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61 Best Traditional Polish Foods To Try On Your Travels


During our 3 months of travel in Poland, we tried as much traditional Polish food as we could! Here’s our roundup of some of the best Polish foods, soups, desserts, and candies to try when you visit.


Poland is a central European country, whose rich culinary food heritage has been influenced by trading to the East and West across centuries of history. These foreign influences have created traditional Polish foods that are unique to the country.

Polish food is hearty and nourishing, centered around meats, vegetables, sausages, and bread – with fermenting and pickling being a core part of cooking and eating.

polish food traditional dishes
Pyzy i gulasz z wołowiny (Dumplings & beef stew)

If you’re traveling to Poland, you’ll be glad to know that trying out the delicacies we’re going to cover in this article won’t cost you a fortune. Food in Poland is quite affordable in comparison to the rest of Europe.

Most people only think of pierogi when Polish food is mentioned, but there’s a lot more on offer. Whether you like salads, soups, hearty meat dishes, donuts, cakes, or dumplings – there’s bound to be a food that becomes your new favorite when you’re traveling through this country.


Table of Contents

Traditional Polish Foods


Pierogi (Dumplings)

traditional polish food
Image: Pierogi

Top of our list of traditional Polish foods, pierogi is something that most of you will have heard of, no matter where in the world you are. The word pierogi is plural – because you would rarely eat a lone pierog!

These dumplings originated in Eastern Europe. Outside of Poland you’ll also find them in Ukraine, and Germany – and they’re also a popular dish in Canada, UK, and the USA.

These cute and tasty little dumplings are one of Poland’s iconic foods. They’re super versatile, and can be eaten as entrees, mains, and even dessert.

Pierogi are made from thin rounds of rolled out dough made from water and flour (sometimes with an egg or oil in the mix), and served fried, baked, or boiled. I prefer the fried ones, as they have a delightful crispiness as well as the chewy dumpling dough. They’re always served to your table piping hot.

In Poland you’ll find pierogi everywhere, and you can try them with sweet or savory fillings like:

  • Meat
  • Cabbage
  • Spinach
  • Sauerkraut
  • Potatoes
  • Onions
  • Mushrooms
  • Cottage cheese
  • Buckwheat
  • Seasonal fruit (such as blueberries, cherries, strawberries)
  • Dried fruit (e.g. raisins)

Depending on the fillings and how they’re cooked – pierogi are a relatively healthy food as well, which means you can enjoy LOTS of them without feeling too guilty.



Leniwe Pierogi (Lazy Dumplings)

As their name suggests, leniwe pierogi are similar to the classic pierogi we know and love, but they’re a lot easier and faster to make. They’re a dumpling made from eggs, curd cheese, flour, and eggs, and then cooked slowly in lightly salted water.

Unlike pierogi, the dough is not filled with anything. Leniwe pierogi are typically served as a side dish or main meal, and you’ll find them with sweet or savory accompaniments. So they could be served with sugar, whipped cream, cinnamon, or butter. Or fried with crispy bacon and sour cream.

These dumplings are similar to the kartoflane kluski dumplings mentioned later in this article, but these ones contain cheese in the dough in place of potatoes.


Bigos (Hunter’s Stew)

Image: Bigos

Bigos tranlates to “hunter’s stew”. It’s a national Polish dish made from various kinds of chopped meat, combined with sauerkraut, sausages, cabbage, mushrooms, and spices, and then simmered slowly for many hours. It’s a hearty main meal which is usually served with chunky, crusty bread to mop up all the meaty juices.

Like most traditional stews around the world, every Polish family has their own version of bigos which they claim is the best!


Gołąbki (Cabbage Rolls)

Image: Gołąbki

Gołąbki translates to “little pigeons”. Looking at them, it’s hard to figure out why this is! They’re the Polish version of cabbage rolls that can be found widely across Eastern Europe. The cabbage leaves are stuffed with a variety of fillings including ground pork and rice, chicken, mutton, or vegetables, then rolled up tightly for cooking.

These cabbage rolls are boiled until cooked, and typically served with a rich, tomato-based sauce, but can also be eaten on their own. They might also be served with potatoes or bread on the side.


