What comes to mind when we talk about Polish food? Pierogi is one of the most famous examples, but that’s just scratching the surface. There are plenty of other Polish dishes that you have probably never heard of. Some of these may seem tame and somewhat familiar, while others might seem strange indeed.
It’s also worth mentioning that Polish food can be misleading, especially if you’re in the United States. You’ll sometimes see foods promoted as being Polish (like Polish cheese) when you’re just looking at food that’s been made in Poland and isn’t traditionally Polish at all.
So, in this list, we’re defining Polish foods as foods that come from Poland or have a long history in the country. There’s plenty of types to choose from. You should be able to find some new favorites with ease.
If you want more ideas about world foods, check out our other lists. We’ve highlighted a variety of other cultural foods, including dishes from Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and Russia.
Table of Contents
Delicious Polish Foods
- Placki Ziemniaczane
- Polish Sausages
- Ryz z Jablkami
- Kotlet Schabowy
- Kotlet Mielony
- Kluski Slaskie
Let’s get the most obvious one out of the way first. Pierogi consists of thinly rolled out dough that has been stuffed with various fillings. In other words, they’re basically stuffed dumplings.
The treat is popular enough that you can find it in many countries, including the United States. It’s easy to see why too, as pierogi are delicious.
Sweet fillings include fruit and sweet cottage cheese.
Savory versions are popular too and feature ingredients like spinach, sauerkraut, potatoes and fried onions, or meat.
Pierogi can be cooked by boiling, baking, or frying them. Boiling is the traditional approach in Poland and you’d often eat the pierogi topped with butter and onions.
On a side note, many people talk about eating pierogis, but that phrasing isn’t correct. The word pierogi is already a plural. You should be saying pierog for a single piece and pierogi for multiple.
Leniwe is sometimes called ‘lazy man’s pierogi’, as the snack follows a similar style to pierogi, but is much easier to make. In particular, leniwe uses a type of dry curd cheese in the dough itself. The dumplings are then left unfilled when they’re rolled out. This style is simpler than dealing with pastry and a filling.
You’ll often see leniwe served as a side dish, perhaps with small pieces of bacon or sour cream.
Placki ziemniaczane are simply potato pancakes. Not surprisingly, they’re a type of comfort food that you’ll see eaten throughout Poland.
Recipes vary, but each version starts out with a base of potatoes, grated onions, flour, and eggs. The ingredients are mixed together and then formed into flat pancakes that can be grilled.
Herbs and spices help to give the potato pancakes are more interesting flavor. They’ll often be served with sour cream, apple sauce, or some other type of sauce.
One variation is to use mashed potatoes instead of grated potatoes. This changes the texture of the pancakes and can make them even more enjoyable.
If you live in the United States, or somewhere similar, you’ve probably seen Polish sausage in your local store or perhaps at a market. This type of sausage is delicious and uses an interesting combination of ingredients, such as marjoram and garlic.
While this type of Polish sausage is popular, it often isn’t authentic.
Real Polish sausage sometimes goes by the name kielbasa, although this is simply a Polish word for sausage, rather than a specific type.
If you want to get more specific, then kiszka is a good type of sausage to look out for. It relies on multiple types of meat and also contains potatoes or some type of grain.
You can also find kaszanka. This type of sausage might seem unexpected, as it includes ingredients like pork offal, pig’s blood, and buckwheat as key ingredients. However, the ingredients aren’t so unusual for recipes from eastern or central Europe. They can also taste much better than you expect.
Then there’s krakowska, which uses pepper and garlic as the main seasoning ingredients, along with kabanosy, which is thin, dry, and relies on caraway seeds.
This soup might look familiar, as many countries have something similar. The Polish version is made by fermenting rye and then cooking it with either ham, bacon, or sausage as the main type of protein.
You’ll often see other ingredients too, like various vegetables and perhaps a hard boiled egg. Potatoes heavily feature as well.
The use of fermentation suggests that this should be a sour soup. That’s not really the case. Instead, you end up with a garlic-rich soup that’s more smoky and savory than it is sour.
Not surprisingly, there are plenty of ways to vary the recipe. Most Polish families have their own version and restaurants champion distinct recipes too.
If you’re ordering zurke at a restaurant, then you might find it served in an edible bread bowl. The bread complements the soup nicely and is a fun change from a traditional bowl.
Looking for a soup that stands out? Barszcz might do the trick. It’s a beetroot soup, so it has a rich red color that you don’t find very often.
Other ingredients may be included too, like potatoes and vegetables, a small pierogi, or a croquette. You might even be served barszcz in a mug, giving you the chance to drink the soup.
Another version is barszcz z uszkami. This includes minced meat dumplings. Those dumplings don’t just look appealing. They also help to make the soup more filling.
Speaking of beets, chlodnik is a second soup that you might want to try. This one is similar to borscht and tends to be served cold. Key ingredients include the beets, dill, and cucumbers.
The color can range from vibrant red to pink, depending on the amount of milk that is used.
The word golabki translates to little pigeons, but the dish doesn’t rely on pigeon meat. Instead, golabki are cabbage rolls.
The interior of the rolls is meat-based, often relying on minced meat, along with mushrooms and onions. The meat is then wrapped in a white cabbage leaf and stewed. A tomato or mushroom sauce is poured over the cabbage rolls before serving them, which provides an excellent flavor.
Not surprisingly, this meal is a hearty one. It’s perfect when you need something filling to keep you going.
Paczki are similar to the donuts that we all know and love, except that this version doesn’t have a hole. Paczki do, however, often contain some type of filling, like vanilla pudding, jam, or chocolate.
Like donuts, paczki are deep fried. This is partly what makes them so delicious. You’ll normally find them iced, coated in powdered sugar, or topped with sprinkles – just to make the treat even more delicious.
