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Barley and sauerkraut stew

Barley and sauerkraut stew

The recipe I share with you is an Estonian classic. Well, almost. Traditionally it is cooked with a lot of fatty pork, but my version is completely vegan. Also, the potatoes and carrots are not traditionally added here, but rather served as a side. I wasn't planning to cook this recipe, but a fridge clean-out soup, but while cooking, it got way too thick. Of course, there is always an option to thin out the soup with extra water or stock, but this time I felt halfway through the cook that maybe a stew is a better option. So, a stew type of a thing is what I ended up with and I am most likely going to eat it for a few days in a row now. 

To be fair, I am usually not a big fan of cooked sauerkraut - I always find it the best while it is still fresh and crunchy, full of good bacteria. But, somehow, I had managed to buy too much to consume it fresh and needed to find a way to use it up so it is actually my first time ever cooking sauerkraut. I still love the fresh version more, but in our chilly autumn weather, the cooked version does have its place. It is super homey, a little funky, and maybe even weird, but definitely delicious.

If you are a fan of traditions (and not vegan or vegetarian), just replace the oil with a few chunks of really fatty pork and start the recipe by rendering some of the fat, then continue with adding onion and everything else, skipping the carrots and potatoes. The rest of the process is exactly the same, but you might wish to extend the cooking time a bit to make sure the pork is falling apart tender. 

Oh, and the name of the original dish is “Mulgi kapsad” which translates to “cabbage from Mulgimaa”, Mulgimaa being a county in Estonia. 

Cooking time: 2-3 hours, most of this is passive

Serves 4-6


1 tbsp rapeseed oil
2 onions
2 carrots
1 cup barley
4 cups of vegetable stock
4 medium potatoes
2 cups of sauerkraut
Salt and sugar, to taste

1) Chop the onions and sweat them in the oil in a large saucepan on medium heat for 5 minutes.

2) Cube the carrot and add this to the onion. Let them soften for 5 more minutes.

3) Add the barley and the stock to the pot, bring to a boil. Then add cubed potatoes and cook until they are soft. This takes around 15 more minutes.

4) Add the sauerkraut, mix, and have a taste. If you feel it needs more salt, add it now. Also, I like to add 1 tbsp of sugar here to start balancing the flavors. 

5) Let it simmer on low for 2 hours, mixing now and then and making sure it does not stick to the bottom. Add more water if needed.

6) After 2 hours have a taste. Maybe you want to add more sugar or salt (it depends on how sour your sauerkraut was and how salty your stock was). You can keep cooking it to develop even more flavor if you have time. 

By Kadri Raig

Kadri is a food blogger and yoga teacher from Estonia. She loves to spend time in the kitchen, but most of her recipes are simple and usually don’t require more than 20 minutes of active cooking time. She thinks everybody can find time to cook healthy food at home - it's just a matter of planning. "I work in an office full time, teach yoga 7-8 hours a week, and write a blog. If I manage to cook most of my meals, then so can you!" Connect with Kadri and enjoy many more of her delicious healthy recipes on her website:

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