What Are Pierogi? Platefuls of Polish Perfection

By Abi King | Europe

Apr 18

Pierogi with chivesWhat are pierogi?

Alright, there’s a chance I’ve gone overboard with the Ps in that headline. Yet ever since I wrote P-p-p-p-p-p-pick up a pepper all those years ago, I’ve been itching to let my little finger get another chance at glory on the keyboard.

Pierogi. Poland. I’m afraid it got carried away.

Pierogi provided one of the purest pleasures (OK I’ll stop now. I’m starting to get on my own nerves…) that travel can produce: a brand new experience.

Plural for pieróg, these crescent-shaped dumplings are practically Poland’s national dish. Made from unleavened dough, they’re first boiled and then baked or fried and contain a lucky dip of fillings: oozing sweet-sour cheese, tangy cabbage or sauerkraut, slightly spiced meat, potato or more.

They’ve got that perfect blend of comfort food without the weight of stodge. Plus, they have the element of surprise as you never know which one you’re going to get. And finally? They come with a wonderful range of trivia.

Did you know, for example, that pierogi have their own saint? (St Hyacinth, or Swiety Jacek, in case that piece of life knowledge passed you by. It’s used in an expression to mean “good grief!”)

And how about this: the Proto-Slavic root “pir” means festivity in its various Slavic cognates across Eurasia?

And this: the words in that last sentence actually mean something to some people?!

Yes, a pieróg is no ordinary dumpling.

It’s a delicious, soft, tangy, crispy treat of a dish. And I only wish I’d heard of it sooner.

PS – It’s also suspiciously similar to gyoza in Japan and virtually nothing like the dumplings in Hungary or the ravioli in Italy, which is what the respectable food folk compare it to. If I were tracing the ancestry of food, I’d be placing good money on discovering an illegitimate fling between Japan and modern day Poland somewhere in the 18th century. Like ravioli indeed…Pah!

Disclosure: I travelled to Warsaw as a guest of the Polish National Tourist Office. I paid for the pierogi myself ;)


About the Author

Abigail King is a writer and photographer who swapped a career as a doctor for a life on the road. Now published by Lonely Planet, the BBC, CNN, National Geographic Traveler & more, she feels most at home experimenting here: covering unusual journeys, thoughtful travel and luxury on www.insidethetravellab.com

Darlene Foster April 18, 2012

I am delighted to read this article as I was raised on pierogi. It is my ultimate comfort food and I always have some homemade peropgi in my freezer for when I am in need. We are not polish but many eastern europeans make this dish (most likely borrowed form the Polish) Now were can I get some right now as my mouth is watering!

    Abi King April 19, 2012

    I think I’m going to need to learn how to make these myself…

      Darlene Foster April 19, 2012

      I have tried but they are never as good as mom’s or grandma’s. My daughter-in-law makes some mean perogies though.

    lara dunston April 25, 2012

    Great post, Abi! So glad you loved them.

    Darlene, I totally agree! I was raised on pierogi also, although my grandparents are Russian so they call them pelmeni when they’re meat based and vareniki if they’re cheese (cream cheese, not yellow) or potato-based. They’re the same as pierogi in terms of shape and texture, just different stuffings.

    I used to make them with my mother and grandmother as a child, and a couple of times my husband and I made them when we were younger, but it had been ages, so when we were in Krakow in a couple of years ago we asked the chef of one of the best pierogi restaurants in the city to teach us some of his secrets… and it all came back.

    Abi, hope you don’t mind me sharing – here’s a recipe and some chef secrets: http://bitly.com/fYS8BJ

    P.S. Abi, Terry and I have actually been working on a book for a few years now on how food travels, so we shall soon reveal the connections between all those delicious dumplings :)

      carlo alberto April 25, 2012

      Thank Lara for you post.
      Now I remember pelmeni!
      And thanks for the recipe.
      I’m actually moving from one apt to another, and so I do not know when I can cook pelmeni, but as soon as I am installed….
      carlo alberto

      Abi King April 26, 2012

      Of course I don’t mind, Lara! In fact, I’m very grateful. I look forward to the big reveal and may even try making some myself if I stay in one place for long enough…

Heathers Harmony April 19, 2012

Interesting! I’ve only had perogies in Russia but I love them so much I was thrilled to find a recipe to make them at home! http://heathersharmony.me/2011/12/12/homemade-perogies/

    Abi King April 19, 2012

    Thanks for the recipe – one for me to try out

Lane April 19, 2012

I wonder how many other foods have an official saint?

    Abi King April 19, 2012

    Well, quite! If I hear of any others, I’ll let you know ;)

Margyle April 19, 2012

Yes, I was going to say they seem a lot like gyoza but that isn’t a bad thing at all!

    Abi King April 23, 2012

    Absolutely not. I love gyoza…

A Montrealer Abroad April 20, 2012

YUM. I had pierogis once, and oustide their delicious taste, it was also one of the cheapest things on the menu. So you get a super cheap, but really tasty and authentic dinner – what’s more to ask?

    Abi King April 26, 2012

    Ah, well I tried these within a “specialist” pierogi restaurant so I shall have to try some more in other establishments so as to compare prices…;)

carlo alberto April 21, 2012

You cannot show pictures and not give us a recipe!
Please, do it, I’ll cook and post the results.

Pierogi vs ravioli: let’s start the contest.
And, being italian, I know who is gonna win!


    Abi King April 26, 2012

    Haha! I’m in Italy as I reply to this so now I know how tough a competition it’s going to be…Alas, I have no recipe. But I suspect that someone else does…I shall investigate…

Jeremy Branham April 25, 2012

I have to admit that I love pierogis. It’s been a while since I’ve had one. They were so tasty in Poland so seeing this again makes me crave them!

    Abi King April 26, 2012

    Me too…I shouldn’t read my own posts. I end up feeling hungry again…

Agreed! If by “the same”, meaning ravioli and pierogi are both sort of stuffed pasta, then I’d say “Well, sort of.” If by “not the same”, meaning they are stuffed with completely different ingredients, the dough is different and is treated differently, then absolutely, they are different! My personal preference? Well, being born in Poland but raised in Italy loving America, I love pierogi (sorry, Italy! I do still love your food!).

How amazing that the Polish National Tourism Office had you as a guest! I hope you fell in love with Poland. You are always welcome back. As we Poles say, “A guest in the house is God in the house”.

Na razie!

Howie Chan July 24, 2013

I absolutely love Gyozas too! We are traveling to Poland in 2 weeks, can’t wait to inhale some Pierogis!

    Abi King July 30, 2013

    Enjoy. I am now feeling hungry again…

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