour and colour this adds)
black pepper to taste

optional extras:
dried mushrooms (porcini/cepes work really well)
smoked pork sausage
pork ribs or pork belly 

  1. fry off the bacon lardons until golden and crispy.  Carefully remove the lardons with a slotted spoon to leave the fat in the pan
  2. add the chunks of pork to the pan with the bacon fat and seal on both sides
  3. add the fennel seeds and honey to the pan and continue to fry for a few minutes to release the flavour from the fennel seeds and to allow the honey to get stickier and caramelised on the pork
  4. add the pork along with all the other ingredients to your cooking pan/slow cooker - give it a few stirs to ensure all the ingredients are evenly distributed. 
  5. cook gently on a low heat/setting for 3-6 hours.  I usually cook it for about 6 hours in my slow cooker checking regularly to make sure it's not drying out. After a low and slow cook the white cabbage will have softened down considerably and all the ingredients melded together. You can serve it immediately but I would recommend making this dish a day in advance.  
  6. Smacznego!  
Bigos with fennel & honey pork
Thanks for stopping by. Say bonjour on FacebookTwitterInstagram & Bloglovin too. We look forward to welcoming you soon. 

My recipe for bigos with fennel seed and honey pork is also featured on:

Cooking with Herbs Lavender and Lovage
cooking with herbs with Lavender and Lovage


  1. What a fab warming stew. I have a Polish very close friend of mine who will love this too and I will be sharing it with her. The story of cooking it through the heat of a horse is extraordinary.
    This stew must have a great flavour with all those lovely ingredients. I love the idea of adding fennel.
    Thank you for entering #CreditCrunchMunch

    1. Not sure where I heard that story about the horse! Thanks for your lovely comments too. I like the fennel too - great complement to the pork and cabbage.

  2. Just the kind of warming food I adore at this time of year. I'd happily put this in my slow cooker in the morning so we could all tuck into it come evening. Thanks again for supporting Simple and in Season this month.

    1. Me too - love stews and slow cooking at this time of year. Thanks for your comments too and for hosting the fabulous Simple and in Season.

  3. Cabbage is one of these vegetables I am a bit wary about. But this looks like a fab recipe. Thank you for adding it to the Inheritance Recipes challenge

  4. This reminds me of home ;) I always make vegetarian version with lots of smoked prunes (if I can get them)... Thank you for submitting it to our IR challenge!!

    1. wow - never had smoked prunes - where do you get them?

    2. Usually Polish stores, but I haven't seen them since we moved out from London.


Post a Comment

Thanks for stopping by. Your comments are always appreciated.

Popular Posts