Eastern European

How to Make Pierogi the Polish Way

March 30, 2016

I was taught to make pierogi by Monika Satur-Szydlowski, an amazing Polish woman who learned to make them when she was a child, cooking with her mother and grandmother in the town of Opatów.

Monika grew up on a large farm where they grew everything they ate—she learned to tend the soil, feed animals, and cook breakfast, lunch, and dinner without stepping in a grocery store.

She talks about how the food always tasted so fresh: a true farm-to-table experience before it was trendy. As she explained, “The food made us strong. I never caught a cold until I left Poland!” Her grandmother, who also lives on the farm, still tends the land today, at 89 years old. “All she needs is one vitamin a day and the food of our farm to be healthy!”

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“It is all in the dough. Perhaps once I perfect it, my brother will have to proclaim me as the Most Awesome Brother In order to get his periodic fix of pierogis!”
— CampCook
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Cooking with her grandmother and mother are fond memories for Monika. She learned how to make many Polish specialties like pierogis, sauerkraut, and the delicious soups served every night for dinner.

Pierogi—little pasta dumplings filled with potatoes and lightly dressed with onions and crispy Polish bacon—are a family staple in many Polish homes, and Monika showed me exactly how her grandmother makes them, which is simple and utterly delicious.

Monika starts with boiling water and a specialty flour called Maka Puszysta, a very fine flour made just for pierogi dough. If you don’t have a Polish grocery nearby, Monika suggests using extra fine flour (like Italian "00" flour used for pasta-making) as a substitute, as long as there are no additives. The boiling water helps create an elastic dough that doesn’t open up when cooking, so don’t skip that step!

According to Monika, Polish women take great pride in their pierogi and personalize them by creating a fancy border to seal them. Monika showed me how her family pinches the dough to create a scalloped edge; others roll the dough as they seal it to create a rope-like border, similar to that of an empanada. You can always tell whose mother made the pierogi based on the border. It’s the family seal… literally.

A couple of notes on the recipe:

  • To save time, Monika sautés enough onion for both the filling and the topping with the bacon while the dough rests. While the bacon goes only on top of the pierogi, half the onion goes into the filling, as well. So she cooks the onion and bacon together—so that the alliums have a nice flavor—then removes half of the onion for the filling.
  • Also, because Polish food is very simple and not very seasoned, Monika makes sure to heavily salt the cooking water. That way, the dough absorbs a bit of the salt and has more flavor. She hates a bland pierogi! 
- And, much to her mother's chagrin, she loves making riffs on the family recipe. She will sauté spinach with Parmesan for the filling. In addition, Polish people make pierogi with a number of sweet fillings for the holidays. You can get really creative once you master the dough.
  • Finally, since the recipe makes 50 pierogi, Monika suggests freezing some for when you get a craving. She seals them in freezer bags and boils them whenever she wants a quick weeknight dinner.

21 Comments

JK April 1, 2018
"Because Polish food is very simple and not very seasoned..." This seems a strange characterization to me. "Simple" relative to what? Żurek? Bigos? Gołąbki? Makoviec? Pierogi? Barszcz (Polish style, that is, with the fermentation (which the eastern Slavic variants skip) Kartacze? Sękacz? These are some of the most complex dishes one will encounter anywhere--and this is traditional fare--not some sort of wild modern exotic fusion cooking. And as for not seasoned, again, in contrast to what? No, Polish food isn't Indian food and it's doesn't have the spice or heat that characterize many tropical culinary traditions. But it's not like it's flavorless an bland. Normal north- to Central European food on the "spice" scale. Any blander or less seasoned than German, English or Ukrainian food? Not really, no. Polish food is quite good and actually has a solid reputation. One finds it to be a common reaction that most people unfamiliar with it who try it tend to be favorably impressed with it. It's a mistake to sell Polish food short. It will stand up to any food anywhere.
 
fur8elise July 31, 2016
How many pounds/ grams of potatoes(to account for different sizes)?
 
