What is Poland famous for? Krakow’s Old Town, beautiful girls, historical landmarks, and unpredictable weather. Oh, yes! And food! Although competing with Italy, France, or Greece is difficult, Polish culinary delights do not stand out here.
So, if you are a food lover who sets tasting local cuisine when venturing into the world as a priority, you will not be disappointed. Here is a culinary guide to Poland, with the best Polish dishes, popular types of eating-out spots, and the best places to try in big cities.
What is Polish Cuisine Like?
Polish cuisine is rich, hearty, and deeply rooted in tradition, reflecting the country’s history, geolocation, and cultural influences. Traditional Polish meals often revolve around meat and flour-based dishes, and potatoes and cabbage are commonly used.
Don’t be surprised if you find a lot of pickled stuff like cucumbers and sauerkraut in Polish meals ? they’re fermented foods that are not only tasty but also good for your health.
In Polish cooking, we like to keep things simple and use basic ingredients, but that doesn’t mean it’s a fast process. A lot of our traditional dishes take a bit of time to prepare. The simplicity comes from the fact, that a large part of the population comes from rural people, who lived simple lives and ate basic food.
Most traditional dishes require slow cooking and many additional steps along the process, some are even better the next day, like bigos for example.
Potatoes and cabbage take center stage in Polish recipes, playing central roles in beloved dishes like placki ziemniaczane and cabbage rolls. These ingredients aren’t just simple additions; they bring a unique and unmistakable Polish flavor to the table.
Potatoes are typically boiled and mashed, for centuries they served as the base of food for poor people, and today they are still commonly served for lunch. Placki ziemniaczane, crispy golden treats, are a symbol of the heartiness and simplicity that define Polish cuisine. However, whether mashed, boiled, or fried, potatoes contribute a comforting element to many traditional dishes.
Cabbage is another kitchen superstar in dishes like Polish stuffed cabbage rolls (golabki) or бігос. Its strong and hearty nature mixes perfectly with tasty fillings. The mix of flavors and textures in cabbage rolls shows how creative and clever Polish home cooking can be.
Bigos on the other hand is perfect comfort food for cold winter days. So, when you bite into a cabbage roll or try bigos, you’re getting a taste of the delicious and smart side of Polish cuisine.
Together, potatoes and cabbage form a dynamic duo, not just as ingredients but as essential elements of Polish dishes. Both are part of everyday meals and dishes for special occasions.
Fermented Food aka Pickles
Foods like pickled cucumbers and sauerkraut might seem a bit unfamiliar to some, but they’re a significant part of Polish food culture. These fermented goodies not only bring a tangy and unique taste to the table but also pack some health benefits.
Imagine pickled cucumbers as crunchy, tangy snacks that add a zesty kick to your meal. Sauerkraut, on the other hand, is shredded and fermented cabbage, offering a bit of tanginess, and crunchiness. Both not only taste good but also bring a burst of flavors that many Poles love.
What’s interesting is that the art of fermenting, or the process of preserving food using natural bacteria, has been a tradition passed down through generations in Poland.
This was the only way to store food through the winter before the fridge was invented. So, when you enjoy pickled cucumbers or sauerkraut, you’re not just savoring a unique flavor; you’re taking part in a culinary tradition that has stood the test of time in Polish kitchens.
Polish Dishes You Need To Try
Pierogi, perhaps the most iconic of Polish culinary delights, are like little pockets filled with a variety of tasty ingredients. They come with a range of fillings, making them a versatile and beloved part of our cuisine.
Common fillings include:
- the classic combination of potato and cheese known as “ruskie,”
- savory options like meat, sauerkraut for a tangy kick,
- earthy mushrooms,
- sweet fillings like fruit or sweet cheese.
The cooking methods for pierogi are just as diverse as the fillings. You can boil them for a soft and comforting texture, bake them for a crispy touch, or fry them up. However, they’re prepared, one thing remains constant ? they’re best enjoyed with a dollop of sour cream on the side.
Pierogi are more than just dumplings; they reflect the creativity and richness of Polish cuisine. So, when you savor a plate of pierogi, you’re not just enjoying a delicious treat ? you’re experiencing a piece of Polish culinary heritage.
