Traditional Polish cuisine: what and where to try in Warsaw?
Polish cuisine in Warsaw

Traditional Polish cuisine: what and where to try in Warsaw?

Polish cuisine seems almost native to a Russian. Thick soups in bread, hearty hot dishes, appetizers and desserts always and to everyone remind them of something. I will tell you what Polish cuisine consists of and which cafes are worth visiting in Warsaw.

Traditional cuisine of Poland

The main products from which Polish cooks and housewives cook are everything from the field, forest, vegetable garden, stable, and river. The menu consists of meat (pork, game, rabbit), fresh or sauerkraut, beets, potatoes, mushrooms, peas, beans.

Bigos with sausage
Bigos with sausage

Fish (there are only river and lake fish) and dairy products are rarely found on the menu. The exception is sour cream: it is an important basis of flavor in Polish cuisine. It is served as a sauce and added to soups.

The main flavor of Polish dishes is sour or spicy. For this purpose, sauerkraut, sour sour cream, pickles, beer, and kvass are used in dishes. Spices such as dill, parsley, marjoram, cumin are added everywhere.

Polish cuisine is all about carbohydrates. You can find baked goods on the menu: fried flour-based soup, soup in bread, halushki, dumplings and dumplings. Typically, a Polish meal may seem caloric. It is, but you can’t help but try it!

Polish soups

Hot soup is the king of Polish dinners, and it awakens the appetite. While Russians and Ukrainians argue about who invented borscht, Poles cook almost all kinds of borscht according to traditional recipes: white, red, mushroom, cold. These names have long been familiar, and the composition is clear.

But there are Polish soups whose names hardly tell you the composition:

  • Zhurek — sour potato soup with sausage, kvass and with the addition of raw egg.
  • Kholodnik — sour cold soup on beet broth and kefir with cucumbers and greens.
  • Czernina — goose blood soup with goose giblets, dried fruits and spices.
Polish zurek soup
Polish zurek soup

In Warsaw’s cafes and restaurants, soups are served in large portions, but you can choose the size. The most hearty portion is in bread — a rare tourist can eat it alone. A smaller portion is served in a bowl and the smallest in a cup.

Zurek can be prepared by yourself. The Polish store Żabka, which can be found everywhere in Warsaw, sells the base in a bag. On the bag is the recipe and information about what products will be needed for the soup. It won’t be a restaurant version or the kind that Polish grandmothers feed their grandchildren, but it will also give you an idea of the essence of the dish. And unlike ready-made soup, you can take it home as a souvenir.

Soup base for jurek soup
Soup base for jurek soup

Hot dishes in Polish cuisine

The trademark of Polish cuisine is cabbage bigos (bigus). The traditional recipe for Polish bigos is sauerkraut stewed with sausage or meat, mushrooms and various seasonings. It seems to be a simple recipe, but in Polish cuisine there are more than twenty ways to prepare this dish, and all of them are found on the menu.

Another lunch dish is stuffed cabbage stuffed with minced meat and rice. Cabbage sheets are wrapped not only with meat but also with vegetable stuffing, such as potatoes or mushrooms. The stuffed cabbage is served with sour cream.

Traditional «perogies» are also worth trying. These are dumplings of impressive size with various fillings: with meat, potatoes, cabbage, mushrooms, herbs, berries and fruits. In stores you can find perogies with pumpkin and quinoa. There are special «pierogi» (Polskie pierogarnie) in Warsaw, there are many of them all over the city.

Perogies with meat
Perogies with meat

Polish appetizers

All the most interesting appetizers to be found in Warsaw are modern. In the city center there are many cafes with«zapiekanka». Polish zapiekanka is half a baguette (20, 30 or 50 cm) filled with meat, vegetables, eggs, mushrooms, seasonings and sauces. The combinations are varied.

Sprinkle cheese (gouda, edamame, cheddar and emmental) on top of the filled baguette and bake. The crust of the baguette becomes brown and crispy, and the cheese melts. In Poland, «zapiekanka» as a street food appeared in 1970. It lost its popularity for a while, but in 1990 it appeared on the shelves again.

Casserole stands
Casserole stands

The famous hunting sausages — kabanos — are made of pork with various spices (chili, marjoram and cumin). Cabanos appeared in the middle of the XX century, they were eaten by hunters at camping sites. To make the sausages juicy and nutritious, the pig was specially fed with potatoes.

