As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Some recipes may contain affiliate links that earn me a small commission, at no additional cost to you.
These little Ukrainian/Russian pancakes topped with luscious horseradish cream cheese and smoked salmon are quickly devoured at Christmas parties, washed down with a decent glass of champagne.
Besides Christmas & New Year’s Eve celebrations, blinis are an important part of everyday customs in Ukraine & Russia, from presenting them to a new mother for good luck or when someone passes away as a goodwill and happiness notion.
I like to make these pretty little blinis a one-bite size. Easy to transfer from the plate to the mouth with no spillage. Known for three contrasting flavours in one go: horseradish from the cream cheese, the smokiness from the salmon followed by a soft pillowy pancake. This is my all-time favourite party food.
What flours are used to make blinis?
Blinis need two flours: buckwheat, which is luckily already gluten-free, and gluten-free plain flour to make the blini pancake batter. If you are not familiar with buckwheat flour, don’t worry, there is no wheat content in it. Buckwheat is derived from a plant for its grain-like seeds and is related to sorrel and rhubarb. On its own, buckwheat flour can make pancakes taste quite dense and nutty, which is why the addition of gluten-free flour lightens the batter and balances the flavour well.
The toppings are typically served with sour cream, smoked salmon and caviar or salmon roe. I like this traditional blend, but I feel the cream cheese holds its shape better on the blini especially if made ahead of time. The extra touch of horseradish cream lifts and spices up the flavours, but try not to add too much or you and your guests will be gasping for water or champagne!
Gluten-Free Smoked Salmon Blinis
For the blini pancakes:
For the toppings:
- 200-250 g plain cream cheese, room temperature
- ½ tsp creamed horseradish, add more if you like it extra pungent
- ¼ lemon, juiced
- 1 tbsp sour cream or mayonnaise
- ½ tsp white pepper
- 2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped or chives
- 8 slices smoked salmon, cut into 5cm pieces
- 40 small pickled capers, stems removed, for garnishing
- 1 small jar black caviar or salmon roe, for garnishing
- Extra fresh dill, for garnishing
For the blini pancakes:
- Whisk the flours with the xanthan gum, yeast and salt.
- Create a well and add the lukewarm milk to the flour mixture.
- Whisk until smooth using a balloon whisk or an electric mixer.
- Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm area for 30 mins.
- Add the egg yolks and melted butter to the batter, whisking well.
- Before whisking the egg whites, clean a deep bowl with some white vinegar using a paper towel to remove any grease residue before adding the egg whites. Wipe the whisk attachments as well.
- Add a pinch of salt to the egg whites
- Start whisking on a low setting, then increase the speed until the egg whites are stiff and peaked. They are ready when the egg whites stay inside the bowl while tipped upside down.
- Add half of the egg whites to the batter, folding in by turning the bowl clockwise and folding with a spatula towards the centre of the bowl.
- Add the remaining egg whites and continue folding until there are no more visible egg whites.
- Allow the mixture to stand for 5 to 10 mins.
- While the mixture is resting, heat a cast iron pan or heavy-bottom frying pan at medium heat.
- Grease the bottom of the pan with some butter.
- Gently ladle a few spoonfuls of blini mixture into the pan. Try to keep them the same size, about 5cm in diameter.
- The first batch usually is a practice run, but aim to fry the first side for 1 ½ minutes (bubbles will start to form on the tops of the blinis) and on the other side for 1 minute.
- Remove and place the blinis on a wire mesh to cool while frying the remaining blinis.
- Once all of the blinis are fried and completely cooled down, either store them in a sealed container or start adding the toppings.
For the toppings:
- Mix the cream cheese, horseradish, lemon juice, mayonnaise or sour cream, white pepper and fresh herbs.
- Lay out all the blinis onto a serving platter and start spooning the cream cheese mixture evenly on top of each pancake using two spoons to transfer it.
- Twirl the salmon slice into a cone shape and place it on top of the cream cheese mixture.
- Fill the salmon slice centre with caviar or salmon roe using a small spoon.
- Add one caper and a sprig of dill for a final touch.
Blini pancakes (not topped)
- Keeps for 3 days in an airtight container
- Suitable to freeze
Assembled blinis (topped)
- Keep chilled for up to 2 days, but will be at their best on the first day assembled.
- Not suitable to freeze.