Authentic Polish Easter Recipes - Origin of the Easter Basket

One type of Polish Easter Basket, used to carry food to church for blessing on Easter Saturday. Kiełbasa, boiled eggs, salt, pepper and bread.
One type of Polish Easter Basket, used to carry food to church for blessing on Easter Saturday. Kiełbasa, boiled eggs, salt, pepper and bread. | Source

Biggest Feast Day of the Year

I have worked with friends of Polish descent that shared with me that Easter is the biggest feast day or holiday of the religious calender in Poland. One became very excited and told me that it was even bigger than Christmas, because on Easter Sunday, they celebrated the Resurrection of Christ, They also celebrated with Easter Eggs, so they rather combined two aspects of the holiday season without realizing it -- Oester & Easter (with the pysanky) and the Resurrection.

My friend describes a three- to four-day feast and celebration in which the participants were very happy and looking forward to a successful new year after Easter Sunday. It sounded to me like New Year's and an entrance to Heaven all at once, with plenty of good traditional, home-crafted food. One set of recipes I received from friends is located at Polish Spring & Easter Recipes. Another set of these recipes is shared below.

Another depiction of the Polish basket.
Another depiction of the Polish basket. | Source

The Origin of the Easter Basket

A special tradition is saved for the night of Good Friday. Hard-boiled eggs are colored and hand decorated intricately to make a large number of Polish Easter Eggs or pysanky. This custom is widespread throughout Eastern Europe and Ukraine, each country’s Easter Eggs having traditional patterns emblazoned upon them with colorings, hot wax, a special pen, and a steady hand. Families love to do this activity together and honor it as an expression of newness and rebirth in the cycle of life on Earth. A great recipe for Easter Egg Soup to use up the extra eggs in a practical and delicious way is available at the link above. Food anthropologists and museum curators can detect what country is the original of the pysanky observed often by the pattern and techniques used in creating them.

Easter Saturday – In my church, the Saturday was a day for nothing special, except for the years in which portions of the congregation and/or staff would hold a 24-hour prayer vigil at the church for Resurrection Day and for the armed services people in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In Poland, large baskets cherished by the families would be loaded with the ingredients to be used at Sunday Dinner. These baskets were filled with the beautiful, hand-decorated pysanky, fresh beets, butter, horseradish, breads, babkas already baked, Polish Easter cheese (see the link above for a recipe), other vegetables, hams, lamb meat, fowl, veal, salt and other spices and herbs, and Polish sausage. Whatever was to be prepared was placed into these Easter baskets to be taken to the local churches for the priests to bless. This may be where the tradition of the Easter Basket full of candy eggs and jelly beans originated.

Easter eggs at the National Museum of Ethnography in Warsaw. Poland.
Easter eggs at the National Museum of Ethnography in Warsaw. Poland. | Source

Polish Easter Sunday

This is the biggest feast day of all the year for my particular friends who are Polish.

Dinner is to begin first with blessed pysanky (Easter Eggs - see photo above) as members of the dining table share special greetings for success, good health, and joy in the coming year. This is done before sitting down to table. After the sharing of the pysanky. The Sunday dinner table is set with the very best that the household has to offer in the way of family heirloom tablecloths, runners, napkins, candlesticks, and other fare.

Dinner itself is a return to meat after the fast from meats in favor of fish for the 40 days of Lent. Many kinds of meats are served at Easter Dinner, but often ham or pork, and no fish. Many cabbage dishes might be included. For dessert, my friends serve hot cross buns, babka, poppy seed rolls, kolache (a pastry roll with poppy seeds and raisins), and other pastries. The leftovers from the meal are to be used in traditional Hunter’s Stew.

Easter Monday or Wet Monday

I have heard people speaking of Easter Monday, but without any special events attached. However, the Polish have a tradition that is a little like guidebaba’s description of Holai Hai, the throwing of colored water on one another in the spring.

The Easter Monday Polish tradition is that friends call the day Smigus-Dyngus (of which I have heard but never understood). It is meant as a totally fun day after the Resurrection of Christ the Sunday before. People sprinkle water over one another for good luck and happiness in the coming year until the next Easter Week celebrations of the church. It must be a little like baptism – a baptism of fun and joy.

The Polish Easter Basket for Blessings

Courtesy, Polish American Center. You can enlarge this picture for a coloring page. Each item in the basket symbolizes the Christian faith in some way.
Courtesy, Polish American Center. You can enlarge this picture for a coloring page. Each item in the basket symbolizes the Christian faith in some way.

