The Essential Gluten Free Guide to Poland

I’m part Polish, and can attest personally to the fact that Poles love their gluten. I grew up on a diet of not only meat and potatoes, but the doughy, springy, dumpling-like treats that Polish cuisine excels at. Of course, it wasn’t until later that I knew I was celiac. But I had my fair share of Polish foods under my belt before I realized they were now off limits.

Poland is thus a complicated place for celiacs. On the one hand, lots of information available: the Polish Celiac society, gluten free Polish companies (see below under “shops”), and restaurants that are certified as gluten free (see below under “restaurants”).  On the other hand, not as much knowledge about the dishes that do have wheat, barley, or rye in them as a celiac would want or need.

The guide below follows the others here on Legal Nomads, offering up dishes that are safe and unsafe traditionally, as well as questions to ask, where to shop, and what else to read. It also has a gluten free restaurant card in Polish, and my first pass translator is a celiac. Her translation was so impeccable that the second round translator simply said, “I have nothing to change or add.”

gluten free poland guide

Warsaw, Poland (c) Gary Arndt 2019

I started my celiac guides because in 2008 onward there really wasn’t much online for celiacs who didn’t want to let their disease stop them from seeing the world.

I added the gluten free translation cards to do so safely. While there are some places that are harder than others, the overall message remains: with care, research, and help communicating, the world is open for all of us.

For additional reading about Poland and celiac disease, see this study from Poland in 2012 and this podcast with a Polish registered nurse with celiac disease.

-Jodi

GLUTEN FREE POLAND: CONTENTS

Gluten free Restaurant Card in Polish
Eating Gluten Free in Poland: Dishes and Snacks
Gluten Free Restaurants and Shops in Poland
What Isn’t Gluten Free in Poland?
Books and Further Reading about Poland

A Tailored Gluten-Free Restaurant Card for Poland

If you are looking for gluten free translation card, you can head to my landing page for celiac translation cards, for Mexico, Italy, Japan, France, and much more.

Detailed Gluten Free Polish Restaurant Card

Each of the cards in the guide has been created with celiac-specific research, mention of cross contamination, and double checked translation from locals who speak the language. In this case, our first translator IS a celiac – even better.

Note: The card is available for purchase via trustworthy 3rd party site that uses https, so you know your information is safe.

Why is this gluten free restaurant card different?

I have used several different translation cards on my travels, and still got sick. I may be more sensitive than some celiacs, but even a small amount of contaminated oil for frying, or wheat-thickened sauce in the food, is enough to make me ill for days. Let alone the joint pain later that week!

This card is different because it not only uses local food names for what to eat or avoid, but makes clear mention of the cross contamination concerns.

gluten free Poland polish restaurant card

Eating Gluten Free in Poland: Dishes and Snacks

The following dishes are commonly wheat-free in Poland. This is not an exhaustive list, but I wanted to be sure some of the more common dishes were represented so you could recognize them on the menu.

As with any destination, at home or abroad, it’s important to confirm on a case-by-case basis that no flour, bread, or gluten-filled condiments were used in the dishes.

Dishes that are likely to be safe for celiacs in Poland, with some additional communication and confirmation of cross contamination:

Kasza gryczana (buckwheat groats), and Kasza jaglana (proso) (millet).

Important note: while in many countries “kasha”/“kasza” most often refers to buckwheat, which are gluten-free naturally,  in Poland things are different. The word “kasza” includes different kinds of grains here, including those made from barley, rye, spelt, or wheat.When ordering “kasza” always make sure to specify that you can only eat “kasza gryczana” (buckwheat) or “kasza jaglana” (millet).

Kaszanka is a blood sausage traditionally made with pork blood, offal and kasza. Sometimes the buckwheat is replaced with barley, so double check and if the person is unsure, do NOT risk it.

Chłodnik is a bright pink beetroot soup served cold in summer. Aside from beets, the main ingredients include radishes, cucumbers, green onions, dill and yoghurt, making it a fresh and healthy option for celiacs during summer’s heat. Ensure that no flour was added to thicken the soup.

Some Barszcz, or borscht, is gluten free, while others are thickened with wheat, barley or rye (bialy) or served with dumplings (uszka). Barszcz is a common Eastern European dish that derives its vibrant reddish-purple color from its primary ingredient—beets! Along with an assortment of other veggies, the beets are simmered at length before the broth is strained and served with a dollop of sour cream. Variations abound, so use your translation cards and speak with servers and chefs about ingredients to make sure you’re ordering one that is gluten free.

Zupa ogórkowa is a cucumber soup, often made from sour pickled cucumbers and potatoes. It can be served hot or cold. Ensure that no wheat, barley, or rye was added to thicken the soup.

Kapusta kiszona is Polish sauerkraut, often served as part of a larger dish or as an accompaniment. Ensure no gluten was added to thicken.

Zupa pomidorowa is a leek and tomato soup, usually served with rice. As always, make sure no flour is mixed into it, as some recipes call for flour as a thickener. The recipe I’ve used at home is this one (no flour), but double check when in Poland.

