Polish Sauerkraut Soup (Kapusniak)

Kapusniak (Polish sauerkraut) soup
Susan.k. / Getty Images
Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 90 mins
Total: 100 mins
Servings: 6 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
394 Calories
21g Fat
10g Carbs
41g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 394
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 21g 26%
Saturated Fat 7g 35%
Cholesterol 138mg 46%
Sodium 671mg 29%
Total Carbohydrate 10g 4%
Dietary Fiber 3g 12%
Total Sugars 2g
Protein 41g
Vitamin C 12mg 58%
Calcium 68mg 5%
Iron 3mg 15%
Potassium 712mg 15%
*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 simple soup simmers on the stovetop and develops tremendous flavor from the use of smoked ham hocks or a ham bone. This Polish sauerkraut soup, or kapusniak (kapusta means cabbage in Polish) is hearty, delicious, and easy to make on a lazy Sunday afternoon—and easy to customize to your liking.

Smoked ham hocks or a meaty ham bone adds another layer to this sauerkraut soup. Some people thicken the soup with a roux or add potatoes, but barley is a hearty add—just make sure you skip the fast-cooking variety). Whether or not you use caraway seeds is your call; if you like them, go for it. It's good in all these variations.

As with most soups, this sauerkraut version tastes better the next day. The soup can also be turned into creamed sauerkraut soup by pureeing it and adding a little bit of milk or cream. Serve with hearty dark rye bread, and you've got a meal in a bowl.


  • 2 pounds ham hocks, or meaty ham bone

  • 2 quarts water

  • 1 large onion, chopped

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 5 black peppercorns

  • 1 sprig fresh parsley, or 1/4 teaspoon dried parsley

  • 1/2 cup barley, not quick-cooking, rinsed and drained

  • 1 (14-ounce) can sauerkraut, drained and liquid reserved, sauerkraut rinsed and chopped

  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds, optional

  • Salt, to taste

  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Place ham hocks or ham bone and water in a Dutch oven or other large pot. Bring to a boil, skimming off foam. Add onion, bay leaf, peppercorns, and parsley. Return to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook about 45 minutes, or until meat falls off the bones.

  3. Remove meat from broth, dice and return to the pot with barley, sauerkraut, and caraway seeds, if using. Return to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for an additional 45 minutes.

  4. If soup becomes too thick, add meat stock or water. If a more sour taste is desired, add some reserved kraut juice.

  5. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove ​the ​bay leaf.

  6. Serve in heated bowls with hearty rye bread.


  • You can use something other than smoked ham or a ham bone for this soup. Try using some thick cut bacon, sausage, or kielbasa with this soup instead.
  • Add diced potatoes and/or carrots to the soup.
  • Garnish with paprika and a dollop of sour cream, or a bit of heavy cream.
  • Use fresh cabbage instead of sauerkraut; the taste will not be as sharp.

How to Store and Freeze Polish Sauerkraut Soup

This soup will keep if covered in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days. You can also freeze this soup in airtight containers for up to three months. Reheat in the microwave or the stovetop.