Learn how to make pierogi from scratch using traditional ingredients and tried and tested methods! This post is a guide to making authentic Polish pierogi including tips and recipes!
What are pierogi
Pierogi (pronounced ‘pye-RO-ghee’) are a type of Polish dumplings with a semi-circular shape made by wrapping soft unleavened dough around a filling, either savoury or sweet. Pierogi are then boiled in salted water and either served immediately or pan-fried then served.
The word 'pierogi' is actually the plural form of 'pierόg' (pronounced 'PYE-ruk'), but it's not well-known (outside of Poland) since pierogi are always served in large numbers.
In Poland pierogi are an institution. They accompany celebrations of all kinds (including Christmas!) and any gatherings involving food, but are often also served for dinner (usually preceded by a soup, another staple in Polish cuisine). Outside of Poland they are one of the best known Polish dishes (along with gołąbki, potato salad and bigos).
What’s really fascinating is that pierogi appeal to adults and children alike. There are pierogi bistros in Poland specialising in making all manner of pierogi from sweet to savoury, which is a good indication of just how popular they are.
Are pierogi healthy
Yes, they are relatively healthy. The dough is low in fat and so are most of the fillings. If, however, you serve them with lots of butter or bacon they can become quite calorific. I recommend using a moderate amount of these 'extras' as well as serve only 6-8 pierogi per portion.
Pierogi dough ingredients
Traditional pierogi dough contains only 4 ingredients. They are:
- Flour: all-purpose/plain, not bread flour or whole wheat/wholemeal flour.
- Water: for best results (soft dough) use very warm/hot water
- Butter: or vegetable oil
How is pierogi dough traditionally made
Pierogi are traditionally made by hand. My mum used a large wooden board for making the dough and rolling it out. She used a large blunt knife for bringing all the ingredients together while preventing the water from escaping and then kneaded the dough by hand.
I prefer to mix the dough ingredients in a large bowl but also knead the dough by hand. That way I know when it's ready (it should feet smooth and soft).
It's also possible to make the dough in a blender.
Traditional fillings for pierogi
Even though Polish pierogi can be made with an infinite number of fillings the 5 most popular ones are:
1)Mashed potato and Polish cottage cheese,‘twarόg’ (pronounced 'TFA-ruk'): These ingredients, along with fried onion and seasoning, are used to make savoury pierogi, called 'ruskie'.
2) Sauerkraut and porcini mushrooms: Making this filling involves cooking sauerkraut with the porcini and sauteed onion for pierogi 'z kapustą' (sauerkraut/cabbage in Polish). See also my tips for cooking sauerkraut.
3) Meat: This is usually cooked meat used to make Polish chicken noodle, rosόł soup, or another meat-based soup. It's possible, however, to make meat pierogi ('z mięsem' in Polish) using ground meat, as in this recipe.
4) Fruit pierogi: The most popular fruits used to make this type of pierogi (often made during summer months) are blueberries and strawberries.
5) ‘Twarόg’ cheese: This cheese is combined with sugar and vanilla for a sweet pierogi filling. It is used to make pierogi 'z serem' ('with cheese' in Polish).
Step-by-step instructions for making pierogi
1.Combine dough ingredients: To a large bowl add the flour, salt, oil and gradually add the water stirring all the time to combine.
2. Knead dough: When the dough starts coming together transfer it to a lightly floured surface and knead for about 6 minutes until silky smooth and soft. Cover with a bowl and set aside for 20 minutes.
3. Make pierogi filling: see below for filling ideas.
When your filling is ready fill a large pot with salted water (about ⅔), cover and bring to the boil.
4. Roll out dough: Divide the dough into 2-3 parts (easier to work with). Roll out one part (keeping the others covered) on top of a lightly floured surface as thinly as possible, 2-3 mm in thickness.
5. Cut out rounds: Using the rim of a glass with a diameter of about 7cm/3in, or cookie cutter, cut out round shapes. Gather up the dough scraps and combine with the remaining dough.
6. Add filling and form pierogi: Place a small amount of the filling in the middle of each round away from the edges (if the rounds are sticking to the work surface use a knife to help them come off but take care not to tear them). With tips of your fingers stick the edges of the dumpling together. Keep the pierogi on top of a floured surface covered with a kitchen cloth to prevent drying.
