Melanie has been interested in cultures and languages since her youth. She also runs a YouTube channel: The Curious Coder.
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.
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!")
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.
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.
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 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.
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!
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!)
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.
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.
© 2010 Melanie Shebel
William Kring on November 01, 2019:
Thank you for writting this. Please write more!
Lo on October 23, 2019:
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.
Elizabeth williamson on October 15, 2019:
What a delicious gathering of Polish recipes. I am interesting in cabbage/meat-veg filled ones. Thank you for the upload.
Nancy Korn on October 09, 2019:
How old is this article.? Some comments are from 9 yrs ago.
Susan Winter on October 04, 2019:
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
Heather Youngblood on October 03, 2019:
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.
Marilyn Wronko on October 01, 2019:
Placki is fried in oil not butter. You can use vegetable or corn oil. It doesn't matter what oil you use.
Dominique m Piechota on May 20, 2019:
How do you make the polish soup can you email how to make the soup my husbandloves it thank you.
Brian on January 01, 2017:
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 .
Agnes on December 03, 2012:
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 from Planet Earth on February 21, 2012:
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 from Australia on May 04, 2011:
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 from my heart on March 16, 2011:
Thanks again for hub on Polish food. I became quite hungry while reading it. Off to cook some bigos.
Melanie Shebel (author) from Midwest, USA on January 24, 2011:
Thank you all for the lovely comments! I didn't realize that so many people are interested in Polish food!
CASE1WORKER from UNITED KINGDOM on January 08, 2011:
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 from Istanbul, Turkey on June 25, 2010:
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! :-)
Deborah Waring from Lancashire U.K. on June 25, 2010:
Well done and Congratulations. Wow what a vibrant colored soup!I love beetroot too:)
Esther Shamsunder from Bangalore,India on June 25, 2010:
Wow! Mouthwatering pics! I loved this hub! Thank you for sharing! And congrats!
Money Glitch from Texas on June 24, 2010:
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 from United states on June 24, 2010:
Stephanie Marshall from Bend, Oregon on June 24, 2010:
When I think polish, I think sausage! Congrats on a great hub and win! :)
Melanie Shebel (author) from Midwest, USA on June 24, 2010:
Wow! Thank you everyone! I totally had no idea I won, I thought someone else won it! Pleased as punch right now!
Paula from The Midwest, USA on June 24, 2010:
Congratulations Melbel on your win. Great hub
PhoenixV from USA on June 24, 2010:
Misha from DC Area on June 24, 2010:
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, from London, UK on June 24, 2010:
Thank you for such wonderful trip through Polish kitchens. I know Polish food legendary but it was never explained so clear to me.