You might be thinking that Polish food is all dry and boring meat and potatoes. But Poland is one of the most interesting and exciting countries I’ve ever been to, and I was truly blown away by the culinary scene. Go to any major city like Krakow, Warsaw, Gdansk, or Wroclaw, and you’ll easily find these incredible dishes and snacks. Here’s a shortlist of some of my faves, although there are many more you can find.
Probably the most famous dish in Poland is pierogi. These delicious dumplings come with a variety of fillings, although the most common is Pierogi Ruskie, which are filled with potatoes and cheese. They are usually steamed or sometimes fried and served with caramelized onions and a generous dollop of sour cream to dip them in. During the summer months, Polish people enjoy more sweet fillings such as berries and cottage cheese.
Okay, so yes, this is a potato dish, but it’s so good. In Polish, it’s called plac ziemnacze and ziemnacze, and you’ll find them at any milk bar or bar mleczka. The potato pancakes are cheap but very filling and come with sour cream or covered in delicious goulash or meat stew.
Kielbasa simply translates as sausage in English, but Polish kielbasa is a very particular, quality type of sausage. There are many different varieties, from smoked to Cumberland kielbasa, and the city square markets held at Easter and Christmas will have kielbasa aplenty. Eat with a simple dollop of mustard for a mid-day snack.
There’s nothing like a wintry soup, and there are too many to name in Poland. Zurek is one of my favorites and is a meal in itself. Translated to sour rye soup, it’s a delicious and savory soup with pieces of boiled egg and kielbasa inside. You can also get it served inside a bread bowl, which is certainly something that puts me in a small food coma for a couple of hours.
Golabki is also the word for pigeon, which, for some reason, are beloved in Poland. These cabbage rolls are supposed to resemble pigeons, but don’t let the name put you off. The meat-filled cabbage rolls are usually served in mushroom sauce or sometimes tomato sauce, and you can also get veggie versions.
At the end of most nights, after several drinks, almost everyone heads to get a zapiekanka. It’s sort of like a cross between a pizza and a baguette, and you can add virtually any toppings you want. The standard zapiekanka toppings are cheese and mushrooms. From there, you can add slices of meat, olives, peppers, cheese, and more, with dozens of varieties to choose from. It’s a good and tasty way to soak up all that alcohol, or just for a grab and go meal.
Not a common one, but one I found incredibly tasty. Makowiez is a sweet roll cake filled with poppyseed paste that makes for a surprisingly sweet treat. You’ll only find it at Easter and Christmas, so get it while you can! If you’re not such a fan of super sweet things, this may be right up your street, as there is a nice balance of sweet and savory.
My last one is a sweet one. In Poland, people celebrate Fat Thursday before Easter, which involves eating lots and lots of donuts. Don’t be surprised to find long lines at each bakery and donut place on this day, and a common favorite has a rose jam filling, although it’s not really my taste. From plain and sugary to glazed, chocolate-filled, cream-filled, and more, this is a holiday I can definitely get behind!
I hope this list is a helpful guide for your next trip to Poland or even gives you the inspiration to go! I was seriously blown away by its cuisine, and whatever your tastes, you’ll find something to enjoy.