Finding and Choosing Vegetarian Food in Poland
When you think about Polish food, what immediately comes to mind?
Maybe pierogi, flavorful soups, fresh breads and cooked meats? When people think of Polish food, I can almost guarantee that vegetarian and other plant-based dishes are not the first thought. Polish food is traditionally heavy in meat products, but vegetarian meals are much easier to find than you may think!
Since meat and dairy weren’t always easily accessible in Poland, many vegetarian recipes naturally evolved around the country. The word Poland actually comes from the world Pole, meaning field, and Poland is full of fields! Over 60% of the land is Poland is used for farming and agriculture employs 12% of the population. Poland is often seen as the breadbasket of Europe and grows a huge amount of fresh goods that are dispersed to other countries.
Locally Grown Produce
In Poland, chain grocery stores are not the only place to purchase fruits and vegetables. Everywhere in Poland you will find small fruit and vegetables markets both indoors and outdoors that are stocked full of a huge variety of fresh produce. They are comparable to (and sometimes exceed) the traditional farmer's market in the United States.
Some locally grown vegetables in Poland include potatoes, cabbage, beetroots, onions, celeriac, carrots, parsley, peas and beans. In the fruit department, you will easily find apples, plums, pears, currants and other berries. Poles also gather a number of goodies from the forest including wild mushrooms and berries.
Fermented foods are also very popular in Poland. Fermented cucumbers, pickles and sauerkraut are all very common items you will find served with a meal. They are easy to pick up in grocery stores and many Poles make these items themselves at home. Fermented rye is also used to make wholemeal bread and a sour soup called żurek. Fermented beetroot juice is used to the make the traditional beetroot soup called barszcz.
Finding a Restaurant
In many cities around Poland, you will not have trouble finding restaurants that offer vegetarian dishes (more than just salad…). Happy Cow is a great website to use anywhere in the world, including Poland, to find restaurants that offer vegetarian and vegan options.
Polish Obiad - The Main Meal
When it comes to the traditional Polish obiad (lunch or the main meal eaten around 3pm) your first course will usually consist of soup. There are a number of soups that can easily be prepared vegetarian, although it’s important to note that many are based in a meat broth, so be sure to check! Some delicious soups that can be made vegetarian are tomato soup (pomidorowa), pickle soup (ogórkowa), mushroom soup (grzybowa) and cabbage soup (kapuśniak) to name a few.
The main course usually consists of a protein, a carb and vegetables. Some of the most likely vegetarian options are potato pancakes (placki ziemniaczane), pierogi with a veggie filling, and cabbage rolls (gołąbki).
As for dessert, a vegetarian will have a mouthwatering list of choices. Vegans should be careful as many desserts contain eggs. Cakes are one of the most popular desserts you will find in Poland, and with a good reason. They are not only tasty but a complete work of art! Some desserts I recommend are apple cake (szarlotka), cheesecake (sernik), doughnuts (pączki) and gingerbread (piernik).
A few other traditional dishes and drinks that can easily be made vegetarian:
- Łazanki - handmade triangular pasta
- Kopytka - Potato dumpling similar to the Italian gnocchi
- Pyzy - stuffed dumpling
- Kluski Śląskie - round potato dumplings
- Knedle - boiled potato dough dumpling filled with plums
- Kompot - traditional fruit juice
- Kisiel - sweet fruit dessert, like berry juice but thicker
- Pieczone Jabłka - baked apples
- Jagodzianki - a blueberry filled sweet bun
If you are a vegetarian who wants to visit Poland and indulge in the delicious foods, do not fear! You won’t be limited in your options and you will always be sure to find plenty to eat.
- Is it vegetarian? - Czy to danie jest wegetariańskie?
- Is it vegan? - Czy to danie jest wegańskie?
- I'm vegetarian/vegan. What are your options? - Jestem wegetarianinem / weganinem. Jakie są moje opcje?
- Do you have soy milk? - Czy macie Państwo mleko sojowe?
- Can I have this without milk/eggs/cheese? - Czy mogę dostać to danie bez mleka/jajek/sera?
- It was delicious! - To było przepyszne!
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