7 Polish Barbeque and Picnic Ideas for the Summer

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and the grilled kielbasa is calling…time for a Polish barbeque or picnic.

Probably every Pole you ask will have their own idea of what makes the best Polish barbeque, but here are my recommendations.


Mizeria (Polish Cucumber Salad)

Polish Mizeria

The perfect appetizer for a warm day outside, mizeria, or Polish cucumber salad, will refresh your taste buds.

It consists of thinly-sliced cucumbers topped with sour cream, lemon juice, parsley, and/or other tasty condiments.


Potato Pancakes


It’s hard to get more Polish than potato pancakes. They’re made of grated or ground potatoes that are fried and bound by egg or applesauce. They’ll make for a great side dish, next to your grilled kielbasa.




Now to the meat of the matter—the grilled Polish sausage, or kielbasa. Of course, it’s even better with some sauerkraut or onions on the side.


Naleśniki (Blintzes)

Polish Blintzes

This tasty dessert will leave you drooling for more. Naleśniki are essentially pancakes with fruit or cheese filling.

Popular fruit fillings include apple, peach, and strawberries. Oftentimes sugar is sprinkled on the top, and some people even add chocolate frosting.




Most people know of meat-, mushroom-, or cheese-filled pierogi, but a great alternative (or addition!) are fruit-filled pierogi. They can be filled with cherries, blueberries, plums and more!

A perfectly sweet snack for your summer barbeque.




Onto beverages. Try kompot, or homemade Polish fruit juice. I’ve found that nothing satisfies my thirst better after running around playing picnic games in the heat.

Kompot is made by boiling fruits (apples, raspberries, blueberries, etc.) in water so they can release their juice. You then add a few teaspoons of sugar, let it cool, and enjoy! There’s nothing quite like it.


Polish Beer

polish beer

Lastly, no Polish barbeque is complete without Polish BEER! Everyone has their favorites, but my top three recommendations are Perła, Żubr, and Okocim.

These beers are usually available at Polish delis or at grocery stores that specialize in ethnic foods.

Those are my two cents on what to have at a Polish summer barbeque. What are some of your ideas? Tell me in the comments!


Warm those Wintertime Chills with this Polish Spiced Beer Recipe

Polish mulled beer recipe
Some of the ingredients needed to make grzaniec are nutmeg, ginger and, of course, quality Polish beer!

If you ask most Americans, the idea of warm beer is repugnant, perhaps even blasphemous to the beer gods. We do everything we can to keep our precious pilsners, porters and pale ales as cold and refreshing as possible because, let’s face it, no one wants a Bud Light that’s been out in the sun for too long (it’s questionable if anyone wants a Bud Light at all).

But Poles and Eastern Europeans have been drinking beer that is not only warm, but hot, for centuries, in the form of spiced, mulled beer. When I first heard this, I questioned the sanity of my Polish ancestors, but then decided that they’ve been at it longer than us Americans, so maybe they know what they’re talking about. In fact, this was a popular drink even among Polish noblemen in the 16th and 17th centuries.

So I set out to make this spiced beer, called grzaniec, for myself. I ended up discovering that it’s the perfect wintertime drink if you want to warm yourself up, especially if the temperatures are colder than a Russian Gulag, like they are this year.

This is the recipe I ended up using, but you’re free to take it or leave it. The internet is full of different variations.

The Recipe

You will need:
• A bottle of your favorite Polish lager. I personally like to use Tyskie or Perła.
• 2-3 tablespoons of water
• 1 teaspoon of whole cloves
• ½ teaspoon of ground ginger
• 1 cinnamon stick
• 1 pinch of nutmeg
• 3-5 tablespoons of honey

Polish spiced beer recipe
The grzaniec as it’s heating up in the saucepan.

1. Place the water in a saucepan, followed by all the ingredients, except for the beer.
2. Simmer the ingredients until the water has evaporated. Be sure to regularly stir the mixture.
3. Once the water has evaporated, gradually pour the beer into the saucepan.
4. Stir until the beer is hot, but not boiling.
5. Strain into a glass and enjoy!

