Christmas/ Cuisine/ Occasion/ Polish Recipes

Polish Christmas Recipes

22 December 2023 | Last Updated: 7 January 2024 By Aleksandra

Dive into the festive world of Polish Christmas with our collection of authentic Polish Christmas recipes. From tasty pierogi to flavorful barszcz soup and delicious desserts and cookies, get to know the traditional dishes that make Polish Christmas celebrations special and delicious!

A collage of 4 photos showing Polish Christmas recipes.

Polish Christmas Traditions

Christmas Holidays in Poland take 3 days, starting with the 24th of December which is Christmas Eve, followed by the 25th and 26th of December which are called “the first” and “the second day of Christmas”.

In this post, I will focus on the Christmas Eve supper since it’s the most traditional and celebrated day of the Christmas Holidays.

The 24th of December – the Christmas Eve feast, known as “Wigilia,” is a significant celebration featuring a beautiful meal called the “Wigilia supper,” consisting of twelve traditional dishes. These dishes symbolize the twelve apostles or months of the year and are typically meatless to honor the Catholic tradition of fasting on Christmas Eve.

Another popular Polish tradition is breaking opłatek wafers. Oplatek is a special Christmas wafer in Poland that families share before their holiday meal. Breaking and eating it together is a way to show love, forgiveness, and good wishes for the year ahead.

So what are the 12 traditional Polish Christmas dishes?

I actually googled this question in Polish and went on multiple Polish websites to read what other people are making. The 12 dishes lists vary greatly! One thing all the lists had in common – all the dishes were vegetarian or were made with fish. It is a Polish tradition, that on the 24th of December, all the dishes are meatless or made with fish, and then on the 25th and 26th meat dishes are being served.

See our collection of the most popular and traditional Polish Christmas Eve dishes.

Christmas Eve Soup

No Christmas Eve feast starts without Christmas Eve Soup – this is a must! The most popular Christmas Eve soup in Poland is clear barszcz soup with uszka dumplings. You may know barszcz (Borscht) soup as a rich and meaty soup filled with meat and vegetable chunks. We also eat that kind of soup, but not at Christmas (there are actually many kinds of beet soups in Poland! for example: everyday creamy barszcz soup, or this chunky vegetarian beet soup).

Clear barszcz soup is my favorite Polish Christmas recipe, I make it every year. Clear soup means that there are no vegetables in the soup, it is just liquid. It may not sound like much, but believe me, it’s packed with flavor, it’s sweet from the beets and pleasantly sour from the beet kvass and vinegar. It’s just wonderful, I love it so much.

Christmas eve borscht with uszka dumplings in a white bowl.

Clear barszcz soup (barszcz wigilijny) is eaten with:

  • in a soup bowl with uszka dumplings (the most popular option) – pictured above
  • with krokiety (breaded and pan-fried crepes filled with sauerkraut and mushroom filling)
  • kapuśniaczki (sauerkraut and mushroom-filled yeast dough pastries)
  • or kulebiak (savory yeast bread filled with sauerkraut and mushroom filling, kind of like kapuśniaczki but in a bread form)

In other regions of Poland, Christmas Eve Mushroom Soup is being eaten at Christmas, instead of barszcz.

Polish Christmas Eve mushroom soup in a beige bowl.

Other Christmas Eve soup recipes that are not well-known (and probably most people haven’t even heard of them):

  • almond soup (zupa migdalowa) – is made with almonds, milk, honey, rice, and cinnamon
  • dried fruit soup with lima beans
  • fish soup – mostly in the North of Poland which has access to the Baltic Sea
  • moczka – Silesian soup with dried fruit, nuts, beer, and gingerbread

Fish Dishes

1) Carp

Carp is the most popular Polish Christmas fish. It is served pan-fried or in a jelly. Carp in a jelly won’t ever come to this website due to my poor childhood experiences 😉 A whole carp under the translucent jello, with the head attached and its eyes staring at me is one of my first childhood memories!

Pan-fried carp

A close up photo of pan-fried carp fillets on a blue plate.

Carp with gingerbread sauce (karp w sosie szarym) – old-fashioned Polish recipe, not really widely known. Carp is poached in a gingerbread sauce with real gingerbread crumbs, caramel, honey, and vinegar, then served with almond flakes and raisins.

Carp with gingerbread sauce with almonds and raisins on a white plate.

2) Herring

Pickled herring is another Polish classic. Hering tastes salty and tangy and its flavor is really unique. I personally love it!

One one the traditional Polish herring recipes is this herring in cream sauce recipe. It’s very simple – diced herring is combined with sour cream, dill, onions, and apples (yes, this flavor combination works perfectly).

Herring in Cream Sauce on a blue plate.

Other popular herring recipes are herring in oil with onions or herring Kaszubian-style (śledź po kaszubsku) with a sweet and tangy tomato sauce with raisins and vinegar.

Herring salad recipes:

Herring salad with eggs, potatoes, and cucumbers in brine. So delicious!

Herring salad with eggs, potatoes, and cucumbers in brine ib a green bowl.

– Herring salad with beets.

– Layered herring and beets salad – Szuba (śledź pod pierzynką in Polish also called Herring under the fur). It’s Russian in origin, but very popular in Polish households.

3) Ryba po grecku

This dish is called “Fish Greek-style” (Ryba po grecku) but it has nothing to do with Greek cuisine, it’s a popular Polish recipe. It’s made with pan-fried fish covered with sauteed root vegetables. It may not sound much, but it’s really delicious!

