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Mustard with three types of kiełbasa made in Poland: biała kiełbasa (white sausage), the thin kabanos (pl. 'kabanosy'), and kiełbasa wiejska (farmhouse sausage) — which is what most people think of when they hear "kielbasa".

Kiełbasa[1] is a type of sausage from Central Europe, which is also called Polish sausage.

Etymology and usage

The word entered English directly from Polish kiełbasa (/klˈbɑːsə/ or /kˈbɑːsə/),[2] meaning "sausage". Etymological sources state that originally, the word comes from Turkic kol basa, literally "hand-pressed", or kül basa, literally "ash-pressed" (cognate with modern Turkish dish külbastı), or possibly from the Hebrew kol basar (כל בשר), literally meaning "all kinds of meat;"[3] however, other origins are also possible.[4]

The terms entered English simultaneously from different sources, which accounts for the different spellings. Usage varies between cultural groups and countries, but overall there is a distinction between American and Canadian usage. In New Jersey, Pennsylvania and most areas of Greater New York City, a plural Polish transitional form is used, kiełbasy (pronounced /kəˈbɑːs/). Canadians also use the word kubasa (/kbɑːˈsɑː/ or /ˈkbəsɑː/), a corruption of the Ukrainian kovbasa (ковбаса), and Albertans even abbreviate it as kubie to refer to the sausage eaten on a hot dog bun.[5]

Varieties and regional variations


Sausage is a staple of Polish cuisine and comes in dozens of varieties, smoked or fresh, made with pork, beef, turkey, lamb, chicken or veal with every region having its own speciality. Of these, the Kiełbasa Lisiecka, produced in Małopolskie,[6] has, since late 2010 had PGI protection.[7] There are official Polish government guides and classifications of sausages based on size, meat, ready-to-eat or uncooked varieties.[8]

Originally made at home in rural areas,[9] there are a wide variety of recipes for kielbasa preparation at home and for holidays.[10] Kielbasa is also one of the most traditional foods served at Polish weddings.[11] Popular varieties include:

  • kabanosy, a thin, air-dried sausage flavoured with caraway seed, originally made of pork
  • kiełbasa wędzona, polish smoked sausage, used often in soups.
  • krakowska, a thick, straight sausage hot-smoked with pepper and garlic; its name comes from Kraków
  • wiejska ([ˈvʲejska]), farmhouse sausage; it is a large U-shaped pork and veal sausage with marjoram and garlic; its name means "rural" or (an adjectival use of) "country", or (adjectival use of) "village".
  • weselna, "wedding" sausage, medium thick, u-shaped smoked sausage; often eaten during parties, but not exclusively
  • kaszanka or kiszka is a traditional blood sausage.
  • myśliwska is a smoked, dried pork sausage.
  • kiełbasa biała[disputed ] a white sausage sold uncooked and often used in soups.

The most popular kiełbasa is also called "Kiełbasa Polska" ("Polish Sausage") or "Kiełbasa Starowiejska" ("Old Countryside Sausage"). This one comes closest to what is generally known in America as "kiełbasa" (a Polish sausage). Nowadays, many major meat packers across America offer a product called "kiełbasa," usually somewhat different from the original.

In Poland, kiełbasa is often served garnished with fried onions, and – in the form of cut pieces – smoked kiełbasa can be served cold, hot, boiled, baked or grilled. It can be cooked in soups such as żurek (sour rye soup), kapuśniak (cabbage soup), or grochówka (pea soup), baked or cooked with sauerkraut, or added to bean dishes, stews (notably bigos, a Polish national dish), and casseroles. Kiełbasa is also very popular served cold as cold cuts on a platter, usually for an appetiser at traditional Polish parties. It is also a common snack (zagrycha) served with beer or plain vodka.

