I'm going to show you how to make homemade pierogi. This Polish food has been a part of me as long as I can remember. Traditionally an Easter recipe, we make these Polish dumplings all year round.
Growing up in inner-city Detroit, my childhood was filled with many visits to the local bakeries owned by Polish families. During certain times of the year, you could get fresh kielbasa sausages and these amazing Polish dumplings.
As a boy, I was lucky because my mom knew how to make pierogi and we didn't have to depend on the bakery. My family was pretty traditional, and Polish food was very important to us. For different seasons, we would have different family meals from our Polish heritage.
At Christmas time, we would have a special type of meat pie. That recipe was handed down from my dad's side. At Easter time, we would have Polish stuffed cabbage.
Perhaps more than any other holiday food and during the weeks leading up to Easter, my mom would make this family recipe of pierogi, for a wonderful Lenten treat.
What are pierogi?
Sadly, most Americans know this ethnic food as "Mrs. T's Pierogies." Although I have nothing against Mrs. T, (I've never met her,) I'm here to tell you that you can do much better with homemade pierogi from Mrs. (or Mr.) X. (Use the first letter of your last name.)
The best way I can describe them is a Polish ravioli. Usually, these are served on meatless Fridays during Lent. These homemade ravioli can be filled with a wide variety of things. Kielbasa (Polish sausage) is our go-to side dish partner for this recipe.
Although they are the national dish of Poland, these boiled and then lightly fried dumplings are popular in other countries such as Hungry, the Ukraine, Russia and some Baltic countries. Depending on which country you are in, they are known by many different names and spellings, including:
They can be filled with almost anything, but in Poland, the traditional filling is made of a combination of potatoes and farmer's cheese.
How to make these
This is my family recipe for pierogi and it is how my mom always makes these and how her mom taught her to make them. Often while growing up, my mom would stuff them with a potato and cheese filling.
However, they can also be stuffed with sauerkraut or cabbage, a meat mixture, or even be turned into a sweet treat, by filling them with a plum or prune mixture. If you were to ask any of my siblings, I am certain that their favorite, as well as mine, would be the potato and cheese filling.
As I started to make them for my family, I played around with the filling recipe. Then one day, I took a cue from one of my most favorite side dishes, a twice-baked potato. Thus, I began to add bacon, sauteed onions and sour cream to the potato mixture. For those of you that decide to make this for Lent, simply omit the bacon. You will still have a wonderfully delicious treat.
Let me tell you, once you fill the pierogi dough with this flavorful mixture, and then you fry them up and add a dollop of sour cream; you are in heaven.
I'm hoping this savory list of ingredients has caught your attention. Now, let's get started making these! (The full recipe including ingredients and amounts is found at the end of his post.)
1. Start by peeling and dicing some potatoes. We prefer russet potatoes as their starchy composition gives you a light and fluffy yield.
2. Fill a stockpot with saltwater and boil the potatoes until they are fork-tender.
3. While the potatoes are cooking, you can sautee the onions. Reserve a little of the bacon grease to use for extra flavor. You'll want to sautee them slow and low until they have a nice brown color from caramelization.
4. Drain the potatoes and use a potato masher or fork to incorporate the rest of the filling ingredients. Allow the mixture of filling to cool
5. When the filling mixture has cooled, you can roll it up into little balls, ½ to 2 inches in size. While you are waiting for the filling mixture to cool, you can start making the pierogi dough.
6. Combine all of the dough ingredients into a large mixing bowl.
7. Mix the ingredients together, starting with a fork and eventually using your hands. The dough should come together and it should be stretchy. Add small amounts of milk or sour cream to get the right consistency.
8. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead it until it all comes together.
9. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out to about ⅛" thickness.
10. Use a large-rimmed drinking glass (about 4 inches in diameter) to cut the dough. Place a ball of filling in the center and fold it over.
11. Seal each pierogi tightly with wet fingertips and crimp the edges with a fork.
12. Boil the pierogi in a stockpot of salted water. They are finished cooking when they rise to the top.
13. Lightly sautee each portion in a frying pan with hot butter.
Pierogi make a great side dish, or even a meal on to their own. When you make these, I would suggest making a large batch.
These dumplings freeze well for a future meal. That said, I can almost guarantee that they probably won't last that long.
When I make them, the kids go wild. It is not uncommon for each boy to eat 3...4...5. I think the record is 10.
