Ready for a traditional food tour in Poland? They have everything from standard food that has been eaten in Poland for generations to dishes that even molecular restaurateur Ferran Adrià would welcome. On your next trip there, be sure to try some of the following foods in Poland.
I have to say: Before I left for Poland, my idea of Polish cuisine was Pierogi and Kielbasa. While I found these traditional Polish foods in abundance, I was also surprised at the variety of other foods in Poland, including some amazing contemporary cuisine in state-of-the-art restaurants.
Traditional Polish dishes that you should definitely try
This post was originally written by Susan Guillory and has been updated by The Planet D with even more delicious Polish dishes.
You won’t get very far in Poland without meeting a pierogi, and believe me, you won’t mind. Eating pierogi’s in Poland is like eating dumplings in Asia or empanadas in South or Central America: flat slices of dough that are filled with delicious fillings and then cooked. At the Zapiecek restaurant, which seems to be as ubiquitous in the US as TGIFriday’s (albeit a lot tastier in my humble opinion), we also tried fried pierogi, which I honestly preferred.
The most common pierogi are filled with beef, although you can find fillings both sweet and savory, such as twaróg cheese (a type of cottage cheese), lentils, turkey and carrots, mushrooms, and even fruit or jam. Served with a side dish of sour cream for hearty pierogies or powdered sugar, butter or even whipped cream for sweet pierogies.
Red Barszcz (Borscht)
Red Barszcz is a Polish beet soup that is similar to borscht from Eastern European countries like Russia and Ukraine. (We have a lot of goulash at the Mongol Rally). Traditional borscht is usually made from cabbage and contains meat and tomatoes, while the Polish version of Barszcz is meatless and is a beetroot broth. You can really put anything you like in it and it is often served with potatoes and vegetables. note: White Barszcz is similar but uses fermented rye flour or sour rye bread base. Take part in your own Barszcz this authentic European recipe.
A soup that we ate again and again in Poland (which I didn’t mind) was Zurek or Sauerbrotuppe. It was tangy and creamy, and at Bristol’s Hotel Marconi restaurant – which brought in my vote for the best zurek – there was also a quail egg and pieces of ham.
Nalesniki is a Polish crpe that is similar to French crpes. They can be filled as you like and are happy to eat them for breakfast. But they can also be filled with other ingredients such as sauerkraut, cheese, meat and mushrooms. Popular sweet fillings are jam, fruit, and cottage cheese can also be used. See How To Make Nalesniki At Home with this recipe.
Krokiety is stuffed nalesniki (crpes) that are breaded with breadcrumbs and fried to perfection. These Polish croquettes are filled with mushrooms and fried onions and are usually served with barszcz. As a traditional Christmas Eve dish, they can also be filled with meat or cabbage. But they are not only eaten at Christmas, corkiety can be found in most Polish restaurants and food stalls. The Polish foodie blog has one good recipe to imitate.
Mizeria is a refreshing Polish cucumber salad. The term Mizeria means misery in Polish, but this salad is anything but miserable. This creamy cucumber salad is prepared with sour cream, vinegar, fresh dill, and salt and sugar.
Another type of Polish salad is Salatka Jarzynowa made from boiled carrots and potatoes. Mix these main ingredients with mayonnaise, pickled cucumbers and peas, and onions. You can also add boiled eggs for some protein.
Rosol is a Polish chicken soup that is served on special occasions. Like your grandma’s chicken soup, rosol is also eaten when you’re feeling down under the weather for the ultimate in comfort food. The chicken broth is served with pasta, carrots, parsley, and other herbs and spices.
Placki Ziemniaczane (potato pancakes)
Mmm mmm good. These Polish potato pancakes are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The easy-to-prepare recipe makes it an integral part of Polish cuisine. Grate potatoes and add eggs and onions, then sauté in oil for a quick and easy meal. Serve with a side dish of sour cream and you have a delicious snack. The Polish housewife shares here are a few recipes.
Makowiec (Polish poppy seed roll)
Makowiec (Strucla Makowa) is a rolled dough filled with a filling of your choice, the main filling being poppy seeds. Add butter, sugar, walnuts and raisins and you have a sweet and delicious treat. You can find these poppy seed rolls in every bakery in Poland. And it is often served on holidays like Christmas and Easter. Learn how to prepare this delicious treat at eats the spruce.
