Archives January 2023

Latvian Food: 15 Traditional Dishes to Look for in Riga

EDITOR’S NOTE: Traveleater and Latvian food expert Kārlis Šulcs from Riga shares with us 15 traditional dishes you need to try on your next trip to Latvia.

It’s been said that God created the world in seven days, but not everyone knows that he didn’t mention a few details. At one time, God’s toes touched the shores of a white sand beach with pine trees in the distance. He knew what to call that land – Latvia.

Latvia is the beating heart of northeastern Europe. It’s situated on the shores of the Baltic sea, which provides Latvia with its pulsating vein of life – the river Daugava. The people living on these shores are called Latvians, and our ancestors loved this land dearly. The lakes, evergreen trees, fields of grain in summer, and golden leaves during autumn…it was something dear to hold on to.

They worried that such a wondrous land would be desirable to many strangers. “They’d surely love to put their feet up on our tables”, they thought. So, they asked God for advice, and he gave them hearty food to fill those tables. They thanked him because they knew that their bellies needed to be full to protect their precious home.

Nowadays, we love sharing those meals, whether it be with family, friends, guests, or strangers. Perhaps, you’re a stranger for now, but I hope you’ll be a friend after I share our cuisine’s stories.

Save This on Pinterest!

No time to read this article on traditional Latvian food? Click on the save button and pin it for later!

Photo by Chatham172

WHAT IS TRADITIONAL LATVIAN CUISINE?

All right, I admit it. I made that tale up. That’s just how I like to imagine it. But every tale has a part of truth to it.  We truly think our land is so beautiful and generous that it could’ve been made only by God himself.

Latvians are creative, sturdy, and hearty people, and we love what our land can gift to us. We dance until we drop, we love until we’re dizzy, and we sure like to eat well.

Our creativity transcends into cooking too. It’s no accident that potatoes are called “second bread” in Latvia, as we know how to make many dishes from just a few things. The same goes for many other Latvian dishes, as you’ll see further on.

We love pork, fish, dairy, vegetables, berries, and anything made of flour. I could talk about the variety of Latvian cuisine for days, but I’d rather share our most beloved dishes first. Just imagining the scent of freshly-baked rye bread will make you bedazzled, and the relief of having cold soup on a hot summer’s day will make you forget about other refreshments.

I didn’t mention a tiny detail about the tale. God was actually so spellbound by the beauty of our land that he forgot to give us any recipes. So, we came up with a few ourselves!

MUST-TRY LATVIAN DISHES

1. Rupjmaize (Rye Bread)

A friend once jokingly told me – “What is it with Latvians eating rye bread? The Second World War is over! You can eat white bread now”. He had a point, though.

We’ve had some tough times in the past. Culturally, dark rye bread was a savior for our ancestors as it was fairly easy to make and very nutritious. I didn’t mention to my friend at the time that there was an irony to that statement. We love our rye bread so much that we would wage war if someone tried to take it away!

Rupjmaize or Latvian rye bread is a simplistic beauty that can be used in diverse ways. Take some rye flour, yeast, water, sugar, salt, and caraway seeds, and you’re ready to bake your own loaf.

But be wary! You’ll need a pair of strong hands to knead the dough. You wouldn’t want to arm wrestle Latvian women of the past, that’s for certain. But you’d surely love to try what we can make out of rye bread.

Photo by Fanfo

2. Maizes Zupa

If you too wondered why we love dark rye bread so much, bread soup is one of the answers. It’s a marvelous Latvian dessert that isn’t too sweet and won’t leave you with a toothache.

Latvian moms in the past had to make sure of that because there weren’t many dentists in the countryside. However, they loved their kids too much and still wanted to make them a treat after dinner.

What they came up with is maizes supa or Latvian rye bread soup (or is it rye bread pudding?) We love gathering berries and drying fruits for recipes just like this one. So, we decided to mix things and see what our taste buds say!

You’ll need soggy rye bread, sugar, water, cranberries, dried fruits, cinnamon, and whipped cream. If it seems these things don’t go together, let me tell you…there was nothing tastier during childhood summers in Latvia after playing outside with friends.

Photo by Elena Pyatkova

3. Aukstā Zupa

Summers…aren’t they getting hotter? Some Latvians think that we implemented a bottle deposit system embarrassingly late.

I think there are two good reasons why we don’t need to worry about contributing to climate change. Firstly, we have plenty of forests. Secondly, we don’t like air conditioning – we eat cold soup instead. Literally meaning “cold soup”, aukstā zupa has been the number one refreshment for Latvians for a long time, and it won’t change anytime soon.

Our mind is built in a way that when the temperature goes above 25° C, we miraculously find ourselves in the store looking for ingredients. Marinated or fresh beetroot, kefir, cucumbers, boiled eggs and potatoes, dill, spring onions, and horseradish. Sausage is optional.

The heat you feel from the boiling process will be immediately relieved after you put everything together and eat the soup in a bowl. Why shouldn’t we enjoy soup in the summer?

Photo by timolina via Depositphotos

4. Frikadeļu Zupa

Got through summer in a breeze? Then autumn and winter must be approaching. We don’t worry about that too much, though. Latvians love soups, and meatball soup is one of them.

Grandmothers watched their grandchildren building snowmen and didn’t worry about them getting blue lips from the cold. They just made meatball soup! It’s the Latvian way of feeling hot in the winter.

Frikadeļu zupa or Latvian meatball soup is made with minced meat, potatoes, vegetables, and spices. During childhood, I had to quickly fish out the meatballs from the mix of potatoes and carrots. It’s a shame to admit, but I came to appreciate soups a lot more during adulthood only.

Maybe you’d like to correct my foolishness and make a bowl right now? Latvian meatball soup is delicious on its own, but it’s truly best when enjoyed with some dark rye bread and a dollop of sour cream.

Photo by Timolina

5. Skābeņu Zupa

Don’t we all judge by looks? The pinnacle of shame of my culinary experience during childhood was skābeņu zupa or sorrel soup. Yes, Latvians have those.

Over time, I found myself putting sorrel soup in my top five favorite Latvian dishes. How can something so visually bizarre be so marvelously delicious? That’s beyond me, but as we know, Latvians know how to be versatile in the kitchen arts.

This delightful dish is made from Latvian-beloved smoked pork ribs, potatoes, eggs, spices, and sorrel. In the end, you’ll end up with a lovely bowl of bog green that tastes like a spoonful of heaven!

Try this dish and you’ll surely eat it to the last drop. Unlike me, who went to bed with a scolding, a full bowl, and an empty stomach.

Photo by MarinaMos

6. Bukstinbiezputra

This is the reason why no child in Latvia was afraid to go to bed with an empty stomach after a scolding. This traditional Livonian dish has been the cornerstone of a proper breakfast for hundreds of years.

Sometimes, I suspect that I got it served so much because my grandma wanted me to have extra energy for countryside chores. And that I did have! 

Bukstin porridge is made from barley groats, potatoes, onions, bacon, dill, and a dash of sour cream. If that doesn’t sound like a combination that will give you all the calories for the day, then I don’t know what does.

Photo by Fanfo

7. Kartupeļu Pankūkas

Remember when I said potatoes are called “second bread” in Latvia? These potato pancakes are one of the reasons for that noble title.

Culturally, Latvians grew and stored potatoes in basements for hundreds of years because you could make anything from them. Mashed potatoes? Sure! Need to make a salad? Potato. Soup? Potato, potato, potato.

Kartupelu pankukas or Latvian potato pancakes are something that comes like a storm from a blue sky. At first, they’re so light, and you can eat them without noticing. Probably due to the crunchy taste!

But be aware not to eat too many. Served with sour cream, they’re very nutritious, and you’ll end up not being able to move and help out with preparing Christmas dinner.

Photo by Timolina

8. Pelēkie Zirņi ar Speķi

This wonderful Christmas season… so peaceful, so quiet, and rife with seasonal Latvian food. You can almost hear the grey peas soaking in water overnight!

In the past, when Latvians couldn’t afford fancy Christmas dinners, grey peas with bacon were the traditional dish. And then, we realized that there’s nothing fancier and tastier, and that’s why it’s a traditional Christmas food to this day.

Pelēkie zirņi ar speķi is easy to make, and it only takes patience to watch the peas soak. Grey peas, bacon, fried onions, oil, spices, and a truckload of patience.

