I lived in North Dakota for a year when my daughter was little, and when I came to Wisconsin, I brought with me a couple recipes for foods that are quite popular there, mainly from the influence of German-Russian immigrant farmers from the Black Sea region of Southern Russia who who settled in North Dakota in the late nineteenth century. These foods have weird names but are so delicious! Knoephla soup is one, and the other is Fleischkuekle (pronounced flysh keek la)

Fleishkuekle is a meat pie, usually made with hamburger and spices, inside a flaky pastry and fried. It is generally served with ketchup. My mother-in law made them for me the first time I had them, and you can find them at the better restaurants throughout North Dakota, including the Dairy Queen in Beulah.

Some recipes I have seen on the internet say to brown the hamburger first, but the correct way to make them is to put the raw burger mixture inside the pastry dough and then fry it long enough to cook the burger through. The traditional recipe also calls for just onion and garlic, salt and pepper. As someone who grew up on Minnesota with meat pasties, full of veggies, this seemed a little foreign to me but it is what it is. I make two versions for my family now, one with just the onion and garlic, and one with shredded carrot and sauerkraut mixed in as well. What’s more German than Sauerkraut? (There used to be a really good pizza place in a town just west of Jamestown that puts sauerkraut on their pizza, just under the cheese – what a good idea that was!)

Here is the basic recipe – add 1 shredded carrot and 1/2 cup drained sauerkraut to jazz it up a bit. Makes about 16 pies (8 servings)


  • 1 1/2 lbs ground beef or venison
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp (or more) pepper
  • Blend together with your hands (or if you prefer, a spoon, but hands are more fun!) until fully combined. Set aside nearby.
  • Basic hamburger mixture
    Jazzed up hamburger mixture with carrot and sauerkraut added


      3 cups flour
      1/2 tsp salt
      1 egg
      3 tbsp oil
    • 1 cup milk

    Mix together with a fork until incorporated. Use hands to mix further until a dough is formed. It may be a little sticky, just add a little flour to the board when you roll out the individual balls.

    Divide dough into 16 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball; should be about the size of a small to medium egg. Roll each ball out one by one as thin as you can without tearing- should be about 6 inches in diameter. Make sure there are no holes. Place a spoonful (about 1/3 cup-ish) of meat mixture on 1/2 of dough near center. Fold dough over meat mixture. Press edges together, then roll edges up and press to seal (this is pretty important- when you fry you don’t want the hamburger grease to leak out into the frying oil). Place on a platter and repeat until all the pies are formed.

    Heat 2 cups frying oil in a sauce pan on the stovetop. Place pies two at a time in the frying oil. Allow to fry until dark golden brown, several minutes, to ensure meat is cooked. The pies should float to the top about half-way through cooking. If the pies seem to brown too fast, turn the burner down. Place cooked pies on paper towels and cook the remaining pies two at a time until done. As you get near the end, you will find that some burger grease will inevitably leak out and will taint the oil, so plan to dispose of the frying oil once it had cooled.

    Serve with ketchup.

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