February 22, 2024

A food lover’s guide to Warsaw: 13 traditional dishes and where to find them

Warsaw, the bustling capital of Poland, is a great place for food lovers. Not to brag, but one of the things we know how to do is cooking! A lot of Polish people are foodies and you'll find a lot of restaurants on every single corner in Warsaw. The city's food scene is a vibrant mix of traditional Polish cuisine and international flavors, but it's the authentic Polish dishes that truly capture the essence of Warsaw's cultural heritage. This guide takes you on a gastronomic journey through Warsaw, highlighting some of the traditional dishes and the best places to try them.

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Pyzy: a Warsaw specialty

polish pyzy

Soft potato dumplings filled with meat or vegetarian options
Let's start with something 100% typical for Warsaw: pyzy! These soft potato dumplings, traditionally filled with minced pork or beef, have been a staple of Warsaw's culinary landscape for generations. The dough for pyzy is made from a unique, traditional recipe, resulting in a comforting dish that's often served with fried onions or bacon. For vegetarians, there are meat-free versions available, topped with a variety of vegetarian-friendly ingredients. If you want to try it while in Warsaw, there is no better place than Pyzy, Flaki Gorące. They are based in the Warsaw Old Town (Podwale 5) and in the Praga district (Brzeska 29/31). Don't be surprised if you'll get your pyzy in a jar. That's the most traditional way!

Wuzetka: Warsaw's signature cake

Chocolate sponge cake layered with whipped cream
Wuzetka is a simple, yet absolutely delicious cake, made of two layers of chocolate sponge with fluffy whipped cream sandwiched between them. It's the most typical cake from Warsaw, and even its name is related to the city. Some say that it comes from the W-Z route in Warsaw. The W-Z stands for Wschód-Zachód which means East-West in English. Others claim that WZ is an abbreviation of WZC which stands for Warszawskie Zakłady Cukiernicze (Warsaw Confectionery Plants). For those eager to sample this iconic dessert - it is very easy - just go to any bigger confectionery and they'll probably have it. If you want to try a modern version of this traditional cake, go to KUK at Miodowa 6/8.

Zygmuntówka: A rare delicacy

Almond cupcake with chocolate mousse, cranberry jam, and meringue
There's one more cake that is related to Warsaw but to be honest, not many people from Warsaw have tried it. Not because it's not good, simply because it's so hard to find! The name of this cake is Zygmuntówka. It was created in 2009 for a competition announced by the Town Hall and the Food Crafts Guild. Its intricate layers of almond cupcake, chocolate mousse, cranberry jam, and crowned with a meringue, pay homage to King Zygmunt III Waza who moved the capital from Kraków to Warsaw. This cake is a rare thing so if you find Zygmuntówka somewhere in Warsaw and you manage to try it - please let us know!

Other traditional Polish dishes to explore

polish pierogi

Warsaw offers an array of traditional Polish dishes beyond its city-specific specialties. Among must-try ones that showcase the rich flavors of Polish cuisine are:

  • Śledź w Oleju: Marinated herring served in oil with onions, often accompanied by bread or potatoes.
  • Tatar: Steak tartare, made from raw minced beef or sometimes other meats, seasoned with spices and served with raw egg yolk, onions, pickles, and bread.
  • Pierogi: dumplings stuffed with various fillings such as meat, potatoes, cheese, mushrooms, or fruits. They are usually boiled or fried and served with sour cream or butter.
  • Żurek: sour rye soup which is a Polish classic. It typically contains sausage, potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, and sometimes bacon. In some Polish restaurants it's served in a bread bowl. In Polish houses it's often enjoyed during Easter but in the restaurants it's available year-round.
  • Bigos: Known as "hunter's stew”, made with sauerkraut, various meats like sausage and pork, mushrooms, and sometimes prunes for sweetness.
  • Gołąbki: Cabbage rolls stuffed with a mixture of rice, minced meat (often pork or beef), and sometimes mushrooms, served with tomato sauce or gravy.
  • Placki ziemniaczane: Potato pancakes served with sour cream or meat goulash, a delicious and comforting dish.
  • Barszcz: A beetroot soup, often served hot with sour cream, and sometimes with dumplings (uszka) inside.
  • Zupa Pomidorowa: Tomato soup, typically creamy and served with pasta or rice, often garnished with fresh herbs.
  • Flaki: Tripe soup, made from beef or pork stomach, usually seasoned with marjoram and other spices.

If you want to know more about traditional Polish cuisine check out this article where we describe it in detail!

Where to eat in Warsaw

Finding the best Polish food in Warsaw is an adventure in itself, with numerous restaurants offering high-quality, traditional dishes. Zapiecek, Gościniec, Gospoda Kwiaty Polskie, Podwale 25, and Stolica are just a few recommendations for experiencing authentic Polish cuisine. These establishments are known for their generous portions and excellent quality, ensuring a satisfying dining experience.

If you want to know more great places to visit during your stay be sure to join Walkative! Warsaw tours. After each of them you will get access to a specially curated treasure map that will make your stay smooth, joyful and delicious!

Dining Tips for Warsaw

When dining in Warsaw, it's wise to pace yourself. Polish meals are hearty, and portions are generous. Our tip is: when in a Polish restaurant, never order a starter, soup, main course, and dessert at once, because there is a good chance that you will feel full after the starter. 🙂

Conclusion

Warsaw's culinary scene is a testament to Poland's rich gastronomic heritage, offering an array of dishes that are as diverse as they are delicious. From the traditional pyzy and wuzetka to the elusive Zygmuntówka and a variety of classic Polish dishes, there's no shortage of flavors to explore in the city. Whether you're wandering through the historic Old Town or exploring the vibrant districts of Śródmieście, Muranów or Praga, Warsaw invites you to indulge in its culinary delights, making every meal an unforgettable part of your Polish experience.

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