This dumpling soup recipe for Siberian pelmeni soup with fresh dill and sour cream makes the delicious Russian dumplings called pelmeni in the Siberian style. Petite pelmeni stuffed with a savoury ground beef, minced pork and soft fried onion filling are served in a buttery broth with cracked pepper, dollops of sour cream, and plenty of fresh fragrant dill.
As a child, I only knew three things about Siberia – it was one of the coldest places on earth, it was home to horrific gulags where people were forced into back-breaking work until it killed them, and that Siberia was the reason my Russian great-grandmother never smiled.
My grandmother on the other hand, always had a twinkle in her eye and dimples when she smiled. Baboushka didn’t serve pelmeni in soup. So I had no idea this bone-chilling cold place called Siberia, long associated with brutal labour camps, produced such warming bowls of dumpling goodness, known outside those frozen lands as Siberian pelmeni.
If you’ve cooked and eaten the Russian and Ukrainian dumplings called pelmeni and vareniki and you’ve loved them, and you’re as devoted to soups as I am, then you’re going to adore this Russian dumpling soup recipe for Siberian pelmeni.
I’ll tell you more about this dumpling soup recipe in a moment, and you can click through to this Russian pelmeni recipe for the history of pelmeni, but, first, I have a favour to ask.
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Now let me tell you more about my great-grandmother and this dumpling soup recipe for Siberian pelmeni soup.
Dumpling Soup Recipe for Siberian Pelmeni Soup with Fresh Dill and Sour Cream
Before I tell you all about my Russian dumpling soup recipe for Siberian pelmeni, I want to tell you about my great grandparents. We used to call my great grandmother ‘baboushka’ and my baboushka ‘baba’ to prevent any confusion, although the two women couldn’t have been more different. Baba was always happy – until her oldest son, my uncle Sandy, died, and then she was inconsolably sad, as we all were.
Before that, before the event that changed our family forever, baba was perpetually cheery. Her mother, my great grandmother, was melancholic at best. To my young self she seemed so miserable, so heartbroken, that nothing could make her smile – even a small stubborn child who just wanted her to play, and tried to drag her by her tiny wrist, with its translucent skin, from her chilly bedroom out into the sunshine and warmth outside.
Dressed in a floral woollen headscarf, long-sleeved shirt, thick cardigan, and little fleece-lined boots that peeked out from beneath her heavy ankle-length skirt, baboushka dressed for the bitter-cold of Siberia, no matter the season in Australia, even in the sultry summer in Sydney.
Yet my great grandmother, Daria, had never been to Siberia. She and my grandparents, who identified as Russian, were born during the Russian Empire, in the lands we now know as Ukraine, but which had been ruled by everyone from the Scythians and Vikings to the Mongols and Ottoman Turks.
My great grandmother was born in the late 1800s and her daughter, my baboushka, was born on the eve of the October Revolution. Aside from treasured memories of Black Sea holidays and summers spent by the sea on the Crimea, much of baba’s youth was marked by war and tales of escape from misery and hunger. I think that’s why baba was always cooking and feeding us all like there was no tomorrow.
I can’t recall exactly when my baba and baboushka were separated from my great grandfather. All I know was that he had been sent to a Siberian gulag. My baba’s papa was one of many millions of dissidents forced into exile and hard labour in the brutal prison camps established by Lenin and maintained by Stalin on the icy windswept tundra of Siberia.
If the bitter cold didn’t kill the Siberian exiles, the gruelling work did, which is why my family thought my great grandfather was dead. Baba and baboushka had tried to find him for many years, even after the war, when they and papa and my mother, then just a baby, had sailed on the Anna Salen from Naples to Sydney and settled in Australia.
Then one day, a telegram arrived from the Red Cross. They’d located him. My great grandfather was alive and well. He’d somehow survived Siberia’s crushing gulags and the bitter cold. However, thinking his wife and daughter had died during the war, my great grandfather remarried. He had a new wife. A new family. A new life.
Perhaps that’s why baboushka never made Siberian pelmeni.
My baboushka’s repertoire included Russian dishes and Ukrainian dishes and dishes from the cuisines of other nations that were part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). We had relatives in Uzbekistan, for instance, and baba made plov when my great aunt visited from Tashkent. But baba’s repertoire didn’t stretch all the way to Siberia.
Baba never made Russian dumplings in broth, which is essentially what Siberian pelmeni is, pelmeni served in a soup that was made from the water in which the dumplings are boiled. My mother and I slurped our first Siberian pelmeni soups in Russia not Australia, on a holiday that Terence and I took mum on after dad died.
