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An Overview of Traditional Polish Food

Updated on October 19, 2017
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Melanie is a social media maven and has been blogging since 2007. She is an expert on things related to internet culture.

Polish food often contains a lot of cabbage and potatoes and is definitely the kind of food that sticks to your ribs.
Polish food often contains a lot of cabbage and potatoes and is definitely the kind of food that sticks to your ribs.

If there is any cuisine that is known for being hearty, it's Polish food. Many Polish dishes contain eggs, cream, and meats making them very filling.

Chicken and pork are also commonly used in Polish cuisine but aren't always the main part of the meal. Cabbage, mushrooms, and potatoes are considered staples in Polish kitchens as these ingredients are contained in a large number of Polish meals.

Polish smoked cheese (Oscypek)
Polish smoked cheese (Oscypek)

The food of Poland has a lot of outside influences from bordering countries such as Lithuania, Hungary, Belarus, Ukraine, and Germany. Elements of cuisine from Russia, Turkey, and even Italy can be found in Polish food because of historical connections Poland had with these countries.

Polish food is rich and delicious and full of reminders of how life was lived in Poland over the centuries. There is something about a Polish meal that even makes a non-Pole's mouth water! Read on to learn more about what Polish cuisine has to offer and, as the Polish would say, 'Jedzcie, pijcie i popuszczajcie pasa!'(Eat, drink, and loosen your belt!)

Chodnik is a cold coup made from beets. This dish closely resembles the Russian soup known as borscht.
Chodnik is a cold coup made from beets. This dish closely resembles the Russian soup known as borscht.

Starting Off: Polish Soups

Most meals in Poland start off with a soup of some sort. Perhaps the most commonly discussed soup of Poland is czernina, which is made from duck blood. This sweet soup was featured in an episode of "Bizarre Foods" but is actually a quite common and delicious soup that can even be found in many Polish restaurants in America.

Chłodnik is another popular soup in Poland which is made from beets, cucumbers, and dill. This cold soup is similar to borshch as it has a red or pink color (depending how much milk is added to the soup.)

Ogórki kiszone (pickled cucumbers made without vinegar)
Ogórki kiszone (pickled cucumbers made without vinegar)

As the usage of mushrooms in Polish cuisine is commonplace, there are also soups that are made from a variety of mushrooms. Zupa grzybowa is one such soup that can be made from a variety of mushrooms depending on what the cook desires or what is available during a particular season. Another popular soup in Poland is żurek which is made from soured rye flour and meat.

Pierogi can be either boiled or fried. The best pierogi doesn't come out of a box.
Pierogi can be either boiled or fried. The best pierogi doesn't come out of a box.
Cabbage rolls are a "must try" part of Polish cuisine.
Cabbage rolls are a "must try" part of Polish cuisine.

Polish Main Dishes

The main course is the most important part of the meal. Food in Poland is highly regional, but there are many dishes that are used as the main course all over Poland. Some of these dishes are even popular outside of Poland as many former Poles have introduced these dishes to the new regions in which they live.

Pierogi are perhaps one of the most widely known and loved of Polish dishes. These stuffed dumplings can contain a variety of different things and are really quite a versatile dish in that it can be made sweet and stuff with fruits or even chocolate or, more commonly, contain something more suitable for dinners such as meat, sauerkraut, mushrooms, or potatoes.

Placki (Polish potato pankcakes)
Placki (Polish potato pankcakes)

Bigos is another popular dish, made up of sauerkraut and meat. If you've tried choucroute before (a really popular French dish which you have to try,) this is very similar, but it is not quite as acidic.

My favorite Polish dish is Gołąbki which is cabbage rolls (my dad makes the best.) It is basically just seasoned meat and rice wrapped in boiled cabbage leaves and then baked with a really light tomato-ey sauce. Many recipes also contain mushrooms and other types of stuffing. Cabbage rolls are a traditional Polish recipe, but many people in neighboring countries make a variation of this wonderful dish.

Placki ziemniaczane are potato pancakes which absolutely delicious, but probably very bad for you. These are made from grated potatoes or sometimes mashed potatoes (which is how I prefer it) and are fried in a frying pan with butter. Some people eat these with applesauce on the side which is a nice way to sweeten up the dish, but I enjoy this with sour cream.

This is what Polish sausage looks like (uncooked.) Yummy!
This is what Polish sausage looks like (uncooked.) Yummy!

Kielbasa and Polish Sausage

Sausage is a very important part of Polish fare and no hub on Polish food would be complete without the mention of Polish sausages. Kiszka (from a popular polka "Who Stole the Kishka") is a very popular sausage in Poland and can also be found in areas of the US where there is a large number of Polish immigrants. This sausage is made from a variety of different meats but also contains either grains or, more commonly potatoes.

Being from an area of the US that is heavily populated with Polish people (South Bend, Indiana,) we can buy sausage in the supermarket that is just called "Polish sausage." It contains yummy ingredients like garlic and marjoram and is very popular at picnics where it is served instead of, or alongside bratwurst.

Paczki is all you need on Fat Tuesday
Paczki is all you need on Fat Tuesday

"Real" Polish sausage can be hard to obtain if you do not live in this area. Some people just call it kielbasa, but the word kielbasa doesn't mean a specific type of sausage, it just means "sausage" in general.

If you would like to try ordering this sausage online or would like to check your local supermarket for, it's important to know that it doesn't look remotely like the stuff Eckrich makes. It looks more like bratwurst but is paler. Even though it can be difficult to find, it is worth it as it is 10 times yummier than bratwurst and a billion times better than Eckrich!

