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Kapusta (Polish Cabbage Soup)

Kapusta (Polish Cabbage Soup) - A Family Feast

Every Sunday, as a child growing up, we spent the afternoon visiting my Babci.  Babci means grandmother in Polish,* was my mother’s mother.  Like most women of her generation, she often made dishes that originated from the ‘old country’ and the distinctive tastes and flavors of those dishes are hardwired in my memory.

Even today, I can immediately go back in time whenever I smell certain foods or certain dishes cooking.  One of those dishes is Kapusta**, a traditional Polish cabbage soup.  We were always really psyched when Babci made her delicious Kapusta for us for dinner.

Years later, I discovered that my husband Jack – who pretty much loves all-things cabbage – had never eaten Kapusta!

Kapusta (Polish Cabbage Soup) - A Family Feast

Since I didn’t have my Babci’s actual recipe (it was one of those recipes that was cooked from memory and never written down), I’ve done my best to recreate it from my own memory, and I think I’ve gotten it pretty close with this version.

Although not traditionally a Polish ingredient, my Babci added canned stewed tomatoes to her Kapusta which gives it an additional layer of flavor and really enhances the other ingredients in this dish.  Served with rye bread and butter, Kapusta is one of those dishes that just sends me back in time.  And Jack, who can’t get enough of this, wonders how on earth he missed out on this terrific Polish classic until he met me!

This post was originally published on A Family Feast in November 2012.

*Since originally publishing this recipe, several comments below have let me know that “Babcia” is the correct word for grandmother in Polish.  In my family, we simply called her Babci.

**Since originally publishing this recipe, a reader has let us know that this soup is also known as Kapusniak, or according to Wikipedia, Kapusta kiszona duszona.  Kapusta is the name that many Polish-American families like mine have given this soup.


Kapusta (Polish Cabbage Soup)

Kapusta (Polish Cabbage Soup) - A Family Feast

5 from 2 reviews

A traditional Polish cabbage soup made with pork, cabbage, sauerkraut, onion, carraway seed and my Babci’s secret ingredient…stewed tomatoes to really enhance the flavors in this soup.

  • Prep Time: 20 mins
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 45 mins
  • Total Time: 2 hours 5 minutes
  • Yield: 8-10 servings


  • 3-4 pounds of meaty pork ribs such as country style ribs
  • 6 ounces diced salt pork (4 ounces after removing skin. The fatty type not the meaty type)
  • 1 ½ cups onion, about one large onion
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 pound fresh sauerkraut with juice (found in the refrigerated section of most supermarkets)
  • 1 medium head of cabbage, shredded (about 1 1/2 – 2 pounds)
  • 2 14½-ounce cans of stewed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 pounds all-purpose potatoes
  • Rye bread and butter


  1. Place pork ribs in a large 8 quart heavy pot and cover the ribs with water almost to the top. Bring to a boil uncovered, lower to a fast simmer (low boil) and cook for 45 minutes, skimming off foam as they start to boil. Shut off burner and let them sit in the water for 15 minutes.
  2. While the pork is cooking, in a medium frying pan, cook the diced salt pork on a medium high flame for 2-3 minutes or until just starting to brown. Add onion to the pan and sauté for 2-3 minutes until just starting to get tender. Reduce to medium heat, stir in the flour and sauté for 3 minutes. Turn off heat and set aside.
  3. Once cooked, remove ribs from the pot and let cool. Save the liquid in the pot.
  4. To the pot of liquid, add the sauerkraut and juice, shredded cabbage, stewed tomatoes, caraway seeds and salt as well as the cooked salt pork and onion mixture.
  5. Cook over medium high heat until cabbage is cooked, approximately 30-35 minutes. While the cabbage mixture is cooking, remove the meat from the bones, shredding the meat into bite-sized pieces. Return the cooked pork to the pot once the cabbage is tender and heat to serving temperature.
  6. Peel and quarter potatoes and place in cold sated water while cabbage mixture is cooking. Bring to a boil and over a medium boil, cook potatoes for 5-10 minutes or until tender. Drain water and cool potatoes to room temperature. Once the cabbage mixture has finished cooking, cut cooked potatoes into bite sized pieces and either add to the finished cabbage dish or serve on the side. (cooking in quarters and cutting after the fact will make them more firm and less mushy since less of the surface touched the boiling water.
  7. Serve with rye bread and butter for a traditional Polish meal.

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 Kapusta (Polish Cabbage Soup) - A Family Feast


    Leave a Comment


  1. Sandi and David :

    That’s a very sweet story. Food has a way of bringing you back in time.

