Irresistible Dumplings from Around the World
From potstickers to pelmeni, these 24 homemade dumpling recipes are delicious proof that great things come in small packages
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For the longest time, “dumplings” meant one thing to me: meticulously chopped and seasoned meat marinated overnight, tucked into thick, perfect, hand-rolled circles of dough, and pinched into elegant crescents with a gentleness unexpected from my father’s rough, thick fingers.
Having spent my childhood in my parents’ Chinese takeout on Long Island, New York, I grew up watching the hours of painstaking work that went into my dad’s dumplings, and treasured every gone-too-quick bite. But as I grew up in the predominantly Italian-American community, I learned that dumplings are far from exclusive to Asian, much less Chinese, cuisines.
What are dumplings? Well, for starters, after Chinese dumplings you have Italian tortellini and ravioli. The first time I had matzo ball soup, I discovered that a ball of dough was enough to earn the dumpling name. I began traveling internationally and learned that a dumpling could be sweet or savory, and as simple as a moistened ball of smushed-together bread. I learned that all a food needs to be classified as a dumpling is a mass of soft, rounded dough. Baked, boiled, steamed, stewed, or fried, whatever surprise lies inside — that’s up to the maker.
Every culture, every region has its own special take on dumplings. But no matter where they’re from or what language is spoken by the hands that make them, there is one universal meaning for the comfort food that is dumplings: loving care.
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How to make dumplings
How you cook and make dumplings depends on the type and whether you’re making them completely from scratch or going for a shortcut. The all-from-scratch kind requires a lot more work, of course. There’s making, rolling, and cutting the dough before shaping it around the filling. Then you have to seal it just so to allow the insides to steam in their jackets, tucking them in prettily and tightly, but not so much that the pressure would tear apart the shell. Finally, for some varieties, there’s the art of perfecting different pleats.
For beginners making Asian dumplings, the key shortcut ingredient is store-bought dumpling wrappers (in fact, even restaurants opt for their convenience). I buy the Twin Marquis Shanghai Style ones — they’re nicely elastic, supple, shrink to the filling well, and don’t often burst or tear. However, if you want to make your own dumpling dough, try this basic, three-ingredient recipe for gyoza wrappers.
How to cook dumplings and store dumplings
Boiling dumplings is common across cultures. Just plop them into bubbling water or soup one by one until they float and are cooked all the way through. You can also steam dumplings like jiaozi (pork dumplings) using a steamer basket in a pot or wok on the stove, or the steamer insert in your rice cooker. Boiled-then-fried dumplings are my favorite, lending more chew as the water evaporates and the dough gets crispy.
For thin-skinned fried dumplings like potstickers, boiling isn’t necessary. Start by browning them in a pan, then add some water and cover them to allow the trapped steam to cook them through before frying them up in the pan once more. Or, just deep-fry them.
Dessert dumplings like apple dumplings and handhelds like empanadas or pasties can also be baked in the oven.
To store dumplings, you can keep them fresh in the refrigerator loosely covered in plastic wrap and on a flour-dusted surface for as long as the filling is good for, typically two to three days for meat. However, for maximum freshness, it’s best to freeze dumplings, wontons, ravioli, pierogi and the like in a single layer on a baking sheet (to help protect their delicate shapes) before transferring them into a resealable plastic bag for dumplings on demand.
East Asian dumplings recipes
Dumplings may be comfort food, but in China, they’re also an art form, taking on shapes, fillings, and materials as varied as the flowers some of them resemble. Other Asian countries have their fair share of unique dumplings, too. These are some favorites, most of them made with store-bought wrappers.
Don’t let the pop-culture name of this ground pork, shrimp, and chive dumpling recipe fool you — this is home cooking that transcends all classes in China (and here, it starts with store-bought wrappers). Dip the dumplings in a combination of soy sauce, rice vinegar, and chili oil.
If you want to learn to make potstickers completely from scratch, this detailed recipe walks you through everything from creating your own wrappers, pork-cabbage filling, and dipping sauce to pleating the dumplings and then browning and steaming the potstickers to perfection.
Traditional Shanghainese soup dumplings, tantalizingly wobbly with meaty soup just waiting to burst through the skin, are a labor of love. This short-cut version helps you cut to the chase with boxed chicken stock instead of homemade, and the addition of powdered gelatin to take the place of simmered pork rind jelly.
Also known as siu mai, these open, flat-top shrimp and pork dumplings are among the most famous to come out of Guangdong. In fact, they’re so iconic of the dim sum tea tradition that Americanized Chinese restaurants just generically label their larger, shrimpless versions dim sum.
Boiled Sichuan wontons have a big fan base in the U.S. These are relatively quick to make with wonton wrappers and have a simple chili oil-vinegar sauce.
Also known more poetically as gold purses, this vegan version of the Thai deep-fried appetizers is stuffed with curried tofu and mushrooms and — best of all! — is easy to make. The recipe suggests spring roll wrappers, but you can also use wonton skins, too. Instead of making the dipping sauce from scratch, you can buy bottled sweet chili sauce.
They’re consumed year-round, but in Korean culture, mandu-making is a New Year’s family tradition. Kimchi in this recipe makes it stand out as distinctly Korean, and the darling shape is a fun departure from the potsticker pleat.
At “the roof of the world,” Tibetans traditionally make momo dumplings with yak meat, but here in the States, we can make them with tofu and a variety of veggies, as in this recipe.