So this dumpling soup recipe for Siberian pelmeni is a recipe I’ve recreated from my memory of those Siberian pelmeni soups we slurped in Moscow and St Petersburg. Maybe one day, in the future, in a post-Putin Russia, I’ll get to hug a bowl of this comforting, warming dumpling soup in Siberia.
Who knows… we can only live in hope, as my great-grandmother did for so long.
Tips to Making this Dumpling Soup Recipe for Siberian Pelmeni Soup with Fresh Dill and Sour Cream
I’ve got some important tips to making this dumpling soup recipe for Siberian pelmeni soup to share, so please do read this as you have some decisions to make, starting with how many pelmeni you’re going to make.
My dumpling soup recipe should make you around 50 dumplings or so if you use a 7cm diameter cookie-cutter – or rim of a glass turned upside down – to create the dumpling casings in the thickness of the pelmeni in the photos in this post.
If you’re serving your Siberian pelmeni soup as a hearty main course with bread, dill pickles, perhaps a classic garden salad, then you’ll probably want a dozen or so dumplings per bowl, which means you’ll get four bowls of soup.
If you’re serving the soup as a starter to heavier courses such as beef Stroganoff, chicken Kiev, Russian kotleti, etc, or you’re serving it as one of an array of dishes to be shared family-style, then you’ll probably only distribute six dumplings per bowl, which will give you eight bowls of dumpling soup.
Now, having said all that – along with the fact that the pelmeni are served in a soup – a more delicate and smaller size dumpling with a thinner casing is what distinguishes Siberian pelmeni from traditional Russian pelmeni (in my experience, anyway) so you may wish to go for a 6cm diameter and, in that case, you will end up with more dumplings.
So what do you do with all these dumplings if there are only two of you? You could halve or quarter the quantities, of course, or you could simply make 50 dumplings and freeze half, dusted with flour in sealed plastic zip-lock bags or, if you have a large freezer, on covered trays.
Or you could boil them all, eat half as Siberian pelmeni soup the first day, refrigerate the rest, and fry the remaining pelmeni the next day. I’ve got a recipe and tips for fried pelmeni here. They’re fantastic with a simple garden salad or in winter, served alongside stuffed cabbage rolls or piroshki.
If you have any of the ground meat filling left – sometimes we do and sometimes we don’t – this also freezes well in sealed zip-lock bags. And if you don’t want to make as many as 50 dumplings – though the more you make the easier it gets and faster you become – you can wrap the dough in cling wrap and refrigerate it or freeze that, too.
A quick couple of tips to making the dough. Firstly, don’t add all the water at once. Sometimes I find, depending on the flour I’m using, that I don’t need as much as I’ve specified in the recipe, and sometimes I find that I need a little more. So gradually add a third of the water to the flour, combine the two with your hand, then gradually add another third of the water, continuing to combine until you have a texture that you can begin to knead.
If the dough is not there yet, gradually add more water. But don’t feel obligated to add all the water if you don’t need it. Use your best judgement as all flours are little different. If you add all the water recommended and the dough is too sticky, simply add more flour to get the right texture.
Feel free to get creative with both the Siberian pelmeni filling and the soup. When my parents made pelmeni at home, my dad would season the filling far heavier than baboushka would, adding a lot more salt and pepper, herbs and spices, and even soy sauce.
We use a big 11.5 litre stock pot or soup pot to boil our pelmeni and other dumplings to get that rolling boil and give the dumplings lots of space. The pelmeni move around the water quite a bit, so it’s easier to tell when they’ve properly risen to the surface when they’re in a big pot.
A slotted spoon is super-handy for scooping out the cooked pelmeni. Make sure to warm up two big casserole pots with lids in the oven to keep the cooked pelmeni warm while you’re boiling the other batches. Then a short time before serving slide the soup bowls in the oven too.
My grandmother served fresh fragrant dill picked directly from their garden with her pelmeni and soups, as do I, however, Siberia is much too cold to grow herbs such as dill for more than a few months of the year, so Siberian pelmeni probably wasn’t always served with dill. If you’re not a dill-lover, replace it with other fragrant herbs. Flat leaf parsley works perfectly well, but I prefer celery leaf and stalks, which I roughly chop.