The Symbolism of The Easter Basket

  • Babka - The Bread of Life, decorated with a cross or a fish (a symbol for Christianity).
  • Butter - Often in the shape of a lamb or cross.
  • Horseradish - The Passion of Christ. This food is also used as bitter herbs on the Passover Seder plate for a Jewish holiday overlapping the Easter season.
  • Pysanky - These are ornately painted eggs, often decorated with symbols of Resurrection.
  • Polish Sausage - God's favor.
  • Ham or Lamb - Joy and abundance. Christ was the Sacrificial Lamb for humanity.
  • Smoked Bacon - Overabundance of God's mercy.
  • Salt - Prosperity and justice.
  • Homemade Polish Cheese - Moderation.
  • The Lighted Candle - The Light of the World, Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Individuals can spread His light.
  • Ribbons and greenery - Spring, renewal, and the Resurrection.
  • Covering Linens for the basket and later, for the dinner table - Like the covering of Christ's shroud in the tomb leant by Joseph of Arimethea.

The Three Marys at the Tomb
The Three Marys at the Tomb | Source
Haluski: Fried Cabbage and Noodles
Haluski: Fried Cabbage and Noodles | Source

Traditional Polish Noodles


  • One bag of medium sized egg noodles, or your own homemade
  • One stick of a 4-stick package of butter
  • 5 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced fine
  • 1 large sweet onion chopped coarse
  • 1 large head of cabbage, shredded
  • Caraway seed
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Sauté the raw noodles in melted butter in a hot frying pan until light brown and remove pan from heat.
  • In a pot, place garlic and onions and stir over medium heat; add the shredded cabbage and continue to stir.
  • As the onion and cabbage wilt, add 1 Tbsp of caraway seed and salt and pepper; stir.
  • Remove pot from heat and drain cabbage water from the noodles.
  • Pour the cabbage mixture over the noodles in the frying pan and return the pan to medium heat and stir to heat throughout.
  • Add 2 cups sour cream, stir slightly and serve.
  • Serve with a dark bread, such as dark rye or pumpernickel, and butter.

For a nice variation, you can take one pound of Polish sausage, slice into pieces and add to the pot with the garlic and onions to heat through before adding the cabbage. This is also delicious. Or, you can cook larger pieces of the sausage separately and serve alongside the cabbage dish.

Cucumbers, Sour Cream & Dill
Cucumbers, Sour Cream & Dill | Source

Cucumbers, Sour Cream & Dill

A good friend in Mid-Michigan taught me how to make this dish, telling me each time that it was Polish. As it turns out, other Polish friends confirmed that fact. I love cucumbers prepared in this way,


  • Wash, then peel and slice 2 or 3 of cucumbers rather thinly. Some cooks leave the peel on about half of the slices, so you can cut the cucumber in half crosswise and peel only one half of it, if you wish.
  • Sprinkle the slices with salt in a bowl and set aside to stand for 10 minutes in order to extract some of the liquid from the vegetable. Some people let the slices sit covered in a bowl overnight and then pour off the water.
  • Add black pepper to taste, if you like pepper. White pepper is sometimes substituted.
    For 2-3 cucumbers, Mix 1 cup sour cream with the juice of 1 lemon, 1 tsp of sugar, and a tablespoon of dill.
  • Mix the sour cream mixture with the cucumber slices and store in a cool place 30 minutes to meld flavors and serve.

Serving suggestion: White borscht served in a bread bowl with some sausage and a hard-boiled egg.
Serving suggestion: White borscht served in a bread bowl with some sausage and a hard-boiled egg. | Source

White Borscht Zur

This is a Polish recipe based on a sour white borscht (cabbage soup also called tschii). Red borscht is cabbage soup that has beets added to it. This is borscht without beets. In this recipe, if you want a more sour taste, use more Zur-starter mixture in the soup.


