Piragi are traditional Latvian bacon buns. Filled with sautéed onion and bacon. Made by my grandmother, myself, and now my son. This recipe is a family tradition.
I thought it only appropriate that my 200th post on Belly Rumbles is one about a food that is close to my heart. Close due to happy memories, the deliciousness and the fact it is a family recipe.
A recipe that is passed down the generations in all households of Latvian descent. Even today Josh whipped up two batches of piragi to share amongst his friends tomorrow as they partake in their gaming marathon.
It does make this mother proud that he does an amazing job and that his rolling of these little buns has almost reached my standard.
One of my earliest food memories was standing in my great grandmother's kitchen in Merrylands, Sydney. My grandmother and great aunt would also be present. It would have been school holidays, a day or two before Christmas Eve. grandma would have been babysitting me while Mum and Dad were at work.
The kitchen would be full of glorious cooking smells, traditional delights being prepared for the family's Christmas Eve feast. The table that dominated the tiny kitchen, would be covered with flour and piles of dough. Nimble fingers shaped buns filled with bacon and onion perfectly. I was witnessing a piragis production line, to which I was welcomed to join with open arms.
Piragi are a Latvian tradition. Probably the most well know traditional Latvian food. Small torpedo shaped buns filled with a bacon mixture. Simple, but ever so delicious and smell incredible when baking. What seemed like hundreds would be made from that kitchen in the lead up to Christmas Eve.
When the extended family was all together on Christmas eve, the piragi would disappear quicker than could be passed around. Hungrily devoured by all. There would be bags frozen to be given to family members to take home with them. After a late night of celebrations the take home piragi then became an easy and traditional Christmas Day breakfast.
When my grandmother passed away, there wasn't a recipe in her handwritten cookbook for these. Like a good Latvian girl I was supposed to have paid attention, and instinctively have known how to make these addictive buns. Of course I didn't, and as Dad was a male he was never taught and no help.
Through memory, trial and error, I eventually recreated my family's recipe. Even though Josh is now a master at making and shaping piragi, the recipe is written down for future generations.
Really hope you enjoy these tasty little buns of bacon as much as my family do. Is there a traditional recipe that has been passed down through the generations in your family? If there is I would love to hear about it.
Piragi - Latvian Bacon Buns
- 350 grams bacon rashes diced finely
- 2 brown onions finely diced
- Ground pepper to taste
- 7 grams dry instant yeast
- 60 ml warm water
- 60 grams unsalted butter
- 190 ml milk
- 8 teaspoons caster sugar, superfine sugar
- 1 egg beaten
- 440 grams (3 ½ cups) plain flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 egg, beaten
- 40 ml water
- In a heavy non stick pan sauté onions and bacon until the onions are translucent and most of the bacon fat has rendered.
- Add ground pepper to taste.
- Leave this mixture to cool completely while you are making the dough. I usually make the bacon/onion mix the day before and leave it in my fridge until I am ready to use it. The bacon mixture is easier to work with when cold.
- Place yeast and water in a small bowl, put aside for the yeast to activate. It will froth up.
- In a small saucepan add butter, milk and sugar. Warm over a low heat until butter has melted and sugar has dissolved into the milk.
- When milk mixture has cooled to lukewarm stir through beaten egg, yeast and water.
- Place two cups of the plain flour and salt in a large bowl, pour liquid over and stir to combine.
- Once combined add the remaining flour. Mix until all ingredients have come together, then leave to rest in the bowl for 10 minutes.
- Once rested turn dough out on to a lightly floured surface and knead until dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 - 10 minutes.
- Place dough back in to a lightly oiled bowl and cover. Leave dough to raise, around 1½ hours or until doubled in size.
- Preheat oven 180 deg C (360 deg F)
- Once dough is ready, start pulling off a walnut size pieces of dough. Work them in to a ball in your hand then tease them out to a circle. Place a tablespoon of the bacon mixture, and bring the edges of the dough together. Seal the bun in a torpedo shape.
- Place formed buns on a baking tray that has been lined with baking paper.
- Mix the beaten egg and water together to make an egg wash. Brush egg wash mixture on buns. Place buns in oven and bake until golden, 12-15 minutes.Repeat with the remainder of the mixture and dough.
- Once out of the oven they are ready to eat.
