Easy Thin Blini Recipe: The Best Russian Pancakes You’ll Ever Try
If you haven’t eaten blini yet, you’ve been missing out. They’re like regular pancakes, but better. This easy blini recipe uses simple ingredients to create a mouth-watering taste.
What does this blini recipe mean to me?
I’ve always associated blini with home, comfort, and Sundays. There is something special about this dish that reminds me of childhood and a carefree time. I remember when I stayed with my grandmother, I’d wake up in the morning with the aroma of freshly baked blini. They were the best: thin, crispy on the edge, and so delicious. My grandmother always served them with a couple of types of jam and, of course, sour cream.
Many years have passed since then, but I still cherish the memories of those morning teas with my grandmother. I always liked Russian pancakes, but to make my own blinis was something very challenging for me: every time I tried to cook blini, they were either too thick, too ugly, or I just couldn’t turn them because they would stick to the pan.
With this traditional blini recipe, blini became one of my quick and easy meals. I like to make blinchiki (the affectionate name for blini) for Sunday breakfast, or if you prefer a savoury blini, and you’re feeling particularly snazzy, it makes for a perfect appetiser with salmon or caviar before the main dish at a party.
What is blini?
There have been similar dishes in appearance, products used, and cooking methods for a long time among many different cultures, not just in Slavic cuisine. It is believed that blinis were first cooked in antiquity, and then varieties appeared in many countries. This is not surprising because blinis are super easy to make.
The first mention of flat cakes, similar to rounded blini, dates back to the 5th century BC. In ancient manuscripts, it is noted that in the diet of the ancient Egyptians, there were round sour pastries of natural sourdough. They appeared after the invention of beer which they used to make sourdough.
History of the Russian pancake and Maslenitsa
Russian blini appeared no later than the 9th century. Before them, pancakes were baked from an unleavened batter of a smaller size. Since the 11th century, they have become an integral attribute of the Maslenitsa holiday, which was celebrated in honour of the departure of winter and the onset of spring warmth.
Similar to Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day, in the U.K, Maslenitsa is a holiday before Orthodox Lent where people make and eat blinis (or bliny). Sometimes, Maslenitsa is even called Butter Week. The original Maslenitsa was thought to be a pagan celebration of the Spring equinox.
According to some, the shape and colour of blinis symbolises the Sun. This is where more of the Russian pancake’s pagan origins unfurl their roots. Blinis were originally dedicated to the pagan god Yarila, the main Slavic god before the adoption of Christianity. In pre-Christian times, they were used in pagan cults as an offering to the forest spirits, which the Slavs then revered. Russian historians are trying to set the record straight to those who claim that the blini recipe is just a shallow imitation of the French crêpe.
Blini around the world
There are traditions of cooking a similar dish in different countries. In Britain, the batter is made with flour, sugar and milk, and as mentioned earlier, there is a fun tradition that has been in force since the 15th century – the so-called Pancake Day. On this holiday, funny pancake races are held, which the locals love very much.
In the U.S.A, they often make pancakes with a variety of fillings, including raisins, cheese, vegetables, and berries. In Germany, they are pfannkuchen, with lemon juice in the batter and in France, they are crêpes, with powdered sugar and cognac in the batter. In Latin America, thin pancakes are made from corn flour, called tortilla and used for burritos stuffed with minced meat, fish or cheese. In India, pancakes are the vegetarian dosa; they are made with a filling of vegetables, potatoes, and eggs. In Norway, pannekaken are rolled up and eaten with sugar, butter, and seasoned with cinnamon for flavour. In Central Asia, unleavened thin flat cakes are baked and eaten instead of bread as an independent dish called lepeshka. Rice flour is used, and the filling is onions and various types of seafood.
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- Milk: 0.5 l
- Large eggs: 3
- Sugar: 2 tbsp
- Salt: ¼ tsp
- Baking soda: ¼ tsp
- All-purpose flour: 200-220 gr
- Vegetable oil: 2-3 tbsp
- Collect your ingredients
- In a large bowl, whisk 3 large eggs well. While some blini recipes will recommend separating the egg yolk from the whites, we suggest you whisk the egg white and yolk together.
- Warm up 0.5 litres of milk until it's warm but not hot.
- Pour 100 ml of the warm milk into the egg mixture and whisk again.
- In a separate bowl, mix 2 tbsp of sugar, ¼ tsp of salt, ¼ tsp of baking soda and 200g of all-purpose flour.
- When mixed, add the flour mixture to the eggs and stir well.
- Pour in the rest of the milk and keep whisking everything well until you get a smooth batter. Thanks to this method, a mixer is not required and there will be no lumps in the mixture. You may need to add a little extra flour if it's too liquidy.
- Pour 2-3 tbsp of vegetable oil into the mixture and stir.
- Cover the bowl and let the batter stand in a warm place for 15 minutes. Then you can begin to make the pancakes.
- Grease the frying pan and turn the heat up high. Now 15 minutes have passed, your batter should flow smoothly when you stir it.
- Add enough mixture to the frying pan to cover the entire base of the pan, but make sure that it is only thinly covered. Cook on one side for about one minute or until bubbles form (bubbles are a sign that it's the right time to turn the blinis over).
- After one minute, or when the blinis have started to form bubbles, flip the Russian pancake over and fry on the other side for another minute.
- Transfer the cooked blinis to a plate lined with a paper towel while you use up the remaining batter. Pancakes should be soft, thin, and very tasty.
- Use room temperature products.
- You can always make blini gluten-free if you use gluten-free flour or buckwheat flour instead of wheat flour.
- Serve immediately for the best taste.
- The size of the Russian pancake depends on the size of your frying pan, but you can always make bite-sized pancakes or even banana bites using this blini pancake recipe.
- If you have leftover blini pancakes, you can store them in the fridge for a couple of days, and then when you want to eat them, just fry them on medium heat. Grease the pan with unsalted butter as my granny used to do, then warm your blini on the melted butter. It might sound impossible, but this makes them taste even better!
- Similarly, if you have leftover blini mixture, you can store it in the fridge for a few days.
- One of my favourite blini ideas is blini in the oven with cream cheese and raisins (we will share this recipe later).
Blini toppings: dip or spread?
Pancakes can be served immediately after cooking, but if you add toppings to them, you’ll take the taste to the next level. There are many different fillings and ways to serve blinchiki.
Traditional and familiar sweet blini toppings include:
- fresh fruits
- whipped cream
- condensed milk
- cottage cheese or cream cheese
- sour cream
- other ingredients of your choice
For savoury pancakes:
- caviar (for the authentic Russian experience)
- sour cream and mushrooms
- herring or salmon fillet (Norwegian and Baltic pancakes)
- meat or bacon (American)
- other ingredients of your choice
Whichever blini fillings you choose, remember that the ingredients come in two varieties: liquid or thick. To apply thick ones, unroll the blini on your plate and then spread the topping (distribute it over the surface of the pancake). After the filling is spread, add any other toppings and gently fold it over twice so that you have a nice quarter-sized portion with 4 layers.
With liquid fillings, the procedure is reversed. First, you fold the pancake, then dip it into the filling and eat.
Enjoy your blini breakfast!
We hope that this blini recipe becomes your new go-to when it comes to morning pancakes. If you want to try a different Russian pancake recipe, check out our syrniki recipe: it’s a pancake made from cottage cheese! We also have other non-Slavic breakfasts like homemade granola or banana bites.