Placki Ziemniaczane (Potato Pancakes)

These were one of my favorite traditional Polish foods. As a vegetarian, they were also in my “safe zone” of foods to try!

Placki ziemniaczane  (aka placki kartoflane) are simple potato pancakes made with potato, onion, eggs and flour, fried until crispy. They’re incredibly tasty – and easy to make if you want to try creating Polish food at home.

You’ll mostly find straight up, honest potato pancakes on the menu at Polish restaurants, but sometimes you’ll see them with garlic, carrot, or other vegetables added to the pancake batter.

The pancakes can be served with either a sweet or savory twist. Sprinkle them with sugar and apple sauce, or accompany them with sour cream, mushroom sauce, and crispy bacon bits.



Kotlet Mielony (Ground Meat Cutlets)

Kotlety mielone are a staple comfort for in Poland. The name translates roughly to “ground meat cutlets”.

They’re essentially a breaded patty made from ground pork, eggs, soaked bread, herbs, and spices.

Kind of a cross between a meatball and a hamburger patty, these cutlets are rolled into a ball, flattened slightly, then fried until they’re crunchy, but still tender and juicy in the middle.

You’ll find them served with salads, pickles, sauerkraut, and potatoes.


Kotlet Schabowy (Crumbed Fried Pork Chop)

Kotlet schabowy is one of Poland’s most popular traditional meals, dating back to the early 19th century. It was literally on every menu I saw during my travels.

This is a tenderized, crumbed pork loin chop, fried in butter or lard. The meat might also be soaked in brine overnight to make it more tender and tasty.

It’s usually served with the ever present mashed potatoes, beets, peas, carrots, or cabbage sides.

If you enjoy schnitzel, this dish is for you. You can also find a chicken version of this if you don’t eat pork.


Gulasz (Goulash)

Image: Gulasz

Most Central and Eastern European countries have their own version of goulash – which can vary from soupy to a stew consistency. Gulasz is the traditional version from Poland.

While all families have their own version of this incredibly popular dish, the usual ingredients are beef, bell peppers, mushrooms, onions, carrots, and paprika to give it the classic goulash zing.

You’ll find gulasz served with the delicious potato pancakes we mentioned above, or simply with crusty bread on the side.


Pampuchy (Steamed Dumplings)

Image: Pampuchy

Pampuchy is a traditional Polish steamed dumpling made from a yeast-based dough, with a squishy doughnut-like texture. They’re so popular they can be bought commercially in most grocery stores in Poland in their uncooked form, ready to take home and cook.

Once they’re cooked, you can serve your pampuchy hot as a main or dessert – with either a sweet or savory sauce. Pampuchy with strawberry sauce is especially popular.


Kluski Śląskie (Silesian Dumplings)

A popular Polish food originating from the Southern regions, these are a simple dumpling with a unique shape, made from mashed potatoes, eggs, and flour. Śląskie are traditionally served with beef and gravy, meat drippings, bacon, or a side of boiled cabbage.

These dumplings are super popular, and you can find them in restaurants throughout Poland, plus you can get “heat and eat” varieties at any grocery store.


Kartacze (Potato Dumplings)

Image: Kartacze

Kartacze (aka cepeliny, or “zeppelin”) are large potato dumplings that can be around 10-20cm long – hence their namesake, the zeppelin aircraft. These dumplings are on the Ministry of Agriculture’s list of official Polish foods in Poland.

You’ll typically find these substantial dumplings served as a heart main course, filled with fried onions and ground meat, mushrooms, cheese, or sauerkraut – and serve with lardons, sauteed onions, or crispy bacon.


Karp Smażony (Fried Carp)

I tend to think of carp as large goldfish which isn’t for eating, so it surprised me to see this Polish food on a menu!

Karp Smażony is traditionally eaten once a year, on Christmas Eve. The carp is either prepared breaded, or just plain fried in the pan, and served as a main with the usual sides of potatoes or salads.

Legend has it that if you carry a scale from the carp with you after you finish this meal, you’ll have good luck for the rest of the year. Or, you might just end up with a wallet that smells vaguely like fish.


