If you ask any Lithuanian person about their favourite traditional Lithuanian food, you are sure to hear the words ‘Bulviniai Blynai’ on their list! Yes, beautifully crispy pan-fried potato pancakes from a small European country, are definitely representative of the best of Lithuanian cuisine! Typically served with a generous dollop of sour cream, they are inexpensive to make and have all the features of true comfort food!
- Short History of Potato Pancakes
- Equipment Needed
- What Potatoes Are Best For Lithuanian Potato Pancakes?
- Tips & Additional Extras
- Frequently Asked Questions
- How To Serve Lithuanian Potato Pancakes?
- Other Side Dishes For Bulviniai Blynai
- Other Traditional Lithuanian Dishes To Try
- Popular Lithuanian Desserts
- Recipe Card
Short History of Potato Pancakes
Bulviniai blynai is a literal translation of potato pancakes. Different versions of potato pancakes are enjoyed across Eastern Europe (and let’s be honest, worldwide). It is, therefore, difficult to track the true origins of the Lithuanian pancake recipe. With a large Jewish community in Lithuania, it might be likely that the recipe was adapted from potato latkes.
One of the richest Lithuanian families, Radvilos, started growing potatoes on their land in the 17th century and put them to good use to make potato pancakes. The paradox of the Lithuanian Potato Pancakes is that they started off as the food of the riches, but quickly gained popularity amongst the peasants due to inexpensive ingredients.
You will need:
- A grater. You know the side of the grater with spikes that is traditionally meant for very finely grated Parmesan or lemon zest. That’s the side we use for Lithuanian Pancakes. This side of the grater is typically quite small, so it may be difficult to grate a lot of potatoes. If you want, you can get a bigger potato grater online.
- Large Bowl for mixing.
- Large Non-Stick Frying Pan. If you want to, you can cook in 2 or 3 pans at the same time, so all the potato pancakes are ready at roughly the same time.
This potato pancake recipe is easy and inexpensive to make. You will only need 4 basic ingredients + salt.
- Potatoes: have a look at the section below to see what types of potatoes work best in this recipe.
- Egg: You will need one large egg per 800g of raw grated potatoes.
- Salt: we love Sea Salt Flakes, but any salt will do just fine.
- Oil: choose odourless oil that is suitable for frying, like vegetable, sunflower or rapeseed oil.
- Sour Cream: can be replaced with creme fraiche. We have other suggestions on what to serve potato pancakes below!
What Potatoes Are Best For Lithuanian Potato Pancakes?
Since a humble potato is the main ingredient (and pretty much the only ingredient) in this recipe, is important to find the right variety. The type that will allow the pancakes to crisp up on the outside and say soft and fluffy on the inside. Since the types of potatoes available in different countries vary immensely, here are some of the varieties that we have tried and would recommend:
- If you are in the part of the world where you can get Laura, Soraya or Vineta varieties, they will work best for the Lithuanian Potato pancakes.
- Charlotte Potatoes are by far the best variety we have come across in the UK. Vivaldi potatoes from Sainsbury’s also worked well.
- Yukon Gold or Russet Potatoes will work great if you are in the US.
Tips & Additional Extras
- To prevent your grated potatoes from oxidising and browsing, squeeze in a small amount of lemon juice (but go easy, you don’t want to taste the lemon).
- If you are using a potato type that turned out to be very watery, add a tablespoon of potato starch or all-purpose flour to the potato mixture.
- If you are looking for more flavour in your Lithuanian pancakes, a typical thing to add is a grated brown (or white) onion.
- You can also add ½ teaspoon of garlic powder to the mixture.
Peel the potatoes and dab them with a piece of paper towel to remove any excess moisture. Grate potatoes using the zester side of the grater (see photo below). Skim off any excess liquid if any forms on top. Mix in an egg and a generous amount of salt into raw grated potatoes.
Heat a generous glug of vegetable oil in a large frying pan (or a couple). Add a large spoonful of grated raw potatoes per pancake into the pan and let the pancakes crisp up undisturbed for 2 minutes. If you try to flip them too quickly, they may be stuck to the pan, break and simply be too mushy to handle.
Flip the pancakes over and fry for another 2-3 minutes, until the exterior is crispy and golden brown. Add more oil to the pan in between frying the batches.
Serve them immediately. If you are cooking a large number of pancakes, keep the pancakes in a single layer on a large baking sheet in a warm oven. Do not stack the pancakes, as they will lose their crispiness (although many people actually like them a little on the soggy side).