Dumpling Soup Recipe for Siberian Pelmeni Soup with Fresh Dill and Sour Cream
- 500 g All Purpose Flour
- 175 ml water
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 2 tbsp virgin olive oil
- 1 large white onion - finely diced
- 3 garlic cloves - smashed then finely chopped
- 250 g pork mince
- 250 g beef mince
- 2 tsp sea salt
- 2 tsp white pepper
- 2 tsp ground paprika
- 4 tbsp butter – for the casserole pots - salted or unsalted, as you like
- 8 litres of water
- 2 tsp sea salt
- 4 bay leaves
- 4 pork/chicken bouillon/stock cubes - such as Knorr, or liquid stock
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 tbsp fresh dill - roughly chopped
- More fresh dill - roughly chopped
- Sour cream
- In a large mixing bowl, make the pelmeni dough so it can rest while you make the dumpling filling. Sift the flour into the bowl, create a well in the centre, add the salt, then gradually pour one-third of the water in and use your hand to combine the two.
- Gradually add another third of the water, continuing to combine until you have a texture that can be kneaded. If it’s not there yet, gradually add more water, but don’t add it all if it’s not needed. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour.
- Transfer the dough to your work-space and knead for a few minutes – but don’t over-knead – and shape the dough into a ball. Return it to the bowl, cover with a clean damp cotton tea towel, and leave to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Make the dumpling filling by heating the cooking oil in a pan over medium until hot, then fry the diced onion until soft and translucent. Add the garlic, combine, and continue to fry until fragrant, taking care not to brown the onion or garlic. Transfer to a bowl to cool.
- In a mixing bowl, use a wooden spoon to combine half the onion and garlic with the raw ground pork and ground beef, salt, pepper, and paprika. Pop the bowl in the fridge while you make the dumpling casings.
- Turn the oven onto 160°C / 320°F and slide in two lidded casserole pots so they heat as the oven heats.
- To prepare your dumpling casings, sprinkle your kitchen workspace with a little flour so that the dough doesn’t stick to the surface. Also sprinkle some flour on a couple of large trays where you’ll place the finished dumplings.
- Split your ball of dough into quarters and roll into four balls; keep one and return the rest to the bowl and cover with the damp tea towel.
- Use a rolling pin to roll the ball of dough into a large oval shape to around 2mm thickness – do not turn it over; the exterior can be dusted in flour, but not the interior – then starting at the top edge of the sheet of dough, cut out discs by using a 7cm diameter cookie-cutter or rim of a glass turned upside down, twisting the glass a little to cut through the dough.
- Repeat, working your way around the sheet of dough, leaving as little space as you can between discs, until you’ve finished. Once done, roll the leftover scraps of dough into a ball and pop it into the bowl.
- Place a disc of dough – the dumpling casing – on the palm of your hand and use a teaspoon to scoop out some savoury ground meat mixture, measure it on your kitchen scales, aiming for around 7g per teaspoon, and place it at the centre of a casing. Do this for each casing to ensure they’re of equal size, working quickly so the dough doesn’t dry out.
- Holding a casing in one hand, fold half the casing over the filling with your other hand, then, starting at one end, pinch the edges together to seal. If your dough has rested and is smooth, soft and elastic, it should seal easily. If it doesn’t, dip a finger into a dish of water and rub it along the interior edge to seal. The dumpling should be a half-moon shape. Bring the two ends together and press to seal them to form the shape pictured. Pop the finished dumpling on a flour-dusted tray.
- Repeat until you’ve used all the casings to create dumplings, then repeat the four steps above until you’ve used up all your balls of dough and have trays full of dumplings.
- Before you begin boiling the dumplings, add a tablespoon of butter to each of the casserole pots and distribute the remaining fried onion and garlic between the pots. Take one pot out of the oven and keep it beside the stove.
- To an 11.5 litre stock/soup pot, add 8 litres of hot water, sea salt, bay leaves, pork/chicken bouillon/stock cubes (first dissolved in a little boiled water), freshly ground black pepper to taste, and a generous tablespoon of chopped fresh dill, bring it to a boil, then turn the heat down to a gentle rolling boil, to reduce the risk of the dumpling casings tearing apart.
- Slide a batch of 10 dumplings off the tray into the water then increase the heat to maintain the gentle rolling boil. When the dumplings rise to the surface, give them a minute or two, then use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a casserole pot. Gently shake the pot from side to side to ensure the pelmeni are covered in butter and return it to the oven to keep them warm.
- Repeat the last two steps until you’ve boiled all the pelmeni, then drop another tablespoon of butter into each casserole pot, put the lids on and return the pots to the oven until you’re ready to serve. Slide the soup bowls into the oven to warm them.
- Distribute the pelmeni between the bowls, ladle the soup onto each bowl, generously sprinkle more fresh dill on top, along with more freshly cracked pepper if you like, plop on some dollops of sour cream, and serve immediately with slices of sourdough or rye bread.
Published 10 April 2022; Updated and Republished 31 May 2023
Please do let us know if you make this Russian dumpling soup recipe for Siberian pelmeni in the comments below as we love to hear how our recipes turn out for you.