Typical Polish food

Geographic setting and environment

Poland is in Eastern Europe. It is slightly smaller than New Mexico, and has lowlands, a narrow coastal area with rocky cliffs, and a southern region rich in minerals and fertile farmland.

Poland fights against air and water pollution. In the late 1990s, Poland ranked twelfth in the world for industrial carbon dioxide emissions. Water pollution in the Baltic Sea off the coast of Poland is ten times higher than in the ocean as a whole. Environmental protection was a high priority for the government at the beginning of the 21st century.

History and food

The Roman Catholic rituals of feasting and fasting, introduced in Poland around 900 AD, have had a strong influence on Polish food traditions. Meat is not eaten during fasts, so many meatless and fish dishes have become part of Polish cuisine.

Located between two powerful neighbors, Germany and Russia, Poland was forced to form many political alliances throughout its history. This influenced their eating habits. For example, King Zygmunt’s marriage to Italian princess Bona Sforza in the 16th century brought Italian food customs to Poland, including the introduction of salad. Since then, the people of Poland, known as Poles, have called salad greens wloszcycna (“Italian stuff”). Other foreign dishes brought to Poland included goulash (stew) from Hungary, pasta from France, and borscht (beetroot soup) from Ukraine. However, all of these foreign dishes have become part of a unique style of Polish cuisine.

Food of the Poles

Cereal grains, grown on Poland’s rich agricultural land, are among the country’s most important staple foods. Among them are wheat, rye, buckwheat and barley.

They find their way into black bread, noodles, dumplings, and other everyday foods.

Other important agricultural products are potatoes, beets, cabbage, carrots, mushrooms and cucumbers. Boiled potatoes are the most common accompaniment to meat, poultry, or fish. Cucumbers, seasoned with the herb, dill, are the raw material for dill pickles, for which Poles are known all over the world. Cucumbers are also eaten in a salad with sour cream, another staple of the Polish diet. Vegetables are usually eaten boiled.

Meat is an important part of the Polish diet. Pork is the most popular meat, and the most commonly consumed meat dish is a deep-fried pork chop, breaded and served with a thick sauce. Meat, ham and sausages are also regularly eaten. The meat stew called bigos is often called the national dish of Poland. Other famous Polish dishes include golabki (cabbage leaves stuffed with ground meat and rice) and golonka (fresh ham served with horseradish). Poles also like to eat smoked and pickled fish, especially herring.

Most Polish meals begin with one of Poland’s many soups. These range from clear broth to thick soup so hearty it could be a meal in itself. The best known is beet soup called borscht.

Poles love desserts, especially cakes. The most popular cakes are cheesecake, pound cake, poppy seed cake, and a one-pound cake called babka . Special cakes are made for holidays and weddings.

Popular beverages include coffee, tea, milk, buttermilk, fruit syrup, and water. However, vodka distilled from rye is known as the national drink.

Bigos (hunter stew) 8portions


  • 8 slices of bacon, finely chopped
  • 1 pound lean boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch pieces.
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced, or 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3 onions, cut into quarters
  • ½ pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup corned beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups canned sauerkraut, rinsed under running water and drained well.
  • 2 medium apples, cored and sliced
  • 2 cups Italian-style whole tomatoes with juice
  • 1 cup cooked ham, cut into cubes
  • 1½ cups cooked Polish sausage, cut into large chunks


  1. Fry the bacon bits in the Dutch oven or in a large saucepan over high heat for about 3 minutes.
  2. Carefully drain off some of the fat, leaving just enough to cover the bottom of the pot.
  3. Add pork, garlic, onion and mushrooms and, stirring constantly, fry until meat is browned on all sides, about 5 minutes.
  4. Reduce heat to medium. Add beef broth, sugar, bay leaf, drained sauerkraut, apples, and tomatoes with juice. Bring the mixutre to a boil, increasing the heat if necessary.
  5. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer the stew for about 1½ hours, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
  6. Add the cooked ham and sausage, and stir.
  7. Cover and continue to simmer for about 30 more minutes to blend the flavors.
  8. Remove bay leaves and discard before serving.

bigos hunter stew

Pierogi (Dumplings) 5-6portions

Ingredients for the dough

  • 3 cups of flour
  • 1 egg
  • a pinch of salt
  • ½ cup of water

Ingredients for the stuffing

  • 3 medium apples, peeled, cored and cut into small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs.
  • Sour cream or confectioners’ sugar as a garnish


  1. Make Pasta: Combine the flour with the egg, a little salt, and as much water as needed to form a soft, loose dough that is easy to work with.
  2. Roll with a rolling pin or bottle until very thin. Using a glass or cookie cutter, cut out 2-inch diameter circles.
  3. Make the filling: Mix the cut apples with the breadcrumbs.
  4. Assemble the pierogi: Put a tablespoon of the apple mixture in the center of each circle of dough.
  5. Fold the circle of dough in half and press the edges firmly to seal.
  6. Fill a large pot with water and heat it until the water begins to boil.
  7. Drop the pierogi gently into the boiling water and cook until they float to the top.
  8. Remove with a slotted spoon, let the water drain off, and place the pierogi on a serving tray.
  9. Top with sour cream or confectioners’ sugar.

