Learn the Difference: Fried vs Steamed Dumplings

A traditional Chinese delicacy, dumplings are one of the most popular dishes enjoyed worldwide. Their fame is mostly awarded to their versatility in flavor, cooking style, and fancy shapes.

You can find dumplings filled with seafood like shrimp and fish, vegetables such as cucumber or cabbage, different meats from pork and chicken to beef and even mutton.

There is a lot you can do when you have a dumpling wrapper in hand but there is one thing that remains constant and that is whether the dumpling will be fried or steamed.

Which one is better and how are they made? Is there a perfect way to do it? In this guide, we’ll tell you all about the debate of fried vs steamed dumplings, how to make them at home, how to freeze them, and even let you in on a secret to making the perfect dumpling.

All You Need to Know About Steamed Dumplings

Traditionally called Jiaozi (pronounced ‘jow-zee’), steamed dumplings are most commonly shaped like a crescent and served with a blend of vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil.

They are also found as ‘soup dumplings’, called xiao long bao and are shaped like a purse with a crimp on top. Bao’s are most commonly served in a dim sum brunch.

What Are They Made Of?

Steamed dumplings are usually made with a thin, opaque wrapper which allows the filling inside to be gently steamed and flavor added to the wrapper as well.

Though it is slightly bland in taste and has a soft exterior, steamed dumplings allow the fillings inside to speak for themselves by making every bite juicy, flavorful, and a perfect blend of spices.

Here are a few traditional fillings:

  • Ground pork for some fat, cabbage for flavor and, some scallions for color and crunch
  • Shrimp with fatty meat like ground pork, ginger and mushrooms for flavor with scallions for color
  • Bits of crab with cooked pork meat for fat and collagen-rich pork trims (most common in bao’s)

Is Steaming Dumplings Better Than Boiling Them?

Steamed and boiled dumplings only differ in cook time and the outer texture. Zheng jiao or steamed dumplings are firmer on the outside and take less time to cook as only a layer of water is to be warmed.

On the other hand, shui jiao or boiled dumplings are softer on the outside and take more time to cook as a whole pot of water needs to be boiled before the dumplings are placed inside.

Can Steamed Dumplings be Made at Home?

Yes! Making steamed dumplings at home is healthier than getting takeout, allows more freedom of choice for fillings, shape, and cook style. Also, it is a wonderful way to connect with friends and family.

Fried vs Steamed Dumplings

Here is how you can make steamed dumplings at home:

  • Get a pan with a steam rack, a metal steamer, or a wok with a bamboo steamer
  • Add in water that is enough to simmer for 8 to 10 minutes without drying out
  • The steaming water acts like a water bath, i.e protects the bottom of the steam set-up from burning without touching the dumplings
  • Line the steamer with large cabbage leaves, lettuce trims, or a non-stick parchment liner
  • Place the dumplings in the steamer, about 1 inch apart
  • Once the water starts generating steam, place the steamer with the dumplings inside the wok and cover with a lid
  • Keep the flame on medium or medium to high heat for 8 to 10 minutes
  • Enjoy your steamed dumplings

Can Steamed Dumplings be Made in an Air Fryer?

Yes. Modern times call for modern measures. Cooking steamed dumplings in an air fryer is just one of the many meals that can be cooked in the modern machine.

Though they will lightly brown from the air fryer, the texture remains the same and it is a healthier option to opt for, especially if you are reheating frozen steamed dumplings.

Here is how you can make steamed dumplings in an air fryer:

  • Spray the air fryer basket lightly with the oil of choice
  • Place 4 to 6 dumplings in the basket, at least 1 inch apart
  • Lightly spray the dumplings with oil spray to avoid burning the thin wrapper
  • Cook at 375 °F for 10 to 12 minutes, flipping the dumplings halfway

All You Need to Know About Fried Dumplings

Most commonly referred to as potstickers, fried dumplings come in all different shapes and sizes and are traditionally served with a side of sesame or soy sauce.

Fried dumplings are also found in potsticker soups and eaten with an array of side dishes.

What Are They Made Of?

Fried dumplings are generally made with a thick, opaque noodle wrapper which sits well in the freezer and retains the flavors of the filling when being fried.

Jian jio or fried dumplings have a crispy exterior which seals in the moisture of the filling and makes every morsel juicy and smooth.

To make a fried dumpling, it is important to have fatty content blended with good aromatics as the filling to avoid eating a dumpling that tastes like oil.

Here are a few traditional fillings:

  • 20% ground pork for fat, mushrooms for flavor, and scallions for color and crunch
  • Shrimp with chopped pork for fat, Chinese cabbage for flavor, and some garlic and scallions
  • Chopped prawns with ground pork trims for fat, chives and scallions for flavor, and white pepper and salt with some sesame oil to season

Is Pan Frying Dumplings Better Than Deep Frying Them?

The primary difference between pan frying and deep frying dumplings is the level of crispiness at the end. Though pan fried dumplings are traditionally approved, deep fried dumplings are a common preference to cook frozen or store-bought dumplings.

