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Polish Carp In Aspic Recipe – A Christmas Recipe

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Experience delicious Polish carp in aspic at the hotel's nearby restaurant.

The karp w galarecie or Polish carp in aspic is a traditional Polish Christmas dish. And although the live carp don’t swim in your bathtub like decades ago, the dish still tastes great!

When I was a kid, Christmas was really fun. Helping babcia add toppings to the keks, eating gingerbread cake, making pierogi ruskie, and playing with the carp swimming in the bathtub.

Of course, at that time we didn’t know that the carp was the same one that dad killed a few days later to prepare for Christmas dinner. It just mysteriously disappeared the day before Christmas.

As I grew older I realized it was tradition to buy a living carp a few days before Christmas. Every family kept it alive in their bathtubs for a few days and then killed the fresh fish just before Christmas Eve. 

Why Eat Carp For Christmas?

Karp w galarecie or Polish carp in aspic is eaten for Christmas as a traditional dish. Why eat cap at the Wigilia dinner? Because the Christmas meal is traditionally meat-free.

Since Christmas Eve is the last day of Advent, only fasting food could be eaten on Christmas the day. The Catholics in Poland considered fish as fasting food and hence can eat it during this feasting yet fasting meal. It’s believed that this tradition started back in the Medieval ages.  

Another possible reason could be that carp was easily available and cheaper than most other fish. So families would buy a number of carp and keep them swimming in the bathtub till ready to cut and clean them. 

Once the fish is eaten, it was important to keep some of the scales from the carp in the wallet so that you’re blessed with lots of money and good fortune throughout the year.

How To Make Polish Carp In Aspic

Step I – Boil The Veggies With Spices

Add the water, allspice berries, bay leaves, and salt into the pot along with the peeled veggies. Allow it to boil for 10 minutes.

Step II – Chop And Cook The Carp

While the veggies are boiling, cut the carp into 1.5″ thick wide pieces and add to the veggies. Allow to cook for about 20 minutes.

Slices of carp in a steel dish.
Place the cooked carp slices in a large dish

Step III – Prepare The Aspic

Once the carp has cooked, discard the heard and place the cooked pieces on a large plate in the shape of a fish. Strain the fish stock or add whisked egg to clear it. Mix dissolved gelatin with the fish stock and pour it onto the carp. Allow to set in the refrigerator.

Carp with veggies in a steel dish.
Cover the carp with boiled veggies and allow to set

Tips For Making The Best Tasting Polish Carp In Aspic!

  • If you don’t like the bones in your fish, see my Polish jellied fish recipe.
  • If you prefer to eat the head also, you can add it to the plate. It is considered a delicacy in many countries. 
  • Add slices of lime between each slice of fish to give it some tanginess. 
  • You can add more stock to make more jelly if you wish. 
  • For a different flavor, you can fry the carp before adding it to the jelly.
  • Serve the carp in a deep glass platter if you want it to look good. 
  • The dish is traditionally served on a single platter, but you can serve each slice in individual bowls if you prefer. 
  • Sprinkle with lemon juice or vinegar before serving!
Karp w galarecie.
Serving Suggestion: Add slices of lime between each slice

FAQs About Making The Polish Carp In Aspic 

Do I Have To Use Carp?

We use carp because it’s the most common fish in Poland. However, fish aspic can be made with cod, perch, pike, salmon, halibut, or any other fish of your choice.

What Other Veggies Can I Add?

You can and cooked or fresh vegetables of your choice. Some good options include onions, raisins, fresh or frozen green peas, turnips, corn, bell peppers, and fresh dill or parsley. You can also add boiled egg wedges.  

How Long Does The Carp In Aspic Need To Set?

Allow the carp fish jelly to set for at least 5 hours. You can also make it a day or two earlier.  

What Other Meats Can I Use To Make Aspics?

Other meats you can use to make aspics include:

What Other Polish Dishes Can I Make With Fish?

Some tasty Polish dishes that are made with fish include:

How Do I Store Leftover Polish Carp in Jelly?

Store leftover carp in aspic in the refrigerator with a lid or aluminum foil on top and finish in 3 to 4 days. Do not freeze. 

Polish Carp In Aspic Recipe

Yield: 4

Polish Carp In Aspic Recipe - A Christmas Recipe

Carp with veggies in a steel dish.

The karp w galarecie or Polish carp in aspic is a traditional Polish Christmas jelly. And although the live carp don't swim in your bathtub like decades ago, the dish still tastes delicious!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Additional Time 5 hours
Total Time 5 hours 40 minutes


  • 1 carp fish
  • 3 tbsps of salt
  • 4 allspice berries
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 parsley root
  • 1 small onion
  • 6 tbsps of gelatin powder
  • 1 tbsp of vinegar or juice of 1 lemon
  • [optionally] egg white


  1. Pour 12 cups of water into the big pot.
  2. Add allspice berries, bay leaves, salt.
  3. Peel the veggies and add them to the water.
  4. Bring to boil and cook for 10 minutes.
  5. In the meantime, wash and cut carp into 1-1.5'' wide pieces.
  6. Gently throw carp into boiling hot water, starting with the head. Cook for 20 minutes.
  7. After 20 minutes, take off carp from the stock. Place it on the big plate, forming the shape of the fish (see the photo). Throw away the head. Karp w galarecie.
  8. Strain the fish stock. If it's not clear, add whisked egg to the stock and cook until it's clear.
  9. Dissolve gelatin powder with a bit of cold water.
  10. Add it to 4 cups of hot fish stock and mix.
    [NOTE: This amount of jelly would be enough. if you have more fish stock left, you may use all of it. You will need 6 tbsps of gelatin powder for every 4 cups of stock]
  11. Cover carp with jelly and wait until it's set (in the fridge).

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 110Total Fat: 2gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 18mgSodium: 5290mgCarbohydrates: 9gFiber: 2gSugar: 4gProtein: 16g

These data are indicative and calculated by Nutritionix

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