Vareniki are classic Ukrainian dumplings similar to Polish pierogi, in this recipe stuffed with potato, caramelised onion, and lovely bacon! These little pockets of joy are the ultimate comfort food!
There are so many tasty dumplings worth trying, like these Russian meat dumplings, Pelmeni!
Let me introduce you to little pockets of heaven aka Vareniki. You might know them by another name Pierogi. Vareniki (plural) are Polish pierogi’s Ukrainian cousins. What is the difference?
Well I can’t really tell you. I was going to say fillings but the filling in these little dumplings are mostly dependent on regions and the cooks, so not a lot of difference I suppose.
Funnily enough, I didn’t learn about the existence of pierogi until I went to college in the States and met my Canadian husband. Pierogi was high on his list of favourite foods.
After a little digging I realised the dumplings he was familiar with were Polish pierogi. Another surprise because in Russian pierogi are delicious pastries baked in the oven, stuffed buns of sorts.
Too confusing! But never mind. Whatever they are called and wherever they are from, they are always worth eating. They are perfect comfort food!
There are so many options for filling vareniki, and different regions and families will have a different approach. I filled these ones with mashed potatoes, caramelised onions and fried mushrooms, plus butter, salt and pepper for added flavour.
A very easy variation, and a good way to make them vegetarian, is to swap the bacon for mushrooms. Sauerkraut can also be added for a touch of acidic flair.
But this is just the start, and the filling is where you can get creative! Use your imagination but whatever you do, flavour those potatoes or they will be BLAND!
For a completely different twist, vereniki can also be filled with sweet ingredients. Farmers or cottage cheese with blueberries, cherries or plums wrapped in the same dough make a wonderful sweet treat!
Vereniki with fruit are usually made in the summer when the fruit is ripe, sweet and in season. When filled with fruit they become more of a dessert.
I do not have the words to describe the difference between frozen pierogi/vareniki and homemade ones but let me try. The dough I think is where it starts.
First of all, the frozen, commercially produced dumplings needs to be made thicker to remain intact, which comes at the huge expense of the quality. The homemade dough is thinner, softer, more pliable and infinitely tastier.
Homemade vareniki also give you more control over the fillings. Store bought vareniki can be overstuffed with potatoes and not enough other ingredients, which makes them a bit bland and boring.
I don’t need to go on telling you that homemade vareniki taste fantastic! Traditionally they are served pan fried in butter with crispy onions and sour cream.
Not exactly diet food but I make mine about once in three years, so when I do, I do not hold back! I also like to add sauerkraut on the side as the slightly sour taste balances out the richness of vareniki. If you are curious to make your own, my sauerkraut recipe is easy to follow!
Are vareniki expensive to make?
Apart from being so delicious, vareniki are also very economical! They use the cheapest ingredients and make them go a long way.
They are also very filling so a few vareniki go a long way. Just 3 cups of flour and 5 potatoes made 65 vareniki! This is enough to make 8 people very happy!
Don’t be afraid to dive into vareniki making! I wrote extensively about the dumpling making process when I shared my Meat Dumplings Pelmeni, so feel free to take a look at another delicious recipe and photos!
Or watch this video to learn how to make them!
Recipe tips and notes
- Make sure you salt the potatoes well or the vareniki will end up tasting too bland.
- Substituting mushrooms for the bacon is an easy way to make them vegetarian.
- You don’t need to crimp the edges for them to taste good, simply fold the dough over the filling and pinch hard like you see in the photo below.
- Vareniki freeze very well. Place them in an airtight container and sprinkle with flour to prevent them from sticking together. The method for cooking frozen vareniki is the same, although they need to be boiled slightly longer.
- Vareniki can be served with dill, sour cream, fried onions or shallots, and sauerkraut.
- Serve the vareniki with one of these Russian salads.
More classic recipes from Eastern Europe:
Potato, Bacon and Caramelised Onion Dumplings (Vareniki)
For the dough
- 3 cups /450g all purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 egg large
- 1 cup /250ml cold water
For the filling
- 5 potatoes
- 2 tbsp butter
- 5 strips/100g bacon
- 1 onion chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- Peel and boil the potatoes until fork tender. While the potatoes are boiling, make the dough.
- In a food processor pulse flour and salt. With the motor running add the egg through the tube and then cold water. Let the processor do its work for a minute until the dough forms around the blade. Transfer the dough into a bowl, cover with a tea towel and let it sit for 30 minutes.
- While the dough is resting, make the filling. Frying the bacon and chop it up, then slowly cook the onion in the bacon fat over very low heat for 20 minutes until the onions are caramelised. Mash the potatoes, add butter, bacon, onions and mix well, add salt and pepper to taste.
- Divide the dough into quarters and form your quarters into balls. Take one dough ball and roll it out on a well floured surface in a thin sheet approximately 1/16" in thickness. Keep the rest of the dough covered to avoid drying out.
- Cut out circles with a 2″ to 3″ cookie or scone cutter. Put a teaspoon of potato filling into each dough circle, slightly off-centre, fold the dough over to form a half-moon shape and pinch the edges shut with your fingertips. If you want a more attractive look go over the edge one more time and this time pinch the edges together using your two fingers and a thumb and twist them to form a ruffled edge.
- Repeat with the remaining dough circles until you run out of both dough and the filling. You should have about 65 vareniki.
- Set aside a needed amount of pelmeni for dinner and freeze the rest in a well floured and air-tight container to prevent sticking.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt drop vareniki into rapidly boiling water and stir to prevent them sticking to the bottom, once they float to the top, drain and pan fry in butter over medium heat until golden on both sides.
- Serve with sour cream, dill and crispy fried onions or shallots.
- *Cook the remaining vareniki from frozen.