Though they are higher in calories, deep fried dumplings are quicker to make than pan fried dumplings and only takes 2 to 3 minutes. They also have a unified crispy texture and keep the filling tender.

Can Fried Dumplings be Made at Home?

Yes! Making fried dumplings at home is easy, enjoyable, and more efficient than ordering in since they can be eaten right off the stove and won’t turn soggy.

Here is how you can make pan fried dumplings at home:

  • Place a pan, preferably non-stick, on medium heat and add two tablespoons of oil
  • When the oil is warm enough, place a layer of dumplings and make sure the bottoms are covered in oil to avoid sticking
  • Pour in 7 to 8 tablespoons of water, enough to coat the sides of the dumplings
  • Cover the pan with a lid and allow the dumplings to steam for 10 minutes on medium to high heat
  • Allow the water to evaporate and gently pan fry the dumplings for 2 to 3 minutes or until they are golden on the bottom
  • Serve with a side of soy sauce, sesame oil, and vinegar

Can Fried Dumplings be Made in an Air Fryer?

Yes! Air fryers are gaining more popularity as the advantages of reducing oil intake, ease of usage, and news of its multifunctionality reaches the masses.

Fried dumplings are not an exception to all that an air fryer can cook and if you have one, here is how you can make pan fried dumplings in an air fryer:

  • Take out the basket and line it with parchment paper to prevent potstickers from sticking
  • Lay the dumplings out evenly and coat the dumplings with oil spray
  • Set the temperature to 380 °F, air fry for 6 to 8 minutes, flipping the dumplings halfway

Which is Better? Fried vs. Steamed Dumplings

Though each style of dumpling has its fair share of pros and cons, there are a few reasons why steamed dumplings have been the preferred choice for kids and adults alike for centuries.

Fried vs Steamed Dumplings

Traditional Take

Steamed dumplings were first made to combat frostbite in the poor people of China. The soft exterior allowed kids and adults to chew smoothly, the hearty filling kept their stomachs full, and the warmth symbolised wealth which is why to this day, steamed dumplings are the most common ways to celebrate Chinese events.

Healthier Option

Steamed dumplings also keep the nutritional intake of the filling complete and have less caloric intake than pan fried dumplings as there is no oil involved. Also, the rice or wheat wrappers are thin and do not add bulk to the dumplings.

Batch Cooking

Though homemade steamed dumplings are harder to freeze and get soggy if kept longer than 2 days, store-bought steamed dumplings freeze better and can be stored in bulk for as long as needed.

What is the Secret to Making the Perfect Dumplings?

Dumplings are a whole universe of a food group and are extremely versatile, allowing you to pick and choose the type of filling you want and the style you want to cook them.

However, they are quite fragile too and it does require a bit of practice to cook them just right. A second longer on the stove can turn steamed dumplings gummy and fried dumplings tough.

So, how can one make the perfect dumpling every time? Here’s how:

  • If you are making the dough from scratch, fold in the ingredients and do not overmix – it’s okay if there are lumps in the dough
  • Always steam the dumplings; whether you are pan frying them, air frying them or deep frying them, make sure they are steamed well beforehand

What to Keep in Mind When Freezing Dumplings?

Freezing dumplings is one of the best ways to preserve them, uncooked as well as cooked. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when freezing dumplings to avoid soggy dough balls:

  • Always remember to bring cooked dumplings to room temperature before storing them in the freezer
  • Freeze batches of evenly-layered dumplings for 30 minutes before storing them in a ziploc bag
  • There is no need to defrost or thaw the dumplings when taking them out to steam or fry
  • Storing dumplings in the refrigerator or refreezing them will result in soggy dough

Frequently Asked Questions

Are dumplings the same as gyoza?

Dumplings are a broad food category of doughy treats in which a gyoza is included. Gyozas are Japanese dumplings typically made with minced pork and vegetables (cabbage, spring onions, etc) wrapped in a thin dough, shaped like a half-moon and steamed then pan-fried. It is also known as potstickers.

How many calories are there in a dumpling?

It depends on how the dumpling is filled and cooked. If it is vegetable-based, one dumpling can be about 35 cal a piece and if it is meat-based, one dumpling can be about 80 cal a piece. Also, if the dumpling is fried, it will be higher in calories than a steamed dumpling.

What can be served along with dumplings?

Traditionally, dumplings are served with soy sauce and black vinegar to dip them into. However, when serving dumplings as the main course, there are endless options which can serve as flavorful sides and they usually include a soup, a protein, some rice, and then, to top it off, a dessert.

Final Thoughts

Dumplings are a quick dish that is versatile at its core and a delight to make with family and friends. They can be served with just a dipping sauce as its side or an array of flavorful dishes that take the dumplings up several notches.

What makes or breaks the entire dish is the cooking style. Steamed dumplings are traditional, easy to make, healthy, but may also feel bland to some people. Fried dumplings, however, are most popular, they have a crispy texture but cannot be stored for long after being cooked.

Knowing the differences between the delicious fried vs steamed dumplings can help you become a better cook, allow you to try different styles of food, and choose the best one for you and your family.