You might not think of Poland as having a defined cuisine, and in some ways, you’d be right: Polish cuisine varies greatly across space and time. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some things that help tie it together.

Even though different regions have different traditional dishes and many follow seasonal cooking habits, some ingredients are integral to Polish cooking. Like kielbasa. But, what is kielbasa?

Keep reading for our brief guide on this traditional Polish food.

What Is Kielbasa?

Kielbasa is the Polish word for “sausage,” and that’s exactly what it is. It’s not necessarily just one sausage, though. The word refers to all sausages, and there are different types.

Most often, this Polish sausage is made from pork. It can, however, be made from other meats like beef, lamb, poultry, or some combination. It does tend to have a sort of signature flavor due to many of the herbs and spices generally used to flavor the meat such as garlic or marjoram. 

You may also find kielbasa uncooked while other varieties are smoked. Since kielbasa is the overarching term, the flavoring and preparation possibilities are endless.

Some popular varieties of kielbasa include:

  • Biala kielbasa: white kielbasa, fresh, uncooked, unsmoked, made from pork
  • Kabanosy: hunter’s sausage, thin, made from pork, smoked and dried
  • Krupniok: Silesian blood sausage, made from many cuts of pork, cooked
  • Kielbasa jalowcowa: “juniper sausage,” semi-dry, made from pork and crushed juniper berries, heavily smoked

This is not nearly an exhaustive list, and the most popular types of kielbasa in Poland can vary by region or city.

Where to Buy Kielbasa

While you can most likely find kielbasa anywhere that you go to buy fresh meat, the best place to look for truly authentic sausage would be at a Polish deli or at a store that specializes in imported products.

If you’re interested in buying your kielbasa online, you can check it out here or through another online retailer.

How to Cook & Store Kielbasa

When it comes to kielbasa cooking tips, you can use it just like you would any other sausage. It can be boiled, baked, sauteed, grilled, or added as an ingredient to a larger dish. The best ways to cook kielbasa can also depend on the particular variety you have.

A kielbasa recipe might instruct you to remove the casing, like for a soup or a casserole, or it might tell you to leave the sausage whole. If this is the case, the safe internal temperature for kielbasa is 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

In terms of storage, you should handle kielbasa like any other meat. Unopened packages can usually keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 weeks, but once opened, the sausage should be cooked and eaten within 1 week. You can also freeze your kielbasa in freezer-safe bags if you won’t be able to eat it right away.

Get Cooking!

Now that we’ve answered the question, “what is kielbasa?” you’re ready to put it to use in your own kitchen. If you’re lucky enough to come across a package of authentic Polish kielbasa, don’t hesitate to bring it home and throw it into a soup, stew, casserole, or your favorite pasta dish.

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