Another sweet treat for your Polish dinner party is Paczki. Paczki are the Polish version of donuts. Fried dough is usually filled with jam, fruit, or custard and sprinkled with powdered sugar. On Fat Thursday, people started baking paczki to consume lard, eggs and fruit for Lent.
Bison grass vodka
At home I could take or leave vodka, but when I got my first one szarlotka (also known as Tatanka) drink on arrival, there was no going back. Poland is proud of its vodka and will argue to the grave that it – not Russia – invented and then perfected. Zubrowka is the brand of choice because of its unique taste: bison grass. The grass gives the vodka its distinctive mild vanilla taste and even adorns the inside of the bottle.
Mix zubrowka with apple juice and you have the szarlotka. It helps when you have the amazingly light apple juice you can find in Poland rather than the artificial stuff in the US.
Burning rose dessert
If you’re like me, just skip dessert at the end of the meal because there’s no room in your stomach. But after my fellow travel writers and I saw the cloud-like Burning Rose delivered to a nearby table Krakow Szaragez, we changed our tune. The clouds turned out to be cotton candy that was lit to melt into a plate of raspberry parfait. The actual dessert was as good as the performance!
Kabanosy (Kabanos) is a Polish sausage. This long thin strip of sausage is often touted as the finest meat stick in the world. The salting and curing of this sausage can take anywhere from 3 months to a year. It takes its name from the nickname given to the young fat pigs (kabanek) raised in eastern Poland on a diet mainly based on potatoes.
Golabki – Polish cabbage rolls
You can’t visit Eastern Europe without trying traditional cabbage rolls. Golabki is made from boiled cabbage stuffed with minced meat, rice, and chopped onions. Smother them with a tomato sauce for hearty goodness. Look at the polonist for the ingredients and How to do it.
Bigos – hunter stew
Bigos is a Polish meat stew made with shredded cabbage and sauerkraut. You can really put anything you like in there, from different types of meat to sausages or no meat at all. Slowly cook it with mushrooms, onions, and tomatoes and let the flavors soak into your home. Check it out here.
Kopytka are potato dumplings that are popular in southern Poland. They can be eaten as a side dish or as a main meal. Their diamond shape should resemble small hooves. Similar to the Italian gnocci, Kopytka can be served at will. Top with tomato sauce, sauté with garlic, mushrooms and onions, top with butter crumbs or even make a sweet treat with powdered sugar. Get this mashed potato dumpling Home recipe.
Kotlet Schabowy (breaded pork chops)
Kotlet Schabowy is a breaded pork chop that reminds me of schnitzel in Germany or Austria. This main course consists of pork, which is pounded into a thin piece of meat, breaded with breadcrumbs and flour and an egg, and then cooked in oil over high heat. Serve with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes and you have the perfect Sunday afternoon meal.
This home cooking is a Polish stew similar to the goulash you find in Hungary. Gulasz is a meat stew usually made from beef, onion, and tomato with a pinch of paprika. It can be served over boiled potatoes or pasta and with freshly baked bread. Polish meals have a good one easy to follow recipe here.
On our last evening in Warsaw, I swore to myself not to eat meat any more. As great as the meal was, I was done. But then I saw steak tartare being prepared at the table Star domeand I knew I was dead. The head chef, in his 60s, I guess, prepares between 150 and 200 servings of steak tartare every day! First he skillfully chops the steak, then he mixes in mushrooms, fried onions, spices and other goodies. The portion was way more than we could eat! I hated leaving it, but what can you do in a country that is so generous with its portions?
Poland surprised me in many ways, not least its unforgettable cuisine. Do you like polish food What is your favorite food?
- Photos of Susan Guillory and the following:
- Silar, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons – krokity
- Steven Depolo from Grand Rapids, MI, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons – Cabbage Rolls
- Kuruni, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons – Golabki
- Silar, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
- Mariuszjbie, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons -Mizeria
- Jan Eyepiece, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons – Crpes