Lightly browned kielbasa, a popular smoked sausage, tastes great served on a warm bed of sauerkraut.
Kielbasa and Sauerkraut is an easy family meal that can be made quickly in a skillet, in the oven as a sheet pan meal, crock pot, air fryer, or instant pot. This simple recipe is a regular on our menu and one of the best meals that we make!
This post is sponsored by Ohio Pork, but all opinions are my own!
Kielbasa and Sauerkraut Recipe
The flavors of lightly seared pork Kielbasa, a common smoked sausage, pair perfectly with sauerkraut. We always use brown sugar to provide balance to the sauerkraut and when we want to kick it up a notch a sprinkle of red pepper flakes gets the job done!
Browning sausage and warming sauerkraut in a skillet is the most basic way to make Kielbasa and this meal. Lightly browning or pan frying the sausage will take this one skillet meal from good to great in just a few minutes by bringing out more savory flavors.
There are so many ways to customize it by adding sliced bell peppers, cubed potatoes or green beans. We will also share how to make sausage using other common kitchen appliances too.
This recipe gives your sauerkraut a little heat and a unique kick. Kielbasa sausage goes really well with the little bit of spice in the sauerkraut. The red pepper flakes can easily be omitted to make a more mild meal.
Some cultures eat a lot of sausage and sauerkraut and my husband’s family with a German lineage falls right in that group. This Kielbasa Recipe or Smoked Sausage and Sauerkraut is one of his favorite meals. I love that it can be cooked in ten minutes. Serve with buttered French bread and a great meal is ready to eat!
How to Cook Kielbasa
Kielbasa is very easy to make because it browns well in a skillet with a little oil over medium heat and warms up very quickly. Thin slices of Kielbasa are cooked in the skillet in 5 to 8 minutes.
We always keep a pack or two of fully cooked Polska Kielbasa in the refrigerator or freezer because it’s so simple to cook.
Cooked Kielbasa can be used in any recipe that calls for smoked sausage. Polish sausage is also great added to Mac and Cheese or a pan of Pierogies. Another common variation is serving in a bun and adding mustard.
A slightly more dressed up sauerkraut and sausage recipe is our Bacon Wrapped Pork and Sauerkraut Roll-Up.
How to Cut Smoked Sausages
Cutting smoked sausage is a personal preference. Smoked sausage can be cut into coin-sized pieces, 3″ chunks, or cut lengthwise to allow even more surface area to brown.
We prefer cutting sausage into coin sized pieces or slices because it makes serving our family easier. Young kids don’t need a knife when the meat is pre-cut.
Cutting sausage into bigger 3 inch chunks can be quicker to prepare because is less cutting and fewer surfaces to turn and handle in the browning process. Larger pieces will need to be cut on the plate before eating.
Preparing Sauerkraut for the Sausage
Since sauerkraut is made from a cabbage which is a fresh vegetable it will naturally have moisture inside the plant. Draining sauerkraut helps get rid of excess moisture that preserves sauerkraut while it’s stored. Some moisture will prevent the kraut from becoming dried out.
A couple of teaspoons of tablespoon of brown sugar is typically added to sauerkraut to sweeten the flavors of the meal, but adding sugar is not required.
Freshly ground pepper and a few shakes of salt also add a lot to the meal. For a little bit of heat sprinkle a few red pepper flakes on the sauerkraut. People like my husband really enjoy the natural flavor sauerkraut and many different types of sausage.
How to Make Kielbasa and Sauerkraut
- Cut pre-cooked sausage into desired sized pieces. Preheat skillet and add 1 – 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. Brown sausage in a skillet over medium heat. Once sausage is browned set aside on a clean plate.
- Add sauerkraut to the same skillet and sprinkle with brown sugar, salt, freshly ground pepper and red pepper flakes if desired.
- Stir sauerkraut until it is warmed through and has reached the desired consistency. Extra liquid can be drained or chicken broth can be added if it becomes too dry.
- Add sausage on top and simmer on low, covered for about 5 – 10 minutes on low heat. This allows the sauerkraut to absorb more of the sausage flavors. Serve warm.
Skillet Version of Kielbasa and Sauerkraut
Any skillet can be used, but cast iron skillets are popular because they heat evenly. A thicker bottom pan takes longer to warm up, but means there are no hot spots. Cast iron skillets can be easily moved to the oven to keep warm until ready to serve.
First brown the Kielbasa in a pre-heated skillet with a little bit (1-2 tablespoons) of vegetable oil. Add sausage over medium-high heat. Use tongs or a spatula to turn pieces regularly until desired level of browness is reached on the edges. Set browned sausage aside.
Warm drained sauerkraut in same skillet. Sprinkle brown sugar, salt and pepper over the top. Use tongs to turn sauerkraut and allow the brown pieces from the bottom of the skillet to mix up in the sauerkraut. Most people enjoy the sauerkraut browned up and dried just a little.
Add sausage on top of sauerkraut and cook on low for 5 – 10 minutes. During this time sausage will warm up and season sauerkraut.
Serve when the sausages are hot throughout. If using a cast iron or other oven safe skillet add lid or cover with foil and place in a warming drawer or oven on low to keep warm until ready to serve.
If sauerkraut gets too dry a little bit of chicken broth can be added and warmed at the end or during reheating.
To add potatoes to the skillet use the instructions for cooking potatoes here in our Cowboy Breakfast Skillet.
