There’s a saying that necessity is the mother of invention, and if you’re raised Ukrainian (or in Manitoba!) then you know that perogies are necessary! It was this conviction that led to the creation of Amanda Lynn Gluten Free Perogies.
Founder Amanda Lynn DeSutter, née Sholikovsk, was born and raised in Winnipeg. The catalyst for her successful business was finding herself at a family Christmas gathering with a salad instead of the delectable perogies made by her Ukrainian Baba (grandma).
“My Baba’s perogies were so good and there I sat, unable to eat them,” says Amanda Lynn, who had been recently
diagnosed with Celiac disease. This meant that anything with gluten was off limits. “It was really sad. I’ve always been a foodie with discerning tastes and there were all these foods I wanted to eat that I couldn’t have any more.”
Her husband Kurt encouraged her to figure out a gluten free solution. The challenge is that gluten, which is found in cereal grains like wheat, is what gives dough a nice elastic texture. Fortunately for the rest of us, Amanda Lynn was determined and her husband and her beloved Mom and Baba were willing to taste the countless failed batches and cheer her on until she discovered the perfect recipe for gluten free perogy dough.
“I call my husband my not-so-silent partner because he’s been great,” says Amanda Lynn. “We went through two years of testing dough until he said, ‘I think you’ve got it! These are the best perogies I’ve ever had!’”
Her mother and Baba tried them and also approved. The dough was as light and elastic as traditional perogies, so much so that the consensus was no one would be able to tell the difference.
Amanda Lynn could have kept this breakthrough to feed just her own family, but entrepreneurship and feeding other people good Ukrainian food runs in her family. She grew up helping out at Sevala’s, her Baba’s restaurant and a Winnipeg institution for great Ukrainian food that is now Sevala’s Ukrainian Deli and Catering run by her uncle (and the first retailer to sell her perogies!). She remembers selling her first dozen seasoned potato gluten free perogies at Sturgeon Heights Collegiate’s November 2015 craft sale in Winnipeg.
“It was so exciting! And I still have that customer today.”
After that first sale, Amanda Lynn grew her business and clientele steadily through word of mouth and continued to sell her handmade perogies at craft fairs and farmer’s markets. Ever the family effort, Amanda Lynn’s mother would help her make perogies, label bags, and work shows with her. When her mother passed away after a courageous battle with breast cancer in 2017, and her Baba not long after, customers patiently waited until Amanda Lynn was ready to resume perogy production.
Demand continued to grow and loyal customers wanted more varieties. Amanda Lynn also caters to dairy-free and vegan diets.
“We have a huge vegan customer base. I have developed a vegan dough to meet demand,” explains Amanda Lynn. “Dairy free is another common dietary restriction that we cater to. I’ve had people contact me with a list of allergies and I always say, try me!”
In 2018, Amanda Lynn opened a local gift shop and dedicated gluten free facility in Anola, Manitoba, just east of Winnipeg. While the perogies are still handmade, she and her team now make more than 20 varieties including traditional fillings like Seasoned Potato or Potato & Aged Cheddar and unique fillings like Fresh Mushroom Medley, Organic Sweet Potato & Jalapeno, and Potato, Onion, & Dill.
“People will ask me, how do they compare to normal perogies? I tell them honestly, they’re just a little bit better!” laughs Amanda Lynn. Online reviewers agree.
“We use good ingredients — real potatoes — so they’re good all the time, every time you have them. I care about what you eat and I really want to make great tasting food.”
As the business has grown, so has her product line. Amanda Lynn now offers not only her best-selling perogies, but also take-&-bake gluten free pizzas, cabbage rolls and other meals, soup, and delectable desserts.
You can find Amanda Lynn gluten free perogies at Manitoba’s best known Farmers Markets and more than 60 retail locations across the province, including butcher shops, small businesses, seasonal market centres, and in Vita Health as well as select Sobeys, Safeway, and Co-Op stores.
When asked to share the ultimate compliment for her gluten free menu, Amanda Lynn stops to consider.
“It’s definitely nice when a non-gluten free person says, ‘There’s no way that’s gluten free because these are too good!’ or, ‘Now you’ve ruined normal pizza for me!’ But when someone has dietary restrictions and says, ‘I haven’t had a perogy in 18 years and these are so good. Thank you.’ I get that.”
Amanda Lynn’s goal is to continue making delicious handmade gluten free perogies and other nourishing foods that are made with love and taste delicious. She’s grateful for the support of her family and customers and everything that has led her to create this successful business.