Why Are My Potato Pancakes Falling Apart?
Two reasons why this may happen. First, you may not have preheated the oil in the pan enough, so the pancake batter absorbed too much oil and became too wet to flip the pancake in one piece. Another reason may be that you’re trying to flip your pancakes too early, before the crunchy crust forms.
Why Are My Potato Pancakes Gummy?
This may happen if you added too much flour or cornstarch to the mixture. If you haven’t added any, this may be due to your potatoes being very starchy. To get around this problem, you may want to spread your potato pancakes thinner, so they have a more crispy exterior.
Frequently Asked Questions
Typical Lithuanian foods include potatoes in one form or another. A potato cake (kugelis), potato dumplings with meat (cepelinai), potato pancakes with ground meat (žemaičių blynai) and potato sausages (vedarai) are amongst some of the most frequently cooked authentic Lithuanian food. And if we aren’t eating potatoes as a main course, we certainly serve potatoes on the side, like in our Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (Balandeliai) and Cold Beetroot Soup (Saltibarsciai) recipes.
Lithuanian people also use a lot of wheat and rye flour in their cooking. Some of the most popular dishes include Fried Garlic Bread (Kepta Duona), Pork Dumplings and dark rye bread sandwiches. Hearty soups are also very popular during colder months!
Traditional Jewish latkes are typically made with coarsely grated potatoes and onion, so they have a slightly different texture to Lithuanian Potato pancakes that are made with raw potato puree.
Yes, you can! For best results, fry your pancakes a little longer to get them extra crispy. Small cold potato pancakes can also be used as a base for canapes.
If you have a strong blender/ liquidiser (like Vitamix), you can place peeled and chopped potatoes into it and blitz them into a puree. It will be smoother than using a traditional grater but will work nonetheless.
How To Serve Lithuanian Potato Pancakes?
Lithuanian Pancakes are typically served for lunch or dinner with some type of sauce/ dip made primarily from dairy products. Try these pancakes with:
- Creme Fraiche instead of sour cream.
- Cottage cheese or curd cheese mixed with sour cream, minced garlic, chives, salt and pepper.
- Scatter some crispy bacon bits on top!
Other Side Dishes For Bulviniai Blynai
In Lithuania, Potato Pancakes are typically served as a main course with just a dollop of sour cream on the side (although some people, including me, enjoy them with apple sauce or even jam). But in the modern day and age, restaurants started serving these crispy pancakes with:
- Smoked Salmon
- Pan-fried asparagus.
You may also choose to make them instead of traditional Hash Browns for your breakfast.
Other Traditional Lithuanian Dishes To Try
Lithuanian cuisine is often overlooked. But I believe that throughout history, this country managed to pick up the best culinary secrets and tasty dishes from their occupiers and war enemies. Some of the best Lithuanian food include:
- Lithuanian Stuffed Cabbage Rolls With Tomato Sauce (Balandeliai)
- Lithuanian Cold Beetroot Soup a.k.a Pink Soup
- Fried Pork Dumplings With Cheese & Sour Cream
Popular Lithuanian Desserts
You cannot talk about traditional food without mentioning some of the desserts, right? If you are looking for a dessert for some of your special occasions, look no further:
Lithuanian Potato Pancakes (Bulviniai Blynai)
- 800 g Charlotte potatoes
- 1 teaspoon sea salt plus extra to sprinkle on top
- 1 egg
- 6 tablespoon oil for frying
- 2 heaped tbsp sour cream
- Peel the potatoes and dab them with a piece of paper towel to remove any excess moisture. Grate potatoes using the zester side of the grater (see photo in the text above, if unsure). Skim off any excess liquid if any forms on top. Mix in an egg and a generous amount of salt into raw grated potatoes.
- Heat a generous glug of vegetable oil in a large frying pan (or a couple). Add a large spoonful of grated raw potatoes per pancake into the pan and let the pancakes crisp up undisturbed for 2 minutes. If you try to flip them too quickly, they may be stuck to the pan, break and simply be too mushy to handle.
- Flip the pancakes over and fry for another 2-3 minutes, until the exterior is crispy and golden brown. Add more oil to the pan in between frying the batches.
- Serve them immediately with sour cream. If you are cooking a large number of pancakes, keep the pancakes in a single layer on a large baking sheet in a warm oven.