Please give these Polish dumplings a try. Your family will thank you!
Yes. Chunkier leftover mashed potatoes are the best type for pierogi. If they are too smooth and creamy, the pierogi will fall apart.
If using leftover mashed potatoes to make pierogi, do not add butter to the filling.
Be sure that your leftover mashed potatoes are refrigerated before reusing them.
After they are filled, pre-freeze these on a flour-dusted cookie sheet, covered in plastic wrap.
Once they are frozem, you can transfer them to a zip lock bag for longer storage.
Top Tip for Freezing Pierogi: Freezing them in a single layer will help keep them from sticking together!
You can fill pierogi with savory meats like bacon, sausage, and chunks of ham. Cheeses make a great filing as well. We prefer cheddar buy use whatever cheese tastes good to you.
Make a dessert pierogi by adding sweet fruit and berries such as blueberry, cherry, or a plum filling.
What to Serve with Pierogi
This is usually a savory comfort food (depending on the filling.) Therefore, savory side dishes will taste great along with them. Some of our favorite things to serve with pierogi include:
- Fried Cabbage with Bacon
- Creamed Spinach and Parsnips
- Balsamic Garlic-Roasted Brussels Sprouts
- Steamed Kale
- 15 Savory Side Dishes to go with Pierogies
Scott shows you in more detail how to make pierogi
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for the Filling
- 2 pounds potatoes
- 8 oz mild Cheddar cheese grated
- 6 slices bacon coarsely chopped, fried, and drained.
- ½ onion chopped and sauteed
- ½ stick butter
- 2-3 Tbs sour cream
- 2-3 Tbs cream cheese
- Tbs salt for pot of water for the potatoes
- Peel and dice potatoes, fill a stock pot with water and add potatoes and salt to the water. Boil the potatoes until they are fully cooked, or you can easily puncture them with a fork with no resistance
- While the potatoes are cooking, saute the onions in a fry pan using a little butter and some of the drippings from the bacon. You want the onions to brown and caramelized.
- Drain water from the cooked potatoes and use a potato masher to mash them. Add the cheddar cheese, cream cheese. Then, mix together until the cheese is fully melted and set aside until cooled. Once cooled, form the cheese and potato mixture into ½ to 2 inch balls.
- While the potato mixture is cooling begin to make the dough. In a mixing bowl, add the flour, eggs, salt, and sour cream. Using a fork, stir the ingredients together. You will want to use your hands at some point to fully incorporate the ingredients.
- The dough should start to come together. If it does not, add a little more sour cream or a little milk. Once it begins to come together, place on a floured surface and kneed the dough until it comes completely together.
- Wrap the dough in some plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator and allow to rest for at least 30 minutes to an hour.
- Next, take the dough out of the refrigerator and roll out on a floured surface until the dough is approximately ⅛ of an inch. (Don't get too caught up in the thickness. You want it to be workable and not too thin that the dough will puncture when you are filling it.)
- FYI: Dough should be somewhat elastic while you are rolling it out. This means that it should spring back as you are rolling it out into a circle.
- Use a drinking glass to cut circles out of the dough. Place your filing ball in the center of the dough and Fold the dough over the filling. You will need to stretch the dough over to seal. Using your fingers, pinch the dough closed.
- If the dough does not seal, wet your finger and run your finger on the edge of the dough. This should act as a "glue" to seal your dough. You can also use a back of a fork to help seal your edges. This gives the Pierogi a very nice look.
- Your finished Pierogi will have a semi-circle appearance. Set aside and continue to make the rest of your Pierogi.
- Fill a stock pot with salted water and bring to a boil and then add a few Pierogi at a time. Allow Pierogi to cook in the boiling water until the Pierogi float to the top. This will take a few minutes. Remove from water and place on a cooling rack to drain and cool. Continue this process until done with all Pierogi.
- When ready to eat, fry in butter in a pan over medium heat until Pierogi are golden brown on both sides. Serve with sour cream and chopped green onion stems (optional)
- If using leftover mashed potatoes to make pierogi, do not add butter to the filling.
- While you are rolling out the pierogi dough, you’re looking for a little elasticity in the dough; you want it to spring back a bit while as you roll it out.
- When you place the filling on the dough to make these Polish dumplings, you are going to have to stretch the top edge of the dough to envelop the pierogi filling.
- You may need just a bit of water on your fingertips to help seal each pierogi tightly.