The concept of the pierogi is quite simple: A pocket of unleavened dough, which is then boiled or fried. But in the simplicity is the brilliance, with endless toppings and fillings possible for this dumpling of delight. The boundless possibilities making this simple snack into a not-so-simple obsession, one which we delight in honing to the next level in this guide to building the best pierogies.
The Poaching Water
To have a pierogi, we must make a pierogi, and for that, boil the pierogi first. Make sure it’s a rolling boil. "One trick that you may find handy is to use some neutral oil in the water, this could help keep the pierogies from sticking to each other. Always make sure the water tastes like the ocean. My favorite salt to cook with is kosher salt," says Chef Stephen Yen, the Executive Chef of Paige Hospitality Group (includes NYC hotspots like The Ainsworth, The Chester, Southampton Social Club, and 121 Fulton Street).
Yen prefers a basic recipe for the dough. "It's just all-purpose flour, water, oil, salt. Keep it simple! If you really think you're a kitchen guru or you just want to "turk out," add some egg yolks, or do some math: The liquid in the dough can be replaced with a steeped milk. By steeped milk, I'm saying take some milk, add some fresh herbs, and let it simmer till you like it. Let your dough rest." says Yen.
Listen to the Oil
Make sure your oil is hot and your pierogies are dry. Remember, water and hot oil don’t like to play together, says Yen. Listen to the oil: crisp, rapid snaps and pops of oil is a great thing to hear. "Please try and use a heavy, clean cast-iron skillet. Heat a neutral oil to at least 375-degrees Fahrenheit, use an infrared thermometer for surface temp. Fry on either side to develop a golden brown sear on both sides," says Yen.
The endless options for filling is part of what make pierogies so spectacular. When preparing at home, there is no reason to only prepare one filling. In fact, use your time wisely and prepare 6–8 different types of fillings, then use another block of your time to assemble the pierogies, says Chef Yen. "Keep in mind the traditional way of making pierogies is being placed on the side when you try this technique. Frying or a combination of boiling and frying is the typical way to cook pierogies. Some sweet fillings would include seasonal fruit in a combination of fresh and cooked, or a fresh whipped sweet cheese. In my pierogies you will find the usual suspects: garlic, caramelized onions, and a mushroom duxelle. Those are the background ingredients that allow the main ingredient to really stand out. Today it's the new kid on the block: 'Nduja is a spreadable salami that I now put on everything. Chefs are known to put bacon on everything … I put 'Nduja on my bacon!" says Yen.
But while some chefs are putting crazy new spins on pierogies, others are staying tried and true to the classic flavors.
"I am often asked: What is your favorite food? Although I always answer Japanese, the real response should be pierogi, the delectable Polish dumplings that my mother, Big Martha, made so well in many incarnations: potato, cabbage, blueberry, peach, plum, and apricot!” says Martha Stewart, entrepreneur, television host, and bestselling author.
"If Mom's recipes are better in my mind than others I have tried, it is because she was uncompromising in her fastidious search for perfect ingredients. She insisted, for example, that the cabbages be on the old side — drier and tastier and whiter than just-picked green cabbage — that the potatoes be yellow fleshed and rich, and that the butter and sour cream come from a local dairy, not the supermarket,” says Stewart, who considers the sweet cabbage filling to be her favorite pierogi incarnation.
Chef Stephen Yen’s Shredded Pork Shoulder and 'Nduja Pierogi
"I learned how to make pierogies from my Polish friends growing up, and since we have started to mash up cuisines in NYC, I've decided to add my new favorite ingredient: "'Nduja" a spreadable salami from Italy!" – Chef Stephen Yen
Ingredients for Dough:
- 375 grams of all-purpose flour
- 8 grams salt
- 3/4 cup of boiling water
- 1/4 cup of cold water
- 4 grams canola oil
- 30 grams of 'Nduja, (Do not cook this) combine with shredded pork for filling
- 2 pounds of Pork Shoulder, deboned and clean
- 5 grams fennel
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 pc white onion, diced
- 1 pc carrot, diced
- 1 stalk of celery, diced
- 4 grams of ground black pepper
- 10 grams of sugar/salt mixture
- 1 cup of white cooking wine
- 2 cups of chicken stock
- 2 bay leaves
Instructions for Filling:
- Sear the pork on all sides, add in vegetables and cook for 5 mins on medium heat.
- Add in wine, chicken stock, and rest of the ingredients.
- Cover with tight lid in a Dutch oven and cook for 1.5 hours at 300 degrees.
- Remove pork and shred, combine with 'Nduja and chill.
Instructions for Pierogi:
- Combine all-purpose Flour and hot water and combine in a mixing bowl, there will be lumps.
- Cover and let sit for 5 mins to let the gluten relax.
- Add in cold water and oil then mix until smooth.
- Let sit for another 5 mins.
- Get your countertop ready to roll the dough, place flour down on top a clean, flat surface.
- The dough is now ready to be rolled out.
- 1/10th of a inch thick, use a 3-inch ring mold (cookie cutter) to portion. Re-combine the trimmings and roll again.
- For each pierogi, place 1 teaspoon of filling, use an egg wash to seal.
- You can make pierogies ahead of time and place in freezer.
- Boil the pierogies for 5 mins or until tender, dry for next process.
- Pan-fry the pierogies on both sides and serve with sour cream.
Prep: 20 mins
Total Time: 40 mins
Yield: Makes 12
Martha Stewart's Potato and Garlic Pierogi
The Polish version of a dumpling, these versatile potato pierogies can be made with an array of fillings. (This recipe also appears here.)
- 1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 6 garlic cloves, sliced
- Coarse salt, to taste
- 1/4 cup (1/2 ounce) freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 12 egg roll wrappers, cut into 4 1/2-inch rounds
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
- Simmer potatoes and garlic in salted water until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain, and pass hot potatoes and garlic through a ricer or a food mill. Stir in cheese and 4 tablespoons butter, then the cream. Season with salt and pepper.
- Place 1 heaping tablespoon of potato mixture onto center of bottom half of each round. Brush edges with water. Fold top half over filling, and press to force out air and seal. Repeat.
- Bring remaining tablespoon of butter and the water to a simmer in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add pierogi, cover, and steam for 4 minutes. Uncover, and brown until golden, about 3 minutes per side. Top with chives.