Visiting a foreign country can be a confusing and frustrating experience at times, and it's often difficult to separate yourself from the crowd of tourists that, let's face it, if you weren't in the same boat as, you'd be shaking your head at. Like Robin to Batman, Local Life Warsaw has taken it upon itself to come to your aid so you can, as the informed traveller, rise above your tourist peers and order your grub like a real native. We can't help you with the pronunciation but we can help you to know what you're talking about.
Before we get started with our background to Polish food, it is worth mentioning that recently local cooks in Poland have started offering home meals and cooking lessons and these provide a great opportunity to eat real Polish food and chat with local hosts at their homes. The Eataway home cooking movement is expanding across Poland, having started in Krakow, where you can also read a review about it on the Krakow Post website.
For years, Polish cuisine was derided for its lack of invention, but things are changing as you'll have seen by the incredibly varied array of Warsaw restaurants in our eat section. As for Polish dishes, you can't beat the classics and we love them so much we've gone to the trouble of producing a quick guide to the dishes you're most likely to come across.
Pierogi - Often the first stop on the journey through Polish cuisine and the first thing you'll recognise on the menu. Many restaurants will translate this as filled dumplings or ravioli but neither term really does the Pierog justice. Though almost every Eastern European lays their claim to being the inventor of Pierogi, we don't recommend you use this as a case of discussion after you've had a few vodkas - it's an argument you're unlikely to win. Pierogi are crescent-shaped parcels filled with any one of a number of tasty fillings. They can be crispy (smazone) or boiled (gotowane) doubling your number of choices. Here's a quick rundown of the ones you're most likely to see.â¦
Ruskie (Russian) - The most popular and well-known, these are filled with potato and cheese and are an excellent place to start for the cautious.
Z Miesem (With meat) - Normally filled with beef or pork and tastiest when crispy. Often served with a cranberry sauce, this is the pierogi of choice for meat-lovers. Check first though as sometimes the meat is mixed with cabbage (kapusta), a big no-no for those that love their meat pure.
Z Kapusta (Cabbage) - Spend a couple of days in Poland and you'll soon see that, rain or shine, summer or winter, the Poles are mad about their cabbage; and so a trip won't be complete without sampling the number one ingredient with the number one dish.
Z Grzybami (Mushroom) - Often combined with cabbage, mushroom pierogi reflect the Poles' love for the mushroom, second only to cabbage on the list of field-grown favourites.
Leniwe (Lazy) - No filling whatsoever, hence the name. These are great for those looking for some no-frills, cheap as chips stodge.
Z Serem (cheese) - Unlike Ruskie, these are filled with a slightly sweet cottage cheese and raisins. Cover with a dollop of sweet cream and you've got an excellent choice for desert. Probably not to be preceded by Ruskie unless you're seeking cheese overload though.
Z Owocami (fruit) - Depending on the season this can be apple or a combination of the forest berries cultivated in Poland. Normally served with cream and excellent for those summer days when the hot stuff proves a little too much or during the winter when you're struggling to get your five-a-day.
Z Truskawkami (Strawberry) - Best in summer when the strawberries are likely to be fresh not frozen and served with a dash of cream and maybe a little coulee. Like Poland's answer to strawberries and cream.
Z Borowkami (Blueberry) - Perfect for giving your teeth that highly desirable blue rinse, blueberry pierogi like the strawberry variety are a big summer hit when the berry-mad Poles harvest both the wild and 'American' varieties.
Bigos - A traditional stew native to Poles and Lithuanians, bigos is considered to be Poland's true national dish and its composition can vary from region to region, village to village and restaurant to restaurant. This hunter's stew is a staple of every Polish family so be sure to sample it during your stay. Fresh or fermented cabbage forms the base of the meal to which either whole or pureed tomato is added alongside cuts of meat mainly, but not exclusively kielbasa or pork and finished off with honey and mushrooms. The dish is traditionally accompanied with rye bread or potatoes and is typically served on the second day of Christmas. Its high concentration of vitamin C, the ready availability of cabbage and general heartiness made it a classic and nutritionally fundamental dish during centuries and centuries of cold winters. Wash it down with shots of ice-cold vodka for the authentic experience.
