Pancakes are popular in many countries, and most Americans will think of flapjacks when they hear the word. But Syrnyky are different; These are traditional Ukrainian cheese pancakes also eaten for breakfast, and served with fruit jam.
One of the most popular Ukrainian recipes is syrnyky. These are sweet little cheese pancakes usually served with jam, sauce, or syrup. As a traditional food you can find them in plenty of restaurants, although they always seem to taste better when grandma makes them.
Because I’m all about using fresh ingredients when possible, I usually pair my syrnyky with whatever fresh fruit is in season. For this traditional recipe I’m going to show a very simple blackberry syrup, but the technique works with almost any fruit. This syrnyky classic recipe stays true to the types you will find all over Ukraine, even though you can be served a variety of toppings.
If you live in Europe all of these ingredients will be pretty easy to find. However the cheese might be difficult if you are in America. In Ukraine we just call it syr (hence the name of the dish) because it is the most basic type of cheese in the country. It also goes by the name ‘farmer’s cheese’ or home cheese. I am usually all about authenticity, so please try to find this cheese at your local Ukrainian market or online if you must. However there are substitutes that still make a delicious cheese pancake.
If you cannot find the right syrnyky cheese you can substitute in a dry quark just fine. You can also use fromage blanc or cottage cheese, but just know you will have to add some more flour since those cheeses are quite watery.
- 600 grams Cheese – (Ukrainian style farmer’s cheese, called syr) The easiest might be to find dry quark if you do not live in Eastern Europe.
- 2 large Eggs
- 120 grams (1 cup) Flour – this is mostly an estimate since I usually add a tbsp at a time while mixing until I get the desired consistency. If your cheese is quite wet then you will need to add more flour. See following pictures for a consistency reference.
- 3 tbsp Sugar – Syrnyky are a little sweet, but they aren’t as sweet as American pancakes. Most of the sweetness will come from the syrup or jam you use when eating them.
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- Sunflower Oil – for frying
Blackberry Sauce Ingredients
- 250 grams Fresh Blackberries
- 3 tbsp Sugar
- 2 tbsp Water
How To Make Ukrainian Syrnyky
A classic syrnyky recipe has them traditionally made in a bowl using your hands. However I often use a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Just add all the ingredients to a bowl and start mixing. If you find it is quite wet, add more flour a tbsp at a time.
The picture above is showing the syrnyky after one cup of flour. As you can see, it looks a little bit wet still so I had to add another 2 tbsp of flour to make it perfect. So, back into the stand mixer it goes until everything is well incorporated.
Mold the syrnyky dough into thick disks like hockey pucks. I try to get them at least 2 cm thick so they stay light and fluffy after cooking. They are kind of like soft cheesy pillows. I also dust the surface of the syrnyky with flour so they are easy to remove from the parchment. At this point you can freeze them if you want to store them for later. My syrnyky recipe aims for a decent height. While often this dish is rustic and shapeless, I love the appearance of little fluffy pillows on a plate.
In a pan add just enough oil to coat the bottom, and then add another glug for good measure. Let the oil get hot and carefully lay down the syrnyky. Fry in batches. Cook each side until golden brown (about 1-2 minutes). Remove from the pan and place them on a paper towel lined plate. This is kind like like if you were making fritters…since in a way these are sweet cheese fritters.
You can make the sauce while they are frying in a different pan. Or you can make the sauce before you even start so you can chill it in the fridge while you cook. It really is a personal preference if you want your sauce or syrup to be hot or cold. If you don’t want a fruit topping, you can use smetana which is a very popular Eastern Europe sour cream that people also put on syrnyky.
Quick And Easy Blackberry Syrup For Syrnyky
For this syrnyky recipe I opted to pair them with a tasty blackberry syrup. However traditionally I would use a blackcurrant compote as they are available throughout more of the year (and freeze better).
In a pan on medium heat add the blackberries and the sugar. Give the pan a shake and then add the water. Stir the pan every so often and to assist the blackberries breaking down.
