I’m yet to find a person who would categorically say that he or she doesn’t like Polish dumplings at all. Everyone has a favourite version of this dish, depending mostly on the filling we find inside the dough. The filling determines their taste.
Traditional Pierogi Fillings
Which meat is best for dumplings? Poultry, pork or maybe a mix? It really depends on what you have on hand – veal, duck, beef – anything will do.
Even better if you have some leftover meat from brewing a soup. If you cook krupnik, you’ll have ribs left. After rosół there will be some remaining poultry and beef.
To pump up the flavours, mince the meat together with sautéed onions and season well with salt and pepper. If the mix feels too dry, blend in some broth to improve the texture. Some home cooks add an egg as well, but that’s optional. Here’s a whole recipe.
2. Potato and Farmer’s Cheese (“Ruskie”)
Filling for Pierogi Ruskie consists of two key ingredients – high quality Potatoes and Farmer’s Cheese (Polish twaróg).
Don’t make the stuffing immediately after the potatoes are cooked. It’s better to cool them down first, mash properly and leave them till the next day. This procedure improves their texture (think: less slimy).
The actual proportions are a very individual matter. For some, the filling should be on a spicy side, with plenty of fried onion. For an extra punch, it’s worth adding some grated, sharp-tasting cheese!
If you prefer your Ruskie a bit sweeter, with a predominance of cheese and just a delicate potato accent – go for it.
Another classic. Not all sauerkrauts are created equal – especially when purchased ready-made. There is no shame in that of course! Just taste it beforehand to make sure it isn’t overly sour nor salty.
If it’s too sour, rinse it with cold water. Boil for half an hour until medium-soft or simply follow a full recipe here.
With mushrooms, there are two paths: typical white button (champignon) and wild mushrooms. While you can purchase regular mushrooms all year round, most wild varieties are at their peak in the fall season. That’s why we mostly use them dried or frozen.
For your weeknight dinner, simple white mushroom pierogi filling will do the job. But for Christmas… that’s a different matter.
5. Sauerkraut & Wild Mushroom (Christmas Style)
Which brings us to traditional Christmas Eve pierogi, filled with wild mushrooms and/or sauerkraut. Packed with rich umami flavour, they never fail to be the best thing on the table. Same filling can be used for Uszka dumplings, Paszteciki pasties and to stuff turkey or chicken.
While speciality ingredients such as wild mushrooms can be hard to find at your local market, it’s really worth it seek them out.
6. Sweet Cabbage
The name can be a bit misleading – sweet cabbage pierogi have no sugar added and they aren’t a dessert. The sweetness comes from using fresh cabbage instead of sauerkraut.
Since sweet cabbage filling is more delicate and light, make your pierogi a bit smaller. The texture isn’t as dense and it’s harder to assembly a large dumpling.
Dried lentils are a year-round staple in every pantry, and they work great as a pierogi filling. The type is up to you, although the most popular choice is red or green.
Lentil filling tastes great with an addition of onion, garlic and marjoram. Great vegetarian alternative to meat-based pierogi.
Sweet / Dessert
8. Sweet Farmer’s Cheese
Sweet cheese pierogi filling is a firm favourite in canteens, at milk bars and in many Polish homes. While it’s very easy to make, it can be a real challenge to recreate it abroad. The key ingredient – twaróg (also known as biały ser) is a Polish-style curd cheese that doesn’t a direct counterpart elsewhere. The closest match would be a farmer’s cheese or a thicker quark. Cottage cheese is similar too, but it doesn’t work well as a pierogi filling.
While almost any recipe calls for sugar, some will also require an egg yolk, raisins or instant custard powder.
9. Fruit (Blueberry/Bilberry, Strawberry, Plum/Prune…)
Fruit Pierogi are a classic in the summer kitchen. When the hot weather takes its’ toll, and the market stalls are full of fresh strawberries, apricots and cherries – it’s worth serving them instead of heavy and meaty dinner.
Fruit, even sweet and ripe, get sour when cooked. Sugar is added to balance it out.
To elevate the flavours even more, add a pinch of cinnamon or vanilla. To tie in the juices that will flow out of the fruit while cooking, blend in a spoon or two of potato starch. Here’s blueberry pierogi in action.
10. Poppy seed & Dried Fruit (Christmas Style)
Poppy seed must appear on the Polish Christmas Eve table, in one form or another. It symbolises fertility, prosperity and wealth.
While pierogi with sauerkraut and mushrooms are a more popular choice around this festive time, the poppy seed version makes a great alternative. Poppy seed filling is often enriched with dried fruit, almonds and prunes.
Hip New Fillings
11. Veggies (Pumpkin, Sweet Potato, Spinach)
Any mix of flavours that works in Italian ravioli, will work great as a pierogi filling. Spinach and ricotta, pumpkin and parmesan, avocado and feta, garlic and shrimp… possibilities are endless.
12. Smoked Cheese & Cranberry Sauce
This combination was featured in Jamie’s video with Damian (winner of the 4th edition of Polish MasterChef). Plenty of commentators pointed out that this isn’t a traditional Polish filling. This might be true, but it is definitely a recipe worth trying.
Are your pierogi assembled? Next, check out our post on how to cook pierogi – in this case they’ll be fresh, so boil them first.
Having Trouble with Picking the Right Pierogi Filling for You?
If you can’t decide, let the fate pick one for you. Here’s my tip – find your zodiac sign and you’ll see a suggested filling :)