Bigos is a meat and sauerkraut stew that can be safe or unsafe based on ingredients, but standard recipe is celiac-friendly. As always, make sure no flour is mixed into it, and if you’re at a place where the bigos is served in a RYE BREAD BOWL – ask for potatoes instead.

celiac poland guide

Bigos in Poland. Photo (c) Mike Krzeszak 2011

Kluski śląskie are Silesian dumplings, potato dumplings traditional to the Silesia region of Poland. Unlike other dumplings in Poland where gluten abounds, these call for potato and potato starch, and an egg. Best to confirm they are made as such, but these little disks – which resemble thumb cookies – are a great snack and safe for us celiacs in Poland.

Mizeria is a salad made of cucumbers with sour cream, named for the Polish word for misery, but it apparently made Queen Bona Sforza, an Italian princess who married Polish King Sigismund I in the 16th century, homesick. Mizeria is a dish of cucumbers, sour cream, dill, chives, vinegar, and seasoning. Simple and fresh, a solid choice for a side when you’re lost about what to order.

Gołąbki are stuffed cabbage leaves, often filled with minced beef, onions and rice. Do be aware that sometimes the rice is combined or replaced with barley, so it’s important to always check.

gluten free warsaw

Golabki cabbage rolls. (c) Quinn Dombrowski

Whether it’s smoked, cured, or dried, saltwater or fresh, fish is a diverse staple of Polish diets. Herring (Śledz), carp and salmon are all common, and many dishes are naturally gluten free when not served with bread.

Łosoś is baked or boiled salmon with dill sauce.

Ogórki Kiszone are pickled cucumbers in brine. Yum!

Cheeses such as Oscypek, a smoked sheep’s milk cheese often served with cranberry marmalade. Also popular are bundz and bryndza, a softer cheese made from sheep’s milk.

Fruits dried and fresh are seasonally abundant.

Miod Pitny is a Polish mead, made of honey, water and yeast.

Wafle ryżowe, the eponymous rice cakes that many of us take around the world to eat cheese, dips, and other snacks where we can!

Kompot, a non-alcoholic VERY sweet beverage that may be served hot or cold . Not to be confused with compote (what we in North America think of as purely stewed fruit), kompot is a drink made from stewed fruit that has Slavic origins but is popular throughout central and eastern Europe.

Kefir, zsiadłe mleko, maślanka are all fermented dairy drinks, safe for celiacs and good for gut health too.

And of course, Wodka is gluten free when distilled 3x, and if made from potatoes then regardless of distillation times it will be safe to consume.

Gluten Free Restaurants, Hotels, and Stores in Poland

Gluten Free Groceries and Shops in Poland

Sin Gluten is an entirely gluten free store in Warsaw where all your celiac needs will be met! A great place to stock up on the basics and emergency snacks.

Friendly Food is a bakery, shop and online shop that offers an extensive range of gluten free products, including regional Polish specialities.

For many years, the only place to find gluten free grocery basics were health food shops, but as knowledge of celiac disease has spread in Poland, the options have multiplied. Most major supermarkets such as Tesco, Alma, Carrefour, Lidl or Real will carry a range of gluten free items. Look for brand names like Balviten, Bezgluten, or Glutenex, which carry certified GF lines of products for purchase.

Gluten Free Warsaw

A few options below, with the dishes and shops in this celiac guide to help you make decisions via local menu when you’re stuck.

Margita is Poland’s first completely gluten free bakery. Located in Warsaw, they offer wafer bowls, savoury and sweet rolls, and other baked items, but also sell a variety of third party certified gluten free produts, like cereals, pasta, sausages, and more. For those familiar with Polish, you can buy produts via their website.

La Cantina in Warsaw is well-informed about celiac disease and make every effort to ensure that every diner has a safe and tasty meal, with great labeling across the menu and even a few gluten free beer options!

Manufaktura Bezglutenowa is the first fully gluten free restaurant in Warsaw, serving salads, soups, sweets and all sorts of other homemade celiac-safe food.

If you want cake in Warsaw, check out Zdrowe Ciacho, where all their beautiful cakes are vegan and gluten free, certified by the national celiac association.

Gluten Free Krakow

gluten free krakow

Krakow, Poland (c) Gary Arndt 2019

Piekarnia Bezglutenowe is a gluten free bakery producing delicious celiac friendly rolls cakes and loaves of bread in Lublin, Krakow and Poznań.

Pod Baranem in Krakow specialises in high quality traditional Polish cuisine with an extensive gluten free menu. This is your best chance to try gluten free pierogi!

On Nowy Świat in Warsaw check out La Cantina Meyhane if you are craving some gluten free pizza or heavier main courses. It’s an Italian-Portuguese blend of a restaurant, and can cater to celiacs with its certification from the Polish Celiac Society. English celiac-friendly menu here.

Placek Katowice serves 100% gluten free Hungarian style potato pancakes, crepes and pizzas amongst many other interesting menu items. Worth the hour trip from Krakow!

