Four types of kiełbasa made in Poland: biała kiełbasa (white sausage), a slice of kiełbasa krakowska, the thin kabanos (pl. 'kabanosy'), and kiełbasa wiejska (farmhouse sausage)
Place of originPoland
Main ingredientsMeat (pork, beef, turkey, lamb, chicken or veal)

Kielbasa (UK: /klˈbæsə/, US: /klˈbɑːsə, kɪ(l)ˈbɑːsə/; from Polish kiełbasa [kʲɛwˈbasa] )[a] is any type of meat sausage from Poland and a staple of Polish cuisine. It is also known in other world cuisines; in American English, the word typically refers to a coarse, U-shaped smoked sausage of any kind of meat, which closely resembles the Wiejska sausage (typically pork only).

Etymology and usage

The word entered English directly from the Polish kiełbasa and Czech klobása, meaning "sausage". Both these forms can be derived from a Proto-Slavic *kъlbasa, which is also the source of Ukrainian ковбаса́, Croatian kobasa, etc. This in turn was borrowed from a Turkic form equivalent to *kol basa, literally "hand-pressed", or *kül basa, literally "ash-pressed", making it cognate with modern Turkish külbastı.[1][2]

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 sometimes seen, kiełbasy (/kɪˈbɑːsi/).[citation needed] Canadians also use the word kolbassa[3][4] or kubasa (/kbɑːˈsɑː/ or /ˈkbəsɑː/), an Anglicization of the Ukrainian kovbasa (ковбаса), and Albertans even abbreviate it as kubie to refer to the sausage eaten on a hot dog bun.[b]

Varieties and regional variations

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A variety of dried sausage in Poznań, Poland

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,[5] kiełbasa biała parzona wielkopolska and kiełbasa piaszczańska are Protected Geographical Indications in the EU and the UK.[6] Furthermore, Kabanosy staropolskie, Kiełbasa jałowcowa staropolska, Kiełbasa krakowska sucha staropolska and Kiełbasa myśliwska staropolska are Traditional Specialities Guaranteed in the UK and EU as well.

There are official Polish government guides and classifications of sausages based on size, meat, ready-to-eat or uncooked varieties.[7]

Originally made at home in rural areas,[8] there are a wide variety of recipes for kielbasa preparation at home and for holidays.[9] Kielbasa is also one of the most traditional foods served at Polish weddings.[10]


Kiełbasa krakowska, also called "Krakauer", which originated in the city of Kraków

The most popular kiełbasa is also called "Kiełbasa Polska" ("Polish Sausage") or "Kiełbasa Starowiejska" ("Old Countryside Sausage").[citation needed]

In Poland, kiełbasa is often served garnished with fried onions. Smoked kiełbasa can be served cold, hot, boiled, baked or grilled. It is used 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 and stews (notably bigos, a Polish national dish). Kiełbasa is also very popular served as a cold cut on a platter, usually for an appetizer at traditional Polish parties. It is also a common snack (zagrycha) served with beer or plain vodka.


In Ukraine, kielbasa is called "kovbasa". It is a general term that refers to a variety of sausages, including "domashnia" (homemade kovbasa), "pechinkova" (liver kovbasa), and "budzhena" (smoked kovbasa).

It is served in a variety of ways, such as fried with onions atop varenyky, sliced on rye bread, or eaten with an egg. In Ukraine kovbasa may be roasted in an oven on both sides and stored in ceramic pots with lard. The sausage is often made at home; however, it has become increasingly common at markets and even supermarkets. Kovbasa also tends to accompany pysanky and krashanky (dyed and decorated eggs) as well as the Orthodox Easter bread, paska, in baskets which is blessed by the Ukrainian Orthodox priests with holy water before being consumed.

The most generic forms of Ukrainian kovbasa include garlic. Those in the Ukrainian SSR of the late Soviet Union who prioritised welfare and economic issues over the 'national question' (independence) were often referred to as having a 'kovbasa mentality'.[11][12]


Main article: Kolbász

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, Csabai 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 sausage types are called "hurka": either liver sausage, "májas", or blood sausage, "véres". The main ingredient is liver and rice, or blood and rice. Salt, pepper, and spices are optionally added. Butter is not.


The kranjska klobasa "Carniolan sausage" closely resembling the Polish kiełbasa wiejska is the best known Slovenian sausage.

