EUROPE
Krokaw city center on sunny day

Krokaw (arturhenryk (123RF))

Poland isn’t just the land of Pierogi. Here are a few must try traditional Polish foods in Krakow that will leave your taste buds wanting more.

In this gastronomic journey, we’ll navigate the must-try foods that define the heart and soul of Krakow, Poland. From tantalizing Pierogi to the irresistible sweetness of Pączki, each bite tells a tale of tradition and flavor. I had the chance to live in Poland for three years, and during those three years, I found an appreciation for Polish cuisine. Just recently I spent the weekend in Krakow eating to my heart’s content. My friend Aleksandra was able to show me around Krakow and together we ate our way through some of Poland’s best food, in my opinion at least.

Zapiekanka

Za-Pie What? Za-Pe-Kan-Ka , say it a million times! It’s quite a simple traditional Polish food, a baguette, open-faced with a layer of button mushrooms, cheese, and maybe some ketchup. It’s kind-of like a Polish pizza! There are so many different variations for every type of appetite, like the classic variation or the Italian variation.

A typical oven-baked Polish zapiekanka (toasted baguette with white mushrooms and cheese)

A typical oven-baked Polish zapiekanka (toasted baguette with white mushrooms and cheese) (artoffoto (123RF))

Something I find interesting about this particular food is that the origins of Zapiekanka can be traced back to the period of communist rule in Poland. During this time, there was limited access to various ingredients, and genius culinary solutions emerged! However, all credit goes to a gentleman by the name of Edward Gierek who was the First Secretary of the Polish United Workers. Gierek obtained a license to sell French baguettes, which led to this fascinating culinary delight. If it hadn’t been for Edward, you wouldn’t see this treat today.

Kluski Śląskie (KLOO-skee SHLOWN-skee)

Kluski is something special. Poland shares history with many of its surrounding countries so you may see these on the menu in Germany, Czechia, and Hungary. Talk about a traditional Polish food! Essential components include starchy potatoes (like Russet or Yukon Gold), potato starch for binding and eggs. They have a distinctive round shape with a small depression in the center.

My friend Aleksandra took me to Kluska Na Placu in Krakow. They specialize in regional food. This restaurant is a treat, and the atmosphere is pretty incredible. It feels like you are in someone’s house, about to have a meal that grandma made. Kluska Na Placu has such an extensive menu full of YUMMY traditional Polish food. I tried the Silesian Dumplings with Bursztyn Cheese Sauce and Bacon (Kluski z sosem z sera Bursztyn i bekonem). Aleksandra had the Silesian Dumplings with Beef Stew ( Kluski z gulaszem wołowym).

kluski slaskie with potato and pumpkin

Kluski slaskie (joannawnuk (123RF))

Both dishes were incredible and such a treat on a warm winter day! I topped my meal off with a glass of wine from the region, Godyla, a 2021 Cabernet Cortis. The notes were light and refreshing. I normally do not go for Polish wine; however, I think I may have changed my mind with this last visit!

Pączki

One of my favorite desserts that I miss from Poland is Pączki. This is a traditional Polish food that you need to try while in Krakow, or anywhere in Poland! Every year on Fat Thursday, Poles line up to devour these donuts and will eat dozens of them right before Lent. I always found this fascinating; and yes, I partook in this tradition. Why not? You can find stand-alone stores that sell them, or you can stop by your local grocer and find them in the pastry aisle. I love rose with candied orange on top.

Raspberry paczki on plate

Raspberry paczki on plate (14ktgold (123RF))

Żurek

Looking for a Polish treat with ties back to the Middle Ages? Look no further than Żurek, this is a traditional Polish soup known for its distinctive sour taste. Not only in Krakow but also in the rest of Poland. Polish peasants used to keep a pot that was ceramic so they could make their Zakwas, which is the sour base for soup. Pretty incredible right? Interestingly enough, the pot was not washed, so fermentation from the previous batch could act as a starter for the next. The sour flavor in Żurek comes from the fermentation of rye flour, which is a key ingredient.

Traditional Zurek with sausage and egg, white borscht, polish homemade Easter soup

Traditional Zurek with sausage and egg, white borscht, polish homemade Easter soup (repinanatoly (123RF))

Pierogi

Of course, Pierogis make this list. I could write a love song about Pierogi. Pierogi was the first Polish dish I learned how to make when we lived in Poland. I know every country has its take on a dumpling, however, I love the Polish dumpling. TRY ANY KIND!! My favorite is cabbage and mushroom!

Pierogi with green parsley on black smokey background

Pierogi (atlasfoto (123RF))

In Krakow, and all over Poland, you’ll find Pierogi stuffed with mashed potatoes, fried onions, quark or farmers cheese, cabbage, sauerkraut, meat, mushrooms, spinach, cheese or other ingredients depending on the cook’s preferences. You can even find dessert versions often stuffed with sweetened quark or with a fresh fruit filling such as cherry, strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, apple or plum!

Places to find these foods in Krawkow
  • Staropolska Karczma

  • Dobra Paczkarnia

  • Kluska Na Placu

  • Zapiekanki Bar Oko

Check out Kimberly’s blog, Kimberly Kephart Travels, for more entertaining and informative articles. 

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