How to Make Dumplings for Soups and Stews
Sometimes light and fluffy, sometimes delicate and chewy, always totally delicious: the humble dumpling. These versatile treats have been enjoyed around the world for centuries, and it’s no surprise that they maintain their popularity to this day.
But what are dumplings? Where do they come from? And how do you make them? In today’s article, we walk through everything you’ve ever wanted to know about this tasty treat and, of course, how to produce homemade dumplings for soups, stews, or just as a snack.
What are Dumplings?
Dumplings come in all shapes and sizes, but all members of the broad dumpling family have a few things in common.
These tasty treats are defined as a dish made from pieces of dough, sometimes savory, sometimes sweet, and sometimes stuffed. They’re always made from some kind of starch, whether it comes from flour or another source like potatoes.
The Dumpling’s Illustrious History
From Japanese gyoza to English stew dumplings, this doughy delicacy has been enjoyed by people around the world for literally millennia. In fact, it’s surprisingly difficult to find a cuisine that doesn’t have its own local version of a dumpling. Even the ancient Romans ate dumplings if extant texts are to be believed.
Dumplings emerged in a few separate places around the same time, and it’s not possible to determine a single point of origin. We do have a better idea of where the word “dumpling” comes from, though. The word originates in Norfolk, in the South East of England, in the 1600s.
Wherever they were developed, dumplings seem to have served a similar function. Where meat was scarce, stuffing it into dumplings helped small portions go further.
Small amounts of pork or beef would be mixed with cabbage and onions, before being stuffed into doughy parcels. Because flour is cheaper than meat, this strategy would ensure that poorer families could afford to eat.
The earliest dumplings were quite different to those we eat today. They sometimes didn’t contain dough at all, but were rather balls of meat, fat, and vegetables, poached in a pot of seasoned water.
Dumplings with dough likely came next, and they’re still enjoyed in many countries today. In Germany, for example, spaetzle is a type of dumpling made by pushing flour dough into boiling water through a sieve.
Soon, dough and filling combined, and the European stuffed dumpling as we know it today was born.
In China, though, stuffed dumplings have been around for well over a thousand years. The earliest version of the Chinese dumpling was called a jiaozi. Legend has it that these dumplings were invented during the Han Dynasty by a man called Zhang Zhongjian.
The story goes that when Zhang returned to his village after a long absence one winter, he noticed that some of the local villagers had developed frostbite—especially around their ears.
To help cure them, he cooked mutton, chili, and healing herbs, before wrapping them in scraps of dough. When he folded them into small parcels, they resembled ears, which he boiled again before handing them out. In theory, these warming dumplings helped cure the frostbite. The villagers also enjoyed eating them so much that they continued to make them year-round.
How to Make Drop Dumplings
Now that we’ve covered the dumping’s legendary history, it’s time to talk recipes—here’s how to put together homemade drop dumplings of your very own. With this easy dumpling recipe, you’ll learn how to make dumplings with flour.
These fluffy dumplings are based on the European dumpling tradition, making use of wheat flour, and resulting in a hearty yet fluffy accompaniment to soups and stews.
- 2 cups of all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon of baking powder
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1 egg
- 1 cup of milk
- First of all, weigh out the flour, and mix it with the baking powder and salt
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg and milk
- Make a small dimple in the center of the flour mixture, and pour in the egg and milk mixture
- Gently whisk the wet ingredients into the dry until just combined
- Bring a pot of gravy or broth to a boil, and drop one tablespoon of your dumpling mixture into the hot liquid at a time
- Cook each dumpling uncovered for 10 minutes, before covering the pot and cooking for a further 10 minutes. Once you’ve placed the lid on the pan, don’t peek until the dumplings are cooked—this ensures they remain light and fluffy
Making perfect drop dumplings at home is surprisingly simple!
How to Make Chinese Dumplings
These fluffy European style dumplings aren’t the only option on the menu, though—the chewy and wholesome Chinese version can also be made at home.
These dumplings are a little time consuming, but the results are certainly worth the effort.
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup water
- 4 cups dumpling filling (mix your choice of meat, vegetables, and spices)
- Place the flour into a large bowl, and slowly mix in the water with chopsticks or a fork. Knead the mixture into a firm dough for about 10 minutes
- Cover the dough and let it rest for about 4 to 5 hours. In the meantime, make your filling
- Dust your hands and work surface with flour and knead the dough for another few minutes before rolling sections (about a sixth at a time) into long strips about an inch in diameter, before cutting into about 12 even sections
- Dust both sides of the strip with a little flour, before rolling out further, to about a millimeter in thickness
- Scoop about a teaspoon of filling into the center of the dough round. Seal the edges of your dough around it before folding in half, into the traditional dumpling shape
- When your dumplings are formed, boil them for about 2 minutes in a large pot, ensuring they don’t stick to the bottom. They should be almost transparent and float to the surface when done
- Remove, and serve as desired