7. Boil: When the water starts to boil carefully add the pierogi one by one (not more than 15 per batch). Stir gently with a wooden spoon. Once all the pierogi have come up to the top cook gently for another 4 minutes.
8. Remove from pot: Remove from the heat and pour a cup of cold water over the pierogi. Lift the pierogi out of the pot using a slotted spoon and place in a single layer on top of a lightly greased plate. See serving suggestions below.
*You will find ingredients and exact amounts in all my pierogi recipes (see links above).
Do you always have to boil pierogi
Yes, you do! The filling usually contains ready-to-eat ingredients but the dough needs to cook and boiling pierogi in a large pot of salted water (even the 'sweet' ones!) produces soft, delicious pierogi.
How to serve pierogi
Pierogi are always served hot. They can be either served straight from the pot or pan-fried first in a little oil or butter for a crispy finish.
Tip: Not all pierogi should be fried. Pierogi with fruit fillings tend to be more fragile than most savoury ones and are best served immediately after boiling.
Traditional toppings for savoury pierogi include fried bacon, onion, sour cream and butter. If your pierogi have a sweet filling, such as blueberry pierogi and cheese pierogi, they are usually served with sour cream and sugar.
In Poland they can be served as a stand-alone meal or with soup (yes, even the 'sweet' pierogi!).
What else goes well with pierogi
Depending on the filling you can also serve pierogi with the following (not traditional but work well nonetheless):
How to freeze pierogi
You can freeze raw as well as cooked pierogi.
- To freeze raw pierogi dust them with a little flour (on both sides) and place on top of a tray or plate in a single layer (they must not touch each other). Freeze for 4 hours then transfer to a freezer bag/container and freeze for up to 3 months.
Tip: Cook pierogi from frozen. They will take a little longer to come up to the top but once they do continue cooking gently for 4 minutes (as per Instructions).
- To freeze cooked pierogi cool them completely then arrange in a single layer on top of a lightly greased plate or tray (the pierogi need to be lightly greased on both sides) and freeze for 4 hours. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze for 4-5 weeks.
Tip: Defrost pierogi (by placing in the fridge overnight) before reheating. Reheat in the microwave or fry with a little butter or oil until golden.
Polish pierogi variations
This North American version of pierogi ruskie is a testament to the universal appeal of pierogi. Everyone loves them! People in Canada and the USA often use the anglicised form 'pierogies' (or 'perogies'), which is why I also used it in this recipe. The dough in the North American variant is usually made with eggs, sometimes also sour cream and cream cheese.
Vegan pierogi are a dairy-free alternative to traditional pierogi ruskie. They are made using tofu instead of twarόg cheese, but are still deliciously tangy and addictive!
Lazy pierogi are 4-ingredient Polish cheese dumplings boiled in water and served with either sweet or savoury toppings. They are a simplified version of Polish cheese pierogi, made without kneading, wrapping in dough or precooking any of the ingredients. Incredibly easy to make and ready in only about 20 minutes!
Uszka, as they are commonly called, are small dumplings (technically not pierogi) made with pierogi dough and porcini mushroom filling.
How to make pierogi for a crowd
When you are making pierogi (such as ruskie or sauerkraut) for a Polish potluck party follow these steps:
1.Cook the pierogi (as per Instructions) then grease with a little oil or butter immediately after removing from the pot. Set aside for a few minutes to let them harden a little.
2. Transfer to an oven-proof dish and add more oil or melted butter if needed (so they do not stick to one another). You can also add fried onions and/or bacon. Cover tightly with tin foil.
3. Reheat in the oven, covered, at 350 F/ 180 C/ gas mark 4 for about 30 minutes or until hot.
Tip: You can refrigerate cooked pierogi overnight (once cooled completely), covered, and reheat the following day.
- Use very warm/hot water to make the dough.
- Knead the dough for several minutes until soft.
- The dough should not stick to your hands, but it shouldn't feel dry - avoid adding to much flour as this will produce tough pierogi.
- Taste the filling mixture and adjust the seasoning if required before making pierogi.
- Always boil pierogi in salted water. Cook for 4 minutes from the time they come up to the surface.
- Serve pierogi hot, either straight from boiling or pan-fry them after they've boiled.
- Pierogi can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 4 days. Reheat in the microwave or in a frying pan.
Keep in touch!
Did you find my tips for making pierogi helpful? What’s your favourite type of pierogi? Let me know in the comments below, thanks!