Modern cabanos are thin smoked sausages made from pork, sometimes turkey and beef. You can buy them at the store and take them with you on the road.

Kabanos in Warsaw stores
Kabanos in Warsaw stores

Polish desserts

The apple pie«Charlotka», familiar to everyone since childhood, was invented in Poland. Here it is made with a lot of apples and sprinkled with powdered sugar on top. I can say for sure that there is no other country in the world that tastes better than Poland. All restaurants and cafes know how to make it and do it perfectly.

Polish charlotte at Costa Coffee
Polish charlotte at Costa Coffee

Another Polish dessert is famous all over Europe. Polish babka is a high-calorie yeast cake with a filling (nuts, chocolate, jam). It is believed that the recipe appeared in the XVIII century thanks to King Stanislaw Leszczynski. Later it was borrowed by the French, and the Neapolitans made it the main dessert of their cuisine: rum baba, soaked in alcohol syrup and decorated with cream or whipped cream.

In the past, babka was made only at Easter and Christmas. Now it can be bought in confectionery shops regardless of the time of year.

Warsaw sells a traditional Polish sand pie — mazurek (mazurek). It is a low pie (no more than 4 cm) with an open filling of jam and various additives: dried fruits, candied fruits, caramel, nuts.

Another traditional dessert you can try in Warsaw all year round is doughnuts with various fillings. They are airy, sweet and tender, generously poured with sugar syrup. The whole country eats such doughnuts on the first day of Lent.

Warsaw doughnuts
Warsaw doughnuts

Alcohol in Poland

Poland is not particularly known for beverages: beer is brewed here and strong alcohol is made. The most popular strong drinks are Zubrowka and Chopin vodka: made from Stobraw potatoes and has won numerous awards.

In Poland, you should try Baltic porter and local light lager. The best variants of Baltic porter are Ratebeer, and from lagers pay attention to Zubr, Tyskie, Zywiec: strength 5—6%, price up to 4 €.

Polish beer
Polish beer

Where to try traditional cuisine in Warsaw?

In Warsaw, all the most interesting cafes with traditional cuisine are concentrated in the Market Square of the Old Town and the streets near it. Usually there is not much space indoors, so tables are set up on the streets. Prices are lower in Krakow’s suburbs.

Eateries with traditional cuisine in Warsaw

Gościniec (polskie pierogi)

Excellent restaurant with a full range of traditional Polish dishes and low prices. Waitresses in traditional style costumes. The service is fast, there are enough seats, everything is very tasty. It is located in Krakow suburb.

The menu includes soups in bread, plate or mug, several variations of perogies with sour cream or scallions, boiled or fried. For those who want to try several kinds of this dish, there is an assortment on the menu. If the portion turns out to be large, you can take it with you: the girls will pack the food in a special container.

  • Hours of operation are Monday through Thursday and Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
  • Restaurant website with menus.
Cafe GOŚCINIEC Polskie Pierogi
Cafe GOŚCINIEC Polskie Pierogi

Kuchnia Warszawska

A restaurant in the very center of historic Warsaw on the Market Square. It is worth including this place in your gastronomic itinerary. The menu is traditional cuisine: soups in bread, perogies and grilled meat, game. Everything is tasty and hearty, portions are like at grandma’s house. The restaurant has its own cellar with wine.

  • Hours of operation: daily from 12:00 to 23:00.
  • Restaurant website with menus.
Restaurant Kuchnia Warszawska
Restaurant Kuchnia Warszawska

Zapiecek (polskie pierogarnie)

This cafe is preferred by locals, especially students, when you need a quick and inexpensive snack. The prices are low, the menu is extensive, and the portions are large. The furnishings, dishes, and waiters' clothes are in the national style. There are indoor and outdoor tables on a side street.

This cafe has the most delicious zhurek, according to the locals. It is served with bread and boiled egg on a separate plate. There are portions in a cup, a plate and in bread.

  • Hours of operation are Monday through Thursday and Sunday from 11:00 am to 11:00 pm, Friday and Saturday from 11:00 am to 0:00 am.
  • site with a menu.
Cafe Zapiecek
Cafe Zapiecek

Polish traditional cuisine leaves only positive impressions. Every time I return to Warsaw, I rush to the center to eat perogies, zurek and my favorite bikus.