But that patience will pay off, especially if you’re a superstitious person! In Latvia, we believe you need to empty your plate to not shed a single tear in the upcoming year.

Photo by Mariia_A

9. Štovēti Kāposti

Do you still have some space in your belly? Štovēti kāposti or Latvian stewed sauerkraut is another magnificent Christmas dish. The table would seem empty without it, no matter how full it was.

This recipe has been handed down from generation to generation and is sure to make every Latvian remember their childhood and time spent with their family. Every self-respecting Latvian has their own twist on stewed cabbage too.

Sauerkraut, pig fat, and sugar don’t encompass the whole essence of this Christmas dish. It’s something that everyone should try at least once.

However, it would be quite sly to give one extra shot of Riga Black Balsam to the Latvian granny who’s making stewed sauerkraut for you. Those kitchen secrets are nothing to sneeze at.

Photo by Dirk Ingo Franke, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons / Processed in Photoshop and Lightroom

10. Pīrādziņi

By now, your belly should already be full of Christmas delight. But you can’t just sip on Riga Black Balsam without having a light snack on top, trust me!

Latvian speck or lard patties is another Christmas dish made for snacking. It’s one of the lightest and puffiest pastries you’ll ever enjoy and one of the nine mandatory Christmas dishes.

Dough, lard, onion, sour cream, speck, and seasonings are all the ingredients you need to make your home smell like Christmas. However, I suggest not waiting until a holiday to try them. We make them throughout the year.

After all, Latvians traditionally owned livestock. What else are we supposed to make from the meat of a whole pig?

Photo by Karlis Dambrans

11. Karbonāde ar Kaulu

Latvians have always known how not to let any food go to waste. And since we’ve always grown livestock, we had to make sure that we learned how to cook every part of an animal. Bone-in pork chops are one of the finest meats you can try, and they were reserved for the top guests alongside pork loin.

To make this Latvian food favorite, you’ll need spices, butter, water, bullion, and bone-in pork chops. After a portion of these – often with a side of boiled potatoes – I never needed to wash my hands because I always licked my fingers clean. I suspect that you’ll do the same.

Photo by Chatham172

12. Asinsdesa

You didn’t think I was kidding when I said we were efficient, did you?

A Latvian dish that might seem controversial, asinsdesa is a type of blood sausage that’s been a delicacy since ancient Latgalian times. It’s nothing fancy since blood isn’t the finest part of a pig, but if you can get over the name and the ingredients, you’ll never forget its excellent taste.

Made from barley groats, lard, lingonberries, pig intestines, and blood, this Latvian sausage sounds like something out of a horror movie. Throw in the fact that we love to eat it with sugarless lingonberry jam, and you’ll think that we’ve lost our minds. Especially since we have a seashore for endless fishing!

Photo by SHARKY PHOTOGRAPHY

13. Smoked Fish

“God save us from the plague, fire, and the Curonians.”

It’s an inscription found written inside a Danish church circa the 11th century. Thankfully, Curonians stopped being the scourge of the seas because the region of Courland started to raise more fishermen than fighters.

Of course, that influx of fish needed proper fish preparation methods. Smoked fish has been eaten in Latvia for centuries, and it’s still a beloved dish today.

There is no singular recipe for smoked fish that can be put above another, but my favorite would be smoked lamprey. If you ever come across a fishing village on the shores of Courland, then it’s a must-have.

Photo by AJSTUDIO PHOTOGRAPHY

14. Rupjmaizes Kārtojums

We’ve come full circle, dear reader. It’s difficult to make a top 15 list of Latvian dishes without mentioning rye bread at least several times.

A dessert so well-known it has its own Wikipedia page, rupjmaizes kārtojums or layered rye bread is every child’s dream dessert. Unlike rye bread soup, the ingredients aren’t mixed but layered. After a spoonful, you’ll experience a rainbow of flavors on your taste buds!

Rye breadcrumbs, jam, whipped cream, and cinnamon are all that you need to make this classic Latvian dessert. But don’t think it can’t be even more diverse. You can use many types of jam or even sprinkle chocolate on top instead of cinnamon.

Photo by EllyGri

15. Kvass

We’ve talked about Christmas, but what about other holidays? On the summer solstice, Latvians celebrate “Jāņi”. It’s a magical holiday when Latvians jump over bonfires, drink beer, and look for the fern flower.

As a child, I wanted to look like the adults drinking beer, but I wasn’t allowed to, of course. So, while the adults were drinking beer, I drank kvass!

Kvass is made from malt extract, water, sugar, yeast, and – you guessed it – rye bread crusts. During childhood, Latvian kids knew it had a tiny bit of alcohol content, so we loved to pretend to be adults while drinking it.

Nowadays, you can buy kvass in the store, but would it be the real taste of Latvia?

Mr.Icon (Mricon), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons / Processed in Photoshop and Lightroom

FINAL THOUGHTS ON TRADITIONAL LATVIAN FOOD

By now, you’ve probably noticed a trend. There aren’t too many ingredients, but there’s so much variety.

Our Latvian ancestors have been through thick and thin in the past, and sometimes, food was scarce. Latvia is small but it has a fiercely beating heart, and that fire is still present in today’s Latvians. Resilience, patience, and the love of our mothers and grandmothers are the essence of our cuisine.

No matter if you take a bite of a potato pancake or have a sip of kvass, it’s not just the food you’re tasting. You’re also feeling the spirit of Latvia. Latvians feel it in their hearts! Hopefully, you’ll feel it too.

And no matter under which sky we may be, we never forget where we came from. So while gazing up into the sky and tasting our traditional dishes, put your ear to the ground and listen. Can you hear the thumping? It’s Latvia’s heartbeat calling for you.

Cover photo by Karlis Dambrans. Stock images via Shutterstock.

Colombian Street Food: 25 Delicious Dishes and Drinks to Look For

I’m not going to lie, I’m a street food guy through and through. It’s what excites me most about any trip.

We spent over a month eating our way through Colombia, and while I did enjoy fine dining restaurants like Leo in Bogota, nothing revved me up more than the prospect of eating good Colombian street food.

From arepas de huevo in Cartagena to perros calientes in Medellin, if you’re visiting Colombia and have a passion for street food like I do, then this list of the best Colombian street foods will be very useful to you.

COLOMBIAN STREET FOOD QUICK LINKS

If you’re visiting Colombia and want to really learn about Colombian food, then we highly recommend joining a food tour or taking a cooking class.

TOURS

  • Food Tours: Food and Drinking Tours in Colombia
  • Cooking Classes: Cooking Classes in Colombia

Save This on Pinterest!

No time to read this guide on popular Colombian street foods? Click on the save button and pin it for later!

THE MOST DELICIOUS STREET FOODS IN COLOMBIA

1. Arepas

The arepa is perhaps the most important staple food in Colombian cuisine. Made with corn dough, it refers to a type of Colombian corn cake that’s eaten at practically every meal in Colombia. Order any traditional Colombian dish and chances are, it’ll be served with a side of arepas (among many other things).

Arepas are commonly eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but they’re also one of the most popular Colombian street foods. Here are two of my favorite versions:

Arepas de Huevo

When a Colombian college friend of mine saw that we were in Cartagena, the first thing she told me was: “You need to try arepa de huevo”. A quintessential street food in Cartagena, it’s a type of stuffed arepa that’s popular along the Caribbean coast of Colombia.

An arepa de huevo consists of a corn cake that’s been filled with ground meat and a raw egg and then deep-fried. It’s typically filled with both ground meat and egg, but you can get it with just egg as well. Just ask for an “arepa solo huevo” (pictured below).

Here’s what it looks like when filled with both ground meat and a fried egg. Commonly sold at street stalls throughout Cartagena, this tasty parcel of meat and egg turned out to be one of my favorite Colombian street foods. Don’t miss it!

Arepas de Queso

Just as popular as arepas de huevo are arepas de queso, or arepas filled with cheese. They’re a popular street food or breakfast treat consisting of arepas filled with butter and queso costeño, a salty and soft Colombian white cheese. You can think of it as the Colombian version of a grilled cheese sandwich.

I didn’t try it but I’ve seen arepas de queso topped with sweetened condensed milk as well. I believe that version is more commonly eaten for breakfast.

2. Empanadas

If you’ve been to any Spanish-speaking country, then chances are, you’ve had your fair share of empanadas.

Originally from Spain, this street food staple is commonly sold by street vendors in many countries throughout South America and Latin America like Venezuela, Argentina, Mexico, and Chile. Thanks to the Spanish influence, it’s become a popular snack in the Philippines as well.