Don’t wait for the grzaniec to cool off. Drinking it warm is the point! In fact, the root of the Polish word grzaniec is “grzać,” meaning “to heat.” The taste of all those spices coming together creates a type of refreshment in your mouth that even cold beer cannot. From someone who was skeptical at first, I can honestly say it’s worth a try.

If you like it, there’s another type of grzaniec that uses wine instead of beer as the key ingredient. I haven’t tried it yet, but it’s next on my list!

Polish mulled beer recipe
And now, some nice, hot grzaniec to get rid of those winter chills.

FAQ: Everything You Wanted to Know About Pączki

Lately, I’ve been getting many questions about pączki and the difference between celebrating Fat Thursday and Fat Tuesday. Personally, I’ll take any excuse to sink my teeth into those powdered balls of fruit-filled delight. Give me Fat Saturday or, better yet, Fat Monday—what better way to kick off the work week?

But I digress. In the spirit of Fat week, let me ease your mind of all your pączki-motivated queries.

Why do we have Fat days?

CarnivalIn the pre-Christian era, the last few weeks of winter were typically the last opportunities for people to eat well, since the food they had stored up would begin running out. After this period, there would often be a period of hunger until the spring.

During the Christian era, the last few weeks of winter coincided with the period preceding Lent (Carnival), which was the last chance to indulge in food before 40 days of fasting. Countries around the world celebrate Carnival with their own unique spin, but these fat days are generally meant to be times of excess.

Is it Fat Tuesday or Fat Thursday?

To begin answering this question, Christians around the globe observe Fat Tuesday, also known as “Shrove Tuesday,” as the last day before Lent. As the last day of Carnival, it is the absolute final opportunity to eat normally before Lenten fasting.

Fat Thursday is only observed by a few countries, most famously Poland (where it’s known as tłusty czwartek), as a day marking the beginning of the final week before Lent. The traditional dessert consumed on Fat Thursday is, of course, pączki. It should be noted that Poles observe Fat Tuesday also, calling it “ostatki,” which translates to leftovers, meaning it’s a time to finish any leftover food or sweets before Lent (including pączki!)

Over the past several decades, the consumption of pączki has been assimilated, by many western countries, into Fat Tuesday celebrations. The result is that Poles still celebrate Fat Thursday by inhaling copious amounts of pączki, while Americans, for example, do the same thing on Fat Tuesday. Americans of Polish descent, like yours truly, take advantage of the situation to stuff our mouths with pączki on BOTH days!

In short, Polish people celebrate Fat Thursday the week before Lent. Most Christians celebrate Fat Tuesday the day before Lent. Smart people celebrate both 😉

What are pączki?

Pączki are a type of round, puffy, fruit-filled donut, often topped with powdered sugar or glaze. Common flavors include raspberry, strawberry, apple, prune, blueberry and apricot. They can also be filled with custard or cream.

How do you pronounce pączki?

Many Americans like to pronounce pączki as “poonch-key.” Wrong. The key is that Polish “ą,” which has a nasal “own” sound. So, be sure to pronounce it “p-own-ch-key.”

Are pączki Polish?

As much as I would like to answer this question with a “yes,” that would be a lie. Although the Poles have made this dessert their own and marketed it worldwide over the past century, historians speculate it was the ancient Romans or groups in the near-east  who originally developed the recipe.

Were pączki always sweet?

No. For most of their history, paćzki were filled with pork fat and fried in lard, probably making them even unhealthier than they are today. For Christians, they were a very practical food, providing an opportunity to use up all the leftover butter, lard, sugar and other cardiac arresting ingredients before Lent. These original pączki also had a much harder substance and did not use yeast as an ingredient.

The idea of sweet pączki likely came from north Africa or the middle east and arrived in Poland during the 16th century. In the 18th century, bakers began adding yeast, which gave pączki their recognizably round, puffy shape. Today, hardly anyone can imagine fat-filled pączki, as they are most commonly filled with some kind of fruit or custard.

