Introduction: Vegan Pierogi
I grew up eating my grandma's homemade pierogi, but when I decided to go vegan a few years ago I realized just how much butter goes into a lot of Polish dishes. Cutting out meat from these dishes was one thing, but dairy just seemed too hard to get around!
During the holidays last year I decided to get creative and play with the dough recipe. I quickly realized that with a few substitutions I could make my own pierogi that look and taste pretty similar to what my grandma used to make, minus all the stuff vegans can't have.
There are many filling options when it comes to pierogi. Some people like sweet pierogi filled with fruit, while others like savory pierogi filled with sour kraut. My heart has always belonged to cheese pierogi, so that's what I'll be instructing on. Whether you're a vegan who grew up eating Polish cuisine or simply want to try a new vegan dish for the holidays, these pierogi are fun to make and they're a real treat to eat.
Step 1: Gather Your Materials
For the dough:
- Four cups of flour
- One and a half cups of non-dairy milk
- Vegan egg replacement (I used Ener-G)
- Six tablespoons of non-dairy butter
For the filling:
- Four large potatoes
- Non-dairy cheese
- Large frying pan
- Deep pot filled with water
- Non-dairy butter
- Half of a red onion, sliced into thin strips
- Rolling pin
- Large stovetop
Step 2: Prepare the Filling
Start with four large potatoes, cleaned and chopped into small pieces. I find that potato pieces approximately one inch long and half an inch wide work well since you'll need to fold them into the fragile dough.
Boil the potatoes until they're soft. Then strain them, heat up some olive oil in the frying pan, and toss your spuds into the skillet. I like to sauté them with some sliced onion, but that's optional.
While the potatoes are frying, stir in some sliced, shredded, or crumbled vegan cheese. I used Daiya Monterey Jack cheese, but you can choose whichever non-dairy cheese speaks to you. Stir them occasionally until the potatoes are a little crispy and the cheese is melted. Add salt and pepper to taste.
When the potatoes and cheese are done, set them aside in a bowl. You'll need to make the dough, but it's best to have the potatoes finished first since the dough could dry out if left unattended for too long.
Step 3: Mix the Egg Replacement
To make pierogi dough, you would typically need an egg. Since this recipe calls for a vegan egg replacement, you'll be mixing the dry ingredients with water to create a vegan "egg" to add to the dough. I used Ener-G Egg Replacer, but you can use any other brand you prefer. You can also make your own homemade egg replacer if you're feeling adventurous. The ingredients for Ener-G are potato starch, tapioca starch flour, non-dairy calcium lactate, calcium carbonate, cream of tartar, cellulose gum, and modified cellulose.
To make the equivalent of one egg, mix 1.5 teaspoons of dry Ener-G powder with 2 tablespoons of water. Mix this thoroughly with a fork or whisk until all the powder is dissolved in the water, then set it aside. You'll be adding it to the flour once you're ready to make your dough.
Step 4: Make the Dough
The dough was the part I really worried about since this recipe doesn't use real eggs. However, the egg substitute worked surprisingly well. You may need to tweak how much non-dairy milk and butter you add, especially if you use a gluten-free flour. I used conventional flour for this recipe and the proportions I added worked well.
Measure out four cups of flour and set it aside in a large bowl. Add the egg replacement you prepared in the previous step, but don't add any other ingredients yet.
In a small saucepan, heat up the non-dairy milk and butter over a low flame. Stir it frequently and keep a close eye on it. It shouldn't reach a boil; you merely want the butter melted and mixed in with the milk.
Stir the melted milk/butter mixture thoroughly, then slowly pour it over the flour in your large bowl. It's best to avoid dumping all the wet ingredients in at once in case the dough ends up being too wet. Pour the wet ingredients in small increments, then stir the bowl or use your hands to mix it all together. It should be slightly sticky and malleable without being too dry or too wet. If it sticks excessively to your hands or other surfaces, it may be too wet. Add a few pinches of flour and keep mixing until it's at the right consistency.
When your dough feels right, knead it thoroughly with your hands. You should be able to work it into a soft, malleable ball.
Step 5: Flatten Out the Dough
Once your dough is the right texture, you'll need to flatten it so that you can then cut out individual pieces.
Start by cleaning off a flat area. A table or countertop works best, but if you don't have a lot of space you can use a large cutting board.
Sprinkle a generous amount of flour down on your work surface. This will help prevent the dough from sticking to the table/counter.
Set your dough on the flour-covered surface. Using your rolling pin, flatten the dough outward so that it spreads more-or-less evenly. Don't worry about making it too thin; you'll flatten it a little more after you've cut it out. Making it too flat now can make the dough too fragile to cut if you're not careful. Aim to make the dough about 0.25 to 0.5 inches thick, though again, it's best to err on the side of caution and have slightly thicker dough at this stage.
Step 6: Cut the Dough
Now that your dough is in a flattened, manageable spread, you'll need to cut it into workable pieces.
Take a clean coffee mug and flip it upside down. Lay the rim of the cup onto the dough and press down, twisting as needed to get all the way through the dough. Set the circle of dough aside and keep going until you've used all the dough. I find it's best to start at the outside edges of the dough and work your way in; that way you'll make the most of the dough you have without having to waste or re-roll it too much.
If you finish an area and there are a lot of dough scraps, you can roll the scraps together in your hand and re-roll the dough with your rolling pin. Then use your mug to cut out more dough circles until you've used all the dough.
Step 7: Shape Your Pierogi
Take a dough circle and lay it on the flour-covered surface. Use the rolling pin to re-roll it, spreading the dough outward into a more-or-less even circle. The dough should be thinner this time - try to make it as thin as you can without tearing the dough. This will take some trial and error until you get the hang of it, but most people I've taught this to get the hang of it after a couple rollings. Each dough circle should be somewhere between the size of your palm and the size of your whole hand, depending on how big you want your pierogi to be.
Next, take your flattened, thinned-out dough circle in one hand and scoop out a teaspoon of cheesy potatoes into the center of the circle. Carefully fold it over so that the filling is somewhat centered in the half-circle of dough.
Push the filling inward away from the edges and press the edges together between your fingertips to flatten the perimeter of your pierogi. You want the dough to stick together and seal the filling inside. If the dough won't stick, you may need to dip your fingers in water and wipe the inside edges of the dough.
Once you've sealed the edges, use your thumb and index finger to pinch the edges shut. This should make it look like the pinch lines lead from the outside edge of the dough to where the filling starts. Set the pierogi aside and repeat the process until all of your dough has been filled and pinched shut. You may want to cover the batch with plastic wrap or a clean hand towel to prevent the dough from drying out.
Step 8: Boil the Pierogi
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. You can add salt, but you don't have to. When the water is boiling, carefully transfer your uncooked pierogi into the pot. It shouldn't take them long to cook; you'll know they're ready when the pierogi float to the top, which should only take around two to four minutes.
When the pierogi float up, use a strainer spoon to scoop them out of the pot. Set them aside on a plate to cool.
Step 9: Fry and Serve Your Pierogi
Let the boiled pierogi sit out to dry for a few minutes. If your hunger is making you impatient, you can dab the pierogi dry with a clean paper towel.
Melt some non-dairy butter in a frying pan. I recommend sautéing some onion slices until they're soft, then adding the pierogi into the pan with the onion. You don't need to fry the pierogi for too long since they're already cooked. The goal is to get the outside surfaces of your pierogi lightly crispy and extra-buttery. You can also freeze any uneaten pierogi in a sealed sandwich bag or plastic storage container and reheat them by frying them up in non-dairy butter.
There you have it - pierogi just like your grandma used to make. (Well, almost.)