Śledź (Herring)

Image: Śledź

Śledź (herring) is a fish side dish that’s common at Polish family occasions and celebrations. It can be served in numerous different ways (such as Śledź w smietanie in sour cream), but it’s typically enjoyed as a cold appetizer or snack served in oil and accompanied by sour apples, cream, potato salad, and onions.

Herrings can be found pickled, smoked, fermented, fried, and even raw in Poland


Ryba po Grecku (Greek Style Fish)

Ryba po Grecku translates as “Greek style fish” – which, like the Brittany beans below, means its naming origins are a little cloudy. This meal is made from fried fish, and is a popular main course in Poland at Christmas time.

White fish fillets (usually perch, walleye, or tilapia) are fried until crispy and golden, then grated root vegetables such as celery roots and carrots are added, and it’s covered with a thick ,tomato-based sauce. It can be served hot or cold.


Fasolka po Bretońsku (Polish Beans & Sausage)

Fasolka po bretońsku technically translates to “Brittany beans” (a region of France). So it’s not clear why this dish carries this name when it’s definitely a traditional Polish food.

It’s essentially a comforting, familiar dish that the whole world knows and loves – baked beans. This Polish food is made from large white beans, bacon, herbs, tomato puree, and sausage – and is usually served with crusty fresh bread.

This hearty, stew like dish is popular throughout Poland, and you’ll find it on many menus as you travel.


Pyzy (Potato Dumplings)

Image: Pyzy

Pyzy ( or “pyza” for a single dumpling) are large potato dumplings that are typically served as a main course in Poland.

Unlike other Polish potato dumplings, these are made from cooked mashed potatoes and raw grated potatoes, bound by an egg and some extra potato flour to keep their rounded shape.

They’re traditionally stuffed with twarog cheese (similar to quark), meat, or mushrooms, and boiled in water until the fillings are cooked – then served with a variety of toppings such as cheese, fresh herbs, a creamy sauce, or fried bacon.

Pyzy can also be served as a side dish to complement other traditional Polish foods such as gulasz, mielony, and schabowy that are mentioned in this article.


Golonka (Pork Hock)

Image: Golonka

Golonka gotowana (as terrifying as it looks to me) is a very popular Polish food made from pork hocks (pig ankles or knuckles). It has been eaten by Polish families throughout history, as it’s a simple and affordable meal for even poor families to enjoy.

The golonka are cooked until they’re succulent and tender and the pork is flakey and ready to fall off the bone. You’ll find them on menus served with boiled potatoes, roasted vegetables, and sauerkraut or cabbage.

On some menus, you’ll find golonka as smoked hocked, but this is not as popular as the traditional method of cooking.


Zrazy (Beef Roulade)

Image: Zrazy

Dating back to the 14th century, zrazy is a roulade of beed that’s slow-cooked for several hours until tender. It used to be reserved for the rich and noble, but now most Polish people can enjoy it as a main course.

Zrazy can be stuffed with a variety of fillings before cooking, including onions, mushrooms, and the ubiquitous sauerkraut. It is most commonly found on menus served with a side of red cabbage.


Kaszanka (Blood Sausage)

Image: Kaszanka

Kaszanka is a traditional Polish version of the popular blood sausage that can be found all over the world in many forms. It’s made from pig blood which is mixed with buckwheat and seasones with salt, pepper, herbs and onions. You’ll find it’s mostly served alongside a good helping of fried onions and horseradish.

You can buy this sausage readymade anywhere in Poland. It’s a popular for events and celebrations. Just check the sausage casing first to see if it’s edible before digging in.


Kiszka Ziemniaczana (Potato Babka or Potato Sausage)

Kiszka ziemniaczana is a savoury sausage-like dish which is popular in Poland and Belarus. It’s made from grated potato, onions, eggs, pieces of bacon, and sausage. You’ll mostly find it served as a standalone dish/

These babkas are typically baked slowly in the oven, and served hot with a creamy sauce and pork or bacon. The texture can either be heavy and pudding-like, or light and flaky depending on the recipe.

In the Silesia region of Poland, kiszka is the traditional version of this potato sausage. It’s smaller and uses groats, not buckwheat, for the filling.

Fun fact: In 2016, the world’s largest potato babka was baked in Belarus – measuring an impressive 2 meters in diameter!