  • Boiling water
  • Whole wheat flour
  • Lukewarm water
  • Large glass jar – like a pickle jar – and some cheesecloth or gauze
  • Vegetable stock
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 4 potatoes – peeled and cubed in bite-sized cubes
  • Salt and white pepper to taste


  • For the Zur starter: In a large bowl scald whole wheat flour with the boiling water by pouring in a bit and a time and stirring until you have a THIN dough. Do not let it become very thick.
  • Set the dough aside to cool to room temperature.
  • Add 3.5 cups (28 ounces) of lukewarm water into the dough and then add the top crust from a whole wheat bread slice into it.
  • Take the whole bowl and pour its contents into a glass jar, cover and tie the jar top with cheesecloth or gauze and leave it in a warm place for 3 days (similar to the technique for sourdough).
  • For the Soup: Heat 3.5 cups of vegetable stock over medium heat in a soup pot and then pour in 1.5 cups of Zur and stir through. Do not strain this soup, but leave it thick.
  • Next, add the crushed garlic clove and potatoes and simmer.
  • As the potatoes become soft, season the soup to taste and serve with dark bread.

© 2009 Patty Inglish

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Comments 38 comments

Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 7 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

What a wonderful celebration of this important Polish holiday! You introduced me to several things I didn't know, including the Wet Monday tradition. Our family will be having babka, eggs, cabbage and noodles, and fresh kielbasa on Easter Sunday, and I will make a toast to you and this excellent Hub with a dzi?kuj? and a rousing na zdrowie!

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America Author

Wonderful, and I will be making similar dishes and I will think of you all at your own special meal.

I don't think I'll throw any water, though, it could be met with gunfire in some neighborhoods. Small children might think its fun though and I will have to tech them this tradition :)

RKHenry profile image

RKHenry 7 years ago from Your neighborhood museum

Now that this wonderful hub has made me hungry. I'm ready to paint some eggs.

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America Author

Hopefully they are "on sale" for Easter :)

RKHenry profile image

RKHenry 7 years ago from Your neighborhood museum

Exactly! Isn't that sad? Really. Think of all the kids who might not get to color an egg, because its not in the budget. I still color Easter Eggs. My friends and I love it. It makes our mothers happy too. Which is always a good thing.

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma

This all sounds so yummy! Can I become Polish for the weekend and invite myself to one of your homes on Sunday?  ;) 

Thanks, Patty, for another wonderful and informative hub.  Now I have to go find something to eat - my stomach is growling from reading these recipes!

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America Author

RKHenry - I hope eggs are as inexpensive there as they are in Ohio right now - 50 cents to 1 dollar a dozen. Coloring is so much fun.

JamaGenee - I have to make the noodles tonight, because I cannot wait any longer :) I am not Polish, but can read a couple of words of it. We all can cook in Polish!

Heartaday profile image

Heartaday 7 years ago

I ate at a very charming Polish restaurant in Joliet, Illinois a couple of weeks ago. That was my introduction to Polish food. I fell in love with it!

issues veritas 7 years ago


Great recipes, I forgot about these foods, thanks for the recipes.

cheryl 7 years ago

I came to tears reading your article. I come from a Polish family and my dear aunt has served as the matriarch for the past ten years. She passed away a few weeks ago. It felt like an era had ended. It's a comfort to know there are other Poles out there still carrying on these traditions!!!!!

Correen 7 years ago

Yes! Yummy share of traditions and recipes. Thank you.

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America Author

cheryl - So sorry for the loss of your grandmother! Keep cooking in Polish to honor her, I say. I have been remembering my Polish friends from times past this spring and glad to write about these recipes and traditions. I was alwsys interested in their Easter that was bigger than Christmas.

Correen - I become hungry every time I read these recipes. Hope you love them!

spryte profile image

spryte 7 years ago from Arizona, USA

Cucumber Salad is still one of my favoritest things in the world (courtesy of my Polish decent). The only difference is that my mother never used sour cream. Instead, she used mayonnaise and vinegar. We also added some diced onions and plenty of black pepper. Yummmmmmmmmmmmmmm :)

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America Author

In your honor and your mother's honor, I will try this with Mayonnaise and vinegar, both of which are very tasty.And yes, pepper is beautiful! Now I am very hungry.

Marianna 7 years ago

Isn't it too traditional basket? I haven't seen candle in any Easter Basket.

In my family there was only one kind of meat - sausage, and no butter. But there was always sugar lamb - all kids wanted it at Easter Breakfast :)

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America Author

Thanks for your comments Marianna. The traditional Easter Basket recipe is very old.

Marianna 7 years ago

First in aristocratic houses there was big table with all food for Easter Breakfast, then priest came to bless it. Basket was later.

Now at Easter Breakfast we first eat everything from the basket, and then other things (salads, meat).

