Settled in the Central part of Europe, Poland is a country that’s been influenced by numerous cultures, and therefore cuisines, for centuries.
Polish cuisine reveals the cultural impact from its neighboring countries so a variety of dishes may speak Russian, German, Austrian, Czech but also Italian and French in one bite.
The national cuisine of Poland is rich and versatile and the typical ingredients one may encounter are pickled cabbage (sauerkraut), beetroot, cucumbers, sour cream, mushrooms, smoked meat, and sausages as well as aromatic spices and herbs such as dill, caraway seeds, paprika, and parsley.
The culinary specialties of Polish cuisine include different kinds of meat, pastries, and soups which are usually served as a starter as in most of the Slavic traditional cuisines.
The most popular desserts are types of cakes and shortcakes much loved by the Polish which are commonly served after a generous lunch, followed by a shot of vodka as a convenient digestif.
Here is a list of 20 Polish foods you need to try to experience these delicious nuances of taste and enjoyment:
1. Placki Ziemniaczane
This soft, delicious dish is also known by the name of placki kartoflane, meaning potato pancakes.
Placki Ziemniaczane are among the most popular traditional Polish dishes, originating from the Mazovia region of Poland .
These potato pancakes are usually eaten on Fridays as their nutritional value is high enough to replace meat for Catholics during the Lenten periods.
The features of this recipe can vary and you may find this dish in both sweet and savory variants. The basis for the batter includes grated potatoes, flour, salt, water, and eggs.
The sweet version is usually sprinkled with powdered sugar or it includes sour cream and applesauce. If you opt for something salty, then you may add chopped bacon, garlic, onion, zucchini, or any vegetable according to preference before frying.
2. Rolada z Modra Kapusta
The birthplace of this dish is the Silesian Voivodeship region where most of the restaurants serve this traditional polish beef roulade.
Following the basic principles of Polish cuisine, the Rolada z Modra kapusta includes a side dish of red-cooked cabbage and Polish potato dumplings as well as pickled cucumbers and onions, sausages and mustard that is the filling of the roulade.
The red cabbage is fried and then sprinkled with vinegar, pepper, and salt while the potato dumplings are made of flour, boiled mashed potatoes, and eggs.
This dish is mainly served as a main course, topped with cooking sauce and sprinkled with fresh dill.
Polish food offers numberless dishes made with potato and Karatcze potato dumplings are just one among the many.
These dumplings are usually filled with minced meat and fried, diced onions though you may also find versions with cheese or mushrooms.
Karatze originates from the northeast of Poland and it is usually served as a main course.
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Bundz is a sheep cheese produced in the Polish mountains. Its texture resembles cottage cheese and although it’s made of sheep’s milk the body of flavors holds a mild, delightful tang.
During the production of this cheese whey is collected and later used for the making of a beverage that is quite popular in traditional Polish cuisine- Zetcya, a sour fermented drink favored for its high levels of milk protein.
5. Salatka Warzywna
This salad is made of a combination of diced and cooked variety of vegetables including celery, carrots, potatoes with added peas, and pickles, all together mixed with mayonnaise.
Salarka Warzywna is usually served during wintertime festive occasions alongside meat or pastries and it is an a-must dish at the Christmas table.
Marcinek is a mouthwatering dessert that originates from the Podlaskie region. It is made of thin layers of dough covered with cream, one on top of the other.
The pastry is made of flour, water, butter, sugar, and eggs while the cream is a simple yet perfect blend of sour cream (smetana), sugar, whipped cream, lemon zest, and vanilla extract.
The Marcinek usually contains about 20 dough layers that have to be baked separately and as this preparation takes a bit more time, the cake is usually made for special occasions.
Kwasnica is a soup made of sauerkraut and chopped smoked meat, perfect after a harsh winter day or a strong hangover.
This soup comes from the town of Zywiec and it belongs to the much-favored typical Polish dishes in the mountainous region of the country.
Traditionally, this dish is served as a main course with potatoes or a slice of fresh sourdough bread on the side.
The cake Sekacz is also known a Shakotish and it is quite popular in both Poland and Lithuania.
Sekacz is made of milk, sugar, eggs, and flour turned into a thick batter that is poured in numberless cake layers that are instantly baked either in the oven or at an open fire over a rotating pan.
Depending on the occasion, Sekcz can be served as a regular dessert with a cup of coffee or tea or decorated for special celebrations.
This is a traditional milky- herbal spread made of yogurt, milk, cottage cheese, chives, and dill. Some versions include diced fresh onions or hard-boiled eggs.
Gzik can be used as a dip with a variety of vegetables, added on top of baked or boiled potatoes, or as a spread for sandwiches and savory pastries.
10. Zupa Borowikowa
This soup is a creamy indulgence full of mushrooms or more specifically, Borowik mushroom which is delicious and high in protein.
Zupa Borowikowa is often prepared with noodles though its classic version includes celery, carrots, and some diced potatoes.
In general, this soup is branded as a typical Polish food that has great popularity during festive periods but it is also commercially made and purchased in supermarkets as instant-soup.
11. Babka Ziemniaczana
This famous Polish food preparation is often associated with the basic potato casserole that is among the most favored comfort foods worldwide.
Babka Ziemniaczana consists of grated potatoes and eggs which are baked in the oven until golden and crispy.