Barszcz (or Borscht) - Drink it hot in the winter and cold in the summer but either way, make sure you don't miss one of Eastern Europe's most-popular starters. Again, Ukrainians, Russians and Poles would undoubtedly argue over the soup's origins until the early hours (over some vodkas no doubt). Hot barszcz is generally more popular among Poles and is based principally on beetroot and meat stock. Various other vegetables, including tomato and garlic can be included and the soup can vary in consistency, either served in a cup to warm the stomach for the arrival of pierogi or as a thicker stew to be accompanied by just bread or uszka (literally "ears"), a mini version of pierogi with meat served in the barszcz itself.
Kasza - This buckwheat cereal serves as an equally hearty alternative to rice in Poland. Served on its own or with lard and onions, (gryczana ze skwarkami) this is either a super-cheap meal on its own or an easy accompaniment to meat dishes. Sometimes found as a filling in pierogi.
Rosol z kury (clear chicken broth) - Sometimes served with noodles (z makaronem), this is something that appears less and less on Polish menus these days but, if come across, should definitely be lapped up. A starter for the famished or full meal for the less ambitious, few foods have the potential to warm the stomach quite like Rosol.
Zurek - Imagine the goodness of Rosol with essentially all the elements of a full meal thrown into the mix. Sound good? Barszcz's origins are disputed and the truth may never become clear, but nobody can deny the heritage of Zurek as Poland's own. Though the recipe is open to improvisation and the discretion of the chef, a typical bowl of Zurek will include at least one boiled egg which appears to have been comically or mistakenly thrown in randomly and a healthy dose of white kielbasa. Regional variants might also include carrots and potatoes. If you've decided on Zurek as a starter be very very careful about how much you order as a main course. Eyes bigger than stomach anyone? Or, as they say here in Poland, jesc oczami (to eat with the eyes)!
Zupa Grzybowa (Mushroom soup) - While mushroom soup in most countries wouldn't exactly set the pulse racing, keep an eye out for this soup when served w bulce (in loaf) and, should you follow through with an order, you won't be sorry. A small cottage style bun cum loaf of bread is hollowed out and used as a soup vessel. Break off bits from the side as you progress or scrape out the soggy bread from the inside, this soup, as with the above soups is hearty and filling enough to comprise a full meal. While it might be a bit heavy for the summer months, you'll certainly be pleased it's on hand during winter.
Chlodnik - The Polish version of gazpacho, a cool, refreshing soup for the summer months, this chilly concoction combines soured milk, beetroot leaves, young beetroots, cucumber and chopped fresh dill. For those days when a piping hot cup of barszcz just doesn't tickle your fancy.
Flaki - In a word - tripe. Of the pork of beef variety, let's face itâ¦ If it's not for you, you'll hardly be convinced by the smattering of seasonings and spices. Not something to order if you're looking to impress the vegetarian other half.
Smalec - Polish peasant classic and a reminder for some of hard times and scarcity, a plate of lard ready with dipping bread is still a common sight in traditional Polish eateries of all budgets. Great for winter, not so good if you've still got ideas of a summer six-pack.
Placki Ziemniaczane (Potato Pancakes) - Again, whether these are of Hungarian, Czech, Polish or Jewish origin is unclear, the most important thing is that these are pretty darn good. Think of them as the Polish version of American hash browns, but classier. Take them as they come or try with melted oscypek or, if you're looking for a tip, a favourite of ours is with Goulash (z Gulaszem) otherwise known as po Wegiersku (Hungarian style).
Golonka - A real treat for meat lovers, Golonka is normally sold by weight, so be aware that the price you see per 100g is likely to be multiplied by five or six. Though not the leanest of cuts, once you get to the good stuff it will certainly have been worth the effort. Just think of the words 'melt in the mouth' and you'll have a good idea. Highly recommended by this salivating scribe is Golonka cooked and served in beer and honey sauce. Truly lipsmacking stuff.
Golabki - Cabbage is back on the scene here as leaves of the white variety are used to envelope a delightfully tasty mix of spiced beef and/or pork, tomato sauce and rice. Legend has it that King Kazimierz IV fed his army Golabki prior to the battle of Malbork against the Teutonic Order in 1465. Victory was credited to the high nutritional value and strength-boosting qualities of Golabki. Hell, if its good enough for the king's menâ¦
Nalesniki - Pancakes to you and I, and though it's highly doubtful the Poles could pass these off as their own, there is no doubt the Poles have taken to them as much as any country. Similar to the European crepe variety rather than the American hotcake, you're likely to find these on most menus either with sweet or savoury filling. Not the most Polish thing you'll find on the menu but you can't beat them with blueberries.
