Pelmeni (meat filled dumplings)

I realized the other day (and I know that this is a new blog so there is still time) that I haven’t really shown you much about what traditional Russian food really is. The first blog post was a good intro but the recipes I shared so far were just for sweets. Guess what? Russians eat savory food too. Haha, I know you kind of knew that already. ;) So here is a recipe I must share asap. I posted it a few weeks ago on Healthy and Sane but it really should be the first savory recipe I share here on Russian Bites so I’m reposting it here. If you try one Russian dish in your life, pelmeni (or vareniki if you’re vegetarian) should be it. So here it goes…

In case you are unfamiliar with what that is – pelmeni (which by the way is plural – a single version is a pelmen’ (<– soft “n”) but you never eat just one ;) ) are Russian meat-filled dumplings. The most traditional Siberian version is filled with a mixture of half pork, half beef. Other parts of the former Soviet Union have their own versions (some even have bear meat!! Ick! :shock: ).

I grew up in Moldova at a time when shelves at grocery stores were bare (and I mean, empty – nothing) and rumors of a shipment of meat, flour, or sugar (etc.) brought crowds to stores hours before they opened. Sometimes we were rewarded for the long hours in line with the ability to purchase said item; sometimes we went home empty handed. Yet, at every special occasion or even any time someone dropped by to say hello, a huge feast with every food imaginable was served (people got creative, shopped at farmers markets, even took trips to different towns to find foods that could be frozen or made into something else) and pelmeni were always part of the spread. Pelmeni were a big part of my childhood and are definitely comfort food to me.

A few weeks ago I decided to invite my mom over and finally learn how to make them… Ready to learn with me? [Btw, this is a really good step-by-step tutorial for making any kind of dumpling from scratch!]

Printable recipe

For the dough:

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg
  • 70 grams of butter
  • 1 cup ice water
  • pinch of salt

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Let’s get going!

Combine flour and 1 egg:

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Add butter (cutting it into little pieces will help with incorporating it into the mixture)

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Add a pinch of salt – like so:

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Now add the water, hold some of it.

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With the hook attachment, let your Kitchen Aid do the mixing for you; add the rest of the water if needed (you’ll see if your dough is too dry and there is still flour that won’t incorporate).

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Here is what the dough looks like – it’s pretty silky to the touch.

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Now, cover and let it rest for 30 minutes. This will help the gluten to develop (i.e. your dough will be smoother with less air pockets if you cut into it).

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While the dough is resting, prepare your meat filling.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • (traditionally) 1 small onion, pureed in food processor (I didn’t use this – you all know why ;) )
  • salt and pepper to taste

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Combine your 2 kinds of meat (and pureed onions, if using) with your hands (<– the easiest “tool”).

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Add salt and pepper to taste – we added about 1T. Voila, your filling is done!

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Time to make the dumplings! :mrgreen:

Flour your surface:

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Cut the dough into about 8 pieces…

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… work with 1 ball at a time, covering the rest so they won’t dry out.

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Roll the dough out – work from the middle out. This dough is pretty dry and flexible and quite easy to work with.

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Roll each dough ball as thinly as possible.

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Cut 4″ circles out of the dough – you can use a fancy cookie cutter or a glass with sharp edges like we did (how Alton Brown of us ;) )

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All right, so there are many different shapes you can form the dumplings into. My mom learned this very pretty version when she was little. I think the pictures should explain this process better than words…

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Pinch a corner…

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Pinch one side of the dumpling…

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… and connect it to the other side:

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Repeat:

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Pinch the last corner together:

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Pretty, no?

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Make a few and then boil them for 7 minutes to taste (this is the only way to know for sure whether you added enough salt). Don’t forget to salt the water!!

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While your dumplings are boiling, pour yourself a glass of wine. You deserve it! :)

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[After tasting the first round, we added a bit more salt and also added more salt to the water - the dough will be bland if you don't add enough salt.] Now, let’s make more dumplings!!

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My mom’s dumpling shape is very pretty, but I wanted to make something even easier! Here is how you make the traditional Siberian shape.

Pinch the 2 sides together all around:

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Yes, just like that.

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Now, connect the 2 bottom corners together…

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Done! Such little cuties and seriously SO easy to make!!

