Easy one-pot recipe for kielbasa and sauerkraut naturally sweetened with apples. It can be cooked on the stovetop or in a crockpot. German comfort food made simple.
I love this recipe because it is so easy to make and uses just 4 ingredients.
Stovetop, Slow Cooker, or Electric Skillet
Sausage and sauerkraut can be cooked on the stovetop in a saucepan or a skillet that has a lid. Keeping a lid on it help retain some moisture and reduce the number of times you need to add water during the cooking.
To make sauerkraut and sausage in a crockpot or slow cooker simply add of the ingredients to the pot and set to high for 3 to 4 hours or low 4 to 6 hours, stirring occasionally.
I use my trusty electric skillet for a lot of my slow-simmered recipes and this one is no exception. I love the constant temperature. The time to cook in an electric skillet is no different than using the stovetop. Everything should cook down nicely in 2 to 3 hours.
Kielbasa is my all-time favorite sausage to use in this recipe.
Smoked sausage works great too and is my second choice. It isn’t as spicy as Polish sausage, so if you taste it and think missing something, try adding a 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder.
You can use all beef versions of these sausages, you can even use a turkey version. Little Smokies can be used in place of the big link, I just find that those don’t pick up as much of the sauerkraut flavor as they cook.
Some people even use a pork roast and cook it with the sauerkraut. Using raw pork or sausage, like bratwurst, will take a little more time to cook. Make sure that the pork is cooked to 160⁰F.
Raw pork is safer these days than it was when I was a kid, but it still has some potential dangers that are best avoided by cooking to the proper internal temperature.
If using any raw sausage that contains turkey or chicken, the internal safe temperature is 165°F.
Brown Sausage First
This is definitely optional. My grandma didn’t brown hers, it was a dump and go kind of situation. I like my sausages to have a little more bite so I brown the sliced first. I think they hold up a bit better. The browning also adds another flavor layer to the dish.
If you are kind of weird about the texture of smoked sausages, then frying them first is definitely a step I wouldn’t skip.
No oil or anything is needed to brown smoked sausage. Once the sausage has been cut into pieces, the fat inside will be exposed and will melt in the pan as the sausage cooks.
That’s a personal preference. Draining sauerkraut before cooking will definitely get rid of a ton of sourness, so will rinsing it.
Rinsing the sauerkraut will also remove a lot of saltiness, so taste it for seasoning before serving, it may need a touch of salt added back.
My grandma adding extra sauerkraut juice to hers and cooked it down. While you can do that, it will make it super tart.
If that’s what you’re going for then I would skip the apple or brown sugar!
Add a Touch of Sweetness
You can skip adding any sweetness, but I wouldn’t skip this part unless you truly love sour foods for dinner. Sauerkraut can pack quite a punch.
I have always added a green apple to my sauerkraut. When using an apple, slice it super thin. You don’t want to have apple pieces visible, they should melt into the sauerkraut. If the brand of sauerkraut I bought is particularly tart I will also add a spoon or two of brown sugar as well.
Bacon is totally optional.
I add a slice or two of raw bacon because my grandma did! I think she did it because it adds a bit of fat to the dish.
Smoked sausages don’t have a ton of fat. They have just enough fat for browning without added oil.
Leftover sausage and sauerkraut should be stored in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container for up to 5 days. Leftovers can be frozen in a sealed container for up to 3 months before it starts to dehydrate and lose quality.
To reheat leftovers, thaw in the refrigerator and heat in the microwave or on the stovetop in a small saucepan.
Reheating sauerkraut and sausage from frozen may result in busted up sausage pieces. If you forgot to thaw it, place it into a small saucepan and cover it with a lid. Heat on low until it begins to separate. Once it is separated go ahead and turn up the heat and cook until heated through.
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Sausage and Sauerkraut Recipe
- Electric Skillet
- 14 to 16 ounces Kielbasa or other smoked sausage sliced into 1/2-inch slice
- 32 ounces sauerkraut refrigerated or canned
- 1/2 Granny Smith apple peeled, cored and thinly sliced
- 1 slice bacon cut into fine pieces
- Brown the sausage slices over medium-high heat if desired.
- Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan, slow cooker, or electric skillet and set to low heat.
- Set heat to low.
- Cook on low heat, stirring occasionally and adding water as needed to keep 1/4 inch of liquid on the bottom of the cooking vessel, for 2 hours when using the stovetop or electric skillet, 4 hours when using a slow cooker or until most of the apples have melted and the sauerkraut has turned a bit darker.
- Remove from the heat and serve.
- Promptly refrigerate any leftovers.
- Any smoked sausage can be used, kielbasa is my favorite.
- When using any raw pork product such as bratwurst or pork roast, cook until the meat has an internal temperture of 160ºF.
- Bacon can be omitted.
- Sliced apple can be omitted.
- Add up to 2 tablespoons of brown sugar for a sweeter sauerkraut.