The best Polish food in Krakow & where to find it
Polish food is a delightful surprise for most visitors. Read about the most popular dishes and where to find the best Polish food in Krakow.
You might already have some idea of what to expect from Polish food in Krakow. Regardless, there will be plenty of Polish restaurants in Krakow for you to sample. A few dishes have gone global. But under the surface simmers a tantalizing cuisine shaped by seasons, terroir, and tradition.
Authentic Polish food can trace its path through the two distinctive periods. The communist era encouraged creativity with common ingredients like potatoes and seasonal vegetables. It was the birth of the ‘Milk Bar,’ soviet canteens that are still a source of hearty and inexpensive meals today.
Before communism, those who could meats and plump game birds figured more prominently. Those rich and indulgent meals made a comeback along with democracy in 1991.
In recent years, Polish tastes have absorbed influences from all over to add creative twists to established recipes. And while you’ll find the classics dished up everywhere serving Polish food, no menu is the same.
Authentic Polish food highlights
If you had to be choosy, several national and regional foods should be on every Epicurean itinerary. We highlight loads in our guide to the best dinner restaurants in Krakow. A few stand out that illustrate the diversity of Polish gastronomy.
The king of Polish food might be a humble dumpling. But the symphony of fresh fillings, sour cream, crispy onions, and/or bacon works culinary magic. Sweet or savory, sharing plate or full dinner, it’s the authentic Polish food you must try.
Borscht is a comforting dish across Eastern Europe. The sour and violently red beetroot brew can vary slightly between countries and even regions. Krakow is home to one of the most refined versions; barszcz czysty czerwony, made with strained meat and veg broths for a silky, glassy take on a regional favorite.
Add little uszka (dumplings stuffed with meat or mushrooms) or croquettes for a gratifying meal of quintessential Polishness.
The variations don’t end there. Botwinka, made with all the beetroot, stems and leaves included, is the essence of spring in a bowl. Another one barszcz look out for is Chłodnik, a Polish gazpacho-like soup served cold and packed with vegetables and fruit. A summer dish made for sunshine and satisfaction.
Herring is a divisive food that is as authentic as it gets. Pickled herring was once washed down with a vodka shot. While fermented herring apparently had a fanbase in the 19th century. It still has fans today, but not many.
Raw, pickled, or smoked herring is more widely appreciated. Love or hate it, if you want a proper taste of local cuisine, add śledź to your Polish food wishlist.
There is no shortage of cheesecake admirers. One is writing this article. Polish baked cheesecake (sernik) is a creamy, pillowy dense delight made with twaróg, a fresh farm cheese similar to quark. Purists will relish the plain cheesecake, with more than enough sweet goodness to enchant gourmands.
Or go “contemporary” and enjoy sernik topped with fruits. Not the way grandma made it, but increasingly popular. Toppings are only limited by imagination, with seasonal fruits popular.
One emblematic Krakow food that cannot be overlooked is Obwarzanek Krakowski. It could have been kielbasa (sausages). But in our food loving opinion, an even more distinctively-shaped local treat deserves the spotlight.
Poland’s sweet and doughy answer to the bagel is actually impossible to miss. It’s a moreish and cheap snack with a distinctly Cracovian identity widely sold by street vendors and bakers. Don’t leave without trying one.
If you’ve got room for one more bowl of Polish deliciousness, then try the Rosół soup. A Sunday dinner special that warms the soul on dreary winter days, the clear soup is loaded with noodles and brothy goodness.
A hangover cure and a family favorite in one bowl. Try the Rosół soup with chicken and potatoes to warm the heart and fill the stomach.
Where to eat authentic Polish food in Krakow
We could continue waxing about other delicious authentic Polish foods. Our Jolly European podcast episode on what Polish food is like is proof!
But the real question is: where can you savor the best local and regional Polish food?
There are a few Krakow Polish restaurants we cannot shut up about. A mix of old-time establishments and contemporary kitchens, with authentic Polish food at the heart of every menu.
⭐️ Monty’s Top Restaurant for Polish Pierogi in Krakow — Starka
The mention of vodka at the top of the menu is one telltale sign Starka is all about Polish food. A quick scan of a menu stuffed with regional and national classics confirms. Artistically decorated walls and an inter-wear interior that looks decidedly contemporary awaits visitors tempted inside.