Crock Pot Version
Cut sausage into desired size and brown in a skillet with a little bit of vegetable oil. Sauerkraut can be browned in the skillet too which ads a bit more flavor. If browning sauerkraut add brown sugar, salt and pepper to the skillet, otherwise sprinkle over sauerkraut in slow cooker.
Line or lightly grease crock and add sauerkraut along with a little bit of the juice to the bottom in an even layer. Add browned sausage on top. Fresh rosemary or dill can be added to the crock pot if desired. Cook on high for 1 – 1 1/2 hours or on low for 2 – 3 hours.
A layer of cubed potatoes could be added in a bottom layer if desired. Cooking time will increase to allow the potatoes to soften.
Why Brown Sausages Before Slowing Cooking?
Browning sausage brings out more of the savory and umami taste in the meat and helps feature that flavor profile in the entire meal.
Browning also helps sausage render some of their liquid so the taste and texture is better when you bite into them. It provides an extra snap of the casing when you take a bite. Browning also speeds up the cooking process.
Sheet Pan Version in the Oven
To cook Kielbasa in the oven preheat to 375ºF or 400ºF. Lightly spray a baking sheet. Cut sausage into chunks or coins about 3/4″ to 1″ thick. Spread sliced sausage out in a single layer and place in oven. Toss Kielbasa every 5 minutes until nice & browned.
Add seasoned, drained sauerkraut to sheet pan for 8 – 10 minutes until it’s hot throughout.
If desired add a single layer of small cubes of potatoes and bake for about 10 minutes before adding sausage to the tray. Peppers, onions or green beans can be added to another section of the baking dish along with the sausage. Add sauerkraut at the end once the meat and vegetables are nearly cooked.
Air Fryer Version
An easy way to make a small batch of Kielbasa and Sauerkraut is in the air fryer. My husband will make himself a meal quickly using the tips in our Air Fryer Sausage, Potatoes and Sauerkraut recipe.
Using the air fryer for this recipe is very similar to making a sheet pan meal in the oven.
If using, potatoes should be cut into small cubes and cooked about 10 minutes before adding sausage and sauerkraut to the tray.
Instant Pot Version
Begin with browned sausage before adding other ingredients to the pot. Using the instant pot requires more liquid and creates more of a stew consistency. This method is great for keeping the lid on as the meal will stay warm for up to a couple of hours if necessary.
Cook on high pressure for 9 minutes or the stew setting for 30 minutes. Since sausage is ground meat instead of whole muscle meat the quick release function may be used without making the meat tough.
What is the Difference in Smoked Sausage and Kielbasa?
Kielbasa is the Polish word for sausage. There are hundreds of recipes for sausage with different combinations of spices. Polish Kielbasa can be fresh or smoked. Sausage is typically fully cooked during the smoking process and often comes in a U shaped or circular casing.
Most of the Smoked Sausage and Kielbasa sold in the United States have a similar flavor profile. Kielbasa may be made of ground pork that has a coarser grind and more garlic. Smoked sausage and Kielbasa are typically made with ground pork in Poland and most places because of the full and delicious flavors in pork.
The meat is typically cooked during the smoking process, but always read the package to be sure.
Smoked sausages are usually near lunch meats and bacon at the grocery store. Raw sausages or fresh Kielbasa are typically in the meat case with the pork products.
Raw sausage in a casing can also be used in this recipe and should be cooked fully before serving over warmed sauerkraut. Fresh Kielbasa is typically boiled in a large pot to cook through and then browned for maximum flavor.
Should I Cook Sauerkraut in Beer?
Cooking sauerkraut in beer is a personal preference. Add a cup of beer can help take away some of the sourness and bitterness from the sauerkraut.
Choose a flavor of beer that you enjoy as that flavor will be present in the meal.
Cooking sauerkraut in beer is a very popular way to prepare sausage and sauerkraut in the crock pot or instant pot.
Other Easy & Delicious Recipes with Sausage
- Sausage & Cream Cheese Stuffed Bell Peppers – this is a low-carb & keto recipe
- Kielbasa & Cabbage – uses unfermented cabbage
- Potato, Kielbasa & Green Chile Skillet – a spicy spin on a classic
- Air Fryer Sausage, Peppers & Onions – Also features Italian sausage
- Egg, Sausage & Brioche Breakfast Casserole – Tastes great any time of day!
Kielbasa and Sauerkraut
- 2 pounds Kielbasa cut into coins about 3/4" to 1" thick
- 1 pound Sauerkraut drained and/or rinsed based on personal preference
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon Koshor salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper freshly ground
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- In a cast iron skillet brown pieces of sausage and then set aside.
- Add sauerkraut to empty skillet and season with brown sugar, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. On medium high heat warm sauerkraut until it begins to brown off and dry out just a little bit.
- Return sausage to the skillet on top of sauerkraut. Cover skillet and allow to simmer for 5 – 10 minutes until sausages are heated through.
- Read the label to ensure sausage is smoked and pre-cooked.
- If sausage is raw cook fully before using in this recipe
- If you love the vinegary flavor of sauerkraut do not drain or rinse
- Draining and rinsing sauerkraut are each steps that minimize the sauerkraut flavor and are a personal preference
- Can add chicken broth to sauerkraut at the end if it’s too dried out for your taste preferences
- Preheat skillet before adding sausage to get a nice brown sear. Heating meat slowly as the skillet heats up will not produce the more savory flavor and browned meat.
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Originally published on August 3, 2020 with updates made on April 26, 2022.