Totally Worth It: How to Make Chinese Dumplings at Home
A pro takes us step-by-step through the easy and delicious art of filling, pleating, and pan-frying potstickers
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Pork and Mushroom Dumplings (Potstickers). Recipe and photos by Diana Kuan
Have you ever wanted to recreate the dumplings (aka potstickers) from your favorite restaurant in your own kitchen? Though they may look intimidating at first, Chinese dumplings are easy to crank out by the dozens once you learn the basics.
I’m a cookbook writer, food photographer, and cooking teacher who has been teaching the art of dumpling-making for the past 15 years. Through my in-person and virtual cooking classes, total-beginner cooks as well as more seasoned home cooks (and even a few industry professionals) have learned flavor combinations and simple techniques to make the best homemade dumplings.
Let’s dive into how to make the most well-known style of dumplings: Chinese potstickers, also known as jiaozi. I’m going to take you through how to make a delicious filling, get perfect pleats, and pan-fry to perfection. With these tips, you can make dumplings as an appetizer for your everyday meals, or even as the star dish for dumpling parties.
Jump ahead to:
What are Chinese dumplings? >>
Ingredients for Chinese dumplings >>
How to make Chinese dumplings >>
How to fill and pleat Chinese dumplings (potstickers) >>
How to make Chinese dumpling sauce >>
What to serve with Chinese dumplings >>
Get the Chinese dumplings recipe >>
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What are Chinese dumplings?
So what exactly is a dumpling? In a nutshell, it’s an umbrella term that refers to a small parcel of dough wrapped around a filling. Dumplings first originated in central China around 1100 AD. They spread to other regions via trade routes: east to eastern China, Korea, and Japan; south to the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, and west towards the Middle East and Europe. That’s why nowadays there are so many cultures that have their own versions of dumplings, including Korean mandu, Nepalese momos, Turkish manti, and Polish pierogi.
In China, there are many varieties of dumplings. Some you may have heard of or eaten include wontons, shumai, and har gow. However, frequently in Chinese restaurants and cookbooks the term "dumpling" is used to refer to the most popular type of dumpling, the crescent-shaped potsticker.
Potsticker dumplings are also the easiest and most versatile type of dumpling because you can steam, boil, or pan-fry them. You can stuff them with a traditional meat filling like the pork, mushroom, and scallion filling in the recipe below, or experiment with many different fillings once you feel comfortable with the recipe.
Ingredients for Chinese dumplings
You can find most of the seasonings, wrappers, and other ingredients for my dumpling recipe at a regular grocery store in a city or large suburban area. If your grocery store is small, just a few items may require a trip to an Asian market.
Dumpling wrappers: Store-bought dumpling wrappers can be found in the frozen section of many supermarkets, or the refrigerated or frozen sections of Asian markets. Look for round wrappers that are 3 to 4 inches in diameter. Chinese grocery stores tend to carry wrappers made by manufacturers in their local metropolitan areas, so the best brands of fresh wrappers vary across the country.
Shiitake mushrooms: Fresh shiitake mushrooms are widely available in most markets. Be sure to wipe the caps clean with a damp towel and remove the stems before using.
Scallions: Also called green onions, scallions add a delicious oniony flavor to dumpling fillings. You can chop up both the white and green parts, but be sure to remove the stringy ends. Add the scallions raw to your fillings.
Ground pork: Though ground pork is the most traditional dumpling filling, you can also substitute ground chicken, ground beef, or ground turkey, which has a very similar flavor to pork in the filling mix. For the juiciest and most flavorful dumplings, most restaurants and home cooks use a fattier blend of pork from a local butcher or Chinese supermarket, rather than lean ground pork. Ground meat does not need to be pre-cooked before you fold it into the dumplings; the amount in each dumpling will cook during pan-frying in the recipe.
Sesame oil: Toasted sesame oil from east Asia is nutty and dark amber in color. It’s used as a flavoring oil for dumpling fillings and sauces, rather than a cooking oil, since it has a very low smoke point.
High-heat cooking oil: For cooking the dumplings, be sure to use a high-heat cooking oil such as grapeseed, vegetable, sunflower, peanut, canola, and certain brands of avocado oil. When in doubt, check that the bottle lists the smoke point as 400°F or higher, or specifies that it’s suitable for high-heat cooking.
Soy sauce: Regular supermarket soy sauce adds the perfect salty, umami flavor to the filling and dumpling dip.
Chili oil: At western and Asian supermarkets you can find chili oil either with crushed red chilies in it or with the chilies strained out. Either works well for this recipe.