Kluski (Dumplings) - Normally referred to as Kluski Slaskie (Silesian Dumplings) these are a great winter accompaniment to soups or meat dishes. Though basic in form, there can be no denying the tastiness of nice heavy stodge on a 20 degrees below zero day.
Oscypek - Originating from the Zakopane mountain region, this tough smoked cheese is an excellent addition to any grill/barbecue menu and no visit to Poland would be complete without at least a token sample. Though available both smoked and unsmoked and in a variety of different shapes and forms, smoked is definitely the most popular and its strong taste is perfectly set off by a healthy dollop of cranberry sauce. If it's good enough to keep those mountain folk healthy all year round, who are we to complain?
Kielbasa - The Spaniards have chorizo, the Italians have salami and pepperoni, the Germans have the frankfurter and bratwurst, the Americans have the hotdog and the Brits have a whole array of British bangers. Second to none of the above, the Poles chip in with kielbasa, their sausage of the spiced and smoked variety. The white version is generally cheaper and fattier and is what you're likely to find in Zurek. You'll find the regular, red kielbasa everywhere in Poland, whether it's in a street grill restaurant, milk bar, upper-crust exclusive establishments and even on pizzas. Most restaurants will not specify the exact type and there are literally too many to mention. However, if you're buying to take home we strongly recommend wiejska, krakowska, or podwawelska, or z serem (stuffed with cheese - not to be missed!); all excellent choices. Varieties differ in fat and garlic content, type of coating and combinations of seasoning, and some varieties are more suited to barbecuing than home cooking and vice versa, but providing it's Polish, you're unlikely to go wrong.
Schabowy - The Polish version of pork chops, nothing goes better with potatoes than some hearty cutlets. They can be breaded or not, and grilled or baked, depending on the establishment. Trust us though - the best are served in a Polish home by someone's mother (or father - it is the 21st century after all!). Szarlotka* - There is perhaps nothing better to accompany an afternoon cappuccino or cup of tea than a slice of warm apple pie with ice cream - as the Americans would say 'just like ma used to make'. In almost any Polish city, you're sure to be able to strike up a heated debate just by asking a group of locals who has the best szarlotka in town - it's certainly caused its fare share of heated discussion here, that's for sure. Unlike American and British variants which opt for the pastry way, the Poles have gone for the cakey approach and, excuse us for a hint of bias, but we feel it's the best of the bunch.
*Poles also are renowned for their penchant for all things sweet. Read up on it in our section on the Polish sweet tooth?
To much reading!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Reply
Maintain the excellent work and producing in the group!Reply
Wow, gorgeous portal. Thnx ...Reply
looks very good, i have never had polish food before but i am doing a project on poland and had to research their foodReply
delicious, fantastic and amazingReply
that looks awesomeReply
Polish is the best food in the world, especially in the winter - incredibly warming and filling! Bigos, pierogi, zurek - the best cure for a cold day!Reply
Great article! Polish cuisine is really diverse. And of course, snacks are served with a bit of vodka traditionally. It can surprise as well! If you want to get to know different varieties of this liquor - you really have to come by Krakow for our tasting.Reply
For me one of the best Polish dishes is tartar - it is very unique but surprisingly delicious. One of the best ones and the highest quality I have tried so far was in Warsaw in Bubbles Bar & Restaurant. It was so delicious! And they also have in offer incredibly tasty champagnes and sparkling wines. It is one of the best culinary spots in Warsaw!Reply
I'm not so big fan of Polish food, sorry guys. But Polish woman, oh man, they are the best!Reply
Polish food is incredible and so tasty! I love visiting poland and eating literally everything. My favourite restaurant with Polish food is the Akademia Restaurant in Warsaw. They have modern Polish dishes, always fresh and delicious. And the atmosphere inside is also great, very romantic and elegant. On of the best spots in Warsaw.Reply
I'm getting so hungry :P GIVE ME FOODReply
