Food in Polish culture isn’t as well known as they are not as readily available in other countries. Usually appearing as a hole-in-the-wall type establishment, Polish food doesn’t get nearly as much credit as French and Italian cuisines.
Foods In Poland
This is a huge shame, as Polish food is both unique and incredibly delicious! Drawing inspiration from neighbors like Russia, Belarus, and Romania, Polish cuisine is both flavourful and comforting. Food is the perfect experience when visiting this historic and beautiful country.
Like many Eastern European countries, Polish food is built for comfort and sustainment during cold weather. Many ingredients, like cabbage, onions and pork feature heavily in Polish cuisine as it was readily available, and versatile when added to different foods. While the supply chain is far more manageable and reliable these days, many traditional foods still speak to the humble roots of Polish peasants during harsh winters of years past.
Polish cuisine is influenced by its neighbors, with many dishes similar to those of Hungary, Germany and Russia. From the staple dish golabki to a version of Hungary’s gulash, many foods in Poland borrow spices, flavors and cooking methods to create delicious, hearty meals.
Poland has also been invaded multiple times in the past 500 years, so many dishes have come from different occupations or regimes. During World War II, Germans introduced pork knuckle to the region, and the food has become a favorite of Polish people ever since.
Here are 24 delicious traditional Polish dishes to try when you visit Poland.
Savoury Traditional Polish Food
If there’s one food on this list you will have heard of, it’s definitely pierogi. These Polish dumplings are delicious, filling, and most of all, cheap! Thinly rolled dough stretches over a variety of sweet and savory fillings, these yummy morsels are usually served as appetizers.
Pierogi (yes, that’s already plural – don’t call them pierogis!) comes in many flavors to satisfy even the fussiest eater. However, the most popular savory fillings for this Polish food are meat, mushrooms with sauerkraut, potatoes with onions, pepper, and cottage cheese.
Not all dishes from Poland are savory. Look for pierogi with sweet cottage cheese, blueberry jam, and seasonal fruits for your sweet tooth.
You’ll find pierogi in markets, restaurants and sold by street vendors on almost every corner in major cities. Eat your pierogi boiled, baked, or fried, but don’t skimp on the butter and onions lashed over the top, even the sweet ones!
The cousin of the famous Hungarian goulash, this Polish food is just as delicious. Tender beef pieces are simmered in a rich broth of carrots, mushrooms, peppers, onions, and paprika.
Gulasz is fantastic for the cold, bitter winters in Eastern Europe, as the lashings of hot paprika and garlic warm you up from the inside out. Every Poland region has its own versions of this Polish food, but the staples of garlic, beef and paprika remain the same.
Gulasz is typically sold in restaurants, cafes, and pubs around Poland. A typical accompaniment for this warming Polish stew is potato pancakes or buckwheat kasha. Use the starchy sides to mop up the delicious sauce – trust us, you’ll want to savor every bite.
This traditional Polish food is available in restaurants and pubs around the country, usually served with boiled potatoes or fresh, warm bread.
Polish Golabki (literally meaning ‘little pigeons’) is a Polish food classic that you can enjoy year-round. These tasty rolls are simple and filling, perfect for cooler months or enjoying the sun.
If you’ve visited Romania, Hungary, or Croatia, you may be familiar with the concept of meat-stuffed cabbage rolls cooked in water and vinegar. Well, golabki are the Polish version of Romanian sarmale, and they are just as delicious.
Golabki is traditionally made using a combination of minced pork and beef, cooked with onions, mushrooms, garlic, and spices. The meat is stuffed into white cabbage leaves, covered with a mixture of water, vinegar, and brine, then stewed for a couple of hours until the cabbage has absorbed the broth. The result is a tender, juicy treat that melts in your mouth for a delicious taste experience.
If there is one thing that Europeans have in common, it’s a love for pickled food. While many people enjoy the taste of pickled food, it was initially born out of necessity. The bitter winters made accessing fresh produce more difficult. The most straightforward answer was to preserve your vegetables in a liquid mixture of sugar, salt, vinegar, and water.
Polish pickled cucumber is much zestier than a traditional gherkin; soaked in dill and bay leaves, this vegetable has a sour taste that will leave your mouth watering. However, if you like your pickles less acidic, consider trying ogórek małosolny. These Polish vegetables have only been pickled for a few days and haven’t absorbed as much tart taste as those preserved for longer.
Polish food also has its own sauerkraut – cabbage is stripped, pickled, and sumped into a large barrel where the process is something like wine. That’s right – people step on the kiszona kapusta to help speed up the fermentation process.
