Lithuanian Potato-Meat Dumplings (Cepelinai)

Lithuanian Potato-Meat Dumplings (Cepelinai)

The Spruce / Christine Ma

Prep: 45 mins
Cook: 25 mins
Total: 70 mins
Servings: 6 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
842 Calories
28g Fat
115g Carbs
35g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 842
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 28g 36%
Saturated Fat 11g 56%
Cholesterol 119mg 40%
Sodium 1156mg 50%
Total Carbohydrate 115g 42%
Dietary Fiber 12g 42%
Total Sugars 10g
Protein 35g
Vitamin C 51mg 257%
Calcium 147mg 11%
Iron 6mg 36%
Potassium 3112mg 66%
*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—peeled and grated, and then peeled, boiled, and riced. A potato ricer is a handy and useful item to have to prepare them. Use your favorite ground meat combination for the recipe, we have offered suggestions in our tips below.

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

Ingredients

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 teaspoon 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

  • 2 large Idaho potatoes, peeled, boiled, and riced

  • 1 medium onion, finely grated

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

For the Gravy:

  • 1/2 pound bacon, diced

  • 1 large coarsely chopped onion

  • 1 cup sour cream

  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  • 1 to 2 tablespoons milk, if 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, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and egg until well incorporated.

    filling ingredients in a bowl

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  3. Cover with plastic wrap 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

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  2. Add a drop or two of lemon juice to the 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 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 riced boiled potatoes, grated onion, and 1 teaspoon salt or to taste. Mix well.

    grated onions and potatoes in a bowl

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  7. Put a large stockpot of 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 gone.

    potato mixture folded around the meat mixture

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

Cook the Dumplings

  1. Carefully lower dumplings 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 and continue boiling for 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

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  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 dumplings with gravy or pass the gravy at the table.

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

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

Tips

  • Russets, aka Idaho potatoes, are the potato to use to make cepelinas.
  • Since the filling cooks inside the cepelinai as they boil, make sure to finely dice the onion to ensure that they get done.
  • A potato ricer makes the preparation of the potatoes much easier.
  • 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 cepelinas.