Polish cuisine is famous for its simplicity and diversity. Poland is one of the countries with the highest meat consumption in the world.
There are many lakes and rivers in Poland, which is why fish also plays an important role in Poland’s cuisine. You are likely to come across Polish dishes made with herring, cod and Baltic salmon, which are fried, grilled, boiled, pickled or made into a salad.
Most Popular Foods of Poland
Pork, in particular, is popular in Poland. Goose breeding also has a long tradition and Polish oat-fattened geese are exported worldwide. But meat is not all there is that Polish dishes have to offer. They also have a wide range of desserts and salads that are delightful, to say the least.
Here are the absolute must-try, traditional dishes of Poland along with our favorite recipes to try for yourself.
Borscht (Barszcz Czerwony)
Borscht is a beetroot soup that is usually served at Christmas. This nutritious soup can be served either warm or cold, with ‘uszka’, which means “little ears”.
Uszka are stuffed with meat or cabbage and mushrooms. The recipe for this soup differs from region to region depending on the local traditions. The soup has a rich color and expressive taste.
The traditional Polish pierogi is very similar to the Italian ravioli or the Chinese dumplings. It’s a classic on every Polish grandma’s menu. The half-moon shaped dumplings are often stuffed with a wide range of fillings.
The most commonly used fillings are cabbage and mushrooms, potatoes and white cheese, pork or beef. The sweet variant of pierogi is also very common and most often filled with white cheese and raisins or fruit. They are served in almost all restaurants in Poland and in different variations.
“Śledzie” is the literal translation for herring in Polish. The dish, more widely known as “śledzie po Kaszubsku” in Poland, is prepared with pickled herring in combination with sour cream, onions, apples and eggs.
This dish used to be a staple Polish food back in the 13th century. It is best enjoyed with a bottle of red wine and is served cold after chilling in the fridge for about an hour.
Gołąbki is a dish made from pork or beef and chopped onions, rice and mushrooms wrapped in cabbage leaves. It is then baked or fried before serving and is usually accompanied by spicy tomato sauce.
The word Gołąbki literally translated means “little pigeons” which describes its bird-like shape. Cabbage rolls are usually consumed two or three days after cooking since that’s when they’re believed to taste the best.
You will find this dish in virtually every Polish restaurant. It’s popular with tourists and locals as a quick and inexpensive meal.
The Placek is made of grated potatoes mixed with onions, spices, eggs and a little flour. It is fried in hot oil and served warm. Finally, it is coated with sour cream or sugar. Another variant of this dish is the so-called “Placek po Zbojnicku ”. This is a potato pancake served with meat, sauce and salad.
Zapiekanki is a street food that is often referred to as the Polish pizza. It is made from a halved baguette which is roasted in the oven.
There are many variations depending on the ingredients: meat or sausage, mushrooms, peppers, cheese and ketchup on top. It’s a trademark in Kazimierz – the Jewish Quarter in Krakow. It can be found at almost any train station or fast food place across the country.
Polish Sausage (Kielbasa)
Kielbasa or sausage is a staple of Polish cuisine. It is made from pork, lamb, veal, turkey or chicken. It can come in different shapes and flavors and is popular among tourists as well as locals. The most popular are kabanosy, krakowska and biała .
Kielbasa is very often served at Polish weddings. It is also part of the traditional Easter breakfast and it usually complements other Polish dishes such as żurek, bigos, and leczo.
The most famous lunch in Poland is the almighty “Kotlet Schabowy”, which is served with mashed potatoes and salads. It is a breaded cutlet that is very similar to the Wienerschnitzel. If you don’t like pork, you can try the chicken version as well! You can go to any restaurant in Poland and it will most certainly be on the menu.
Zrazy is another traditional Polish dish made from beef, veal or game meat. It is stuffed with different fillings – breadcrumbs, mushrooms and cucumber, rolled up, fried in the pan and then braised.
There are several ways to prepare this dish with different fillings. In the past, Zrazy was only intended for nobles. Today, however, you can find it in almost every restaurant these days. It is a must during a culinary trip to Poland.
Makowiec is a traditional Christmas dessert made from a yeast dough that is rolled over with a poppy seed filling containing ground poppy seed, butter, sugar, honey, raisins and walnuts.
Whilst typically associated with Christmas, it is also enjoyed year round as an after-dinner dessert.
Mizeria is a cold and creamy cucumber salad that is served with meat, rice or potatoes. If you are invited to lunch by a Polish family, you can expect this one as a side dish in most cases.
Sliced, fresh cucumbers with onions, dill, sour cream, vinegar or lemon juice seasoned with a little salt and pepper make a refreshing combination. By the way, did you know that Mizeria (Mi-ser-ia) means misery? The origin of the names is unclear. But it is believed that the name was given just for fun and stuck.
Sernik is a traditional cheesecake made from curd cheese with dried fruits and a chocolate coating. In Poland, it is enjoyed all year round, but especially during Christmas and other celebrations. If you have a sweet tooth, you can enjoy its different flavors on a tour to Poland.
Szarlotka is a hearty dish made of buttery pastry with a pinch of cinnamon. Szarlotka is often served cold or warm with a spoonful of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. It is one of the most popular desserts and can be enjoyed in the regular cafes and bakeries all over Poland.