While visiting Gdansk, visit Szafarnia 10. Stylish places whit traditional polish food and delicious Fresh fish. :)Reply
Hey! I was also in Gdansk. It seems that we'v been in the same restaurant . Yumm!Reply
cool i was a fan of polish foodReply
Great article have been a lover of Polish food .Reply
great article we are going to poland in september hope i can get to see any of my relatives lliving yet im not sure so excited about going its a pilgramige for saint john paulReply
Enjoyed the article, on my way to Poland in 100 days. Nisko! Flying into Krakow, and staying with family for several weeks. Cannot wait. My polish family in US have been feeding me polish food for my whole life. Bringing mother and grand daughter and daughter in law. Will have 3 generations! So excited!Reply
Great read ,I love Polish food, particularly Pierogi . can anyone tell me what the baked cheese is that they sell on the street. Is it some sort of goats cheese that they use?Reply
Such an enjoyable read, and fantastic commentsReply
polish food is just the bestReply
I just love Polish cooking - obviously with a name like mine I'm Polish, but it only ever tastes great in Poland iteslf! I've tried the best Polish restaurants in New York, and I still can't get that 'original' taste - must be the local ingredients....Reply
Great article. Made me homesick! For those who live in Melbourne and like pierogi - you can try some at People's market in collingwood.Reply
Awesome recipes guys and it's really helpfulReply
Very good information and it's very helpful to me because my project on PolandReply
very special but need to add more spicy..:)Reply
I have experimented with pierogi and a very tasty filling is mashed potatoes, sharp white cheddar cheese, a little cream cheese, a small amount of lightly sauteed yellow onion and either chopped chives or finely minced parsley. And mix the filling cool and cover and refrigerate so it is easier to fill in the dough half moons.Reply
Hi, great website and ideas. I'm from Poland as well but I now live in Australia. Great ideas and recipes, pictures and great information. Thanks so much.Reply
Hi! I'm reading all your comments and I'm very glad that you like our foods and country! I'm really surprised! :) I encourage you to visit Poland. You are very welcome here! :)Reply
Do you know any Polish Restaurant here in Metro Manila, Philippines?Reply
i tried the beetroot soup with pierogi, the more hot soup and combine with much more dumpling pierogi satisfy your appetizer...good day!Reply
been with the Polish crew in the ship, trying my best to hasten my prowess in polish cuisine and i'm very much to learn more menus and recipes...thank you!Reply
My polish family tridations go way back.I love going to my grandparents and watching my gma cook the food. I was asked to do a project at school and i picked Poland to do. Me and my brother both did. I Have to make a dish for my class. Should be fun right? Well thanks alot your site has really helped me:) on alot of questions i had now there answerd:)Reply
helloo gus xxxReply
no it does no needs more picturesReply
HEY JUNA... they hate you too. -.-Reply
i am doing a study on polland for a school project and this site help meReply
I LOVE Polish food. My Grandparents came from Poland and so did my Aunt. My Uncle had also married a Polish woman who's family also came the same time as my Grandparents. In fact, they were neighbors! It was a special treat to visit all of them because of all the Polish food they made for us.This included the other special occasions we attended too. My mother also made some of the holiday foods but not like my Aunts.Reply
Thanks for the list, this will be a great place to come look up dishes to make for my Polish partner. My biggest problem with Polish food is cabbage. It's in everything, and well... I can't stand the taste of it. I stick to the breaded pork chops when visiting. And downtown Warsaw has a wonderful pizza place we love going to... lol.Reply
i love polish food and i'm not polish at all! whoever dosent like polish food is really CRAZY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!:) thanks from,TaniaReply
I am doing a study on Warsaw Poland And i think that is piece or writing help me understand about polish food and how they make it! ;)Reply
this has saved my life. my polish friends dont think i would manage to find out about their food. :) thankyou xReply
Outstanding article. :D I am a proud Polish gal who makes her food homemade and raises the animals all organically. I am probably one of the very few Americans left who makes her own sausage homemade :D But I am very proud of that. :DReply