  2. :)) Look really tasty. When I was a child I really hated that soup, but when I get older and grandma’s meals stop being usuall for me I missed it so much.
    BTW. It’s not Kapusta. Kapusta means cabbage and it’s one of ingredients. The name of the soup is “Kapusniak”

    • Thanks Suzie! My family and others we knew all called it Kapusta but I’ll update the post to reflect the correct name for the recipe! Thanks for visiting our site! Martha

  3. Today I am making our version of Kapusta. No tomatoes in our version or onions. It contains cabbage, sauerkraut, barley, sprinkle of black pepper and pork. I make it more like a stew, more thick than soup. My husband’s mother used to make it whenever she came to visit us. It is one of the few recipes I make to remember our family’s Polish heritage. I am sure that my version has become Amerianized. My son (now 50 years old) requests a “Polish feast” for his birthday presents– I make and freeze packages of kapusta,stuffed cabbage rolls and pierogis, he is thrilled!

    • Sounds wonderful Bette! And your “Polish feast” sounds very much like the ones my family ate! Thank you for visiting our site! Martha

  4. Elizabeth Insley :

    Being Polish myself, I came to the US when I was 5 years old. As you described, we called it kapusta. Kapusniak was more of a broth soup with very little cabbage in it. It had more of a sauerkraut taste as was made often for Wigilia (Christmas Eve dinner with no meat)
    My correction will be with “Babci”. Here is a great internet explanation I found. “Babcia in polish language means Grandmother. Babci is used with other words such as: “od babci” (from grandmother), “do babci” (to grandmother), “u babci” (at grandmother’s place) and few others. In english you must add words such as “from”, “to”, “with” while noun’s or verb’s form stays the same. In polish despite using the same words as in english you must change form (precisely the ending) of noun, verb or any other part of speech. Both forms exisist in polish but they’re being used in different situations.”

    • Thanks so much Elizabeth! I’m enjoying hearing from so many readers in response to this post! I remember my mother and grandmother talking about my great grandmother and calling her Babcia. Perhaps it was shortened to Babci for my grandmother in an attempt to Americanize it a bit – but I’m not entirely sure, and unfortunately my mother is no longer alive to ask. Clearly I don’t know or pretend to be an expert on Polish language or foods – only what my family taught us and the names we used on a day to day basis. Thanks again for writing! Martha

  5. I happened to come across your website from a pinterest email, and I have got to say I will be trying your recipes!! They all look so good, and my husband loves soups so I am always looking for something new too. Im Ukrainian and this soup has its twists because we make a similar one! (im currently using natashaskitchen.com and olgasflavorfactory.com to make recipes that remind me of my childhood as well) Im pretty sure you will find some foods there that are similar to what your grandmother had made as well.
    I look forward to trying out your recipes. Thank you 🙂

  6. charlotte Pekrul :

    I agree with many of the writers, kapusta is cabbage, cooked usually with onions and some pork, pork fat and even better sausage. used as a side dish or stuffing in pierogies.

    My grandmothers soup, cabbage, light sourkraut and pork was reserved for just after wigilia, prior to that it was fish and fruit pierogies.

    I think that her receipe is most close to the truth, it was a clear light broth of vegetables light on the raw cabbage,onion carrots celery parsley simmered with pork riblets or pork buttons for a longer period of time,pork meat set aside, drained of the stock vegetables. added with a touch of sourkraut and small amount of barley cooked slowly but not til cloudy
    home made jarred wild mushrooms slices were set on top of the soup with a cube of boiled potato, and a small amount of the pork (cleaned just to the meat)
    the only spices used were a touch of marjoram, salt and pepper during cooking

    MAGIC !

  7. i absolutely love this soup ive been eating it for many years now…my family owned a polish/american restaurant in utica ny for years…my variation of it is using a pork butt in a slow cooker instead of rib meat…it cuts out the salt pork n is much healthier…the tomatoes r genius it adds an acidity to the dish…i also use polish dried mushrooms that i get at the polish specialty store in my area…called polaski’s….theyre kielbasa is amazing and the polish ham krukuska is as well….i also add shinkova..(i know i didnt spell that right but its a ringed meat served cold) to my soup……love this recipe!!

  8. I just made a big pot of Kapusta. I was hoping for the best as I had not made it in some time. My husband’s Mother showed me how to make it. She used pork steak as her choice of meat and always added cooked Keilbasa at the end. I do not care for Caraway. I use fresh cabbage sliced thin with enough water to cover it and add sour kraut with juice. I brown the pork steak and chop up a couple of onions and let them cook together till the meat is tender. I usually add a touch of gravy master and water to the pork while cooking. I like to taste test to make sure flavor is to my liking. The longer it sets, the better it tastes.