Bigos, known as “Hunter’s Stew,” is a hearty dish that captures the essence of Polish comfort food. The dish is based on sauerkraut, and mixed with an assortment of meats like pork, beef, poultry, and sausage. Wild mushrooms and, sometimes, prunes or dried fruits are added to it. It’s a true celebration of flavors.
What makes bigos truly special is the slow simmering process. It takes a lot of time to stew it, which allows all those diverse ingredients to mix. The prolonged cooking also intensifies the taste, often enjoyed during cold winter days Biogs is a fantastic choice, when you are visiting Poland during winter, look for it in the Christmas Markets, you will enjoy it.
Zurek, or “?урэк,” is a cherished traditional Polish dish, especially during Easter. This sour rye soup, made by fermenting rye flour or bread, has a unique tangy flavor.
Zurek is a hearty soup, often with smoked sausage, potatoes, carrots, and hard-boiled eggs, and it is a traditional Easter dish.
What makes zurek even more special is its creative presentation. It is often served in a hollowed-out bread loaf. This not only looks good but also showcases Poland’s culinary creativity. Whether for Easter or a cozy meal, zurek remains a symbol of Polish tradition.
Kielbasa, the iconic Polish sausage, is a must-try dish. Flavorful and smoky, traditionally made from pork, beef, or a blend of meats, has been a staple for centuries. With various regional varieties, such as Kielbasa Krakowska and Kielbasa ?l?ska or Kabanosy, it reflects Poland’s cultural and culinary diversity.
Kielbasa plays a big role in traditional Polish cuisine, often adding its rich flavor to stews, soups, and casseroles. During the grilling season, which starts in May, kielbasa i the number one dish on the grill. Kielbasa next to pierogi is the most popular Polish food abroad.
Borscht, a beloved Polish dish, holds a special place in the country’s culinary heritage. This sweet and sour beetroot soup, served hot or cold, is a staple during festive occasions, particularly the Christmas Eve meal.
Barszcz is popular in all regions as it adapts easily to seasonal ingredients variations. The addition of small dumplings called ушка and garnishes like sour cream or lemon make it even better. Borscht is an easy-to-make, comfort soup, and you can often find it, especially during winter, as a hot drink in a mug.
Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (Go??bki)
Gol?bki, a cherished Polish dish is popular in all regions. Cabbage rolls are filled with a mixture of rice and ground meat, like pork or beef.
They are usually served as a substantial main dish. Gol?bki are traditionally served with potatoes and tomato sauce. You can order go??bki in all milk bars in Poland.
Sernik- Polish Cheescake
Sernik, a cherished Polish cheesecake, is a quintessential dessert with a long and royal tradition. It roots deeply in the country’s culinary heritage, and it arrived in Poland after a glorious victory of the Polish King, in the battle of Viena. The dessert features farmer’s cheese (twaróg) and it has a dense, creamy texture. While vanilla and lemon are classic, variations include rich chocolate versions and creative twists like brownie layers or meringue additions.
Sernik comes in various forms and decorative elements, with brownies, chocolate incorporated, meringue, shortbread stripes, or icing as top decoration. Sernik holds a special place in the hearts of Poles, symbolizing warmth and tradition. It is a traditional dessert for Christmas and Easter holidays.
P?czki, beloved Polish donuts, are a year-round delight, traditionally enjoyed on Fat Thursday. They come in various fillings, with rose flavor being a standout favorite, but strawberry, chocolate, or custard are also very common.
It is a must-try Polish culinary delight to try. Paczki are very popular as a sweet breakfast, a fast snack, or simply a comfort treat. They are easy to find in bakeries, supermarkets, coffee shops, or street food stalls, especially in Krakow.
Kotlet schabowy is a breaded and fried pork cutlet. Typically made from pork loin, the cutlet is coated in breadcrumbs and fried to perfection, crispy on the outside and juicy inside. Schabowe usually comes with mashed potatoes and cabbage salad and is a typical Sunday meal.
Kotlet schabowy with potatoes you are going to find in every milk bar in Poland.
