What Is A Blini And What's It Taste Like?

In the world of cooking it is not uncommon to run into an ingredient or dish with which you are unfamiliar. Especially when it comes to international cooking — the diversity of dishes, flavors, profiles and more can trip up even the most devout foodie. For example, do you know what a blini is?

If not, don't stress, here is an easy masterclass on all things blini, from taste to prep to nutrition, and even where to buy them in case you aren't feeling quite confident enough to make one yourself. The delicious treat is sometimes known as pancakes, but definitely not in the traditional sense of the word. Crepe Cuisine notes that the blini was born during the Middle Ages, in what is now Russia, and it was a total accident. A traveller was attempting to make oat jelly over a fire, when he got distracted and let his meal fry.

What exactly is a blini?

Blinis are yeasted pancakes that are typically made with buckwheat flour. A blini is also quite similar to the style of a crepe, which are often confused with one another. However, there are key differences between the two. For instance, blinis are small and bite-sized, typically served in round form and can be topped with anything from sweet to savory. They are essentially deliciously fluffy mini pancakes that make great snacks and are pretty versatile in terms of how they can be served and when. 

Fans of blinis like to enjoy them as an entree or as appetizers. If you're looking to go the sweet route, try them with a chocolate spread, homemade jam, or brie and cranberry sauce. Many also enjoy layering them with savory items like smoked salmon and cream cheese. However, if you're feeling even more adventurous try them with quail eggs or even caviar. 

How is a blini made?

Blinis are made with a mix of regular all-purpose flour and buckwheat flour, combined with sugar, baking soda, milk, egg and butter. The batter comes together like many others, with dry ingredients going together in one bowl and wet ingredients going together in another. The catch, however, is in the egg as you have to separate the yolk, adding it to the wet ingredients and withholding the egg whites in order to whisk and build soft peaks before combining into the rest of the batter. 

From there, add some generous slabs of butter into a non-stick skillet and let it melt. Next, add tablespoons of batter into the pan, flipping when the top is bubbly and dry. Lastly, cook them for a little under a minute more, depending on their consistency. 

What does a blini taste like?

While the topping, understandably, would change the flavor profile of each bite, the blini itself is very dainty and light. Calvasius sells blini by the pack and describes their flavor notes as "rich, nutty, creamy". Apparently, changing the percentage of milk used, doesn't really affect the taste either. However, swapping out soy and oat milk, with whole milk, will give your blinis a much more rich flavor that is truly delicious. 

Users online have also given blinis rave reviews with one writing on The Food Network, "A delicious, easy crowd pleaser. I served with ramekins of minced red onion and caviar." Another fan of the treats wrote, "LOVED these. So delicious I served with caviar and creme fraiche as well as smoked salmon with capers, chopped red onion and hard boiled egg. Creme fraiche is worth the expense."

Where to buy blinis

While you wouldn't expect something like this to be found in your local grocery store, think again. Some stores with specialty sections have some to choose from, including Citarella, Zabar's in NYC, Wegman's, and Whole Foods also offer some selections of the tasty appetizer. They can likely be found in the specialty section of a fridge or freezer, much like a pancake would be.

Unsuprisingly, Amazon also offers an array of blini options from gluten free to gourmet versions. And while you can find them at quite a few places, American Foodie Abroad seems to indicate that a homemade blini is the best blini, noting that the right blini is one that is "light and fluffy, but firm enough to handle toppings and to be high enough for ease of picking off a tray of canapés."

Nutritional information about blinis

According to My Fitness Pal, a homemade blini can have up to 116 calories and 13 grams of carbs with just 6 grams of fat. This is slightly lower than a compared store brand option calculated on FitBit's website, which has a total of 139 calories per piece, 17 grams of carbs and 6.5 grams of fat, so its safe to assume they're fairly uniform in nutritional statuses. While not terrible for you, there's also a way to make them a bit lower in calories. 

Blinis are versatile enough to be made healthy by adding lighter toppings options like fruit, and can be made with cornmeal. They truly can be twisted and recreated to suit your needs. And according to Dr. Health Benefits, they actually have a slew of healthy notes, including high iron, calcium, vitamin A, and fiber. So, if you're jonesing for a deceptively healthy app for your next party, a blini may be just the mini pancake you're looking for!