Pelmeni are classic Russian dumplings that we all have in our freezer for an easy emergency meal. It takes some prep, we make hundreds, but it's worth the effort. Plus it saves you time later!
What Are Pelmeni Dumplings?
Pelmeni (Пельмени) are round dough dumplings with a juicy meat filling, classic Russian comfort food. It's part of the group of Eastern European dumplings like Vareniki, Pierogies, Uszka, and even Manti. I consider this meal the national food of Russia. Every Russian has their own Pelmeni recipe. They are sometimes called Siberian Ravioli.
Pelmeni dough is made like pasta, cut into circles and stuffed and pinched sealed before boiling in water. You only need flour, eggs, water, oil and salt, a basic dough recipe. I use the same recipe when making Pierogi dough Vareniki or Manti dough, and often we will make more than one style of dumpling on the same day. The secret to good pelmeni dough is to allow it to rest for about an hour after kneading.
I use a KitchenAid Pasta attachment to roll out my dough, because I find it's easier. You can thinly roll out the dough using a rolling pin if you like. All you need is a 3" round cookie cutter to cut your rolled dough into circles. In the olden days, they used to use a drinking glass or even an empty tin can to cut the circles. Use what you've got!
Some dough in Pelmeni recipes don't use any eggs at all (but I don't recommend) . You could use 1 large egg instead of 2 small eggs, it's really up to you. It's hard to screw up this dough recipe as there are many variations and the dough is forgiving. Make the dough first, and while it's resting, prepare the meat mixture.
What Filling Goes Into Pelmeni
This Pelmeni recipe uses 100% pure ground beef. There are other common variations. Often you can mix beef and pork together, or chicken and pork together.
I even made a non-traditional Turkey Pelmeni filling with some Asian inspiration using Napa cabbage to add juiciness. Another way to add juicy flavor to Pelmeni is to mix in finely diced mushrooms in the meat mixture. It's time consuming to dice mushrooms, and not traditional, but we enjoy to change up our Pelmeni fillings.
When you make Pelmeni Meat Dumplings, then you can control what goes into the meat filling, and the quality of meat. It seems that many Russians are so concerned about the quality of ground beef that goes inside these dumplings, that they buy beef and grind it at home themselves. Maybe it's just tradition when they could't find ground beef in stores?
To make Pelmeni filling, just mix the ground beef, onion, spices and water in a large mixing bowl and refrigerate until you are ready to use. Adding water into the meat mix, ensures the Pelmenchiki (little pelmeni) are juicy when you bite into it.
Pelmeni Filling Tips
- Substitute Turkey for a leaner and lower fat meal
- Any ground meat can be used, from deer or moose to bear.
- Add finely chopped mushrooms or Napa cabbage to add juiciness (it will make your meat go further too)
- Try using finely chopped salmon. Yes, Fish Pelmeni are a thing!
- Vegetarian - used a braised cabbage filling or a sautéed mushroom filling
How to Make Pelmeni
This is the fun part. You've made the dough and allowed it to rest for about an hour. Meanwhile, the meat mixture is prepared and now you've rolled out the dough and cut the circles. You're now ready to make Pelmeni.
Place about 1 teaspoon of beef filling in the centre of each circle. Carefully fold in half and pinch to seal the pelmeni shut, it will look like a half moon. Take the ends of the pelmeni and pinch together to make a round dumpling. Careful not to have the filling touching the edges, or it won't seal and falls apart when cooking.
You can make pelmeni in a mold, like this recipe, but this is the traditional way of making them. As a child, I remember the whole family spending hours making Pelmeni, rolling, pinching and freezing these delicious Russian dumplings. It's a family event, many hands make light work!
Can I Freeze Homemade Pelmeni?
Yes, this is the preferred method when making them at home. Place them on a lightly floured cutting board or baking tray and put them into the freezer. When they are solidly frozen, put them into a Ziploc bag to enjoy another day. Frozen Pelmeni will last at least 3 months in the freezer, if you don't eat them first!
The most common way is to boil them in lightly salted water. Some people add a bay leaf or two in the boiling water to add extra flavor. You can also cook them in a broth or boullion and serve in a soup.