Is pączki singular or plural?

Many Americans, when speaking of many pączki, say “pączkis.” This is incorrect. The word pączki is already plural. The singular word for pączki is one “pączek.” Of course, I think the reason no one ever says that is because one does not simply have “one pączek.”

What are the nutritional facts of pączki?

So just how unhealthy are pączki? It obviously depends on what you put in them. As an example, let’s look at raspberry pączki (my personal favorite).

One raspberry pączek has roughly 410 calories, 15 grams of fat, nine grams of saturated fat, 15 mg of cholesterol, 360 mg of sodium and 58 grams of carbs according to myfitnesspal.com. This makes it healthier than a Big Mac burger, but watch out, as it’s very easy to eat two or three pączki in one sitting. And, again, it depends on the pączek. One strawberry and cream cheese pączek has more than double the amount of cholesterol as raspberry.

How do I make pączki?

Google it! There’s way too many recipes and variations to list them all here. YouTube also has countless great step-by-step videos.

Have more questions about pączki? Ask away in the comments

Diving Into the Polish Beer Scene

polish beer

Polish beer is amazing. As the third largest producer of beer in Europe, after the United Kingdom and Germany, and the ninth largest in the world, Poland has been gaining increased respect and recognition for its beer internationally.

Poland is also the 5th-highest  beer consuming nation in the world and brewed 3.956 million kiloliters of the cold stuff in 2013. As you might imagine, this has helped create a distinct Polish beer drinking culture, but it’s not the kind  you might expect, especially among young people.

A recent article published in Polish Newsweek highlights some interesting beer drinking trends among Polish millennials. Here are some of the major ones.

No More Loner Drinking

In the U.S., we’re used to beer drinking as being a social pastime. It’s not so much about drinking the alcohol as it is about connecting with friends and having a few good laughs. Now this trend is hitting Poland. Whereas in earlier decades, Poles might have been more apt to drink alone while watching television, the millennial generation is all about the bar scene and enjoying time with friends.  Personally, I think that’s a healthier mentality.

A Growing Craft Beer Scene

Another trend picking up in Poland is one that I observed there myself—a growing interest in craft beers. I have a younger cousin in Poland who I talked beer with while visiting. He mentioned that the common Polish beers many of us have heard of—the Tyskies of the world—are seen as too mainstream for many young Poles. Instead, the craft beer scene is more varied than ever, with Poles flocking to try a whole host of local concoctions. To check out the Polish craft beer scene, visit http://www.polishcraft.beer/

The Rise of Flavored Beers

Traditionally, lagers had dominated the Polish beer market. When you think about the most common Polish beers like Zywiec, Tyskie, Okocim or Perła, they are usually pale lagers.

Now, apparently, Polish millennials have acquired a taste for sweet, flavored beers that don’t have much alcohol and taste more like orange soda than a cold one. Beer mixed with honey, juice and…cola..is becoming popular among Poland’s youth. I want to remain impartial in this post but blahhhhhhhhh!

Beer Fest Galore

Young Poles are increasingly interested in traveling around their country to discover  new beers and build their palates. From visiting tiny breweries in the middle of the Polish countryside, to attending giant beer events like the Silesia Beer Fest in Katowice, they want to expand their beer drinking horizons.

In the Polish sitcom Świat Według Kiepskich, the lead character, Ferdynand Kiepski, would always drink the same beer—Mocny Full. He wouldn’t quite fit into this current generation of Polish beer drinkers, who have an open mind never before seen in that country’s beer industry.

Having grown two-and-a-half times since 1995 and worth around 19 billion złoty ($4.8 billion), the Polish beer market is becoming one of the most robust in Europe. Who knows, perhaps one day soon people around the world will think of Polish beers before German or Belgian ones.

More Strange Polish Christmas Eve Superstitions

Polska Wigilia

Many of you enjoyed my article on the Strangest Polish Christmas Eve Superstitions. When I wrote that, I thought I had heard it all. Well I hadn’t.