Empanadas come in many forms but in Colombia, they’re typically made with corn flour and almost always deep-fried. They can be filled with a variety of different ingredients like ground meat, shredded chicken, potatoes, cheese, and vegetables.

A hugely popular snack, it doesn’t matter where you are in Colombia – just walk around any busy area and it won’t be long before you find a street vendor selling delicious, golden brown empanadas.

3. Carimañolas

Popular in Colombia and Panama, the carimañola is another delicious street food snack that you need to try in Colombia. It’s similar to an empanada except it’s torpedo-shaped and made with mashed yuca (cassava) instead of corn flour, giving it a softer texture.

Like empanadas, carimañolas can be filled with a variety of different ingredients, most commonly ground meat, shredded chicken, and cheese.

4. Papas con huevo y carne

If arepas de huevo were my favorite afternoon snack in Cartagena, then papas con huevo y carne may have been a close second. Many street vendors sell both so my tasty arepa de huevo was frequently followed by one of these chunky hot fried papas.

As you can probably guess from its name, papas con huevo y carne refer to deep-fried balls of mashed potatoes filled with eggs and spiced ground meat. (Are you starting to notice a pattern here?)

5. Tamales Tolimenses

Tamales are a staple dish in many countries throughout South America, Latin America, and the Philippines. In Colombia, one particularly delicious version hails from the Tolima Department in the Andean region of the country, hence the name tamal tolimense.

Tamales tolimenses are loaded with ingredients like chicken, pork ribs, potatoes, peas, carrots, boiled eggs, and rice. They’re commonly eaten for breakfast in Bogota, often with a cup of chocolate santafreño (hot chocolate with queso campesino).

6. Bollo de Mazorca con Queso

If you like tamales, then you definitely need to try bollos de mazorca. They’re sweet corn rolls made with mashed or pureed corn that’s been wrapped in corn husks and then steamed. Unlike tamales which are made with nixtamalized corn, bollos de mazorca are made with fresh corn.

The version pictured below was served with cubes of white Colombian cheese, hence the name bollos de mazorca con queso.

7. Colombian Cheese Bread

In Cartagena, I often started my day with cheese bread and a cup of Colombian coffee. Visit a traditional bakery in any Colombian city and you’ll find different types of cheese bread. These are three of the most common.

Almojábana

The almojábana is perhaps the most well-known type of Colombian cheese bread. It’s made with cornmeal and cuajada cheese, a type of fresh cheese made with non-pasteurized milk.

Pandebono

Pandebono is similar to almojábana except it’s made with yuca flour, corn flour, and costeño cheese. Between the two, I actually prefer pandebono thanks to its springier texture from the yuca flour.

Pandeyuca

Ignoring the irregular shape, pandebono and pandeyuca are actually quite similar except the latter is made purely with yuca flour. This small difference yields a bread roll that’s much airier and drier than pandebono.

Of the three, I find pandeyuca to be the most interesting. You can’t tell from this picture but it’s almost completely hollow inside.

8. Buñuelos

The buñuelo is another Spanish street food snack that can be found in different forms throughout Latin America. Depending on where they’re from, they can be flat, round, ring-like, or even rosette-shaped.

In Colombia, buñuelos usually take the shape of a small ball or oval made with corn starch and yuca flour. They’re typically made with curd white cheese and deep-fried, though they can be filled with other ingredients as well like guava jam, arequipe (dulce de leche), and chocolate.

9. Dedo de Queso

Dedos de queso are among the most common Colombian street foods. It’s basically a Colombian cheese stick made with local white cheese. Dedo in Spanish means “finger”.

Dedos de queso are a common sight at street food stalls throughout Colombia. They can be made in different sizes. The one pictured below is fairly large but much smaller versions called deditos de queso (little fingers) are common as well.

10. Pinchos / Chuzos

Meat on a stick? Yes, please!

Pinchos or chuzos refer to Colombian meat skewers. Grilled over hot charcoal, they’re a popular street food and can be made with different types of meat like chicken, beef, pork, or sausages.

Behold this big pincho from a street vendor in Cartagena! He poured two sauces over the meats and stuck a hot potato at the end before serving.

11. Salchipapas

Salchipapa is a portmanteau word for salchicha (sausage) and papa (potato) – the two main ingredients in this popular street food dish. It’s originally from the streets of Lima, Peru, though it’s become popular in other parts of South America as well like Colombia, Bolivia, Argentina, and Ecuador.

As its name suggests, salchipapa is made with sausages and french fries but it can contain many other ingredients as well. This overflowing bowl from a food hall in Medellin was topped with bacon, quail eggs, shredded cheese, cheese sauce, and barbecue sauce. Satisfying and seriously yummy.

12. Lechona Tolimense

If you’ve enjoyed roast pig in Spain, Latin America, or the Philippines, then the word lechon will already be familiar to you. It refers to a popular festival dish consumed in Spain and many of its former colonies.

In Colombia, it’s referred to as lechona tolimense. Largely associated with Tolima Department, it consists of a slab of pork fatback that’s been stuffed with chunks of pork, rice, peas, and spices. The stuffed pork is then baked in an oven for up to twelve hours until the skin becomes crackingly crisp.

We went on a food tour in Bogota and one of the stops was a hole-in-the-wall that served nothing but lechona. Being from the Philippines, I know lechon well and I can say that this Colombian version is delicious, especially when paired with some vinegar.

13. Cocteles

This Colombian street food dish called cocteles really surprised me. It surprised me because I didn’t expect it to be as good as it was. It’s frikking delicious.

Cocteles are made with different types of seafood dressed in a cocktail sauce consisting of ketchup, hot sauce, mayonnaise, lime juice, onions, and cilantro. Coctel de camarones (shrimp) is the most common but it’s often made with crab, octopus, squid, clams, and sea snails as well.

A popular street food in Cartagena, cocteles are served in styrofoam cups with saltine crackers. They’re surprisingly tasty and easily one of my favorite Colombian street foods.

14. Patacones

Like arepas, patacones are among the most common side dishes in Colombian cuisine. They’re flattened discs of double-fried unripe plantains that are often served alongside larger Colombian meals. And like arepas, it’s also common to see them sold as street food.

Pictured below is a patacon topped with chicharron (fried pork belly) and a block of white cheese. This was filling enough, but if you’re really hungry, then you can order a patacon con todo. As its name suggests, it’s topped with a whole mess of ingredients like shoestring potatoes, sausages, chicharron, shredded chicken, cheese, and a fried egg.

15. Hormigas Culonas

This next Colombian street food is reserved for the more daring. Hormigas culonas literally means “big-assed ants”. It’s the perfect way of describing this species of large leaf-cutter ant (Atta laevigata) that’s been consumed by the Guane indigenous people of Santander Department for hundreds of years.

Hormigas culonas are harvested for about nine weeks during the rainy season. Based on what I’ve read, only the queens are harvested, presumably because only they have the large abdomens which make them suitable for consumption.

Not surprisingly, these large-bottomed ants are viewed as aphrodisiacs and have been traditionally given as wedding gifts.

These ants are huge! At first glance, they look too big to be ants.

Hormigas culonas can either be toasted or fried. I don’t remember which one we got but one was more expensive than the other. I think we may have gotten the toasted version.

Like cocteles, I was surprised by how good these ants were. I was expecting them to be tasteless but they were anything but. Hormigas culonas are shockingly tasty. They’re crunchy, nutty, almost chocolatey. They’re said to be highly nutritious too and make for a great snack with cold beer. Very addictive!

If you aren’t squeamish with your food choices, then I highly recommend picking up a pack of hormigas culonas. It’s definitely one of the more unique street foods you’ll find in Colombia.

16. Perros Calientes

There are hot dogs, and then there are Colombian hot dogs. Called perros calientes (literally, “hot dogs”), these local versions are among the most beloved Colombian street foods in Medellin, and probably unlike any hot dog you’ve ever seen.

What makes perros calientes different from their American counterparts are the toppings. Instead of the standard ketchup, mustard, and pickle relish, perros calientes are topped with a boatload of less conventional ingredients like ceviche, crab, shrimp in coconut sauce, refried beans, arugula, crushed potato chips, and shoestring potatoes.

After a night of partying in Medellin, nothing can satisfy your drunken cravings more than a perro caliente.