- Piragi can also be frozen once cooled.
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the recipe is exactly what my mother used when she was alive. I helped with the bacon and onion frying. her recipe came from her mom from Latvia. my mother would use a little cardamom seeds finely crushed ( Powder) when they came to the United States
I've learned from the amazing people that have stumbled across my recipe for piragi that a lot of people add a little cardamom. It adds a subtle touch and is a really lovely addition.
Thanks for sharing your story about your mum and your bacon and onion chopping contribution!
Wow. Just wow. And not the sarcastic kind, the good kid that you give when you overeat to the point your body hurts and would keep going. Had to convert it to American Metrics, and did an order of operations closer to my tried and true dinner rolls, but this recipe really, REALLY hits the spot. Sweet onion and bacon in a roll that melts like butter. Thank you. It's phenomenal and we loved it.
Thank you for trying the recipe, I am so happy that you enjoyed the piragi and they were a hit.
Love these but can’t get ours to get golden, what is the trick?
Glad you are enjoying the recipe. It is the eggwash that does all the work making the piragi golden. Try using egg yolk only with 1-2 teaspoons of water whisked in as your eggwash. This may work for you in getting them a little more golden without overcooking the piragi. Let me know how you go 🙂
Our family recipe includes lemon extract in the dough. A good amount, so that the house smells lemony all day. Highly recommended, the lemon brings out the sweetness of the onion and that’s what really elevates these from a simple bacon bun. Made 200 over the holiday and they were gone in 3 days! Our dough is a much fluffier version as well but it takes 5 hours.
lemon extract is a new one to me! Over the years I have heard of so many family variations, but this one is one I have not heard of before. I would have never thought of adding lemon extract. I will have to give it a go one day, completely curious!
My Latvian MIL would add lemon rind to her piragi she told me everyone has secret ingredients, following her recipe is so different than your recipe
You are so right, every family had their way of making piragi. When I shared this recipe years ago I had no idea of all the amazing comments and stories it would attract. I love hearing how other families made them, their tricks, etc. Thank you for sharing that your MIL added lemon rind. I'm curious, was that to the dough, or to the filling?
Sveiks! I’m curious about this as well- i was thinking about zesting a lemon and putting it in the bacon onion mix to try it out. Also- try using a little bit of bacon flavored SPAM- works wonders.
Lee Stanton Sawyer
Hello Sara, My heart beat overtime when I saw your entry today. My Latvian Grandmother made these EVERY Saturday, I really mean every Saturday, for her 5 children and spouses, and 11 grandchildren. Saturday afternoon was not to be messed with. We were her family and we had the best times together. My Grandfather and Grandmother immigrated, separately, from Latvia in the early 1900's and met at the Latvian Club in Boston MA. I have not tried your recipe yet but just know it will be almost as good as "Ma's" baking. Ma and Pa were very old world and never lost their accent. Ma used to send necessary items (baby diapers and clothes, first aid supplies, clothes etc etc) to her sister in Latvia to be used by the Red Cross. She used to send money but "others" took the money before it reached her sister. As a child I remember her packaging the items up for mailing. So so many heart filling memories of my Grandparents. Thank you for my trip down memory lane. Happy New Year!
Happy New Year Lee
I love hearing of fellow Latvians family stories. I remember my grandmother sending items back to Latvia as well. Life was hard before the country got its independence back.
Glad to take you for a trip down memory lane. BTW I am very jealous that you had fresh piragi every week!!!
Lee Stanton Sawyer
Hi Sara, We were spoiled. She would also give us a special treat - a bribe?? - dark dark rye bread spread with real butter and sprinkled with sugar. Can't beat it. Except, I am no longer able to find the bread. Dad used to go to Brighton MA every Saturday morning to pick up the 4# loaves with chewy crusts and soft sour dough interior. No caraway seeds. It was also wonderful in a sandwich with liverwurst, cheese, and sandwich spread. How I long for those days. Carefree and full of family love. Unfortunately that was 65 +- years ago.
Hi, I’m hoping to make these this week, but I wanted to know how the leftovers should be stored and reheated? Would they be good eaten cold in a lunchbox? And if I freeze the remainders, how should I reheat those? Thanks! We’ve never had nor heard of these before but they look absolutely amazing!
I hope you enjoy your first ever batch of piragi!
