12 Traditional Polish Dishes Everyone Should Try

Updated on February 21, 2020
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Melanie has been interested in cultures and languages since her youth. Follow her on Instagram @ValpoMedia

Discover some of the traditional foods of Poland, like these pierogi.
Discover some of the traditional foods of Poland, like these pierogi.

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 central part of the meal. Cabbage, mushrooms, and potatoes are considered staples in Polish kitchens as these ingredients are used in a large number of meals.

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.

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 also be found in the food because of the 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 these meals 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 soup made from beets. This dish closely resembles the Russian soup known as borscht.
Chodnik is a cold soup 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 a quite common and delicious soup that can even be found in many Polish restaurants in America.
  • Chłodnik is another favorite soup that is made from beets, cucumbers, and dill. This cold soup is similar to borscht as it has a red or pink color (depending on how much milk is added to the soup.)

  • 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 Polish soup 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.

Polish Main Dishes

The main course is the most essential part of the meal. Food in Poland is highly regional, but many dishes 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 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.
  • Bigos is another favorite dish, made up of sauerkraut and meat. If you've tried choucroute before (a popular French dish which you have to try,) this is very similar, but it is not quite as acidic.

Cabbage rolls are a "must try" part of Polish cuisine.
Cabbage rolls are a "must try" part of Polish cuisine.

My favorite Polish dish is Gołąbki which is cabbage rolls (my dad makes the best.) It is just seasoned meat and rice wrapped in boiled cabbage leaves and then baked with a 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 (Polish potato pankcakes)
Placki (Polish potato pankcakes)

Placki ziemniaczane are potato pancakes that are 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. Most folks seem to prefer eating potato pancakes with applesauce, 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 an essential part of Polish fare, and no article on Polish food would be complete without the mention of Polish sausages.

  • Kiszka (from a famous 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 densely 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.

What Is Kielbasa?

"Real" Polish sausage can be hard to obtain if you do not live in this area. Some people 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, 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 ten times yummier than bratwurst and a billion times better than Eckrich!

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

Polish Desserts

Polish food is 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.

  • Kolaczki is 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 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.
  • 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!)

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.

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 includes 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.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Polish smoked cheese (Oscypek).Mizeria (cucumber salad).Ogórki kiszone (pickled cucumbers made without vinegar).Paczki is all you need on Fat Tuesday.
Polish smoked cheese (Oscypek).
Polish smoked cheese (Oscypek).
Mizeria (cucumber salad).
Mizeria (cucumber salad). | Source
Ogórki kiszone (pickled cucumbers made without vinegar).
Ogórki kiszone (pickled cucumbers made without vinegar).
Paczki is all you need on Fat Tuesday.
Paczki is all you need on Fat Tuesday.

Where to Find Polish Food

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 some cookbooks contain some fantastic Polish recipes.

Quick Poll

What is your favorite Polish food?

See results

© 2010 Melanie

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    • profile image

      William Kring 

      8 months ago

      Thank you for writting this. Please write more!

    • profile image

      Lo 

      8 months ago

      Loved the article. Being 100 percent Polish, or should I say 90 percent European Slav and Russian, 8percent Baltic Slav and 2 percent European Jewish, according to ancestry, I've been blessed with a steady diet of all these foods. But it's great to be an American Polonia because I also love pizza on Mondays, subs on Tuesdays, hotdogs and beans on Wednesdays and Asian on Friday. My family Polish meals are saved for weekends when I can enjoy making them from scratch.

    • profile image

      Elizabeth williamson 

      9 months ago

      What a delicious gathering of Polish recipes. I am interesting in cabbage/meat-veg filled ones. Thank you for the upload.

    • profile image

      Nancy Korn 

      9 months ago

      How old is this article.? Some comments are from 9 yrs ago.

    • profile image

      Susan Winter 

      9 months ago

      I'm so happy I finally see someone celebrating Polish food. Unfortunately I'm in upstate NY and don't have many options finding real polish food but it's forced me to start cooking my babcias recipes and introducing them to my daughter. Thanks for bringing a light to a wonderful culture and cuisine

    • profile image

      Heather Youngblood 

      9 months ago

      Done, you convinced me, I'll try it again. The time I spent on the east coast wasn't the happiest time in my life.

    • profile image

      Marilyn Wronko 

      9 months ago

      Placki is fried in oil not butter. You can use vegetable or corn oil. It doesn't matter what oil you use.

    • profile image

      Dominique m Piechota 

      14 months ago

      How do you make the polish soup can you email how to make the soup my husbandloves it thank you.

    • profile image

      Brian 

      3 years 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

      Agaltom 

      7 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 

      8 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 

      9 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 

      9 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 imageAUTHOR

      Melanie 

      9 years ago from Midwest, USA

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

    • CASE1WORKER profile image

      CASE1WORKER 

      9 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 

      10 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 

      10 years ago from Lancashire U.K.

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

    • Purple Perl profile image

      Esther Shamsunder 

      10 years ago from Bangalore,India

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

    • Money Glitch profile image

      Money Glitch 

      10 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 

      10 years ago from United states

      very nice

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Marshall 

      10 years ago from Bend, Oregon

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

    • melbel profile imageAUTHOR

      Melanie 

      10 years ago from Midwest, USA

      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 

      10 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Congratulations Melbel on your win. Great hub

    • PhoenixV profile image

      PhoenixV 

      10 years ago from USA

      congratulations!

    • Misha profile image

      Misha 

      10 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, 

      10 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.

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