Polish fish ryba po grecku on a white plate.


Pierogi are eaten in Poland all year round but they are also a classic Christmas dish. There are many different pierogi fillings popular in Poland, but for Christmas celebrations, sauerkraut and mushroom pierogi are the most popular.

Sauerkraut and mushroom pierogi on a blue plate.

Anther popular kind of Christmas pierogi are pierogi ruskie (Ruthenian pierogi) with farmer’s cheese and potato filling.

Pierogi ruskie in a white-blue bowl.

In some regions of Poland, pierogi z makiem (filled with poppy seed filling) are served for Christmas (this type of pierogi is not widely known).

Something to drink

The most popular Polish Christmas beverage is “Kompot z suszu” – this is a non-alcoholic drink made with dried fruit such as apples, pears, apricots, plums, and aromatic spices such as cinnamon and cloves. Some people add smoked dried plums to this drink, giving it a very specific flavor, which I personally don’t like. In Poland, around Christmas time, you can find in stores ready-made packages with fruit and spices for this beverage.

Grzane wino – Polish mulled wine. It’s similar to German Glühwein but what distinguishes it is the addition of raspberry syrup to it.

Two glasses with mulled wine on a wooden board.


Makowiec – poppy seed cake. There are many types of makowiec cake. The most popular is I think poppy seed roll (rolada makowa). Another popular poppy seed cake is Japanese poppy seed cake (makowiec japoński), which has nothing to do with Japan! It’s a sheet pan cake with poppy seeds and apples.

Three slices of poppy seed roll on a blue plate.

Sernik (Polish cheesecake) – it’s eaten all year round but it’s also very popular at Christmas and Easter. There are many types of sernik in Poland. This particular cheesecake is called sernik królewski (King’s cheesecake), it’s my favorite Polish cheesecake, the kind my grandma is making. It’s made with a kind of rich and heavy cheesecake part (this cheesecake is not creamy or light, but I love its dense consistency) and cocoa crust. It’s amazing!

One slice of Polish cheesecake sernik on a white plate.

Piernik (Polish gingerbread cake) – there are two most popular Polish gingerbread cake recipes. The first must be made a couple of weeks before Christmas. The raw batter of the cake rests for a couple of weeks in the fridge to mature and develop flavor then it’s baked, filled with plum preserves and sometimes marzipan, then coated in chocolate.

Piernik cake cut in half on a wooden board. Christmas decorations in the background.

The second version of this recipe is kind of a last-minute piernik which is a regular quick bread recipe but with lots of gingerbread spice mix (przyprawa do piernika), and it’s also filled with plum preserves and coated in chocolate. It’s baked right away and ready to eat.

Ingredients for gingerbread spice mix on a white-blue plate.

Pierniczki (Polish gingerbread cookies) – very similar to gingerbread cookies that can be found in the US but they are always made with honey and not molasses. After baking them they are usually quite hard and need to sit in a cookie tin with a piece of apple for 2-3 weeks until they soften.

Other popular Polish cookies are butter cookies, shortbread cookies with jam, rogaliki cookies (shown below), or cookies borrowed from neighboring countries such as Linzer cookies or Vanillekipferl.

Rogaliki cookies on a chopping board.

Kutia – it’s served for Christmas in some parts of Poland, especially in the south-east. It’s a dessert made with wheat berries, poppy seeds, dried fruit, and nuts.

Kutia in a white bowl topped with nuts. Christmas decorations in the background.

In the south of Poland, a dessert similar to kutia is being served, but instead of wheat berries, thick noodles are being used. It’s called “kluski z makiem” – noodles with poppy seeds.

Nut roll (rolada orzechowa) – similar to poppy seed roll, this is a rolled-up cake filled with nut filling. You can try my favorite version of it, which is a nut roll in the form of a wreath, filled with nuts and chocolate. I think it looks really festive!

Nut roll in the form of a wreath on a round wooden board.

Among the Polish-Americans, poppy seed roll, nut roll, kolaczki cookies, and chrusciki (faworki) seem to be the most popular Christmas desserts. Kolaczki cookies are not really known in Poland and chrusciki/faworki are always cooked for Fat Thursday which is in February (this is not a typo, in Poland, it’s Fat Thursday, not Tuesday).

Kapusta wigilijna (vegetarian Christmas Eve cabbage dish)

Kapusta wigiijna (Polish Christmas cabbage) is a vegetarian version of bigos (Hunter’s stew). We have either cabbage with mushrooms (kapusta z grzybami) – it’s made with stewed sauerkraut, sauteed onions, dried mushrooms, and carrots.

Kapusta z grochem – cabbage with split peas.


Salatka jarzynowa – Polish vegetable salad with cooked diced vegetables, eggs, cucumbers in brine, and mayonnaise.

Vegetarian stuffed cabbage rolls – filled with rice or buckwheat and mushrooms.

Vegetarian łazanki – with cabbage/sauerkraut and mushrooms.

Other popular Polish Christmas dishes (not vegetarian)

Liked mentioned above, vegetarian and fish dishes are served on the 24th, but on the 25th and 26th we eat meat dishes.

Popular Polish meat dishes for Christmas are:

  • Bigos (Hunter’s stew) – a stew made with sauerkraut, cabbage, and many types of meat.
  • Łazanki – small noodles with sauerkraut or cabbage (or both), mushrooms, and kielbasa.
  • Cabbage rolls (Gołąbki) – regular version filled with meat and rice.
  • Roast duck – traditional Polish recipe (filled with apples and onions).

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