Introduction: Cepelinai (Lithuanian Stuffed Potato Dumplings)

Picture of Cepelinai (Lithuanian Stuffed Potato Dumplings)
I've been lucky enough to spend a fair amount of time in Lithuania since 2009. Often my trips have been almost too much fun. Like most northern countries the traditional food is hearty, filling, it uses a lot of root vegetables/meats and abstains from spice. My second favorite Lithuanian dish of all time is Cepelinai (pronounced Szep-eh-lin-aye). They are a lot of work to make, the texture is strange/dense/gluey, they are incredibly heavy and though I would normally consider these qualities negative, I love them when it comes to Cepelinai...especially in the cold and dark of winter.

Their name Cepelinai (zeppelins), comes from their shape which resembles the antiquated airships.

What you will need to Cepelinai:
  • 10kg potatoes (you don't want to deal with any less)
  • Citric acid tablets
  • 1 to 1/2 tbsp salt
  • 1 cup sour cream
- For a traditional meat filling, combine the following ingredients:
  • 1 kg ground pork
  • 1 red onion, diced finely
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Black pepper to taste
- For a traditional cheese filling, combine the following ingredients:
  • 1 kg curd cheese/ricotta
  • 1 tbsp caraway seeds
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
- For a traditional vegetable filling, combine the following ingredients:
  • 1 kg carrots
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 3 tbsp poppy seeds
  • 1 tsp salt

You will also want a food processor, a large pot for boiling and cheese cloth or some other fine cloth for straining the water from your potatoes.

Step 1: Exfoliating Potatoes

Picture of Exfoliating Potatoes

Peel all of your potatoes and then rinse them.

Step 2: Liquefying Potatoes

Picture of Liquefying Potatoes

Puree all of your potatoes in the food processor. While you are pureeing the potatoes, every so often puree a citric acid pill with them and stir the mixture; if you do not mix citric acid with your potatoes, they will oxidize and your potatoes will turn brown/pink.

*If you do not have a food processor, and cannot borrow one, you can boil/mash the potatoes.

Step 3: Squeezing Potatoes

Picture of Squeezing Potatoes

At this point you should have at least 10kg of potato slop (minus the weight of the potato skins).

You're going to want to double-up your cheesecloth and lay it over a pot or bowl. Ladle in 1-3 spoonfuls of the potato slop into the cheesecloth and squeeze all of the moisture out of the potatoes until it is a dry, fibrous and almost dough-like.
Make sure not to throw away any of the liquid, we will need some parts of it later. Continue to remove the liquid from the potato slop until you have worked through all of it.

*Check out the pictures if the explanation wasn't clear.


Step 4: Straining Potato Juce

Picture of Straining Potato Juce

Wash your cheesecloth and lay it atop an empty bowl or pot. Strain the potato juice/liquid through the cheesecloth. There should be some yellowy or whitish stuff in the cheesecloth and at the bottom of potato juice/liquid container, add this to your dry potato mixture. Repeat this step once more with the potato juice/liquid you just strained. Strain all of your potato juice/liquid. The white/yellow stuff you are salvaging is starch which you squeezed out of the potatoes.

After you've strained all of your potato juice/liquid two times, you may throw it out.

Thoroughly mix 1/2 to 1 tbsp of salt and the potato starch you just saved with your dry potato dough. The dough be quite mold-able at this point. The weight of dough you should have now should be way, way less than the original amount of potatoes you started with.

Step 5: Fillings for Potatoes

Picture of Fillings for Potatoes

Now, if you haven't already prepared your filling(s), you should mix together at least one of the following lists of ingredients:

- For a traditional meat filling, combine the following ingredients:
1 kg ground pork
1 red onion, diced finely
1 beaten egg
1 tsp salt
Black pepper to taste

- For a traditional cheese filling, combine the following ingredients:
1 kg curd cheese/ricotta
1 tbsp caraway seeds
1 beaten egg
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt

- For a traditional (but almost forgotten about) vegetable filling, combine the following ingredients:
1 kg carrots
1 beaten egg
3 tbsp poppy seeds
1 tsp salt

Step 6: Fill a Potato

Picture of Fill a Potato

Set some water to boil in a pot, enough to just cover a whole potato. While your waiting for the water to boil...

Gather some of your potato dough in the open palm of your hand so that, when flattened, it should approximately cover your palm. Spoon some of your desired filling into the center of the potato dough and fold the edges over the filling so that the filling is completely encased by potato. Roll your filled potato-dough ball into a spheroid or zeppelin shape.

Test your first Cepelinas by placing it in the boiling water. Boil it for 10-15 minutes. If it falls apart, you will need to mix in some flour with the potato dough because the dough is too wet. If it doesn't fall apart, you get to eat that Cepelinas (with some sour cream). 

Step 7: Fill More Potatoes

Picture of Fill More Potatoes

Assemble and roll more Cepelinai until you run out of dough.

*to know what filling is in which Cepelinas, you can roll them differently. For example I roll the meat filled ones as a normal ball, and the curd  or carrot ones as a zeppelin. You can also use your thumb to make an indentation in the Cepelinai to mark one filling from another.