Tatar (Raw Minced Beef)

Image: Tatar

Tatar is a Polish food known to many other cultures as “steak tartare”. Imagine raw, ground mince, seasoned with herbs and onions – and not cooked. It will have a raw egg cracked on top for the finishing touch.

On the side, tatar is commonly served with pickles, dill, and raw onion. It’s an entree or appetizer that you’ll find locals chasing with a shot of vodka.

This meal is definitely not for everyone. And you’re probably wondering – is raw mince even safe to eat? But this Polish food has been fueling the country for a long time without much of a problem.

Tatar is totally safe to eat as long as it’s prepared by a chef that knows what they’re doing, as they will ensure that it’s handled and served safely.

However, there’s always an increased risk of gastro illnesses, and even tapeworms, when you eat raw beef – so make sure you try this Polish dish at a reputable restaurant for the best experience and good memories…instead of vague memories of your hotel toilet bowl!


Zupa Grzybowa (Wild Mushroom Soup)

Mushroom foraging is very popular with Polish families, who know the right mushrooms to pick for their Polish foods – and the ones to leave alone.

Zupa grzybowa is one of the many ways that grzyby leśne (wild mushrooms) can be used. It’s a traditional Christmas Eve soup, served with sour cream – and unlike much of Polish cuisine, it’s traditionally made without meat.

You can serve this soup with noodles, or alongside some fresh, piping hot dumplings.


Ogórki Kiszone (Pickled Cucumber)

As you will have noticed, sauerkraut and pickles have been mentioned a lot on our list of traditional Polish food already. Pickling appears to be a national pastime, and pickled cucumbers are literally everywhere you go for food in Poland. And – they’re very delicious!

Ogórki kiszone are the most common appetizers, found at family dinners, celebrations, and parties of every variety. If you go to a bar in Poland, you’re also likely to get a tiny dish of these spicy cucumbers with your drink.

Like sauerkraut, these pickled delicacies contain healthy probiotics which are great for boosting your digestive health.


Traditional Polish Soups


Soups play a big part in the Polish diet. Paired with some kopytka, mashed potatoes, or crusty bread, they’re the perfect side dish. While “borsch” is the most famous, there are many more delicious soups from Poland!

As a native Pole I can introduce you to the best soups from the region.

Most Polish soups are hearty enough to be eaten for lunch or dinner (Poles eat dinners mid-day) on their own, Polish soups are comforting, tasty, appetizing, and oh-so-scrumptious!


Jarzynowa (Vegetable Soup)

Image: Jarzynowa

Jarzynowa is a simple and popular vegetable soup made by Polish families everywhere. This soup can be made from a vegetable or meat base, and contains various fresh vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, or peas – depending what’s available to the chef. Every family has their own recipe for this.

If you’re a vegan or vegetarian travelling in Poland, check that the soup is made with a vegetable base – and it should be fine for you to eat.

This soup is either served straight, or thickened with cream to give a richer flavor and texture. It will typically be seasoned with dill and served with crusty bread as either an entree or main meal.


Zupa Ziemniaczana / Zupa Kartoflanka (Potato Soup)

You’ll come across this simple soup on menus under the names zupa ziemniaczana or zupa kartoflanka depending where you are in Poland, and what the soup ingredients are.

This is a hearty potato soup that’s enjoyed all year round. It usually has a chicken stock base, and can also have bacon, smoked meat, or cream added to it to enhance the flavor and consistency.


Chłodnik (Cold Beetroot Soup)

Image: Chlodnik

Similar to red borscht, chlodnik is a tangy beetroot soup that’s served cold. It’s a common appetizer all across Poland.

This soup is made from young beetroot that’s cubed and simmered until it’s tender, then blended up with radishes, cucumber, and any type of milk product (e.g. buttermilk, yogurt, sour cream, sour milk, or kefir). So it’s a pretty healthy choice of soup.

When you order chlodnik from a restaurant, it will usually arrive garnished with a boiled egg and seasoned with chives or dill. It’s quite a beautiful dish – look at those colors!


