Hello and welcome back to another recipe from Russia, with love! Earlier this year I shared with you a recipe for meat dumplings called Pelmeni. Juicy, comforting, filling, lovely Pelmeni. Vareniki is made with the exact same dough but uses a different filling. It also has a slightly different shape. Actually, you can call its shape an under-folded Pelmeni, because you stop half-way so that they look like a half-circle (or Gyoza).
To go straight to the recipe for Vareniki: Russian Potato Dumplings, click here.
Vareniki used to be a year-round thing for me (back home), but now it seems to belong in the fall. It’s comforting, but light. You can further “comfort-food-it-up” by topping with extra caramelized onions and bacon. The traditional topping, however, is a generous dollop of sour cream.
Origins, Name & Variations
Vareniki are cosidered a Ukranian dish. However, historically, they were originally a Turkish dish that eventually found their way into most, if not all, post-Soviet republics. I call them here “Russian Potato Dumplings” because I am Russian, my family is Russian, and this is what our Vareniki taste like. Much like Borscht – or any recipe, for that matter – there are many variations. This one is mine 🙂
The word “Vareniki” comes from the word “Varit” (with soft “t” at the end, like in word “tenure” or “tube”. Varit means to boil something, so Vareniki are “things that have been boiled”. I find that interesting, because they are cooked the exact same way as Pelmeni. But Pelmeni are named for their shape.
There are three types of Vareniki fillings that I can personally recall trying. Potato, cottage cheese, and cherries. The last ones are sweet, obviously. In my 20 years of eating Russian food, I only tasted cottage cheese and cherry filled ones once. And I was not a fan. Maybe it just wasn’t the best version of them. But the potato ones? There is some kind of familiar magic in that.
Now, you might be reading this, cooking this, and all the while thinking “isn’t this… Pierogi?..”.
Yes and no.
To Russian speaker, Pierogi is a word for “pies” with the accent in the wrong place (pies – pierogI – пирогИ). Funnily, English spelling literally puts the word “pie” in it.
But the pierOgi dumplings are a Polish national dish. Much like Vareniki they can be made with a variety of fillings.
It can be confusing – I totally understand. Honestly, I had not heard the word “Pierogie” or knew about Polish dumplings, until I came to America. I kept thinking “why do they talk about pies for dinner? I mean, of course that sounds great, but huh? And why is it pronounced so different?” If you really want to be confused further, there are also “manti” – large meat dumplings of Turkish origin, requiring a special dish to cook them in. And there are also Georgian khinkali. And that’s just from my “neck of the woods”, so to speak – think about all the other dumplings around the world!
This recipe uses the exact same dough as in my Pelmeni recipe. So, if you have leftover dough, you can freeze it and use it on a different occasion to make Pelmeni, and vice versa.
Vareniki: Russian Potato Dumplings
- 2 inch round cutter – you can use a shot glass
- 2 3/4 C all purpose flour + more for dusting
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 C very cold water + more as needed
- 2 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 1/2 Tb olive oil + more as needed
- 4 Russet potatoes, peeled, rinsed, and chopped in 1-2 inch pieces
- 1 Tb salt
- 1 large sweet onion, peeled, rinsed, and finely cut
- 1 Tb butter and olive oil, each
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1 Tb butter
- Green onion, thinly sliced
- Sour cream
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Cover the potatoes with water in a large pot and bring to boil.
- Once boiling, add salt.
- Let boil, uncovered, for 10-20 minutes or until easily pierced with a knife.
- Once potatoes are soft, remove from heat, drain the water, and mash.
- While potatoes are cooking, preheat the butter and olive oil over medium heat in a medium pan.
- Add the onion, sprinkle with salt, and cook for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.
- Combine cooked onion and mashed potatoes in a bowl and set aside to cool, while you prepare the dough.
- Mix all dough ingredients in a bowl. Turn out onto floured surface and knead, until it’s soft, elastic, and doesn’t stick to your hands. Depending on the weather and the humidity, it can take up to 20 minutes.
- As you knead it, assess the texture and fix, if needed, using the following two steps.
- If the dough is too dry, rub a couple of drops of olive oil on your hands, and knead again. If it’s still dry, do the same but with cold water.
- Alternate oil and water, as needed, until it’s pliable.
- If your dough is too runny, dust it with flour and knead again.
- Grease a bowl with olive oil, place the dough inside and cover with a lightly damp towel.
- Let your dough rest at room temperature for about 10 minutes before rolling it out and cutting.
Rolling out and cutting
- Place the dough on a cutting board and cut in half, and then in half again. Leave one piece out and put the rest back in the bowl, covered with lightly damp towel.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll out the piece of dough until it’s about 12 inches long/wide. If it sticks to your hands, dust it very lightly with flour. As you roll it out, flip it from time to time to make sure the bottom side is not sticking to the table.
- Using a 2 inch round cutter, cut out circles (it should make about 25.)
- Set up your work station: small bowl of water, measuring teaspoon, filling, and a cutting board lightly dusted with flour.
- Dip your finger in water and trace the outer edge of the dough circle. It will help seal it. (The same technique is used with ravioli and gyoza.)
- Place a teaspoon of filling in the center.
- Gently push the filling in with your thumbs to stretch the circle out and fold it over.
- Pinch the edges really well.
- When finished, proceed with the rest of the dough and the filling. You may end up with extra dough or filling. The dough freezes really well. (And the extra filling can be shaped into patties and cooked on both sides.)
- Bring a medium pot of water to boil. Add salt.
- Carefully add vareniki to the boiling water and let cook for 2-3 minutes or until floating on top.
- Take one out and cut it to taste.
- When all are cooked, strain, and serve with your preferred toppings.
- Enjoy! 🙂