Lithuanian Potato-Meat Dumplings (Cepelinai)

Lithuanian Potato-Meat Dumplings (Cepelinai)

The Spruce / Christine Ma

Prep: 60 mins
Cook: 50 mins
Total: 110 mins
Servings: 6 to 8 servings
Yield: 10 to 12 cepelinai
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
738 Calories
29g Fat
86g Carbs
36g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6 to 8
Amount per serving
Calories 738
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 29g 37%
Saturated Fat 11g 55%
Cholesterol 122mg 41%
Sodium 1049mg 46%
Total Carbohydrate 86g 31%
Dietary Fiber 9g 31%
Total Sugars 8g
Protein 36g
Vitamin C 39mg 194%
Calcium 118mg 9%
Iron 5mg 29%
Potassium 2465mg 52%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Lithuanian potato-meat dumplings are known as zeppelins or cepelinai because of their shape. These hearty and rich dumplings take some time to make, but they are well worth the effort. Don't be intimidated by the recipe as it has a few steps in order to make each component, including the filling, the dumpling, and the gravy.

The potatoes for cepelinai are prepared in two ways—raw potatoes, which are peeled and grated, and then cooked potatoes, which are peeled, boiled, and riced. A potato ricer is a handy and useful tool to have to prepare them. Use your favorite ground meat combination for the recipe, we have offered alternate suggestions in our tips below.

The national dish of Lithuania, cepelinai are best served and eaten as soon as made. The cooked dumplings are hard to store, and are best piping hot and covered with hot gravy.

"These potato meat dumplings are very good, though making them successfully can take some practice. To keep them from falling apart, make sure the raw potato mixture is smooth (finely grated), not shredded, and keep the stuffed dumplings at a gentle boil. " —Diana Rattray

Lithuanian Potato-Meat Dumplings (Cepelinai)/Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


For the Meat Filling:

  • 1 pound ground pork, or an equal mix of pork, beef, and veal

  • 1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 large egg, beaten

For the Dumplings:

  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

  • 8 large Idaho potatoes, peeled and finely grated, about 5 pounds

  • 2 large Idaho or Russet potatoes, about 1 1/2 pounds, peeled, boiled, and riced

  • 1 medium onion, finely grated

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, more as needed

  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

For the Gravy:

  • 1/2 pound bacon, diced

  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped

  • 1 cup sour cream

  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  • 1 to 2 tablespoons milk, as needed

Steps to Make It

Make the Meat Filling

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    meat filling ingredients

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  2. In a large bowl, mix together ground meat, finely chopped onion, the salt, a few grinds of pepper, and the egg until well combined.

    filling ingredients in a bowl

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  3. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

    meat mixture in a bowl, covered with plastic wrap

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

Make the Dumplings

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    dumpling ingredients

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  2. Add the lemon juice to the raw grated potatoes so they don't turn brown.

    grated potatoes and lemon in a bowl

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  3. Place them in a fine-mesh cheesecloth or cotton dishtowel, and twist over a large bowl to get rid of the excess water.

    potatoes in cheesecloth in a bowl

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  4. Pour off the water, reserving the potato starch at the bottom of the bowl.

    potato water in a bowl

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  5. Unwrap the cheesecloth and place the raw potatoes in the bowl with the potato starch you reserved from the bottom of the bowl.

    potato mixture in a bowl

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  6. Add the cooked riced potatoes, grated onion, and the salt, more to taste. Mix well.

    grated onions and potatoes in a bowl

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  7. Put a large stockpot of well-salted water on to boil.

    water in a pot

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  8. To form the zeppelins, take about 1 cup of dumpling mixture and pat it flat in the palm of the hand.

    potato patty

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  9. Place 1/4 cup or more of meat mixture in the center and, using slightly dampened hands, fold the potato mixture around the meat into a football shape, sealing well. Continue until both mixtures are used.

    potato mixture folded around the meat mixture

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

Cook the Dumplings

  1. Carefully lower dumplings (in batches if necessary to prevent crowding) into salted, boiling water to which 1 tablespoon of cornstarch has been added (to prevent dumplings from falling apart).

    Make sure water returns to the boil; reduce the heat to low and continue simmering until the filling is cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes.

    pot of water

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  2. Remove dumplings with a slotted spoon or strainer, drain briefly on a clean dish towel and place on a heated platter.

    boiled dumplings on a plate

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

Make the Gravy

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    gravy ingredients

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  2. While the dumplings are boiling, make the gravy. In a medium skillet, fry the bacon and chopped onion until tender.

    onions and bacon in a pan

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  3. Drain and combine with sour cream and black pepper. Thin with 1 to 2 tablespoons milk if necessary.

    sour cream and milk added to the bacon mixture in the bowl

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  4. Ladle the gravy over the dumplings or pass the gravy at the table.

    Lithuanian Potato-Meat Dumplings (Cepelinai) with gravy on the side

    The Spruce / Christine Ma


  • If your cepelinai tend to fall apart, try adding a few tablespoons of dry potato starch to the potato mixture along with the reserved wet starch.
  • A Lithuanian potato grater is an excellent option, but if you aren't able to find one, grate the raw potatoes with the smallest grater holes then pulse them in a food processor until smooth.
  • Instead of cheesecloth or a dish cloth, use a nut milk bag to wring out excess water.
  • Let the potato water settle for a few minutes before pouring it off—the pasty starch will remain in the bottom of the bowl.
  • Starchy russets, aka Idaho potatoes, are the potato to use to make cepelinai.
  • A potato ricer makes the preparation of the cooked potatoes much easier.

Recipe Variations

  • You can use all ground pork or a meatloaf-style mixture of pork, beef, and veal.
  • If you don't eat meat, you could make another variety of dumplings that are potato-cheese cepelinai.

How to Store

  • Cepelinai may be made shaped ahead of time. Refrigerate the filled dumplings overnight and boil them the next day.
  • To freeze, arrange the uncooked cepelinai on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze until solid. Transfer them to a container or freezer bag and freeze them for up to 1 month. Boil the cepelinai from frozen, adding about 5 to 10 minutes to the total cooking time.