Polish Pork Ribs and Sauerkraut (Żeberka Wieprzowe)

Polish Pork Ribs and Sauerkraut (Żeberka Wieprzowe)

The Spruce / Wanda Abraham

Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 2 hrs
Total: 2 hrs 20 mins
Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
884 Calories
56g Fat
17g Carbs
81g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 884
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 56g 71%
Saturated Fat 20g 100%
Cholesterol 290mg 97%
Sodium 792mg 34%
Total Carbohydrate 17g 6%
Dietary Fiber 4g 13%
Total Sugars 13g
Protein 81g
Vitamin C 29mg 144%
Calcium 78mg 6%
Iron 4mg 24%
Potassium 1546mg 33%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

This recipe for Polish country-style pork ribs and sauerkraut, known as żeberka wieprzowe w kapuście (zheh-BEHRR-kah viehp-ZHAW-veh vef kah-POOSH-chee-eh), is a budget-friendly and filling one-pot meal. An easy meal to prep on a weeknight, this dish cooks in the oven, allowing you to have plenty of time off to go on with your day. The result is a dish of fall-off-the-bone deliciously savory, tangy ribs. They're sweet, too, thanks to a hint of applesauce and sugar. Great with Brussels sprouts, these succulent pork ribs also pair well with all kinds of potato preparations, or on their own with a hearty piece of sourdough bread.

It's traditionally made with caraway seeds, a spice that sets these ribs apart from any other pork ribs. Imparting a beautiful flavor to dishes from baked goods to stews, caraway seeds are widely used in Eastern European cuisine and can be found in soups, loaves of bread, cookies, and all sorts of meaty preparations. The whole version is recommended for our recipe, but if you have ground seeds at hand, simply reduce the amount by one-third, as ground caraway tends to be a lot more potent than its whole counterpart.

Then there's the almighty, tangy sauerkraut, which you can choose to rinse or not, depending on how much sourness you like. This fermented cabbage is also a classic dish in Eastern European cuisine and is eaten as a side dish with plenty of other meaty dishes. Adding the cabbage to the ribs creates a wonderful balance of freshness and tartness. Store-bought sauerkraut works perfectly, but abstain from using types that have added strong flavors, like ginger or turmeric, as these will change the intended flavor of our recipe. Plain sauerkraut is best.

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds country-style pork ribs, cut 1 1/2 inches thick

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 2 to 3 dashes salt

  • 2 to 3 dashes freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 pound sauerkraut, drained and optionally rinsed

  • 2 cups unsweetened applesauce

  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed

  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Polish pork ribs and sauerkraut (żeberka wieprzow) ingredients

    The Spruce / Wanda Abraham

  2. Preheat the oven to 450 F. Pat pork ribs dry with paper towels. Rub ribs all over with garlic, salt, and pepper.

    Pork ribs with garlic, salt, and pepper

    The Spruce / Wanda Abraham

  3. In a shallow roasting pan, place the ribs meaty-side down. Roast 20 minutes, uncovered.

    Pork ribs in a roasting pan, meaty-side down

    The Spruce / Wanda Abraham

  4. Reduce the oven temperature to 250 F. Remove the pan from the oven and turn the ribs so they are now meaty-side up.

    Pork ribs flipped to meaty-side up after 20 minutes of cooking

    The Spruce / Wanda Abraham

  5. In a large bowl, combine sauerkraut—rinsed or not—applesauce, brown sugar, and caraway seeds, mixing well.

    Mixing sauerkraut, applesauce, brown sugar, and caraway seeds in a bowl

    The Spruce / Wanda Abraham

  6. Pour the sauerkraut mix over the pork ribs. Cover the roasting pan and bake 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until the meat is tender and well cooked. An instant-read thermometer inserted away from the bone must read at least 145 F. Remove from the oven and serve hot with your favorite side dishes.

    Polish pork ribs and sauerkraut (żeberka wieprzow)

    The Spruce / Wanda Abraham

  7. Enjoy.

What Exactly Is Sauerkraut?

For centuries, fermented foods have been a staple in all cuisines worldwide—think of Korean kimchi, Japanese miso, or wine—to preserve foods for all year-round consumption. Sauerkraut is the Easter European example of what an easy fermenting process can achieve. A pantry staple that has traditionally complemented meaty dishes, this cabbage preparation has also fed many in times of scarcity.


Easily made by layering thinly sliced cabbage with salt, the vegetable is then left to ferment at room temperature for two to four weeks. Lactobacilli, which are already present in the cabbage, do the fermenting job, and there is no need for pasteurizing the product, although doing so can extend its shelf life. Fully fermented cabbage can last for several months and makes sauerkraut an ideal ingredient to have at hand, as it goes well with all types of meats and charcuterie products.