How to Make Homemade Dumplings with Whatever Ingredients You Have On Hand

Asian dishes are healthy, intensely flavorful, and vegetable centric — and dumplings are easier to create than you think. Here's how to make dumplings with a fresh spin.

A dumpling being held by chopsticks
Photo: Victor Protasio

"It's quite simple to create delicious Asian meals using everyday good-for-you ingredients and easy cooking techniques," says Hetty McKinnon, the author of To Asia, With Love (Buy It, $32,, a collection of "Asian(ish)" vegetarian recipes inspired by the home-cooked Cantonese food of her childhood and the breadth of flavors from the continent.

One key method to ensuring delicious vegetables every time: combining heat plus speed. "The basic tenet is high heat and fast cooking. This gives vegetables a hint of smoky flavor while they retain their vibrant color and crisp bite," says McKinnon. And don't worry about using the "right" pan: "There's no need for a wok; I usually use a cast-iron skillet to stir-fry," she says. "Honestly, use whatever pan you have — just make sure to get it nice and hot before adding the ingredients."

And while expertly cooked vegetables are tasty enough to eat on their own, zhushing them up and re-styling them as dumplings gives you an incredibly easy and filling dinner. Read on for McKinnon's tips on how to make dumplings that are traditional Asian in origin but modern in spirit.

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To Asia, With Love

To Asia, With Love

How to Make Dumplings

1. Create Your Filling

"[Dumplings] are a wonderful blank canvas for both classic and new flavor pairings," says McKinnon. Transform leftover roasted vegetables, cooked greens, and beans into tasty fillings by combining them with spices and herbs. (And that's just one of the ways you can reduce your food waste.)

Remember, "Asian cooking is always chasing umami by creating layers of flavor," says McKinnon. "It's easy to achieve, and it perfectly complements vegetables." Try one of the combos in the photo below for dumplings that excite your taste buds.

assortment of labeled dumplings on blue and red platters
Victor Protasio

You can also add complexity to your dumplings (and other Asian dishes) with one of these ingredients:

  • Kimchi: "I put it into congee and savory oats, toss it with noodles, or just eat it on its own," says McKinnon. "It is really healthy thanks to the probiotics it contains, and the spices are built in, so you don't need much else."
  • Tahini: It's similar to Chinese sesame paste, but milder. Drizzle over salads or vegetables, stir into broths, or make McKinnon's tahini sauce and toss with noodles and cooked vegetables: Whisk tahini with grated garlic and enough water to thin to a pourable consistency, drizzle with olive oil; season with salt and pepper.
  • Gochujang: "This Korean chile paste has a unique flavor, with umami qualities similar to miso," says McKinnon. "It has a pepper taste, but it's not too spicy." Whisk the paste into boiling water to make a flavorful stock, stir it into vinaigrettes, dressings, or noodle dishes, or mix it with yogurt and top roasted vegetables with it.
  • Fermented Black Beans: "This delivers intense, delicious flavor," says McKinnon. Finish any vegetable dish with her black bean sauce: Rinse and drain 1/2 cup fermented black beans, then mash. Stir in 2 finely chopped garlic cloves, 1 teaspoons red pepper flakes, 2 tablespoons rice wine, 2 teaspoons tamari or soy sauce, 1 teaspoon sugar, and 2 tablespoons olive oil.

2. Fold

Whether you're learning how to make dumplings for the first time or you're a pro, using store-bought dumpling wrappers is perfectly acceptable. Dip the very edge into a small bowl of water, rotating it to wet the edge all around. Hold the wrapper in the palm of your hand, and place a small spoonful of filling in the center. Fold the wrapper over to form a semicircle. Pleat the edge from one corner to the other. Cover with a damp tea towel while you fold the rest.

3. Cook

Heat a large skillet over medium–high. Drizzle with vegetable oil. Working in batches, add the dumplings, flat sides down, and cook until the bottoms are lightly browned, 1 to 2 min. Add about 3 tablespoons of water to the pan (just enough to cover the base of the dumplings). Cover, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until the water evaporates. Transfer to a plate.

The final step of this guide on how to make dumplings? Eat as many as your stomach can handle.

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