What Is Kielbasa Sausage and How Is It Different from Other Sausages?

One family tradition that I was very fortunate to have growing up was a weekly dinner at my grandparents’ house on Monday nights. My grandmother, whose parents were immigrants from Poland, would cook. Despite the plethora of delicious Polish foods, my grandmother typically kept to American fare—chicken soup, meatballs, mashed potatoes, white fish with cracker breadcrumbs and the like. However, on special occasions such as Christmas or Easter, there was one undeniably Polish addition to the table: a large kielbasa sausage. When I think of kielbasa, I think of slicing off a hunk or two as a hearty appetizer before digging into a home-cooked ham or turkey meal. It’s an undeniable sense memory.

But perhaps you didn’t grow up with a Polish grandmother. If so, you might have some questions about this sumptuous sausage. Like, what is kielbasa? What is it made of? What does it taste like? Let’s see how the sausage gets made.

What is kielbasa sausage?

Kielbasa, which is also sometimes called Polish sausage (that’s Polish the nationality, not “polish” the verb), is a sausage of, surprise, surprise, Polish origin. In fact, “kielbasa” just means “sausage” in Polish so it can refer to a wide variety of different sausages. Typically, though, when we talk about kielbasa, we’re talking about a reddish, U-shaped smoked sausage.

What is kielbasa made of? Is kielbasa pork?

You’re sure you want to know what is in Kielbasa, huh? Very well. Because “kielbasa” is a bit of a catch-all term, it can actually be made of any kind of meat you have lying around—beef, turkey, lamb, veal, etc. However, the wiejska sausage aka country-style kielbasa, which is the style of kielbasa you’re most likely to see in the U.S., is made from pork along with herbs and spices like marjoram, garlic, and coriander.

Is kielbasa precooked?

Yes, typically Kielbasa is smoked for preservation and flavor purposes. Though, again, kielbasa can technically refer to any type of sausage, so be sure to read the label to be totally certain. 

Is kielbasa spicy? 

Typically, Kielbasa is not spicy—it has a salty, cured meat flavor that should be palatable even to those with the lowest spice tolerance.

Is kielbasa gluten free?

Kielbasa is mostly made from straight up meat, so it should be gluten free. However, it’s always possible that some brands use filler ingredients that contain gluten, so be sure to check the label.

What is Polska kielbasa?

Polska kielbasa is just another name for kielbasa. Polska means Polish, and kielbasa means sausage, so this is simply an alternate way to say Polish sausage. 

What to make with kielbasa?

Kielbasa can be eaten on its own, but there are a wide variety of recipes that use the sausage, too. It can be included in a classic sheet pan dinner with roast vegetables, sliced, sauteed, and tossed with pasta, or included in soup. Food Network has a list of great kielbasa recipes, including the classic pierogies and kielbasa. 

How to pronounce kielbasa?

Growing up in New England, we always pronounced it like “kill – baa – suh,” but according to some internet pronunciation guides, the first syllable should be more like “keel,” unless you have a Massachusetts accent. 

About the Author

Matt Crowley

Matt Crowley is a comedy writer living in Los Angeles. He likes maple-flavored snacks, loves every kind of cheese, and is slowly learning to accept mushrooms.

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  • I like your site. Very interesting subjects.