17. Mango Biche

There’s no shortage of tropical fruits in Colombia. Walk around the streets of Cartagena or Medellin and you’ll find lots of vendors selling fresh fruits like passion fruit, lulo, guava, and soursop. On our Bogota food tour, we even got to try some really exotic fruits that I unfortunately don’t remember the names of!

Some street vendors can turn them into fresh fruit juice but I prefer eating them sliced into chunks. My favorite is definitely mango biche. A popular street food in Cartagena, it refers to slivers of fresh green mango dressed with lime juice and salt.

If you like all things sweet and sour, then you’ll surely enjoy mango biche.

18. Cocada

This traditional candy made with shredded coconut and sugar was one of my favorite street foods in Colombia. It exists in many variations and flavors not just in Colombia, but throughout Central and South America. We even have something very similar in our native Philippines called bukayo.

Of all the cities we visited in Colombia, cocada was most popular in Cartagena. You’ll find a row of street vendors at Plaza de los Coches selling different types of dulces tipicos (typical sweets), one of the most popular being cocada.

I bought one at least once a day everyday while we were there and it brought me back to my childhood every time.

19. Bocadillo

If cocada were my favorite Colombian candy, then bocadillo would be a close second. Consumed in many Latin American countries like Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rica, and Panama, it’s made with guava pulp and panela (unrefined cane sugar) that’s been condensed into a bite-sized snack.

In Colombia, bocadillo is often paired with salty white cheese. The version pictured below has been combined with arequipe to make a delicious and highly addictive Colombian treat.

20. Brevas con Arequipe

Interesting dishes like brevas con arequipe are precisely why we enjoy going on food tours – you learn about obscure local dishes and drinks that you wouldn’t have known about otherwise.

Brevas con arequipe is a traditional Colombian snack consisting of cooked figs stuffed with dulce de leche. It’s an interesting combination of sweet, creamy, fruity, and (slightly) bitter that we couldn’t get enough of.

Brevas con arequipe was just one of the many delicious street food snacks that we learned about on our Bogota food tour.

21. Cremas

When I visited Comuna 13 in Medellin, I overheard a guide tell a group of tourists that eating cremas was a tradition when visiting the neighborhood. I’m not one to argue with tradition so I made sure to try this refreshing Colombian dessert before leaving.

Cremas refers to a fruity ice cream popsicle in Colombia. They make them with different types of fruit but I recommend trying the mango biche. It’s drizzled with lime juice and contains chunks of frozen green mango.

22. Guarapo

Whenever we visit Vietnam, my favorite drink to cool ourselves with is nuoc mia, otherwise known as sugarcane juice.

Freshly pressed sugarcane juice is consumed in many countries around the world like Brazil, Indonesia, Egypt, India, and Pakistan. It goes by many names but in Colombia, it’s known as guarapo.

This incredibly refreshing drink will be a godsend on a hot day in Colombia. Some street stalls will mix in a spritz of lime with the sugarcane juice but in my opinion, it’s best without it.

23. Chicha

Like lechona tolimense and brevas con arequipe, we enjoyed this refreshing glass of chicha on our Bogota food tour.

A traditional Andean and Amazonian drink, chicha is commonly consumed in many countries throughout Central and South America. Fermented or non-fermented, it’s traditionally made with corn but it can be produced from other ingredients as well.

In Colombia, chicha is traditionally made with cooked corn and sugar that’s left to ferment for six to eight days. Though it’s made from different ingredients, it reminded me a bit of Mexican pulque.

24. Canelazo

This interesting drink warmed us on the cold streets of Bogota. Canelazo is a traditional hot Colombian drink made with agua de panela (panela water), cinnamon, and aguardiente. Aguardiente is an anise-flavored liqueur that’s extremely popular in Colombia.

I looked up recipes online and traditional Colombian canelazo appears to be made with just cinnamon, agua de panela, and aguardiente. However, this vendor’s brew contained many different types of fruit and spices as well. She also had different bottles of liquor on hand, so I guess you could choose what type you wanted?

In any case, canelazo is a tasty beverage that’s great to warm yourself up with on a wintry day in Bogota.

25. Colombian Coffee

Last but certainly not least is this hot beverage that needs little introduction – Colombian coffee. Like you, we’ve heard many stories about the coffee in Colombia and we were pleased to learn that they’re all true.

I’ve been drinking four to five cups a day of strong black coffee for several years now but going to Colombia made me feel like I was discovering it for the very first time. Balanced, caramel-y, and with the right amount of fruitiness and acidity, the coffee is delicious everywhere in Colombia.

From street baristas in Cartagena to artisanal coffee shops in Bogota, I never had a cup of coffee that I didn’t enjoy immensely in Colombia.

COLOMBIAN FOOD TOURS

In my opinion, there’s no better way to get to know the local cuisine than by going on a food tour. Not only will a knowledgeable local take you to the city’s best restaurants, markets, and street food stalls, but they’ll be able to explain all the dishes to you in more detail as well.

As advised, we went on an excellent street food tour in Bogota. It’s led by Andres, a certified food historian who knows everything there is to know about Colombian food. I highly recommend booking that tour if you’re going to Bogota.

For more food tours in Bogota and in other parts of Colombia, I suggest checking out Get Your Guide.

FINAL THOUGHTS ON COLOMBIAN STREET FOODS

From the mountainous Andean region in central Colombia to the seafood-rich shores of the Colombian coast, you’ll find a wealth of tasty street food dishes in a country that’s long been recognized as one of the world’s most biodiverse. After over a month in Colombia, it was nice to see that diversity carry over to its street food as well.

There’s no doubt in my mind that you’ll love traditional Colombian dishes like bandeja paisa, ajiaco, and cazuela de mariscos. But you’ll enjoy street food dishes like cocteles, arepas de huevo, and bocadillo just as much.

So, are you excited to eat your way through Colombia yet?

Disclosure

Some of the links in this Colombian street food guide are affiliate links. What that means is that we’ll earn a small commission if you make a purchase at no additional cost to you. As always, we only recommend products and services that we use ourselves and firmly believe in. We really appreciate your support as it helps us make more of these free travel and food guides. ¡Muchas gracias!

Swedish Food: 20 Traditional Dishes to Look For in Stockholm

EDITOR’S NOTE: Traveleater Espen – a Swedish food expert from Kinna – shares with us 20 traditional dishes you need to try on your next trip to Sweden.

When envisioning Swedes, you most likely think of blonde, blue-eyed, tall, and Viking-like people. Although we have ditched most of the brutal fighting, we still enjoy our feast after a long day.

But, what exactly does a traditional Swede nourish himself/herself on?

Learn about twenty of the most delicious traditional Swedish foods you must try when visiting Sweden (according to us).

Save This on Pinterest!

No time to read this article on traditional Swedish food? Click on the save button and pin it for later!

Photo by pingpongcat

WHAT IS TRADITIONAL SWEDISH CUISINE?

Swedish food ranges from savory, warm, comforting soul food to light and delicious seafood. With the biggest cities in Sweden all located next to the seas, you’ll find something to indulge in if you enjoy seafood.

Swedish cuisine is influenced by its geographical location and seasons. Harsh weather conditions forced the cuisine to make use of locally sourced ingredients and limited us to what was available in the wild. Game, meat, root vegetables like potatoes, and of course fish and shellfish are most common.

The local culture has also significantly influenced Swedish cuisine. Swedes are some of the most proficient coffee drinkers in the world. It’s largely linked to a special time of the day called fika. Enjoyed with friends, family, coworkers, or perhaps a new date, we often drink coffee served with different pastries, shrimp sandwiches, or other treats.

When discovering Swedish (and generally Nordic) food, a trend is noticeable. The historical methods for storing food during the colder months have influenced what Swedes eat now. One example is pickled herring, a delicious dish we’ll definitely cover in more detail in this article!

MUST-TRY SWEDISH DISHES

This article on traditional Swedish food has been organized by category to make it easier to digest. Click on a link to jump to any section of the guide.

  1. Starters / Sides
  2. Soups / Stews
  3. Seafood
  4. Meat
  5. Desserts

STARTERS / SIDES

1. Raggmunk (with Fried Pork and Lingonberry Jam)

Raggmunk with fried pork and lingonberries is a delicious lunchtime meal that’s easy to make and even easier to enjoy.

These three simple ingredients create a magical meal. Locally sourced potatoes are grated into a batter and then fried like a pancake. Served with fried pork (or bacon) and fresh wild lingonberries, raggmunk is a great reason to skip breakfast and indulge in an early lunch, though many Swedes do enjoy this dish for breakfast as well.

