Next learn about Polish desserts and sweet treats.

What are pierogi?

This pierogi recipe comes from Polish writer Zuza Zak's book, Pierogi (Quadrille, £18). "Pierogi are Poland’s most famous dumplings," she says. "Different pierogi are eaten at different times of the year, for example at Christmas everyone makes either sauerkraut and mushroom or wild mushroom pierogi and in the summer bilberry (wild blueberry) pierogi rule. Different pierogis are served to mark different occasions: Knysze, for example, would be served at wakes – they are a yeasted fried pierogi stuffed with the ruskie filling. At weddings we would get kurniki, which are little baked pierogi stuffed with chicken."

"Pierogi have many regional variations – in the north, because of the proximity to the Baltic Sea, fish is a common filling, and, in the south, smoked sheep’s cheese is used. But even between households there will be lots of different recipes and variations. Pierożki are simply smaller pierogi – they come in all kinds of shapes and forms but they are often served as a snack, stuffed with a sweet filling or in a broth of wild mushroom or beetroot. The smaller shape makes them easier to serve and eat this way."

"The oldest pierogi dough recipe is very simple – just plain flour, oil, salt and hot water. A lot of babushkas still use this recipe today. Perogi are traditionally half-moon shaped, either boiled with butter and soured cream on top or boiled, then fried, with some crispy fried onions (and sometimes bacon bits). Sweet dumplings can have honey, toasted almonds and soured cream. Nowadays, we are becoming more creative with pierogi and experimenting with various fillings and toppings, often including eggs which enrich the dough and is probably a culinary influence that has come from Italy."

"Poland shares much culinary heritage with Ukraine and pierogi are a big part of this overlap (in Ukraine, they are called vareniki). Pierogi ruskie are the most loved pierogi filling, both in Poland and beyond I think this is because the filling is so adaptable – traditionally it would be curd cheese, potato and caramelised onion. The curd cheese we use in Poland is called twaróg, similar to ricotta but more sour – you’ll find it in every supermarket. This filling is said to have originated in Ukraine and therefore they are called 'ruskie', which means Ruthenian rather than Russian. However, to make things complicated, some say they used to be called 'pierogi polskie' when Poland and Ukraine were a part of the same country. This is something we will never get to the bottom of, yet the filling of caramelised onion, 'twaróg' curd cheese and potato remains the one people cook and put their own spin on the world over, where they adapt the ingredients to what is locally available. In practise, this means varying the cheese, the dough and the pinching technique. I like to make these circular in shape to fit in more of this delicious filling."

What are the different shapes?

There are lots of different shapes to experiment with – half-moon, round, envelope or rectangles are common, or uska (little ears), and the way they are sealed can differ, from crimping with a fork to folding over the edges, pleating or pinching.

Pierogi recipe



  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 180g cheese of your choice: smoked twaróg; mild-medium Cheddar, grated; or a mixture of Comté and Brilliat-Savarin, grated
  • 1 large floury potato,, cooked, peeled and finely diced


  • 300g plain flour, plus extra to dust
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 100-120ml warm water from a pre-boiled kettle


  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • soured cream, to serve


  • STEP 1

    For the filling and the topping, heat the 3 tablespoons of butter in a frying pan and gently cook all 3 finely chopped onions, stirring occasionally, until caramelised. Leave one third of the onion in the pan (for the topping) and transfer two thirds to a bowl.

  • STEP 2

    Make the dough by combining all the dough ingredients in a large bowl and mixing with your hand until a it forms a ball. Turn out and knead on a floured surface for 6-7 minutes, then cover with a clean, damp cloth and leave to rest at room temperature for 20-30 minutes while you prepare the filling.

  • STEP 3

    If using smoked twaróg or another soft cheese, first mash it in a bowl with a fork, then transfer it to the bowl with the onions. If using a harder grated cheese, just add it to the bowl with the onions. Add the cooked, diced potato and mix well. Taste and season with salt and white pepper – it should be salty.

  • STEP 4

    Roll the pierogi dough out thinly (0.5mm is ideal) on a floured surface and use your favourite method to shape the flattened dough. Using a teaspoon fill the pierogi and seal. Put the finished pierogi on a lightly floured surface.

  • STEP 5

    Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and boil the pierogi in batches. Once they float to the top, give them an extra minute before removing with a slotted spoon. Shake off any excess water and transfer to a warm bowl with the 2 tablespoons melted butter. Before serving, transfer the pierogi to a frying pan and cook in the butter for 2 minutes each side, until golden and crispy.

  • STEP 6

    Serve with the reserved caramelised onions on top and soured cream on the side, if you like.


Goes well with


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