Krupnik (Barley Soup)

Image: Krupnik

Krupnik soup (not to be confused with Krupnik, the Polish honey liquor) is a thick, wholesome soup made from pearl barley and potatoes. It has a pork, beef, or chicken base – with bacon, cabbage, leeks, mushrooms, and other vegetables often added for flavor.

Traditional krupnik also has crispy, charred onions which are added to the soup before serving to give it a distinct flavor.

This is one of the most popular Polish soups, and can be found in vegetarian versions too.


Pomidorowa (Tomato Soup)

All countries have their own versions of tomato soup, and pomidorowa is the one you’ll find in Poland. It’s a tasty, rich soup made with a chicken or vegetable stock base, and flavored with herbs and sour cream.

Some versions of this soup also include rice or pasta to make it extra filling.


Zupa Ogorkowa (Dill Pickle Soup)

Image: Ogorkowa

Zupa ogorkowa is an interesting soup made from potatoes and pickled cucumbers. It has a gherkin-like tang and might be mild or sour depending how the cucumbers have been aged and pickled.

The base of this soup is usually meat or chicken stock, to which the grated pickles are added as it cooks. It’s typically served with a dollop of sour cream, crunchy fresh bread, and mashed potatoes.


Kapusniak (Sauerkraut Soup)

Image: Kapusniak

Didn’t think you could make a soup from sauerkraut? Think again! Kapusniak is one of the classics in the Polish food repertoire. Made from sauerkraut and vegetables (or meats) this meal is eaten widely across Poland.

The sauerkraut can also be replaced with fresh cabbage, and many recipes also include sausages for extra flavor.


Grochowka (Split Pea Soup)

Image: Grochówka

Creamy, delicious grochówka is a very popular Polish dish made from yellow or green split peas. You might also see it on the menu as “grochówka wojskowa ” (military pea soup). This is due to the fact it’s an inexpensive and nutritious meal that is associated with the army, who make this soup to fuel their troops.

The recipe for this pea soup varies widely between families and regions of Poland. But it usually contains diced potato, vegetables, smoked meat, and fresh herbs.

This soup is traditional served as a thick, main course alongside slices of rye bread.


Szczawiowa (Sorrel Soup)

Image: Szczawiowa

Szczawiowa is sorrel soup that’s made during the summer, as this is when sorrel grows in Poland. There are many variations on this recipe – from savory to sour, and clear or creamy – depending on the chef who’s in charge of making it.

You’ll find this served mostly in the traditional fashion, topped with a halved, boiled egg.


Barszcz z Uszkami (Beet Soup With Mushroom Dumplings)

This is a beetroot soup served at Christmas Eve in Poland. It’s a light, slightly sour broth and it’s one of the 12 traditional Polish Christmas dishes.

In your soup bowl, you’ll get some small, mushroom-filled dumplings called uszka which means “little ears” due to their shape. This small soup dish is an appetizer, and sets the stage for the Christmas feast to come.

It’s also one the most popular Polish foods.


Flaczki (Tripe Soup)

Image: Flaczki

Not for the faint-hearted, flaczki (aka flaki) is a soup made from tripe. Aka cow guts. It’s a traditional Polish soup that people have been enjoying since the 14th century.

This spicy dish is made beef tripe, broth, and vegetables – and flavored generously with spices and herbs including nutmeg, ginger, and pepper.

Legend had it that this soup is a fantastic hangover cure. It’s also a popular Polish wedding breakfast meal.


Żurek (Sour Rye Soup)

Image: Żurek

Żurek is a fascinating Polish food made from sour rye flour. This is a naturally fermented liquid blend of rye flour, spices, and water wish garlic, bacon, or ham added to give it the rich, savory-sour taste that it’s known for.

Although it’s traditionally eaten during Easter celebrations in Poland, this soup can be enjoyed at any time of year. If you order it at a restaurant, it will most likely be served with an egg, sausage, potatoes, and mushrooms. Sometimes it will even come served in a hollowed-out bread loaf.


Rosół (Chicken Soup)

Image: Rosół

Another global favorite, rosół is Polish version of chicken soup – and it’s one of the most common soups that you will find on a menu. It’s fast and simple to make, and usually served with noodles (either homemade or two-minute, depending how much of a hurry you’re in!). It’s the perfect winter warmer if you’re traveling in Poland during the colder months.