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We flew from there. I made the ones on the left, my mom made the ones on the right (btw, this recipe makes about 100 dumplings, this is just some of them).

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After you’ve used up all your dough and filling – and are ready to eat – boil yourself a serving! (Again 7 minutes when they’re fresh – boil water, add dumplings – do not overcrowd the pot! – let it come to boil again and then start your 7-minute timer).

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Enjoy a nice big bowl of pelmeni with your choice of sauce! [The Georgian satsebeli (spicy tomato) sauce is delicious (can be found in Russian stores); I also like it with just tomato paste. Sour cream is probably the most popular accompaniment and adds a nice creaminess to these meaty beauties :) ]

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Mmm, a little taste of childhood in my (very grown-up) home. :D

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If you’re not eating the whole batch, these freeze great! Just freeze them flat on a cookie sheet or a plate overnight and transfer to a freezer bag the next day. They cook in 8 minutes from frozen – perfect for a busy night (and you’ll know you’ll still be eating real food you made yourself!).

Printable recipe

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I was SO happy to finally learn this. Seriously, so easy and so delicious. You can use other fillings – pelmeni’s cousin is vereniki which use the same dough but have vegetarian fillings like mashed potato and mushrooms or cabbage (or really anything you choose to make it with). Thank you for taking this journey with me. I hope you learned something here and try making this some day!

Are you a dumplings fan? What’s your favorite kind?

32 comments to Pelmeni (meat filled dumplings)

  • I do like dumplings, and these look delicious! I love that they are present (albeit somewhat different) in many different culture’s cuisines. John and I are going to Blue Ginger later this week to try what Ming Tsai calls “Ming’s Bings” – an east meets west take on sliders (meat-filled potstickers). I hope they’re as delicious as everyone says they are!

  • i’m going to make pierogi’s soon… might have to try folding them like these :)

  • inna

    i’m going to do a total cheat and boil the frozen ones i have stashed in my freezer tonight. omg i’m seriously drooling… can’t wait ;)

  • Mmm this looks delish! I was just wondering if you can use a pre-made dough? I don’t own a Kitchenaid, so making dough is difficult for me.

    I went to Russia a few years back for work and was so impressed by the food! I had no idea it would be so delicious, a pleasant surprise.

    • elina

      Samantha – you don’t need a Kitchenaid, you can just kneed it by hand. In fact, that’s how my mom makes it. The KA just makes it slightly faster but I bet kneeding only takes about 10 (maybe 15) minutes and there is nothing else to wash :)

  • [...] just winding down instead. So I’ve been making sandwiches and raiding the freezer for things like pelmeni I have in the freezer for occasions just like these. Do you have any healthy recipes that freeze [...]

  • I adore pelmeni and this recipe makes it look pretty easy to make them by hand! I live in Estonia, where pelmeni are available in the freezer case of every store, but it would still be fun to make my own :-) .

    • elina

      Hi Marika,

      We have a good amount of Russian stores in the Boston area that sell frozen pelmeni as well… but there is really nothing better than homemade! :)

  • [...] the pelmeni post? I mentioned that vareniki were the vegetarian version of pelmeni. Now it’s time to share with [...]

  • Paramitha Nasimova

    Woww! I’ve just made PELMENI today, and it was good! Thank you for the recipe, my Husband will be so surprised when he come back home tomorrow! :D Ur blog is my savior ;)

  • Chris

    I LOVE pelmeni! I live in Eugene, Oregon, and I used to travel up to Portland to a Russian restaurant that served them, then they closed, and I had to buy the frozen ones up there at a store. A deli/store opened here in Eugene several years ago, and I knew the owners very well, and though I am not Russian, they kind of ‘adopted’ me and said I MUST be part Russian, because I love pelmeni, beets, and sour cream(on everything, and their nickname for me is ‘Balshoi Medved’! I love your recipe page, and I am saving it so I can make my own sometime soon!
    Balshoi Spasibo!
    - Chris

    • elina

      Thanks for the note, Chris! The homemade version is so much better than the store bought stuff (although definitely more time consuming), I hope you get a chance to try them sometime! Beets + sour cream… mmm :)

  • veritassima

    That look so good! & the way your mom form the pelmeni ia exactly how my mom does it – although we are Chinese!
    If you don’t like onion, I think you can put minced veggie in instead (for example, cabbage). The chinese version usually is combination of meat & veggie. I think the differences is the seasoning (bit of soy sauce) & the dough is made with flour and water only.
    We always have bags of frozen ones at home, they are the best Fast Food!

