Cabbage Pierogi with bacon - A hearty comfort food filled with caramelized cabbage and bacon
I take a lot of pleasure making various Eastern European foods, including Cabbage Pierogi. I’ll make a few dozen Pierogi at a time and freeze them for later. They fry up really well from frozen, and are a quick and easy way to serve a hearty meal.
The cabbage pierogi filling is made out of cabbage from my garden as well as thick cut bacon that I cured and smoked. Combined with my hand made dough, the only way this meal could get more “from scratch” is if I grew the wheat to make the dough.
What are pierogies?
Pierogies are filled dumplings that can be boiled or fried. Some common fillings include potatoes, cheese, cabbage, and mushrooms. I’ve seen them eaten with sour cream, fried onions, and/or sauerkraut.
The term pierogi derives from the polish word for dumpling, though they are popular throughout Eastern Europe. If you want a detailed history, I found this BBC article interesting.
In the US, you can find pierogies frozen under brands like “Mrs. T”. Like many Americans, these frozen pierogies were my first exposure to pierogi, but you can also find them at restaurants and church events in many Eastern European-American communities.
After having pierogies at a Polish American restaurant in Michigan, I decided to start making my own from scratch.
Boil or fry, how to cook pierogies?
Pierogi are traditionally boiled, and very often are fried after. The result is both chewy but crispy on the outside, and piping hot on the inside.
I find this takes too long to do, and if your pierogi aren’t fully sealed, they’ll come apart while boiling.
Instead, I like to fry and steam the pierogi all at once. Start by frying the pierogi in a small amount of oil. After a few minutes of frying, add a quarter cup of water and close the lid on the pan. They’ll steam for a few minutes, then I flip the pierogies and repeat the process on the other side. I’ll do this until the pierogies reach an internal temperature of 120F.
The end result has the chewy steamed texture to the dough, but also a crispy fried outer shell. This method is fast, easy, and more forgiving than boiling and frying.
Cabbage Pierogi Folding Tips
There are a number of tips you can apply to pierogi making, including:
- Fold each variety a little differently so you can tell them apart while cooking and serving. You can use different utensils to make different patterns while sealing the pierogi, or try folding the corners of the pierogi.
- Fill the pierogi in your hand. By keeping the dough in your palm, you can more easily fold up the sides around the filing and pinch them closed. This also avoids problems with the dough sticking if you fill it while on the counter.
- Chop your cabbage small enough. You don’t want pieces of cabbage so large that they risk breaking your dough when folded.
Cabbage Pierogi Freezing Tips
Pierogies take a long time to make, so I like to make them in batches and freeze them. Here are some tips:
- Freeze your pierogi: Don’t waste an afternoon making pierogi for one night, make a bunch and freeze them. They’ll taste just as good frozen.
- Freeze your pierogi on trays first: Lay out some parchment paper or foil, and freeze your pierogi side by side without touching. By letting them freeze individually first, they won’t stick together. Frozen, stuck together, pierogies are a recipe for disaster.
- Bag your pierogi after they’re frozen. Once the cabbage pierogi are frozen, you can reclaim your trays and freezer space by moving them to gallon freezer bags. They’ll take up less space and since they’re already frozen, they won’t stick together. Freezer bags will also help keep freezer burn away.
What kind of pierogi fillings can I make?
Cabbage Pierogies are only my second favorite pierogi. You should check out my Farmers Cheese Pierogi recipe. They’re savory, creamy, salty, and all around delicious.
Other easy pierogi fillings include:
- Mashed potatoes mixed with cheese. I like to use farmers cheese here too.
- Mushrooms: Similar to cabbage, pan fry mushrooms, onions, and bacon for another delicious pierogi.
- Ground meat and cheese: Mix ground pork, turkey, or beef together with cheese.
What to serve with Pierogi?
I like to serve my pierogi with a few toppings and sauces. I always serve my pierogies with sauerkraut, sour cream, farmers cheese, and applesauce. The sour cream and farmers cheese are a bit redundant to serve on the side, but my husband prefers to mash some farmers cheese on his pierogi instead of sour cream. Applesauce is the perfect bit of sweetness to make the fried dumplings really pop.
Besides toppings, I’ll serve a plate of pierogi either homemade sausage, or turkey cabbage rolls. My cabbage rolls came out great this year, so I’ve been using them more.
How to make Cabbage Pierogi
- 1 Frying Pan
- 1 Large Mixing Bowl
- 1 Rolling Pin
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 tsp salt
- 8 tbsp butter
- 2 heads Green Cabbage
- 1 lb bacon (I used thick cut.)
- salt to taste
Pierogi dough instructions
- Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the dough hook attachment, mix the ingredients at low speed.
