Best Meatballs Ever: Ukrainian/Russian Meat Patties (Kotleti/Котлеты)

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Best Meatballs Ever: Russian/Ukrainian Meat Patties (Cutleti)

A friend of mine who just made the switch to paleo told me that she feels like she has no idea what to eat. I can sympathize because it wasn’t long ago that I was in that same boat; I know that it can be totally intimidating to embark on this new lifestyle! So, I wanted to share a recipe that was time-saving and also relatively easy to make. I knew right away which recipe I would use!

Want to know my number one time-saving trick for meal preparation? Economies of scale. Instead of focusing on cooking lots of small paleo meals that are quick to make, I spend a couple hours making a big batch of amazing-tasting stuff that I can eat for the next couple of days. Call it efficient laziness. I’ll make a huge pot of chicken soup, or a big bowlful of Korean carrot which I can then use for other salads, or a big roast, and just eat the leftovers for lunches and dinners. This recipe is one that I love to make in huge batches. They also make a great portable meal or snack; you can throw a couple of them in a container and bring them to work for lunch or pack them in the kids’ lunchboxes. And they freeze well, too!

These are my version of Ukrainian meat patties (kotleti) which I was taught to make while I was in Ukraine. Kotleti are kind of like American burgers, but sexier. They’re moist and tender, and they are so flavorful! Everyone that I’ve made them for since I’ve been back in the States has loved them. With nearly endless combinations of meats and spices, they are versatile enough to have multiple times in the week without getting bored. (Plus, they’re ovular. And who doesn’t love that word?! Oooovular. Fantastic).

1 lb (500 g) ground pork
1 lb (500 g) ground beef
1 large onion, diced finely
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 egg, beaten
1 large handful fresh parsley, chopped finely
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

This time I didn’t have pork and I only had 1 pound beef. And at the last minute, I found five mushrooms and I threw those in too. Sometimes you just gotta work with what you have!

Best Meatballs Ever: Russian/Ukrainian Meat Patties (Cutleti)


(Note: I like to use a meat grinder to mince everything all at once. If you’re using a meat grinder, you can mince everything by putting the pork, beef, onion, garlic and parsley through the meat grinder into a large bowl.)

Add all ingredients into the bowl.

Best Meatballs Ever: Russian/Ukrainian Meat Patties (Cutleti)

Mix everything together with your hands just until incorporated. I went a little crazy on the parsley and only had one pound of beef here so forgive the slightly green color.

Best Meatballs Ever: Russian/Ukrainian Meat Patties (Cutleti)

Wet your hands and shape a ball of meat, about two inches in diameter, into an oval shape, then flatten it slightly by patting it gently, patty-cake style.

Best Meatballs Ever: Russian/Ukrainian Meat Patties (Cutleti)

In a frying pan heated to medium, add a couple tablespoons of olive oil and then place 4 or 5 meatballs into the pan. Not too many; you don’t want to crowd the pan.

Best Meatballs Ever: Russian/Ukrainian Meat Patties (Cutleti)

After a couple minutes, flip meatballs with a spatula.

Best Meatballs Ever: Russian/Ukrainian Meat Patties (Cutleti)

While they are cooking, put a little water in the bottom of another saucepan, just enough to cover the bottom, and set it next to the frying pan. When the meatballs are browned on both sides, use the spatula to transfer them to the saucepan, lying them neatly close to each other, and put the lid on top to let them rest. Don’t worry if they aren’t cooked all the way through yet; that will happen in the next step.

Best Meatballs Ever: Russian/Ukrainian Meat Patties (Cutleti)

Continue cooking all the meatballs and stack them neatly in the pan. Once they are all in the saucepan, bring just up to a boil and then reduce to a very low simmer and cover the pan. Let them simmer for 10-15 minutes further until cooked all the way through. This step will make them very moist and tender!


Best Meatballs Ever: Russian/Ukrainian Meat Patties (Cutleti)

This is a basic recipe, but you can make them as simple or as fancy schmancy as you like. Switch up the meats, the alliums (onions/garlic), and the herbs/spices to whatever you want or whatever is in your house. They are a fantastic way to incorporate those so-meant-to-be-together-it’s-beautiful combinations into one flavourful package (I’m looking at you, pork-sage-apple-fennel!) Traditionally these are made with bread as a filler, but if I want a little something to ‘bulk up’ the meat, I use vegetables instead.

Other possible combinations:

  • Basic Fish Cakes: Fish + ½ cup mayo + lemon zest + green onions + onion + garlic + parsley
  • Pork-Apple Patties: Pork + apple + sage + onion + green onion + dill + sausage seasoning
  • Superfood Patties: Chicken livers + basil + onion + garlic + parsley + dill (Note: I will be the first to admit that I hate the taste of liver, but having the other flavors present means the chicken liver flavor is very mild)
  • Basic Breakfast Sausage Patties: Pork + onion + garlic + parsley + sage + ground fennel

And of course, play around with your own mixes! Be inspired by your favorite flavor combinations. The sky’s the limit!

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17 thoughts on “Best Meatballs Ever: Ukrainian/Russian Meat Patties (Kotleti/Котлеты)

    • Haha, St. Patty’s day — you are right! Since I only used half the meat in the recipes and used ALL the parsley that was there, yes, they were pretty parsley-ey. But if you use the normal proportions that are in the recipe, it should be fine! And of course, feel free to reduce the amount of parsley in the recipe if you still think it will be too much!

      • Yeah, I only had one pound of ground beef and no pork and the beef needed to be used that night, which is why I made them. Oh! Another trick: when you make the mixture, fry yourself one baby meatball to taste for seasoning. If it’s good, then you can go ahead and make the rest of the meatballs!

      • I do that too! We all make mistakes in cooking, I think we just make fewer ‘not good’ things with time. It’s all about learning! And let me know if you end up making these; I would love to hear from you!

      • I need to just stop being afraid of making those mistakes because I honestly think it is preventing me from experimenting/writing more recipes… I pinned these to try so I will let you know when I make them!

      • I make mistakes aaaaaaall the time. All the time. (Ask my family!) Don’t worry; it is a very natural part of the ‘learning to cook’ process! Another ‘cheat’ tip is to read a book like The Science of Good Cooking by the Cook’s Illustrated people. It’s on my to-read list. It explains the science behind why good food is so good, so you can also apply those methods to your own cooking. Hang in there, and happy cooking! 🙂

      • I’ve been in the market for a book like that! I figure if I understand WHY steps are performed then I can write more of my own recipes – will definitely check it out, thanks so much!

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