Kielbasa & more Polish foods of Chicago #AtoZChallenge

ChicagoAs in years past, this month I’m participating in the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. 2016 marks my fifth anniversary, so to celebrate, I’m hosting Friday Blog-Ins here in San Diego; you can find out more info about where we’re meeting each week on my A to Z Challenge page.

My monthly theme is Chicago From A to Z, so stay tuned from Monday to Saturday for new posts on the Windy City. Or sign up for my mailing list (delivered weekly, on Fridays) so you don’t miss a thing!


Kielbasa is a delicious Polish-style sausage that I grew up eating on most major holidays (Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving). Why? Because it’s delicious. Also, because my family is half Polish. (I dare you to guess the other half!)

Chicago claims about 6.7% of its population – or approximately 1.5 million people – are of Polish ancestry. Indeed, Polish is the third most spoken language in the city, behind English and Spanish. So put that in your rura (pipe) and palić (smoke it)!

Or, better yet, smoke this:

"Pork, Kielbasa and Kraut layers" by Flickr user Colin Tomele
“Pork, Kielbasa and Kraut layers” by Flickr user Colin Tomele

But definitely DON’T smoke this:

"Vegan kielbasa sausages from Tofurkey" image by Flickr user Josefine Stenudd
“Vegan kielbasa sausages from Tofurky” image by Flickr user Josefine Stenudd

Vegan kielbasa? How is this even a thing? You can’t eat sausages if you’re vegan, guys. Sorry, but sausages are MEAT in tube form, not tofu or seitan or whatnot. The sausage is traditionally encased in ANIMAL INTESTINES, too, so what are you even thinking trying to un-meat this meat?!

Furthermore, I must inquire: if you don’t eat or approve of meat, why are you so fixated on eating meat REPLICA products like this, you silly vegans? Just stick with the plants and grains and you’ll be fine. And if you get a hankering for kielbasa, go for the real thing. It’s way less GMO, for one…


Pass the pierogi

If you are a Polish food fanatic, pierogi are another tasty item you’re likely to be familiar with:

"pierogies" image by Flickr user di.wineanddine
“pierogies” image by Flickr user di.wineanddine

These little dumplings could contain any number of fillings, but typically involve potatoes, cheese, more meat, sauerkraut, or even fruit like blueberries (although, frankly, I consider the “dessert” pierogi to be weird).

The savory pierogi should be topped with fried onions, sour cream and/or butter. I have also been known to use the rather unorthodox topping of dijon or spicy brown mustard, or even Dijonaise! Because I’m a risk-taker, and I am willing to experiment.

Another stuffed food you should try when experimenting with Polish food is gołąbki, which are cabbage rolls:

"Golumpki (cabbage rolls)" image by Flickr user Hannah Donovan
“Golumpki (cabbage rolls)” image by Flickr user Hannah Donovan

My part-Hungarian husband loves cabbage rolls, too, so it’s obviously one of those Eastern European foods that many cultures have passed around and embraced.

Polish foods I would NOT eat

My mom repeatedly told us about Polish foods she did NOT enjoy eating as a child, and usually included a gross story about a duck’s blood soup called czernina. This is a food I would not really be into trying, either, as she mentions it was typically served cold. Yum, cold, congealed duck’s blood in a bowl! Waiter, may I have another? Barf bag, that is…

I would also likely run from syrop z cebuli, which is supposedly a cough syrup made of onions and sugar. WOW. Two great tastes that undoubtedly taste HORRIBLE together. Dude, this sounds worse than Chinese food and chocolate pudding, or cocaine and waffles.

I am, however, up for trying pretty much any Polish desserts. Especially this sernik cheesecake:

"Good, creamy Polish desserts" image by Flickr user Douglas LeMoine
“Good, creamy Polish desserts” image by Flickr user Douglas LeMoine

Cheesecake is, let’s face it, the unifying force in most cultures.

Additional Resources

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What say you?

Would you give any of these Polish foods a try? Or have you already got a favorite Polish restaurant in Chicago?

