The Ultimate Guide to Making Traditional Russian Pelmeni

Russian pelmeni (dumplings) is a savior for women making a quick dinner on busy days; something every poor student used to live off for at least a week at some point of his life; and what you’ll find in a freezer of every Russian bachelor. Russian pelmeni recipe is very similar to the recipes of Chinese dumplings and Italian ravioli. Pelmeni are made of ground meat wrapped in unleavened dough and then boiled. 

Classic Russian pelmeni recipe

A Few Facts About Russians and Pelmeni:

  • The best Russian pelmeni are homemade pelmeni, but nobody has time for that. Mostly, people make them at home for big celebrations like New Year. Otherwise it’s store bought.
  • Pelmeni are a must for New Year’s table. The whole family gathers on the evening of 30th of December to make hundreds of pelmeni while watching a Soviet comedy and chatting. Usually, it’s a factory-like process with, say, father cutting out rounds of dough, while mother and grandma fill them up with meat and seal the edges (This is the role distribution in my family, with me in the end of the chain conveniently storing pelmeni in my tummy).
  • Traditionally, the filling is made of three kinds of meat: beef, pork and lamb. Nowadays, though, you can find beef and pork mix, beef alone, or even ground chicken as a filling. All depends on your personal preference. If the filling is anything else but meat (potato, cottage cheese, mushrooms, cherries) then you call it vareniki.
  • The choice of sauce for pelmeni is as important and sacred as choosing your religion. There are mayo lovers (me included), mustard devotees, people who prefer their pelmeni with diluted vinegar, some like it with sour cream, others place a piece of butter on top or horseradish sauce on side. There are also weirdos who have it with ketchup (big no-no!)
  • Pelmeni are a regular item on the menu of both cheap student canteens and upscale restaurants.

Making Russian pelmeni at home

Why You Need Pelmeni in Your Life

Pelmeni, or Russian dumplings, take a lot of time to make. But once you are done, your dinners couldn’t be easier, faster, and more delicious. You can keep pelmeni in the freezer for months and only spend minutes to prepare your dinner or set a table for unexpected guests.

Uralskie pelmeni recipe

Origins of Pelmeni

Theories on origination of this dish are so confusing and contradictory that I don’t even want to cite it here. Most of researchers agree that it originated in China. Some believe that it was brought to the Ural region in Russia (that’s where I am from) by mongols, others that pelmeni were invented by Komi-Permyak tribes that inhabited Urals and made their living by hunting. I tend to believe the latter. What is easier to cook for a hunter who spends most of his time in the forest but dumplings? They can be frozen, stored for months, then cooked in a few minutes.  When Russians moved to Urals and Siberia they adopted the recipe.

Making Russian pelmeni

Traditional Russian Pelmeni Recipe

Every woman has her own pelmeni recipe and technique. The one I always use is adopted  from this website. First of all, this pelmeni recipe belongs to the author’s nanny who was a native Permyak – doesn’t get more authentic than that. The website gives very clear and thorough instructions on how to prepare pelmeni the traditional way (description is in Russian). I have added my favorite garlic to the filling but other than that I always stay true to proportions of ingredients and technology as it proved to give the best results time and again.

Pelmeni Dough

The dough is made using eggs which are important since you need the dough to be elastic and easily rolled out. The amount of eggs should be equal to the amount of water. As Elaizik describes it, her nanny used cracked egg shells to measure water for dough. The dough should be firm enough to not let water get inside pelmeni while they are being boiled but elastic enough to roll it out paper thin.

Meat Filling

Beef and pork are used for the filling in 1:1 proportions. The ideal way to prepare it is to buy a whole piece of meat and grind it yourself. Years ago meat for pelmeni was chopped with a special knife in a wooden bucket. Today, though, using an ax-like knife in your kitchen seems a bit too complicated and messy, so grinder it is.

You can always choose the easy way and buy ground meat in the supermarket. But buying whole meat pieces will ensure nothing is added to the mixture and you can control the meat/fat ratio in the final product.  

Working with Pelmeni Dough

The most popular way is to roll out the dough very thin and then cut out rounds using a wine glass. The right way is to cut small pieces of dough and roll them into rounds individually. Although, the first method is faster, the second one is the way Russian grandmothers used to do it and provides better results. When filling pelmeni, place a teaspoon of meat onto the lower part of the round of dough.

Homemade Russian Pelmeni

Cover meat with the upper part of the round of dough and start sealing from center working your way down each side.

How to make Russian Pelmeni

Then seal the ends together.

How to make traditional Russian Pelmeni

Cooking Pelmeni

If the dough is thin enough it should “shrink” during the boiling process making “wrinkles” around meat filling. This is a sign your dough is prepared perfectly. Make sure to drain all the water when you take pelmeni out of the pan. It’s best to serve pelmeni with butter or sour cream. If there’s any water left in the plate, sour cream and butter will be diluted by water and make a mess. On the other side, when pelmeni are dry, sour cream and butter tend to stick to the surface of the dough and enhance its flavor. 

You can find the detailed pelmeni recipe below. And here’s a video showing me making Russian pelmeni at home.  Make sure to turn the volume up, the music in the background is an awesome Russian song by Leningrad!