I absolutely LOVE Polish food. I do not know how I could live without it before. I love WAY more than Mexican, Korean, French, Italian, and of course British (yuck). The chick who said that she hates Polish food and people can go **** play with herself :)Reply
Wonderful.....can't wait to try some of these dishes!Reply
Oh hen you must hate yourself!Reply
i hate polish food an the polish themselves!!!!!!!:(Reply
This site was full of great information for my report on Poland. My great grandparents are Polish, but I am just learning about it now. Cool!Reply
Im from Poland but I live in Ireland and I must say most of the Irish people I have met love polish food whenever they come over to my house I have to cook some polish causine for themReply
Polish food is fab. Kabanos is good, scrambled eggs and all the pork.Reply
Just started dating a polish man I want surprise him with homemade pierogies I need a recipe for XmasReply
do you have recipes for these different polish foods or recomend a certain site?Reply
Polish cuisine derided because of lack of invention? I own nearly ten Polish cookbooks and never have read this remark! Did you know that Warsaw, Poland is the cuisine "Paris" of Eastern Europe! And it is no wonder why -- Polish cookery is influenced by Mongol, Lithuanian, Italian, French, Swedish, Turkish, German and Russian traits, as well as the ubiquitous Jewish tastes. Something good came from all of those royal marriages and invasions. Yes, all of the above mentioned Polish dishes are also favorites of mine, but beef zrazy (beef roulades, oftentimes accompanied by kasza and pureed beets with sour cream is my favorite. Smaczmego!Reply
My wife and I just got back from Poland. Your site is GREAT.Reply
very helpful for my project!!!!Reply
Aaa ja uwielbiam Polske jedzienie , mieszkam w uk juz 9 miesiecy i wole jednak polskie dania niz angielskie , : ) tesknie za polskimi tradycyjnymi daniami pozdrawiam : )) moje gg na odpowiedz komentarzy : 2485071 or email@example.comReply
Awesome! now I know what to say I ate for lunch/ dinner on my imaginary trip! If only it was more then just Pierogis, I mean I like them, but man, thats ALOT of fillings!Reply
this was so helpful for my report on poland!!! I am so glad i found this site!Reply
I'm from Polish and really glad to have you taste Polish cuisine. You have to try rosolu (rosó³)and kotletow schabowych (schabowych kotletów). Yum!Reply
well i am polish a lot and this is not a lot of recaipes that you can make !!! come one i need some of thise for school and there are like two thingsReply
um... u sort of need a good describtion of the food i really need these 4 a projectReply
Poland is awesome I live in poland so im a poleReply
Hey im Polish but i live in Ireland .... i was surprised with the info on Polish food but I was hoping 2 see Krokiety (kro-key-et-i) which are pancakes closed up at the ends, covered in bread crumbs with a filling of usually 'Kapusta i Grzyby' (cabbage and mushroom) but they can also be 'z Miêsem' (with meat) or 'Z Serem i Grzybami' (mushroom and cheese). i was surprised not 2 see them but anyway there's so much on this site :D :D :D POLISH FOOD ROCKS ! ! ! !Reply
My mom and dad are polish. My mom cooks really great Polish food and I EAT IT ALL!!!!:)YUM I like zurek the best and pierogi with cheese PACZKI ARE THE BEST PASTRIES!!!! YAYReply
Check out zeberka, schabowy or zurek. Amazing tastesReply
I'm quarter Polish and doing a Polish project at school... this really helped.. kinda, thanks!Reply
I took care of an elderly husband and wife, both who were of Polish decent. They were both very beautiful people, biggest hearts I have seen in a long time. But anyways, this woman, Boguslava was her name, was one of the best cooks I have ever met in my life. Now not to toot my own horn, but I to am an excellent cook. But this woman never seict to amaze me. Things I would have never tried in my life if it not for her. God love her! She would make everything from scratch. Kluski, kapusta soup, perogies, chicken soup, borscht, easter soup, just to name a few. She also taught me how to make homemade Zurek. She opened up a whole new world of tastes and smells that I will carry with me to my grave! So needless to say, Polish is now one of my most favorite foods in the world. There was never a bad thing that she cooked. So sad to have lost her and her husband to old age heaven. But she will always have a place in my heart and kitchen , and will never be forgotten. One of life's true angels in my eyes. God be with you Boguslava and Andrezj.Reply
