Oladi are Russian pancakes made primarily of flour and kefir. They’re exceptionally fluffy and satisfying, and even though they’re “buttermilk pancakes” somehow they taste entirely different than the type of buttermilk pancakes you’d order at, say, Elmer’s.
No, oladi are something else. The edges are fried to a delicious crisp and the inside is as fluffy as a cloud. The air bubbles inside are a soft little cushion making these little oladi anything but heavy. They are neither too salty nor too sweet, and may be combined with a multitude of sides and sauces. Traditionally, they are not as large as the average American pancake, and are made to be about the size of your palm.
Usually when people think “Russian pancakes”, blini come to mind first. Blini are the paper thin crepes you can stuff with various ingredients, or eat with a side of sour cream. And yes, perhaps these blini are a more popular form of Russian pancake.
But let me tell you- my childhood memories are filled with mornings eating freshly fried oladi with smetana (sour cream). And these little pancakes are a complete 180 from blini! It’s refreshing actually, to have a dish so similar yet so very different. And yet all that really needs to be adjusted if taking oladi to blini is a few tweaks in the recipe.
So let’s get into the ingredients that make oladi so special and unique. Oladi are made with flour, eggs, buttermilk, salt and sugar. To obtain that airy rise on the pancakes, active dry yeast or baking powder is used. The batter for oladi can be made with milk rather than kefir or buttermilk, but I find buttermilk anything more flavorful and savory.
Oladi are popular in Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian cuisines. Oladya is an old East Slavic word, and was first evident in 1470. The dish itself was first mentioned in the 16th century Russian book Domostroy, which roughly translated to build a house. The book featured household rules and advice.
One of the things I love most about oladi (aside from their addictive taste) is that you just can’t mess them up. As in, if you accidentally add too much flour, just make up for it by adding more buttermilk. Or if you run out of buttermilk for instance, you may use milk or warm water to obtain the optimal batter consistency.
On another note, oladi can be flavored with practically anything you love. You can add many special ingredients to oladi such as puréed apples or pears, or a personal favorite- raisins.
What You Need:
3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups kefir (buttermilk substitution)
1/2 cup warm water
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
Oil (for frying)
Combine kefir, warm water, and eggs in a bowl and whisk. In a separate bowl combine dry ingredients; flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients gradually and whisk until the batter has no lumps. The batter will be thick, but should not be lumpy. Let batter stand for about 15 minutes and do not mix.
Heat up oil in a deep pan. Ladle batter into the pan. Each oladi should be about the size of your palm. I usually fit about 4 oladi at a time. You don’t want them too close or else they’ll stick to one another and you’ll have one huge oladi! Flip over once edges are browned. And cook through. There is no designated amount of time; it depends on how high your heat is but usually they are done within about 6 minutes.
What shall we serve oladi with, you ask? Well smetana of course! Russians love smetana. Smetana is technically sour cream, yet American sour cream is very different than Russian smetana. Smetana is more velvety and not as thick. It also has an indescribably different flavor than average sour cream. I love both, but smetana is extra special.
As stated above, you may include additions to your oladi such as puréed fruits. You may eat them alongside fruit preserves, honey, or with maple syrup.
Yes, oladi bring me back. My mama used to make them, my papa used to make them; they’ll forever have a special place in my heart (and my tummy)!