Polish Cuisine – Traditional Polish Food

I have to say: before I left for my trip to Poland, my idea of Polish cuisine was pierogi and kielbasa.

While I did find those traditional foods aplenty, I also was surprised by the diversity of other foods in Poland, including some pretty amazing contemporary cuisine at cutting-edge restaurants.

On your next trip there, make sure you try some of the following.

Must-Try Foods in Poland

You’ve got everything from your standard fare that’s been eaten in the country for generations to dishes that even molecular gastronomist Ferran Adrià would applaud.

1. Pierogi

must-try food in Poland
Pierogi is a must-try food in Poland

You won’t get far in Poland without running into a pierogi, and believe me, you won’t mind. They’re what dumplings are in Asia, or empanadas in South or Central America: flat dough discs stuffed with delightful fillings and then boiled. At Zapiecek, which seems to be as ubiquitous as TGIFriday’s in the US (though much tastier in my humble opinion), we also sampled fried pierogi, which, frankly, I preferred.

The most common pierogi are filled with beef, though you’ll find both sweet and savory fillings like cheese, lentils, turkey and carrots, mushrooms and even fruit.

Read: 13 Things to Do in Slovakia

2. Bison Grass Vodka

polish food vodka

At home, I could take or leave vodka, but once I had my first szarlotka (also known as tatanka) beverage upon arrival, there was no going back.

Poland is proud of its vodka, and will argue to the grave that they — not Russia — invented it and then perfected it. Zubrowka is the brand of choice because of one unique flavor: bison grass.

The grass gives the vodka its distinct mellow vanilla flavor, and even decorates the inside of the bottle.

Mix Zubrowka with apple juice, and you have the szarlotka. It helps if you have the amazing light apple juice you can find in Poland rather than the artificial stuff in the US.

Read: 10 cities to taste the perfect beer

3. Burning Rose

If you’re like me, you skip dessert at the end of the meal simply because there’s no room in your tummy. But after my fellow travel writers and I saw the cloud-like Burning Rose being delivered to a nearby table at Krakow’s Szaragez, we changed our tune.

The clouds turned out to be cotton candy, which was lit on fire to melt to a dish of raspberry parfait. The actual dessert was as good as the performance!

Read: Food from Around the World

4. Zurek

the best polish cuisine zurek

One soup we had over and over again (not that I minded) was Zurek, or sour bread soup.

It was tangy and creamy, and at Hotel Bristol’s Marconi Restaurant — which got my vote for the best zurek — it also had a quail’s egg and bits of ham.

Check out the Poland travel guide.

5. Steak Tartare

foods from poland | steak tartar

On our last night in Warsaw, I swore I wouldn’t eat meat again. As amazing as the food had been, I was meated out. But then I saw steak tartare being prepared tableside at Stary Dom, and I knew I was a goner.

The chef, in his 60s, I’d guess, prepares between 150 and 200 steak tartare servings each day!

First he deftly chops the steak, then mixes in mushrooms, onions, seasonings, and other goodies.

The portion was way more than we could eat! I hated leaving it, but what can you do in a country that is so generous with its portions?

Poland surprised me in many ways, not the least of which was its memorable cuisine.

Read next: Why I Travel for Food and So Should You

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Need more help planning your trip? Make sure to check out our Resources Page where we highlight all the great companies that we trust when we are traveling.

About Susan Guillory

When Susan Guillory isn’t running her marketing company, she’s traveling and writing about it on http://www.unexplorer.com/ She's written several books (business, as well as travel) and has been published on Forbes, Mashable and other sites. Follow Susan at TheUnexplorer / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter

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31 thoughts on “Polish Cuisine – Traditional Polish Food”

  1. Some wonderful food here! Gotta say, I’m from Krakow, but I’ve never seen this cotton candy you’re supposed to light on fire!

  2. Everything looks so great! I love Polish food, it is one of my favorite cuisine ever! I think I like pierogi the most. The best one I have ever had in my life was in Warsaw in the restaurant called the Akademia. They specialize in Polish cuisine, but in modern versions. For me it is one of the best restaurants in Warsaw:)

  3. Love this post, the foods look so yummy! I love to experience new cuisines when I travel!

  4. Wow, every dish looks so yummy, love the burning rose, treat to eyes and hopefully taste buds too, great article.

  5. Thanks for posting it, Susan! Polish food has a great tradition, somewhat diminished during and after the WW2, but now rediscovered. Pierogi are obviously the most famous – and quite deserving! I would say that the “ruskie” stuffing is the most popular – it’s potatoes with white cheese (twaróg) and friend onion. My absolute favorite! I’m glad you included “tatar” – the raw beef steak. I absolutely love it! I think some of the delicious dishes are a bit hard for foreigners to stomach – like “flaczki” – a soup made of of beef intestine cut in narrow strips, or the big choice of fermented foods, from cucumber in brine, through sour kraut soup to barszcz (borscht) made on fermented beet juice.

    Oh, an ?urek, it’s so freaking good. Who would have thought that such a modest, peasant soup, made of ferment (yet again!) ray flower could be so delicious?

    I hope you can return and try more Polish dishes, they are all good 🙂
    (btw, I’ve never heard or seen the cotton candy desert! Must be this restaurant special thing)

    Happy travels!
    Ioanna (A Woman afoot)

  6. Pierogi is a perfect popular dish served with fresh cream and filled potentially with anything from meat to sweet apples. Typically a dish you find a lot in easter Europe generally speaking, simple but great for taste and for stomach))

  7. Hi, i love your blog and awesome and delicious foods! I love food while i am going to travel in Medelin. Everyone should go for travel in Medelin.

  8. Yes, Pierogi are dumplings in Asia, They come in different types of fillings and are extremely tasty. They are sometimes fried in oil instead of boiling.
    I love them 🙂

  9. Awesome and delicious foods of poland! As I know Poland is proud of its vodka wanna enjoy this with Pierogi. Enjoyed your blog. Thanks.

  10. Wow! It looks so delicious food.. You shared 5 dishes it really looks yumm… Thanks for sharing it.