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Where Do Pierogi Come From?
The first written description of pierogi appears in the late seventeenth century, but many Poles claim pierogi have been around much longer than that. They’re associated with Saint Hyacinth, a thirteenth-century Polish priest believed to have either miraculously saved crops (a service for which he was thanked with pierogi) or to have fed hungry people pierogi. The legends vary, but “Swiety Jacek z pierogami!” (“St. Hyacinth and his pierogi!”) is an old-timey expression of surprise, and Hyacinth has since become a sort of patron saint of pierogi.
In Poland, you’ll find pierogi at bary mleczne (“milk bars”), affordable cafeterias serving simple fare, and at kiosks and fast-food shops, which mainly deal in frozen pierogi. Pierogi were brought by Polish immigrants to the US, where they’ve undergone innovations such as cheddar cheese-studded potato filling or cream cheese–based dough recipe.
3 Variations of Pierogi
As a basic dumpling template, pierogi leave a lot of room for regional and seasonal variation. Some of the most famous pierogi-adjacent dumplings are:
- Uszka (“ears”): tortellini-like pierogi stuffed with meat and/or mushrooms and served in a clear borscht for Wigilia, Polish Christmas Eve dinner.
- Leniwe (“lazy”): Wrapper-less dumplings made with farmer’s cheese and/or mashed potatoes incorporated directly into the dough. Just like Italian gnocchi or gnudi, there's no stuffing or crimping required.
- Varenyky: Ukrainian pierogi made from a sour cream- or cheese-based dough, instead of eggs.
How to Make Pierogi Dough in 3 Easy Steps
Pierogi dough can be made from buckwheat flour (popular in Eastern Poland, Slovenia, and Serbia), self-raising flour, semolina, or bread flour, but the most basic type of pierogi dough is made from all-purpose flour.
- To make pierogi dough, mix flour with salt and form a mound. Make a well in the center and crack an egg in it. (At this point you can add oil, melted butter, sour cream, milk, or cream cheese.)
- Whisk the egg while slowly adding a little water, to incorporate the flour into the egg mixture.
- Knead the dough and allow it to rest before shaping.
4 Savory Pierogi Filling Ideas
The fun of pierogi really happens with the fillings. The first recorded pierogi recipe called for kidneys, veal fat, and greens seasoned with nutmeg, but the savory pierogi you’ll find today are most often filled with:
- Sauerkraut and/or mushrooms (especially for Wigilia).
- Mashed potatoes, twaróg (farmer’s cheese), and sautéed onion (aka Ruskie pierogi).
- Ground meat and sautéed onion.
- Lentils (a specialty of the Podlaskie region in northeastern Poland).
6 Common Pierogi Toppings
In addition to being stuffed with a variety of different fillings, pierogi are almost always served with toppings, such as:
- Caramelized onions
- Sour cream
- Melted butter or brown butter
- Crumbled bacon
- Chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, chives, or dill
- Fried breadcrumbs
6 Tips for Making the Perfect Pierogi
- Pierogi dough should be smooth and elastic. If the dough is too sticky, sprinkle with extra flour. If the dough is crumbly, knead in a little extra water.
- To ensure the filling stays inside the pierogi, avoid overfilling (or it might pop out during boiling!).
- Seal pierogi tightly, so that there are no holes in the seams. If the dough won’t stick together when crimping, moisten your fingers with a little water or egg wash.
- After filling, you can lightly dust pierogi with cornstarch to prevent sticking. This will also help the pierogi get crispy when pan-fried.
- You can freeze shaped pierogi on baking sheets and boil from frozen. Increase the cook time by about two minutes, since the frozen pierogi will drop the water temperature and take longer to cook.
- To avoid crowding, boil them in small batches, about six at a time depending on the size of your pot.
Easy Homemade Pierogi Recipe
Prep Time1 hr 30 min
Total Time2 hr
For the filling:
- 1 lb farmer’s cheese or drained cottage cheese*
- 1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 tablespoon fresh chives, finely chopped
For the dough:
- 2½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg
- ½ cup sour cream
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
- Cornstarch, for dusting
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- To make your own farmer’s cheese, follow this recipe for ricotta cheese and skip the heavy cream.
- Make the filling: Combine the cheese, egg, and egg yolk and mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Fold in the chives.
- Make the dough: Sift the flour and salt together onto a clean work surface. Form the flour mixture into a mound and use your hands or a spoon to make a well in the center. Crack the egg into the well and add the sour cream and butter. Use a fork to whisk the egg mixture, gradually incorporating flour into the dough. Knead together until the dough is smooth and elastic, adding a little water if the dough is too crumbly and adding flour to the work surface if it gets sticky. Roll dough into a ball and let rest on a floured surface in a warm place, covered with an overturned bowl, 1 hour.
- Assemble pierogi: Remove about a third of the dough, leaving the rest covered, and roll out to 1/8-inch thick. Use an overturned glass to cut dough into circles. Top each dough circle with a tablespoonful of filling, slightly off center. Fold the dough circle in half over the filling and press together, crimping to seal. Set shaped pierogi on a baking sheet lightly dusted with cornstarch. (If you want to freeze your pierogi, do so now.)
- Cook pierogi: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Working in small batches, drop 6 or so pierogi in boiling water, being careful not to crowd them. Allow the water to come back to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the pierogi are tender and rise to the surface, about 5 minutes.
- Pan-fry cooked pierogi: Heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium heat until the butter just begins to brown. Remove the pierogi from the simmering water with a slotted spoon, drain the excess water, and add to the hot pan in a single layer. Fry until the pierogi are golden brown on both sides, about 3 minutes, transfer to a plate, and drizzle with leftover brown butter. Repeat with the remaining pierogi, adding 1 tablespoon of butter after each batch.