Food Culture and Tradition

Food, People and Culture Resources

Glossary of Foods and Food Terms in Poland


Baba or Babka: literally, “grandmother,” but in food terms refers lovingly to the light, rich Easter bread leavened with yeast and dotted with blanched almond slivers and golden raisins.

Barszcz: Polish soup similar to Russian or Ukrainian Borsch. Made from beets or cabbage plus other ingredients. Tartness often achieved by adding fermented beet juice, sauerkraut juice, lemon juice, or juice from fermented rye. A special meatless Barszcz is made for Christmas Eve, using mushroom stock and beets.


Bigos: the classic Polish “hunter’s stew”. A medley of sauerkraut, apples, and mushrooms with layered mixed meats including game and sausage all slowly simmered.

Chlodnik: a classic Polish soup of beets and sour cream, garnished with shrimp or crayfish and thin slivers of fresh radishes and scallions. Served chilled.

Dodatki Do Zup: soup accompaniments. Includes croutons, Kasza, noodles, dumplings, etc.

Golabki: cabbage rolls made by steaming cabbage leaves to soften, then filling with a mixture of mushrooms, barley or buckwheat with onions and mushrooms, ground meat, or seasoned sauerkraut. The filled, rolled cabbage leaves are then simmered and served with butter and sour cream.

Kapusniak: cabbage soup.

Kapusta: cabbage.

Karp po Zydowski: sliced, poached carp chilled in its juices to form an aspic. Served with raisins and almonds, this dish is a favorite Polish Christmas Eve dish. Of Jewish origin.

Kasza: common name given to all steamed or baked grains (i.e., wheat, buckwheat, barley) served frequently as side dishes.

Kielbasa: a Polish sausage made from ground pork and beef and well flavored with garlic. May be fresh or smoked; usually cooked before serving.

Kisiel: a thickened fresh fruit puree, served as a dessert; similar to Russian Kissel.

Klopsiki: meatballs.

Kluski: noodles.

Kompoty: stewed, sweetened fresh or dried fruits or a combination of both.

Konfitura: jam.

Krupnik: a hot mead. A mixture of honey, spices, and alcohol or vodka heated together. Known by the same name is a spiced honey liqueur, and a Polish barley soup usually prepared with a meat base and served with browned mushrooms.

Kwas: a tart liquid fermented from sour rye bread and water. Used for flavoring and as a beverage.

Makowiec: a special Christmas cake made with pastry or yeast dough thinly rolled, filled with poppy seeds, nuts and raisins, shaped like a jellyroll and baked. Served in slices.

Mazurka or Mazurek: rich, buttery cakes, often with nuts and fruits, baked in a thin sheet then cut in fingers. May be iced.

Nalesniki: thin pancakes or crepes which may be filled with sauces or fruits. With meat or vegetable filling, may be served as appetizers or main dishes.

Oplatek: the bread of love. The thin white wafer of unleavened bread blessed and eaten to open the Christmas Eve meal.

Paczki: filled jelly doughnuts enjoyed year-round but especially on New Year’s Eve.

Pieczen Huzarska: boneless braised beef, stuffed and tied for cooking. Served with potatoes and gravy.

Pieczony Schab: roast pork loin. Served with stewed fruits or fruit sauce.

Piernik: honey cake aromatic with citrus rind and spices. Reputedly of Jewish origin.

Pierogi or Pierozki: dumplings or “dough pockets” made by preparing thinly rolled noodle dough, cutting into squares and filling then poaching the sealed triangles till cooked. Fillings may be of meat, mushrooms, cheese, cabbage, or potatoes – all seasoned. These are served with drawn butter, meat gravy, or sour cream.

Polonaise Sauce: not a sauce in the usual sense – a toasted mixture of crumbs browned in butter and poured over vegetables.

Powidla: a thick fruit butter. Most popular is plum butter lightly spiced with anise.

Salatki: salad. Most often made with cooked ingredients or pickled vegetables. Frequently sweetened with sugar.

Smietana: sour cream.

Wloszczyzna: literally, “things Italian,” refers to vegetables. Dates from Italy’s Queen Bona Sforza’s marriage to Polish King Sigismund I, when she introduced to Poland the preparations and produce of her Italian chefs and gardeners.

Zakaski: savory, salted, tart “nibbles” or appetizers served with vodka to open the evening meal.

Zupa: soup, without which most Polish meals would be incomplete.

Zupa Grzybowa: favorite Polish mushroom soup with a chicken or vegetable base, served with sour cream and dill.

Zupa Nic: a “nothing” soup made by heating milk with sugar and vanilla and thickening slightly with beaten egg yolks. This is poured over a soup plate of cooked rice and garnished with poached meringue halls.

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