Discover the top 12 traditional Polish foods I hold dear to my heart as a Pole! From pierogi to kielbasa and everything in between, this blog post will make your mouth water and introduce you to the delicious flavors of Poland. Join me on this wonderful adventure through the most popular Polish dishes out there!
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1. Pierogi: My Personal Favorite
Pierogi (or as some people call it – pierogies) are one of the staples of Polish cuisine and my personal favorite on this list – mainly because of their sheer simplicity! These dumplings are made from unleavened dough and can be filled with a variety of sweet or savory ingredients. Some popular fillings include potato and cheese, sauerkraut and mushroom, and meat – these are also the most common verions of store bought packed pierogi that you can find in almost every Polish store! Pierogi are typically boiled or heated on a pan over butter, and then served with butter, sour cream, or fried onions.
Pierogi have become so popular that there is even a National Pierogi Day in the United States, celebrated on October 8th.
Did you know that despite many people from abroad calls them “pierogies”, the actual plural form of the word in the Polish language is simply “pierogi”?
Whether you prefer them boiled or fried, sweet or savory, pierogi are a must-try for anyone visiting Poland or looking to explore new cuisines.
2. Bigos: The Hearty Hunter’s Stew
Bigos, also known as “Hunter’s Stew”, is a traditional Polish dish that has been enjoyed for centuries and is still among the most popular traditional Polish foods. This hearty stew is made with sauerkraut, various cuts of meat (such as pork, beef, and sausage), and sometimes dried mushrooms. The ingredients are slowly cooked together for several hours, allowing the flavors to meld together and create a rich, savory taste.
The key to making a delicious bigos is to use high-quality ingredients and to let the stew simmer for a long time. Some variations of bigos also include prunes, apples, or red wine, which add a sweet and tangy flavor to the dish.
Bigos is often served with rye bread or boiled potatoes, and it’s the perfect meal for a cold winter day. If you’re looking for a hearty and filling dish that will warm you up from the inside out, then bigos is definitely worth trying!
3. Kiełbasa: The Iconic Polish Sausage
Kiełbasa is a type of sausage that is an essential part of Polish cuisine. Made from pork, beef, or a combination of both, it is seasoned with garlic, marjoram, and other spices. The sausage is then smoked and cooked, giving it a distinct flavor and texture. Kiełbasa can be enjoyed on its own, grilled, or added to soups and stews. You’ve gotta check out our oven baked Polish white sausage recipe – it’s really delicious!
Kiełbasa is also a popular ingredient in Polish sandwiches, such as the ever popular Zapiekanka. Kiełbasa comes in many varieties, with different regions of Poland having their own unique recipes. Some of the most popular types include Kiełbasa Krakowska, Kiełbasa Wiejska, and Biała Kiełbasa (White Sausage).
In reality there are lots and lots of different types of kiełbasa, and in almost every store out there you can find some of them. They most commonly differ by the region they are manufactured in, and by their unique qualities and production methods used to make them.
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4. Żurek: The Traditional Sour Rye Soup
Żurek, sometimes called “barszcz biały” is a traditional Polish soup made from sour rye flour and meat broth, that is sometimes served in a fancy bread bowl. The sourness of the soup comes from the fermentation of the rye flour, which gives it a unique and tangy flavor. The soup is usually made with sausage, potatoes, and hard-boiled eggs, and that’s exactly how I enjoyed it in my home as a kid.
To make żurek, the sour rye flour is mixed with water (and sometimes a few different spices) and left to ferment for a few days. The resulting sourdough starter is then added to a meat broth made from pork, beef, or chicken. The soup is simmered for several hours until the flavors meld together and the meat becomes tender.
Żurek is a popular dish during Easter in Poland, where it is often served with the white sausage we mentioned earlier. It’s a delicious and original soup that’s perfect for cold winter days or anytime you’re in the mood for something warm and filling.
5. Gołąbki: The Delicious Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
Gołąbki, also known as stuffed cabbage rolls, are a popular dish in Poland. The dish consists of cooked cabbage leaves stuffed with a mixture of ground meat, rice, and spices. The rolls are then baked in a tomato-based sauce until tender and delicious. Gołąbki is a dish that is pretty basic, yet surprisingly popular!
If you are a fan of traditional cabbage rolls, you must try gołąbki – it’s really worth it!
