Polish food is a regular in our household since my husband's family happen to be Polish, however nothing quite compares to feasting on regional favourites and the must try food in Poland while travelling. There is something wonderful about enjoying smoked sausages after exploring one of the Old Towns, or warming your belly during a Polish winter with a hearty serving of pierogi.
During our month in Poland a few years back, we had a great time sampling all the must try food in Poland in the different cities we visited. From Zakopane to Krakow, Bialystok to Warsaw, they each had something amazing on offer to keep my inner foodie happy.
Polish food, for the most part, is not created with the waistline in mind. Hearty comfort food, smoked meats, and plenty of carbs is a good way to sum up Polish food, not so unlike many other parts of Europe.
There are a lot of similarities to German food, with their own unique twist. Food in Poland is something you need to experience!
The Absolute Must Try Food in Poland
If you are familiar with Polish food, chances are pierogi is the first dish that comes to mind. Resembling ravioli in appearance, pierogi is the equivalent of dumplings in Poland. Most traditionally they are filled with potato and cheese, however other popular traditional Polish pierogi includes cabbage and mushroom, or meat filled dumpling variations.
Dessert pierogi is also a must try Polish food, often filled with sweet fruit filling and actually great with ice cream.
My mother in law makes great Pierogi back home, so this is a Polish food we enjoy often. Especially when served with diced fried bacon and onion.
Much like sauerkraut which is likely a more familiar term, kapusta is the Polish traditional cabbage speciality that is extremely popular and served virtually everywhere. From side dishes with your meats or on top of sausages in a roll, kapusta is everywhere, and utilised in the place of the usual salads you may be accustomed to back home.
Personally I'm not a huge cabbage fan (unlike the husband), but in small amounts the occasional kapusta can be enjoyable.
Kielbasa (Smoked Sausages)
Another favourite back home and in Poland are the traditional style smoked sausages. The strong smokey flavours of the meats and the various ways they are cooked makes Polish sausage a popular choice. This is a bit of a staple dish on a lot of Polish food menus, usually served with a generous side of kapusta.
Bigos (Cabbage and Meat Stew)
In case you really love cabbage, but especially if travelling to Poland in winter, bigos can be a good choice. A meat and cabbage (kapusta) stew that will warm you from the inside out. It is sometimes referred to as Hunter's Stew, as it is filled with various types of meat, which traditionally would have been whatever the hunter was able to catch.
A perfect accompaniment to bigos, or to any Polish food, the Polish rye bread is a delicious sourdough style bread, with a rich flavour and firm crust.
Borscht (Beetroot Soup)
My first introduction to beetroot soup was Christmas eve more than a decade ago - my first Christmas Eve with my husband's family. If you are familiar with Polish culture, Christmas Eve is one of the most important meals all year and ours would often begin with a serve of beetroot soup.
I love soup so I enjoy it, and actually find it not so drastically different in flavour to tomato soup due to that acidic flavours. however some members of the family are less keen. Alternatively it can be given in a cup to sip or dumplings can be added to the soup.
Golonka (Pork Knuckle)
This is a favourite of ours and we still have great memories of our best ever golonka in the centre of Krakow old town, from a market stall. Slow cooked to perfection, so your meat falls from the bone, golonka is a must try food in Poland for sure.
Placki (Potato pancakes)
This is every bit as carb loaded as it sounds, but Placki is must try food in Poland for sure. Think shredded potato made into fried pancakes and served with a topping of your choice. In Poland this can often be fried up mushrooms, cabbage or sour cream.
Here in Australia my hubby and his brothers are fans of BBQ sauce on their placki. Yep... it's a bit sad! They are great just as is though, kind of like a flat chip!
Makowiec (Poppy Seed Cake)
And for dessert... well honestly i'm personally not a huge fan of Polish desserts, however my husband and his siblings will tell you a must try food in Poland for dessert is makowiec, which is a poppy seed style pastry. It is pretty much a bread-like roll, filled with crushed poppy seed. Not nearly sweet enough for my preference, but a Polish favourite worth trying.
if you are heading to Poland, make sure you aren't coming with plans to eat light. When in the country, embrace the hearty food on offer and fill yourself with the must try food in Poland. You won't regret it!