After about five minutes your pan should look like the picture above. If your berries have not burst open due to the heat go ahead and break them with a fork or spoon. This syrup can be served chunky like a sauce, or you can strain it out for a thinner version.
How To Store Syrnyky For Later?
Did you know that syrnyky make an excellent freezer staple? Now, my suggestion is to freeze the portioned dough on a tray, then place the pucks into a bag for storage. Once you fry syrnyky they should be eaten fairly quickly, so freezing them before frying is what most Ukrainians do at home. You can even find huge bags of frozen syrnyky in grocery stores like Silpo and ATB.
When you are ready to cook the syrnyky just take however many portions you want out of the bag. Let them defrost on a counter for 10-15 minutes and then fry them as normal.
Syrnyky Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Where do Syrnyky come from?
A: Syrnyky originated in the 14th century over an area that is now Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, and Poland. While it is unknown what culture is the creator, it is likely they lived under the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth based on syrnyky recipes in historical cookbooks.
Q: Is it Syrnyky, Sirniki, or Syrniki?
A: This really just depends on what language you transliterate from. In Ukrainian it is Syrnyky as they pull the name from their name of their cheese. In Belarus they would transliterate it as syrniki as that is the translation from Belarussian. The russian language would also translate it as syrniki although they call it tvorozhniki (творо́жники) after their name for the cheese used since the dish didn’t originate there. In Latvia is is spelt Sirņiki when it came up from Belarus.
Q: Why do my Syrnyky deflate when I fry them?
A: This could be because they are too ‘wet’. This can be fixed by adding a bit more flour in the mixing and forming process. Another thing you can try is to roll out your dough and cut them with a ring mold like you would biscuits.
Q: What to eat or drink with Syrnyky?
A: As this is primarily eaten for breakfast you can pair with whatever you like to eat with breakfast normally. Some cereal, scrambled eggs etc. There aren’t any rules that syrnyky has to go with something like borshch with pampushky for example.
If you want to make this even more sweet, bordering on dessert, you can forego the jam/syrup and drizzle over some delicious caramel sauce!
Syrnyky (Ukrainian Cheese Pancakes)
- 1 Bowl can use a stand mixer if desired
- 1 Fork if using a stand mixer, ignore this too
- 1 Pan for frying
- 1 Parchment Paper
- 600 grams Syr (Farmer's style cottage cheese) The easiest might be to find dry quark if you do not live in Eastern Europe
- 2 large Eggs
- 120 grams Flour this is mostly an estimate since I usually add a tbsp at a time while mixing until I get the desired consistency. If your cheese is quite wet then you will need to add more flour. See following pictures for a consistency reference. (1 cup)
- 3 tbsp Sugar Syrnyky are a little sweet but they aren't as sweet as American pancakes. Most of the sweetness will come from the syrup or jam you use when eating them.
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- Sunflower Oil for frying
- 250 grams Blackberries fresh
- 3 tbsp Sugar
- 2 tbsp Water
- In a bowl (or a stand mixer) add all the syrnyky ingredients and mix them thoroughly. If the mix is still wet and sticky add more flour a tbsp at a time until you get an easy moldable mixture. See pictures in article for reference.
- Grab a ball of the dough and shape into a disk around 2 cm tall. Dust each side with flour and place on a piece of parchment while you make the rest.
- In a pan add some oil and bring up to medium-high heat.
- Place the syrnyky in the oil and fry each side until golden brown, about a minute per side. Remove and place on a paper towel lined plate. Do this in batches if your pan isn't huge because you don't want to crowd them together.
- This syrup can be done at any time, before, during, or after making the syrnyky.
- In a pan on medium high heat add the berries and sugar. Add the water and stir the pan around. After about five minutes the blackberries should have broken down into a chunky sauce.
- You can strain the sauce for a pure syrup, or keep it chunky. It can be served hot or cold depending on your preference.