Easy Kielbasa and Sauerkraut Recipe | Renee's Kitchen Adventures

Friday, April 28, 2023

Easy Kielbasa and Sauerkraut Recipe

Kielbasa and Sauerkraut makes a hearty meal that's full of flavor. My easy kielbasa and sauerkraut recipe is delicious way to get dinner on the table with very little effort. This sweet and savory Polish sausage recipe is a family favorite and on my menu often. You'll love the old world European flavors and so will your whole family. 

Easy Kielbasa and Sauerkraut Recipe in serving dish ready to eat


Not the right sauerkraut dish? Try my Oven Braised Country-Style Pork Ribs with Sauerkraut or my recipe for delicious Sauerkraut Balls.

If you're looking for an easy kielbasa recipe with sauerkraut, you've come to the right place. My slow cooker Kielbasa and sauerkraut (aka crock pot kielbasa and sauerkraut) is a real palate pleaser. Even my son, who isn't a huge sauerkraut fan enjoys this recipe. 

Fully-cooked smoked kielbasa sausage is combined with tangy sauerkraut. apple juice, brown sugar, sweet onions, and spicy brown mustard. It's then simmered in a slow cooker until the sauerkraut and kielbasa are tender and the flavors have melded allowing the smoky kielbasa to help season the whole dish. It's one of my favorite recipes. 

Polska Kielbasa and other ingredients ready to make Easy Kielbasa and Sauerkraut Recipe

What is Kielbasa? 

I'm no stranger to kielbasa. Growing up, whenever there was a holiday party or family get together, kielbasa was there! In fact, being of Eastern Europe Polish heritage, I grew up with kielbasa basically being a food group. 

North East Ohio has a large Polish population. In fact, Cleveland uses smoked kielbasa in it's famous Polish Boy sandwich. I have a popular recipe for my version of a Polish Boy Sandwich right here on my blog. I cook with kielbasa or smoked sausge quite often because it makes an easy meal. Given any day of the year, you will almost always find a few types of kielbasa in my freezer. 

Kielbasa (polska kielbasa) is a Polish sausage, most commonly made from pork, but can also be made with beef, veal, turkey, lamb, or chicken. It's sold as smoked sausage (fully-cooked) or raw sausage and is usually seasoned with garlic, herbs, and spices. Each region has it's own specialty recipe. It's often served with sauerkraut. Smoked kielbasa is a type of smoked sausage whose recipe originates in Polish heritage. 

Depending on where you live and the amount of eastern europe heritage in your area, you might have many choices of kielbasa to choose from at your grocery store.  Or you may find only one or two national brands. My favorite national brand is Hillshire Farm. I recently discovered Wasilewski Polska Kielbasa and it's really delicious. It's local to this area of the country, but if you can get some, I highly recommend it for this recipe! 

I also occasionally get smoked kielbasa from a neighborhood meat market where they use their own special kielbasa recipe. They make a mild and a spicy sausage. I enjoy them both!  

I've cooked both smoked kielbasa and raw kielbasa throughout my 50+ years of kitchen adventures. Raw kielbasa sausage is often reserved for special occasions like weddings and holidays, where as smoked kielbasa makes a quick and easy dinner or snack since it's most oten fully cooked (check to make sure your smoked kielbasa is fully-cooked on the package).

This recipe for kielbasa and sauerkraut uses smoked kielbasa, but can easily be adapted for raw kielbasa by increasing the cooking time and ensuring the meat is cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. 


What is sauerkraut?

Sauerkraut is finely cut raw cabbage that has been fermented. The cabbage is layered with salt and left to the process of fermentation. The "sour" flavor comes from acid. You can find canned and jarred sauerkraut in your canned vegetable aisles at the grocery store. These products have undergone a commerical canning process. You can also find bagged, raw sauerkraut, usually in the meat case. This raw sauerkraut has not been through the canning process. It will normally have a less tender texture. If you're really ambious, you can make homemade sauerkraut

You can use any of these types of sauerkraut in this recipe. A rule of thumb is, if you want ot tone down the sour flavor of the sauerkraut, rinse it and drain it well before adding it to any recipe. If you love the sour flavor, do not rinse it, just drain it and reserve some of the brine from either the jar, can, or bag to add to the recipe. 

