Traditional Polish dishes have a lot in common with the cuisine of West Slavic and Central European nations. Characteristic of Polish cuisine are cereal dishes and flour, like kluski (type of dumplings without filling), dumplings, soups, breads and groats (all types).
Flavors typical of Polish cuisine are salty, slightly fermented, or pickled, and medium spicy, spicy and herbal, tart and sweet and sour.
As is the case with cuisines of other countries, there are regional specialties in Polish cuisine as well, depending on the resources available geographically–marine fish in Pomerania, dairy products from sheep in the mountains, fish from the Masurian lakes, grapes from Silesia and wild mushrooms from Greater Poland.
Here is a list of the most famous traditional Polish dishes.
There are many ways of preparing bigos. Its main ingredient is cabbage. Sauerkraut, fresh cabbage, meat and cold cuts along with dried wild mushrooms, prunes, onion and spices are common. Traditionally, no tomato sauce is added, as is currently done often, but red wine is added while stewing the ingredients. It is interesting that the longer it is stored, the better the taste, and it does not lose its flavour after every re-heating. It is typically served as a starter with bread, often as a whole meal and (as a traditional Polish dish) often served during special events as an appetizer to vodka.
Pork Chop and Pork Loin with Prunes
The pork chop is breaded and fried in a pan with lard. It goes perfectly with mashed potatoes, grits or rice and salads for example, with cabbage, beets or cucumbers with sour cream.
Pork loin with Prunes
It is a roast of pork stuffed with prunes. Very tasty, very simple and effective.
Beef roulades are a traditional old Polish cuisine dish, especially for the nobility and hunters. Currently, they are made of beef, cut into slices and wrapped with bacon, pickled cucumbers, onions and red peppers. Rolled up and held together with toothpicks, the meat is pre-fried and then stewed. Served with gravy and often with potatoes and salads.
Karp po żydowsku and Pstrąg w galarecie
These two fish are the most popular freshwater fish appearing on Polish tables. Carp fish is often made for Christmas dinner as a traditional Christmas dish. One of the many ways Karp po zydowsku is prepared is with the addition of almonds and raisins. Pstrąg w galarecie (Trout in jelly) is a known Polish dish served cold. Fish cooked in vegetable broth, often served on a platter soaked with jelly.
This traditional Polish dish comes from Bavaria and is very popular in Silesia, which is part of the Polish border with Germany. Pork knuckle rind is boiled in water until tender with vegetables and spices. When cooked, fried or baked and served with horseradish or mustard, golonka tastes exceptionally good with beer.
Knedle and Pyzy (Dumplings)
Both dishes are made from potatoes with stuffing. The dough for Knedle is made with boiled potatoes and a fruit filling, a popular Knedle ze sliwką are with plums. While Pyzy it gets from raw potatoes, sometimes half and half with cooked and with meat filling – Pyzy z Miesem.
This is a dish of minced meat with rice or grits, wrapped in cabbage leaves and baked covered. Meat, depending on one’s preference, can be pork, poultry or lamb. There is also a Christmas version, when meat is not eaten, it is replaced with buckwheat. Gołąbki are served with tomato sauce.
Pierogies have been known in Poland since the seventeenth century and probably come from the Far East. The Poles have achieved perfection in preparing dumplings and it became a traditional Polish dish. This is a dish of pastry with stuffing, boiled in water. Ways of cooking are a dime a dozen, in fact as far as your imagination takes you, fillings can be so varied, from sweet fruit, vegetable, mushrooms or meat and cheese. Most popular are Pierogi Ruskie, Pierogi with meat, Pierogi with Sauerkraut and wild Mushrooms.
Pierogi Ruskie (don’t let the name fool you, this is not a Russian meal!)
The filling is with curd and potatoes with spices and onions, pierogi are often fried and served with fried onions or sour cream.
Pierogi with Meat
The filling is made of cooked meat, ground and spiced, served also as Ruskie.
Pierogi with Sauerkraut and Wild Mushrooms
The filling is cooked sauerkraut and dried mushrooms, onions and spices. This dish is also served on Christmas Eve as traditional dish.
Śledź w oleju (Herring in oil)
This easy and delicious appetizer is very popular and often served at family reunions. Chopped herring is soaked in oil and spices, with plenty of onions and sometimes also with gherkins. In keeping with the Polish saying “Herring likes to swim”, it is often served as an appetizer to vodka.
Placki Ziemniaczane (Potato pancakes)
This is a delicious and very simple dish made from potatoes. Grated raw potatoes with onions and eggs are fried in a pan with oil. Potato pancakes can be served with various sauces, goulash, sour cream and sugar.
