In the summer we all crave lighter desserts. Luckily, the bounty of fresh summer fruit makes that incredibly easy. Let me introduce you to one of those fruity treats – Polish Kisiel.
For the full list of ingredients & detailed instructions, please see the recipe card at the end of this post. But before you scroll, there’s important stuff to know below.
Kisiel is a very old term, referring to various types of thick, grain-based soups and pulps. They were often fermented and sour, sometimes sweetened, and then thickened with a natural fish gelatine.
These soups were especially enjoyed at the time of Lent. Sometimes fruit and/or fruit juices were added as well, for colour and to balance the acidity of the dish.
With time, Kisiel slowly turned into a dessert. Sometime in the 19th century, potato flour became widespread, and it replaced the fish gelatin in the Kisiel-making process.
Interestingly, Kisiel in its original, savoury form has still survived in the regional cuisines of eastern Poland (especially in the Borderlands). We’ll try making it soon.
• “Kanon Kuchni Polskiej” (“the Canon of Polish Cuisine”), published by the National Institute of Rural Culture and Heritage. Digital version (in Polish) available here.
• Polish Scientific Publishers PWN Online Etymology Dictionary (entry in Polish)
Do you need any special ingredients or equipment to make this Polish-style Kisiel?
Not really. Everything should be available in any major supermarket.
Strawberries can be fresh, or frozen. You can also replace them (or mix them) with another fruit – berries, cherries and currants seem to be the most popular choices.
For thickening, all traditional recipes call for potato starch or potato flour. I’m strongly recommending the former – I find that it helps to keep the texture lump-free.
If you’re looking for potato-free alternatives, try cornstarch (not corn flour!). Tapioca flour works too, but the texture won’t be as thick.
Equipment-wise, all we need is a cooking pot and a whisk (regular fork works too).
How should you serve this Strawberry Kissel?
You can enjoy Kisiel in two ways: as a drink, or as a dessert.
- To make a drink, simply reduce the amount of potato starch. One teaspoon should be enough.
- To make a dessert, follow the recipe from the recipe card (at the bottom of the post). Before serving, garnish each portion with fresh fruit, fruit syrups, sweetened cream, whipped cream, choux pastry pearls, jam…
Kissel can be served warm or chilled. I strongly prefer the latter, but the hot version has fans as well, especially in winter.
Can you make this Polish-style Kisiel another way?
Yes. As I mentioned earlier, you can:
- use different fruits, fresh or frozen (berries and currants are great for this, but it’s up to you)
- swap potato starch for cornstarch (not corn flour!). You can also use tapioca flour or tapioca starch, but it will make your Kisiel thinner.
- if you’re avoiding sugar, try swapping it for the same amount of honey.
If you’re not feeling like cooking, there are two types of powdered Kisiel concentrate on the market:
- Regular Kisiel: mostly based on potato starch, requires cooking on the stove, yields 4 portions in one sachet. (example on the right)
- Instant Kisiel: mostly based on modified starch. Just add boiling water and stir. Typically it’s a single portion sachet. (example on the left)
Internationally, both are available in Polish stores / delis, in a wide range of flavours.
What diets is this Kissel Dessert suitable for?
This recipe is suitable for vegetarians and vegans. It’s also gluten- and dairy-free.
How long can you keep Kisiel in the fridge?
Once you’ve put it out, ideally you should eat it within 3-4 hours.
You can keep leftovers of Kisiel in the fridge for approx. 2 days or so.
Can I freeze this dessert?
No, I don’t recommend freezing this recipe, the texture turns very lumpy.