Why are we talking about pickling? Because it’s the key ingredient to another Polish food – bigos! Known as ‘hunter’s stew,’ bigos is a rich winter stew made from chopped meats, kiszona kapusta and topped with fresh cabbage. Many versions contain venison or rabbit for their gamey taste, but pork and lamb also feature heavily in this Polish dish from the south.
Every Polish family will have their own version of bigos, but they’re all equally delicious! Look for bigos on many traditional Polish restaurants’ menus and enjoy the rich, unique flavor. This Polish dish only gets better with age, so see if you can find one that has been allowed to steep for a few days.
One for the fans of classic pub food you don’t want to miss out on Kotlet Schabowy! This traditional Polish food is precisely what it sounds like – a breaded pork cutlet.
So chances are, if you ask for a traditional Polish dish, you’ll soon see one of these heading your way from the kitchen, accompanied by boiled potatoes and beets. Often compared to the famous Wiener schnitzel, Kotlet Schabowy is thicker, juicer, and (in our opinion) better!
Kotlet Schabowy has been a part of the Polish gastronomy scene since the late 17th century, where the first recipe for breaded pork was featured in the famous cookbook Compendium Ferculorum. However, it wasn’t until 1825 that Lucyna Cwierczakiewiczowa reimagined this Polish dish in her wildly popular cookbooks, and it stuck. So grab yourself a plate of this traditional Polish dish at any pub or restaurant – you won’t regret it.
When it comes to simple comfort food, the Poles know what they’re doing. Cold winters require warm meals, and every Polish dish is comforting, filling, and nourishing during the cooler months. If you want something genuinely reassuring after a long day of exploring, you should try Kluski Slaskie.
These fluffy creations, also known as Silesian dumplings, combine eggs, boiled potatoes, and flour. On their own, they’re delicious – however, Kluskie Slaskie are usually eaten with beef, red cabbage, and a rich, salty gravy.
You can buy the mixture to create your own Kluskie Slaskie at home, but everyone knows that the best version of this Polish dish is homemade! So buy some eggs and potatoes, and see just how delicious Polish food can be!
If you like meatballs, you should definitely try Kotlet Mieolony. This Polish food is a flattened-out meatball in a crispy, breaded coating – like a hamburger patty dipped in bread crumbs. They’re crisp and juicy, and tourists and locals alike love them.
Kotlet Mielony is usually served with boiled potatoes or pickles like beetroots or sauerkraut. Visit a local market and grab some freshly fried Kotlet Mielony to chow down on as you wander through cobblestone streets.
Sometimes, you just can’t be bothered putting in the effort for a quick and tasty dinner. Polish cuisine isn’t always focused on long, slow-cooked meats and dishes.
Leniwe, also known as ‘lazy pierogi,’ is an excellent introduction to Polish cuisine that requires far less effort than your traditional dumplings. Instead of filling the rolled-out dough, dried curd cheese (like ricotta) is added directly to the dough. The dough is cut into pieces and left unfilled – similar to Italy’s gnocchi. Best cooked boiled, Leniwe is a popular side dish with sour cream or smothered in fried onions and bacon.
Originating in the north of Poland, Leniwe is now available in pubs and traditional Polish restaurants around the country. So wash yours down with a wheat beer, or a glass of red wine for a local Polish experience.
There’s something that’s just so good about potato pancakes – fried, rich, and comforting. Every culture in the world has some version of the starchy tuber in a snack or flattened food base. Polish cuisine is no exception, bringing Placki Ziemniaczane to the table.
This golden Polish food features in celebrations around holidays, or simply as quick and easy comfort food. Every Polish family has its own twist on the recipe, but the basics are always the same – finely grated potatoes, onions, eggs, and flour are the base for these savory delights.
Traditionally, this Polish dish is eaten with sour cream or a rich, creamy mushroom sauce. However, many hip restaurants in Krakow and Warsaw now offer Placki Ziemniaczane as a traditional pancake covered in sweet jams and syrups.
Due to the cost of the meat and the ease of preparation, pork is one of the most widely-used meats in Polish cuisine. Golonka Gotowana, or pork hock, are the ankles of the pig, where the meat is most tender around the joint. The meat almost melts with traditional Polish preparation and can be cut with a spoon.
In many restaurants, Golonka Gotowana is smoked to add a richer flavor – while delicious, that’s not how the Polish people do it. Instead, pork hock should be slow-cooked at low temperatures for many hours, with bay leaves and spices to add flavor. Served with roasted vegetables and sauerkraut, this food from Poland is tasty and straightforward – just how Polish people like it.