Storing is easy. You can keep them in an air tight container in the fridge for a few days (if they last that long).
Alternatively feeze them, which is what I and most Latvians do each time we bake them. Mainly as we make 100s at a time in advance, bag and freeze them for Christmas or other occasions.
To freeze place them in a ziplock or plastic bag. Remove as much air as you can and place them in the freezer.
To reheat, defrost in the fridge, then warm them at 160 deg C/320 deg F until they are warmed through. You can also place them directly in the oven from the freezer.
They are best served warm but will be a great treat cold in lunch boxes as well.
I want them so bad but all the Latvians I knew have all passed. They are so good you can eat a bag at one siting. I am a man in St Paul MN and would love to buy some. I also loved the heavy dark sour bread WOW! It brings back some old and great memory's Thanks Rusty in MN, and thanks to the Vijums and all they had to go threw during the war...........
They are good, aren't they. You should have a go at making a batch for yourself for rope somebody in to do it for you. I also love Latvian dark bread, it's the best.
My Latvian grandma Elenora made these all my life, Piragi. She was born in 1914 in Latvia. Her recipe is nearly identical to this one, and was her great great grandmothers recipe. The only addition is 1/4 tsp cardamom added.
Thank you for sharing your piragi story. One of the aspects of sharing this recipe that I love is all the wonderful comments I have received over the years of peoples' personal stories. It seems that most families' grandmothers had their own little twist on a basic recipe. I do love the sound of adding cardamom. I will have to give it a try 🙂
Hi Sarah, I too have many happy memories of bacon rolls when I was a young boy that my grandmother made. She would bake these and so would my mother and we used to always enjoy them along with the other interesting Latvian baking that grandma used to make. We also had a beautiful apple slice and a cheese filled slice although I wasn’t really a fan of that one as a kid. Thank you so much for your recipe as what I got from my father and mother really never quite worked. I made these on the weekend and they were just like I remember. My grandmother did like to use a sugary mix of coffee and sugar to put over the top of all of her baking which was another little special treat. Thank you once again. Mark
So lovely to hear from you and I am glad you found my piragi recipe. More importantly, I am thrilled you enjoyed them and they are as you remembered.
I love the idea of a sugar coffee mixture brushed over the top of baked goodies. Not only would it add a little flavour, but it would also add a gorgeous colour.
I know the cheese and the apple slice you are referring to well. It has been a while since I have enjoyed them. I feel the need to get baking!!
I know the apple slice you mean. Yum. Do you have recipe to share ? astridarta & bigpond.com
My grandma made these for us and it was a staple part of every family gathering as i grew up.
I wrote down the recipe as a teenager but didn't note how much cardamom to add ... I'm making these now for the first time in years (for my fathers 81st birthday party) and now ill add a 1/4 tsp of cardamom .. should be better than what i used to make. Thanks !!
I don't add cardamom to mine, but a lot of people do. 1/4 tsp sounds about right. I hope your father has a wonderful 81st and enjoys the piragi.
Hello. My grandmother and mother are both from Latvia and they made these every christmas i have a latvian cookbook but never made anything. My mother used nutmeg and also added cut up ham in them..sooo good.
I grew up next to an older Latvian couple whom I called Grandma & Grandpa. Grandma would make these buns but we never could figure out what she was calling them but I learned the recipe. Grandmas dough was never kneaded and she cooked her bacon in orange juice and some orange zest. Whenever I made it in college it would draw people from almost a block away. All asking what is that amazing smell? I no longer eat pork and will be doing trails to find substitutes for the bacon. Thank for putting a name to Grandma Argyles bacon roles!!
What wonderful memories. Grandma certainly made her's with a twist, it's the first time I have heard of oranges being used in the recipe. Sounds quite interesting, but obviously orange and bacon go well together. They do smell amazing don't they! Glad I could put a name to them for you.
If you eat meat, try beef bacon. My local farmer sells this cut (from brisket I think?) and it is delicious. I'm going to try this recipe with both meats, and the beef bacon version may even get some fresh grated horseradish. I'm so excited to try this recipe!
I haven't tried beef bacon. I have turkey and venison bacon (not in piragi). Sounds really interesting, please let me know how they turn out.