As much as Swedes love them, potato pancakes aren’t unique to Sweden. Many European countries like Poland, Switzerland, Germany, Czechia, and Ireland have their own versions of fried potato pancakes. What makes raggmunk unique to Sweden is the fried pork and lingonberry jam.

Pork is plentiful in Sweden as vast open farmland allows for healthy (and delicious) pigs. Wild lingonberries grow like wildfire and are harvested fresh during the early fall season. These locally sourced ingredients aren’t just delicious, but they lower your carbon footprint as well.

Photo by Linus Strandholm

2. Kroppkakor

Kroppkakor is an example of husmanskost, or traditional Swedish home-cooked food. Common near Småland, Öland, or Gotland, it refers to a type of boiled Swedish potato dumpling filled with onions and finely cut fried pork.

This beloved dish, most revered in Öland – a long, small island near the southeast coast of Sweden – has traditions dating back to the 1700s. An explorer traveled to Öland and would later return after getting a taste of kroppkakor. In his words, it was “an exceptionally succulent dish”.

If you find yourself on the beaches of Öland, then you need to enjoy kroppkakor for a traditional Swedish lunch.

Photo by Rolf_52

3. Pitepalt

Pitepalt is related to kroppkakor, but it’s a little different. Its name is inherited from where the dish is eaten – Piteå – way up in the cold and shivering part of northern Sweden. This is also where it’s believed to have originated.

Like kroppkakor, pitepalt are meat-filled dumplings made with grated potatoes. While the former is made with pre-boiled potatoes and wheat flour, the latter is made mostly with raw potatoes and a mix of wheat and barley flour.

Pitepalt are served with lingonberry jam and are equally delicious when eaten fresh or reheated.

Photo by Johanna K M Nilsson

4. Pytt i Panna

Pytt i panna is a staple dish in every Swedish household. It consists of cubed potatoes cooked with onions and beef, or essentially any leftovers that you have laying around in the house. It’s a classic Swedish dish that’s best served with a sunny side-up egg, sliced pickled beetroot, and lingonberry jam. If you like, you can also jazz it up with some premium steak or bacon.

Pytt i panna is a common, easy-to-make dish that’s also enjoyed in other Nordic countries like Norway, Finland, and Denmark. What makes it unique to Sweden’s culture is the lingonberry jam and pickled beetroot.

Conveniently, if you like pytt i panna, then you can easily find ready-made frozen packs at the nearest Ikea in Sweden. But never ever mistake pre-made for homemade!

Photo by Angela Kotsell

SOUPS / STEWS

5. Ärtsoppa med Fläsk och Pannkakor

Ärtsoppa med fläsk och pannkakor literally means “pea soup with fried pork and pancakes”. This comforting duo is a Thursday tradition in Swedish schools, and even in the military.

Pea soup and pancakes is another great example of Swedish husmanskost. This traditional home-cooked meal is exactly what it sounds like – a thick yellow pea soup is enhanced with small pieces of pork and then followed by thin pancakes for dessert.

Photo by Iuliia Kochenkova

6. Kalops

Kalops is a Swedish-Finnish dish that’s commonly served during the late autumn and winter seasons. A nourishing dish, this warm and tasty delight gives us the nutrients and energy we need to endure the cold winter months.

Kalops is a type of Swedish beef stew flavored with onions, allspice, and bay leaf. It’s often served with boiled potatoes and pickled beetroot and makes for the perfect simple lunch in Sweden.

If you can, I recommend trying the more sophisticated version braised with red wine. Succulent and tender, the slow-cooked beef seemingly melts away as soon as it touches your lips.

Photo by Fanfo

SEAFOOD

7. Pickled Herring

No list of traditional Swedish food can ever be complete without pickled herring. A staple dish at the Swedish Midsummer feast, pickled herring is served with boiled potatoes, sour cream, and chives, and always with lots of Snaps and singing!

Pickled herring is also a common sight on the Swedish Christmas table. It’s a culinary favorite that’s served in different ways throughout Sweden. New recipes are developed every year, ranging from curries to sweet, to sour, and many more.

The culinary heritage of pickled herring goes back to the most efficient way of storing fish, which was by pickling it. When you didn’t have access to refrigeration, the best way to preserve herring was to pickle it.

And the best part about herring? What it’s served with of course! Aside from the usual accompaniments like potatoes and sour cream, what excites us the most are the akvavit and other spirits commonly consumed during herring feasts. Get ready to raise your glass because pickled herring is often followed by belly-warming snaps!

Photo by A. Zhuravleva

8. Stekt Strömming

Stekt stromming or fried herring has long been a favorite along the western coast of Sweden. Especially attractive for fish lovers, it’s usually served with mashed potatoes, peas, and you guessed it – lingonberry jam.

Although stekt stromming isn’t as common as it used to be in Swedish households, you can still find herring served at traditional Swedish restaurants along the country’s west coast. If you love fish, then you definitely need to try this specialty.

Photo by Linus Strandholm

9. Gravad Lax

Gravad lax (or gravlax) is a beloved traditional Swedish dish that’s made by curing salmon in dill, sugar, and salt. It’s often served with mustard dill dressing and potatoes. If you’re in the mood for a light but tasty meal (and you happen to love salmon), then this sushi-like dish will suit you well.

Gravad lax is commonly served at home and during holiday family gatherings in Sweden. For example, it’s a staple dish during Midsummer parties and is often accompanied by nubbe (snaps) and loud cheerful songs.

Photo by cheekylorns2 via Depositphotos

10. Gubbröra

Gubbora is a traditional dish that’s commonly served during Easter celebrations. Made of chopped anchovies, boiled eggs, chives, and dill, it’s eaten as an appetizer and makes for the perfect snack when mingling with friends.

Gubbora is usually served with knäckebröd – a type of crisp bread comparable to crackers. The name gubbröra literally means “old man’s mess”, but don’t let that deter you since this dish has nothing to do with old men.

This dish is even more delicious when paired with a glass of cold beer. It’s the perfect social food that will have you making friends in Sweden in no time at all!

Photo by Svetlana Monyakova

11. Smörgåstårta

Picture your dream sandwich. Now make it as big as a cake and you basically have a smörgåstårta. Commonly made with salmon and seafood, this Swedish sandwich cake is layered with mayonnaise, eggs, and other tasty ingredients that will make your taste buds sing.

Smorgastarta is often served at Instagram-worthy cafes and other establishments, usually pre-cut into perfectly sized slices. It’s a dish that’s best enjoyed with a cup of good coffee.

This tasty sandwich cake is a staple dish at birthday parties and similar gatherings. If you want to try Swedish dishes that are as pretty as they are delicious, then smorgastarta is definitely for you.

Photo by Jakub Rutkiewicz

12. Räkmacka

Rakmacka may not be as impressive as a smorgastarta but it’s just as delicious and definitely worth trying. It refers to an open-faced shrimp sandwich that’s commonly served along the coast of Sweden.

Rakmacka is a simple but delicious dish that consists of a slice of bread topped with shrimp, mayonnaise, salad greens, and a squeeze of lemon. For even more richness and flavor, you can try it with slices of hard-boiled egg as well.

Photo by oussama el biad

13. Havskräftor

Havskraftor or langoustines are fished from the western coastal waters of Sweden. Typically served only at crayfish parties called kräftskiva on the first Tuesday of August, family and friends gather to feast on massive plates of boiled langoustines.

The taste of this luxurious seafood dish is sweet and fresh. The langoustines are always served only a few days after being caught, so if you find yourself in Sweden in early August, then I highly recommend making your way to a kräftskiva.

Photo by SwedishStockPhotos

MEAT

14. Svenska Köttbullar (Swedish Meatballs)

Ahh, Swedish meatballs. I get all warm and fuzzy whenever I think about this dish. Even if you’ve never visited Sweden, it’s something you’ve probably tried already if you’ve been to an Ikea.

Simply put, no list of the most popular Swedish food can ever be complete without svenska köttbulla. If you were to try just one dish from this list on your trip to Sweden, then it should definitely be Swedish meatballs.

Aside from being supremely tasty, my favorite part about this meal is that it’s readily available and fits every budget. Spend the day at Ikea and end it with some meatballs in brown sauce and a side of mashed potatoes and lingonberries. It truly is a fulfilling and delicious meal fit for all travelers.

