This Pelmeni recipe for Russian dumplings is cold-weather comfort food that features a savory meat filling, and is delicious served with sour cream and fresh dill.
The first time I had Pelmeni was at a Russian restaurant called Ruz Us in Arlington, Virginia with a friend. (Side Note: For me, one of the best things about living in the DC metro area was access to foods from so many different cultures!) After that I had them in Warsaw, Poland.
I liked them so much, I started actively looking for this dish on menus!
And then I finally made these dumplings at home. The backstory for these dumplings is similar to the story behind why I made my Gingerbread Cake Roll. My dear friend Evelyne of CulturEatz and I made them together on a Zoom call one day last spring. I shared more about the experience in my Instagram post here if you want to check it out.
Even though making Pelmeni is an afternoon-long process, I can’t wait to do it again. After I made them, I had ten servings of delicious homemade dumplings meal prepped to stash in my freezer for busy nights!
Making these dumplings is a fun process if you do it with a loved one.
What is Pelmeni?
Pelmeni are bite-sized morsels with a savory meat filling encased in a thin dough. Basically, they’re the Russian version of meat dumplings. You can boil or fry them, and serve them with butter or sour cream. I like a little fresh dill on top too.
If you’re a fan of any kinds of dumplings, like wontons, gyoza, ravioli, pierogi, etc., I think you’ll love Pelmeni!
What is the Difference Between Pelmeni, Pierogi, and Vareniki?
Let’s start with the similarities between these types of dumplings. They all have a thin unleavened dough with some type of filling.
Pierogi and Vareniki are the same thing, or at least very similar. In Russia, these dumplings are usually called Vareniki. In Poland and the Ukraine, these are commonly called Pierogi.
Vareniki and Pierogi are traditionally vegetarian dumplings served as an appetizer or dessert. These dumplings are typically filled with cheese, potato, sauerkraut, mushrooms, etc. However, they can also have a sweet filling of fruit or cheese, or a mixture of fruit and cheese. It’s common to find these delicious dumplings served fried in butter.
On the other hand, Pelmeni is a little different. Pelmeni is found all over Russia. It’s thought that the Mongols originally brought this type of food (adapted from Chinese wontons) to the Urals from China.
Pelmeni are usually meat dumplings, typically stuffed with a pork or fish mixture. They are simply seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic, and sometimes dill, and commonly served with a dollop of sour cream.
Pelmeni Recipe (Russian Dumplings)
Don’t be intimidated if it’s your first time making Pelmeni. There are a few steps, but they’re all fairly easy. But fair warning, make sure you have an afternoon free because it takes a couple hours to make all the dumplings.
This recipe is great for meal prep. When I make this Pelmeni recipe I usually get 10 servings out of it. I freeze the dumplings in sandwich bags with 10 per portion. And then on busy nights, all I have to do is boil a small pot of water and cook the Pelmeni. These dumplings cook straight from the freezer, there’s no need to thaw them!
Start by making the dough, which is very easy, but needs to rest for 30 minutes. While the dough is resting, mix together the ingredients for the filling. And then you’re ready to make the dumplings!
How to Shape Pelmeni Dumplings Without a Mold
In Russia it’s common to make Pelmeni with a special mold. However, I don’t have a mold so I shape these Russian dumplings by hand.
To shape Pelmeni without a mold, roll a ball of dough out on a floured surface until it’s fairly thin. You can stamp out circles with a cookie cutter (about 2 1/2 inches works well). Alternatively, you can cut the dough into a grid of squares (about 2 1/2 inch squares) using a knife with a ruler as a guide.
Once you have your circles or squares, place about 1 teaspoon of filling in the center of each piece of dough.
Fold the dough in half over on itself, and then pinch the outer edges together. Oddly enough, you will end up with a little dumpling that looks kind-of like a diaper.
Pro Tip: If you’re having trouble getting the dough to seal when you fold it over onto itself and then pinch it together, you can lightly wet your fingers with water and run that along the outside of the dough.
Can I Freeze Pelmeni?
Yes! These Russian dumplings are usually cooked from frozen when you want to serve them.
You can freeze the dumplings in a gallon-size zip-top plastic bag. Alternatively, you can portion the dumplings out into single-servings (about 10 dumplings per serving) and freeze them in sandwich-size zip-top plastic bags.