Easy Kielbasa and Sauerkraut Recipe in a white serving bowl ready to eat

How to cook Kielbasa and Sauerkraut

There are several ways to cook kielbasa and sauerkraut recipe. Slow cooker kielbasa and sauerkraut is my favorite method and why I've featured it on the recipe card below. You can also cook kielbasa and sauerkraut in a skillet on your stove top or in a casserole dish in your oven.


Kielbasa and Sauerkraut in the Slow Cooker

I highly recommend slow cooking this as an easy way to enjoy this dish. This is my favorite way to cook kielbasa and sauerkraut. Find ingredient with amounts listed and detailed directions in the recipe card below. 

Begin by layering the ingredients in a crock pot sprayed with cooking spray. Start with chopped onions, followed by drained (and rinsed- optional if sour flavor too strong for you), then top with slices of fully-cooked smoked kielbasa.

Ingredients for Easy Kielbasa and Sauerkraut Recipe in crock of slow cooker with kielbasa slices on top

In a small bowl, combine apple juice (or whatever liquid you are using), mustard, and brown sugar with a whisk and pour evenly over the onion/sauerkraut/kielbasa mixture. Cover and cook on LOW for 4 - 6 hours or on HIGH for 2 - 4 hours. When done cooking, stir everything together. 

A wooden spoon stirring Easy Kielbasa and Sauerkraut Recipe in crock of slow cooker

Benefits of cooking Kielbasa and Sauerkraut in the Slow Cooker

  1. It's the easiest preparation: This is such an easy kielbasa and sauerkraut recipe! You really are using the crock pot to heat up the ingredients in this recipe and allowing the flavors from the kielbasa, sauerkraut and seasonings to meld together. What you end up with is a meal with great flavor, that took minimal effort to make. That makes this recipe perfect for the beginner cook or for when you need an easy weeknight meal. It's also the perfect one-pot meal. Sauteed onions not a thing here. There's no need to brown the sausage either. Just prep, dump, and let it go. 
  2. It makes the kielbasa and sauerkraut tender: The sauerkraut in this recipe cooks up nice and tender and takes on a sweet and sour flavor profile. The addition of brown sugar, apple juice, and sweet onions tones down it's tanginess and bite. Even if you aren't a fan of sauerkraut, you might like this recipe. The sauerkraut takes on a really nice flavor. If you like your sauerkraut more on the sour side, reduce the brown sugar in the recipe and substitute chicken broth, water, or beer for the apple juice. The kielbasa also cooks up more tender with the crock pot version verses the skillet version. In addition, the garlic and spices in the kielbasa give off some of it's flavor to the sauerkraut when you slow cook it. 
  3. This slow cooker recipe doesn't dilute flavors, but enhances them instead.
  4. Since kielbasa and sauerkraut are often made when entertaining a crowd (like at holiday gatherings) the crock pot or slow cooker can be kept on the warm setting to keep it warm for buffet-style serving. 
  5. It keeps everything moist and won't dry it out

Kielbasa and Sauerkraut Stove Top

This skillet dinner is the most basic preparation for kielbasa and sauerkraut. It's ok in a pinch, but I don't think it gives you the melded flavors you get from slow cooking. You will need to use fully-cooked smoked kielbasa if you are doing this quick method. This method is really not suited for raw kielbasa. Start by draining the liquid from the sauerkraut. Rinse and squeeze out excess moisture if you want a milder flavor. Cut kielbasa into 1" pieces. In a large skillet, on medium high heat, add about 2 tsp.olive oil. Add slices of kielbasa and cook until they are golden brown  (about 5 minutes). Remove sausage from skillet. Add chopped onion and saute until onion has softened and is somewhat transluecent (about 6-7 minutes). Add sauerkraut, brown sugar, mustard, apple juce and reserved kielbasa to the skillet and stir. Cover and cook on medium-high heat for another 5-7 minutes, or until it's heated through.  

Kielbasa and Sauerkraut in the oven

Ovens tend to dry things out, so make sure if you use this method, you cover the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil or the lid of a casserole dish. You will need to cut kielbasa into 2-3 inch pieces for this method. You can skip sauteeing the onions and sausage in this method. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 13 x 9 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Layer the chopped onions, sauerkraut, and smoked kielbasa sausage in that order. Combine the apple juice, brown sugar, and spicy brown mustard and pour evenly over dish. Cover tightly with aluminium foil and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour.  

