My Polish Christmas Eve Dinner {With Recipes}

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My Polish Christmas Eve Dinner

Hello My Dear Hungry Friends,

‘Tis the season again. Another year went by, again in a flash. It’s been over three years since we moved here to Poland and I can’t believe how hast the time is flying by. I’ve been busy with my the blog, video recipes and I’m still enjoying writing recipes and stories for you. I’ve been focusing my attention the book that will be coming out soon (stay tuned) but have to also mention the mini Christmas cookbook that I published a couple of years ago now: “Polish Your Kitchen; A book of memories; Christmas Edition.” In it, I share 30 recipes of dishes that we prepare and serve on and around Christmas, along with stories, customs and traditions of a typical Polish Christmas celebration. The recipes come from my blog, and the stories come from the heart. You can read some of them here and if you’d like to expand, the book is available on Amazon (link here). 

For friends who joined my blog this year, welcome and thank you. For friends who continue to come back and stay connected, thanks for your continuous support. Please keep sharing pictures of food you make and enjoy. It brings a lot of joy knowing that someone is on the other side of my screen and listening.

polish christmas recipes

And now, I’m sharing the post from previous year about Polish Christmas. Happy reading!

Poles celebrate Christmas for 3 days, enough for the cheer to last us the next 12 months. Main meal in on Christmas Eve, and then there is 1st and 2nd Day of Christmas. THAT’S A LOT OF EATING!!  

Let’s start with choinka (Christmas Tree). In my home, we normally decorated a day or two before Wigilia (Christmas Eve), and that’s pretty much standard for Poles.

Wigilia is the most important day of the holidays for my family, normally spent with close family, traditionally eating meatless dishes. Tradition of meatless Christmas Eve has changed a bit for me since I moved to the US and the rules on eating meat that day were loosened. We now eat “bigos” with meat in it, and sometimes the beet or mushroom soup is made based on a meat stock. Many Poles strictly stick to the tradition though and on Christmas Eve serve meatless dishes only. 

Dinner starts when the first star shows up on the still pale blue sky. My brother and I were in charge of looking for it, when we were kids. Good way to keep us out of the kitchen, I guess. We were extra hungry by then, as we could only get away with sneaking cold pierogi the first couple of times.  

Preparation for Christmas at my house starts early, and I’m not talking about shopping for gifts. Everybody knows that cabbage has to sour for bigos and pierogi for at least 10 days. As soon as I start cooking sour cabbage, my husband says it smells like Christmas.  And I agree. 

Christmas to me also smells like oranges. During the communist time in Poland, Christmas was the only time we would get oranges (if we were lucky). Not because we couldn’t buy them, but because there weren’t any available. We would get them in our gift bags under the tree, along with some sweets. My brother and I had to compare who got how many and how big, just to make sure it’s even and fair. 

Dinner table is set with the special china and silverware saved for special occasions. Traditionally, there is always an additional place setting set for an unexpected guest. We also place a handful of hey under the white tablecloth, to symbolize the manger. 

For my family Christmas Eve dinner starts with all family members sharing “opłatek” (a thin wafer, kind of like the one you get at communion) by everyone breaking a piece of the one you’re holding, eating it, and wishing each other Marry Christmas and other appropriate wishes for the upcoming year. 

Then is the fun part… food!! Minimum of 12 dishes to represent the 12 Apostles (some parts of Poland its 13). These dishes vary just a bit from region to region, and home to home, but all include some of the favorites.

1 & 2 We start with beetroot soup with mushroom dumplings {barszcz z uszkami}.

Traditionally, it’s a meatless dish,  with broth based on vegetables and dried wild mushrooms. It’s served with “uszka”, a small dumpling filled with wild mushroom filling. My version of barszcz has evolved a bit over the years, since getting real Polish wild mushrooms was challenging, and the strict rules on eating meat on Christmas Eve loosened. Many Poles still stick to the old tradition and continue with consuming meatless dishes only on Christmas Eve. 

3. Wild mushroom soup {Zupa grzybowa}

Meatless soup made of wild mushrooms in light creamy broth is served as the 3rd dish of the evening.

4. Sauerkraut and wild mushroom pierogi {pierogi z kapustą i z grzybami} – my personal favorite.

5. Cabbage with yellow peas {Kapusta z grochem}

6. Fried Carp  {Karp Wigilijny}

This sweet water fish is largely sold around Christmas time and rarely eaten otherwise. It’s a specific tasting oily fish, lightly floured and pan fried ‘till golden brown.

7 & 8 Herring in Sour Cream {Śledź w śmietanie}

A mixture of salted herring, shredded apple and onion, with sour cream, served over hot potatoes.

9. Sauerkraut and mushrooms

Kapusta z Grzybami is a vegetarian version of bigos, by Poles often called “bigos jarski”. It is prepared with both fresh cabbage and sauerkraut, dried wild mushrooms and fresh mushrooms and spices.

10. Fish in gelatin {Ryba w galarecie}

Cooked white fish filet pieces, surrounded by cooked carrots and peas, suspended in savory gelatin.

11. “Greek” style fish {Ryba po grecku}

This is a cold dish of battered and fried fish filets, surrounded by a mixture of shredded carrots, onions and spices. 