pierogi typical food poland

Christmas Eve dinner menu

  • Bread
  • Carp in horseradish sauce
  • Mushroom soup
  • Noodles with honey and poppy seeds
  • pickled herring
  • Fruit compote (stewed fruit)
  • poppy seed rolls

Golabki (Stuffed Cabbage Rolls) 6portions


  • 1 head of cabbage
  • 1 cup of uncooked rice
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons of butter
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • ½ pound ground pork
  • 1 egg
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 4 slices of bacon
  • 2 cans of concentrated tomato soup


  1. Pour boiling water over cabbage to loosen leaves.
  2. Remove a few leaves at a time as they soften.
  3. Put the rice in a cup of water and boil it for 10 minutes.
  4. Sauté onions in butter until partially browned.
  5. Combine with the rice, meat, egg, salt, pepper, and garlic powder; mix well.
  6. Put some of the meat mixture on the stem of a cabbage leaf and turn it over once. (Part of the thick stem section may be cut off first to make rolling easier.) Tuck in the sides of the leaf and finish rolling.
  7. If necessary, hold the rolled sheet with a toothpick.
  8. To cook, place the bacon rashers with a few cabbage leaves and any remaining small leaves in the bottom of the baking pan.
  9. Place the rolls on top, cover them with the tomato soup and put the remaining cabbage leaves on top.
  10. Cover with a lid or foil and bake for about 2 to 2½ hours at 300°F.

Golabki (Stuffed Cabbage Rolls)

Food for religious and festive celebrations

Poland is a strongly Catholic country, and many Poles observe Catholic fast days by not eating meat. Traditionally, many meat substitutes have been made with mushrooms.

The two most important holidays are Christmas and Easter. The traditional Christmas Eve dinner consists of twelve or thirteen courses. There is one for each of the twelve apostles (followers of Jesus of Nazareth) in the New Testament of the Bible. Sometimes there is a thirteenth course for Jesus. No meat is eaten at this meal. The main dish is carp or pike (two types of fish). Carp is served with a sweet and sour sauce or a horseradish sauce. Other traditional dishes include mushroom soup, sauerkraut, pierogi (Polish dumplings), honey and poppy seed noodles, and poppy seed rolls. Cookies and cakes are also served, and some cookies are used to decorate the Christmas tree.

Easter is the second most important religious holiday of the year. The Lenten fast is broken by the Easter breakfast, and the feast continues throughout the day. Traditionally, a roast lamb was served for Passover. In recent years, a lamb made from sugar or butter has replaced the real lamb. Meats served for Easter in modern Poland include roast turkey, ham, sausage, beef, or roast pork. Painted hard-boiled Easter eggs are part of the celebration, and everyone eats part of an egg. Easter sweets include babka (milk cake) , cheesecake and mazurek (Polish butter bread).



  • ½ cup of raisins
  • 3 tablespoons flour, divided
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 3 packages cream cheese (8 ounces each), softened
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel


  1. Soak raisins in hot water for 15 minutes. Pay, dry and cover with 2 tablespoons of flour. Move away.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  3. Beat the egg whites and salt until stiff.
  4. Put the egg white mixture in the freezer for 5 minutes.
  5. Mix the cream cheese, sugar, egg yolks and the rest of the flour; beat until smooth.
  6. Add the raisins and lemon peel.
  7. Carefully add the egg whites.
  8. Pour mixture into greased and floured 9-inch springform pan (a special baking pan with a removable bottom).
  9. Bake for 45 minutes, then turn off the oven and leave the cake in the oven until cool.

cheesecake gastronomy poland

Noodles with poppy seeds 10portions


  • 1 package (16 ounces) shell or ribbon macaroni, cooked
  • 1 can (12½-ounce) poppy seed paste filling
  • 4 tablespoons of honey
  • 1 cup heavy cream or half and half
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • 2 tablespoons of butter or margarine


  1. Cook noodles according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, combine poppy seed filling, honey and cream in mixing bowl and stir until smooth. Stir in raisins.
  3. Melt butter in double boiler. Add the poppy seed mixture and heat well.
  4. Pour the poppy seed mixture over the hot, drained noodles and serve immediately.

Noodles with poppy seeds

Dried Fruit Compote

Dried Fruit Compote is usually served at the end of Christmas Eve dinner.


  • 1 pound prunes, pitted
  • 1 pound dried mixed fruit
  • ½ pound dried apricots
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • ¼ lemon
  • 5 nails
  • One 1-inch cinnamon stick
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 10 cups of boiling water
  • 4 fresh apples, peeled, cored and sliced


  1. Combine prunes, mixed fruit, apricots, lemon juice, ¼ lemon, cloves, cinnamon, and sugar in a pot. Pour boiling water over the fruits to cover them.
  2. Cover the pot and let it sit overnight (at least 4 hours), covered.
  3. Add the apples, and cook the mixture over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes.
  4. Taste and season with sugar and lemon if necessary. Let cool to room temperature and serve.

