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Ukrainian style meatballs, called "kotletu" (VIDEO)

Updated: Jul 19, 2022

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meatballs cooked on a platter with fermented veggies

kotletu its one of those classic dishes, that everyone grew up on them, especially for those who grew up during the Soviet Union period. It's like meatloaf in the USA that was invented during the depression for kotletu is a very inexpensive comfort food dish.

meatballs on a platter

Meat has always been expensive, and in the old days, people would go without it for months. My grandmother told me only during Christmas and Easter the livestock would be killed, preserved, and stretched throughout the whole year. To make meat go further people invented a number of the dishes that today's cooks will find delicious and inexpensive. One of the best and most common is kotletu. It is typically made of ground pork, beef, veal, lamb, chicken, or even a combination of these meats. Shaped into patties and fried, these bear no resemblance to hamburger. In old days the meat was hacked, not ground, with superior results. I remember as a child, when I was seven years old, in my grandmother's kitchen, meat was always hacked with two knives which my grandmother held in both hands as she pounded the meat on a wooden board. I could always hear that specific noise coming from the kitchen. And I must admit that the resulted dish did taste much better than what is made today.

From the region where I'm from pork was always a most popular meat. Over the centuries, the territory of Ukraine has been subjected to many raids by Muslim conquerors, and during these insurrections, most livestock apart from the pigs would have been taken away. This is probably one of the reasons why pork became so popular and revered during that time period making use of most of the pig including the meat-ribs, knuckles, trotters, tails, and ears.

In these days this dish is very popular. Kotletu, or if it's only one piece called kotleta, are a favorite of many families in Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Moldova. Literally "ground cutlets," they can be made with any combination of pork, veal, or beef. Typically, they are made with just pork and beef because veal is so expensive, as far I remember.

What do I like about this recipe?

It's easy to make!

Only 4 ingredients needed!

Even better next day!

Can be served as an appetizer, main course or even as a slider sandwich for lunch boxes or as a picnic meal!

Any meat can work, or combination of meats!

Can be served hot or room temperature!

This is one of those recipes each family has their own secret way of making kotletu.

Today I'm sharing with you my mom's recipe. Every bite of these meatballs brings forth the remembrance of my childhood in my home country.

Notes on meat

I recommend using a combination of pork and beef 50:50 using pork loin with little bit of fat on it, and beef tender loin or sirloin. Also, I like to grind my meat along with the onions, just like my mom did with her nonelectric grinder. These days it's much easier.

One more tip on grinding meat, meat grinds easier if meat are slightly frozen.

But please feel free to use ground meat to save some time, it's ok but you will need to grind the onion using a kitchen box grater.

Notes on bread

In this recipe use any stale bread you have on hand, but I recommend staying away from any types wonder bread or really any processed bread.

Bread crumps can be used as well.

General rule in having moist kotletu is to use 20% bread and 80% meat.

Kotletu freezes well uncooked.

How to serve kotletu?

These types of meatballs are so soft and delicate inside and crispy outside. They are perfect to serve as an appetizer with some slices of bread and veggies of your choice. I like to serve with a fermented veggie platter, such as sauerkraut, pickles, etc.

Also, it makes perfect sliders for your lunch box.

The classis way to serve kotletu is with a side dish of buckwheat pilaf. This is one of my favorite dinners. Also rice pilaf, quinoa, or mash potatoes are the best side dishes for kotletu. Check my recipe for fantastic low carb Cheese Cauliflower "Mashed Potatoes".

Let's do it..

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes

Autor: Inna of

Yields: 18-20 pieces


1 lb. pork loin

1 lb. beef (I used beef tenderloin in the video)

1 big onion

6 slices stale white bread (I used sourdough white bread without crust in the video)

1/2 cup chopped herbs dill and parsley (optional)

1 cup heavy cream or milk

11/2 teaspoons of salt

11/2-2 teaspoons of black pepper (freshly ground)

oil for frying (I used grapeseed oil in the video)


  1. Soak bread slices in the cream and let it sit and absorb the liquid.

bread pieces and cream in a glass bowl

2. Wash and then paper dry the meat. Cut into cubes. Cut the onion into cubes.

3. Alternate the meat and onion into the electric mixer grinder (using the course one attachment).

4. Mix the bread & cream mixture with your hands until it is a porridge type consistency.

5. Add the grinded meat onion mixture, salt and pepper to the bread and cream mixture and parsley if you are including it. Mix everything very well.

6. Transfer mixed mixture into a one-gallon zip lock bag and close the zipper.

7. Gently beat the bag for a few minutes with a rolling pan and do not let your meat escape from the bag.

8. Place back into the mixing bowl and place another bowl with water next to it.

9. Wet your hands and start to form the kotletu. You should get about 18-20 pieces, depending on the size you choose to make them.

meatballs on wooden cutting board

10. Add oil to the cast iron pan. Allow the oil to get hot and then place the kotletu a few pieces at the time into the pan. Try to have space between them. Cook on low-medium heat for a few minutes flipping a few times per side.

Enjoy right away or keep warm on platter!

meatballs cooked on a platter with bread, pickled tomatoes

I hope you'll make this recipe soon. If you do, please tag me #innichka_chef on Instagram, Facebook, Patreon or Pinterest.

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