Some versions of this simple yet delicious dish include fried onions or bacon according to preference and it is usually served either as a main dish or as a snack.
Makowiec is a Polish Poppy Seed Roll and one of the most popular foods of Poland.
This strudel- like pastry is curled with a generous filling of poppy seeds, sugar or honey, butter, raisins, and walnuts. Makowiec is incredibly tasty and its foodie fans would all agree that the more filling it contains, the greater the pleasure.
In the area of Lubartow, eastern Poland, this cake is prepared with nothing more than a poppy seed-only filling inside a thin, twisted layer of dough. The initial preparation of the Makowiec recipe is linked to the old Slavic belief that poppy seeds are plants that symbolize the link between life and death but also to a legend in Christian times about the sprouting of poppies from the blood-drenched ground on which Jesus was crucified.
There’s hardly any feast table during Christmas or Easter without Makowiec , however, it is also regularly served as a coffee/ tea dessert or even as a breakfast food with a cup of a hot drink.
13. Kotlet Schabowy
Kotlet Schabowy is a famous element of Polish food and it is always served in its traditional form. This schnitzel-like dish is a pork cutlet coated with breadcrumbs and then fried on pork lard.
Historical records point out that this meat preparation originated in the 19th century as a variation of the Austrian Wiener Schnitzel but it took some time before its significance was more widely recognized. Kotlet schabowy’s glory days began when it was celebrated by the communist leadership in Poland but then neglected by the elite after the fall of communism.
Kotlet Schabowy is commonly served as a main dish with potatoes and fried cabbage or sauerkraut on the side.
Golabki are Polish cabbage rolls stuffed with ground beef and ground pork, chopped onions as well as some rice or barley.
The name of this dish is actually a diminutive of the word “golab” meaning “pigeon” referring to the shape of the rolls. Golabki are also quite popular in Russia but alike versions are being made and often consumed in the rest of the Central European countries.
Polish Americans especially enjoy Golabki during family reunions and it is worth mentioning that the Anglicized forms of their name can be also encountered as “stuffed cabbage”, “cabbage casserole” or “cabbage casserole”.
This dish is usually served in the winter season, especially during the Christmas holidays and other celebrations such as weddings or family festivities.
If you’re up for some tasty yet guilt-full fast food try Zapiekanka. Polish Zapiekanka is a traditional snack and a very popular street food in Poland.
The recipe for this dish is quite simple yet yummy- a grilled lengthwise-cut white baguette topped with a variety of ingredients such as cheese. sauteed mushrooms, bacon, sausages, and a final layer of grated hard cheese.
This is the modern version of Zapiekanka yet its origins date back to the 1970s when it was made with only mushrooms and cheese since finding versatile food ingredients were usually put under question during the communist era in Poland.
Zapiekanka is served hot, drizzled with tomato ketchup, or some hot tomato sauce on the top. It is a much-favored snack food after a long night partying.
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Szarlotka is a Polish apple pie that is quite different than the usual apple pie as it is less sweet but also has a rather crumbly buttery crust and a different apple filling.
The recipe of this delicious dessert includes a tasty shortcrust made of flour, butter, and yolks. The crust is then filled with apple shreds sprinkled with sugar and topped with an additional layer of crust. Some versions include custard or meringue though this is optional.
Different versions of Szarlotka also include nuts, dried fruit, crumble on the top and some pastry chefs prefer sliced or grated apples.
Szarlotka is an everyday dessert that you may find in any bakery around Poland and it is often served in restaurants as well.
Polish Mizeria salad is an ultimately plain and simple dish yet one of the most popular salads in Poland.
Salad Mizeria contains sliced cucumbers, sour cream, salt, and some dill. Some versions include radishes though the original version is based solely on cucumbers.
The origin of the name of this dish is quite an amusing story as “mizeria” means misery in Polish.
According to a legend, this dish was the favorite salad of and Italian princess married to King Sigismund I of Poland in the 16th century. The princess felt homesick each time she had this dish so the court chef named it “mizeria” due to her sad longing.
18. Cebularz lubelski
Cebular lubelzki is a flatbread that is highly nutritious as it is made with a generous amount of butter and high-quality wheat dough.
The topping of this dish is made of diced sauteed onions, salt, and a sprinkle of poppy seeds. The flatbread is then baked until gold and with a delightful onion fragrance.
Cebularz lubelski dates back to the 19th century when it was made by Jews who lived in the area of Lublin Voivodeship in Poland.
Krowki is the name for the popular Polish Cream Fudge similar to the well-known Dulce de Leche,
The name of this Polish treat means “little cows” . Krowki have a soft center alike pralines through their yummy milky texture contains sugar, butter, milk, cream, and vanilla extract.
Reportedly, Krowki was initially produced in Poznan, at the beginning of the 20th century by the Polish confectioner Feliks Pomorsky who wrapped the candies in paper with a picture of a cow.
Pierniczki are Polish gingerbread cookies. Their history leads us to the city of Torun in Poland where they were invented and hold their popularity since the Middle Ages when they were baked in carved wooden molds.
The ingredients of Pierniczki are just like for the basic recipe of any gingerbread cookies- sugar, flour, eggs, honey, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon.
Pierniczki is usually cut and sold in the shapes of hearts, St.Nicholas, reindeer, stars, and chocolate- glazed variants can be also found at Christmas markets.