What spices and herbs are popular in Polish cuisine? Posted by on Jun 10, 2018 in Culture

Food is nothing without spices, always better when properly seasoned, and every country has its own preferred ones. It’s these unique combinations that give different cuisines their uniqueness.

Cumin is the most popular spice in the world, and coriander (or cilantro) is the most commonly used herb. In Europe and Africa, garlic is the most common among all dishes considered, and—no surprises here—oregano is common in the Mediterranean regions.

Image courtesy

Image courtesy

Herbs and spices are used frequently in Polish cooking, but some are used more frequently than others. Stocking your herb cabinet for Polish dishes means concentrating on those herbs and spices that turn up most frequently in recipes. These are the herbs and spices you will most frequently encounter:

Dill (koperek) – its’ aromatic flavor complements many Polish dishes. Can be used as a garnish for soups and salads, great for  dill pickles and often used “mizeria” (cucumber/sour cream/yoghurt salad)

Paprika (papryka) – an essential ingredient in goulash, paprika is also popular in Polish recipes, giving a red color and aromatic flavor to many meat dishes

Bay leaves (liście laurowe) –  frequently used in soups, stews and meat dishes, bay leaves are essential herbs for Polish cuisine.

Caraway (kminek)  – these aromatic little black seeds may be most often encountered in rye bread, where they give the characteristic flavor that goes so well with corned beef. But caraway is also used in many other dishes, from sauerkraut to sausage. They are an essential ingredient in caraway soup or caraway vodka.

Poppy seeds (mak) – these seeds are most often found sprinkled on bread rolls, but they also are an essential ingredient in the well known Polish dessert dish called makowiec (poppy seed cake) and kutia (Christmas pasta dish).

Vegeta – an all-purpose food seasoning. It contains several types of dried vegetables in a unique and original combination of natural vegetables and spices. Used in soups, meats, salads, sauces!

Here are few other names of spices/herbs in Polish:

clove – goździk

allspice – ziele angielskie

nutmeg – gałka muszkatałowa

cinnamon – cynamon

saffron – szafran

curry – curry

turmeric – kurkuma

ginger – imbir

salt – sól

vine vinegar – ocet vinny

vanilla – wanilia

capers – kapary

marjoram – majeranek

basil – bazylia

coriander – kolendra

camomile – rumianek

horseradish – chrzan

mint – mięta

chives – szczypiorek

parsley – pietruszka

garlic – czosnek


My personal favorites are garlic and basil! How about you?

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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. Laurel:

    I grew up in Chicago and am half Polish. My mom is 3rd generation though (actually 2.5) so she doesn’t speak much Polish. We did eat some Polish food though. Rosol with allspice every Sunday. The flavors I associate most with Polish food is Garlic, pepper, allspice & marjoram.

    I think your daughters are so lucky that you gave them the gift of a 2nd language! I wish my grandma had spoken more Polish to me. She definitely knew po polsku and even read a Polish bible.

    Funny thing is that we never knew how allspice was called in Poland because my grandma called them kabobbies, lol.

  2. Pamela Prophet:

    I absolutley Love BASIL and ROSEMARY and try to cook with them whenever I can… Garlic is aso wonderful, YUM!!!!

    A few years ago i bought a basil scented candle and burned right through it thinking i would just buy a few more. Well, they discontinued carrying them and i have been looking in every store and online since…

    If anyone knows of a company that sells Basil scented candles, i’d love their name!