Photo by Brent Hofacker

15. Korvstroganoff

While korvstroganoff may have been inspired by the Russian dish beef stroganoff, they are nothing like each other.

Korvstroganoff is a popular Swedish meat stew made with falukorv, a type of sausage named after the Falu copper mine in the town of Falun. Historically, it was made by the locals in Falun and exported and sold in Stockholm. Swedish workers loved it so much that they attributed the name of the dish to its origin – Falun – and called it falukorv.

The popularity of falukorv has grown since then with dishes like korvstroganoff and more contributing to the more than 30,000 tons of falukorv consumed each year! Quite a staggering number considering the growing influence of western dishes across the country.

Photo by Fanfo

16. Prinskorv

Prinskorv is a small Swedish sausage that’s commonly served during national holidays like Christmas, Easter, and Midsummer.

What makes this sausage unique is how it’s prepared. The ends are cut or sliced perpendicular to each other on both ends, giving it a unique shape after frying. It’s usually served with green beans and mustard.

Fun Fact: Instituted by the Swedish Sausage Academy, Alla Korvars Dag or “All Sausages Day” is celebrated in Sweden on the 12th of March every year.

Photo by Fanfo

17. Isterband

Isterbrand is another type of Swedish sausage that’s most commonly served in the southeastern part of Sweden called Småland. Light and smokey, this pork and beef sausage is seasoned with allspice and white pepper and commonly served with mashed potatoes and lingonberry jam.

Photo by Imfoto

18. Falukorv

This is the sausage from Falun that gives substance to korvstroganoff.

This comforting sausage, as common as it is, is quite hard to find in Swedish restaurants. It isn’t considered a fancy meal but you’ll find that almost every Swede has eaten it in some way or another.

On its own, it’s best when fried and served with your favorite carbohydrate-rich food – like mashed potatoes or macaroni – and of course, lingonberry jam.

Photo by Nettan C

DESSERTS

19. Prinsesstårta

Is there a better cake to enjoy at celebrations or parties in Sweden than a soft, brilliant spongy prinsesstarta? Well, according to Swedes, none!

A prinsesstarta or “princess cake” is a soft and creamy cake made with layers of pastry cream, raspberry jam, and whipped cream topped with a tasty and smooth layer of marzipan (usually green). Vibrant and sophisticated on the outside, prinsesstarta is known for its creamy and mouth-watering softness on the inside.

Originally, the cake was named grön tårta or “green cake”. Only after the legendary Swedish food writer and home economics teacher Jenny Åkerströms included a recipe for it in her famous Princess’ Cookbook did it become known as prinsesstarta.

The cake was beloved by the princesses Margaretha, Märtha, and Astrid, daughters to Prince Carl – Duke of Västergötland – and Princess Ingeborg of Denmark. Shortly after, the cake would become known as “princess cake”.

Photo by FoxglovesAndStockings

20. Smålands Ostkaka

Smalands ostkaka is a type of Swedish cheesecake that dates back to 1538, though it’s believed to have been eaten as early as the Dark Ages.

There are two distinct types of Swedish cheesecake that are not to be confused with each other as they are quite different in taste, consistency, and history. One is called hälsingeostkaka while the other is smålandsostkaka. Of the two, the latter is more popular. It’s a delicious dessert made with flour, milk, cheese rennet, almond, whipped cream, and sugar.

This Swedish cheesecake was an integral part of the farming community and was often served during larger gatherings where different groups of people brought their own dish. The småländska cheesecake was the evening’s highlight for most.

Now if you want to relive their ways, it’s perfectly acceptable to leave your manners at the door because it’s a tradition to eat the cake inside out. Some believe that back then, the copper bowls where the cakes were served had a layer of tin that often cracked. The toxic copper would mix with the cheesecake so it was customary to serve the more important guests the inside of the cheesecake first.

Others believe that this inside-out eating tradition stems from the simple fact that the most delicious part of the cheesecake was in the middle, so that part was served to the most important guests first.

Whatever the reason, smålands cheesecake is delicious and something you need to try when you visit Sweden.

Photo by pingpongcat

FINAL THOUGHTS ON TRADITIONAL SWEDISH FOOD

Swedish cuisine will give you a host of different dining experiences. Whether you’re a seafood lover or have a sweet tooth, rest assured, we have something delicious for you.

Many Swedish culinary traditions have been passed down through the generations, so you’re practically guaranteed to enjoy a meal that’s been eaten for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Ranging from simple but satisfying comfort food to expensive, locally sourced seafood, you’re guaranteed to have a delicious time in Sweden.

So, what Swedish dish from this list are you looking forward to the most?

Cover photo by Brent Hofacker. Stock images via Shutterstock.

Polish Food: 25 Traditional Dishes to Look For in Poland

EDITOR’S NOTE: Traveleater Joanna Kozuch – a Polish food expert from Wroclaw – shares with us 25 traditional dishes you need to try on your next trip to Poland.

So you’re planning a trip to Poland and thinking to pack some snacks just in case? No need to do that. We will help you to dive into traditional Polish food and make the right choices once you get there. This country in the heart of Europe has so much to offer when it comes to traditional food, that you’ll rebook your return ticket just to taste some more.

Let’s be honest – it’s nice to admire cities, meet the locals, and get to know the history of the country a bit better, but it’s all for nothing if you don’t try the local cuisine. Polish food will make your memories have a taste. And they will be delicious.

POLISH FOOD QUICK LINKS

If you’re visiting Poland and want to really learn about Polish cuisine, then you may be interested in taking a cooking class.

TOURS

  • Cooking Classes: Cooking Classes in Poland

Save This on Pinterest!

No time to read this article on traditional Polish food? Click on the save button and pin it for later!

Photo by JacZia

WHAT IS TRADITIONAL POLISH CUISINE?

Thanks to its long history, and inspirations from other regional cuisines, Polish food has a special place in the hearts of many foodies worldwide. Growing and evolving over the centuries, it became truly eclectic, strongly formed, and at the same time creative.

Many traditional dishes originated in difficult times, with access to limited food resources. Through the years, they became ever-present on Polish tables. They expanded in range, gained the recognition of many palates, and evolved with new ingredients and ways of serving. 

Polish cuisine has always been rich in meat, vegetables, mushrooms, spices, and herbs – all gifts of the Polish climate and land. Heavy winters created the necessity for rich and fatty dishes and helped to invent pickled and fermented products.

Another important feature is patience. Until today, some main dishes for special occasions – like Christmas Eve – take days to prepare. This method of food preparation made food part of the celebration.

Today, we can see how Polish cuisine is transforming, navigating between tradition and new trends. Relying so heavily on meat, it tries to create more and more vegetarian options. By finding forgotten dishes and creating new ones, it adapts to constantly changing reality while sticking to its own rules.

MUST-TRY POLISH FOODS

This article on traditional Polish foods has been organized by category to make it easier to go through. Click on a link to jump to any section of the guide.

  1. Starters / Sides
  2. Soups / Stews
  3. Meats / Mains
  4. Desserts

STARTERS / SIDES

1. Oscypek

This hard, smoked sheep’s cheese can be tasted in the highland cultural region of southern Poland, in the Tatra Mountain range (for example, in Podhale). It’s where it was originally made.

Oscypek is worth appreciating not just for its unique taste, but also for its visual characteristics, most notably its beautifully decorated edges. It’s often served with cranberry jam, whose sweetness pairs perfectly with the cheese’s salty and strong flavors.

Interestingly, real oscypek is produced only from Spring until the end of December. It takes milk from as many as thirty sheep to produce one oscypek!

Since 2008, oscypek has been registered under the European Union Protected Designation of Origin, which helps to preserve the integrity of food-related products. So if you want to try real certified oscypek, then you need to go to Podhale to enjoy its unique taste.

Photo by tomeqs

2. Placki Ziemniaczane (Polish Potato Pancakes)

Who doesn’t like potatoes? In Poland, you can taste this root vegetable in countless forms. One of them is placki ziemniaczane, which is the Polish version of potato pancakes.

Back in the 17th century, pancakes made from grated potatoes were a basic dish in monasteries, and it’s from one of these monasteries where the oldest recipe was developed. In the small Polish village of Stoczek where the recipe was written, placki were made with one onion, two eggs, and a spoonful of wheat flour per kilo of potatoes. Once made, they were eaten with salt and pepper. 