It is interesting to find american page about Polish Easter, I was looking in google for patterns of easter crafts....

Frieda Babbley profile image

Frieda Babbley 7 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

So interesting. I love the basket. Such wonderful information. I'm going to have to use this as a lesson plan. (Thought I had commented on this, but I think I got so excited I started sharing and forgot. lol!) Thanks as always, Patty.

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America Author

Happy Easter and a blessed Resurrection Day to you all.

wordsimmaculate profile image

wordsimmaculate 7 years ago from delhi

Happy Easter to all.... :-)

MD 7 years ago

And one more thing - being a Pole living in Poland, I have never seen or heard of such things as a candle in the basket or a Polish Easter Cheese. These must be a Polish American invention :-) Your Easter Basket seems to be very unorthodox. Happy Easter :-)

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America Author

Considering the information came from Polish people, it must be a matter of differing country regions, or a prank on your part, all the more interesting. I see you're in Amsterdam. Thanks.

laringo profile image

laringo 7 years ago from From Berkeley, California.

Patty, The Polish tradition of Easter is very interesting and the recipes sound very good. You have increased my knowledge about other cultures and done it very well as usual. Have a wonderful Easter.

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America Author

Thanks Laringo. Hope you having the best day today!

Bob.Currer@gmail. profile image

Bob.Currer@gmail. 7 years ago from El Mirage, AZ

Sounds good. I'd like to see a good recipe for Polish Easter Soup...

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America Author

I'll look in my recipe box this weekend and see if I have one. Thanks.

Jasnav profile image

Jasnav 6 years ago

Interesting, yummy polish recipes. Great stuff on this hub!

fiona_33 profile image

fiona_33 6 years ago from UK

Terrifc hub. Really tasty recipes. If I can find the time, I'm going to try one this weekend.

S.S. 6 years ago

Bob. Currer. A good Polish Easter Soup is Zurek. Its made out of eggs, and some other stuff. So if there are extra eggs that someone does not eat at dinner than you make soup from it for dinner.My parents are immigrants from Poland, and i being 100 percent polish celebrate this holiday every year. But just like MD said i haven't really seen anyone put a candle in an easter basket before. Anyways its really nice that all of you are intrested in this holiday. Good Job Patty =)

Dominion Lad 6 years ago

I'm writing from Canada. British-origin father, and a mother of mixed Polish-Ukranian ancestry (my Polish grandfather came to Canada in 1930). So, in addition to "traditional" Canadian (British) fare, if my father liked it, my mother could cook it! (My father apparently hated borshcht and bigos, so I didn't get that at home!)

So - one thing my mother (and Baba), always made/makes for Easter, is a cholesteral-clogging spread of about half farmer's curd cheese and half butter. Spread it (about a quarter-inch...or more...! thick) on a slice of rye bread or babka, and it's literally to die for. Never served before Good Friday of course, (my mother always makes a cross of cloves on it - so Catholic!). Even my (Prot) father observed Good Friday as being totally meatless, and also devoid of dairy. Anyway, this "heart-stopping" spread was/is always served on Saturday, with ham, kielbasa (gee, more ham....), hard-cooked and coloured eggs, and beets/horseradish (the hotter, the better).....if you're a Slav, you know all the variations of "kran"....

Vegetables at this meal? What vegetables? Guess the beets were the vegetables... And who can't remember the grinding of the horseradish (best done outside, lest the freshly ground horseradish root impaired one's breathing....

So, is this butter/cheese spread Polish or Ukranian or...just my mother's family tradition? Russians make something similar, though it's sieved through cheese-cloth, and is more of a "loaf", and is not spreadable. Anyone else grow up with this once-a-year heart-stopping spread? As a kid, all my great aunts (Ukranians married to Poles) made/served this heart-stopper.

Enjoyed my mother's tonight. I've made it and have served it to WASP friends in the past, who look at it puzzingly, but have never refused seconds.

Inquiring minds.....

Dominion Lad 6 years ago

Forgot to comment - growing up just on the Canadian side of Buffalo (Niagara Falls, Ontario), my Baba and mother always tuned into Stan Stach Jusinski's "Polish American Program" on Sundays (beginning, of course with the mass from St Stan's). When he referenced "po Polodnju" (sp?), all knew he meant both sides of the border (though the ads were primarily for Buffalo-based establishments -- Lucki-Urban, Wardinski (don't give my that baloney, I want Wardinsky's!), Szelagowski (Shelly-brand meat products) and Genesee Monuments come to mind), as well as anyone with a stall in the Broadway Market (na Broadway Marketu). And Stan favoured anyone doing business at "Broadway, bliska Filmore"... (forgive the bad Polish illiteration - I'm an Anglo, with a wonderful Polish mother/matka....)

