Karjalanpiirakka – Karelian Pies

Karjalanpiirakka – Karelian Pies are delicious rustic pies with a rye flour crust and rich and buttery mash potato filling.

Karjalanpiirakka – Karelian Pies

This post was originally published in April 2015. I have uploaded the new photos while the text and recipe remain unchanged. 

Have you ever heard this name – Karjalanpiirakka? Or this – Kalittoa? Or the easiest one – Karelian Pastry (Karelian Pies)? There is the number of names for this kind of pastry – just google it!

Perhaps not, especially if you’ve never been to Finland or the Northern parts of Russia.

I was raised and most of my life lived in the Northern part of Russia, in the region called Karelia. Roughly, it’s located between Saint Petersburg and the Finland border.

Basically, kalitt or kalittoa (Karelian language) is the most prominent authentic food of Karelia. However, this kind of pastry is ubiquitous in Finland (Karjalanpiirakkawhere – Finnish name) where it’s often called Karelian Pie. Still, this kind of pastry or pastry similar to Karjalanpiirakka are well-known in some other parts of Russia, for example, in Siberia and some other countries.

Not only is this the most famous authentic food of Karelia but, in my book, the most delicious. To be honest, I can’t stand the other authentic recipes since they are either too heavy (imagine the combo of fish and meat) or quite obnoxious (well…imagine not very fresh fish and the way it smells).

These cute pies have a lovely rye crust, but the stuffing may vary. Originally, the common filling was barley. Later on, in the 19th century, potato and buckwheat were introduced.  The latest ingredients were rice and millet and, perhaps, cottage cheese. I’ve never seen Karjalanpiirakka with cottage cheese in Finland though.

I do believe the most common variations today are pies with mashed potatoes and millet, and I love both kinds. But in my humble opinion, pies with potatoes are always the winner!

Just imagine: unleavened, with a slightly sour aftertaste crust, filled with creamy, rich, salty and buttery mashed potatoes, baked until lovely golden and generously brushed with butter (yes, again – nobody promised it would be a skinny recipe!). With a glass of milk or even tea, it’s such a hearty meal!

It might be not a perfectly authentic recipe, but don’t forget these pies are common in different regions so there could be the variations. I was taught there are 5 essential ingredients: rye flour, sour cream, butter, milk (or sour-tasting drink such as kefir) and… Oh I believe there was one more ingredient, but I’ve totally forgotten it :) You may find an option of mixing rye and wheat flour – you may give this a try as well since wheat flour will soften up the sour taste of your dough, and it will be easy to work with the dough too. But honestly, this rye crust is the main reason to make these pies.

OMG, they are so good!

Would you ever give a try these delish rustic pies, guys?


Karjalanpiirakka – Karelian Pies

Category: Baking: Savory, Pies

Servings: 20-24


  • Crust:
  • 4 cups rye flour + for kneading and dusting
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 2/3 cup milk or kefir
  • a pinch of salt
  • Filling:
  • 5-6 medium potatoes (1,5 pounds), peeled
  • 1-2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 2-3 tablespoons butter (salted is fine)
  • a few generous pinches of salt (or to taste)
  • Additional:
  • 2-3 tablespoons sour cream, for brushing crust
  • 2-4 tablespoons butter, melted


  1. Start with the potato filling. In a pot of boiling water cook the potatoes until soft. Drain. While still hot, mash it adding the butter, sour cream, and salt. The potatoes shouldn't remain lumpy. Leave it to cool.
  2. To make the dough, in a large bowl mix together the rye flour, milk, sour cream and salt. There is one secret - there are no exact proportions so you may need to add some more flour or liquid (water is fine). I can recommend adding all the liquid ingredients and 3 cups of the flour at once, adding the remaining flour gradually.
  3. Knead the dough for a few minutes - it will remain slightly sticky but generally elastic and easy to handle if sprinkled with the flour.
  4. Roll the dough out into a log and cut it into 20-24 pieces.
  5. Using a rolling pin, roll each piece into a round-shape crust (size of a medium plate).
  6. Spread about 2 tablespoons of the potato filling on dough leaving the sides empty.
  7. Shape the pies by pinching the edges - you should make 10-14 pinches on each pie.
  8. Place the pies on a baking tray covered with parchment. Brush the top of the filling with the sour cream.
  9. Preheat oven to 200 degrees C (400 degrees F).
  10. Bake the pies for 18-20 minutes, until the crust is crispy and lightly golden.
  11. Remove from oven. While still hot, generously brush with the melted butter. Drown them in butter!:)
  12. It's always better serve them immediately. Otherwise, you can cover them with a clean kitchen towel and leave for a while - they will still be delicious!


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