Globally, there’s been an ongoing trend of reinventing traditional, time-honored recipes to suit the increasingly changing global tastes that are shifting towards more healthy plant-based alternatives. Similarly, local chefs in Lithuania have been revamping traditional meat-heavy dishes like cepelinai.
According to the data of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, today an average Lithuanian consumes around 250 grams of potatoes per day, totalling to almost 100kg annually. Over the years, the nation has found multiple ways to utilize this versatile vegetable in various dishes—cepelinai, stuffed potato dumplings, being one of them. While most locals still enjoy the traditional version of the dish, the modern health-conscious trends have resulted in a proliferation of plant-based cepelinai varieties.
“Cepelinai used to be the perfect hearty meal delivering the necessary energy that our predecessors needed to endure the cold climate while working the fields,” said Snieguolė Valiaugaitė, Communication Project Manager at Lithuania Travel. “The times have changed, so has Lithuanian cuisine: over the last few decades, the local chefs have introduced foreign flavors to cepelinai and have transformed it to a healthy everyday dinner or lunch option.”
The centuries-old recipe varies from family to family and differs between the ethnographic regions. Traditionally, cepelinai is made from grated potato dough, stuffed with either pork or curd filling and served with crispy pork-belly bits, caramelized onions, and sour cream.
Offering a fresh broad palette of flavors, the restaurants around the country have been reinventing cepelinai by introducing new unexpected plant-based fillings, ranging from buckwheat to cottage cheese and mint. The vegetarian and vegan options are becoming increasingly popular, despite the fact that traditionally, ground pork has been the most common cepelinai stuffing.
According to Lithuania Travel, some of the most interesting new and more traditional cepelinai varieties can be found in Lithuania’s biggest cities: Vilnius, Kaunas, and Klaipėda. The gourmet options include ones at Queensberry in Vilnius with a carrot and hemp seed stuffing; as well as ones filled with mushrooms, vegetables, and sunflower seeds at Sultenė. Meanwhile, some of the most notable vegetarian options are available at Briedžių Medžioklė in Kaunas, especially the refreshing version with fried spinach, while Etnodvaras in Klaipėda offers visitors a chance to taste the traditional Samogitian cepelinai served with the rich and garlicky butter and sour cream spread called kastinys.
Besides the new plant-based varieties appealing to the younger generation that is increasingly welcoming vegetarian-inspired options in the traditionally meat-obsessed country, there are also revamped varieties of cepelinai that appeal to gourmet omnivores. Among them are the pulled duck option served at Burna House in Vilnius and the wild game variety prepared by the chefs at restaurant Lokys, also located in the country’s capital.