  • Kerry

    Love the fact that you have down how to make the dough. I made some with my Russian mother-in-law but didn’t know the exact measurements for the dough. Love them that is what we having for dinner tonight.

  • Hi Elina,

    In preparation for my trip to Siberya next winter, I was looking for original russian food recipes. And I found your site with the Пельмени recipe. (I am learning russian as well!)I tried the recipe but with half the amounts, and that went very easy! Really tasty. I used sour cream as sauce. Thank you for your recipe site. I imagine more recipes will be tried in near future!

    Kind regards,

    Jeroen

  • Leanne

    Hi Elina.
    Pelmeni works great with gluten free flour for a fresh cooked meal, but gluten free does not freeze well. Fortunately they are all eaten before the need to freeze. My Oma has now left the traditional family pelmeni production line to the grand kids, but for some reason the men are at the end of production for the tastings and us females have to fight for our share. Yum yum, and yes sour cream was always on the table for everything. :-)
    Ps thanks for mentioning the vegetarian ingredient version as I had forgotten.
    Thanks

  • Jennifer

    Hi…
    I just made your Pelmeni Dough, it came out wonderful…Thanks so much for sharing it!!

  • Mary

    I’ll be making these for the holidays! My Russian mother-in-law grew up in Manchuria so her recipe has a twist to it – grated cabbage and onion and soya sauce on top instead of sour cream and boiled in beef broth not just salted water. I have my work cut out for me this holiday while trying out my husband’s Russia heritage AND my own Polish family recipes :) Thanks for sharing!

  • Bex

    I think I did something wrong with the dough because no matter how long I rolled it, the dough would shrink down leaving me with a circle smaller than the one I cut with the glass. It was very difficult to pinch the dough together. Did anyone else have this problem or know if I should have added more or less of an ingredient?

  • Missy

    Hey! I have a friend in Alabama who is from Russia, and she says the whole family would sit together and make about 200 for New Year’s or other special occasion. But she says she cannot make them here because the meat tastes different. She doesn’t know if it’s preservatives or less fat or what. Even when her mother visited from Russia and made a batch, the filling did not taste the same. Do you or does anyone else have an idea of how to made an adjustment to the meat mixture to fix that? I would so appreciate any help.

  • My grandmother used to make pirogen (pelemeni) and put in beet broth with shredded beets. When cooked, she would add sour cream. She called it Borscht – and it was in the part of Bukovina which is now Southern Ukraine and Northern Romania. Prosit! :)

  • Marina

    Oh wow, I can’t wait to make this for my husband! He’s Russian and I’m Mexican with little cooking skills and ideas. He’s been talking nonstop about dumplings last few weeks, the best we have are the chinese-take-out kind. He just now fell asleep so this is going to be an awesome wake up surprise!

    Gracias!

  • Mike

    How many dumplings would you estimate this recipe produces?

  • Try pelmeni or anything similar with sage fried in butter and chopped garlic. Easy to make there are recipes for it on lots of sites. You can still use sour cream on top if you wish but the butter and sage(salvia officinalis) is really nice.

  • Tonya

    I boil in chicken broth then when ready to serve as soup we put soy sauce and top with sour cream. I just lost my motherr in law Olga Stonehocker she was 90 .we had many wonderful Russian meals.

  • Laurie

    This looks like the kind Babushka made. No fancy molds for her! My mouth is watering. Had a Russian grandmother, and a Southern belle grandmother. Neither of which used recipes. Was always, a pinch, dash, a little of this, little of that, etc… Never could find it on a measuring cup! LOL Thanks for posting the recipe.

  • I lived in Siberia for 8 years and our Russian friends made pelmeni all the time. I was taught to drop them in boiling chicken broth and serve as a soup with sour cream added to my taste… I love pelmeni!

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