- As the dough ingredients combine, they will begin to form a ball around the dough hook. You are looking for a slightly sticky, very smooth dough. After 2-4 minutes, the dough may still look a little rough, but should still be quite moist in the middle.
- Continue mixing for another 3-7 minutes, until the ball is smooth and only a little sticky.
- Note: If the dough is still very dry after the first 2-4 minutes, add 1 tbsp of water to the bowl and continue mixing. Mix for 30 seconds to 1 minute after adding the water, and the consistency should improve. You can repeat this 3-4 times if needed.
- Note: If the dough is too wet and is struggling to form a smooth ball, add about 1 tbsp of flour and continue mixing for 30 seconds to 1 minute. The dough should begin to smooth out. Continue adding flour in small increments until the dough is smooth.
- If you don’t have a stand mixer, combine all ingredients in a bowl and knead by hand for 5-7 minutes, or until the dough is a smooth ball.
- Finally, once the dough is a smooth, slightly sticky ball, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, and up to 48 hours.
Cabbage Filling instructions
- Start by coring your cabbage heads and removing the outer layers of leaves. Chop the cabbage into approximately 1cm squares. Take care to chop down any large pieces or stragglers. Rinse the chopped cabbage in a colander.
- Chop your bacon into 1/2cm wide slices. This can be done thawed or partially frozen.
- Chop an onion into 1cm squares.
- Start by frying your sliced bacon. You’ll likely have to work in batches, first frying the slices and then removing them to a paper towel on a plate. In between batches, drain off the fat from the pan to a bowl. The bacon fat will be used later when frying the cabbage.
- Once done with the bacon, add the onions to the pan. Add a little bacon fat if needed. Salt liberally (the onions will be mixed with all of the cabbage.)
- Once the onions are translucent (3-4 minutes), add as much cabbage as the pan will hold. Add enough bacon grease to lightly cover the bottom of the pan (a few tablespoons). Stir the cabbage and let it fry.
- After 3-5 minutes, flip the cabbage and continue frying.
- After another 3-5 minutes, the cabbage should have cooked down significantly. The cabbage pieces should be turning translucent and caramelize. If the cabbage has not begun to caramelize, continue frying.
- Once the cabbage is sufficiently cooked down and carnalizing, add more cabbage to refill the pan. Repeat the frying process until you are out of cabbage.
- If your pan becomes too full to add more cabbage, offload the fried cabbage to a large mixing bowl and continue frying.
- Once all of the cabbage is fried and in a mixing bowl, add the bacon and mix it all together. You can let the cabbage filling rest in the fridge while you get everything else ready.
Filling the Pierogi
- Cut your pierogi dough into quarters to make it easier to roll out. Keep the unused sections wrapped up and in the fridge while working, to avoid drying out the dough.
- Lightly flour a large, flat work surface (a counter top or large, heavy cutting board work best for this).
- Using a rolling pin, roll your dough out until it’s about ¼ inch thick. Make sure to lift and flip your dough a few times early on when you’re rolling it to prevent it from sticking to your work surface.
- Using a small bowl or ramekin about 4 inches in diameter, cut out circles in the dough for pierogies. Reform any leftover cutouts into a ball and roll it back out to make more dough circles.
- Place a dough circle in your palm, and fill it with cabbage bacon filling. You should need 3ish tablespoons of filling per pierogi, and it should look like it fills about half the dough.
- Using your free hand, grab both sides of the pierogi, and fold them up to cradle the filling. If you need to, press the filling down into the pierogi.
- Form a seal around the lip of the pierogi about 1cm wide. You should be able to stretch the dough a little as needed. Pinch the seal to form it.
- Use a fork to press a pattern into the pierogi seal. This will help you identify the type of pierogi as well as keep the seal intact. If making other fillings, vary this pattern by filling type.
- Lay each pierogi out side by side on pans with some parchment paper or foil underneath. Your pierogies should not really touch each other until they’re frozen.
- Freeze the trays. If you have to stack trays, use offsets so that the lower pierogies don't get smashed. `
- After the pierogies are frozen solid, bag them into freezer bags.
- You can start with either frozen or thawed pierogi. If thawed they’ll cook much faster, but the method is the same.
- Heat cooking oil in a pan on high heat. Use enough oil to almost cover the bottom of the pan in a thin layer.
- Once the oil is heated, place the pierogies in the oil and cook for 2-3 minutes.
- With a lid for the pan ready, pour ¼ cup of water into the pan, and then cover the pan immediately. The pan should steam immediately. Continue cooking until the steam stops, about 3-5 minutes.
- Open the lid and flip the pierogies. Add additional oil if none is left in the pan. Cook for another 2 minutes.
- Add another ¼ cup of water and close the lid. Cook this side of the pierogies for another 3-5 minutes, or until the steam stops.
- Repeat the process until the pierogies are at least 120F inside.