Restauracja Wiesz co Zjesz in Warsaw is certified by the Polish Celiac Society, with full gluten free menu of sausages, meat dishes, salads, and more.

If you wanted a quick but filling snack, the fully gluten free Groole in Warsaw offers baked potatoes as simple or complicated as you’d like them, with melted cheese and stuffing or a standalone butter treat.

Gluten Free Elsewhere in Poland

To & Owo Glutenowo is an entirely gluten free restaurant in Piotrków Trybunalski that specialises in catering to dietary needs.

Oberża Pod Dzwonkiem is an entirely gluten free restaurant in Poznań.  Chef Aleksandra Korytowska places high priority on fresh, organic produce, traditional Polish hospitality and cuisine, and making sure that celiacs can eat safely without fear of cross-contamination.

Atelier Smaku is a bistro and deli, as well as a food truck operating in Gdynia that serves up vegan and gluten free fare.

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For further celiac-friendly options, head over to Menu Bezglutenu, a comprehensive list put together by the Polish Celiac Association of restaurants, cafés, bakeries and hotels that have joined their gluten-free menu initiative and been certified. This list helps ensure that travellers to Poland can find a safe and tasty meal across the country, even outside the major metropolitan areas! You’ll want to look for this trusty sign: gluten free poland certification

What ISN’T Gluten Free in Poland?

Wheat, barley (kasza pęczak) and rye are all staples of the Polish diet, meaning many, many traditional dishes are unsafe for celiacs. This includes orkisz (spelt), which is commonly used and an ingredient to check for on packaging, and kasza manna (semolina).

Oats (unless specified that gluten free, but 99% of the oats you can find in Polish supermarkets will have gluten)

Cured meats often contain gluten, including many sausages such as kielbasa. Gluten free do options exist, you just have to look carefully for them, and if in doubt, assume it contains gluten.

Soups are also tricky in Poland, as most are thickened with flour.

  • Żurek is a rye-based soup
  • Krupnik a different soup, made with barley.
  • Many other soups such as Rosół, a chicken soup, contain wheat noodles.
  • Kapuśniak is a cabbage soup of sauerkraut and pork, potatoes and carrot that is often thickened with flour.

Barszcz bialy are also not gluten free due to the inclusion of rye or dumplings.

Pierogies, those most emblematic Polish dumplings, are not gluten free unless in a specified gluten free restaurant. And while pierogies are the most well-known of dumplings, they aren’t the only ones common in Polish food. Also to be avoided:

  • Kluski leniwe (dumplings made with wheat flour and white cheese)
  • Knedle (another form of dumplings, usually with fruits inside)
  • Pyzy (another form of dumplings)
  • Uszka (‘little ear’ dumplings, small pockets of wheat filled with wild mushrooms and/or minced meat.)
  • Kopytka are potato dumpling similar to gnocchi that sadly contain flour.
gluten free poland warsaw krakow and more for celiacs

Not so gluten-free :( Photo (c) SarahJane 2011

Krokiety, croquettes, which are usually breaded

Paszteciki, patties, a processed, deep fried dough stuffed with meat or vegetables often found in fast food shops or bars.

Golonka, pork knuckles are pub food in Poland, found at many an inn or tavern. Traditionally, they are cooked in their own juice and served with mustard, cabbage and/or  peas. Many recipes are gluten free. But! Take care for golonkta tavernsw piwie, pork knuckle dish that commonly (and continuously!) braised in beer and honey as it cooks.

Kotlet schabowy, a breadcrumb-coated pork cutlet, is another typical Polish dish off limits to celiacs.

Polish potato pancakes, placki ziemniaczane, are not gluten free due to the addition of flour.

Kapusta zasmażana (fried cabbage) and other products with zasmażka” (made with wheat flour)

Anything with panierka / panierowany / w panierce (breaded)

Kwas chlebowy, a drink made from rye.

Kotlet schabowy, a breaded pork cutlet dish.

Naleśniki, breakfast pancakes

Further Reading About Poland

Written by Zuza Zak, a young Polish ex pat living in London and writing all things food, Polska is a celebration of the author’s childhood steeped in the traditional foodways of Poland, foraging and cooking with her mother and grandmother. Here we see a modern take on these traditions, and beautiful photographs and a bit of history to boot.

Perhaps the classic tome on Polish cooking for American and Western European audiences, Treasured Polish Recipes for Americans contains some 500 recipes covering the breadth of Polish cuisine. There is some assumption of basic cooking skills in the recipes presented, but for the most part the recipes are simple, straightforward and tasty.

If you really want to know how the sausage is made, look to Polish Sausages, Authentic Recipes and Instructions. There’s nothing flowery here, just solid, detailed instructions on how to make a variety of Polish sausages from scratch using the techniques mastered by Poland’s food scientists in the latter half of the 20th century.

Part history lesson, part cookbook Polish Country House Kitchen boasts 90 classic and modern recipes, and over 150 gorgeous photographs highlighting this long overlooked cuisine and food culture.

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Happy and safe eating!

-Jodi