Giveaway: San Diego from A to Z

Want to read the book I wrote last April, based on my A to Z posts about San Diego? I’m giving away two paperback copies of San Diego From A to Z over at Goodreads, so click here and enter to win! AND I’m giving away one free ebook copy every day until the end of April to a random commenter here on the blog. Leave a comment every day for another chance to win!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

San Diego from A to Z by Laura Roberts

San Diego from A to Z

by Laura Roberts

Giveaway ends April 30, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

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  • A. Catherine Noon

    I ADORE kielbasa! I also found an Ukrainskaya salami that’s very different, but also yummy. I love pierogi, but I like the Russian version with lamp and some sour cream.

    You’re making me hungry. :)

  • Carolyn Astfalk

    Fun post! I’m originally from Pittsburgh, which has a pretty hefty Polish population, too. My dad ran a gas station for many years, and the old ladies next door made homemade kielbasa and pierogies. They were the best. All of my kids love them, too, although we have to settle for store bought Mrs. T’s and such until I get around to trying to make them myself.

  • Melfka

    Phew. I finally have a moment to catch up on blogs.
    First of all, THANK YOU for writing “pierogi” (which in Polish is already plural) instead of “pierogies”. I understand where it comes from, but it still gets on my nerve sometimes xD. Though the first time I went to US and my husband-to-be showed me “Kiełbasa Sausage” in CVS, I was sooo amused. To me, it said “sausage sausage”, so I couldn’t stop laughing (apparently, the Italians have the same issue with salami).
    I love gołąbki too, though they’re a pain to make, so I used to buy them in jars, especially when I was in Ireland (a lot of Polish shops there). If you ever get the chance, I recommend “zrazy” which is tendered beef pieces wrapped with bacon, onion, and a pickle inside (you can’t really taste the filling much as it gives it’s flavor to the meat), with a rich gravy. Mmmmm. ;)
    On the no-no list there’s definitely “kaszanka” (something like black pudding, I guess) and “golonka” (pork knuckle).

  • Michele

    I love kielbasa! I’m part Czech so we eat a lot of the same foods. I’m also from Buffalo and there is a large Polish population there so keilbasa was a staple in our town. Also love pierogis! My mom makes cabbage rolls: we call those pigs in a blanket, which are not what most people associate pigs in a blanket with. Around here (Texas) pigs in a blanket are tiny sausages wrapped in dough. Do you call the cabbage rolls pigs in a blanket?? We usually have ours with sauerkraut.

    Great post. Will look forward to more…

    Michele at Angels Bark

  • Carrie-Anne

    I love pierogi, and am also glad you didn’t render the plural as “pierogis.” My current favorite flavor is spinach and feta, and I also really like the sweet potato flavor. I always eat mine with lots of olive oil and sautéed mushrooms.

    I like some meat substitutes, like veggie patties, tofu dogs, textured vegetable protein chili (my favorite!), and faux bologna. Many of my fellow vegetarians and vegans want to recreate the experience of eating foods we’re familiar with, since we didn’t grow up meatless. I, however, draw the line at fake ham or bacon, since I’m kosher in addition to vegetarian. Even knowing it’s not real doesn’t remove my inner revulsion.

  • Dee

    Ha! I didn’t know we shared a common (part-Polish) background!
    Those pierogies are making me crave Polish food now!! I’m not a fan of Kielbasa, or really any sort of cured meats, sausages etc. apart from certain pepperoni and the occasional breakfast sausage or even Italian sausage. Pee Ess, Tofurky any-meat tastes like SALT. Not a fan.
    Those cheesecakes remind me that I’m an idiot for being anti-cheesecake. I’ve tried everything to find ways of enjoying cheesecake. No dice. Not even Japanese cheesecake which people tell me “is so different”. Ahem, differently BAD I’m afraid. Just can’t do it. However, similar-looking Polish pastries get me every time. The poppy-seed ones especially!

  • JazzFeathers

    When I lived in Dublin, one of my flatmates was a Polish girl… but unfortunately, she didn’t like cooking. Which seems like a shame, you listed a lot of good sounding dishes. I’m going to hunt down the recipes.

    I do cook cabbage rolls too, but they don’t look at all like the one you posted.

    Out hunting for recipes, now. Excuse me ;-)