What Is a Pierogi, Actually?

It’s time to turn the spotlight on the humble pierogi. These delicious Euro-centric bundles have been making mouths water for centuries. But what are pierogies—or, should we say, what are pierogi? (Yes, pierogi is already plural.) Where are pierogi from? We’ve got all your pierogi questions answered and bundled up into a delicious pouch of an article. 

What are pierogies?

Pierogi are boiled, doughy dumplings that can be either sweet or savory. They are often served with sour cream or applesauce or sometimes both. They have been a staple of European cuisine since the Middle Ages. So, what is a pierogi and how is it different from other dumplings? It’s a thick-skinned, half-moon-shaped European dumpling (specifically Polish, but we’ll get to that) traditionally filled with mashed potatoes or sauerkraut or meat (or other things you might imagine Polish peasants eating in the 13th century). 

What is a pierogi made of?

A pierogi is made with an unleavened dough, cut into little squares or circles, and filled with your choice of delicious fillings, like meat or cheesy potatoes. Then, the pierogi is boiled (or boiled and pan-fried or baked) and served hot. 

Are pierogies Polish? Where are pierogies from?

While the word pierogi is certainly of Polish origin, the actual food item can be traced back to Asia. Pierogi are basically dumplings, which obviously have their roots in Asia. Some people claim Marco Polo himself brought the recipe to Europe from China (along with that swimming pool game, we guess!). So, while the name may hail from Poland, and that is the country most associated with them, the true origin of “pierogi” is a bit more complicated!

What’s in a pierogi?

The only really consistent aspect of pierogi ingredients is the unleavened dough needed to encase the fillings. Typical pierogi fillings might consist of potatoes, cheese, quark (a type of fresh cheese), sauerkraut, ground meat, and/or mushrooms. If you’re looking to diverge from the savory and make your pierogi sweet, you can fill them with fruits (usually berries like blue- or straw-) or sweetened farmer cheese. 

Are pierogi gluten free?

While pierogi aren’t traditionally gluten-free, it is possible to make them that way if you’re willing to do it yourself. There are also a fair handful of store-bought varieties that cater to the GF lifestyle that can allow those with an allergy to partake in the deliciousness. Just be sure to check all labels beforehand, as always! 

About the Author

Joe Rumrill

Joe Rumrill is a fictional one-eyed spinach-loving sailor created in 1929 by E.C Se- Wait, no, that's not right... Joe Rumrill is a stand up comedian and writer currently based in Los Angeles. His favorite thing about food is a close tie between the taste and the nutrients one gets from it. His least favorite thing about it is the "gritty, dirt-like quality some food has", but he's most likely referring to the time in third grade he was dared to eat playground sand.

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  • As a person of Polish and Ukrainian descent, pierogi are an integral part of dinner on Christmas Eve and generally served with caramelized onions and maybe sour cream in my family. I usually make them with mashed potato, cheese, and onion filling; my parents make sweet ones with prunes soaked in alcohol.