If Polish cuisine were to be described in just one word, “heartfelt” would perhaps be the most fitting choice.
We’re talking mind-blowingly delicious, wholesome dishes served up in generous portions.
Some of the Central European country’s much-loved recipes date back centuries, and while many have evolved considerably over the years, they’ve all retained Poland’s long-standing culinary values.
Of course, the best way to sample Polish food is to visit the country and try its many restaurants, cafes, milk bars and street food stands.
While it may be a little while for most before traveling here is an option, its always good to be prepared.
From pierogi to bigos, here are 15 essential dishes to try in Poland.
Zurek is the perfect Polish comfort food.
At first glance, it might seem like just an ordinary fermented rye soup, but zurek is regarded as something of a national treasure by the Polish.
As is the case for almost all nation-defining meals, each family tends to champion its own zurek recipe.
While there are many regional variations of the dish, the most recognized version consists of sour rye flour with potatoes, plenty of vegetables and lots of meat.
The centuries-old soup is also usually served with a hard boiled egg. Be sure to try zurek w chlebie, which is essentially the same soup served in bread.
Popular with locals, Smakolyki Restaurant in Krakow serves fantastic zurek in a cozy atmosphere.
Smakolyki, Straszewskiego 28, 31-113 Kraków; +48124303099
The Polish version of a popular beef tripe soup, flaki might not sound hugely appetizing, but it’s very significant to the country.
Although it’s not exclusive to Poland – similar recipes can be found in neighboring Ukraine, Belarus and Germany – the soup has been popular here since the 14th century and was said to be the favorite dish of Poland’s King Jogaila.
Not only does flaki offer some insight into the rustic roots of Polish cuisine, it also proves the edible lining from the stomach of a cow can form part of an enjoyable meal if cooked in the right way.
For Warsaw’s version of flaki, head to the tiny but locally famous, Pyzy, Flaki Gorace! in the Praga neighborhood.
Pyzy, Flaki Gorace!, Brzeska 29/31, 03-739, Warsaw; +48606294499
One of Poland’s most loved foods, bigos consists of a combination of three ingredients. The first is sauerkraut – the longer it’s cured the better.
Then comes the meat, usually beef and/or pork, although game meat is also an option. The more types of meat used, the heartier the taste.
Finally, fresh shredded cabbage along with a variety of vegetables completes the simple magic of this iconic Polish stew.
Challenge the chef to make you the best bigos at exceptional Stol na Szwedzkiej in Wrocław, where there’s no menu and only four tables.
Stol na Szwedzkiej, Szwedzka 17A, 54-401 Wrocław; +48791240484
Pierogi is undoubtedly Poland’s most famous and simple comfort food.
But after tasting one of these delicious filled dumplings, you’re likely to find yourself craving more.
Perogis can be cooked or fried; stuffed with meat, vegetables, cheese, fruit, chocolate; accompanied by a sour cream topping or just butter.
From street food spots to fancy restaurants, they can be found pretty much everywhere in Poland.
Enter a true kingdom of pierogis at Gdansk food institution Pierogarnia Mandu, which serves more than 35 varieties.
Pierogarnia Mandu, Elżbietańska 4/8, 80-894 Gdańsk; +48583000000