Bacon with prunes
Fried bacon stuffed with prunes.
Pork or chicken liver, fried with onions, served with bread.
Sausage is traditionally made from pork, but you will find such variety as smoked, dried, blanched, fumed, with beef, lamb, poultry and everything else with the addition of several spices in the Polish market. Kabanosy, sausages, salami, etc. As rich a range of recipes as there is, the most popular is the grilled sausage with bread and mustard.
Kaszanka (Black pudding)
It is a product with grits and blood and offal: liver, lungs, pork skin fat. Basic spices are onion, pepper, marjoram.
A dish with grilled, stuffed meat on a skewer with vegetables e.g. peppers, onions, mushrooms, and bacon as well.
Served raw. Raw ground beef with onion and egg yolk added. Traditionally served on polish weddings.
Soup based on beetroot served with dumplings or pastry. Ravioli-like dumplings are cooked with meat and baked pastry – usually with meat but can be also veggie style with cabbage and mushrooms. It’s Polish traditional Christmas Eve dish.
Beef bone broth with pieces of tripe, meat and vegetables.
Soup in which the main ingredient is groats cooked in meat and vegetable broth with dried wild mushrooms.
It is a soup from shredded cabbage (fresh or sour), boiled in broth from smoked bacon or ribs and vegetables. Famous for delivering healing from a hangover
Soup made of leaven from flour, served with boiled egg, mushrooms and white sausage. It is a traditional Polish Easter dish. Sour in taste, yet delicious.
Zupa Ogórkowa (Cucumber soup)
It is a soup cooked in meat and vegetables broth with grated pickled cucumbers and potatoes, thickened with cream. Sour in taste. The best soup ever.
Polish soup, whose basic ingredients are chicken broth, and the blood of ducks or chickens, rabbits, rarely with pork. Formerly the blood of geese was also used. Not so popular currently, but worth mentioning.
Sweet cake with white cheese base. Served with fruits such as cherries and berries as well as poppy seeds and raisins.
Makowiec (Poppyseed cake)
Yeasty dough, or sponge wrapped with poppy filling and raisins. Often served on Christmas Eve.
Jabłecznik, Szarlotka (Apple pie)
A cake that comes from France and is very popular in Poland and famous in the whole country is Szarlotka Zakopiańska (apple pie from Zakopane). Short crust pastry dough stuffed with apples and cinnamon, called pulp. Yummy…
Gingerbread for which Krakow is famous, it is a hard dark brown cake made from a mixture of wheat and rye flour, caramelized sugar, honey, heavily spiced with cinnamon, ginger, and sometimes cloves, cardamom and nutmeg.
Pancakes are small cakes with a specific smell and taste, based on flour, milk (fresh or sour) and yeast, and in some regions boiled potatoes and potato flour, fried to golden color. Typical are small pancakes with apple added.
In medieval times, Polish cuisine was described as very piquant, characterized by frequent use of meat and groats, where enormous quantities of spices were used, mainly pepper, mace and juniper, which resulted from close trade relations with the countries of the Orient. Turnips, peas and honey were also in general use and the most popular drink was honey mead and beer.
In the fifteenth century, Queen Bona, originally from an Italian family, had a huge impact on the evolution of Polish cuisine. Thanks to her influence, many previously unknown vegetables started to show up on Polish tables. Tomatoes, cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, lettuce and spinach added color and richer flavour to the typical heavy-in-meat-and-fat Polish meals. Also thanks to her, Polish meals included macaroni and spices, and led to increased consumption of wine, which gradually supplanted mead.
Meat typically used in Polish cuisine includes pork, poultry and also venison – wild boar, rabbit and birds. Formerly, due to highly forested lands in Poland, pigs were grown mainly for meat from which a wide variety of sausages and cold cuts were produced. Horned cattle were valued mainly for dairy products, thus curd, sour cream and cheese were used. And poultry was bred mainly for their nutritious eggs. Today, however, in Polish cuisine you will also find dishes with beef and chicken. As well there is extensive use of forest wealth like wild mushrooms, berries, nuts and herbs. Fish in Polish cuisine are primarily freshwater in origin (as a result of historical changes in access to the sea), but the main sea fish in Polish recipes is herring.
Typical fruits are apples, berries, plums, pears, gooseberries, currants, cherries and geans (wild cherries), which are unknown north of Europe. All of these fruits are used today in dishes, desserts, baked goods, compotes and jams and tinctures are prepared from them.
Polish cookbooks are known for the high number of soups and broths from local plants, cereals, meat, vegetables and fruits. Popular vegetables are beets, cabbage, cucumbers, potatoes and legumes such as peas and broad beans.