Am I the only Canadian who grew up listening to Buffalo Polish radio as a kid?

Am I the only kid (either side of the border) who remembers Buffalo Polish radio? As far as know, it's now dead.....

....anyone remember Matt Korponti? I just a ghost in the wind?

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 6 years ago from North America Author

SS - Thanks for the soup Knowledge; we'll try to whiop some up.

Dominion Lad - What a wonderful set of posts! I wish I'd had a chance to listen to the Polish radio broacasts ou heard. I will gather together the foods you mentioned for later tonight. See if I can approximate the spread. Once a uear is likely enough, but something to look forward to.

Dominion Lad 6 years ago

Patty - keep the cheese and butter at room temperature (easier to spread/pile on the bread). Just take the farmer's curd (it's like one large cottage cheese curd, for those who've never seen this product) and blend it with the room temperature butter. As I said, about 50/50. You can salt it lightly as you mix it, though if you use salted butter, it won't need much.

Off to my sister's for dinner today, and no doubt she'll also have some to eat. Once it's gone, that's it until next Easter.

Believe me - tasty as it is, I'm sure that eating it more than once a year is not good for one's health.

I should be hearing polka music now in the kitchen, along with Stan Jasinski's "Buffalo Polish". Sadly, those days are past....but I have the memories....

Weso?ego Alleluja!

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 6 years ago from North America Author

Thanks a million for the help with the recipe, Dominion Lad. I will do ir this evening. Happy Resurrection Day and Easter.

Dominion Lad 6 years ago

For anyone wanting to know what "Polish Buffalo" used to sound like, I recommend the site "Forgotten Buffalo". I'm appending two links from the site. Sadly, the site owner only has Stan Jasinski speaking in English. I know that his program was probably 95% Polish. As a child, I really didn't understand Polish, but that didn't matter -- Stan Jasinski (and Matt Korponty), were just part of my "weekend experience". Enjoy the Lucki-Urban ads - I was surprised that they were also recorded in English! I only heard them in Polish, and of course never understood them. Understanding Polish took 3 years of University Russian, but that's another story....

Dominion Lad 6 years ago

Short comment - Dingus Day! Was/is that something that Poles in Buffalo and "po Poludnju" (roughly, Buffalo, its suburbs and environs, and the Canadian side, Niagara peninsula, towards and into Toronto), celebrate on Easter Monday? I'm sure Poles in Detroit and Chicago "do it", but what about elsewhere. Any special foods involved? I'm always looking for new "food experiences"....

For those who do....


See, Baba, what learning Russian (which you were so dead against), at university gave me? -- an ability to learn/read/write all Slavic languages.....(:-)

God Bless you and your memory, Baba/Babcia

Dominion Lad 6 years ago

SS -

I absolutely "love" zurek. Had it first time in at a small cafe in NYC, where it was labelled as "Lithuanian Borscht" (my Baba never made such soups, though I learned to make her mushroom soup -- no doubt many readers can, er, wax poetic on the "perfect" Polish mushroom soup - and we all know that our Babas/babcias made the best "zupa grzybowiego". I can get zurek at Polish specialty shops here in Canada as a "cup-a-soup" by Knorr. Most of these shops also sell a "ready-made" product in a poly-pack, unfortunately, very laden with salt.

Much as I know that salt is needed/required for some food, the less, the better....

I'd love to try making zurek for myself. Can you post or reference a site for a recipe that you recommend? The Knorr "cup-a-soup" sold in Canada (Polish instructions only), also has bacon bits in it. It's very yummy...but if I can make my own, so much the better, and will be so much healthier (sodium-reduced/minimized).... see my posts, above, about heart-stopping Easter cheese/butter spread....(:-) Healthy is good - but one can, er, indulge once per year....

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 6 years ago from North America Author

Thanks for all that information, Dominion Lad!

Here's a zurek recipe from the University of Pittsburg on their Polish language website:

I have not yet treied this recipe, but I trust the school. Let me know if you try it and I will test it out and get back here with info.

Thanks again - especially for the links.

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