Chebureki are fried meat hand pies with a crispy crust and juicy beef or lamb filling. This Crimean street food recipe makes a sensational snack!
When I travel (or used to, prior to 2020), I really enjoy tasting the regional street foods. It's fun to take notes on the flavors and ingredients in the dish, then return to the States and attempt to recreate them in my home kitchen.
Although, I think there are some street food recipes that'll never taste quite as good at home. Maybe this is because enjoying local specialties is as much about taking in the surroundings as it is about the food itself.
Let's travel west from the Silk Road trade route to the Crimean peninsula, for one of their most popular street foods.
Begin your travels in the city of Kuban, located in southern Russia. Head west towards the Black Sea to the Strait of Kerch and across the Crimean Bridge (also known as Kerch Bridge), where you'll arrive in the Republic of Crimea.
In 2014, a controversial political treaty was signed between Russia and Crimea. As a result, economic sanctions were put into place that make traveling to Crimea really difficult these days. So, it’s a great thing that the hand pies are so simple to make at home!
Names: Chebureki, Cheburek
Course: Savory snack, appetizer, or main dish
Serving Temp: Hot
Recipe difficulty: Medium 🥄🥄
A popular regional dish of Crimean Tatar cuisine, chebureki are pan fried meat hand pies with a filling of ground lamb or beef, spices and bits of onion and/or peppers.
Visually, chebureki look a little bit like savory turnovers or large fried dumplings. Truthfully, they are nothing like either of those foods though. Cheburek dough is sturdier than dumpling dough and the crust is fried, so it isn't as fragile or flaky as a baked turnover.
The meat filling is so darn juicy! Of course, using a higher fat meat helps, which is why I use ground beef. Even with a leaner meat like lamb mince, the addition of water in the filling keeps everything moist.
With the combination of a super crisp crust and moist and flavorful filling, it's pretty easy to understand why this dish is so popular!
Dough for Fried Hand Pies
Notes and Tips
- Adding vodka is optional.
There are two reasons that you might want to add a bit of vodka to your pastry dough. The first reason is that vodka makes the crust flakier.
If you don't want to use alcohol, substitute it with an equal amount of white vinegar.
There's another reason that alcohol is a great addition to hand pie dough, and this one may surprise you. Alcohol doesn't freeze completely. This means, you can freeze the dough without it becoming rock hard!
- If possible, use an electric stand mixer.
I think the power of the stand mixer helps to incorporate the ingredients without overworking the dough. This being said, if you make a lot of bread recipes, and/or you're comfortable kneading dough by hand, go right ahead.
- Don't forget to let the dough rest.
There are strands of protein in flour called gluten. As the dough ingredients are combined, the gluten strands stretch out. Letting the gluten relax for 30 minutes or so makes the chebureki dough easier to roll out.
Which type of meat is best?
Technically, the meat pie filling can be made with any type of ground meat. Lamb is a popular choice, as is ground beef.
Using meat with a bit of fat in it helps to keep the filling juicy, and of course, fat adds flavor, too.
Adding other vegetables
Finely minced onion is a traditional addition to the filling, but you could certainly add other vegetables to the mixture.
Just keep in mind that they should be quick-cooking veggies. This is because they'll need to cook completely during the 8 minutes or so that the hand pies are in the hot frying oil.
Tips for rolling, filling, and frying
As mentioned earlier, the dough is pretty forgiving, so if a piece happens to tear, it isn't a big deal. You can use your fingers to press it back together.
- Work with one piece of dough at a time.
- Keep the dough covered when not in use.
It can take a couple of minutes to roll out each of the hand pie crusts. To prevent the rest of the batch from drying out, just keep everything under a kitchen towel or sheet of plastic wrap.
- For even cooking, make the dough balls the same size.
A kitchen scale works better than eyeballing. If you don't have a kitchen scale, you could use a measuring scoop to be sure that your dough balls are all the same size.
- Let the oil reheat between frying batches.
Before you begin frying the chebureki, preheat the oil to 375°F, and be sure that the oil reheats to that temperature before you fry subsequent batches.
Chebureki Recipe Video
Want to see the entire process from start to finish? Just watch the video tutorial in the recipe card at the bottom of this post!
Yes, the meat hand pies may be frozen raw or fully cooked! If you freeze them raw, just be sure not to allow them to thaw before you cook them in the oil.
Also, use caution when you place the hand pies into the hot oil, as it will definitely splatter.
Chebureki (Meat Hand Pies) + Video
- 4 cups all purpose flour
- 1 ½ cups hot water
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp vodka or white vinegar, optional
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 ½ lbs ground beef (or ground lamb)
- 1 large yellow onion peeled, quartered
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- ¼ tsp paprika
- ⅛ tsp cayenne powder (optional)
- ⅓ cup parsley
- ½ cup water (ice cold)
- vegetable oil
- Sift flour into bowl of a stand mixer. To a separate mixing bowl, add and use a whisk to combine salt, hot water, oil, and optional vodka or vinegar. Add the liquids to the flour and using dough hook, mix on medium-low speed until dough forms. If too sticky, add a little more flour, or if too dry, add a little more water. Knead until a soft, smooth dough forms (not sticky). Cover bowl with kitchen towel and rest dough for 30 minutes.
- Place raw beef or lamb in a large mixing bowl. To bowl of food processor, add onion, garlic, salt, pepper, paprika, cayenne, parsley and water. Mix to form a puree, then transfer puree to bowl of raw meat. Mix well to combine. Set aside.
- Divide dough into 12 equal parts. Cup one piece of dough between your hands. Move your top hand in a circular motion to shape each portion into a ball. While working with one ball, cover the remaining dough with a kitchen towel.
- Working with one ball of dough at a time, use rolling pin to roll dough out into a thin 8-inch circle.
- Place 3 tablespoons meat mixture over one half of circle and spread evenly, almost to edges. Fold the other half of dough circle over the meat mixture, then use your fingers to press the edges together. Use tines of a fork to crimp edges of dough. Remove any ragged edges with pastry cutter or knife.
- Add ½-inch of vegetable oil to a 12-inch or larger skillet or cast iron pan and preheat to a temperature of 375°F. When the oil is hot, fry the chebureki in batches (avoid crowding the pan) until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes on each side. Transfer to a paper towel to drain. Serve immediately warm.
*The information shown below is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.