This traditional Russian potato vareniki recipe makes half-moon shaped Russian and Ukrainian dumplings filled with mashed potato and caramelised onion that are eaten with sour cream and fresh dill. My baboushka made a big batch along with meat-filled pelmeni for family feasts. Boiled the first time they’re cooked, they’re fantastic fried the next day.
Our Russian potato vareniki recipe makes the boiled Ukrainian and Russian dumplings stuffed with rustic mashed potato and caramelised onion that my Odessa-born grandmother used to make for family meals. Especially for the Orthodox Christmas and Easter, and the seemingly never-ending Sunday lunches that turned into dinners.
As a child, it was my responsibility to set the dining table and carry the dishes from the kitchen to dining room – everything from baboushka’s Russian pelmeni and stuffed cabbage rolls, beetroot potato salad and classic garden salad, and Russian kotleti and piroshki – and I have to confess that I set the casserole pot filled to the brim with potato vareniki as close to my place setting as possible.
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Russian Potato Vareniki Recipe for Mash and Caramelised Onion Filled Dumplings
This Russian potato vareniki recipe makes vareniki in the style that my Russian-Ukrainian grandmother called ‘Russian’. Because vareniki or varenyky in Ukrainian, is a dish that originated in Ukraine, although the dumplings are beloved not only to Ukrainians and Russians, but many other Slavic peoples.
My baboushka would serve the vareniki swimming in butter in a casserole pot, sprinkled with fresh fragrant dill, and accompanied by dishes of sour cream (smetana).
If our whole family was gathering – my grandparents, my parents, uncles and their partners – baba would make big batches of potato vareniki, vareniki filled with ‘farmers cheese’ that was like a firm salty cottage cheese, a more Ukrainian-style cabbage-filled varenyky, and minced meat filled Russian pelmeni, as we all had our favourites.
My dad, uncles and husband Terence loved the meat-filled pelmeni, my mother, I adored the mashed potato filled vareniki, and baba and mum loved the cheese filled vareniki. Papa had a little of each. He was actually a light eater as he grazed throughout the day and I think he was happiest eating the Russian garden salad made from the veggies he grew in the backyard.
Any leftovers would be sent home in casserole pots (my baboushka seemed to have an endless supply of the things) or refried the next day for breakfast, brunch or lunch (depending on how bad the hangovers were!) for those lucky enough to stay overnight.
Here’s my baboushka’s Russian potato vareniki recipe for the half-moon shaped dumplings filled with mashed potato and caramelised onion, eaten with smetana and perfumed dill, that was my favourite dish of all the Russian dishes that my baba made.
Russian Potato Vareniki Recipe
- 500 g All Purpose Flour
- 200 ml water
- 1 tsp of salt
- 1 tbsp neutral cooking oil
- 1 large white onion - finely chopped
- 500 g potatoes
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp pepper
- Put your potatoes on to boil.
- While the potatoes are boiling, make the dough by pouring the flour onto your kitchen workspace into a mound. Poke a large hole in the centre and add a pinch of salt, then pour 200ml of water into the hole, and using your hands, start to combine. (If you prefer, you can do this in a mixing bowl instead of on the bench, bring it out of the bowl to knead, then return it to the bowl to let it rest.)
- Knead the dough for a few minutes. If it’s too dry, add more of the water; too wet, add a little more flour. Don’t over-knead. Once combined and you can form the dough into a ball, wrap it in cling wrap, and set it aside to rest for 30 minutes.
- Drain the potatoes and while they’re cooling, fry the finely chopped onion in cooking oil until it has browned and caramelised.
- Remove the potato skins and mash the potato, then add the caramelised onion, season with salt and pepper, combine well, and set aside.
- To prepare your vareniki casings, sprinkle your kitchen workspace with a little flour so that the dough doesn’t stick to the surface. Split your ball of dough into quarters and put a clean tea towel or cloth over the dough you’re not using.
- Use a rolling pin, roll a ball of dough out 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.
- Use the rim of a glass (7cm diameter), turned upside down, to create the dumpling rounds. Begin at the top edge and work your way around and then into the centre, leaving no space between rounds. Twist the glass back and forth a few times if necessary to cut through the dough.
- Once you’re done, pull the leftover dough scraps away, and roll them all into a ball and pop that under the cloth with the rest of the dough. It shouldn’t, but if the dough feels dry, dampen the tea towel, or wrap each ball in cling wrap or aluminium foil.
- To fill your vareniki casings, scoop out some mashed potato mixture with a teaspoon, aiming for around 7gms per teaspoon. Place the mixture on the centre of the casing, and do this for each casing, to ensure they’re of equal size. Work quickly, though, so the casings don’t dry out.
- Holding one filled casing in your left hand, fold half over with your right hand, then starting at one end, pinch the sides together, working your way down to the other side until it’s completely sealed. If your dough rested and is nice and soft and smooth, it should seal easily.
- If it isn’t, pour some water in a small dish, dip your pointer finger into the dish, and rub a little water (not too much) along the interior edge and that should do the trick. You should have a dumpling that is half-moon shaped. Lay it on a tray lightly dusted with flour. Repeat.
- Bring a big pot of water to a boil, throw in a pinch of salt, turn the heat down a little to a gentle boil (so as not to tear the casings apart), then carefully slide the dumplings into the water and turn up the heat a little.
- After the dumplings rise to the surface, give them 2-3 minutes, then scoop them out and pop them into a casserole dish with a couple of generous chunks of quality butter. When they’re all in the dish, gently move it from side to side to ensure the vareniki are completely covered in butter.
- Take another ball of dough and repeat that process to make another batch. Any leftover vareniki can be fried the next day. Alternatively, you can keep balls of dough wrapped in cling wrap in the fridge overnight and make more batches the next day. You can also freeze finished batches by freezing them on their tray first, then when frozen put them into ziplock bags.
- Serve vareniki in a casserole dish at the centre of the table with a big bowl of sour cream sprinkled with fresh dill and a selection of other Russian dishes to be shared family-style, or portion out on individual plates, plopping a dollop of sour cream and sprinkle of dill on each plate.
Please do let us know in the comments below if you make our Russian potato vareniki recipe as we’d love to know how it turns out for you.