These Chinese-inspired pork dumplings are savory, comforting, joyful food. Make your own dough or use the filling with store-bought wrappers.
Why we love this recipe
We don't have a direct cultural connection to Lunar New Year in our household, but we do have a high concentration of ardent dumpling lovers. Back in 2018, when one of them was still in primary school, we started making these pork dumplings from scratch once in a while during early wintertime. It's a bit of an all-hands-on-deck process, which gave us plenty of time to sit and talk about important traditions in cultures around the world — rolling and filling and crimping all the while.
I don't make this recipe frequently, since it takes a fair amount of time and effort. But whenever we do, it's rewarding in ways that reach far beyond the belly. That said, it's also absurdly delicious. These dumplings have:
- The perfect wrappers — they're soft and tender but with a bit of spring, and they end up crisp and golden-brown on the undersides from a quick spin in a spitting-hot pan
- A super-savory filling made from ground pork, shredded Napa cabbage, and a delightful onslaught of umami-rich seasonings
- Just the right balance between exterior and interior
- A nice amount of heft, while still feeling diminutive
I first published this recipe here back in 2018. I've since updated the post for clarity, but the recipe remains the same. The dough recipe is adapted from Molly Yeh.
What you'll need
Here's a glance at the ingredients you'll need to make this recipe.
For the dough
- All-purpose flour has enough protein to bring the dough together while still keeping it tender. The initial amount called for makes an extremely sticky dough. You will add a lot more throughout the kneading process to achieve a workable dough. The exact amount will depend on environmental conditions — trust the process and don't worry. You can use the video for visual cues.
- Use the amount of fine sea salt called for in the recipe card. It's not just for flavor — it helps tighten the gluten strands and give the dough the right consistency.
- Boiling water helps denature some of the flour's proteins and help the dough stay pillowy and soft.
- Cold water has the opposite effect, encouraging gluten development. Using some of each gives us just the right texture.
For the filling
- Unlike beef, ground pork is not always labeled by fat percentage, but typically pre-packaged ground pork in U.S. supermarkets will have around 15% fat, and products labeled lean will be in the 10% or lower range. You can use anything in that range. Sausage-grade pork is too high in fat to really shine in this recipe. I try to use heritage-breed pork these days, for both the superior flavor and the better animal welfare and environmental impact. If you like, you can read more about sourcing in the section below.
- Napa cabbage is a variety of Chinese cabbage (and sometimes sold in the U.S. by that name) with tender, light-green leaves and crisp white ribs. For this recipe, you'll remove the ribs and finely shred the leafy parts with your knife.
- A generous amount of minced fresh garlic and ginger and plenty of scallions add bright pops of flavor.
- I like to use lower-sodium soy sauce since it packs all the umami with less salt.
- Toasted sesame oil has a deep, savory flavor. It's not the same as the regular sesame oil that you might use for cooking. Although it's heat-sensitive, it does fine in the dumpling filling because it's mixed with the other ingredients.
- Not pictured: I like to use safflower oil to pan-fry the dumplings, but any neutral-tasting oil with a high smoke point is fine. Other good choices include canola, peanut, and vegetable oil blend.
Our favorite sources for meat
For years, I've been sourcing our meat from ButcherBox. We love this curated meat delivery service, which provides grass-finished beef, heritage breed pork, organic chicken, and more from small farms direct to the customer. You can learn more in my extensive Butcher Box review and unboxing.
How to make it
Here's an overview of what you'll do to make a beautiful batch of pork dumplings. There's a little bit of an art to the process, but you truly don't need any special skills to make totally respectable dumplings. You can see the steps in action in the video that accompanies this post, and get all the details in the recipe card below.
To make the dough
The trick to this dough, if there is one, is to take it from the wet and sticky state it starts out in to a nice, smooth, workable consistency before shaping the dumplings.
Exactly how much flour you'll need depends on the circumstances that day — heat and humidity, for example — so you'll have to trust your instincts a bit despite my best instructions on what to look for. Don't worry, though, the dough doesn't have to be exactly perfect to be really good.
- You'll stir together the flour and salt in a bowl, then mix in the boiling water little by little, followed by the cold water.
- The dough will be very sticky at this point. Turn in out onto a well-floured surface.
- Sprinkle lots of flour on top and begin kneading. Keep kneading and adding flour as necessary until the dough becomes soft and workable and can be shaped into a ball.
- Place the dough in a clean bowl, cover it with a towel, and let it sit while you prepare the filling. Resting helps the dough to relax a bit so that it's easier to work with when you shape the dumplings. You can find full instructions for making the filling in the recipe card below — it's the easiest part.
To shape the dumplings
- Pinch off pieces of the dough by the approximate tablespoon. (If you have a digital kitchen scale, you can weigh the dough and divide by 30.) Roll that tablespoon of dough into a ball between your palms and place it onto your floured work surface.