The ingredients are basic – water, chicken stock, leeks, celery, carrot, cabbage, onion, and seasonings. This soup might also have pork bones as a base to give the stock more flavor.


Barszcz Czerwony (Red Borscht)

Barszcz czerwony  is a classic, bright red beetroot soup, and a very popular Polish food. It contains lots of beets (obviously), plus bone or beef stock, and vegetables like potatoes, onions, carrots, and cabbage.

This soup is served piping hot, with crusty bread and a spoon of sour cream for extra tang. You might also find it on the menu with mushroom pierogi as an accompaniment.

It’s a popular soup at Christmas time, and any time during the cold, winter months.


Bialy Barszcz (White Borscht)

Bialy barszcz is another soup that’s traditionally enjoyed Easter Sunday in the morning – but it can be made and eaten all year round.

This soup is particularly symbolic to Polish Christians, with the ingredients containing items in the basket of foods that Polish families take with them to have blessed at church on the Holy Saturday before Easter Sunday.

The soup usually contains potatoes, sausage, and eggs as the main ingredients.


Traditional Polish Desserts


Knedle (Plum Dumpling)

Image: Knedle

Knedle are similar to the pyzy dumplings we mentioned earlier on. They’re made from a potato-based dough stuffed with fruit (usually plums) which make them sweet and tangy. Instead of plums, knedle can also be filled with:

  • Berries
  • Apricots
  • Pears
  • Apples

Knedle are mostly served as either dessert or a side dish with a main meal. They can be eaten as is, or served with a range of topping like:

  • Butter
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Sugar
  • Honey
  • Cinnamon
  • Nuts


Pączki (Donuts)

Image: Paczki

Pączki are the Polish version of donuts, usually made from a dense batter containing fat, sugar, eggs, yeast, and milk.

The dough mixture can be filled with many types of fruits or custard – and it’s then fried and sprinkled with sugar. They’re a bit more dense and chewy that American donuts, but every bit as delicious!


Sernik (Cheesecake)

Image: Sernik

This Polish version of cheesecake is buttery and rich. Sernik is made from the Polish farmer’s cheese known as twarog, which is a curd cheese similar to quark. It’s a little more dense than a typical baked cheesecake, but it’s creamy and very tasty.

Sernik is a popular Polish food, and is often served at family celebrations. Like any traditional dish, each family will have their own highly-guarded recipe for this cheesecake.

The cheesecake ingredients are kept fairly simple in this dish. It’s typically a light vanilla flavor, and may come with or without a crust. Additions can include cocoa, orange zest, chocolate glaze, raisins, lemon syrup, a crumb topping, or just elegantly finished with icing sugar.


Makowiec (Poppy-Seed Cake) 

One of Poland’s most popular cakes, makowiec is a yeast-based poppy seed cake, similar to strudel.

There are many variations of this cake, depending which region of Poland you’re in. If you visit Lubartów in the East of Poland, their version contains nothing but poppy seeds. But for most recipes, this cake includes poppy seeds, butter, raisins, honey, and nuts – then it’s baked, glazed and sprinkled with orange peel.

If you love cake (who doesn’t?) you absolutely have to try this when you visit Poland.

Makowiec is a traditional Polish food that’s a staple at Christmas and Easter. However, the high poppy seed content has earned it a somewhat problematic history due to its opioid qualities. If you don’t want to risk legal problems (or a very sleepy day), make sure your cake only contains food-grade poppy seeds!


Piernik (Polish Gingerbread Cake)

Image: Piernik

I will literally eat ginger in any form, but when it’s combined with cake – that’s hard to beat. Piernik is a seriously good, traditional Polish loaf cake (pierna simply means “spices”) which is usually eaten at celebrations and festive times of year, but it’s possible to find this all year round if you don’t visit Poland during these times.

This cake has been popular in Poland since the 12th century. It’s a simple and fantastic gingerbread made with flour, honey, treacle, and ginger – giving it a perfect, rich and spicy flavor.

Recipes for piernik vary from region to region, with some chefs fermenting the cake mixture for days, while others just whip up the ingredients and get baking quickly.