6. Kotlet Schabowy: The Classic Pork Cutlet
Kotlet Schabowy is a traditional Polish dish that is similar to a breaded pork chop. The dish is made by taking a boneless pork cutlet, seasoning it with salt and pepper, then dipping it in flour, egg, and breadcrumbs before frying it until golden brown. The result is a crispy and flavorful cutlet that is commonly served with mashed potatoes and sauerkraut as quite probably the most recognizable traditional Polish dinner.
Some variations of the dish include adding garlic or paprika to the breading mixture, or serving it with a mushroom sauce.
If you’re looking to try some authentic Polish cuisine, the simple yet classy kotlet schabowy is a must-try dish. It’s a classic that is sure to satisfy your taste buds.
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7. Placki Ziemniaczane: The Crispy Potato Pancakes
Placki Ziemniaczane, also known as Polish potato pancakes, are another important staple of Polish cuisine. Made from grated potatoes, flour, eggs, and seasonings, these pancakes are fried on oil until crispy and golden brown. They are served with sour cream or mushroom sauce. The second options is my favorite!
Some variations of placki ziemniaczane include adding grated onion or garlic to the potato mixture for extra flavor. They can also be made with other vegetable additions such as zucchini or even carrots!
If you’re looking for a delicious and filling, yet quite simple dinner or brunch option, the traditional Polish packi ziemniaczane are a must-try. They are also a great side dish to accompany any meat or vegetable dish!
8. Makowiec: The Sweet Poppy Seed Cake
Makowiec is a traditional Polish dessert that is usually served during Christmas and Easter. This sweet poppy seed cake is made with a yeast dough and filled with a mixture of ground poppy seeds, sugar, and sometimes raisins or nuts. The filling is spread over the dough and then rolled up, creating a spiral pattern when sliced.
Makowiec is often topped with a sweet glaze made from powdered sugar and lemon juice, which adds a tangy contrast to the rich filling. This cake is a must-try for anyone with a sweet tooth and a love for unique flavor combinations!
9. Barszcz Czerwony: The Vibrant Beet Soup
Barszcz Czerwony is a staple soup in Poland, especially during Christmas Eve dinner. This quite interesting soup is made from beets, which gives it its signature deep red color. The soup is usually served with “uszka” – small mushroom or meat-filled dumplings, or with “krokiety” – crispy rolled croquettes filled with meat or mushrooms and cabbage.
Barszcz czerwony can be served hot or cold (although serving it hot is certainly the most popular way), and it is sometimes garnished with sour cream and chopped fresh dill. Barszcz is not only delicious but also very healthy, as beets are a great source of vitamins and minerals. You absolutely have to try it!
10. Oscypek: The Smoked Cheese from the Tatra Mountains
Oscypek is a traditional smoked cheese made from sheep’s milk, originating from the Tatra Mountains in southern Poland. This cheese has a unique flavor and texture, and it is often served grilled or fried alongside cranberry jam.
The production of Oscypek is strictly regulated, and it can only be made by certified highlanders who follow the traditional methods. Oscypek is not only a delicious food, but it also has cultural significance and is an important part of the Polish highlander’s heritage. If you are a cheese lover, you must try Oscypek when visiting Poland.
If you want to learn more about Oscypki, we have a great article just for you!
Check it out: Polish Oscypek Cheese – All You Need To Know!
11. Sernik: The Creamy Cheesecake
Sernik, or Polish cheesecake, is a beloved dessert in Poland. Made with a mixture of quark cheese, eggs, sugar, and vanilla, this cake has a creamy and fluffy texture that melts in your mouth. Sernik can be served plain or with various toppings, such as fruit, chocolate, or whipped cream.
It is also a popular dessert for special occasions, such as Christmas and Easter, but it can be easily enjoyed all year round. If you are a cheesecake lover, you have to try the Polish version – you won’t be disappointed!
12. Polish Kremowka: The Famous Vanilla Cream Cake
Polish Kremówka, also known as Napoleonka, is a classic Polish dessert that consists of layers of crispy puff pastry and a creamy vanilla custard filling and is really similar to the classic Austro-Hungarian cremeschnitte. The cake is traditionally cut into squares or rectangles and dusted with powdered sugar. The layers of pastry are light and flaky, while the filling is rich and creamy, making it a perfect combination of textures and flavors. Kremówka is a must-try for anyone with a sweet tooth and a love for pastry. A perfect addition to your afternoon coffee!
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