**I really like when they Cepelinai oxidize a little bit, they start to look like raw potatoes again.

Step 8: Boil Some Re-formed Potatoes

Picture of Boil Some Re-formed Potatoes

Boil your Cepelinai for 10-15 minutes. A large pot can old many Cepelinai but you will want to make sure not to overcrowd them because they will be more likely to break apart, they will be harder to get out, the water will be starchier and so the finished Cepelinai will have more of a sticky and unappetizing goo on their exterior.

If you don't want to eat all of them, you can freeze the uncooked Cepelinai and boil them later.

*A portion for an average woman is between 2-4 Cepelinai.
**A portion for an average man is between 4-6 Cepelinai.
***A portion for the average child is between a man's and a woman's.

Step 9: Eat Some Deconstructed and Re-formed Potatoes

Picture of Eat Some Deconstructed and Re-formed Potatoes

Your Cepelinai are ready!

Serve them with sour cream, chopped green onion. It is traditional to make a sauce out of cream/bacon/onion/mushrooms and top the Cepelinai and/or also to spoon some mixture of finely crumbled bacon/liquid fat over the Cepelinai.

Enjoy and stay warm.

Comments

atlee9657 (author)2015-07-09

So what is your #1 favorite Lithuanian dish?

I just returned from Lithuania and post a pic. Loved these. A Lithuanian lady on the trip told us she fries them in sweet butter.

Cheese Queen (author)2014-05-07

My Lithuanian grandmother made these, but they weren't called Cepelinai (of course she was born in 1902, and undoubtedly learned cooking from her own mother- long before there were zeppelins).

Any idea what another name would be?

Matatas (author)Cheese Queen2014-06-30

I am lithuanian and it could be didžkukuliai

Birute62 (author)Matatas2014-08-28

Babune also remembers cepalinai called didzkukuliai. whichever way they are worth the hours of work. make and enjoy!

emtsevilla (author)2014-06-17

NOW I'M HUNGRY. gee, thanks :)) i gotta make these sometime.

jjdebenedictis (author)2014-02-26

I need to ask for a clarification on one step (because OM NOM NOM I need to make these. :) ) When you say that you liquify the potatoes in the food processor--are they cooked at that point, or raw?

Raw.
If you don't have a food processor then you can boil/mash the potatoes and then follow the remaining steps but it is best if you can just puree them uncooked.

Thank you! (Erm. Do you think a blender instead of a food processor would work for small batches? I guess I could try it out and see, then report back... :-D)

I think it could work if you cut the potatoes in 1/8ths or 1/16ths before blending. With the food processor you are able to just drop the whole potato in. You're welcome!

Just reporting back to say that using a blender totally works! (And your cepelinai are delicious! And filling. Oof, I just ate three potatoes. :-) )

I diced the potatoes into 1cm (0.5 inch) cubes, put them in the blender with 1/2cup of water to help it blend (because hey, I'm going to squeeze it all out later, anyway), and it worked beautifully. Thanks so much for introducing me to this yummy dish!

Aaaand reporting back one more time to say that your cepelinai recipe helped me finally figure out how to make gluten-free gnocchi that stick together.

I wrote up an instructable here (https://www.instructables.com/id/Flour-and-gluten-f... and gave you full credit for helping me figure it all out. :)

Argh; link went funny. It is: https://www.instructables.com/id/Flour-and-gluten-free-gnocchi-Italian-potato-dumpl/

Neat! But my middle name is "Tyler", not "Taylor"; just sayin'.

Awesome-awesome!

Dwgystyl (author)2014-03-06

Wow this is close to Acadian Poutine râpée, Tried to make it once for my wife.. came out all wrong.. I think i will try using this as the base for the Potatoes..

streetrod5 (author)2014-02-27

These look awesome! I'm going to make these - have you ever tried frying them in oil?

Matatas (author)streetrod52014-02-27

first boil it then cut in half and then fry

General Zod (author)2014-02-26

This looks really good but seems a bit labor-intensive. Do you make these often, or is it for special occasions only?

Matatas (author)General Zod2014-02-27

In Lithuania we make thes just for special occasions

It is definitely labor intensive but it can be really fun too when you have a bunch of people around to make them with (which is usually how it happens). I believe they do get made for special occasions but when I've made them it has just been with a bunch of friends getting together to make/eat/socialize. Pealing of the potatoes, extracting the liquid from the potato, forming the Cepelinai and cleaning up are the really laborious parts.

vsteponavicius (author)2014-02-26

Super smagu kad netik lietuviai domisi ir moka pasigamint lietuvisku skanumynu. Pabandyk pagamint bulviniu blynu su mesa :)

gravityisweak (author)2014-02-26

I must say, that is an extremely unappetizing first image. (Reminded me of a dirty worm) It certainly did not make me want to try this. Luckily after reading through the rest of the 'ible it seemed quite good. I'm intrigued by the "potato dough" concept.

DOT. (author)2014-02-26

I am lithuanian and this is my favorite dish! My mom makes them just for special occasions. I'm very happy that you people are interested in making them :)

bfoster14 (author)2014-02-26

my wife is Lithuanian but she doesn't know how to make this one. Her mom made it for me once but she passed away. Thanks I've long desired this dish!

dvilkaite (author)2014-02-26

this is amazing. thank you for putting such a great instructable.

Kiteman (author)2014-02-26

Love the opening image!

Thanks!

About This Instructable

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Bio: Justin Tyler Tate is an artist, designer, animator, teacher, jeweler and maker/hacker who produces with thoughts of culture, science and interactivity.
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