Расоль is nothing more than a chicken broth, but in Polish cuisine, it has a significant meaning. It t comes served mainly with thin, and small pasta, sometimes with rice and in some regions with boiled potatoes. It is a traditional Sunday after-church soup, and one of the first dishes that are served during any family gathering, whether it is a wedding, a funeral, or a christening. You might call it the cornerstone of Polish culinary heritage.
Apart from being a delicious Polish food, rosol has a healing reputation as a comfort food during illnesses.
Polish Culinary Delights By Region
North Poland, Pomeranian Region
Poland is situated along the Baltic Sea to the north, influencing the region with a strong connection to the sea. A variety of saltwater fish, and more, are popular here. Additionally, don’t miss out on trying local specialties like krupnik soup, bean soup, and sweet pancakes.
Greater Poland – Wielkopolska
Poznan, the capital of Wielkopolska, is famous for its croissants (rogale), and the entire region is full of dishes featuring potatoes. Be sure to try such dishes as: pyry z gzikiem або plendze.
Masovian , Central Poland
Central Polish cuisine is primarily built on the gifts of the forest; game, mushrooms, berries, and herbs characterize the local traditional dishes. Pierogi ruskie, Warsaw-style tripe, or groats with sauces and meat. Sweet dumplings with forest fruits, and Варшава cheesecake are dishes typical of this region.
Silesia is famous for its dialect and cuisine, Salesian dishes are very rich in flavor, based on meat, flour, and potatoes, and above all, they are delicious. Silesian dumplings, zymlok, Silesia roulade, Silesian rye soup.
The Tatra Mountains and Zakopane are places, that stand out culturally and culinary in Poland. Highlanders have their dialect, traditions, and above all, cuisine. When you are in this region, be sure to try асцыпек cheese, kwa?nica, placek po zbójnicku or bryndza cheese, and lamb.
Krakow is mainly famous for pretzels, it is a traditional delicacy present in Krakow for over 600 years. Piszinger and papal cream (kremówki papieskie) desserts are sweets that are also popular in this region.
When in Кракаў, be sure to visit Kazimierz Quarters try original Jewish cuisine, and indulge in the unforgettable charm of the neighborhood.
Every Day Eating Out Habits in Poland
There is not much of a surprise here. Like in most places worldwide, fast food chains are typically a first choice for a quick grab of something to eat.
Pizza and burgers are as famous as everywhere. Other fast food, popular among Polish people, are kebabs and Chinese food, usually served as takeaways. Most of the time, places offering this food, are not chained restaurants, and look for Google reviews to choose a good place, if you want to try one.
Where To Try The Best Of Polish Culinary Delight?
No news here, the best will always be in your Polish grandma’s kitchen ? But if you don’t have a Polish grandma try these options. ?
- Малочныя батончыкі, they are good, there are many of them in every city, they are budget-friendly and they are well-reviewed. Trust the Google Stars, and enjoy your meal
- Traditional Polish restaurants are often called Karczma. Typically placed outside the city, often along the highway. You will get well prepared and have a very big meal there, also without breaking the bank.
- Polish Cuisine restaurants. Here look for more sophisticated dishes, often with a modern twist. These places might need a prior reservation, sometimes a dress code, and they are a bit more expensive, but not unaffordable.
- Make friends in Poland. You will very probably be invited over for a meal, and the best traditional home food will be served for you. Here is a tip from me, don’t go to the diner empty-handed.
Food Tour In Poland
Food tours are perfect for sightseeing, making friends, and getting the best of local restaurants.
What is a food tour? It is a planned tour, during which, a guide takes you on a few hours’ stroll around the chosen part of the city. You get to know the history of the place and try samples of the food from the best restaurants, and very often have some vodka shots. This is a perfect way to visit such places as Kazimierz Jewish Quarters in Krakow. How to arrange such a tour? There are several offers for every city in Poland and you can easily find the best option for your preferences.
I hope I opened up your appetite to taste Polish culinary delights. Check the below articles for inspiration on sweets, and food that makes a perfect gift to take back home from your holidays in Poland.