Syrniki are Ukrainian pillowy-soft farmer’s cheese pancakes traditionally served for breakfast with a dollop of sour cream. We make them easy with ricotta cheese!
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Syrniki appeared at my childhood breakfast table in Ukraine weekly. And often even for dinner because they are super quick and easy to put together.
I remember whenever mom or grandma got their hands on farmer’s cheese (“tvorog”), they either made these cheese pancakes or lazy pierogi. Absolutely delicious!
What Are Syrniki?
Syrniki, pronounced “syr-nee-kee” are farmer’s cheese pancakes consisting primarily of the farmer’s cheese, where flour and egg act as a binder. So the taste and texture are not like of traditional whole wheat pancakes but rather you taste the tangy farmer’s cheese without the rubbery flour texture.
Ukrainian farmer’s cheese from a farmer’s market is next to none in the world! There is no way to replicate it at home here because milk is not the same. Ukrainian “tvorog” is dry, yet super creamy and unbelievably fresh. Always!
That’s why I simply use drained ricotta cheese to make this Ukrainian syrniki recipe. If you can find farmer’s cheese in a store near you, please use it.
Top Tips for Making Syrniki
Syrniki are extremely easy to make if you keep these top tips in mind:
- The batter, or more correct the dough, should be very thick and stiff. Not like for traditional pancakes.
- Handle syrniki gently especially when frying! Do not overcrowd the skillet otherwise you will have hard time flipping them. Maybe even less of them in a skillet than I did because I am an experienced “syrniki cook”. Start with 4 per batch.
- You have to dredge them in generous amount of flour so they do not fall apart during frying. It also helps to form irresistible crust.
- Use generous amount of oil to fry them in, not cooking spray. To make this process healthier I use ceramic non-stick skillet and avocado oil.
Yes, it’s ideal. You will need to use less flour in a dough. Reduce it to about 1/4 – 1/3 cup and see if the dough is thick. If not, add a bit more. In Ukraine, we mostly eyeball all ingredients.
Yes. For cottage cheese pancakes, you will have to drain cottage cheese in the fridge overnight. And then blend in a food processor the next day.
I would use 1/2 cup of flour in a dough and go from there.
Ingredients You Will Need
- Ricotta cheese: I use about 1 kg or 2 tubs of 17 oz ricotta cheese, can be low fat. You have to drain it for one hour. You can also use farmer’s cheese sold in some American grocery stores and many Slavic/Russian/Ukrainian stores.
- Eggs: They act as a binder.
- Flour: I used spelt flour but grandma used all-purpose flour. Gluten-free flour might work too.
- Sugar: Cane or regular sugar. Coconut sugar will work, just will change the color a bit. No liquid sweetener like maple syrup please. That’s for toppings. You want the batter to be dry.
- Vanilla extract: For flavor and is optional.
- Oil for frying: Any neutral tasting oil like avocado oil, grapeseed oil or coconut oil will work. Olive oil has too strong of a taste. Maybe light olive oil only.
- Optional raisins: I do not think there is a place for raisins in syrniki but many people in Ukraine add them. About 1/3 cup.
How to Make Syrniki
To make syrniki is a 30 minute process. All you have to remember is to set ricotta to drain for one hour, then dredge them in flour and fry in a generous amount of oil. And breakfast or brinner is served. Let’s go over the process.
Dump ricotta cheese from the tubs into a colander lined with linen kitchen towel, coffee filters or double-folded paper towels set over a bowl.
Let it drain in the fridge for about an hour. Can leave for longer. The dryer the cheese, the better syrniki pancakes will hold their shape when flipping. You will have about 1/3 – 1/2 cup whey in a bowl. Discard it.
In a large mixing bowl, add drained ricotta, eggs, flour, sugar and vanilla. Stir well with spatula. Pancake batter (dough) should be thick and white, like grandma’s, if you use all-purpose flour.
If you would like to add raisins, stir them in now.
To shape syrniki, drop 1/2 cup of dough onto a plate with 3/4 cup flour and roll into a ball. Then shape into a puck about 3/4 inch thick in your hands.
I personally like them larger but you can make syrniki smaller by using 1/4 cup or an ice cream scoop. Personal preference.
I also should mention this is the time I preheat the skillet before I start shaping sirniki. So, as I am done shaping one, I pour oil into a hot skillet with another hand, and add pancakes as I make them.
Or you can have a batch ready before you begin to fry.
If you are a beginner syrniki maker, I recommend to fry four pancakes at a time as it will be easier to flip them. When you flip them, do so gently and keep them low rather than dropping from highly raised spatula.
Also you can use a spoon to help the flipping spatula.
I use about 1 tbsp of oil per batch. You want to be generous with oil because it will help syrniki set and form an irresistible crust. Do so with each new batch as these fritters will soak it right up.
Fry for about 4-5 minutes per side or until dark golden crust forms.
Transfer them to a plate in stacks, so they do not break. Ukrainian sirniki are a gentle business.
How Do You Serve Them in Ukraine?
In Ukraine, Kyiv where I am from, we serve syrniki simply with a dollop of sour cream. If mom and grandma were lucky enough to get their hands on sugar and make preserves during summer, with a dollop of jam.
I am personally not a huge fan of jam. I think I ate too much of it instead of fruit all winter. That’s all we had. I like syrniki with Greek yogurt and maple syrup. And fresh berries on a fancy shopping day.
How to Store and Reheat Ukrainian Cheese Pancakes
Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days. They keep well. I recommend to reheat in a microwave or just enjoy cold.
They are best when served fresh with that irresistible crust! And honestly we never have any left by the time it’s bedtime. My children absolutely love these traditional Ukrainian farmer’s cheese pancakes.
I hope yours will love them too for a healthy breakfast idea!
Would you like me to share more Ukrainian recipes? Would you like a farmer’s cheese recipe? Please let me know in comments below. I would love that!
More Ukrainian Recipes
- Ukrainian borscht
- Vinegar coleslaw
- Instant Pot beef stew
- Instant Pot chicken and rice
- Unstuffed cabbage rolls
Ukrainian Syrniki (Cheese Pancakes)
- Line mesh strainer with coffee filters, linen kitchen towel or double folded paper towel, add ricotta cheese and place over a bowl to drain in the fridge for 1 hour.
- In a large mixing bowl, add drained ricotta, eggs, sugar, 3/4 cup flour and vanilla extract. Stir well with spatula to combine.
- Preheat large ceramic non-stick skillet on medium heat.
- Place 3/4 cup flour on a medium size plate, scoop 1/2 cup ricotta mixture and place it on top of flour. Roll gently into a ball then place in one of your hands and flatten into 2/3 inch thick hockey puck.
- Now add 1 tbsp oil into the hot skillet and swoosh it around with your other free hand, and place your hockey puck in it. Repeat quickly and make more syrniki to fill up the skillet.
- Pan fry for about 4-5 minutes or until golden brown (carefully peak under) and carefully flip quickly with a good spatula. Repeat with remaining batter.
- Serve syrniki with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream and jam. Or sour cream and sprinkled with sugar.