How Authentic Pierogi Are Different From The American Version

Every culture has its own version of a dumpling — a savory cooked dough with or without fillings: the Chinese soup dumpling, Ghanaian banku, the South American and Argentinian empanada, the Vietnamese bánh bột lọc, or Bangladeshi and Indian pitha. Poland's version is perhaps its most popular culinary export: the pierogi. Anyone who's ever tried one can vouch for their addictive nature – who doesn't like hot dough filled with cheese and slathered in butter and onion?

And though of course, you can find an array of "authentic" Polish dumplings in many major US cities, there are some differences between many American pierogi and the Polish dumpling tradition. But first, a little dumpling history: Around the time of World War II, Polish and other pierogi-eating Eastern European immigrants flooded parts of the American Midwest and other metro areas, and they brought their culinary traditions with them (via Grandma's Pierogies). Pittsburgh mill workers often packed pierogi for lunch because of their natural packaging, and before long, a culinary tradition spread to non-Poles alike (via Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). And though the potato pierogi is now ubiquitous, according to Asenzya, a blog by chef Dax Schaefer, pierogies were first made in 13th-century Poland, long before the potato's introduction to the country. "Original pierogis were likely a minced meat and vegetable mixture," he writes.

The American versus the Polish pierogi

Though a "real" pierogi in the US might resemble a "real" Polish one, the difference lies in the many varieties that have broken from the pack in either region and the way in which pierogi are served. Traditional pierogi fillings include potato, cheese, cabbage, or meat – and chances are you've encountered these versions in the US, as well as Americanized varieties like, for example, Mac & Cheese, Jalapeno, and Bacon Cheddar (via Baba's). Americans may have our pierogies to go on any day of the week while for Poles, pierogi are often served for special occasions like Christmas, Easter, weddings, or birthdays (via Eater, Asenzya, and Grandma's Pierogies).

In Poland, you'll find many more traditional takes on the pierogi than the mashup of fillings you might normally encounter in America. According to Culture Trip, On the north coast of Poland, there's pierog z łososiem, stuffed with salmon caught fresh from the Baltic Sea. Pierogi z szpinakiem are green, filled with fried spinach, and topped with sour cream, a nice option for Polish vegetarians (if such a thing exists... kidding). The eastern city of Lublin boasts mouthwatering pierogi Lubelskie filled with a curious combo of buckwheat, mint, and bacon on onion, one you'd be hard-pressed to find in the US. Rest assured though, you don't have to go far for a solid Polish dumpling outside the old country, even if it's missing mint. Go forth and pierogi!