Haluski or halušky, simply put, is a comforting pile of cabbage and noodles fried in butter. It’s a humble dish with Eastern European origins carried to the U.S. by immigrants, many of whom settled in industrial cities to work in steel mills, factories and foundries. Pittsburgh is a great example of such a place, and haluski is such a staple there that it’s served in the concession stands at high school football games.
As with other dishes that have made their way around the world over time, there are variations of haluski, which according to my research, has the deepest roots in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. The Slovak version is made with potato dough dumplings. There’s a Polish version typically made with egg noodles, cabbage, butter and onion. Pork and even sheep or goat’s cheese is added in some of the variations.
Sautéed cabbage is the core of the dish no matter who’s making it, and other components may include onion, bacon or kielbasa, noodles or dumplings. Butter brings it all together, naturally. The pasta is cooked separately and then stirred into the caramelized cabbage and onions. If you’re using bacon, you’ll cut into small bits, fry it, then stir it into the dish right before serving. I sometimes leave out the noodles completely when I have a hankering for a veggie-only dish.
There’s a funny little story behind why I chose to share this recipe at this particular time. I was on a long cross country drive this past week and was pondering what recipe to write about. Haluski was on my mind. It’s simple, which I deem important in the days before Thanksgiving. It’s warm and comforting, perfect for this time of year. And it features cabbage which, in my book, if prepared properly, is one of the finest vegetables on the planet.
So there I was, poring over the menu at a restaurant, just off the busy I-84 in Mountain Home, Idaho. It was time for some real food to get me on home to Bend. Along with the burgers and pork chop dinner and cobb salad, I noticed a side dish called babbage. I figured it was a typo and and should have read cabbage but I asked the server just to make sure. There was no typo. Babbage was a real thing and, as she explained, it was a delicious dish of sauteed cabbage and bacon, basically a version of haluski. Of course I ordered it. It was warm and soft and wonderful and it confirmed that it was time for me to share this down-to-earth recipe.
On a rushed weeknight, a big skillet of haluski can be a main dish. Stir in chunks of kielbasa if you want to make it heartier. But it’s also a terrific side for any meat entrée and that includes Thanksgiving. I can see a big bowl of it tucked nicely between your turkey and mashed potatoes.
- 6 slices bacon, chopped into bite-sized pieces, fried and set aside
- 8 ounces uncooked egg noodles
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more as desired
- 1 large yellow or white onion, chopped or thinly sliced
- ½ large cabbage head, cut into strips
- Salt & black pepper, to taste
- ½ teaspoon caraway seeds, optional
Fry bacon until crispy then remove from skillet and set aside, leaving drippings in skillet. Meantime, boil noodles in a large pot of salted water until tender and drain well. Set aside.
While the noodles are cooking, melt the butter over medium heat in the same large skillet you used to fry the bacon, mixing it in with the bacon drippings. Add onions and cook until softened a bit. Add the cabbage. Season with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Continue cooking and stirring until the cabbage is tender. Stir in caraway seeds if you’re using them. Add the cooked noodles to the cabbage mixture and toss to coat. Add more butter if you want. Taste and season with more salt and pepper as desired. Top with bacon bits.
This recipe can be easily doubled.