In Mongolia, the dumplings called buuz are typically made of fatty mutton and served with fried bread, dipping sauces, salads, and sour milk tea … or vodka after a long, hard day on the steppes. For this recipe, feel free to start with ground lamb and focus on the simple seasonings of caraway and garlic. A unique fold that creates a chimney-like depression makes them look fancier than the minimalist ingredients.
South Asian dumplings recipes
Showy South Asian dumplings are flashy with their spices and flavors, drawing on the richness of their local tropical ingredients to lend vavavoom to a simple concept of stuffed dough. Sweet and savory are often mixed and matched in this region, and these picks span the spectrum.
Samosas are among the best-known Indian street snacks in the world, and it’s hard not to love the crispy fried, flavor-packed pockets filled with spiced potatoes. This recipe is a traditional one for the treat that’s native to the northern state of Punjab, near the border of Pakistan.
Indian cuisine is as diverse as its regions, and modak is a prime example. This sweet dumpling filled with coconut, spices, and jaggery (an unrefined, semisolid sugar) is known by other names, but the first variant can be traced to Maharashtra, where Mumbai — or Bombay, as it was called until 1995 — is located. If you don’t have the special mold to shape the treats, the recipe explains how to shape the rice flour dumplings in your hand.
Central and Eastern European dumplings recipes
Hot, hearty, dense, and filling are the themes for dumplings from these chillier regions. Their carb-heavy versions were designed to stick to your bones and satisfy, or to bulk up soup for a thrifty meal in a bowl. These favorites from imperial Europe — including Russia — do exactly that.
The growth of popular brand Mrs. T’s have made pierogi mainstream, cheap, and easy, but making these potato-filled dumplings from the historical region of Red Ruthenia from scratch lets you riff on the filling (here, with potatoes and sharp cheddar). Just don’t confuse them with the denser, potato-less “Lazy” Pierogi, where cheese is incorporated into boiled dough. They’re both delicious and called pierogi, but very different.
Plump, juicy, and adorable, these north Russian meat dumplings were born of necessity. Savory pelmeni were considered a good way to preserve meat for the rough Siberian winters, as they were frozen outdoors and carried by hunters. In that spirit, this hearty recipe includes both pork and beef, plus pork fat and onions in the filling.
When it comes to Jewish cuisine, the big dumpling that is a matzo ball is likely the first to come to mind. Here you learn how to make them light and fluffy so they bob, not sink, in your soup recipe. The cook time is about 1 hour out of a total of 1 1/4 hours, making this an easy recipe in terms of prep time.
Although khinkali is one of the national dishes of the country of Georgia, what’s in them varies by region. This simple version with a meat and onion filling comes out nice and juicy, reminiscent of Chinese soup dumplings.
Western European dumplings recipes
Most European dumplings come from Italy, though the unique regional recipes may go by different names. But they all have one thing in common: they’re delicious.
We have Italy and its many regions to thank for endless varieties of homemade ravioli, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t include at least one (Americanized) recipe in this collection that relies on readily available store-bought cheese ravioli. Here it’s topped with quick and flavorful toppings for a tasty Mediterranean meal that’s ready in 25 minutes.
Like pierogi, Sardinian culurgiones are also filled with potatoes and cheese. But browned butter and fresh mint add a whole other dimension to the long, beautifully braided ravioli meant to resemble ears of wheat.
You may be familiar with gnocchi, Italy’s contribution to boiled dough ball dumplings — pillowy, potato-y, and wonderfully toothsome. Well, meet their greens-filled cousin from Sienna, malfatti. It means “badly formed,” but we think they look more than fine. The silverbeet called for in the recipe is known as Swiss chard in the U.S.
In Cornwall in the UK, these meaty handhelds are as treasured as their equally status-protected clotted cream. Luckily, although I couldn’t get to Cornwall on my UK road trip, I was still able to find a real Cornish bakery and eat one end to end, “the correct Cornish way.”
North American dumplings recipes
We may be later to the dumpling game than the civilizations that have been making them for centuries, but that’s not to say the U.S. doesn’t have some memorable contributions! After all, we’re fantastic at comfort food, as these recipes prove.
The first time I had chicken and dumplings was surprisingly not in the South, where I went to college, but at a famous restaurant in Chicago, in a large bowl and by giant spoonfuls on a snowy day. Like that version, this recipe takes no Bisquick shortcuts. You'll make your own dough from cake flour or all-purpose flour, baking powder, milk, and a little butter. Then steam the balls covered without peeking to create firm dumplings that are still light and fluffy.
A whole apple wrapped in baked dough may not sound like any other dumpling on the list, but it’s been called one forever and is a delicious cultural staple for the Pennsylvania Dutch. This Yummly original goes for store-bought pastry for a fast path to sweet success.
If you were expecting to see this in the Asian section, you’ll be surprised to learn that these cream cheese and crab fried dumplings are actually Americanized Chinese and part of our country’s hybridized takeout culture, a unique and beloved style in its own right.
Latin American and Caribbean dumplings recipes
South of our border, dumplings get a tropical makeover … and a lot of creative freedom for interpretation.
Although empanadas were born in Galicia, Spain and are found anywhere with a colonial Spanish presence, they got their glow-up in Latin America, where every country has its own variations. Start with Healthier Empanada Dough and let this tasty beef, green olive, raisin, and potato filling recipe take you to the finish line.
When a dumpling is also known as a festival, a party in your mouth is basically promised. These traditional, lightly sweet Jamaican deep-fried fritters are a beloved beachside street snack, and deserve a spot at your kitchen table, too.
More international comfort food
Explore these next Yummly articles for additional ways to feed your soul — and your tastebuds.