Toss in the frozen Pelmeni into the boiling water and cook for about 8-10 minutes. They will start to float to the top, but aren't still cooked at that point. So how do you know they are ready? Well this is a bit strange, but remove a few Pelmeni from the water, and if the dough shrivels or shrinks a bit, they are done! The dough doesn't take long to cook, you just want to ensure the meat inside is fully cooked before eating.
Fried Pelmeni are also delicious. Some people claim to fry them in a frying pan from frozen, but that has never, ever gone well for me. I always like to boil extra Pelmeni, and then fry them in butter as leftovers the next day. That way I know the meat is cooked, and they don't stick to each other and fall apart while frying.
What to Serve with Pelmeni?
Traditionally, Pelmeni are served with homemade sour cream and fresh dill. I love eating them with ketchup or sometimes even with a bit of soy sauce. Some people eat them with vinegar, others with mustard or horseradish. Sometimes I add a bit of Chili-Garlic sauce for a bit of spice. Pelmeni are also served with a little bit of broth or boullion.
You can make pelmeni in a mold, like this recipe, but this is the traditional way of making them. As a child, I remember the whole family spending hours making dumplings, rolling, pinching and freezing them. It's a family event, many hands make light work!
How Many Pelmeni per Person?
I figure about 10 to 15 dumplings per person is a good amount, but honesty, I've had more! They're so good I can't stop eating them. If there are any leftover, just remember to fry them up the next day!
Pelmeni Making Tips
- Allow enough time for the dough to rest, don't rush it!
- Dough dries out, so remember to cover any dough that you aren't using with a kitchen towel or with an upside down bowl.
- Take care not to allow the filling to touch the edges, as it won't seal properly and come undone during the cooking process.
- Overcooked dumplings will fall apart, keep an eye on them as they boil.
- Don't worry if they look funny or lopsided, they will still taste the same!
- Not all flour is the same. I hear that some American flour binds differently than Canadian flour or Australia flour. Adjust flour as needed when kneading you're dough.
- Rope in your whole family to help make dumplings together. It goes faster and they will appreciate the work that goes into food!
Easily found in supermarkets in Eastern Europe, a family favorite, but homemade tastes so much better. This Pelmeni recipe is a classic Russian comfort food, my favorite Russian dumplings. Pelmeni: From Russia with Love. Bon Appetit! Приятного аппетита!
Pelmeni Dough ingredients
- 4 cups of plain flour plus ¼ cup extra flour for kneading
- 2 small eggs
- 1 cup lukewarm water
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 teaspoon salt dissolve in the water
Pelmeni Filling ingredients
- 2 lbs /1kg of lean ground beef or 50/50 beef and pork
- 2 medium onions grated
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- ½ cup water
- 2 bay leaves in the cooking water
- Mix the flour and salt, place into a bowl and make a well in the centre.
- Crack the eggs into the flour. Using a fork, stir the eggs into the flour.
- Slowly add the water while kneading, until the dough forms a sticky ball.
- Continue to knead the dough on a floured surface until dough is soft but not sticky. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes.
- Cover the dough with a bowl and allow to rest for about an hour.
- In a separate bowl, using your hands, mix the ground beef, onion, oil, water, salt and pepper until thoroughly combined.
- Roll out the dough about ⅛" thin on a lightly floured surface. I use a Kitchenaid Pasta Roller, usually on the 2nd thickness setting. Some people like it thinner, but I don't want the dough to tear. Using a 3" cookie cutter, cut out circles. Remix, roll out and reuse the extra dough to make more circles. Cover the dough that you aren't using so it doesn't dry out. Don't flour the surface (or very minimal), or the pelmeni won't seal properly. Keep the remaining dough under the upside down bowl to keep from drying out.
- Place about 1 teaspoon of beef filling in the centre of the circe. Carefully fold in half and pinch to seal the pelmeni shut. Careful not to have the filling touching the edges, or it won't seal and fall apart when cooking.
- Place the pelmeni on an uncovered tray and freeze for at least 30 minutes. Place the individually frozen pelmeni into a Ziplock bag for an easy dinner later.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil with the bay leaves.
- Drop 25-30 pelmeni into the boiling water. Gently stir, to prevent the Pelmeni from sticking together.
- Simmer until the meat and dough is cooked approx 10 minutes. When you lift them out of the water and the cooked pelmeni 'wrinkles' or 'shrivels' then you know it's done. It will take a bit longer when using frozen pelmeni.
- Remove with a slotted spoon and serve with sour cream and dill.