Bryndzové Halušky are Slovakia’s national dish – pillowy little potato dumplings covered in a favourite Slovak cheese and lots of bacon. Pure comfort food, mac & cheese style. The dumplings are quick and easy to make in your kitchen with a few simple adaptations and taste great made with feta instead of the traditional bryndza cheese.

bryndzové halušky ready to serve

This month for our Eat the World recipe challenge, we’re travelling to a part of the world that is in all of our hearts right now. The little landlocked country of Slovakia (officially the Slovak Republic) in the center of Europe is bordered by Ukraine, Poland, Hungary, Austria, and the Czech Republic. Slovakia boasts some of the most stunning scenery in all of Europe, and contains the highest number of castles and chateaux per capita in the whole world. Those facts alone make me want to add this country to my bucket list of places to visit.

The cuisine of Slovakia is simple, tasty, and hearty. Staple foods consist of smoked meats, pork, poultry, and some beef and wild meat, cheese, potatoes, and flour, flavoured simply with herbs. Slovakia’s national dish is considered to be bryndzové halušky, originating in the northern regions of the country. This comforting meal consists of small soft, chewy potato dumplings coated in bryndza, a fermented fresh sheep cheese, and topped with fried bacon pieces.

I am so happy to have learned this dish. Any type of noodle or dumpling is popular in our family. Halušky are a cross between German spätzle and Italian gnocchi and can be made using a spätzle maker. However, I’ve found that a round-holed barbecue grill pan makes a great substitute if you don’t own one. Failing that, you can just scoop out small spoonfuls of the dough into the boiling water. These pillowy little dumplings are delightful – tender and slightly chewy. Halušky are a perfect vehicle for all kinds of sauces or just served plain as a noodle side dish. They work equally well with a good gluten free flour blend – a real plus. Served as they are in Slovakia, they become the Eastern European version of the beloved mac & cheese combo. Plus – bacon! So simple but addictively delicious. No wonder it’s hailed as the country’s national dish.

 

You Can Make Bryndzové Halušky in Your Own Kitchen

The halušky are quick and easy. Just grate up a potato using the smallest holes of a box grater, the rough side, or you can even grind the potatoes in a food processor to a rough purée.

grating the potato

Combine the grated potato with flour, an egg, salt, and a splash of water.

ingredients for the dumpling dough

Stir it up to make a loose dough.

this is the consistency of the halusky batter

Push the dough over the holes in a spätzle maker set over a pot of simmering water using a flexible spatula.

scraping the dough over a spatzle maker

But don’t worry if you don’t have a spätzle maker – you can use a barbecue grill basket that has large round holes in it, like this one in the photo, or you can just scoop small spoonfuls of the dough into the water instead (your halušky will be a bit larger, but just as tasty).

using a barbecue grill pan to make the halusky

a barbecue grilling basket with round holes makes a great substitute for a spätzle maker

Then strain the little dumplings in a colander.

the little potato dumplings draining in the colander

And toss them with the cheese. Mashing together feta cheese with a bit of cream is a close substitute for the Slovak bryndza cheese. And of course, top them with lots of crisp-chewy bacon for the final touch.

close-up of bryndzové halušky - lots of bacon on top

Oh. My. Goodness. It’s time to dig in.

a forkful of bryndzové halušky

Chewy, soft, cheesey, bacony. What more could you want?

* * * * *

dish of bryndzové halušky on colourful cloth

red dish with bryndzové halušky

Bryndzové Halušky (Potato Dumplings with Cheese & Bacon)

Bryndzové Halušky are Slovakia's national dish - pillowy little potato dumplings covered in a favourite Slovak cheese and lots of bacon. Pure comfort food, mac & cheese style. The dumplings are quick and easy to make in your kitchen with a few simple adaptations and taste great made with feta instead of the traditional bryndza cheese.  
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Slovakia
Servings 2 (2 - 3)

Ingredients
 

  • 1 medium potato (180-200gms), preferably Russet (⅔ to ¾ cup when finely grated)
  • 1 cup (140gms) flour (or gluten free flour blend)
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 to 5 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup (140gms) crumbled sheep feta cheese or Macedonian feta (or bryndza if you are able to get it)
  • ¼ cup (60ml) heavy cream
  • 5 to 7 slices (150-200gms) thick-cut bacon