I LIKE PANCAKES!!!!!!!!Reply
I LOVE ALL POLISH FOODS AND POLAND YES IM POLISH!!Reply
I'm polish and Pierogi are my favorite thing everReply
i love polish food sooo much but i havent had it in ages!!! i need to learn how to cook it coz i jst cnt live without it!!! soo yummy!!! im hungry now! LOL!! hehe :P :S gnna go eat!!Reply
The information that this site gives is really good. I'm in school for Culinary Arts and Restraurant Management. I have a 500 word report to due and i chose to do it on the polish Cuisine and i have to admite that the food really sounds great and I cant wait to try and cook some of this great food for my self and my family. Keep up the great work on keeping the rest of the world in tuch with your great food and way of life.Reply
you forgot to mention other delicious polish food like ogórkowa, kapusta kiszona, rzebroczka( all delicious) I lived in poland for 7 years i loved the food :)Reply
i just love my babcias pierogisReply
And u know ppl, my boyfriend is Greek and he just HATES Polish food (im polish) - and what's funny the only thing he tried was polish salad :-) We're going to Krakow in few days and I already told him - coz we're on the budget trip we gonna eat in milk bars, which serve only Polish food so i just hope he'll finally try some more things than just salad ;-) And me myself i love my mom's and my Babcia's (grandma) cooking :-) need to learn finally :-DReply
It was good:) gives alot of information about this placeReply
i just love the bigos:L:L:LReply
Last week i went to that polish place in Clifton,NJ called " ZAPIEKANKY "....i just enjoyed their food!!!...zapiekanki is my favourite polish food now!!!.... if u want to try...here's their adress: 754 Clifton Ave, Clifton, NJ 07013 JUST GREAT....TRY ZAPIEKANKA /W KIELBASY...HMMMMMMReply
this is really good info. for my school project! Who wrote this note so I can Cite this article?Reply
I have been to Poland 3 times on mission trips. The people are awesome, the food is wonderful (kielbasa; bigos; the poppy seed bread; and everything on the menu at the Phoenix restaurant in Rzeszow); it makes you not ever want to go back home. I hope to get back there one day soon and criss-cross Poland on a food adventure.Reply
i love polsh food its greatReply
Polish food is great!!!! I ws in Wroclaw and Krakow and I felt in love of the foodReply
i love and enjoyed golanka so much during my 4 yr stay in Poland. the first time i had it, i asked for more. i'll ty to make it myself soon.Reply
a ja najbardziej lubie pierogi ze serem i nie napisaliscie tutaj o zupie ogorkowejReply
what about kaszanka, tatar, sledz, polish fast food: zapiekanky with ketchup:)?Reply
Zurek is for me. It's my favorite by far. Excellent soup with fresh bread. Recently married. Wife from Poland.Reply
Polish food is FANTASTIC!!! Hae been in Warsaw and i LOVE barszcz with small pirogs!! Chlodnik, bigos, all kinds of PIROGIS!! you have to try!!Reply
looking for recipes of cold soupa with fruits that i ate in a place name mlechnik in krakow thankReply
Is it sorrow or rather sorrel...?Reply
does anyone know anything about sorrow..a plant used to make soup?Reply
hey! i must say that ive become a fan of Polish food since i went to my girlfriend place in Poland and ive tryed many Polish dishes, and ive my favourites as like ruskie pierogi and strawberry one, and i just love the oscypki cheese grilled :D i hope in the future to try even more delicious dishes as ive been used hihi by the way, i'd like to know an easy recepie for Polish donuts =)if anyone know's any i'd apreciate it. PS- as Portuguese i recomend you guys Portuguese food also very good ;) bardzo dzekuje!Reply
I am of Polish ancestory and grew up living with my Babcia who use to cook awesome meals daily. You know the true Polish fare. She taught me to cook, starting at a very young age and I have to admit, i'd rather eat my own cooking instead of dining out! Anyhow, (I find this rather ironic) just before I went in labour with my child, I made a huge polish feast of schnitzal, pierogi, beet salad & cucumber salad. It was yummy! As soon as my child was old enough to eat "big people food" his preferences were that as mentioned above! To this day, his favourites food are schnitzal, pierogi and cucumbers! Not to mention all the other Polish dishes that he's accustomed to eating. (Dad was born in Poland) I find it strange that no one has mentioned Patychky. Now there's something everyone should try! Yummy! Life just doesn't get any better! LOLReply