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 modified proportions of water to flour in the dough slightly and added my favorite garlic to the filling.

Pelmeni Dough

The dough is made using eggs which are important since you need the dough to be elastic and easily rolled out. In the original recipe, Elaizik uses equal amounts of eggs and water. As she describes it, her nanny used cracked egg shells to measure water for the dough.

After trying this recipe several times I increased the amount of water by a few tablespoons. Unlike in the original recipe, in my recipe (below) the amount of water is slightly higher than the amount of eggs. When you are finished kneading, 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!

Traditional Russian Pelmeni (Russian Dumplings)

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

Making the dough

  1. Crack eggs into a cup and add oil.

  2. Add cold water to eggs so that the total weight is 260 g (2 eggs should take up approximately 100 g).

  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. If the dough doesn't come together well, add one more tablespoon of water.

  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. 

 Pin for later:

russian-pelmeni-recipe

AUTHOR: YULIA DYUKOVA
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.

25 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. Horilka says:

      You should use winter wheat flour, if possible. In the end, whole grain organic flours are as traditional as it gets.

      1. Thank you for the input! 🙂

        1. Horilka says:

          You’re welcome.

          And thank you for this nice website.

      2. MADDY says:

        I used pizza type flour. I find it perfect fo any kind of dumplings.

        1. I should try that! In Russia, we usually buy pre-made fresh (not the frozen kind) pelmeni dough, so half the work is done. It was only after I started traveling that I began experimenting with making my own dough.

  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 🙂

      1. Maddy says:

        Hello Yulia!
        I have made pelmieni on my “pielmiennica”. The dough works well, BUT i must have dona some measurement modifications.
        First -milliliter is volume measure, not weight. One large egg (EU standard) has indeed about 120 ml in volume but weight only about 100g . Eggs (especially whites) are less dense than water (pouched egg floats! Surprise!)
        230 ml of egg and water mixture doesn’t work, there wasnt enough liquid to even make the dough come together.
        I was adding water spoon by spoon and I can tell that 500g of flour needs at least 250-260 gram of liquid (plus tablespoon do oil)
        But after adjusting the amount of water and working the gluten long and well the dough came out perfect, smooth and elastic, soft but not sticky. I have made about 200 pelmieni. They come out smaller than made by hand, so we ate half, and I froze half for future. as a delicious fast food 🙂
        I would put a photo of my pelmieni here, but I don’t know how 😉

        1. Hey Maddy! Thank you so much for taking the time to come back here and let me know how it worked out! I am happy you got great result in the end. Really appreciate your notes on the volume/weight of eggs, I will have to roll up my sleeves and try out this recipe once again to check the liquid to flour ratio!

          1. Maddy says:

            Ok, now I see I also messed up a bit. 120 ml /100g is of course for 2 large eggs Sorry! We don’t have giant chickens here .
            😉
            One large egg is app. 60ml/50g .
            Oh, and your granny’s method of measuring water with egg shells – not useful. The smaller the egg the less water added, that cannot work.
            Also – even for large eggs still not enough water.
            I am an amateur baker and in bread baking proportions water to flour are crucial, so I am a little obsessed with measurements 😉

    2. MADDY says:

      From my experience the flour for most kinds of dumplings should be as white and fine as you can get, but unbleached.
      I think for USA it’s “pastry flour” – German type 405, Italian “tipo 00”.
      But all-purpose will do too.

      Don’t recommend whole gain, because it contains bran. Bran is very healthy but even after milling is hard and has sharp edges, so it can cut the gluten strings during kneading process. And we want that gluten string in our dough to be long. 🙂

      1. Agreed! Wholegrain flour wouldn’t work well here. Actually, I’ve never seen pelmeni made of wholegrain or any type of dark flour, it’s always white. Oh, and by the way, I’ve made manti recently with my mom and grandma which are in the same dumpling family as pelmeni, but bigger and you steam them instead of boiling and I have to say, you are right, the water wasn’t enough. I updated the recipe to 260 ml of water and going to try it out a few more times to make sure it work well! Thank you for the input 🙂

        1. MADDY says:

          I’m glad I was helpful 😉
          Sunday I will try your dough on traditional Polish pierogi with potato and white cheese filling (called “ruskie” which means “Russian” in Polish, don’t ask me why 😉 )
          I think it will be better for frozen dumplings than my usual dough recipe.