Rice vinegar: Clear (not dark) rice vinegar adds a bracing, acidic flavor to your dumpling dip. Chinese clear rice vinegars tend to be sharper, while Japanese rice vinegars (which I prefer) are a little mellower. Cider vinegar, which is slightly sweeter, can be used as a substitute.
How to make Chinese dumplings
Thanks to the chewy-crispy wrappers and juicy, flavor-packed filling of ground pork, mushrooms, and sesame oil, these dumplings are a crowd-pleaser. Whether you put them together on your own or host a dumpling-wrapping party, the recipe makes plenty to share.
1. Make the filling
You’ll saute chopped shiitake mushrooms, then mix them in a large bowl with uncooked pork, sliced scallions, soy sauce, and sesame oil.
2. Set up your work area
Fold dumplings on a clean surface such as a plate, cutting board, or tabletop, and put the finished dumplings on a plate or baking sheet lined with parchment paper. To keep the wrappers from drying out, be sure to keep them stacked and covered with a damp towel while you work and peel them off only when you’re ready to fold the next dumpling. Have a small bowl of water handy to moisten the edges of the wrappers, and also have a bowl with the filling. You’ll need a second damp towel to cover the dumplings after you fill them.
3. Fill and pleat
Follow the photos and steps below for a simple filling and pleating technique.
4. Pan-fry until golden brown
Although these dumplings can also be steamed, or cooked in boiling water for boiled dumplings, my favorite way of cooking them is pan-frying. And I’ll let you in on a little secret: Anytime dumplings are referred to as pan-fried, they are actually also steamed. You’ll add oil at the beginning to get the bottoms of the potstickers crispy. Then you’ll add 1/4 cup of water and cover the pan with a lid to allow the wrappers and filling to cook through. The oil that’s still in the pan after the water evaporates gets the bottoms of your steamed dumplings crisp once more. One side ends up browned and crispy, while the top remains soft — the perfect textural contrast!
How to fill and pleat Chinese dumplings (potstickers)
Here's the only potentially tricky part of making dumplings, but a little practice makes perfect.
1. Fill the dumpling
Set a wrapper flat on your work surface and add a heaping measuring teaspoon of filling in the middle. Be careful not to use too much filling or else it will leak out while you’re folding.
2. Make the first pleat
Dip a finger in the water and moisten the edges of the wrapper all around. Line up the edges at the left side of the dumpling. With your thumb and index finger on your left hand, pinch the corner of the wrapper together about 1 inch from the edge. Then, using your right hand, make a 1/2-inch pleat only on the side of the wrapper that’s towards you (or away from you, if that's easier), folding it toward the corner you just pinched; at the same time, press the top edges of the wrapper together where the pleat is to seal them.
3. Make the second pleat
Hold the first pleat down with one hand and make a second pleat with your other hand, folding it in the same direction and overlapping the first pleat by about halfway.
4. Make the third pleat, and curve the dumpling
Make a third pleat that overlaps the second pleat in the same manner. Pinch together the second corner of the dumpling. At this point the dumpling should be curved and the filling should be in a little pocket. Place your thumbs at the center of the non-pleated side and pull the corners of the dumpling to create a more pronounced crescent with the pleats on the outside.
How to make Chinese dumpling sauce
My tangy, spicy dipping sauce made of soy sauce, chili oil, and rice vinegar stirred together is one of my go-to sauces for dumplings, but you can also add or subtract ingredients to suit your taste. Don’t like spicy? Just remove the chili oil. Dislike vinegar? You can reduce the amount or simply not use it. Love peanut dips? You can whisk in a tablespoon of smooth peanut butter for a creamy, nutty dip.
What to serve with Chinese dumplings
You can serve your pork dumplings as an appetizer as part of a multi-course meal. Add a main dish such as a stir-fry with meat or tofu, and a vegetable side such as steamed bok choy. Alternatively, you can just serve the dumplings by themselves. Chinese meals are considered complete if there is a meat, protein, and vegetable, and these dumplings have all three!
For drinks to go with your dumplings, try wine, beer, cider, or non-alcoholic beverage with a hint of sweetness, which will help balance out the spiciness and tanginess in the dipping sauce.
To freeze dumplings, line a plate or small baking sheet with parchment paper, then put the dumplings on the parchment in a single layer. Freeze for 2 hours (this way, they won’t stick together), then transfer them to a zip-top freezer bag or other storage container to save room. You can cook the dumplings straight out of the freezer; just add 2 minutes more cook time to the steaming.
Get the Chinese dumpling recipe
I hope this tutorial has gotten you excited to try making pan-fried dumplings at home, and perhaps experiment with your own fillings and dips.
Pork and Mushroom Dumplings (Potstickers)
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