Karelian pasty is a traditional pasty that originated from the region of Karelia, now divided between Finland and Russia and of historic significance for Finland, Russia and Sweden.
It is a pasty whose crust is historically made of rye flour, but different variants, with differing amounts of wheat flour, have also become popular and they are from North Karelia (eastern Finland) and Ladoga Karelia. The pasties have an oval shape and are filled with rice and milk.
Origin and etymology
Karelian pasties are also called Karelian pies or Karelian pirogs and come from the region of Karelia (from this comes the name), which is divided between the countries of Finland and Russia. Russia has the federal subjects of the Republic of Karelia and Leningrad Oblast, while Finland has the regions of South Karelia, North Karelia, and the eastern portion of modern-day Kymenlaakso.
The first written reference to this Finnish delicacy dates back to 1686. The dish, however, only became immensely popular throughout Finland, and even spread to Sweden, after World War II. The evacuees from ceded parts of Karelia resettled across Finland and brought with them Karelian traditions, including traditional dishes.
Originally, when rice was not a common product, barley porridge was used instead of rice porridge. While rice has become the most popular filling, carrots and potatoes are also traditionally used, and still sold nowadays.
Nowadays, the product is widely available in the entire country and can be bought in every supermarket and cafeteria that have savory products. If you happen to visit Finland, it’s really a must!
Karelian pasty is a TSG food!
You might not be aware of this, but these pasties are protected by the TSG, the traditional speciality guaranteed label of EU and UK. To qualify for the TSG label, a food must be of “specific character” and either its raw materials, production method, or processing must be “traditional”.
Karelian pasties are unique and any product that does not match the described traditional method of preparation (including adding or omitting ingredients) cannot have the same name. They will be called “Rice pies” or “Potato pies” based on their filling. The same applies to those produced in Finland that differ from the original recipe. If you happen to be in Santa Claus land and you want to taste some, you can buy, for instance, these from Fazer (page in Finnish and Swedish, sorry). As you can see, they are called Riisipiirakka instead of Karjalanpiirakka.
Tips to make the best Karelian pies
Making a Karelian pasty or pie might look and sound difficult but you will just need a some practice to constantly improve and become a pro. The ingredients are quite simple but the difficulty comes with the shaping of these delicious pies. While the principle is not very difficult – you’ll just need to crimp or ”pinch” the dough around the filling and seal the ends – you will need some practice to shape them well!
Here we have listed some tips to make the perfect pies:
- If you want to save time, you can make the rice porridge in advance. This will take away around 30 minutes from the process. You can make it the day before, for instance. Pay attention to the consistency, however. You don’t want porridge that is too thick nor do you want porridge that is wet enough to ruin the crunchy crust!
- The choice of the rye flour is particularly important
- Roll the dough with a rolling pin and spread it very thin. Shaping it in an oval shape is important and adding the right amount of filling will make shaping them easier
- The temperature of the oven is important for them to turn out crispy. If your oven does not reach 300 degrees, bake at its highest temperature
How to serve them?
In this recipe, we included instructions on how to make munavoi, the classic egg and butter mix that you can spread on top of the Karelian pasties. You can either just pour melted butter on them once you take them out of the oven and eat them as is, or you can additionally spread some egg and butter on them.
Eating a Karelian pasty with egg and butter is the most traditional way. When you go to a buffet restaurant in Finland, you will always find them available. The good thing about making the mix at home is that you choose how much butter and eggs to add. As the taste will mix with the pies, it is crucial that you find a good compromise. We have found ours with 6 eggs and 120 grams of butter for this amount, but you are free to change slightly the amount if you wish to try! Just begin by smashing the eggs and keep adding butter until you find the right balance.
Can I use only rye flour?
Yes, the original recipe does not necessarily include wheat flour. Truth be said, wheat flour makes working the dough much easier. Plus, this version is typical of some areas of Karelia and is commonly used nowadays, and an acceptable way of making the TSG Karelian pasties.
Can I make them in advance?
You can make Karelian pies in advance and store them in the fridge for a couple of days or in the freezer for a longer time. They should stay fine for a couple of months.
Have you ever made or eaten Karelian pies? If you visit Finland or if you live in the country and you have no idea of what these are, you should really check them out!
Karelian pasty (Karjalanpiirakka)
- 230 g starchy rice Finnish ”porridge rice” or arborio for example
- 1 l milk
- 2 tsp salt
- 190 g rye flour
- 90 g wheat flour
- 2 tsp salt
- 210 ml water
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
Egg and butter spread
- 6 eggs
- 120 g butter
- Add liter of milk into a saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Rinse the rice and add to the milk.
- Bring to a boil, stir occasionally, until the porridge is thick and the rice is half cooked (20-30 minutes).
- Add salt in the end and let it cool down.
Making the dough
- In a bowl add rye and wheat flour, oil, salt and water.
- Knead the dough until smooth.
- Roll out the dough with the help of rye flour into a plate about 3 mm thick.
- Take 7 cm circles from the dough with a mold or inverted drinking glass.
- Thin each circle with a stick or collar to a translucent oval (14 x 17 cm).
- Protect with a film to prevent drying and only take out a piece when working on that one. If you stack the dough sheets, sprinkle with flour before stacking.
- Preheat oven to 300°C (570°F). Or, if not possible, as high a temperature as you can.
- Apply the filling to the center of the dough in an oval area. Leave 3 cm turning space on the edges.
- Turn the long sides of the dough over the filling and start pressing the edges of the dough with your fingers. ”Pinch” the dough all the way until the end to seal the end. Turn around and repeat on the other side. Flatten the dough if the peaks you pinched are too tall to prevent burning.
- Sprinkle a little rye flour on the baking sheet to prevent the pies from sticking. Do not use baking paper, it may catch fire.
- Bake the pies at 300°C (570°F) for about 12 minutes until they get some color.
- Apply the melted butter immediately. It’s a matter of taste whether the pies are eaten fresh and crispy or softer after you have waited a while.
Egg and butter
- Boil the eggs until hard (7-8 minutes).
- Place the eggs immediately in ice-cold water. This makes it easier to peel off the shell.
- Peel and chop with a fork. Stir in the salt and soft butter. If you store egg butter in the refrigerator, bring it to room temperature to soften before eating it.
Nutritional information shall not be used for medical reasons.