    • Thanks for sharing your recipe Margaret! It sounds delicious – and I totally agree! Kapusta DOES seem to taste better the longer it sits. Thanks so much for taking the time to write to us today!

  9. Thanks for reminding me of a meal I haven’t had in a long time ! We did not use tomatoes but used mushrooms, and we had potatoes that we made with salt pork and onions, we would render the fat from the salt pork and carmilize the onions in the fat then we would mash the potatoes with the fat the onions and the fried bits of salt pork !! Heaven in a pot, and serve it with the Kupusta

    • Oooh – your potatoes do sound heavenly Lauren! I think we’ll have to try that ourselves! Thanks for taking the time to write to us!

  10. I made this last night for dinner[even though it was 85 dgs.], and it was delicious! I didn’t use the carraway, but I did add 2 bay leaves to the simmering pork and discarded when the pork was tender. Although I didn’t use all of the zaprashka[sp? the onion roux] it was very thick and almost stew like. I added some water to thin it out a bit. We had leftovers tonight, and I felt like it needed a little something, so I added a few shakes of red wine vinegar which I always add when I make my version of cabbage soup, and it was over the top with a tangy taste.. That is what my mother and grandmother always did. The soup was very thick tonight. My 11 year old grand daughter loved it. I am of Slovakian decent, so I know cabbage soup! Thank you for sharing your recipe.


    • Thank you Vicky! I love the way you’ve adapted the flavors – I will definitely have to try that the next time we make this dish!

      • Making again tonight since it’s 60 dgs., raining, and windy! So fall. I love it! I’m also making a Slovakian potato dish with hard boiled eggs, sour cream , boiled potatoes, Polish sausage, and butter. Pumpernickel bread on the side. YUMM!!

  11. Peter hirschmanner :

    A very dear friend,RIP, used to make this soup with pork ribs and pork and beans, any recipes with that version, it was lite and soupy and extremely tasty

  12. Hi,
    I am going to make Kapusta for a young man who said he hasn’t had it since he was very young.
    Actually, I am Japanese, but like to make Kapusta for my friends. I use Kielbasa sausage,
    make sure to get the fat out by first boiling it, then sautéing it. The rest is like most of the recipes
    with cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes and onions. A little wine vinegar is added at the end to give it
    a little tang.
    My Polish friends use all kinds of meat. One lady even uses wieners.
    It’s a good cold weather dish.

  13. karen mulrooney :

    Martha: So glad I found your website! I grew up on Kapusta soup – Ukrainian/Russian grsndmother from Kiev. She like most of her generation never used recipes – everything cooked by taste and experience. Your recipe is the closest to hers. She used potatoes in hers and no tomatoes. My grandparents grew and canned everything they grew. Made their own sourkraut as well. I have missed her cooking for years and no one in the family has been able to duplicate her recipe – but tried. It was a big deal for us kids to go to Grammy’s for kapusta soup – all cousins no parents allowed for our lunch! Accompanied with rye bread and gsrlic rubbed in salt then rubbbed on the bread crust – delicious.

    • I’m so glad you found us too Karen! Your memories sound really wonderful! The Polish foods I grew up with are so ingrained in my memory (and tastebuds)! I hope you enjoy trying our recipes!

  14. Hi Steve,
    I came across your recipe site. I am Polish (born and raised), although I now live in Puerto Rico. Just wanted to let you know that the word for grandmother is Babcia (not Babci – Babci means “to (or of) grandmother). Anyway, the soup you have here is actually a variation of Bigos, a polish cabbage soup. Kapusta simply means cabbage. 🙂
    Anyway, thanks for spreading the word about awesome Polish cooking.

  15. Diane and Terrie :

    Your recipie for Kapusta brought back so many memories for my sister and I. It is exactly what we remember our Mom and Babchi used to make (down to the rye bread and butter). The pictures evoked memories of the wonderful aroma of that beloved soup when we walked in the door for a family gathering. The dinner always included all the Polish treasured dishes and ended with a night of dancing in the kitchen to polkas played by our aunt and uncle. Thank you so much for the thought, love (and memories) you put in to resurecting this treasured part of our tradition. Na, zdrowie!

  16. Hi, just wanted to say how delicious this Kapusta is. Made it the other day and my husband ( both sets of his grand parents came from Poland) raved about it. This recipe is a definite keeper. Thanks for sharing!!!

  17. We also spelled her name Babci instead of Babcia. I was told it may have something to do with where in Poland she was from? Interesting! Someday I will also use the name Babci! 🙂

  18. Mary Pultorak :

    My parents and their children were born in Poland. Our kapusta was not a soup but simply cabbage that was rendered down with bacon and onion. I will try this recipe though.