Nowadays, you can serve authentic Polish potato pancakes in different ways. But at traditional polish homes, the most common way is to eat them with sour cream (and here comes the conflict between people who put sugar on top and those who would never do such a thing!), mushroom sauce, or goulash.

Versions made with goulash are referred to as placek po węgiersku, which means “Hungarian pancake”.

Photo by Timolina

3. Krokiety

Do you think there’s nothing better than a classic crepe? Well, that’s where the krokiet comes in.

The Polish version of croquettes, krokiety consist of breaded crepe-like pancakes stuffed with a savory filling and then fried on a pan. They’re typically filled with minced meat, mushrooms, cheese, fermented cabbage, or some combination of those ingredients.

During the Christmas season, krokiety are served with hot borscht. Krokiet and borscht are a match made in heaven. When you try this pairing, you may just consider moving to Poland!

Photo by Cesarz

4. Salatka Jarzynowa

Salatka jarzynowa is the undisputed queen of Christmas in every Polish home. It’s hard not to overdose on it during that annual eating binge that takes place from the 24th of December until New Year’s Eve.

When it comes to ingredients, there seem to be as many recipes for salatka jarzynowa as there are Polish grandmothers. Basically, salatka jarzynowa contains any vegetable of your choice – most commonly boiled potatoes, carrots, pickled cucumbers, celeriac, onion, and parsnip.

But it can’t really be called salatka jarzynowa if it doesn’t have hard-boiled eggs and one magical ingredient (thanks to which everything in life makes more sense) – mayonnaise.

It might be hard to find salatka jarzynowa in a Polish restaurant, but if you get the chance, then you should definitely order it just to know how breakfast, lunch, and dinner tastes during the Christmas season in every Polish home. During this period, it’s an addition to every meal. Seriously. 

Photo by Fanfo

5. Śledź w Śmietanie

I’m not going to lie. Sledz w smietanie isn’t exactly a Polish dish for beginners. Seeing fish mixed with sour cream will be crossing the line for many. But if you’d like to try more exotic Polish foods and love fish, then it’s definitely worth seeking out.

Herring is one of the most popular types of fish in Poland, and you can probably find it in most Polish homes at any time of the year. Most of the dishes are made with salted filets, meaning that the herring is “cooked” in salt only, by curing in it. After that process, the fish is usually stored in oil. 

Herring in sour cream is a common part of the Polish Christmas menu. Sometimes, Poles make it for other special occasions as well, but it’s not an everyday dish. Salted filets are mixed with a sour cream sauce made with chopped onions, apples, salt, pepper, and sugar.

As off-putting as it sounds, sledz w smietanie is a Polish dish that you may fall in love with, if you give it a chance.

Photo by Fanfo

6. Kopytka

Kopytka for Polish people is like gnocchi for Italians. Like many classic Polish foods, it contains potatoes.

These Polish potato dumplings are traditionally made with mashed potatoes and flour, but you can also find recipes that include eggs. Its name literally means “little hooves”, thanks to their shape which reminds people of an animal’s hooves, like a goat or similar. 

Kopytka are especially popular in the south of Poland. They’re super easy to make and supremely tasty. Cooked in salted water, they’re traditionally served alone, but they can be enjoyed with other ingredients as well like sauteed garlic, fried onions, melted butter, mushrooms, or bacon.

Speaking of gnocchi and Italy, why not serve them with parmesan cheese and shaved truffles? Whether traditional or modern, you’ll surely never forget the taste of these delicious Polish dumplings.

Photo by Anastasia Kamysheva

7. Pierogi

No list of the most popular Polish foods can ever be complete without pierogi. Many European countries like Hungary, Romania, Slovenia, and Ukraine claim ownership of this tasty dish, but when you visit Poland, I strongly advise against claiming pierogi to be anything but Polish dumplings. I’m saying this for your own safety!

Pierogi are often called dumplings in English, but it’s not exactly the same thing. Made with dough and a filling, many different types of pierogi fillings have been used over the years but the classic version consists of a mixture of minced and boiled potatoes, fresh quark, and fried onions.

Christmas Eve is always accompanied by pierogi filled with cabbage and mushroom. Another common version is a sweet type of pierogi filled with blueberries and sugar.

No matter the filling, if you could try just one Polish dish, then it should definitely be pierogi.

Photo by Arkadiusz Fajer

8. Leniwe Pierogi

Leniwe pierogi is a Polish dish that’s somewhere between a classic pierogi and kopytka. It’s made with flour, eggs, and the third equally important ingredient – quark, which is a type of fermented white cheese. Known as twaróg in Polish, the quark is what differentiates leniwe pierogi from kopytka.

Leniwe pierogi literally means “lazy pierogi”. It’s referred to as “lazy” because unlike classic pierogi where you have to make the dough and filling separately, this lazy version can be made simply by mixing all the ingredients together, cutting them, and then boiling the dumplings in salted water.

You can eat leniwe pierogi with savory or sweet ingredients like sour cream, powdered sugar, brown butter, bacon bits, or roasted pork. Eating lazy pierogi is a great way to spend a slow afternoon in Poland.

Photo by Aleksandra Duda

SOUPS / STEWS

9. Żurek

This next Polish dish is intense. Get ready for an unforgettable experience, and keep in mind that this sour rye soup is not for everyone. With its intense sour flavor, it has as many fans as it does enemies.

You can try different versions of zurek in western Slavic cuisines, but in Poland, it’s typically made with sour rye flour and meat. At many Polish restaurants, it’s served in an edible bread bowl with boiled eggs and kielbasa (Polish sausage). In Polish homes, zurek is traditionally prepared for Easter but it can occasionally be eaten at other times of the year as well.

The story of how and where this polarizing fermented rye flour soup came into existence remains a mystery.

Photo by nesavinov

10. Chłodnik

Chlodnik may not be Polish in origin but that doesn’t keep it from being popular in Poland. In fact, most Polish people refer to it as chłodnik litewski, meaning “Lithuanian cold soup”. You can think of chlodnik as a cold version of the famous borscht (barszcz) because it’s based on beet. But this is where the similarities end. 

Chlodnik is made with the leaves and roots of young beets, fermented beet juice, sour cream, kefir, or yogurt. It’s served cold (perfect below 14°C) with chopped radishes, cucumbers, green onions, and hard-boiled egg halves.

Served with boiled potatoes, it’s the perfect dish to enjoy on hot summer days in Poland.

Photo by timolina via Depositphotos

11. Rosół

Rosol is one of the most popular Polish soups. Considered by many to be the best cold or hangover cure, it’s traditionally associated with Sunday family dinners and is present at every wedding.

Rosol is basically a clear chicken soup with a meat and vegetable broth. Recipes vary from household to household, with every grandmother using her own list of ingredients and tricks to make the perfect rosol. The taste of the rosol depends on the types of meat used, the choice of vegetables, and how long you boil it for.

Only one rule can’t be broken – no pork can ever be used in rosol. This is done to ensure that the broth comes out perfectly clear. Patience is also key as you have to boil it slowly for the very same reason. 

Photo by Przemyslaw Muszynski

12. Flaki

Before anything, let me just say that flaki, in Polish, means “guts”. You have to be an unapologetic meat lover to try this dish. Polish people have been eating animal guts since the 14th century so you can rest assured that we know what we’re doing.

Flaki is one of the most traditional dishes in Polish cuisine. It refers to a type of Polish tripe soup made with thin, well-cleaned strips of beef tripe. You can buy ready-to-eat cans or jars of flaki at grocery stores throughout Poland, or order it at any Polish restaurant. 

Flaki is a very thick soup or stew with a strong flavor. If you’re daring enough to stomach animal guts, then you should definitely give this dish a try!

Photo by Shaiith

13. Bigos

Bigos is considered by many to be a Polish national dish. Often referred to as “hunter’s stew”, it gets its nickname from the Polish epic poem “Pan Tadeusz” by Adam Mickiewicz. Originally a humble dish made with whatever ingredients were available, it became a popular dish across all social classes in Poland, ultimately becoming romanticized and immortalized through poetry.

Bigos is made with various kinds of chopped meat mixed with fermented raw cabbage and shredded fresh cabbage. The choice of ingredients makes it a medieval-style Polish dish, meaning it’s highly nutritious and doesn’t spoil easily.

Perfect for long winters, Poles say bigos tastes better with each reheating. It’s delicious but if you have a sensitive stomach, then you may want to go easy on this dish.