Overhead view of Easy Kielbasa and Sauerkraut Recipe ready to serve and garnished with dried parsley

Why this recipe works

  • The addition of onion, brown sugar, and apple juice (or apple cider) to kielbasa and sauerkraut helps bring another layer of flavor and sublte sweetness to the dish helping offest the sour taste a bit. It's perfect for those who don't love sauerkraut.
  • It's easily customized to individual tastes. 
  • The apple juice can easily be replaced with other liquids.
  • It's a simple recipe (no fancy cooking skills required), meaning it's an easy recipe that's great for beginner cooks. 
  • Dinner time is ready when you are. Put everything in the slow cooker and go about your day. Cook on LOW or HIGH depending on your schedule. 


Variations

  • Add a couple of teaspoons of caraway seeds to the sauerkraut mixture before cooking. This adds a peppery or licorice type of flavor to the dish.
  • Swap the apple juice for apple cider, chicken broth, white wine, water, or even beer for a different flavor.
  • Use your favorite mustard. I like spicy brown mustard in this recipe, but Dijon mustard would work well too. 
  • Increase or reduce the amount of brown sugar to adjust the sweetness.
  • Add a peeled and cored chopped apple on top of the onion before cooking. This adds a natural sweetness to the dish.
  • Swap the Kielbasa for any type of fully-cooked smoked sausage for this recipe. I like using turkey smoked Sausage or turkey kielbasa sometimes. 
  • Add 2 inch diced russet, yukon gold, or red potatoes to the crock of the slow cooker before the onions for kielbasa and sauerkraut and potatoes. Increase cook time a little until the potatoes are tender. 


What goes good with Kielbasa and Sauerkraut?

Potato and Cheese Pierogies are a great accompaniment and compliment the flavors so well

Side dishes such as mashed potatoes (serve the Kielbasa and Sauerkraut right on top) and green beens make a great dinner

Pile Kielbasa and Sauerkraut high on soft sausage rolls or hot dog buns and add more mustard for a hand-held option

Mix spaetzle (german dumplings) or buttered egg noodles into fully-cooked Kielbasa and Sauerkraut and serve a garden salad on the side. Add rye bread for a complete meal. 


Frequently Asked Questions:


Why don't you add salt to kielbasa and sauerkraut?

I don't add salt to my recipe for kielbasa and sauerkraut because I find most commerically prepared sauerkrauts have plenty of salt in them. Even if you rinse and drain the sauerkraut before using it. 


How do I store leftover kielbasa and sauerkraut?

Store leftover kielbasa and sauerkraut in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days for safe eating. 

I hope that you enjoy this family favorite recipe for kielbasa and sauerkraut as much as my family has through the years. It's a special recipe and a holiday staple, but easy enough to enjoy any day of the week. Especially on busy weekdays. If you give it a try, don't forget to give it a star-rating in the recipe card below! 

A silver spoon lifting a portion of Easy Kielbasa and Sauerkraut Recipe out of a white serving dish

More sauerkraut recipes you might like!



kielbasa and sauerkraut, kielbasa and sauerkraut recipe, slow cooker kielbasa and sauerkraut
main dish
Polish, American
Yield: 6
Author: Renee Paj
Easy Kielbasa and Sauerkraut Recipe In the Slow Cooker

Easy Kielbasa and Sauerkraut Recipe In the Slow Cooker

Prep time: 5 MinCook time: 2 HourTotal time: 2 H & 5 M
This kielbasa and sauerkraut recipe has been a staple in my family for years. It's an easy recipe that combines fully-cooked smoked kielbasa with tangy sauerkraut, apple juice, mustard, and brown sugar and is slow cooked until everything is tender and the flavors meld.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds fully-cooked smoked kielbasa, cut into 1-2 inch slices
  • 2 pounds sauerkraut, drained well
  • 1 medium sweet onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup apple juice (or apple cider)
  • 2 TBSP spicy brown mustard, like Gulden's
  • 2 TBSP light brown sugar, (or more if you like it sweeter)