Kisiel (Fruit Soup)

Image: Kisiel

Kisiel in Polish refers to a variety of soups which are often sour or fermented, and sometimes thickened with….fish gelatine!

Mostly, you’ll find kisiel as a simple, sweetened fruit soup or puree which is thickened with (thankfully) basic starch. It comes in many flavors, the most popular being coffee, chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla. It can be served hot or cold, and might be topped with cream or custard.

It can be served hot or cold and is usually topped with a dollop of custard sauce or cream. 


Faworki (Angel Wings)

Image: Faworki

Faworki are crispy, sweet snacks made from pastry and dusted with icing sugar. You’ll find them in many countries in Europe, and in Poland they’re especially popular at Christmas and as part of the feasting time prior to Lent.

The name derives from their shape, which is like a ribbon or bow. They’re crunchy and light, with a very satisfying crack when you bite into them.


Sekacz (Knotted Log Cake)

Image: Sekacz

If you’re thinking this is a very complicated way to make a cake….well…it is. Sękacz is rarely made by home chefs, so you’ll most likely only find it at cake shops and special events. Despite this, it’s a very popular traditional Polish food, with a long history.

As you can see from the photo, this cake is made by rotating the cake mix on a spit in front of an open fire. It starts out as a small log, but as each layer cooks through, another layer of batter is poured on until the cake reaches its finished size. This results in a cake that looks like a tree stump with rustic “knots” on it.

This cake keeps for a long time. It was traditionally made in summer when the hens were laying and cows were milked – and then it was stored to be eaten over the dark, cold winter months when cake ingredients were hard to come by.


Traditional Polish Cheese



If you’re a cheese fanatic, you’ll be pleased to hear that Poland has plenty of traditional cheeses to try out. The two mentioned below are perhaps the most popular sheep milk cheeses. As these are made by ancient methods, the EU has granted a subsidy to Polish cheesemakers so that these traditional cheese making practices can continue for future generations.


Oscypek

This delicious sheep’s milk cheese can be eaten cold, or grilled. It has a lovely, salty tang and is often served with cranberry jam. The brand Oscypek is even trademarked in Europe to protect its heritage.


Bryndza

Image: Bryndza

Another well known Polish traditional food is bryndza cheese. It’s a sharp, crumbly, and salty sheep cheese which is almost soft enough to spread.

It’s used as a topping for toast and salads, and mixed in with eggs or other dishes to give them a flavor boost.


Traditional Polish Candies


Sliwki w Czekoladzie (Chocolate Covered Plums)

These chocolate covered plums are a popular Polish food that combines dried plums with a chocolate coating. They’re sometimes stuffed or covered with nuts, and although they’re a sweet candy, they have a delightful sour tang to them.

Variations on sliwki w czekoladzie include the prunes being soaked in brandy or rum, or adding liquer to the melted chocolate before coating the fruit.

Although these are easy to make at home, you can find them in many Polish grocery stores, as they have been commercially produced for decades due to their popularity.



Sezamki (Sesame Snaps)

Image: Sezamki

Another sweet snack that’s now mass-produced, sezamki are crispy candy wafers made from caramel with a generous helping of sesame seeds inside. You can find them in pretty much every grocery store in Poland.


Kukułki (Cuckoos)

Image: Kukułki

Kukułki (literally “cuckoos”) are a traditional hard-boiled candy with a stripe design. Their drawcard is the tantalizing filling which contains 1.5% of alcohol!

It’s safe to say everyone in Poland knows these crunchy candies which have a subtle, caramelly/cocoa flavor.


Krówki (Little Cows)

Image: Krowki

Krowki literally translates to “little cows”. These chewy, milky toffee candies typically come in wrappers tha have a picture of a cow on them – hence their nickname.

A good krowki should be harder on the outside and soft in the middle. If you love fudgy, toffee-like candy and can’t get to Poland – you can buy these treats online at Amazon.


Prince Polo

This is a brand of Polish candy made from thin layers of wafer and covered in dark chocolate. It’s a perfect light, crispy snack that’s not too sweet.

Prince Polos come in a standard flavor with a golden wrapper, but they have variations on this, including seasonal varieties. If you’re dying to see what these taste like, these wafer candies are available on Amazon.