Home-made pierogi — named after the local pierogi maestro who made them, Mrs. Rysia — sit beside robust meaty dishes in rich sauces, like the landed gentry once enjoyed. Washed down with a vodka or two from the head-spinning drink selection, it’s the all-around Polish experience. Try the fruit infusions made on-site for a refreshing take on the nation’s favorite tipple.
⭐️ Monty’s Top Restaurant for Polish Food in Krakow — Pod Aniołami
Gothic cellars and a 13th-century interior await at Pod Aniołami. Perched on the Royal Route from Old Town to Wawel Castle and serving utterly authentic Polish food, it’s as traditional as it gets.
Meaty dishes dominate a menu studded with ingredients from farms and game hunters. A beechwood fire roasts whole baby pig, mountain river trout, venison, wild boar, and more.
The menu is redolent of royal banquets. As if to make the point, a touch of gold is added to select plates in honor of the goldsmiths who once worked in the building.
Backing up these hearty dishes are Chef’s Recommendations. Assorted pierogi, smoked regional meats, and mushroom soups help showcase the nation’s favorite dishes.
With a picturesque garden and interior dripping with old-world character, Pod Aniołami is always a winner if you want to immerse yourself in Polish cuisine and heritage.
An old-time setting and mouthwatering array of pierogi await at Pierogarnia Krakowiacy, literally “Cracovian dumpling shop”. Several Polish restaurants share the name in and around Old Town.
The one on Szewska stands out, as mentioned in our digital city guide. Light, folksy décor backdrops a menu bulging with authentic Polish food.
Pierogi steal the eye. Staples like ruskie (potatoes and cheese) line up with house fillings like duck with apple.
Rounding out the tantalizing pierogi selection is the greatest hits of authentic Polish food: Żurek (rye soup,) bigos (hunter’s stew), and barszcz czerwony, Krakow’s own borscht, among them.
Another Polish restaurant on Szewska shines. Most food moods are catered to with a blend of pan-European dishes and Polish classics. Few places offer the chance to dip in and out of Polish food. Żurek for starters, a pizza for the main course, sernik (cheesecake) for dessert.
A cushiony conservatory (grab a seat by the window if you can) and crisp design set the atmosphere. Owned by Ewa Wachowicz, a Polish TV journalist and restaurant website photobomber, Zalipianki is a modern breed of Polish restaurant that covers all the bases.
Breakfasts are decent (you can find more breakfast solutions in our dedicated guide), and the dinner choice is wide-ranging. A compelling destination if you’re in two minds about what to eat.
🏆 Much-Awarded Polish Restaurant in Krakow — Kogel Mogel
Named after the yummy egg-nog-like dessert kogel mogel, this Krakow restaurant is where you can find superior cooking with a Polish heart.
Elegant décor, racks of fine wines, and a cobbled garden set the tone. As does the upscale menu and occasional piano concert.
The refined menu has a Polish essence, although dishes from pierogi to cabbage rolls have their own Kogel Mogel stamp. As you might expect, meat and creative sides dominate. Unlike traditional Polish restaurants, wine triumphs over vodka with a cellar to please oenophiles.
Kogel Mogel is one for special occasions, as our other recommendations for fine dining restaurants in Krakow.
Restauracja Sąsiedzi (opened in 2010) is a newcomer to the Polish food scene in Krakow. But the menu borrows heavily from its early culinary tradition to build a heritage menu with shades of modern European.
Pierogi, barszcz (borscht) and rye soup are there, as is a magnificent chateaubriand for sharing. Mains are a butcher’s delight, with meat plates exquisitely transformed using regional produce and rich sauces.
Individually styled rooms with a vintage homely feel compete with a pretty all-year garden for the best seats in the house. Among a sea of enticing places to eat in Kazimierz, Sąsiedzi is excellent for a slow and comforting immersion in the Polish food of today and yesterday.
After-dinner thoughts on Polish food in Krakow
You don’t have to look hard to find authentic Polish food in in Krakow. And it’s hard to imagine you won’t fall for Polish gastronomy, as there is something for all palates. As this mini gastro tour underlines, there’s depth and variety to authentic Polish food. And with modern kitchens playing with tradition to create something new, gourmet surprises abound.
And we haven’t even mentioned hip milk bars (communist-era canteens) or the many street vendors doling out Krakow food treats and culinary color to the local foodscape. Just several pieces of the mouthwatering jigsaw that enriches the local food scene.
Here is a bonus: Here is a special Easter edition of our Instagram Polish 101 for Tourists series with words you need to know for meals.