- Roll out that little ball with a floured rolling pin into a 3- to 4-inch circle.
- Place a tablespoon of the filling into the center of the circle and fold the dough into a half moon shape around the filling.
- Use your fingers to press the edges of the dough together to seal them well, and then to crimp the edges. Refer to the video for visual cues. Repeat until you're out of filling and dough!
To cook the dumplings
- Double-check that they're well-sealed.
- In batches of seven or eight, boil for four minutes.
- Blot dry on paper towels and carefully transfer to a frying pan.
- Pan-fry until golden brown and crisp underneath. That's it!
Expert tips and FAQs
Yes yes yes! You can freeze dumplings before cooking, and dare I say you should. Since making them is a bit of an undertaking, I love to make a double or triple batch and freeze lots of them for later. Here's what to do.
Make a gazillion dumplings.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the dumplings on it as if they were cookies. Freeze until they're solid.
Then place them in airtight containers with as many as you think you'll want to eat at a time. Keep them in a nice, cold freezer for up to a year.
When you're ready to eat them, you can either let them defrost at room temperature for a few hours or just pop them right into the boiling water from frozen. In that case give them an extra minute or so in the boiling water. Cook and eat as usual!
More favorite Chinese-inspired recipes
For the dough
- 3 cups (360 grams) all-purpose flour, plus plenty more for kneading
- 1 ½ teaspoons (9 grams) fine sea salt
- ¾ cup (177 ml) boiling water
- ¾ cup (177 ml) cold water
For the filling
- 1 pound (454 grams) ground pork
- 8 leaves Napa cabbage
- 1 large egg
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
- 8 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml) low-sodium tamari or other good soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) toasted sesame oil
- ½ teaspoon (3 grams) fine sea salt
- 3 scallions, white and light green parts thinly sliced
- Safflower or other neutral-tasting oil meant for high-heat cooking
For the dipping sauce
- ¼ cup (60 ml) tamari or other good soy sauce
- ¼ cup (60 ml) rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) hot chili sesame oil
For the dough
- In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the flour and salt.
- Pour in the boiling water a little at a time and mix with a spoon until incorporated.
- Pour in the cold water a little at a time, continuing to mix until you have a very wet, sticky dough.
- Sprinkle plenty of flour onto a work surface and your hands. Scrape dough from bowl onto work surface and knead, adding more flour as necessary to prevent sticking, until dough is smooth. (See video for visual cues here and throughout the recipe.)
- Place dough in a clean bowl, cover with a clean kitchen towel, and let rest while you make the filling.
For the filling
- Place the pork in a medium mixing bowl.
- Remove white stems from cabbage leaves and finely shred the green leafy parts with a knife. Add shreds to mixing bowl.
- Add egg to one side of bowl and lightly beat with a fork.
- Add ginger, garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil, salt and scallions to bowl.
- Use your hands to combine the mixture thoroughly without compressing it.
To fill and shape the dumplings
- Pinch off dough by the tablespoon (approximately — don't stress).
- Roll into a ball between your palms and place onto a floured work surface.
- Roll out with a floured rolling pin into a 3- to 4-inch circle.
- Place a tablespoon of filling into the center and fold dough into a semicircle around filling.
- Use your fingers to press the edges of the dough together and then to crimp the edges. (Again, see video. It's not hard at all, promise, but a little imagery goes a long way.) This process takes a WHILE, and it's fun to have help.
To cook the dumplings
- Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil.
- Add dumplings in batches of about 8 and boil on medium-high heat for four minutes.
- Meanwhile, set a large frying pan with two tablespoons of safflower oil over medium heat.
- After boiling, carefully shake or blot excess water from dumplings and add dumplings in batches to frying pan. Cook for a few minutes until undersides are browned, being careful for splatters.
- Blot excess oil from dumplings before serving with dipping sauce.
To make the dipping sauce
- Stir together tamari, rice vinegar and hot chili sesame oil in a small bowl.
Since making dumplings is a bit of an undertaking, I love to make a double or triple batch and freeze lots of them for later. Here's what to do.
- Make a gazillion dumplings.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the dumplings on it as if they were cookies.
- Freeze until they're solid.
- Then place them in airtight containers with as many as you think you'll want to eat at a time.
- Keep them in a nice, cold freezer for up to a year.
- When you're ready to eat them, you can either let them defrost at room temperature for a few hours or just pop them right into the boiling water from frozen. In that case give them an extra minute or so in the boiling water. Cook and eat as usual!
Serving Size:1 dumpling with sauce
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 77Total Fat: 2.4gCarbohydrates: 11.9gFiber: 0.9gProtein: 2g