Classic Russian pelmeni recipe

Traditional Russian Pelmeni (Russian Dumplings)

Course Main Course
Prep Time 3 hours
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 3 hours 10 minutes
Servings 10


For the dough:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • cold water
  • 500 gram flour
  • pinch of salt

For the filling:

  • 1 kg ground beef and pork
  • 2 onions
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • salt
  • pepper

For cooking:

  • water
  • salt
  • 2 bay leaves


Making the dough

  1. Crack eggs into a cup and add oil.

  2. Add cold water to eggs so that the total weight is 230 ml (2 eggs should take up approximately 120 ml).

  3. Sift flour into a separate bowl and make a hole in the center. Pour egg mixture into the center.

  4. Mix the dough with a mixer for 10 minutes using dough hook.

  5. When all the wet ingredients are mixed in and the dough forms a ball, place it on the table with the leftover flour.

  6. Knead the dough until it stops sticking to your hands. You might need to add a little more flour depending on its quality. Cover the dough and leave it to rest for 30 minutes to 2 hours.

  7. After resting the dough will become softer and easier to work with. Knead for a couple more minutes to get a uniform mixture. If after resting the dough still sticks to your hands, add a little more flour.

Making the filling

  1. Cut onions and garlic cloves finely. Mix ground meat with onions and garlic.

  2. Add salt and pepper and mix well.

Making pelmeni

  1. Cut a stripe of dough and roll it into a cylinder approximately 2 cm (1 inch) in diameter. Tip: keep the rest of the dough covered to prevent it from drying.

  2. Cut up the cylinder into 1 cm (0,5 inch) pieces and place it on the table dusted with flour.

  3. Take 1 piece at a time and roll it in between your fingers to make a round.

  4. Roll every round as thin as you can using a rolling pin. This part is tricky because you want it to be as thin as possible for better taste. But if you roll it too thin, the dough will break when you boil pelmeni. There’s no way around but practice and more practice until you get the feel of what is perfect thickness.

  5. Place rounds of dough on top of each other to prevent them from drying. Before starting the process of making pelmeni turn the stack upside down so that the first round you made is on top now.

  6. Hold the round in your left hand and place a tea spoon of filling with your right hand on the lower part of the round. Remove any excess filling.

  7. Place the upper part of the round on top of the filling and start sealing edges. Start from the center and work your way down one side, then the other side. Seal the ends of pelmeni together.

  8. Repeat to the rest of the dough. When you finish making pelmeni, place them into the freezer.

Cooking pelmeni

  1. Fill a cooking pan with water and bring it to boil. 

  2. Add salt (1 tsp of salt for each 1 liter of water)

  3. Place desired amount of pelmeni into a pan. Tip: don’t give in to temptation of placing a lot at once. Keep it down to 25 pieces at a time. After you add pelmeni to boiling water, the water will cool down and you will need to wait for it to boil again.

  4. Mix pelmeni carefully with a slotted spoon making sure none are stuck to the bottom of the pan.

  5. After pelmeni come up to the surface of water cook it for another 3 minutes, then take it out using a slotted spoon. Make sure all the water is drained.

  6. Serve immediately with sour cream or butter. 

Recipe Notes

You can replace ground pork and beef with ground chicken if you don't eat red meat. 

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Yulia is a Russian food and travel blogger who found home first in Sri Lanka for 3 years, then in Brazil for a year and is currently based in Austin, Texas. She is the kind of person who starts a research of the new country by googling “what to eat in…” instead of “what to visit in…” Yulia is a self-proclaimed “food nerd” who will spend hours reading on the origins of pecan pie before trying it and who doesn’t consider waiting in line of 50 people to get a cronut a waste of time. She finds it hard to keep her delicious findings to herself and that is the reason why this blog exists.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Ogi the Yogi says:

    What kind of flour is the best for pelmeni? I used a cheap all purpose flour to make the first batch and they turned out perfect. The flour for the second batch was the fancier king arthur all purpose flour and the dough was actually no wear as good. Can you express your personal opinion and why a lower gluten (bleached) flour worked better for boiling?

    1. I am glad you tried out the recipe! Here’s the thing: unlike in USA, in Russia we don’t have many varieties of flour. That’s why if you Google recipes for pelmeni in Russian, you won’t find any specifications, it’s just “flour”. Now that I live in USA, I always get unbleached white flour just because I find it healthier than bleached flour. But in my experience the price never played a role in the outcome. I usually use Bob’s Red Mill white unbleached flour, but I used cheaper brands and they worked just as well.

  2. Maddy says:

    Yuilia: Will this dough recipe work with “pielmiennica” (that is Polish transcription from Russian)?
    I have such “ustroistwo” (it’s heavy aluminium form with 36 round holes in it) from the ’80, my mom got it from a Russian friend, never use it, now i got it from her and wanna try. Do you have any practice with such a tool?

    1. Hi Maddy! I think I know what you are talking about, I’ve seen this device, but have never used it. Actually, I am pretty interested to check out how it works. I think the dough recipe should work. If you make it that way, let me know how it goes! I am curious 🙂

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