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Where Did Pierogi Originate From? The History Of Pierogi.

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Many interesting legends refer to the history and origins of pierogi. Polish people would love to believe that these traditional Polish delights were created by Poles in the past. Others would say that they come from Ukraine or Russia. Another tale says that pierogi came to Poland all the way from China.  So let’s try to find the answer to the question: where did pierogi originate from?

The Phenomenon of Pierogi and What They Are Called in The Different Parts of The World

Pierogi is one of the most versatile dishes. A small piece of dough, just right for two or three bites, with filling inside. It is a simple definition, but lots of ways to do it. The dough can be made from different things, like wheat or potatoes. Cooked in steam or boiled, fried in a pan, deep-fried, or baked.

Inside can be meat, grains, veggies, or fruit. Sweet or not, you choose. Why so versatile? This dish is known in the whole world, from Japan all the way to Mexico. Simply, in different places it is made a little different, it has different fillings, and the cultural meaning of the dish will vary too.

Pierogi in other countries:

  • Japan — name: gyoza, filling (ground beef, sesame oil, chopped green onions, ginger, and garlic)
  • China — name: dim sum, steamed not boiled, filling (seafood, chopped meats, or vegetables wrapped in dough or thin wrappings and steamed, deep-fried, or pan-fried)
  • Georgia — name: Chinkali, filling (meat, fish, or vegetables and spices)
  • Ukranie — name: Varenyky, filling (meat, potatoes, mushrooms, vegetables, fruits, cheese and many more)
  • Poland — name: Pierogi, filling (meat, potatoes with cheese, mushrooms with cabbage, fruits, and much more)
  • Italy — name: Raviolli, filling (mainly, ricotta cheese and vegetables, but also meat)
  • Mexico — name: Empanada (Beef, Chicken, Cheese, Mexican Chorizo, Lobster, Crab, Vegetable, Ham & Cheese, Guava & Cheese, Pulled Pork, Bacon Potato & Cheese, and Apple Cinnamon)
  • and more places know and cherish their type of dumplings.

How Did Perogi Made Their Way to Poland?

Pierogi arrived in Poland around the 13th century, and over the time have become known as a dish that originates from Poland. 

Where did perogies originate from? All the way from China, most probably! It is believed that pierogies have traveled with merchants toward the West and became popular first in Kievan Rus.

One legend associated with pierogi suggests that in 1238, Hyacinth, the bishop of Poland, experienced a crop-destroying storm during his visit to Kościelec. Hyacinth asked people to pray, and miraculously, the crops regrew by the next day. In gratitude, pierogi was crafted from these revived crops as an offering to Saint Hyacinth. Another tale is that the bishop fed the people with homemade pierogi during a famine caused by a Tatar invasion in 1241.

A very probable theory from the 13th century speculates a connection to Marco Polo’s Silk Road expeditions, proposing that pierogi might have originated in China and made their way to Central and Eastern Europe.

The History of Pierogi in Poland 

The Origin of the Word Pierogi

The word “pierogi” [pʲɛˈrɔgʲi], which is the plural form of pieróg [ˈpʲɛruk], is a term used for filled dumplings. Pierogi, were originally known in Poland as “pirogi,” because “pirogi” is the Slavic name for a ceremonial cake used in ancient sun worship.

The History of The Dish

At first, the pierogi was treated as a special occasion festive dish. Such pierogies were prepared in various shapes and flavors, and there were other names for pierogi depending on the occasion.

They had different names, for example, large wedding pierogi with different flavors were called kurniki. During January caroling, people would eat koladyki, and on name days they baked sweet dumplings called socznia and sanieżki. During the wake after the funeral, they used to serve knysze.

Over time, pierogi have become the food that was accessible to all people, however to the poor class it was a special occasion food for a very long time.

What is the Polish Pierogi?

Polish pierogi transformed over time. Potatoes and lard were commonly used as fillings for pierogi, with wealthier households often incorporating cheese at the beginning. In Ukraine, (Kievan Rus then) these dumplings were often called “Polish,” suggesting that they were popular among the local Polish population. Interestingly, there was a belief in Ukraine that white cheese (twarog) could repel evil spirits and attract the good ones.

Cheese dumplings held a special place during spring rituals, symbolizing the renewal of life. For the same reasons, cheese-filled pierogies were a popular choice at wedding receptions and baptisms in the Lviv area, reflecting their association with positive and protective energies.

Many types of pierogies are now really famous in Poland, from meat filling, cheese, and potatoes to the sweet and fruity pierogi. In the beginning, when pierogi were still a dish of the special occasion, the ones with meat filling were the most popular. Over time, the so-called Russian pierogi (with cheese and potatoes filling) have become the same famous.

Special Pierogi for Special Occasions Nowadays

Over the years, some type of pierogi became a traditional meal for more than just weddings and baptisms. Pierogi with mushrooms and cabbage have been a traditional Christmas Eve dish for all Polish families for generations.

There are two types of pierogies that the Polish serve on Christmas Eve. One is the regular-size portions with mushrooms and cabbage, and the other is the tiny little dumplings with the same filling called uszka. The small ones are served with red borscht, also a traditional Christmas dish.

Pierogi is generally associated with Poland. So, it is no surprise that every restaurant serving Polish cuisine must have a good choice of pierogi. They are often served during public events, markets, and festivals. They come in all forms and tastes, from sweet to spicy. Some places even hold Pierogi Festivals. During such an event in Kraków, 30,000 pierogies were consumed daily.

Summer is the time for a sweet variation of pierogi. Lots of fruits are in season, and berries make the perfect filling for dumplings. Strawberries, blueberries. These dumplings are sweet, and juicy and kids adore them.

Another kind of sweet pierogi, also very popular in Poland, are filled with white cheese and sugar. The sweet pierogi usually come with sour cream on top, while the savory pierogi come with melted fat and bacon bits (skwarki).

All Kinds of Pierogi

Over time, chefs and housewives created many variations of pierogi. The oldest written recipes go back to the 17th century, and some recipes are old. Although originally considered as food of peasants, pierogi made its way to the best restaurants today, and they became a Polish national good.

Here is a list of the most common filling for pierogi in Poland:

Pierogi are typically boiled in water, but not only. They can also be baked, steamed, or grilled, anything that makes them delicious.

A plate with strawberry dumplings and cream on it.
Strawberry pierogi and cream!

Pierogi Boiled in Water 

Pierogi are made and consumed throughout almost the entire Poland. However, what is interesting, they are not considered traditional dishes in Silesia and Kashubia. In regions such as Wielkopolska, Pomorze, and Podlasie, boiled pierogi only appeared on the menu at the beginning of the 20th century.

Typical fillings for boiled pierogi include meat, seasonal fruits, sweet cottage cheese, or sauerkraut with mushrooms. Pierogi Ruskie (filled with farmer’s cheese and potatoes) are a dish typical of Lublin and the Eastern Borderlands. In Lublin next to ruskie pierogi, there is a preference for pierogi with buckwheat, cheese, and mint, known as “mucybuły.

Baked Pierogi

Typical Polish baked pierogi, which are wheat-based pastries of various sizes, and filled with various ingredients. Savory variations include those with buckwheat, buckwheat groats, kiełbasa, lentils, soy, mushrooms, and cabbage. Sweet baked pierogi can have fillings such as farmer’s cheese or farmer’s cheese with poppy seeds, carrots, and even grated beets.

Lazy Pierogi

Pierogi leniwe literally translates as “lazy dumplings“. Dumplings made of quark, eggs, and flour, boiled in lightly salted water. Often served with sour cream sugar or with butter and fried bread crumbs as well as with sugar and cinnamon.

Where To Try Pierogi in Poland?

Everywhere! Especially the homemade ones. But not everyone is so lucky, so thankfully there are solutions for this. In Poland, but not only, also in other counties among Polish communities there are dining bars, and street food trucks that serve mainly, or even exclusively, dumplings. In Poland, such places are called Pierogarnia, and there are very well-performing chains of such restaurants across the country.

I hope with this article I gave you a good answer to this very often asked question on the internet search: perogies come from what country? It is hard to pinpoint the beginning of perogies and the actual country they were served first. Regardless of that, though, Poland is the most associated country with perogies.

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