If you love fermented food, then bigos might be just the thing. The name is sometimes translated as hunter’s stew, which sums up the hearty nature of the dish.
While the ingredients can vary depending on who is making the stew, you’re often looking at sauerkraut, fresh cabbage, and chopped meat. Other vegetables might be included as well, with each type helping to broaden the flavor profile.
As for the sauerkraut, long curing times are the key. The flavor tends to get better as the curing time lengthens.
The dish is a flexible one. You can make it in a variety of ways and even use leftover meat as one of the ingredients. Another bonus is that bigos can be prepped in large batches. This makes it the perfect meal for feeding a crowd.
Flaki is beef tripe soup. This might not sound all that appealing, but flaki is an important dish in Polish culture, even today.
Thin strips of beef tripe are one of the main ingredients in the soup. Aromatic herbs and vegetables feature too. These help to broaden the flavor profile and make sure that the soup actually tastes good.
As with most soups, the recipe varies depending on where you are in the country and who is preparing it. Don’t worry though. The soup will end up tasting delicious no matter what.
Cheese is always delicious and Poland has a few interesting traditional types of cheese to boast about. One is known as oscypek and is a sheep’s milk cheese.
The cheese is highly traditional and can only be made in the Tatra mountains of Poland. Despite this limited production area, oscypek smoked cheese can be found throughout Poland. That’s a strong indication of how delectable it is.
Oscypek is often used as an ingredient in meals. It can also be eaten as-is or grilled.
While you’re at it, take a look at bryndza too. This is a similar type of cheese that is made in the same part of the country.
Ryz z Jablkami
This dish might sound pretty unusual – as it’s a dessert that relies on rice and apples. But, sweet rice dishes for dessert aren’t as uncommon as you might think.
This particular version is a baked dessert that relies on cinnamon and sugar. The ingredient combination provides you with amazing autumn flavors (although you could easily eat the dish in the spring or summer too).
This dish is a typical Polish choice, one that you’ll find served at countless restaurants throughout the country. You’re basically getting a pork cutlet in a breadcrumb-like coating.
Not surprisingly, kotlet schabowy is very similar to schnitzel. The main difference is simply the type of meat that’s used. Kotlet schabowy is also an inexpensive and filling meal, so it’s perfect if you need something satisfying in a hurry.
Like schnitzel, kotlet schabowl generally isn’t served on its own. You’ll often see it dished up with warmed beets and some boiled potatoes.
Don’t get too hung up on the name. While the full name for this dish is kotlet schabowy, most people just call it schabowy instead.
While this dish uses a similar coating to schabowy, the meat of choice is different. This time, you have a flat meatball that’s been pan-fried and coated in breadcrumbs.
Once again, other foods are normally served with kotlet mielony. Boiled potatoes are a common choice or perhaps a type of cold salad.
These little dumplings are sometimes called Silesian dumplings. They’re an easy-to-prepare addition to a meal, as they are simply made using a combination of flour, mashed potatoes, and eggs.
The little dumplings are round with an indentation in the middle. The style looks a little similar to thumbprint cookies, although of course, the dumplings don’t taste like cookies at all.
While the dumplings don’t have a large amount of flavor on their own, they’re perfect as a side to a rich dish, particularly stews or anything gravy-based.
Kopytka is a similar dish. That name means little hooves, which is a reference to the shape of the dumplings. In fact, the shape is the only thing that distinguishes kluski slaskie and kopytka from each other.
Dessert lovers shouldn’t ever pass up on kolaczki. This sweet treat is a type of folded cookie that often has a fruit filling. The filling might sometimes be substituted for a sweet cheese filling instead. Either way, the cookies are topped with a little powdered sugar, which provides just the right amount of extra sweetness.
Like many desserts, kolaczki is best if you eat it fresh. The cookies aren’t difficult to make, so you could easily bake them yourself. If you live in Poland or an area with plenty of Polish people, you might be able to find the cookies at your local grocery store.
This dish is sometimes called mazurka and sometimes mazurek instead. Either way, the name is slightly confusing, as it can also reference a folk dance, a person from Mazur, or even a sparrow. In this case, we’re talking about a flat cake.
The ingredients for mazuerk are similar to kolaczki. One difference is that mazuerk often contains multiple types of jam, while kolaczki tends to just use one type.
Some soups stand out – and czernina is certainly one of these. The soup has a sweet and sour flavor profile, which isn’t too surprising, as it includes sugar and vinegar as ingredients. A more unexpected addition is duck blood. This influences both the flavor and the color of the soup.
Czernina has some interesting history in Poland. The soup was once used as a way for a potential bride’s family to accept or rejected a proposing gentleman. If the man was served golden-colored czernina, then the answer was yes. If the soup was black instead, then the answer was no.
Czernina hasn’t been used in that way for a few centuries now, so there’s no need to stress about the color of your soup.
Gulasz should look familiar, as it’s basically Poland’s answer to the goulash. Many Central European countries have a similar dish, although there’s plenty of variation from one country to the next.
In the case of Poland, the stew is a hearty dish that’s full of meat and vegetables, seasoned with a variety of spices. Paprika is one of the most notable spices, although there are many others too.
The most standout feature of the Polish version is that it relies on pork as the main meat, rather than beef. The dish tends to be served with some type of potato pancake or perhaps a kasha, which is a type of porridge made from buckwheat.
Zrazy is a type of meat roulade. The classic version relies on thin slices of beef that are wrapped over a stuffing, which might consist of vegetables, mushrooms, potatoes, or something else.
There’s almost infinite variation in the types of fillings that are used, with new ones always being developed. While the dish itself was once served to nobility, these days it is something that anyone can enjoy. You’ll often see it in restaurants as a main dish. It’s a fantastic choice too, as you end up with a filling meal.