Ukrainian Chebureki (Чебурек)
Ukrainian Chebureki, written Чебурек, is a popular turnover pastry usually eaten as a street food or snack. It is a Crimean Tatar dish but popular all over Eastern Europe and central Asia. Alona’s family is from Crimea so this is a dish I’ve had quite often. One of the more traditional fillings is beef and onion, but it could also be made with lamb (or really any meat if you want). For this recipe I used pork since I had it in the fridge, but you can sub any meat you prefer. I even make dessert chebureki using cherries just like in sweet varenyky. If you are ever in Kyiv you can get great Chebureki at Musafir. This restaurant used to be in Crimea before the occupation, and now is in Ukraine’s capital.
Like Ukrainian Food? Try Alona’s Grandmother’s Amazing Liver Cake and Meatballs!
The dough is similar to most dumpling dough but it is cooked in hot oil. Actually it is more like deep frying mixed with boiling, because if the oil is too hot it will burn the dough before the filling is properly cooked. Other than that, this recipe is extremely easy and so, so delicious.
Ukrainian Chebureki are big. Sometimes you’ll get some that are hand sized, but it’s my belief that the bigger the better. I roll out a ball of dough to about a foot in diameter (30 cm). If you want to make them smaller you can, but don’t go too small or you’ll end up with just fried varenyky. The white plate you see them on in the picture is 16 inches (40 cm) to give you a sense of scale.
The mixture is a simple mash of minced pork (but more traditional is beef), chopped onion, and pressed garlic. Of course a little parsley, salt, and pepper round it out. The filling basically steam cooks while the outside is being deep fried. You don’t need to worry about these being undercooked as the filling is spread really quite thin. Just a couple tablespoons of filling for the whole chebureki!
Then once the chebureki is sealed shut with a tool or a fork, just carefully lower it into a pan of hot oil. I keep the flame on medium heat so the oil is hot enough to deep fry, but just barely. After about 3-4 minutes on one side I carefully flip it over and cook another minute on the other. You’ll have to use your best judgement, but I flip when the dough just becomes golden as it will become more golden brown naturally, they will even darken a bit after you take them out of the pan. Speaking of, when the chebureki are done just rest them on some paper towels for a couple minutes before serving. You can eat these chebureki with a knife and fork, but the easier way is to just use your hands.
While I used pork, the traditional (Crimean) Ukrainian chebureki meat is beef. However you can really get creative with your fillings. Here’s one I made with stewed cherries that is great for dessert. It is the exact same method, but sweet rather than savory.
- 300 grams Flour All Purpose is fine
- 250 grams Pork minced. Can use beef or lamb to be more traditional.
- 120 ml Water
- 100 ml Milk 2% is fine
- 60 ml Olive Oil or any good oil you prefer (walnut oil works really well too)
- 1 Yellow Onion finely chopped
- 1 tbsp Parsley fresh chopped, or dry
- 1 tsp Sugar
- 1 tsp Black Pepper freshly cracked
- 1 tsp Salt or to taste
- 1 tsp Paprika optional
- Vegetable Oil for shallow frying. You'll need enough to cover the bottom of your pan about a centimeter
- In a bowl sift together the flour, sugar, and salt. Slowly trickle in the water while agitating the dough with your fingers. Add the olive oil and knead the dough a bit more violently. Set aside.
- In another bowl add the meat, onion, parsley, salt, pepper, and milk. If you are using paprika (recommended) add that as well. It's not super traditional but I think it adds to the meal.
- Take the dough and divide it in fourths. Roll out the dough until you have a sheet large enough to cut out about a foot (30cm) diameter circle. You can flip a large plate and trace with a knife.
- Take a couple tablespoons of the filling and spread it around one side of the dough sheet. Fold over the other side and seal shut. You can use a tool, or just the tines of a fork.
- In a pan add the vegetable oil and turn the heat on medium. If it is too hot you will burn the outside before the inside is fully cooked. Place a wooden spoon into the oil, if you see tiny bubbles you are good, if the bubbles are large it is too hot and you should lower the heat.
- Carefully drop in the chebureki and fry about 3-4 minutes a side, or until golden. It will turn golden brown as it rests. Remove and place on a paper towel lined plate or rack.
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