  3. Matthew Kemp says:

    I have to say, I just returned from my first visit to Moscow and fell in love with Pelmeni! I appreciate the time you took to explain the makings of such a delicious dish. The question I have is the serving. I was given my Pelmeni in a clear mushroom broth with a side of sour cream. Although I don’t know if this is very authentic, I wondered if you had any suggestions of where to find a recipe for the broth. It enhanced the flavor of the meat. Thanks again for such a great post!

    1. Hey Matthew! Happy to hear pelmeni found a way to your heart! To be honest, I have never seen pelmeni served in mushroom broth. I’ve seen them served in little bit of meat broth, but never mushroom, although now that I think of it, it sounds like an awesome idea. I’ll ask a few of my Russian friends who are chefs, and if they know of a recipe I’ll let you know!

  4. Tamara says:

    Hi there! How many pelmeni does this make please? We’re making them for international day at our school and need 600 pelmeni. Thank you!

    1. Hi Tamara! Wow, that’s a whole lot of pelmeni! This recipe will yield 120-150 pelmeni depending on how big you make them. All the best with making 600. Hope there are quite a few people helping you! 🙂

  5. Kristin says:

    Visited a local Armenian kitchen for the first time recently. Our fav Greek place had closed so we’ve been trying to find a new place in a small area. We tend to be open to anything new and different. They had pelmeni on special and I found it amazing! Looking forward to giving this recipe a go. I’m a big fan of Prep and freeze meals so this is right up my alley! Thanks for sharing some food love

    1. Thank you, Kristin! Armenian food is amazing, we love it here, in Russia! Interesting that they had pelmeni as their special 🙂 Let me know how it worked out once you make your own pelmeni at home!

  6. Carrie says:

    Hi! My husband is Russian and I have tried making Pelmeni a couple of times before, not always very successfully, after my mother in law taught me. I love the description you give with your recipe, so I am going to try it with your guidance this weekend. My question is this – is it possible to cook pelmeni and keep it warm, so that it can serve a big group of people over a buffet? Is there a best way to do this without the pastry going soggy or sticky? Thanks so much!

    1. Hey Carrie! Yay for giving my recipe a try, hope it all works out well! As for serving, I never kept pelmeni after cooking (somehow it all gets eaten very quickly)), but if I had to, I would serve it in a big ceramic bowl (or any bowl that’s thick and keeps heat) with a lid. When you transfer all the pelmeni from the pan where you boiled them, add a a little bit of the water (that you used for boiling) to the bowl too. I’d also throw a piece of butter on the top it will help prevent pelmeni from sticking and will add a burst of flavor. Then cover with a lid. Hope it helps!

  7. Sasha says:

    I grew up eating pelmeni with NOTHING BUT MAYONNAISE!! Thats all i will ever eat it with, anything else is like putting bumper sticker on ferrari, why would you do such a thing blin!! But on a side not have you ever fried them?? i would like to know if i should boil them first, then fry or just throw them frozen in the oil?? Please hurry with the response as i am terribly hungry right not and am staring at whole bag of frozen pelmeni!

    1. Replying as soon as I read your comment! Hopefully, you still have some pelmeni left 😀 I’d definitely boil pelmeni first and then fry them. Russians never really fry pelmeni, but adding some butter and frying a dumpling till it gets golden and crispy never hurt anyone, so go for it! And yes for mayo! That’s the only way to go! You have to try the mayo made in my hometown, it comes in blue jars and is the best thing in the world!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *