Growing up, these Sauerkraut Balls - Pyrizhky, Pirozhki, Piroshki - were a favourite of mine.
Originally posted Octover 14, 2009. Updated 12/24/2020
I recently obtained this Piroshki recipe from my aunt, by way of my grandmother.
My husband was professing his love for sauerkraut, and I recalled the sauerkraut balls that this aunt used to make around the holidays.
I remembered them being really addictive little bread balls filled with sauerkraut and bacon, but couldn't remember much past that - it had been 2 decades since I'd had one!
So, after a couple of calls, I received an email with the vague recipe. I *immediately* set about making a batch for my husband.
Between the bread, kraut, and bacon, I think he was about to start foaming at the mouth if I didn't get right on it!
What Are Piroshki?
Piroshki - AKA Pyrizhky, Pirozhki, Sauerkraut balls - are little Russian and Ukrainian buns.
They’re yeast leavened, and filled. As I later learned, they can be filled with any number of things - savoury or sweet.
But... I had them with sauerkraut and bacon first, so that’s how I’ll always know them!
Growing up in Winnipeg, these always made an appearance around the holidays, so I tend to see them as a Christmas food.
Not sure if that’s a “My family” thing, a Winnipeg thing, a Ukrainian diaspora thing, or actual, place-of-origin thing, I did a quick Google.
Yup, it looks like these are a traditional holiday food in Russia.
Anyway, it’s probably good that they were strictly a holiday thing. There’s a reason they’re so addictive: FAT.
The dough is full of eggs, oil, and sour cream, a full lb of bacon is used, the sauerkraut absorbs the bacon fat - it’s NOT drained off - etc.
How to Make Piroshki
I know that baking yeast/risen breads can be intimidating for those who haven’t done it before, but seriously ... don’t worry!
Start Your Yeast
The recipe starts out with sugar, yeast, and water. This is one of the most important parts of the recipe, so make sure it’s all in place!
- The water has to be warm, but not hot. You want to encourage the growth of the yeast, without killing it.
Cool water won’t “wake up” the yeast the way warm does, and it won’t rise as much / quickly.
Hot water will kill the yeast.
The sugar feeds the yeast.
Make sure to use yeast that has been properly stored and is fresh. Very old yeast doesn’t always work.
Anyway, you mix the three together and leave it for a few minutes, and this is what you should see:
When it’s all foamy like this, you’re good to go!
If your yeast doesn’t foam up in 10 minutes, something went wrong - either the water was too hot /not warm enough, or the yeast was no good.
No foam means start over again.
Make Your Piroshki Dough
You can do this by hand, or - like I do - in a stand mixer.
However you do it, just mix together your flour, salt, oil, eggs, sour cream, and foamy yeast water, until it’s well incorporated and relatively smooth.
Once it’s all together, you’ll knead the dough. This develops the gluten in the dough, making the dough soft, stretchy, and perfect.
In a stand mixer:
Affix a dough hook and just let it go on medium speed for about 7 minutes or so, until it’s smooth and stretchy.
I start timing once the mixing is done, and all of the extra flour has been “cleaned” off the mixer bowl:
Once the dough has come together - and you have all of the flour incorporated into it - dump it out on a clean work surface and knead it.
Basically, I’ll use the heels of my hands to push down and stretch the dough, fold it over, and repeat for about 15+ minutes.
It’s a great way to get out some anger, aggression, frustration, or ~feelings~ in general, but it is labourious... so I generally use the stand mixer!
Anyway, whichever way you go:
When it’s ready, it’ll be smooth and stretchy.
You can test readiness by pinching off a small bit of dough, flattening it a bit, and stretching it. If you can stretch it really thin without tearing, it’s done!
Proof your Pyrizhky Dough
“Proofing” is just letting the dough rise.
You’ll want a warm - not hot - area to do this.
As I tend to keep my house nice and cool, I generally cheat at this: I’ll turn the oven on for a few minutes to warm it up a bit, then turn it off and use it as a proofing oven.
Let it rise - undisturbed - until it’s doubled in volume. Give it a good 45 minutes - 1 hour for this, but don’t leave it much longer than that without checking on it.
OVERproofing the dough - letting it rise too long / too far - will result in deflated dough, and hockey puck bagels.
Make Your Piroshki Filling
As you are waiting for the dough to rise, prepare the filling:
1. Strain your sauerkraut WELL. There are two reasons for this:
- Too much moisture can cause the buns to blow open when baking
- You want the sauerkraut pretty dry and “thirsty” to absorb all that bacon fat.
2. Cook bacon & onions together until bacon is cooked, but not crispy.
3. Add sauerkraut to the pan, cook and stir well until bacon fat is absorbed and everything is heated through.
4. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
As a note: While it’s not part of the original recipe loosely dictated to me on the phone, over the years we started adding a bit of caraway seeds to the mix. Love it, but totally optional!
Form Your Piroshki
Once your initial proofing is done, punch it down and divide it out. Punching the dough down removes some of the air, so it’s easier to work with.
Traditionally, this dough is rolled out and cut into shape. See the recipe card for those instructions!
Personally, I prefer to freehand it. To do so:
1. Divide it out to 40 relatively-equal portions.
I’ll divide it in 4, then divide each of those in half, then divide each of those pieces into 5 balls.
2. Once they’re divided out, stretch them out into disks about as big as the palm of a hand. I like to stretch the edge a bit thinner, as that’s going to be gathered together.
3. Add about 1 Tbsp of filling to the center of the disk.
4. Gather edges of the round and seal the filling in (like a drawstring bag). Try to squish some air out, as you go.
5. Roll around between your hands a bit to get a uniform spherical shape, and place on a parchment lined baking sheet, gathered side down.
6. Repeat with the rest of the dough/filling, leaving at least 2″ between dough balls.
Proof your Piroshki
1. Loosely cover cookie sheets with plastic wrap, and allow to rise another hour.
Bake Your Pirozhki
Heat oven to 350F.
Remove plastic wrap from cookie sheets, bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden.
Remove from oven and brush liberally with melted butter.
Serving your Sauerkraut Buns
These are great served hot, fresh out of the oven, cold, or even reheated.
IF they last that long.
I really enjoy them as breakfast, though I’m going to be dainty and NOT specify how many of these would constitute a serving, when that happens.
Spoiler: A lot. Seriously. These are ridiculous.
Need Gluten-Free Pyrizhky?
Check out my recipe for Gluten-Free Pyrizhky!
More “Capital B” Baking Recipes
Does the smell of yeast proofing just get cheer your up? Oh, I love the smell of it.
Anyway, if you’re looking for more excuses to bake something that involves waiting for rise times, here are a few more recipes!
Apple Cinnamon Buns
Basil, Roasted Red Pepper, & Asiago Bread Braid
Beer Pretzels & Jalapeno Jack Dip
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Jalapeno Cheddar Beer Bagels
Jalapeno Popper Stuffed Pretzel Bites
Maple Walnut Spiced Pumpkin Buns
Paska - Ukrainian Easter Bread
Porter House Grainy Rye Bread
Pumpernickel Everything Bagels
Spinach Hand Pies
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Piroshki Sauerkraut Balls - Pyrizhky
- ½ cup warm water
- 1 tsp Granulated Sugar
- 1 envelope yeast
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 3 eggs beaten
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 lb bacon chopped
- 1 bag sauerkraut about 19 oz, drained, or a 1L jar.
- 1 medium onion chopped
- Melted butter
Prepare the Dough:
- Gently mix together warm water, sugar, and yeast. Allow to sit for 10 minutes.
- In a large bowl, mix together flour and salt. Form a well in the middle, and pour oil, eggs, and sour cream into it. Mix well, then add the yeasty water.
- Mix until everything is well incorporated, then knead lightly for 2 minutes.
- Place dough in a large, greased bowl. Cover and allow to rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
As you are waiting for the dough to rise, prepare the filling:
- Cook bacon & onions until bacon is almost cooked, but not crispy. Add sauerkraut to the pan, cook and stir well until bacon fat is absorbed and everything is heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let cool.
Assemble the sauerkraut balls:
- Roll dough out to an even ¼″ thickness. Cut rounds that are between 3″-4″ in diameter.
- On the center of each round, place a mound of about 1 Tbsp filling. Gather edges of the round and seal the filling in (like a drawstring bag). Roll around between your hands a bit to get a uniform spherical shape, and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the dough/filling, leaving at least 2″ between dough balls.
- Loosely cover cookie sheets with plastic wrap, and allow to rise another hour.
- Heat oven to 350F. Remove plastic wrap from cookie sheets, bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden. Remove from oven and brush liberally with melted butter.
- Great served hot, fresh out of the oven, cold, or even reheated. IF they last that long.
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