Ptasie Mleczko (Bird’s Milk)

Ptasie mleczko is an odd name for a candy, and a slightly odd treat in itself. These sweets are oblong-shaped bars of marshmallow, covered in chocolate.

They’re available in traditional vanilla flavor, plus other popular varieties including coconut, caramel, strawberry, and chocolate.

something that could be described as a mix between a marshmallow and mousse. They’re simply rectangular-shaped pieces covered in chocolate.


Traditional Polish Beverages


If you’re wondering about Polish drinks, here’s what the locals typically drink alongside their meals.


Vodka

This alcohol needs no explanation. Poland is a well-known producer of many brands of vodka, from supermarket varieties to top-shelf, luxury brands.


Fruit Compote

This is a traditional non-alcoholic drink made from dried fruit, which is typically served at Christmas Eve celebrations. Many Polish people drink it all year round for its refreshing qualities and rich, fruity flavor.


Cider

Did you know that Poland produced the most apples in Europe? As a nation that grows over 3 million tonnes of apples a year, it makes sense that cider is also a popular drink for a daily refreshment, and as part of many Polish events and celebrations.


Unusual Polish Foods


Like most countries, traditional Polish foods have a rich tapestry of meals – some of which are downright unusual and strange.

Most of the younger Polish people I talked to on my travels won’t go near most of these foods, so I guess times are changing – but regardless, these remain popular meals and side dishes for many Polish people.



Czernina (Duck Soup)

Image: Czernina

Czernina (duck soup) is a thick soup made from clear chicken broth, and…ducks blood. It can also be made from chicken, rabbit, or pig blood.

Due to the ingredients, it’s becoming less of a popular soup today, and I never saw this on a menu during my travels in Poland.


Smalec (Lard Spread)

Image: Smalec

Smalec is something I came across at a restaurant in Wroclaw. It was part of the table setting and I had no idea what it was, except that it smelt bad enough to leave it alone!

This is a lard spread made from animal fat, and often contains chunks of fried lard. It’s used as a spread with chunky bread and often accompanies beer or vodka as a free starter at traditional Polish eateries.

Many families consider smalec a staple household item, melting their own pig fat in a pan with onions and bacon, and then setting it aside until it’s cold and spreadable.

Much like Mexican restaurants uses asiento (pork lard) to prepare tacos and quesadillas, many Polish restaurants use smalec to cook vegetarian food like pierogi and dumplings – so if you’re a vegan or vegetarian, always make sure to check if your food is bez smalec (without lard).



Nóżki w Galarecie (Pork Aspic)

Translated to English, nóżki w galarecie means “little feet”. You know where I’m going with this.

This is a dish made from jellied cow or pig feet. These are cooked in gelatin with a selection of herbs, and vegetables like peas or carrots. You’ll usually eat these as a main meal, with a side of horseradish.


Zsiadle Mleko (Polish Kefir)

Zsiadle mleko is essentially what we know in the west as the trending health food “kefir”. It’s made from fermented cow’s milk and has a sour, tangy taste. Unlike kefir which requires a bacterial additive to start, you can make this Polish milk drink by simply leaving fresh cow milk out to split and sour.

This drink has been part of Polish cuisine for 2,000 years, with its origins being based in Turkey.


How To Cook Traditional Polish Foods


If some of these Polish foods look so good that you want to try to make them at home, these are some of the best selling Polish cookbooks to track down.

We especially recommend the first book below, Polish Cookery : Poland’s Bestselling Cookbook – as the recipes have been specifically adapted for the American kitchen.



Conclusion – Traditional Polish Foods


Due to Poland being a central European country, it has been a trading hub for neighboring countries centuries, which has deeply influenced its culture and national dishes.

As you will have read in this article, elements of Greek, Russian, French, German, and Hungarian food have all been adopted into Polish food traditions and given their own unique twist.

Rich soups, pickles, spiced cakes, and a variety of delicious dumplings await you when you arrive in Poland. Don’t be afraid to try some new and unique dishes on your travels.

If you’re traveling in winter, you’ll find that Polish food is some of the best comfort food out there. It’s made with good, wholesome ingredients that are locally sourced, and most of these traditional foods are beloved national dishes.


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