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Anna F. July 31, 2016
I would say between 5 to 6 lbs with each potato being between 1/4 to 1/2 lb.
 
janet V. April 4, 2016
Like Carol Anne, I too grew up in the Chicago Metro area in a Polish family. We had pierogi especially at holidays or whenever my mom or aunt had the time to devote to them. Potato and Sauerkraut were the favorites, but my dad liked meat ones made with ground pig parts, mostly snouts. We served ours boiled then covered with diced onion browned in copious amounts of butter. Thank you for the dough recipe as I did not save my moms.
 
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Anna F. April 6, 2016
great Jan. the dough recipe is very simple. Hope you try them soon!
 
Carol A. April 4, 2016
I grew up eating my grandmother's who was from the polish neighborhoods in Chicago. I never heard of potatoes in the filling. We had sauerkraut with onion or farmer's cheese. Butter is what elevates these delightlful little pouches!
 
gabrielle April 3, 2016
I grew up eating pierogi in my hometown in Pennsylvania, where there is a large Polish population, and I've missed eating these since moving to NY. I cannot wait to make these! I have a feeling these will transport me back to my childhood. Thanks for sharing!
 
Luciana D. April 3, 2016
So simple, so delicious! Great recipe to make with the fam! We ate some straight away and put the rest in the freezer. It seems like a great weeknight item to quickly defrost and cook!
 
Jennifer K. April 3, 2016
my family is of polish heritage too. our pierogies always have a filling with polish mushrooms, onion, and sauerkraut. yum!
 
Monika S. April 3, 2016
I love those too !!!!!<br /><br />
 
Jen I. April 3, 2016
These look amazing! What other filling variations do you recommend?
 
Monika S. April 3, 2016
I like to do meet with sauerkraut, farmer cheese with sugar and cinnamon, strawberry ones are good too ( cover strawberry in sugar with little bit of flour) or do same with blueberries. Let me know if you have any more questions.
 
Marilyn April 3, 2016
I am Polish and have never heard of a spinach filling much less with Parmesan cheese! Olive oil in the dough? Sour cream is much more common to the old world country dough.
 
Monika S. April 3, 2016
o yes, if my hears about spinach in pierogis she gets mad :) but yes, I do this now, it is my way of cooking and experimenting :) I believe that my grandma always added some oil to pierogies. Maybe it was sunflower or vegetable, but always been there. Every cook has own recipe for success :) Smacznego i dziekuje za komentarz !!! <br />
 
Monika S. April 3, 2016
* I wanted to say , when my mom hears ... <br />
 
chefrockyrd April 3, 2016
Can I use unbleached flour or bread flour in place of the 00? I can get that but have to travel a distance to find it. I can get it on line too, but want to make them like NOW!!!
 
Author Comment
Anna F. April 3, 2016
You can try but in order to get the elasticity of the dough, a very fine flour is needed. However if you do and are successful, let me know!
 
Karen S. April 3, 2016
We never had special flour when I was a kid making these with family and they came out great. My favorite recipe uses sour cream, butter and an extra egg yoke in the dough. Tender and hold together well.
 
CampCook April 3, 2016
One of my fondest memories of growing up were my mom and dad's pierogis! They would spend time in the kitchen together making these delicious dumplings for us kids. Today, my brother and I still fight for the Frozen pierogis Mom hides in the freezer. My favorites were the potato and sauerkraut or ricotta stuffed pierogis. Or maybe the potato and onion. Actually, they are all great! We have also perfected the method of cooking these tasty little treats and, yes, it includes butter. Can't wait to give this recipe a try. It is all in the dough. Perhaps once I perfect it, my brother will have to proclaim me as the Most Awesome Brother In order to get his periodic fix of pierogis!
 
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Anna F. April 3, 2016
I can't wait for you to try these. Let me know what you think. For the dough, Monika insists its all about using hot water. They are delicious!!!
 
Monika S. April 3, 2016
I hope all of you will try that !!! Pierogies are easier to make that you think!!!