Making Pelmeni (Russian Meat Dumplings)

We made these Russian pelmeni (meat dumplings) alongside vareniki (cheese dumplings) for a Russian vodka and dumplings evening with friends.

Russian Pelmeni (meat dumplings) Russian Pelmeni (meat dumplings)

(Meat) Pelmeni

Unlike vareniki which seem to be made with a wide range of fillings, pelmeni are most commonly filled with meat. Traditionally, they are made by the hundreds and stored outside (where the temperatures are below freezing) throughout the long Siberian winters.

Some Russians like to brag about how many they can eat in a single sitting!

Pelmeni can be served in beef or chicken broth or fried in butter. Traditional accompaniments are sour cream and white vinegar.

We didn’t count how many dumplings Pete made but the dough and filling recipes state that these amounts should make approximately 100. Pete halved the recipe amounts below.


1 large egg white, lightly beaten
Salt, to taste, for cooking the pelmeni
For the dough
3 cups sifted unbleached plain flour
1 scant teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 cup cold water
For the filling
3/4 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
2 medium-size onions, finely chopped
1/4 cup crushed ice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  • To make the filling, simply combine the filling ingredients and mix thoroughly.
  • To make the dough: in a food processor blend the flour and salt, and with the motor running, add the egg through the feed tube, and then the water, in a slow steady stream until the dough forms a ball around the blade.
  • Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead until smooth, about 2 minutes. Then cover with a linen or cotton cloth and let stand for 30 minutes.
  • Divide the dough in half and shape into two balls. Keep one ball covered with the towel whilst working the other.

  • On a floured surface with a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough to a very thin sheet, about 1/16 inch thick, making sure it doesn’t tear. With a round cookie cutter, cut out circles about 2 inches in diameter. Gather the scraps into a ball and set aside, covered.

  • Have a bowl with the egg white by you. Place a scant teaspoon of the filling in the middle of each circle. Brush the edges with the egg white.

  • The original recipe suggests folding the dough over the filling to form a semi-circle, as for the vareniki, however as you can see from the photos, Pete opted not to fold the circles but instead topped them with a second circle of dough, and pressed the edges firmly together with the tines of a fork to seal. This shape better matches the wonderful pelmeni we’ve enjoyed at Bob Bob Ricard over the last couple of years.
  • The original instructions suggest making one dumpling and cooking it in boiling water, to check for seasoning, before going on to make the rest, but Pete didn’t bother with this.
  • Place the pelmeni as they are made onto a lightly floured baking sheet, about an inch apart.
  • At this point, pelmeni are usually frozen. To freeze, cover the baking sheet with aluminium foil or plastic wrap and place in the freezer until they are completely frozen and then transfer the pelmeni to a plastic bag or box.
  • To cook: in a large pot, bring lightly salted water to the boil. Reduce the heat to medium, so that the water simmers, and carefully lower a batch of pelmeni into the water. (We cooked in batches of 8 as this is how many fitted comfortably inside our largest pan).
  • Boil, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon to prevent sticking. When they rise to the surface, they are cooked through, in about 8 minutes.
  • With a slotted spoon, carefully remove the pelmeni to a colander, drain them thoroughly and serve, hot.

Note: We served these straight away, with lots of sour cream and a little white vinegar. However, the recipe suggests tossing the cooked pelmeni in 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter before serving. It is also traditional to fry them in butter after they’ve been boiled, which our friends did with the leftovers, the next day.

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