My cabbage dumplings recipe makes Russian-Ukrainian vareniki stuffed with a rich filling of braised cabbage, onion, carrot, bacon, and spices. Once cooked they’re garnished with fresh fragrant dill and eaten with sour cream. While you could tuck into a plate on their own, vareniki are usually served as one of an array of dishes shared family-style.
This cabbage dumplings recipe will make you another of my favourite cabbage recipes – savoury Russian-Ukrainian dumplings called vareniki in Russian or varenyky in Ukrainian, which I’ve stuffed with a deliciously rich filling of slow braised cabbage, onion, carrot, bacon, and spices. Yes, it’s the same braised cabbage recipe I recently shared.
So if you made that and have leftovers, get your rolling pin out. If you didn’t, I’ve incorporated that recipe into this cabbage dumplings recipe for your convenience. If there are only two of you, you won’t want to eat 48 cabbage dumplings, so I recommend using half the dough for these and half the dough for these Ukrainian sweet varenyky with summer berries and sour cream.
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Cabbage Dumplings Recipe for Russian-Ukrainian Vareniki with a Rich Cabbage Filling
I reckon my cabbage dumplings recipe will make you a fairly close representation of my baboushka’s Russian-Ukrainian dumplings for cabbage vareniki (in Russian) or varenyky (in Ukrainian), as my braised cabbage turned out to be just as I remember the incredibly more-ish side dish that my grandmother occasionally made.
Baba more frequently served a bowl of her homemade sauerkraut alongside the many dishes that filled the dining table, such as piroshki, stuffed cabbage rolls, beetroot and potato salad, and kotleti for our Sunday family meals and holiday feasts at Easter and Christmas.
Like that rich braised cabbage that made only occasional appearances alongside chicken Kiev or beef Stroganoff, creamy mashed potatoes and a classic garden salad, the cabbage vareniki wasn’t a regular at my grandparents’ dining table.
I’m not sure whether it’s because we preferred the Russian pelmeni stuffed with ground beef, minced pork and onion (much-loved by my dad and uncles, who would slather them in tomato sauce) and the mashed potato and caramelised onion vareniki and cream cheese varenyky, whose origins like in Ukraine, which were my favourites and were also enjoyed by mum and baba. (I can’t explain the gender split.)
For whatever reason explains their rare appearance – perhaps it’s simply because they were time-consuming to make and baboushka already spent days in the kitchen preparing our family feasts – these cabbage dumplings were definitely appreciated when they joined us at the table. Make them and you’ll understand why.
Just a few tips to making this cabbage dumplings recipe, as it’s really not so difficult, it just takes time. Dumplings are always best made with friends.
Tips to Making this Cabbage Dumplings Recipe for Russian-Ukrainian Vareniki with a Rich Cabbage Filling
Just a few tips to making this cabbage dumplings recipe, because while it’s a tad time-consuming to make the braised cabbage filling if you want it to have the richness and depth of flavour of the cabbage pictured in our recipe, it’s actually a very straightforward process.
Do use a mandoline for shredding the cabbage if you have one, otherwise your sharpest knife will work. Salting the cabbage first will soften it faster.
If you’re worried about the salt, skip it, it will just take you a bit longer to fry the cabbage to reach the tenderness and texture pictured.
I use tomato paste to add more richness, but a rich tomato sauce or tomato ketchup will be just fine.
Making the dumplings is not difficult, but it’s much more fun when done with families or friends.
This recipe makes around 48 dumplings, which will feed four people if you’re dishing out 12 varenyky to a plate, or six people if you’re serving eight dumplings to a plate.
While you could probably eat more pelmeni or potato varenyky than that (we can!), this cabbage filling is very rich and 8-12 is all I can eat, so take that as a warning.
The leftover dumplings will re-heat well and can even be fried. See this fried dumplings recipe for tips. Or split the dough in half and use the other half to make the sweet Ukrainian varenyky with summer berries (link above).