Can theses be made gluten free
I haven't made a gluten free version of piragi. I can't see any reason why you couldn't swap out the flour for a gluten free plain flour/all-purpose flour.
Please let me know how you go.
I have tried making pirags, sometimes they come out sometimes not, and it is so frustrating. The yeast Poofs when in a cup but when I add it to the dough -the dough does not rise or double, I cover it with damp cloth and put in warm place wait 1-2 hours-nothing. I have been buying my pirags from a Latvian lady but I can see she is getting tired, and my son also wants to learn how to make them, Any ideas what I am doing wrong? I would appreciate any tips.
Sounds like you are getting frustrated with trying to get your dough to rise. If your yeast is blooming when it is added to lukewarm water, then it seems it is active. I'm not sure what is going on, but I have a suggestion for you to try.
Make sure you are using INSTANT dry yeast (not simply dry yeast) and mix it straight into the flour. Do not add it to the water to bloom.
You do not need to bloom instant dry yeast, it can be added straight to flour.
Follow the recipe as I have it but;
1. Skip step #4
2. Continue to follow the recipe as above.
3. Add the instant dry yeast at step #7 and add the 60ml of water with the rest of the liquid ingredients.
4. Follow the recipe as normal from that point.
I hope that this helps.
Wow! Sounds nummy for sure! I’ve been trying to get away from meat. Years ago I had a butcher in a little shop in Seattle. He made very lean beef bacon I used to put into potato soup. It was delicious but I bet in the buns they will be outstanding. I would love to hear how they turn out. I will eventually try making them with Veggie Crumbles. It will be a good project for over the winter I think!
Definitely going to try making these. My grandmother would churn out seemingly thousands of these during the year. We were never without them in her freezer. Unfortunately that recipe along with her piparkukas was never written down. We've pretty much figured out piparkukas and will make and send them out to my family members every Christmas but dang now I want to start a pirag assembly line (she always dropped the "i" when she said it). It was meaningful to her because they were able to get out of Latvia when the Russians invaded by trading bacon and vodka for passage (the Russians took everything else). Bacon was our family's lifesaver.
It is truly an amazing site to witness these delicous buns being churned out. I was always surprised as a kid how many could be made in my great-grandmother's tiny little kitchen.
It seems a common thread that many of our Latvian grandmothers didn't write down the recipes. Oh and mine also called them pirag too (along with piragi), I think it is a singular term vs plural, but don't judge me if I am wrong ;P
My grandmother didn't share a lot of what they went through to get out of Latvia, and dad was only very young. I am putting some of the pieces together though talking to relatives that are still in Latvia.
Growing up most of my childhood life with my Grandparents.... Omam's and Papas. Piragi's were served very Christmas. I remember the smells and the amounts that my Omam's would make. I watched her but sadly could not remember how they were made. I did try from memory to form a recipe and to my delight I almost got it right!.. they were edible at least lol Thanks to google and people like you putting this online, I can not get this right!!! It is sad Omam's did not teach me this and all her other most delicious foods from Latvia. I would love to learn more and cook for my family to pass on the traditions. My Grandparents too did not talk much about the past, a few good memories from childhood. But once war stated, the conversation's became silent.
It seems a lot of us share a similar upbringing in regard to conversations had and the sharing of knowledge. Glad I could at least fill in the piragi gap.
My father-in-law's second wife was Latvian and she would make these. We would have them at Christmas and she would make them for the men to pack in there hunting sacks. Absolutely delicious, and your recipe is the same as hers was. Thank You .
I'm so happy to hear that you enjoyed the recipe and is the same as your step-mother's. Thank you for sharing the story of her packing piragi into the men's hunting sacks. Would be a perfect snack when on the go.
Hi Sara! My Latvian grandmother still makes hundreds of these at Christmas time. She's 85 and it's getting a little harder for her so I have been testing out batches from our family recipe. I wanted to let you know about the sour cream question. My great grandma had a half cup of sour cream and mixed that in the 2 beaten eggs. That mixture would then go into the yeast/water/sugar mixture before scalded milk (cooled) and flour.
Thank you for sharing your great grandmother's dough method. I love adding to my knowledge base on how others do their dough. Since writing this article with my original dough recipe I have been playing around with using sour cream. I have a dough that I really enjoy and works. I will be adding it to the recipe card soon to share with everyone.