12. Poppy seeds with dumplings {Kutia}

Kutia is a sweet mixture of pasta-like dumplings, called łazanki [wah-zah-nkee], cooked poppy seeds, sweet honey and raisins. This special dish, in different regions of Poland may also be served with boiled wheat grain instead of dumplings. In my house however, it was always łazanki, and it just tastes the best this way (to me;))

13. Fruitcake {Ciasto z bakaliami}

This is not your average fruitcake. It’s not dry and heavy, but instead soft, lightly sweet and studded with a balanced variety of dried fruit and nuts. It will completely bust the bad rep of mass-made fruitcake and convince you to keep this recipe in your box of favorite recipes.

14. Cheesecake {Sernik}

Sernik is a simple dessert, made from farmer’s cheese and eggs with a few additions.

15. Poppyseed roll {Makowiec}

Makowiec is “officially” referred to as “strucla makowa“. “Strucla” is a rolled yeast dough filled with a sweet filling of choice, poppyseed, sweet farmer’s cheese, almonds, apples or jam. Makowiec is mostly prepared for Christmas and Easter in Poland, but also enjoyed year-round as Poles have quite the sweet tooth for baked delicacies.

16. Dried fruit juice {Kompot z suszu}

A drink made of dried apples, pears, and plums, spiced with cinnamon and cloves, served hot or cold.

That’s a lot of food!! There will most likely be more desert! Poppyseed cake “makowiec”, ginger bread cookies “pierniki” and my grandma’s shortbread cookies are just a few of my favorites. Those will have to wait until after the midnight mass.  

We eat until we cannot eat anymore, and then opened gifts. 

Many attend church that night for the midnight mass called Pasterka, to celebrate the birth of Jesus and sing kolędy (Christmas Carols). Kids love this part. They get to stay up extra late and watch the revealing of the Szopka (Nativity). Very exciting stuff.

Wigilia is preceded with, the 1st and 2nd Day of Christmas, normally spent with extended family, or friends eating, chatting, taking walks, and enjoying each other’s company. Meat dishes are added to the mix on 1st and 2nd day of Christmas. Each year we change it up and cook something else. Sometimes duck or a beef roast, depending on requests from the family. December 26th is a day when everyone gets sad, because all pierogi are gone. Each year I tell myself I’m going to make enough and not run out, but that’s never the case.

Merry Christmas to you all, my hungry friends. Wishing you memorable time spent with family, enjoying each other’s company, savoring and tasting, being happy and staying healthy. May the New Year of 2018 bring a fresh start, new inspirations, strength to be adventurous and good to each other.

With love,

Anna & Mark

ps. if you’d like to see us talk a little bit about our Polish Christmas, check out the video below.

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17 Comments

  1. My grandparents are from Poland and our family still celebrates Wigilia, it’s great to see so many familiar dishes and I would like to try and cook some of the ones I heard of, or made myself! Thankyou for sharing 🙂

  2. I just love your blog of traditions as well as recipes. My mother did all her baking by taste and feel which made it very difficult for me to learn how. The stories of your family celebrations is just wonderful. I can’t wait to see if you have your story and recipes on Easter. I’m making your recipe for sernik and whatever else your next blog will have.

    Jadwiga

  3. I am of 100% Polish ancestry and grew up with some of these foods, and others I have never heard of. I would love to be able to adapt some of these to ingredients that my kids would be willing to eat. They are not little but still picky.

  4. Anna! You are living in Pennsylvania now? What area? That’s where my family is from – NE PA – specifically Hometown/Tamaqua area. What a small world! So glad I found you on YouTube. I am going to be making your recipe of Paczki as soon as I finish this cup of coffee (about 10 min) LOL. I’ve got some homemade lemon curd to fill them with.

  5. Hi Anna,
    I am so happy I stumbled on your webpage and blog. I love it. I was going to make my first visit to Poland this year but it got cancelled, I was soooo disappointed. Hopefully next year. We kind of do a lot of these dishes on Christmas day, like the pierogi and cabbage and peas. Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  6. Thank you for the smiles and tears reliving my Christmas’s with my Family on Long Island
    I try to keep some of the tradition but living in Virginia and being separated from my family makes it hard.
    I still do perogie and stuffed cabbage plus cookies.
    I love following you all on Facebook
    Thank you.

  7. Thank you for this list and the traditions, were having a group together to have an early Christmas Dinner and we will be making perogies as one of the families are from Poland. I know that they are a bit homesick so I’m going to use this list to create a special Christmas for them. Thank you.

  8. Thank You Anna thats all I can say, as I get ready for Christmas Cooking in the next day I’ve been watching your channel and smiling as I think of my christmasses as a child and all the polish food my grandmother and grandfather would cook. My grandson is 4 months old and when he was born my daughter said she couldn’t wait for him to make pirogies for Christmas Eve with me. Made me smile and think of all the times this recipe and dish has made so many people smile over the years. This is always the requested dish for holidays and special events. I ordered your cook book today it will come in a few days just in time to put under our Christmas tree so that you will be enjoying our Christmas Eve gathering even if it will be in spirt only. I hope you and your loved ones all have a wonderful holiday

    Thank You
    Jamie Potvin. Canada

  9. Thank you for this recipe, Anna!
    I love cooking and also am from Poland. I have been looking for polish recipe for perogies and I keep asking my mom to make me Beetroot soup with mushroom dumplings. I have not tried these recipes, but I will make them for Christmas, and hopefully they turn out.🤞

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