So here’s even more Polish Christmas Eve, or Wigilia superstitions that were once very common in different parts of Poland:

Clean Up Your Act

In Polish villages on Christmas Eve, the day would start very early, before dawn. Villagers would run barefoot to the nearest river or stream to bath.

A thorough cleaning foretold good health in the coming year and protection against skin infections and other diseases. In an age without proper medicine, people relied on such beliefs for comfort that they would live to see another Wigilia.

Sunny winterA Sunny Day Keeps the Husbands Away

Of course, Polish women found numerous ways to predict whether or not they would get married in the coming year.

If the weather was gloomy and dark that day, it meant that women would find husbands regardless of age, wealth or beauty. If the weather was beautiful and sunny, then only the most beautiful women in the village would get married in the upcoming year.

Picking colored strands of hay from under the table-cloth during Wigilia was another way girls predicted their marriage fortunes. A green strand meant marriage before Mardi Gras. A yellow strand meant that the girl still had some waiting to do. Finally, a black strand meant eternal spinsterhood.

Kids Beware

Children had to behave extra nicely on Christmas Eve because if they were naughty and got punished, it foretold that they would have a year filled with spankings. Ouch!

It was also customary for mothers preparing the Wigilia supper to smear their children’s faces with dough. This was meant to ensure that the kids would be healthy and full during the upcoming year. Considering that periodic famines gripped the Polish countryside, this superstition was another type of comfort to the family.

Decorating the Wigilia Table

The supper table was arranged and decorated in a very specific way to ensure good fortune during the coming year.

Hay and oats covered the table to ensure a good growing season and plentiful food. On each corner of the four-cornered table was placed a loaf of homemade bread to represent full bellies during each of the four seasons.

To protect the household from evil, an ax or chain was sometimes placed under the table (this had a secondary purpose of protecting the family members from their drunk uncle Franek when he went on one of his political rants).

Preparing for Dinner

Wigilia tableIf a man was the first guest to enter a home on Wigilia, it meant good luck for the upcoming year. A woman meant bad luck. LOL.

Most people are familiar with sharing opłatek right before supper on Christmas Eve. There’s a darker side, however, as anyone who dropped their opłatek was destined to die within a year.

The Common Bowl

I have heard from many Polish Americans that they vaguely remember this practice from their Polish grandmothers. It involved everyone eating each dish out of the same bowl on Christmas Eve and lasted into the twentieth century, representing solidarity and the whole family “being in it together.”



Many of you wrote about your own experiences with Polish Christmas Eve superstitions in response to my first article. I’ve reprinted some of them here:

Before the meal began, a Holy [blessed] candle was lit, everyone knelt, and the family said prayers. The meal was meatless and began with mushroom borscht, followed by homemade pierogi, mushrooms with gravy, saurkraut with peas (kapusta grokham) and boiled potatoes. At the end of the meal, the Holy candle was blown out and…if the smoke rose straight up everyone would be together next Christmas. Also, if the pink host stuck to the bottom of the potato bowl, there would be good luck in the coming year. -Stacey

After the food, a bell would ring and two figures would enter the room. One was Santa Claus and one was called Bulea (sp?). I always thought she was Santa’s mother, but an older cousin said she was some kind of spirit. She would make sure that we knew our prayers in polish and would give us a treat, usually a potato. But she was a scary figure, dressed in black with a cloth mask and carrying a stick to wield against anyone who displeased her.. My younger brother would hide under the table when he heard the bell. –Christine

If you cooked the wigilia you could not let go of the spoon you started using in the beginning; you had to use it till the end, and you had to serve with it and eat with it. Or at the end of the wigilia all the teenage girls in the family would gather the spoons, go outside and wait and listen to hear a dog bark. If the bark came from the North, your future husband would come from the North. Or after wigilia the teenagers would walk around with a big Gwiazga Betlejemska and they would Kolendować.Anna

We do not eat anything with wings. Such as turkey,chicken etc. Otherwise all your money would fly away in the new year. -Christina