What is Kopytka?

G. Wiesen

Kopytka are small potato dumplings, somewhat similar to gnocchi, commonly found in Belarusian and Polish cuisine. They are typically made using a simple dough that consists primarily of potato, and they are not usually stuffed or filled with any other substance. These dumplings are boiled in water to cook them, and afterward often fried lightly in butter, similar to pierogies, or served with a variety of toppings. Kopytka are commonly served with toppings of fried breadcrumbs, onions cooked and softened in butter, a combination of sautéed onions and bacon, or even mushroom gravy.

Potatoes are a key ingredient in kopytka.
Potatoes are a key ingredient in kopytka.

The name kopytka comes from the polish word for "little hooves” and is based on the resemblance of the dumplings to the hooves of a small animal. They can also be referred to as kapytki, which is the Belarusian word with the same meaning. Kopytka are typically made by first boiling potatoes in water until they are cooked and soft. The potatoes are then either mashed until soft and free of lumps, or pressed through a ricer to ensure a light, fluffy texture to the potatoes in preparation for using them to make dough.

Breadcrumbs may be fried and served as a topping for kopytka.
Breadcrumbs may be fried and served as a topping for kopytka.

These prepared potatoes are then combined with flour, egg, and salt and mixed thoroughly to make the dough. The kopytka dough is then rolled out flat onto a surface and separated into smaller flat pieces. Each piece is then rolled up into a long coil, similar to a snake, which is then used to make the individual dumplings. This long roll of dough is cut into pieces, at a diagonal angle, to create the dumplings with a shape that resembles a small hoof.

The kopytka are then typically placed in boiling water until they float, and then allowed to boil several more minutes once floating. They can then be removed from the water and set aside until ready for serving. They can be served plainly, with a topping, or fried lightly in a small amount of oil or butter until golden brown.

If served without frying, the kopytka are typically served with a number of different toppings. Among the most popular are breadcrumbs cooked lightly in butter or onions that are chopped and sautéed in butter, often served with diced, crispy bacon. Some recipes can also call for brown mushroom gravy to be poured over the dumplings.

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