Zrazy originated in Poland in the 14th century and was a typical food for the nobility. The beef was costly and not easily accessible to many of the middle and lower-class people of the country. Nowadays, this Polish food is easier to find and is a regular fixture on restaurant menus.
This Polish dish is a delicious choice for a filling evening meal. Slow-cooked beef roulade, served with roasted vegetables, potatoes, and of course, Polish red cabbage – what could be better? Zrazy is often stuffed with sauerkraut, mushrooms, and onions, so check the menu before ordering if you’re a fussy eater.
You won’t find this Polish food at street vendors or at markets. Instead, indulge in a good, warm restaurant meal during the winter months and watch the snow come down as you enjoy every delicious mouthful.
Ryba po Grecku
Ryba po Greku, or “Greek fish,” pays tribute to some of the gorgeous cooking styles of their Mediterranean friends. This hearty dish from Poland consists of fried fish fillets in a rich tomato sauce and is a popular meal near the Black Sea. Usually made of halibut or cod, Ryba po Grecku can be made with whatever seasonal fish is around and has the rich, piquant taste typical to Mediterranean cuisines.
Ryba po Greku is available year-round, though the seafood quality will differ depending on where you eat it. Enjoy this classic food from Poland, hot or cold, whenever you want.
Fasolka po Bretońsku
Baked beans on toast is a classic British meal, but the Poles made it even better. Inspired by the Brits, Fasolka po Bretonsku (or “beans of Britain”) is a rich stew made from Harico beans that have been slowly simmered over many hours. While you won’t find it with toast, Fasolka po Bretonsku usually comes with fresh, homemade bread. So lather with butter, and dip into this Polish dish for some genuinely fantastic home comfort food.
This food in Poland is usually more popular around the winter – however, families make it year-round as comfort food for young children.
Wild mushrooms are plentiful in Poland, so they feature in so many traditional Polish dishes. The wild forests and untamed landscapes are perfect growth environments for these delicious fungi. Families will often take their children out during holidays to forage for the ingredients for tasty Polish foods.
From sauces to marinades, mushrooms are in every part of Polish cuisine, and for a good reason. There are over 300 species of wild mushrooms in Poland, and they all taste different from the white-cap button mushrooms available in Western supermarkets.
You can take a tour from many major cities to go foraging for your own fungi, or simply visit one of Poland’s many fresh produce markets and take your pick.
Polish Cheeses – Oscypek and Brynzda
Finally, some cheese! Poland isn’t widely known for its dairy products, but it should be. Traditionally, Polish cheese is made with sheep’s milk, as sheep were cheaper and easier to keep during long winter months.
Polish cheese like Brynzda comes from the Tatra Mountain region and owe their unique flavor to smoking during fermentation.
Like most national cheeses around Europe, Polish cheeses are protected product items and follow strict regulations during the production process. While the traditional practices aren’t as popular anymore due to mass dairy farming and milking of cows, Polish farmers receive a subsidy from the EU to encourage teaching methods to the next generation.
Oscypek and Brynzda cheeses are delicious when eaten individually or with a slice of apple – the crunchy sweetness works in perfect tandem with the rich, smoky cheese.
If you want something, quick, easy and delicious, look no further than zapiekanka! Colloquially known as Polish pizza, this tasty Polish food consists of all of the good things in life: bread, cheese and of course, meat!
Zapiekanka is a Communist-era food that stemmed from a shortage of resources during the Soviet era and Cold War, and often used cheap, low-quality ingredients that were easily accessible and tasty. Baguettes are sliced lengthways, then covered in sweet ketchup, cheese and mushrooms – perfect for colder weather. Many versions of this classic food from Poland also contain thinly sliced meats like speck, ham or in some cases, beef.
During the 50s and 60s, large cities like Warsaw and Krakow were packed with street vendors selling this classic Polish street food. However, recently zapiekanka has gone out of style, and it can be difficult to track it down. The best zapiekanka is found during the winter months at festive markets – grab yourself a piece, and wash it down with some mulled wine for a traditional Polish winter experience!
One of the better-known foods from Poland, kielbasa, is available in delis and grocery stores worldwide. Its rich, smokey taste is offset with loads of garlic and spices like marjoram and is a favorite for a quick snack on the go. That’s right – if you’re feeling brave, you can eat kielbasa raw!
This beef sausage is a popular ingredient in many traditional Polish soups and stews. You can easily find them in any grocery store or market in Poland. Perfectly fried and sliced on some fresh bread, or as the star ingredient with sauerkraut, kielbasa is a great way to ease into Polish cuisine with something familiar.
