Looking for a finger food for your next party? A new favorite way to canape? Look no further than blinis. These small savory pancakes are made to be topped with all your favorite ingredients—from caviar (if you’re feeling fancy) to pickled veggies.
What is a blini?
Blinis are small, unsweetened pancakes served throughout Eastern Europe, though they enjoy particular popularity in Russia. Typically, blinis are made small—between 2 and 3 inches across. They look much like pancakes and have a similar texture.
These bites can be topped with everything from honey to smoked fish.
Blini vs. Blintz
These two foods have similar names but are actually quite different. Blintzes are made with a thinner batter, which creates a much thinner end product. Blintzes are topped with assorted fillings and then rolled into small bundles. They have a soft, fluffy structure while still being very thin.
Blini vs. Crepe
Just like blintzes, crepes are much thinner than blini. Crepes are incredibly thin and are served either folded and topped with assorted ingredients or rolled and filled as you see fit.
Buckwheat flour: Traditional Russian blinis use buckwheat flour. This grain (technically a pseudo-grain) has an earthy flavor and slightly coarse texture.
Baking powder: Some blini recipes are leavened with yeast, others with baking powder. Our Test Kitchen prefers the baking powder method for easy results. Before you begin, be sure to test your baking powder to make sure it’s still good and will give the blini the right lift.
How to Make Blinis
Our blini recipe was developed by our Test Kitchen’s all-star recipe editor and tester Maggie Knoebel. She took inspiration from traditional blinis and created a recipe that doesn’t require much fuss.
3/4 cup 2% milk
1 egg, room temperature
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Step 1: Whisk up the blini batter
In a large bowl, whisk the milk, egg and melted butter together. In another bowl, mix the dry ingredients: flour, salt and baking powder.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet and whisk until fairly smooth. A few small lumps are OK here.
Step 2: Cook the blinis
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Dollop heaping spoonfuls of the batter into the hot skillet. Like pancakes, cook until bubbles form on top and the underside is golden—about 2 minutes. Then flip and cook until the reverse side is golden brown—another minute. Repeat this process until you’ve used all the batter. If needed, wipe the skillet between batches.
Test Kitchen Tip: If you’re making blini for a crowd, break out your electric griddle! You can portion out a dozen or more of these tiny pancakes all at once.
Just like crepes or latkes, blinis are all about the toppings. These small pancakes can be served sweet or savory, so your options are nearly limitless!
Apples: Spoon warm homemade applesauce over blinis. Top with an extra sprinkling of cinnamon and honey.
Blueberry: Spoon blueberry preserves (or your favorite homemade jam) over each blini. Top with goat cheese and a sprinkling of lemon zest.
Caviar: Caviar and creme fraiche is a traditional topping for these tiny pancakes. Making a batch is a great excuse to splurge on this spendy ingredient.
Goat cheese: Spread blinis with fresh goat’s cheese. Then drizzle with your favorite honey and garnish with fresh orange zest.
Spicy shrimp: Dollop a bit of creme fraiche in the center of a blini. Then layer on cooked shrimp, drizzle with chili crisp and garnish with sliced green onions.
Smoked salmon: Top each blini with pieces of smoked salmon or lox. Dollop with creme fraiche and a sprinkling of fresh dill.
Tzatziki: Spread a teaspoon of tzatziki sauce over each blini. Then top with sliced cucumber and sprigs of dill.
How do you store blinis?
If you want to make blinis but don’t want to eat them all today, you can store them in the fridge or freezer. To heat up premade blini, arrange them in a single layer on a sheet pan and bake at 300ºF for 5 to 10 minutes; the time will vary on the size of your blini.
Use refrigerated blini within a day or two. Frozen blinis should be used within six months.
Should blini be served hot or cold?
Blinis are typically served at room temperature. That makes these bite-sized treats the perfect party food. You can make them and even top them in advance.
This being said, blini can also be enjoyed hot out of the pan. Be mindful of how you top hot blini, though. Ingredients like creme fraiche and sour cream will melt if the pancake is too hot.
Do blinis need to be made with buckwheat flour?
Buckwheat flour is very traditional in Russian blini recipes. This flour isn’t necessary to make the recipe, though. You can use whole wheat or rye flour instead. These types of flour will imbue the recipe with a similar nuttiness. And if you just have all-purpose flour in the pantry, feel free to use that in lieu of buckwheat.
Are blinis only served as appetizers?
Blinis are most commonly served as appetizers. These single-serve blini are often small—about 3 inches across. However, blinis don’t need to be limited to a snack. You can make larger blini and serve them as a main course. Top them however you choose and serve with a green salad.