Instructions
 

  • Dice the bacon into ½-inch (1cm) cubes and start it cooking in a skillet over medium heat while you make the halušky. Remember to stir it occasionally. Cook it until it's browned, but not too crispy.
  • Peel the potato and finely grate it on the smallest holes of a box grater over a bowl or cutting board, saving any liquid that accumulates. Alternatively, you can grind the potato to a rough purée in a food processor (dice the potato first and grind it using a pulsing motion until you have a semi-smooth paste, but not completely smooth). You should have about 2/3 to 3/4 of a cup of potato purée.
  • Put the potato purée and any liquid you got while grating it into a bowl. Add the flour, egg, salt, and 2 tablespoons of water into the bowl. Stir vigorously to combine it to a thick batter. It should be thick, but loose, about the consistency of a muffin batter. Add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time until the batter is thin enough to drip slowly from a spoon. If it is too thin, add a bit more flour. It will really depend on how watery the potato is and how much of it you have. Russet potatoes are drier, so you may need the full amount of water. If using regular white potatoes, you may only need 2 tablespoons of water.
  • Set a large pot of water on to heat up to a low boil, just past a simmer. If the water is boiling too vigorously at first, the halušky may also fall apart when cooking.
  • Set a spätzle maker over the pot and pile the dough on top. Use a flexible spatula to scrape the dough back and forth over the simmering water, so it drops through the holes in little plops. A round-holed barbecue grill pan will also work. If you don't have either, quickly drop small spoonfuls of the dough into the water to make slightly larger halušky. Stir the water to separate any dumplings that might be stuck together.
  • Turn up the heat to medium-high. When the water comes to a boil and the halušky float to the top, let them cook for 30 seconds, then scoop them out with a slotted spoon or straining spider into a colander to drain.
  • Finish cooking the halušky in batches, if necessary.
  • Mash the feta cheese with the cream and toss it with the hot halušky. Sprinkle with the cooked bacon bits. Drizzle with 1 to 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat, if desired.
  • Serve with a salad or pickles.
  • Cooked, drained, cooled halušky freeze well. Pop them in a ziptop bag and squeeze out the air. Freeze for up to 6 months. To use them, defrost them and reheat them in a skillet with a bit of butter. Serve with the cheese and bacon, or instead of buttered noodles with any dish or sauce.

Notes

This is the gluten free flour blend I use, and it works great in this recipe.
Traditionally bryndza cheese would be used when making bryndzové halušky, but since it's not readily available outside of Slovakia, sheep feta cheese mashed with a bit of cream is a good substitute.
Getting the consistency of the dough right may take a bit of playing around. You don't want it to be too thin, or the halušky can fall apart when boiled. A muffin dough is a good texture to aim for. It will really depend on how watery your potatoes are. Russet potatoes are less watery, so make it easier to get the right consistency. The dough has to be soft enough to easily press through the holes of the Spätzle maker or grill pan, but stiff enough to hold together. Add a bit more water if it's too thick or a bit more flour if it's too thin. Once you've made the halušky a couple times, you'll know how the dough should look. But don't worry, because you do actually have quite a bit of leeway in texture and the dumplings will still turn out beautifully.
While you've got all the equipment out and dirtied, I recommend making extra halušky, as they freeze well. See instructions at the end of the recipe.
Keyword bacon, dumplings, Eat the World, feta cheese, gnocchi, potato dumplings, potatoes, spätzle
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Guten Appetit!

 

Check out all the wonderful Slovak dishes prepared by fellow Eat the World members and share with #eattheworld. Click here to find out how to join and have fun exploring a country a month in the kitchen with us!

Amy’s Cooking Adventures: Slovakian Garlic & Potato Soup (Cesnaková Polievka)
Sneha’s Recipe : Šmorn With Raisins – A Slovenian Pancake
Magical Ingredients: Granadir
Pandemonium Noshery: Mäso v Chreňovej Omáčke – Meat in Horseradish Sauce
Cultureatz: Štefani Pečenka: Meatloaf with Hard-Boiled Eggs
Kitchen Frau: Bryndzové Halušky (Potato Dumplings with Cheese & Bacon)
A Day in the Life on the Farm: Hemendex

 

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