15 Most Popular Polish Cheeses
Due to fertile land, favorable climate and vast geographical diversity, Poland has been a self-sufficient agricultural country since the beginning of its history. The history of cheese making in Poland goes back to 5500 BC, when cheese similar to mozzarella was produced in Neolithic times in the Kujawy region located within today’s Northern Poland.
In terms of numbers, Poland is the 6th largest cheese producer in the world and home to several types of cheese that you would not find anywhere else.
The most unique is called oscypek – smoked cheese made with salted sheep’s milk made exclusively in the Tatra Mountains. Together with some other Polish dairy delights, it has been registered in the EU quality program and is protected by European Union law as regional product.
Not without a reason, Poland has been repeatedly described as a land of “flowing milk and honey” so, please, take a look at the most remarkable achievements of Polish cheese industry.
Sheep’s Milk Cheeses of the Podhale Region
Podhale is a beautiful mountainous region based in the very southern part of Poland. It is located in the foothills of the Tatra range of the Carpathian mountains.
The Tatra Mountains are not only one of the most popular tourist destinations in Poland but also home to the most unique cheeses, made for centuries in a traditional way.
Oscypek is a decorative, smoked, rennet, salted sheep’s milk cheese, a true pride of the Podhale region’s shepherds. Its name comes from the characteristic wooden mold which is used to form the dairy into a spindle-shaped hard cheese.
It is worth mentioning that Polish Carpathian sheep graze naturally on grassy mountain slopes. What they eat can be tasted in their milk and therefore in the cheese. You can eat oscypek cold with a bun or grill it over a fire and serve with cranberry marmalade.
Since 2008 has been oscypek a protected trade name under the EU’s Protected Designation of Origin geographical indication, which guaranties its authenticity.
Bryndza is another sheep’s milk cheese but unlike oscypek, it is rather soft and has a creamy-like texture. Although traditional bryndza is sharp, salty, grayish, grated and crumbly, there are many variations of this lovely bread spread.
It can be eaten with bread or as part of the main course dish such as potato pancakes.
Fun fact: The word bryndza colloquially means “something of low quality, poverty” but don’t fall for that and have a bite of this wonderful dairy product.
Note that bryndza podhalańska is another Polish cheese delight protected by the EU quality scheme of Protected Designation of Origin (PDO).
Not only are oscypek and bryndza produced in the shepherd huts of Podhale. Shepherds also make bundz, a delicate sheep’s milk cheese of quark-like consistency. Unlike bryndza, bundz has a mild, less salty, curd-like taste.
Fun fact: The taste of bundz is not constant. You will find an early Spring bundz made of spring grazing sheep’s milk, summer bundz of summer sheep’s milk and Autumn bundz made, obviously, with Autumn sheep’s milk.
On October 10, 2005 bundz was listed a traditional product by the EU.
Polish Cow’s Milk Cheeses
Twaróg (also known as Polish-style Farmer’s Cheese) is a type of white fresh cow’s milk cheese. It is definitely the most traditional Polish dairy product, a true love of every Pole. It’s a firmer and drier variety of quark – although the flavor is quite unique and it’s hard to compare it to any other cheese.
The cheese is usually sold in oval, foil packaging, or in blocks cut according to the desired weight. It has a variety of fat content: the cream type (14.5 %), full-fat (9.5 %), fat (6.5%), half-fat (3%) and skimmed (under 3%).
Apart of eating it with home-made bread and fresh butter, it is a key ingredient of many classic Polish main course dishes such as pierogi, leniwe (lazy noodles) or even desserts (cheesecake, crepe, sweet roll). It can also be mixed with sour cream, radishes and chives, and eaten with a spoon from a bowl.
Fun fact: Quark is the German word for curd cheese, but it also just happens to be one of the few early loan words in Old German taken from a Western Slavic language.
This is a hard rennet cheese made from cow’s milk. It is named after its hometown, Korycin, in the Podlaskie Voivodeship in eastern Poland. Koryciński is also known as swojski cheese (homemade) and it is considered to be the oldest Polish rennet cheese.
The cheese is usually formed into a flattened ball with a diameter of 30 cm and weight of around 3 kg. Currently, different varieties of the cheese are produced, most often flavoured with herbs, black seed or garlic.
In 2005, the Koryciński cheese was included on the list of traditional food products by the Ministry of Agriculture of Poland.