    • Thanks for writing to us Mary! I’ve learned from all of the comments on this recipe that each family seems to have their own version – or perhaps my grandmother made it into a soup to stretch the ingredients to feed a larger family when money was tight! Hope you enjoy our version!

  19. A favorite! Love this soup!

  20. My Babcia, also made the most amazing Kapusniak. I still make it today for my family. My father was from Poland and I remember travelling over there each summer and having this most wonderful dish amongst others.

  21. The original owners of the crocus restruant in milwaukee Andy and ella were the providers of the best of the polish dishes and soups. alas they have retired and with them the great recepies that wont easily or cant be duplicated by those who come after to replace them. Only the polenez restruant on the south side of milwaukee still stands to serve the taste buds of these tasty polish delights.

  22. For some mysterious reason, this morning I had a hankering for Kapusta. My friend Pat gave me her family recipe years ago and we loved it on cold Chicago winter nights. I just spent an hour looking for her recipe in my old recipe box, without success. Sadly, I’ve lost track of my friend over the years, and remember searching online for the recipe several years ago, but coming up empty. Pinterest came to my rescue with your recipe! This is it, complete with the tomatoes, except Pat used bone-in pork chops. Thank you – I can’t wait for dinner tonight!

  23. Kapusta means cabbage, not cabbage soup.
    That soup is called Kapuśniak.

  24. My grandma kapusta is more like a stew. It has no tomato, just pork, cabbage, onions, pepper. I think i will try this version someday. Thanks

  25. Because of Polish complicated grammar, both “babcia” and “babci” are correct. I recommend
    an article on Polish language to anyone interested.
    Polish language has as many as 7 grammatical cases and because of that the word “babcia” can
    have several endings:
    This is my grandmother To jest moja babcia
    This is my grandmother’s recipe To jest przepis mojej babci.
    I am going to visit with my grandmother Odwiedzę moją babcię
    I need to talk to my grandmother Muszę porozmawiać z moją babcią.

    The polish equivalent of “my” has different endings, too.

    “Kapusta” means “cabbage” in Polish. “Kapusta kiszona” or “kapusta kwaszona” is
    sauekraut” Soup made with cabbage and/or sauerkraut is “kapuśniak”

  26. I looked at the recipe above again and realized that it actually resembled bigos or hunter’s stew more than kapuśniak (a soup). To compare below is a link to a wonderful recipe I tested several times. It is by Anne Applebaum from her book “From the Polish Country Kitchen”


    • Thanks again Liz! We recently posted a Bigos recipe on our site and agree – our family recipe for Kapusta does resemble Bigos but different meats and flavors. We appreciate you sharing all of this great info with our readers!

  27. It’s KAPUŚNIAK not kapusta. Kapusta means solely “cabbage” 😀

    • Yup-it is Kapusniak and kapusta. This recipe is very similar to my Bachia’s but I am also adding some peppercorns as I remember those in her recipe and adding alot more diced tomatoes in addition to the stewed tomatoes as it looks way too thick at this point. No kilbasa which she also did not use in her recipe just pork which I browned vs boiling. I think I have way too many potatoes also! Thanks so much for posting this recipe as it is cold in FL today-think it is 60 so soup for us today!

  28. Jennifer Fryc :

    I had two “Babcis” and they both signed their names as “Babci”. I love this recipe – I have kapusta in my freezer and I was just wondering if it could be a soup. Thanks for posting!

  29. Hi I’m glad I found your website. I’m a huge fan of making my own bone broth; so when I cooked bbq spare ribs last night I couldn’t bear to throw them out! They are simmering now and I wonder if the broth would work as a base for your soup? It definitely has a bbq flavour to it. Also there is not meat left, what would you suggest to add as some extra meat…I don’t want anything to fatty as there is enough from the bones and trimmings. Thanks so much for any suggestions!

    • Hi Gwyneviere – Absolutely – you can use the leftover broth. I think a smokey BBQ flavor would be a nice addition. If you want to stay with pork – you could add in some chunks of lean, pre-cooked tenderloin. I would just add it in right before eating since it will get tough if over cooked. (Alternately, it would still be delicious as more of a vegetable soup!) Hope that helps!

  30. I love cabbage soup but never tried a Polish recipe. I will give it a try. By the way my mother is 100% Polish and she taught me years ago that the word for grandmother is Babushka:)

  31. Just like my grandma’s. Every recipe I have of hers includes fry an onion in salt pork or chicken fat. Stuffed cabbage, kapusta (and yes we called it that also). Nothing was written down I went to my mother’s and watched and wrote. My grandma died when I was 16 she was 86.

    • Oh yes! Fried onions and salt pork are must-include ingredients in the best Polish cooking! 🙂 Thanks for writing to us today Maggi!