United States

Kielbasa eating contest held in Kansas City

In the United States, kielbasa which may also be referred to as Polish sausage in some areas, is widely available in grocery stores and speciality import markets. While the smoked variety is more commonly found, the uncured variety is often available, particularly in areas with large Polish populations. Several sandwiches featuring the sausage as a main ingredient have become iconic in local cuisines including Chicago's Maxwell Street Polish,[13] Cleveland's Polish Boy,[14] and several offerings from Primanti Brothers in Pittsburgh.[15]


In Canada, varieties typical of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, western Ukraine, and elsewhere are available in supermarkets, and more specific varieties can be found in specialty shops. The world's largest display model of a Ukrainian sausage is a roadside attraction in Mundare, Alberta, the home of Stawnichy's Meat Processing.[16][17]


Kielbasy made in Harbin, modern China

In Russia, it is known as kolbasa (колбаса pronounced [kəɫbɐˈsa]), mentioned as early as the 12th century[citation needed] in Birch bark manuscript number 842. In the Russian language the word kolbasa refers to all sausage-like meat products including salami and bologna. Similar sausages are found in other countries 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 North Macedonia it is called "kolbas".) In Austria, it is called "Klobassa" (similar to the neighbouring Slavic-speaking countries). In South Africa, this type of sausage is known as the "Russian" sausage, and is often deep-fried and served with chips as fast food.[18]

In China, where once prominent White émigré residents fleeing from the Russian Civil War were concentrated, the food was gradually localized around major hubs. Even though Harbin Russian residents are scarce today, Kielbasa remains in production that inherited to local residents until today in Harbin.

See also

Explanatory notes

  1. ^ Other common names include: kołbasa, klobasa, kobasa, kolbasi and kovbasa. In English, these words contain a particular type of sausage. In the Slavic languages, these are the generic words for all types of sausage, local or foreign.
  2. ^ 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


  1. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary".
  2. ^ "Define kielbasa - Dictionary and Thesaurus". askdefine Archived from the original on 2018-11-01. Retrieved 2014-11-23.
  3. ^ "Piller's Kolbassa 375g". Archived from the original on 1 March 2019. Retrieved 22 February 2022.
  4. ^ "KOLBASSA & SAUSAGE—Brandt Meats". Archived from the original on 23 October 2020. Retrieved 22 February 2022.
  5. ^ Polish Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development - Kiełbasa Lisiecka info Archived 2016-02-09 at the Wayback Machine (Polish) (Accessed 1/Nov/2010)
  6. ^ EU Directory of PGI/PDO/TSG - Kiełbasa Lisiecka profile (Accessed 1/Nov/2010)
  7. ^ Marianski, Stanley; Mariański, Miroslaw; Gebarowski (2009). "4 - Polish Sausages Classification". Polish Sausages, Authentic Recipes and Instructions. Bookmagic. pp. 67–70. ISBN 978-0-9824267-2-2. Retrieved 22 September 2010.
  8. ^ Strybel, Robert; Strybel, Maria (2005). Polish Heritage Cookery. Hippocrene Books. pp. 772–795. ISBN 978-0-7818-1124-8. Retrieved 22 September 2010.
  9. ^ Strybel, Robert (2003). Polish Holiday Cookery. Hippocrene Books. pp. 115–117. ISBN 978-0-7818-0994-8. Retrieved 22 September 2010.
  10. ^ Webb, Lois Sinaiko (2002). Multicultural Cookbook of Life-Cycle Celebrations. Greenwood Publishing. pp. 227–228. ISBN 978-1-57356-290-4. Retrieved 22 September 2010.
  11. ^ "Ukraińska kiełbasa domowa, przepis na wieprzową kiełbasę [WIDEO]". (in Polish). Retrieved 2020-09-24.
  12. ^ Kuzio, Taras. (2000). Ukraine : perestroika to independence. Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-73844-6. OCLC 43342377.
  13. ^ Clark, Sandy Thorne. (2006-6-26), "Getting a taste of Chicago: City's signature flavors have tourists and locals lining up for more, more, more", Chicago Sun-Times, S1.
  14. ^ "The Best Sandwiches in America". Esquire. 2008-02-16. Retrieved 2016-08-22.
  15. ^ "Primanti Brothers Restaurant". Archived from the original on 2016-08-26. Retrieved 2016-08-22.
  16. ^ "Mundare Sausage Index Page". Mundare Archived from the original on 2006-05-14. Retrieved 2010-09-22.
  17. ^ "Giant Sausage - Town of Mundare". Archived from the original on 2010-07-15. Retrieved 2010-09-22.
  18. ^ "South African foods that the rest of the world knows by a different name". 5 July 2019.