Mazurek (or Mazurka) is a beautiful, delicious, flat cake made from ingredients similar to that of kolaczki.
Mazurek (or Mazurka) is a beautiful, delicious, flat cake made from ingredients similar to that of kolaczki.

Polish Desserts

Polish food is absolutely wonderful with the delicious soups and filling main dishes but is not complete without the amazing desserts that are what makes Polish cuisine so famous among non-Poles. Polish cuisine is full of cookies and cakes that are to die for. There are many different recipes for different tastes when it comes to dessert so anyone will enjoy a Polish sweet treat.

Kolaczkis are perhaps one of the most popular desserts from Poland. These are folded cookies that contain a fruit filling (usually apricot) or a sweet cheese filling and then are lightly dusted with powdered sugar.

Traditionally, these delicious cookies were served at Christmastime, but are now a year-round treat. Kolaczkis are best fresh, so it is best if they are homemade or if you are in a Polish area you can buy them in local supermarkets.

Mazurka/mazurek is not only a Polish folk dance, a sparrow, or someone from Mazur, but it is also the name of a wonderful flat cake. This cake is made from similar ingredients as kolaczki but is rolled flat. Like kolaczki, Mazurka also contains jam, but usually contains more than one type of jams in one cake. These jams are used to add a delicious fruity flavor to the cake and serve as the décor.

Babka is a delicious yeast cake that is shaped like an angel food cake. Babka is known for being an Easter dish. Babka is often made with raisins mixed in the dough and contains a fruit topping, but more and more cheese or chocolate babkas are being made (because everyone loves a chocolate babka!)

Kolaczki are wonderful butter cookies made with a fruit or cheese filling.
Kolaczki are wonderful butter cookies made with a fruit or cheese filling.

As you've probably noticed, Polish meals are full of calories, but what is gained in calories is made up for in the wonderful flavors that are a part of Polish food.

There are many ways to get a hold of good recipes for Polish food. If you live in a predominantly Polish area such as Chicago or Detroit it should be no problem finding a good Polish recipe. Polish food is very popular and thus there are some really good cookbooks that contain some amazing Polish recipes.

Mizeria - cucumber salad
Mizeria - cucumber salad | Source

© 2010 Melanie Shebel

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    • profile image

      Brian 10 months ago

      Dzien dobry Melanie. My wife is Polish and I have to say it has been very interesting learning about the Polish way of life. All the foods in your article are very much familiar to me (plus more besides).

      It has been an enjoyable article to read .

    • Monis Mas profile image

      Aga 4 years ago

      You just made me so hungry. I love polish food, it's so different from other cuisines. Pretty simple, but flavorful! Golabki, placki ziemniaczne i nalesniki (creps) are one of ma favorites!

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

      Poland is one country I've been curious about for a while. It has an amazing history - thanks for sharing some information on its cuisine! Voted up and interesting.

    • dablufox profile image

      dablufox 6 years ago from Australia

      Some really yummy polish dishes. I miss my Nanna's Pierogi. She made about five types altogether, sauerkraut and speck bacon, quark cheese and my all time favorite, veal. Also I love the Ponchki' and poppy seed cake.

      Loved your hubpage, brings back memories!

    • Monisajda profile image

      Monisajda 6 years ago from my heart

      Thanks again for hub on Polish food. I became quite hungry while reading it. Off to cook some bigos.

    • melbel profile image
      Author

      Melanie Shebel 6 years ago from New Buffalo, Michigan

      Thank you all for the lovely comments! I didn't realize that so many people are interested in Polish food!

    • CASE1WORKER profile image

      CASE1WORKER 6 years ago from UNITED KINGDOM

      A lovely hub- I have been to Poland a few times and their cuisine is superb although I think I was dining at the top of end of the market as there was less reliance on filling foods and more on presentation and taste. We were in one hotel and my son was offerred chocolate desert for breakfast- he ate it of course, much to my amazement

    • Loren's Gem profile image

      Loren's Gem 7 years ago from Istanbul, Turkey

      Awesome! I've just learned what Polish foods really are and they just seem very appealing to my taste! Great hub and congrats on the win! :-)

    • wearing well profile image

      Deborah Waring 7 years ago from Lancashire U.K.

      Well done and Congratulations. Wow what a vibrant colored soup!I love beetroot too:)

    • Purple Perl profile image

      Purple Perl 7 years ago from Bangalore,India

      Wow! Mouthwatering pics! I loved this hub! Thank you for sharing! And congrats!

    • Money Glitch profile image

      Money Glitch 7 years ago from Texas

      Congrats, on the win! And I agree with Misha, we need a "yummy" button to push. :) Not sure about the purple looking soup, however everything else looks great. :)

    • M.s Fowler profile image

      M.s Fowler 7 years ago from United states

      very nice

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 7 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      When I think polish, I think sausage! Congrats on a great hub and win! :)

    • melbel profile image
      Author

      Melanie Shebel 7 years ago from New Buffalo, Michigan

      Wow! Thank you everyone! I totally had no idea I won, I thought someone else won it! Pleased as punch right now!

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 7 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Congratulations Melbel on your win. Great hub

    • PhoenixV profile image

      PhoenixV 7 years ago from USA

      congratulations!

    • Misha profile image

      Misha 7 years ago from DC Area

      They don't have a "yummy" button in the hub rating. I would have used it. But as it is, I just had to use "awesome" :)

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      Thank you for such wonderful trip through Polish kitchens. I know Polish food legendary but it was never explained so clear to me.