Photo by hlphoto

14. Gulasz

Gulasz is a Hungarian dish that Poles love as their own. You’ll find it throughout the country, sometimes served with potato pancakes (placki ziemniaczane).

Gulasz is a dense soup made with meat and vegetables (like red pepper and onion) flavored with paprika. We called it “soup” but it’s enjoyed more as a main dish – usually on a flat plate – with mashed potato, noodles, or potato pancake.

When eaten with placki ziemniaczane, gulasz is served on top of the potato pancakes. Topped with sour cream, it’s referred to as an “Hungarian-style potato pancake” when prepared in this manner. It’s certainly a tasty way to try two Polish dishes at once!

Photo by Arkadiusz Fajer

MEATS / MAINS

15. Golabki

The word golabki literally means “little pigeons” and refers to the Polish version of sarma or stuffed cabbage rolls. They’re popular in many European countries like Albania, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Moldova but Polish people have their own way of making them.

Golabki are made from boiled cabbage leaves wrapped around a filling of minced meat (beef or pork), rice, and onion. You boil the entire cabbage first before peeling off the leaves one by one and then filling them with the minced meat mixture. The cabbage rolls are then topped with hot tomato sauce before serving.

Polish cabbage rolls are typically reserved for special occasions, probably because it’s quite difficult and time-consuming to make. They’re often served as part of a Christmas Eve meal, at weddings, or at other important events. 

The etymology of the name suggests that it comes from other languages and originally had nothing to do with pigeons. But the fact that they’re called “little pigeons” probably helps you remember them! It’s a delicious dish that you definitely shouldn’t forget to try in Poland.

Photo by jabiru via Depositphotos

16. Kotlet Schabowy

Kotlet schabowy is another breaded and fried dish that some Poles are ready to die for. A Polish national dish, if you want to say “Poland” without saying “Poland”, then you can simply say “kotlet schabowy”!

The history of this beloved Polish dish dates back to the 19th century, when it appeared in a cookbook. It’s simply a breaded pork cutlet served with boiled or mashed potatoes and a side of salads. When made properly, it’s impressive to look at due to the cutlet’s large size.

Before frying, the cutlet is pounded until thin with a mallet. The meat is then dipped in flour, then in egg combined with spices, and then lastly in breadcrumbs before being cooked on a frying pan. It’s crispy and very tasty when freshly fried!

Photo by monticello

17. Ryba po Grecku

Why am I talking about a Greek-style fish dish in an article about Polish food? Because it happens to be one of the most popular dishes in Poland!

Probably inspired by the Greek dish psari plaki, ryba po grecku is made from filets or pieces of fish served in a vegetable sauce made from carrots, celery, onion, parsley, and tomato concentrate. The fish is first fried before being stewed in this sauce.

Ryba po grecku is traditionally served as part of a Christmas Eve meal. It can be served hot or cold, which makes it ready to eat at any moment.

Photo by CCat82

18. Kiełbasa

Kielbasa refers to Polish sausages. There’s no need to explain what a sausage is, but it’s worth mentioning that Poland is famous for many different types of sausage – myśliwska, biała, swojska, śląska, krakowska, podhalańska, kaszanka, etc. Believe it or not, I can go on forever!

Most of the time, Polish sausages are made with pork, and the more meat it has in the mixture, the better. Making it with too much potato flour, water, or other non-meat ingredients is seen as lowering the product’s quality. The sausages are then traditionally preserved by smoking rather than drying, due to Poland’s climate conditions.

Polish sausages are typically eaten on bread or as an appetizer, but during the summer season, they’re commonly grilled or cooked over an open fire. 

Photo by Gravika

19. Kabanosy

Kabanosy is a type of Polish sausage that’s become so popular that it deserves its own entry in this Polish food guide. It refers to a long and thin dry sausage made from pork that’s typically eaten as an appetizer or a snack. A bit smoky in flavor, it can be soft on the inside or really dry, depending on the type and freshness.

Since 2011, kabanos has been registered as a Traditional Speciality Guaranteed food product by the European Union, which helps consumers know that the sausage they’re buying is authentic and of Polish origin.

Photo by JacZia

DESSERTS

20. Naleśniki

You can’t skip this classic when talking about Polish cuisine. Naleśniki refer to crepe-style Polish pancakes.

Pancakes in Poland are thin and resemble French crepes. Flat and round, they’re prepared from a batter made from eggs, milk, and wheat flour, which is then cooked on a frying pan.

The most traditional version is sweet, filled with white cheese mixed with sugar. In some Polish homes, a bit of cinnamon can be added. Today, however, you can find naleśniki made with many different types of sweet and savory fillings. 

One Polish pancake that you should definitely try is racuchy. They’re similar to North American pancakes except they’re smaller and thicker and filled with slices of apple (sometimes flavored with cinnamon). A favorite among Polish children, you can read more about them in our guide to the tastiest Polish desserts.

Photo by Robson90

21. Pączki

Do you know what my favorite thing is about Polish doughnuts? They don’t have a hole.

Unlike your typical North American doughnut, Polish paczki are filled with a variety of delicious ingredients like wild rose petal jam, multi-fruit marmalade, pudding, chocolate, sweet cheese, and egg liqueur. Soft and fluffy, they’re typically topped with a glaze or powdered sugar. 

Paczki are so beloved in Poland that on Fat Thursday (the last Thursday prior to Ash Wednesday), many Polish people eat them without stopping – and then discuss who ate the most. They’ve been a favorite in Poland since at least the Middle Ages. Fat chance they’ll ever be forgotten!

Photo by tupungato

22. Makowiec

Makowiec refers to a magical Polish cake that harkens back to pagan traditions, when poppy seeds consumed on the night of the winter solstice were supposed to bring good luck and protect against evil forces. Like honey and mushrooms, poppy seeds were considered a link with the beyond.

Makowiec is a cake layered with ground poppy seeds, sugar/honey, nuts, and raisins. It’s traditionally reserved for Christmas Eve and can take different forms, depending on where it was made in Poland.

Photo by Letterberry

23. Piernik

Piernik is popular in many Slavic countries. It’s traditionally made from wheat flour and honey, and also ginger which was used as an optional ingredient.

Today, this gingerbread treat can be made in various forms – from small stuffed cookies to cakes layered with marmalade. No matter the form, they don’t lose their basic characteristics – durability and a unique flavor imparted by spices like ginger, nutmeg, and cardamom.

In Poland, Toruń is a city famous for its gingerbread. Toruńskie pierniki has been made there for over 700 years. Piernik is enjoyed in many other regions of Poland as well, but mainly during the Christmas season.

Photo by Kristi Blokhin

24. Sernik

This next dessert doesn’t really have its roots in Poland, but we Poles really know how to make it right!

The varieties of sernik are endless, but what makes it truly special is the cheese. Polish white cheese (biały ser) or quark (twaróg) is unlike any other, so much so that it’s perhaps the secret ingredient in many delicious Polish dishes like pierogi. Since cheese is the main ingredient in cheesecake, I can confidently say that Polish sernik is the world’s best.

Polish people can all agree that our version of cheesecake is the best, but there’s a never-ending debate as to whether Polish sernik should be made with or without raisins. 

Photo by Karjalas

25. Szarlotka

Last but not least, we get to this world-renowned classic – apple pie. Known as szarlotka, this delicious Polish version is made with shortcrust pastry and juicy Polish apples (or optionally other fruits) covered in a crumbly topping. When served hot and with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, few things in life are better than szarlotka.

Szarlotka isn’t to be confused with jabłecznik or Polish apple cake. Unlike szarlotka that’s made with shortcrust pastry, jabłecznik can be made with any type of base – puff pastry, sponge cake, etc.

Photo by Fotokon

FINAL THOUGHTS ON TRADITIONAL POLISH FOOD

Many Polish dishes will surprise your taste buds and linger in your memory.

Some flavors will make you want to come back. Others you’ll prefer to forget. But one thing is for sure – you will never say that Polish cuisine is not expressive. 

This beautiful country has so much to offer and experience. We’re sure that eating local Polish food will enrich your trip and make it a story worth remembering, and telling.

Disclosure

This article on traditional Polish food contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase, then we’ll earn a small commission at no additional expense to you. As always, we only recommend products and services that we use ourselves and firmly believe in. We really appreciate your support as this helps us make more of these free travel and food guides. Thank you!

Cover photo by Arkadiusz Fajer. Stock images via Shutterstock.