A less widely encountered but equally popular variety of kiełbasa is the White Fresh (biała - i.e. "white"). It is mainly used as a soup meat, and is therefore sold uncooked and unsmoked. When used, it is prepared by boiling, frying or boiling in soup in place of raw meat. This kiełbasa's taste is similar to a white Thuringian sausage. Traditionally served with barszcz biały.

United States

In the United States, "kielbasa" can be bought in most Polish stores all over, as well as in most major grocery store chains, which may be unsmoked ("fresh") or fully or partly smoked. A popular charcoal-grilled variety topped with grilled onions, yellow mustard, and (optionally) sport peppers, known as a Maxwell Street Polish, is considered local fare in the Midwest. It is very popular in Pennsylvania often served with sauerkraut or pierogies and is served in many Primanti Brothers sandwiches. Shenandoah, a town in PA Coal Region, celebrates the food in its annual Kielbasa Fest.[12] Another popular charcoal-grilled kielbasa in the Midwest is kiełbasa grillowa. This sausage often replaces the traditional hotdog.[13]


In Canada, varieties typical of Poland, Ukraine, and elsewhere are available in supermarkets, and more specific varieties can be found in specialty shops. This type of sausage is particularly associated with the Prairie Provinces, where the Slavic cultural presence is particularly strong. The world's largest display model of a Ukrainian sausage is a roadside attraction in Mundare, Alberta, the home of Stawnichy's Meat Processing.[14][15]


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Kolbász is the Hungarian word for sausage. Hungarian cuisine produces a vast number of types of sausages. The most common smoked Hungarian sausages are Gyulai Kolbász, Csaba Kolbász, Csemege Kolbász, Házi Kolbász, Cserkész Kolbász, lightly smoked, like Debreceni Kolbász (or Debreciner) and Lecsókolbász, a spicy sausage made specifically for serving as part of the dish Lecsó, a vegetable stew with peppers and tomatoes. Hungarian boiled sausages are called "Hurka", Liver Sausage, "Májas", and Blood Sausage, "Véres". The main ingredient is liver and rice, or blood and rice. Spices, pepper, and salt are added.


In Ukraine the word is kovbasa [kovbɑˈsɑ].

South Africa

These types of sausage are popular in South Africa where they are known as "Russian" sausage, often deep fried, and served with chips as a fast food meal.


Similar sausages are found in other Slavic nations as well, notably the Czech Republic (spelled "klobása", or regionally "klobás"), Slovakia (spelled "klobása"), and Slovenia (spelled "klobása"). In Croatia, as well as in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Serbia, this sausage is called "kobasica" or "kobasa", while in Bulgaria and Macedonia it is called "kolbas". In Russia, the word kolbasa ("колбаса") refers to all sausage-like meat products including salami, bologna, and the like. In Austria it is called "Klobassa" (similar to the neighbouring Slavic countries).

See also

Notes and references

  1. Other common names include: kołbasa, klobasa, kobasa, kolbasi, kovbasa, kielbasa, kielbasa and kielbasa. In English, these words refer to a particular type of sausage, common to all Central and Eastern European countries but with substantial regional variations. In the Slavic languages, these are the generic words for all types of sausage, local or foreign.
  2. The Polish pronunciation is [kʲɛwˈbasa].
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  5. The Canadian Oxford Dictionary has headwords for the Canadian usage kubasa, as well as the Albertan kubie and kubie burger, for kielbasa dogs and burgers, respectively. These have been made popular by Stawnichy's Meat Processing of Mundare who have been making Ukrainian-style sausage for several months and have a variety of 'Kubie'- derived patties and cutlets. See also this article Archived July 6, 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  6. Polish Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development - Kiełbasa Lisiecka info (Polish) (Accessed 1/Nov/2010)
  7. EU Directory of PGI/PDO/TSG - Kiełbasa Lisiecka profile (Accessed 1/Nov/2010)
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External links


hy:Երշիկ pl:Kiełbasa ru:Колбаса sl:Klobasa sr:Кобасица sh:Kobasica uk:Ковбаса