Russian Cutlets (Котлеты)

The word cutlet is a bit of a culinary mystery – everyone has their own interpretation of what it means. Throughout most of Europe, a cutlet is a thinly-sliced cut of meat (usually pork or veal) that is beaten, covered in breadcrumbs, and fried (think schnitzel). This is the same in the US, but they are mostly made with chicken breasts. The Japanese like to use pork (tonkatsu). Australia uses either chicken or lamb. Great Britain is a little different in that cutlets are usually not breaded.

And then there’s Russia. Somehow, as they trotted down the path of history, the Russians decided that котлет was a pretty good word for what we in the US would call a hamburger steak. Russian cutlets are a very common household dish, probably due to how easy they are to prepare. What’s funny is that they often eat cutlets between two slices of bread as a snack – which sounds a lot like a hamburger to me, although they are still called cutlets.

So at the end of the day, you could have three people walking down the street,

a) eating a Chick-Fil-A sandwich
b) eating a schnitzel sandwich (they exist!)
c) eating what basically looks like a hamburger

…and they’d all tell you they are eating cutlets.

So, after working on my Russian cutlets for a while, I decided to make a dish that is unique in that it would be fit to serve at a restaurant (which is ironic, because cutlets are rarely served in restaurants in Russia).

for the cutlets
2 lbs ground beef
1/2 med onion, blended
3 cloves garlic, blended
1/2 tsp each salt, white pepper, ground mustard
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp butter or ghee

for the sauce
1/4 cup chicken stock
1 8oz can of tomato sauce or tomato purée
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 heaping tbsp sour cream

Blend your onion and garlic together into a paste, then get your other ingredients ready.

In a saucepan, melt the butter/ghee on medium heat, then add the onion/garlic paste. Simmer on medium heat for about two minutes, to sweat the liquid out of the onions and to lessen the oniony taste.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Combine the other ingredients for the cutlets and gently mix together with your hands. Be careful not to over-mix the meat.

Form the ground beef into six oval-shaped patties and place them on a baking sheet. I like to give them a little bit of a lip at the end of the cutlets, so that the sauce has a little reservoir to sit in. Place the cutlets in the middle rack of the oven and bake at 350 for 20 minutes, then broil them for another two minutes.

Meanwhile, let’s get your sauce ready. Combine the tomato sauce, chicken stock, and black pepper, and simmer on low for 20 minutes while the cutlets are cooking.

When the cutlets are done, move them to a plate, and add a couple spoonfuls of the gunk/fat/liquid that’s left on your baking sheet to your tomato sauce. It might look a little gross as you’re adding it, but this is a very Russian way of preparing the dish – why waste all of that flavor?

At this point stir in the fresh parsley, and raise the heat to medium.

Once the sauce is simmering (it should only take a minute), remove the pan from heat, let it sit for about 30 seconds, then stir in the sour cream.

Spoon some sauce over the cutlets and enjoy. This dish is often served with pan-fried or mashed potatoes in Mother Russia.

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38 thoughts on “Russian Cutlets (Котлеты)

      1. Thank you for posting this – I LOVE this dish, my Russian mother made it for me all the time…nice to find a Paleo version of it…going to try it soon…. spaseba!


  1. I’ve got stomach flu, and putting food like this on display right in front of me now is torture! ;)
    Can’t wait ’til I can eat again!

    A little note on the word cutlet from my part of the world:
    The Swedish word for “chop” (as in pork/lamb/veal chop) is “kotlett”.
    The Swedish word most likely comes from the French word for the same cut, “côtelette”. (Which likely comes from “côtes”, meaning “rib” as the rib is often left in the chop.)
    Around here the thin beaten flat piece of pork/veil is called “Schnizel”, and the breaded type is a very specific dish: “Wiener Schnizel” (ie “Vienna Schnizel”).

    Great as always Russ, thanks! :)


  2. I’m always looking for different ways to use ground beef since we have a TON in our freezer, and my picky littler sister likes it (usually). This look like it has some different flavours that my whole family could appreciate! Awesome!


  3. A little plug-in to print your recipes would be awesome….I find that there are quite a few on your site I’d like to print out!!


  4. curious, once these are cooked, would do well if they were frozen? My father is gluten intolerant and i often cook several meals and freeze for him to take out and enjoy over the month. Curious if this one would work. My thought is to cook the meat, freeze the patties on a cookie sheet. Then once hard, package into a sealed or vacuumed container. What my concern is mostly if they sauce would freeze well. I’ve frozen different types of red (tomato) sauces, but the sour cream is throwing my confidence. Thoughts/ideas? Also considering trying this with ground turkey.


    1. Bet, turkey or beef should be fine, I think these will freeze well. Maybe undercook them a bit so that they don’t dry out when re-heating. I’m not sure about freezing sour cream, either – maybe you could make the sauce without the sour cream and have your father stir the sour cream in when he prepares the meal?


  5. This looks amazing! i like that it’s easy. definitely pinning this to remember to cook it for my boyfriend sometime!


  6. AMAZING!!! This was a delicious dish. We buy a whole beef every year for the family and I always have a lot of ground beef on hand so this is a great way to try something new with a cut of meat that can get boring after awhile. Thank you. Look forward to your next posts


  7. Oh my goodness, this was amazing! I made this for dinner last night and my husband loved it as well. Thank you for sharing your wonderful work! One question, I don’t know how to make a paste with the garlic and onions. Any tips? I diced them as small as I could, but didn’t look like your paste in the photos.


    1. Dede, I use a Magic Bullet ( to blend my onions and garlic. A small food processor would work as well. Truth be told, I am not a fan of onions, and the only way I can eat them is by making them into a paste! But over the years I’ve really become accustomed to cooking with onion/garlic paste, which is also done in other cuisines (French and Indian especially).


      1. Perfect! I have a Nutri-Bullet I have never used, so now it has a purpose and no more stinky hands from all of the chopping of onions and garlic! Thanks so much!


  8. Great pics! Yep, kotleti are basically hamburger and yet no Russian would ever call them that. Haha. As you said, they are usually fried in oil or butter and served as main course, with a side dish of some kind. Mashed potatos, or buckwheat. If you have a meat-grinder, the easiest way to make them is to coarsely chop up meat, onion, garlic, and white bread dipped in milk, and then grind it all together – et voila, ready made kotleti mixture!


  9. I thought I had a monopoly on Russian recipes here! Just kidding, of course. Очень приятно видеть знакомые и привычные блюда. Спасибо! Just for fun, look up Russian Hamburgers on my blog – what a coincidence. As to Голубцы, especially фальшивые, I posted a vegetarian version of it on My Recipe Magic last year, and at some point will post it here as well. Great minds think alike. How about настоящий украинский борщ? You post yours, and I post mine, and we compare – are you game?


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