Bursztyn is a hard, mature cow’s milk cheese very similar to traditional Swiss Gruyere. It owes its unique taste and flavor to the ageing process and is known for its characteristic nutty flavor when young, becoming more earthy, spicy, and complex as it matures.
It is named after the amber gemstone and, as such, has been shaped by time and nature to reach excellence.
Great with red wine, spaghetti or vegetable salads.
Edamski is a type of rennet semi-hard cow’s milk cheese based on the recipe of Dutch Edammer cheese. It is one of the most fatty Polish hard cheeses.
Unlike, many semi-hard cheeses, it has no holes. Rather, it has a homogeneous consistency and a mild, milky flavor. It comes from the north east of Poland, the Great Lakes District – Mazury.
Perfect for sandwiches or toast.
This is a fine and unique, semi-hard, rennet cow’s milk “royal” cheese (its name means “king’s”); it is similar in taste and appearance to Swiss Emmental with large holes and cracks.
Due to its strong, nutty note, with apricot in the background and a slight shade of honey, Królewski is considered to be noble and sophisticated.
It is perfect with traditionally baked Polish bread, but it also goes perfectly with a pear, melon, and a glass of dry wine.
This is a semi-hard cow’s milk rennet cheese very much like the original German Tilsiter. It is a pale yellow smear-ripened semi-hard cheese with irregular holes or cracks.
Since the ingredients from its country of origin that were used to make this cheese were not available, the cheese became colonized by different molds, yeasts, and bacteria. As a result, tylżycki is definitely more intense and more spicy compared to the original version.
It is considered to be one of the most intense in flavor and aroma of all the Polish semi-hard cow’s milk cheeses.
Mazurski is a type of rennet semi-hard cow’s milk cheese, formed in the shape of a cube.
This cheese has a creamy-colored flesh and is soft and elastic. The taste is rather spicy and slightly sour and it is classified as a ripening, full-fat cheese.
Its name derives from the Polish Great Lakes District – Mazury, in the north of the country.
This is an extremely tasty, semi-soft cow’s milk Dutch-type ripened cheese. It has a characteristic spicy, yet creamy taste. It has small holes on the entire surface and a delicate texture.
It melts well, which makes it a perfect toast topping or pizza ingredient. Fun fact: Its name means “from the sea”.
Zamojski cheese is a type of rennet hard cow’s milk cheese. Its recipe was developed by the dairy producers in Zamość, located in southeastern Poland. Due to its excellent taste, it quickly began to be produced in many cities and is now sold all over the country.
It is made in two versions:
- full fat: with 45% fat content
- smoked: with a fat content of around 25%
Both versions have a soft, supple texture and a mild, slightly spicy flavor. It has single round and oval holes. It is produced in the form of a block.
Fun fact: Zamość, the Polish Pearl of Renaissance, was founded by Jan Zamoyski, Great Crown Chancellor, together with Bernardo Morando (the Italian architect) in the “perfect city” in the 16th century. In 1992 the old city of Zamosc was included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
Gołka is a medium-sized, traditional Podhale region cow’s milk smoked cheese very similar to oscypek. However, don’t get confused: oscypek is spindle-shaped, while gołka is cylindrical and a bit larger.
Is has an intense aroma, excellent crispness and a deliciously hard brownish crust. Produced and sold all over the Podhale region as another Polish highlands dairy delight.
Rokpol is a Polish blue mold cheese, very similar to Danish blue cheeses. The name derives from Roquefort, suggesting it is a Polish Roquefort. However, unlike the original, it is made with cows’ milk.
It has a characteristic pungent, salty taste and moderate astringency. It is perfect with dry red wine or grapes.
Rokpol is currently often sold under brand name Lazur.
Lechicki cheese is a type of ripened, rennet cheese made from cow’s milk. The cheese is produced in the form of balls weighing about 2 kg and with a diameter of 15 cm. The holes are about the size of a pea, quite numerous and oval.
The taste of Lechicki cheese is spicy, slightly sour, and loses its acidity over time. Lechit cheese used to be produced in the former USSR countries. It was formerly also known as Lithuanian and Nowogródek, which was associated with the place of production.
The history of the cheese dates to the mid-19th century, when a Dutch cheese maker relocated to the Polish town of Nowogródek (Belarus at present). After his departure, local helpers tried to continue production, but some modifications were made. As a result, the cheese gained a sharper flavor and more spicy notes.
Fun fact: In the interwar period, the production of Lechicki cheese accounted for over 30% of the national cheese production in Poland.