Instructions

  1. Spray crock of a 5-quart (or bigger) slow cooker with cooking spray.
  2. Add the diced onions in an even layer.
  3. Add the drained sauerkraut in an even layer.
  4. Add the sliced smoked kielbasa.
  5. In a small bowl or 1 cup glass measuring cup, combine the apple juice, mustard, and brown sugar. Pour evenly over the kielbasa.
  6. Cover and cook on LOW for 4-6 hours or on HIGH for 2-4 hours. Stir before kielbasa into onion sauerkraut mixture to combine before serving.
  7. Garnish with dried parsley flakes, if desired

Notes

Other Cooking Methods:


Kielbasa and Sauerkraut Stove Top

This skillet dinner is the most basic preparation for kielbasa and sauerkraut. It's ok in a pinch, but I don't think it gives you the melded flavors you get from slow cooking. You will need to use fully-cooked smoked kielbasa if you are doing this quick method. This method is really not suited for raw kielbasa. Start by draining the liquid from the sauerkraut. Rinse and squeeze out excess moisture if you want a milder flavor. Cut kielbasa into 1" pieces. In a large skillet, on medium high heat, add about 2 tsp.olive oil. Add slices of kielbasa and cook until they are golden brown (about 5 minutes). Remove sausage from skillet. Add chopped onion and saute until onion has softened and is somewhat transluecent (about 6-7 minutes). Add sauerkraut, brown sugar, mustard, apple juce and reserved kielbasa to the skillet and stir. Cover and cook on medium-high heat for another 5-7 minutes, or until it's heated through.  


Kielbasa and Sauerkraut in the oven

Ovens tend to dry things out, so make sure if you use this method, you cover the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil or the lid of a casserole dish. You will need to cut kielbasa into 2-3 inch pieces for this method. You can skip sauteeing the onions and sausage in this method. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 13 x 9 inch baking dish (or glass casserole dish big enough to fit everything) with cooking spray. Layer the chopped onions, sauerkraut, and smoked kielbasa sausage in that order. Combine the apple juice, brown sugar, and spicy brown mustard and pour evenly over dish. Cover tightly with aluminium foil and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour.  

Nutrition Facts

Calories

443.82

Fat (grams)

33.02 g

Sat. Fat (grams)

11.78 g

Carbs (grams)

19.01 g

Fiber (grams)

5.13 g

Net carbs

13.87 g

Sugar (grams)

11.4 g

Protein (grams)

18.04 g

Sodium (milligrams)

2054.14 mg

Cholesterol (grams)

79.38 mg

Nutritional Information is an estimate

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11 comments:

  1. This was really good and easy. I added about 30 oz of Simply Potato Shredded Hash Browns (I just mixed them and the onion to form the bottom layer). I kept everything else for the recipe the same, and I cooked it on low for 7 hours. I wasn’t sure how much longer to cook it with potatoes, so it was a little over-done (probably also because I got home from work late so it sat on ‘warm’ for 3 more hours after cooking). Will definitely make this again and try a shorter cooking time - thanks for the great recipe!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Erin! Thank you so much for your review! I love the addition of the hash browns! I would agree on reassessing the cook time, especially because those potatoes are somewhat precooked before they are packaged. I'm happy you enjoyed this recipe!

      Delete
  2. Hi Renee, can this recipe be frozen for storage once it’s been cooked?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello! Thank you for your comment. I've never froze it for storage so I can't answer your question from experience. I would think you could though. Hope this helps.

      Delete
  3. When you say “ Stir before kielbasa into onion sauerkraut mixture to combine before serving.” do you mean to only stir before serving? Or stir before cooking?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello and thanks for your question. Stir before serving. Leave it layered in the slow cooker until then. Hope this helps.

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  4. I have this in the crockpot right now. I stirred everything together, by accident. I will let you know how it turns out, Oh didn’t have apple juice, so I used chic broth.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No worries, stirring won't ruin the recipe. It's just my preferred way of preparing it. Chick broth should work fine, just less sweetness than with the apple juice or cider. Hope you enjoyed it!

      Delete
    2. How was it with the chicken stock

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  5. I am going to make this for dinner tonight. But can I substitute honey for the sugar?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. HI thanks for your question! Yes, you can substitute honey for the sugar and you should still get good results. Hope this helps.

      Delete

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