Cabbage Dumplings Recipe for Russian-Ukrainian Vareniki with a Rich Cabbage Filling
- 300 g white cabbage - shredded
- 300 g purple cabbage - shredded
- 2 tsp of salt
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large brown onion - diced
- 1 large carrot - grated
- 4 smoky bacon rashers - sliced into small strips
- 1 tbsp of tomato paste
- 1 tsp white pepper
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp ground sweet paprika
- ½ tsp ground allspice
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp fresh dill - roughly chopped
- 500 g All Purpose Flour - sifted
- 200 ml water
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp fresh dill - roughly chopped
- sour cream - to serve
- Make the cabbage filling the day before you make the dumplings: put the shredded cabbage in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle a teaspoon of salt over it, combine it with clean hands, then set it aside.
- In a large round flat-bottomed wok or fry pan over medium heat, heat two tablespoons of olive oil and fry the diced onion until soft, add the grated carrot, combine, and fry for a few minutes more, then transfer to the same bowl as the cabbage, combine, and set aside.
- Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the wok or pan and fry the bacon until cooked, turn the heat to low, then add the tomato paste, teaspoon of salt, white pepper, sugar, paprika, allspice, cumin, and bay leaves, combine well, then add another tablespoon of olive oil, cabbage, onion and carrot, and combine well.
- Increase heat to medium and stir frequently until the cabbage starts to brown. If needed, add a little water, stir to combine, then reduce heat to low, cover with a lid, and braise for 25 minutes or so, stirring occasionally until cabbage is tender.
- Remove the lid, taste, adjust seasoning if needed, then cook with the lid off until any liquid has reduced, stirring occasionally, until the braised cabbage is soft, rich and aromatic. When ready, remove from heat, stir in a tablespoon of chopped fresh dill, transfer to a serving bowl to cool, then refrigerate overnight or all day.
- Make the dough by pouring the flour into a large mixing bowl. Poke a hole in the centre, add the salt, then gradually pour 100 ml of water into the hole, stir with a fork to combine, then gradually add more water and stir until you have a shaggy consistency. Use your hands to combine and form into a rough ball of dough then transfer to a floured work surface.
- Knead the dough for 5 minutes or so. If it’s too dry, add a little more of the water; if too wet, add a little more flour. Don’t over-knead. Return it to the bowl, cover with a damp clean cotton cloth, and set aside to rest for a minimum of 30 minutes.
- Put a big stock pot of water onto the stove to boil and throw in a pinch of salt. Lightly dust a big tray with sifted flour. Fill a small dish with water.
- To make the vareniki casings, sprinkle a little flour onto your work surface, split the dough into quarters, and keep the dough you’re not using in the bowl under the damp cotton cloth.
- Use a rolling pin to roll a ball of dough into a large oval shape around 2mm thick. Use a 7cm diameter cookie-cutter (or glass rim) to create the dumpling rounds. Begin at the top edge and work your way around and into the centre, leaving no space between rounds. (If using a glass, twist the rim back and forth to cut through the dough.) Once done, pull the dough scraps away, roll them into a ball and pop under the cloth.
- To make the vareniki, hold a round of dough flat in the palm of one hand and use a teaspoon to scoop out 6 g of braised cabbage. Place it at the centre of the casing, fold one half side over, and pinch the edges together to seal firmly. If it doesn’t seal, rub a little water along the inside edge and press together. Lay the half-moon shaped dumpling onto the flour dusted tray. Repeat until you’ve used all the dough. It should make around 48 dumplings.
- Boil the dumplings in batches of 12 so they're not over-crowded: drop the dumplings in individually, then turn up the heat a little to maintain the boil. When the dumplings rise to the surface, give them another few minutes, then use a slotted spoon to scoop them out and transfer them to a casserole dish with a generous chunk of quality butter and a tablespoon of braised cabbage. Gently shake the casserole dish from side to side to ensure the vareniki are covered in butter and cabbage. Repeat until you’ve boiled all dumplings.
- Distribute the vareniki between the plates, scatter some braised cabbage on top, plop a generous dollop of sour cream onto each plate, sprinkle with chopped fresh dill, and serve immediately.
Please do let us know if you make this cabbage dumplings recipe for Russian-Ukrainian vareniki in the comments below, as we’d love to know how it turns out for you.