Pyzy – Polish Dumplings
If you haven’t figured it out by now, Polish people love their dumplings! For a good reason, too – they’re easy to make and can be stuffed with whatever you feel like.
‘Pyzy’ are oval-shaped potato dumplings filled with meat, twarog cheese, or mushrooms. Though you can eat them fried or steamed, these Polish delicacies are usually boiled. The best part about Pyzy is the size – these monstrous Polish dishes are so large, you only need one or two for the main portion. The most common way to serve Pyzy is with a rich, beef-based gravy drizzled over the top.
FLAVORS AROUND THE WORLD
Sweet Traditional Polish Food
Knedle is similar to Pyzy – both are made from fluffy potato dough, boiled, and delicious. The main difference is with the filling. While Pyzy focuses on savory meats and cheeses, Knedle are often stuffed with jams or seasonal fruits like plums, which give this delicious Polish dish a tart, mouth-watering flavor.
You’ll find both Pyzy and Knedle in festive Polish markets during December or in cozy restaurants around the country.
Ryż z Jabłkami
Rice pudding is a pretty typical dish worldwide, with many cultures having some version of the comforting dessert. Ryż z Jabłkami, or ‘rice with apples,’ may sound like a strange combination, but combines delicious spices and fresh apples to create a cold-weather dessert you won’t forget.
White rice is cooked with milk, cinnamon, and sugar, then combined with stewed apples and baked to deliver a rich, creamy texture that will bring you back for more. This Poland cuisine is often served with a side of sour cream mixed with sugar, which gives ryż z jabłkami its sweet and sour taste. Try this Polish dessert once, and you’ll definitely order it again.
Poland Foods – Soups
Soups are a big part of traditional polish dishes. You can find a longer list of delicious soup in Poland but these are a few soulful ones.
Barszcz z Uszkami
Like the Russian soup borscht, Barszcz z Uszkami combines meat broth and beets to create a rich and sour soup that will make your tastebuds dance.
The main difference between Barszcz z Uszkami and its Russian cousin is the dumplings dropped inside. No Polish meal is complete without dumplings, and the little ear-shaped mushroom dumplings give this dish a rich and savory flavor that makes a perfect appetizer.
Barszcz z Uszkami is more prevalent during the fall months when beetroot is in season and plentiful. Try this Polish soup during the season as the leaves change. If you’re lucky, you’ll find it sold in large vats at autumn harvest markets in some regional Polish towns. Grab yourself a bowl, and enjoy – carefully, though, as the rich red color will definitely stain your clothes!
Created out of necessity, Żurek is a traditional peasant dish that exploded in popularity after the Cold War. Known worldwide as Polish ryemeal stew, Żurek is a unique combination of fermented rye, garlic, and pig meat – usually sausage, bacon, or ham.
Despite the fermenting, this tasty Polish dish isn’t sour and is believed to help stave off colds and flu during the spring. Żurek is usually eaten around Easter as the harvests begin to flower and is a celebration food for this deeply religious country.
Chicken noodle soup, with a Polish twist – now this is something we can get behind! Rosol is a traditional Polish food that originated in the Tatra Mountain region and quickly spread across the country. This comforting children’s meal focuses on fresh ingredients, and often the noodles are rolled out and made by hand. This meal is a favorite when feeling unwell or just as a bit of a pick-me-up.
You may find variations of this delicious food from Poland with chicken or mushroom dumplings instead of noodles. To enjoy this dish like the locals do, grab some fresh bread and butter for dipping and wiping the bowl clean after eating.
Soup z Klusami (Bread And Cabbage Soup)
If you want to try making Polish food at home, Soup z Klusami is an excellent place to start. This simple Polish soup is easy to make and doesn’t require any unusual ingredients. With cabbage, potatoes, mushrooms, and onions, Soup z Klusami is accompanied by – you guessed it – dumplings! These doughy balls are dumped into the simmering broth, where they absorb the delicious flavors for a juicy, comforting meal.
Some versions of this Polish food contain meat stocks or shredded beef. If you’re a vegetarian, make sure you check the ingredients on the menu before ordering in a Polish restaurant.
Bonus Tip: Vodka
This isn’t technically a food, but it’s still definitely a Polish specialty! Polish vodka is very smooth and clean because it’s triple filtered, unlike other vodkas that are double filtered. Many Polish people drink vodka neat with no chasers or mixers. It is smooth, almost sweet, and believed to kill germs that cause disease. Drink up!
There are so many delicious and unique foods in Poland; it would be impossible to list them all! From delectable desserts to warming soups, every part of Polish cuisine is worth sampling on your visit to this fantastic country.