Be sure to label the outside of the bag with the date and contents.
How to Cook Frozen Pelmeni:
- Bring a pot of water to a vigorous boil. Once boiling, salt the water.
- Add the frozen Pelmeni, and let it come back up to a boil.
- Once the dumplings float to the top, let them cook for 3 minutes more.
- Drain the dumplings.
Can I Fry Pelmeni?
Yes! When you want to serve Pelmeni, I recommend boiling the dumplings from frozen as the recipe directs. After that, drain the dumplings well and place them in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat with a generous knob of butter. Cook until they’re light golden in spots, and serve.
How to Serve Pelmeni:
My favorite way to eat Pelmeni is tossed with butter, served with a dollop of sour cream and fresh dill on top.
Here are a few more popular toppings:
- Tomato sauce
If You Like Pelmeni, You Might Also Like:
- Borscht (Russian-Style Beet Soup)
- Kulebyaka (Savory Russian Pie)
- Lazy Pierogi Casserole with Sauerkraut and Apple
- Russian Black Bread
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Pelmeni Recipe (Russian Dumplings)
Beef Pelmeni Filling:
Serving Suggestions (Optional):
- Sour Cream
- Fresh herbs such as dill or chives
For the Dough:
- Whisk together the milk, water, and egg in a medium bowl.
- Whisk together the salt and flour in a large bowl.
- Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients half at a time. Knead the dough a bit with your hands inside the bowl. Add additional flour (usually up to 1/2 cup) if needed to help the dough reach the right consistency and no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl.
- Drape a tea towel over the top of the bowl and let the dough rest for 30 minutes.
For the Filling:
- Use your hands to mix together all ingredients in a large bowl until well-combined. Cover and refrigerate 10 minutes.
To Shape the Pelmeni:
- Lightly dust a large baking tray with flour. This is where you’ll place your dumplings once they’re filled.
- Divide the dough into 4 equal portions and roll each into a ball. Leave 3 balls in the bowl and lay a piece of plastic wrap directly on top.
- Flour your work surface where you’ll roll out the dough. Place 1 dough ball on the floured surface and roll it out with a floured rolling pin until it’s fairly thin.
- You can use a round cookie cutter (about 2 1/2 inches in diameter) to stamp out circles. Alternatively, you can slice the dough into 2 1/2 inch squares; either use a knife with a ruler to guide you, or use a pizza cutter.
- Place about 1 teaspoon of filling in the center of each piece of dough. Fold the dough over onto itself, and then pinch the outer edges together.
- Put the Pelmeni onto the floured tray and dust with a little flour.
- Spread the dumplings out evenly on the tray, trying not to let any of them touch.
- Put the tray into the freezer until the Pelmeni is completely frozen, about 2 to 3 hours.
- Once frozen, transfer the dumplings to a zip-top plastic bag. Label the bag with the date and contents, and freeze for up to 3 months.
To Cook the Pelmeni:
- Bring a pot of salted water to a vigorous boil.
- Add the frozen Pelmeni (about 10 per serving) and gently stir once to help prevent them from sticking together.
- Once the dumplings float, let them boil for 3 minutes.
- Drain well.
To Serve Pelmeni:
- If desired, add butter to the hot Pelmeni. Dollop on a little sour cream. Sprinkle on a little fresh dill or chives.
- Serve warm.
- Recipe adapted from the recipe for Russian Pelmeni on Valentina's Corner.
- Nutrition information is for the dumplings alone (without the optional serving suggestions).
- Instead of making the dough by hand, you can use a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment.
- To help the Pelmeni seal and stay closed, you can lightly dip your finger in water and run it along the outside of the dough before folding the dough over onto itself.
- Instead of boiling the dumplings in salted water, you can boil them in chicken stock for even more flavor. If desired, serve them in a little bit of the broth topped with fresh herbs.
- I find that 10 dumplings is a pretty good serving size. This recipe makes about 100 dumplings, which is 10 servings.
- When you want to cook and eat the Pelmeni, make sure you cook it from frozen (don’t thaw it first).
- To fry Pelmeni, I recommend boiling the dumplings from frozen as the recipe directs. After that, drain the dumplings well and place them in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat with a generous knob of butter. Cook until they’re light golden in spots, and serve.
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