Dried Fruit Compote

Mealtime customs

Poles like to eat hearty, filling meals, and eat four meals a day. sniadanie(breakfast) is eaten between 6 and 8 in the morning. It includes many of the same breakfast foods eaten in the United States, such as scrambled or soft-boiled eggs, buttered muffins, bagels, and, in winter, hot cereals. However, cheese and ham or other meats are also served. Coffee, cocoa or tea is served with milk, or even hot milk on its own. Between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., a light meal, or “second breakfast,” is eaten. It is similar to lunch in the United States and can consist of a sandwich, soup, fried eggs, or a cold meat dish. Children often bring sandwiches to school for their midday meal. The main meal of the day is obiad, which is served at the end of the afternoon (normally between 4 and 6 in the afternoon). There is usually at least one meat dish, boiled vegetables or salad, some form of potatoes, soup, and a grain or meatball dish (pierogi). Poles like their meat and vegetables to be cooked until very tender. A sweet dessert, usually cake, is served at the end, with a drink.

The last meal of the day is a light wieczerza (dinner), which is served around 8 or 9 in the evening. Includes a hot or cold main course, pickled vegetables, a dessert, and hot tea with lemon or hot cocoa.

When they have to “eat on the run”, Poles can pick up a cheap meal or snack at little places called milk bars (mleczny bar). Western-style fast foods such as pizza and hamburgers are also available. The popular Polish “fast food” is flaki, a dish made from tripe (cow’s stomach). It is boiled or fried with carrots or onions.

Barley soup with mushrooms 8portions


  • 4 cans of beef broth
  • ½ cup pearl barley
  • ½ pound mushrooms
  • One large onion, diced
  • 3 Idaho potatoes, cubed
  • 2 large carrots, sliced
  • 2 parsnips, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Brush the mushrooms to remove any grit, and rinse them under running water.
  2. Cut them into half-inch pieces.
  3. Bring the meat broth to a boil. Add the barley, and boil for 10 minutes.
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients, and let it simmer for an hour.
  5. Serve with crusty bread.

Mushroom Barley Soup

Kielbasa and Cabbage 4portions


  • 1 small, thick-priced cabbage…
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 3 small potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon caraway seed
  • 1½ pounds kielbasa sausage, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 can (14 ounces) chicken broth


  1. Place the vegetables, seasonings and sausages in a pot.
  2. Pour in chicken broth.
  3. Get covered.
  4. Cook on low for 6 to 10 hours, or on high for 2 to 4 hours.

Kielbasa and Cabbage

Veal dumplings with dill 4portions


  • 2 slices of white bread, soaked in milk and slightly dry.
  • ½ medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons of flour
  • 1½ tablespoons of butter
  • 1 cup beef or chicken broth
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped


  1. Mix the bread with the onions, the egg and the meat well. Add salt and pepper.
  2. Form small balls of the mixture and roll them in flour.
  3. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat, and add meatballs. Brown the meatballs on all sides.
  4. Pour the broth over the beef balls, cover them and let them simmer for about 20 minutes.
  5. Place it on a hot serving tray.
  6. Add the rest of the flour to the saucepan and bring to a boil.
  7. Remove from heat and season with salt, adding the sour cream and dill. Pour it over the meat.

Veal dumplings with dill

Deviled eggs 8appetizer portions


  • 7 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons of breadcrumbs
  • 4 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon dill, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 butter spoons


  1. Wash the eggs, place them in a pot and cover them with cold water. Heat until the water boils and cook over low heat for 10 minutes.
  2. Remove the pot from the heat and drain the water. Place the pot with the eggs in the sink under cold running water to cool the eggs.
  3. Peel the eggs, and carefully cut each egg lengthwise into halves, being careful not to break the whites.
  4. Scoop out the yolks. Put them in a bowl and mash them with a fork.
  5. Mix 1 tablespoon of the breadcrumbs and the rest of the ingredients, except the butter, into the egg yolks.
  6. Pour the mixture back into the egg white halves. Sprinkle with the remaining breadcrumbs, and flatten with a knife.
  7. Heat the butter in a large skillet. Carefully add the eggs, filling side down, and sauté until golden brown.

deviled eggs polish dish

Politics, economics and nutrition

More than half of Poland’s land is used for agriculture. Polish farms do not produce as large a harvest as those in other parts of the world, due to poor soil and lack of rainfall. In the late 1990s, Polish farmers began to use more mechanical farming aids, such as tractors, which helped improve the size of crops. Polish farmers grow fruits and vegetables. Since the 1950s, Poland has been forced to import wheat as it cannot produce enough on its own.

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