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All the must-try food in Poland you need to experience when you visit Poland. Enjoy the traditional Polish food and cuisines that make your travels even more enjoyable to this incredible part of the world.
This article was first published in August 2015 and updated in 2023.
Traditional Polish Food
Polish cuisine is a regular in our household since my husband’s parents are from Poland, 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.
They also have some of the best street food!
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. And every visit since!
There are a lot of similarities to German food, with their own unique twist. Food in Poland is something you need to experience!
And we want to make sure you experience the best food in Poland when you visit!
Whether you are visiting Poland for the first time, or heading to a Polish restaurant, here are some of the most popular Polish food to try:
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 include cabbage and mushroom, or meat-filled dumpling variations.
Dessert pierogi is another of the must-try Polish dishes, often filled with sweet fruit filling and actually great with ice cream.
My mother in law makes great Pierogi back home, so these are Poland foods we enjoy often. Especially when served with fried onion and bacon.
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 my husband), but in small amounts, the occasional kapusta can be enjoyable.
And traditional Polish kapusta is full of flavour so it doesn’t just taste like boiled cabbage.
Kielbasa (Smoked Sausages)
Another favourite back home and in Poland is the traditional style of smoked sausages.
The strong smokey flavours of the meats and the various ways they are cooked make 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.
Being amongst the most popular Polish foods, with the Polish version differing somewhat to German sausages (although both being delicious)!
We actually make our own Polish sausages each year before Christmas here in Australia as Simon’s family have a backyard smoker and use his mum’s traditional Polish recipe. It is a fun family tradition we all look forward to each December. Even the kids help mix the meat!
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 for a main course.
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.
The cuisine of Poland involves a lot of stews and flavours, so having a sour rye bread to mop up the juices is always a winner!
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 serving of soup made from beetroot.
So, of course, there’s lots of traditional food Poland has on offer like this.
I love soup so I enjoy it and actually find it not so drastically different in flavour to tomato soup due to that acidic flavour. 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.
This is my other favourite of the Polish delicacies. So good!!!
Placki Ziemniaczane (Polish Potato pancakes)
This is every bit as carb-loaded as it sounds, but Placki ziemniaczane is a Traditional Polish food that is very popular.
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!
Kotlet Schabowy (Breaded Pork Chop)
This is a very popular dish in Poland. It consists of a pork chop, breaded and fried. Pork loin is called ‘schab’ in Polish.
You can find it on the menu of almost every Polish restaurant and it is usually served with mashed or boiled potatoes and sauerkraut or with a salad.
Paczki (Polish Donuts)
A favourite treat of many Polish people is Paczki. Similar to a deep-fried doughnut, made with a soft, sweet dough.
Paczki are usually filled with a fruit jam or compote, although you can find a huge variety of fillings these days, including Nutella, apple pie filling and other sweet flavours, sprinkled with powdered sugar.
This is definitely a favourite dessert for my husband and his siblings.
They are usually eaten on Fat Thursday (Tłusty Czwartek), the last Thursday before Lent. Outside of Poland, particularly in the USA, Pączki Day is celebrated on Shrove Tuesday.
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.
Our eldest daughter is a big fan too and while I wouldn’t say it’s the best Polish food, it’s definitely one that many love.
Gofry (Polish Waffles)
Waffles may be a popular dessert from Belgium, but Poland does a pretty good job too!
The rectangular Polish waffles – gofry, are easily one of our favourite street food treats.
The stalls serve them with your choice of toppings – icing sugar, flavoured syrups, melted chocolate or Nutella. Don’t forget the whipped cream.