Polish Language Blog

Poland’s love of open-faced sandwiches Posted by on Aug 26, 2021 in Food, Traditions

What comes to your mind when you think of a sandwich? I’m assuming it is a typical sandwich you see here in USA…two pieces of bread with whatever it comes in between…right? Well, you might be surprised by what you will see on a Polish table then, when there is a sandwich time!

Have you ever heard word kanapka (or plural: kanapki)? I bet most of you who visited Poland know that word…In my opinion, Poland is literally obsessed with kanapki! They are a staple food, no matter if it is breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Growing up in Poland, we only used 2 pieces of bread (aka USA sandwich) when we would go camping/hiking or took a lunch to school! Otherwise, the only  every day kanaka I was an open-faced sandwich…one slice of crispy, fresh baked bread or roll, with butter (masło)/mayonnaise (majonez) or even lard (smalec), topped with cold cuts (wędliny)/vegetables (warzywa)/toppings (dodatki)…Yum!!! Yes, but still not great comparing to what you are used to, right?

Being a person who travels a lot, I always stuck to a rule: act as a native! No matter what! To me it was the respect of the culture…you don’t complaint about what you witness when traveling, you simply adjust! You wouldn’t be happy if someone would visit your country and complaint about your culture and traditions, right? I love experiencing other cultures and learning more about them!

Cheese sandwich. Image from Ajale from Pixabay.

That being said, in the back of your mind, there is still this little devil saying: “I miss what I’m used to!”…But why not trying something new? You might just love it!!!

Anyway, what are kanapki? Common toppings include cold cuts, smoked salmon, pickles, radish, sardines, olives, cheese, sliced sausage, or pickled herring, tomatoes or cucumbers. You can put anything you want on a kanapka!

And they are common any time of the day! In the morning they are usually with cold cuts and cheeses, hard boiled eggs or farmers cheese with honey! Afternoon ones are more savory and you will find kanapki as appetizers even at a dinner party!

Kanapki. Image by Karolina Grabowska from Pixabay

Kanapki have a long history in Poland. Originally, they were known as tartinka (from the French word for an open-faced sandwich, tartine) and they were almost exclusively served as appetizers (przystawki) at cocktail parties among the wealthy people. They were usually a bite size small. It wasn’t until the end of World War II that tartinka became kanapka: the size got bigger, Polish people of all economic backgrounds and classes started eating them, and they were served at all mealtimes, rather than just at fancy parties.

Nowadays kanapka is a staple. Add tomato sauce, fish, sautéed mushrooms, whatever you have available or feel like, and you create a kanapka!

My favorite is one with mayonnaise (majonez), fresh tomato or cucumber (pomidor albo ogórek) and some fresh dill (koperek) and salt and pepper (sól i pieprz)…yum (pyszne)!!!

What is your favorite kanapka?

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About the Author: Kasia

My name is Kasia Scontsas. I grew near Lublin, Poland and moved to Warsaw to study International Business. I have passion for languages: any languages! Currently I live in New Hampshire. I enjoy skiing, kayaking, biking and paddle boarding. My husband speaks a little Polish, but our daughters are fluent in it! I wanted to make sure that they can communicate with their Polish relatives in our native language. Teaching them Polish since they were born was the best thing I could have given them! I have been writing about learning Polish language and culture for Transparent Language’s Polish Blog since 2010.


  1. Adelaide Dupont:


    I too love cucumbers as a base for kanapka.

    And it was good to see the shallots/spring onions.

    So important it is to smell and see food.

  2. Henryk Gawel:

    Great website. Reading about kanapki started to make my mouth water here in Melbourne Australia. I am of Polish background and everything about Poland interests me. Kind regards to you and your family.