How to Make Light and Tender Dumplings

Updated on October 16, 2017
Athlyn Green profile image

Athlyn loves "all things bread" and shares her tips and recipes for homemade bread, quick breads, and all varieties in between.

Soft and Fluffy Instead of Claggy Lumps That Fido Would Bury

Steamed dumplings as they should be. These have puffed up wonderfully while cooking and are ready to be sampled.
Steamed dumplings as they should be. These have puffed up wonderfully while cooking and are ready to be sampled. | Source

How to Make Perfect Dumplings Using a Failproof Recipe and a "Magic" Ingredient

Perfect or Perfectly Awful?

When even the dog won't eat 'em, you know that your dumplings have somehow morphed into awful, heavy dough lumps instead of the wonderful steamed little quick bread morsels they should be.

Some cooks find, to their alarm, that no matter how carefully they prepare them, their dumplings morph into heavy "hockey pucks." No amount of sticking to the recipe, tweaking the heat settings, or obediently "not peeking" seems to make a difference. Dumpling making should be an easy undertaking but it can be one that is fraught with difficulty.

There seems to be a whole set of "rules" about how to make dumplings, and in my experience, none of them are relevant to producing fluffy and tender dumplings. I make light dumplings all the time. I'm not overly careful about measurement and I lift the lid and peek because when they get near to the end of cooking time, I like to cut a slit in one and stick my finger inside to make sure the middles aren't raw.

I do make sure my heat is on the low side, because I've found that when you put a lid on a pot, ingredients heat up and tend to stick to the bottom and burn. This is another dumpling rule that is false, that ingredients have to be boiling in order to steam dumplings.

So what do I do that is so different and critical to making wonderful tender dumplings? It involves one ingredient and is something I learned while dining with a friend who produced fabulous dumplings. She taught me what she did that made the difference. Once a person gets this right, making dumplings is easy.

If you've read this article so far and can relate to what has been written, no worries. By the time you finish reading, you will know just what to do to make steamed dumplings the way they should be.

A Word About Lifting the Lid

Some cooks believe you can't lift the lid when making dumplings. Fiddlesticks! Tender dumplings have less to do with steam and more to do with ingredients.

Chicken and Dumplings Are Such a Delight on a Cold Winter's Night

Chicken and dumplings are a favorite comfort food in the Americas, dropped into a tasty broth. Their velvety texture and mild flavor combines well with chicken.
Chicken and dumplings are a favorite comfort food in the Americas, dropped into a tasty broth. Their velvety texture and mild flavor combines well with chicken. | Source

The Critical Ingredient for Light Dumplings

A simple substitution makes a world of difference to the texture of dumplings.

Dumplings take just minutes to throw together and they truly are the perfect accompaniment for soups and stews and they help to round out a meal. They have an unmistakable flavor that goes so well in savory broths.

Traditional dumpling recipes call for lard or shortening. While these fats may be suitable for biscuits, they are not the best choice for dumplings. This is the make-or-break factor. And this was my grandmother's Waterloo. She faithfully stuck to using either lard or shortening, never suspecting that the fat was the culprit.

The trick for making light and tender dumplings is to always use soft margarine or butter, simply replacing the lard portion with either of these. When you do, you will produce a light dumpling dough that puffs up as it's supposed to.

Most Kids Love Dumplings and Like To Watch Them Cook

A meal for picky eaters.
A meal for picky eaters. | Source

Steamed Dumplings Should Have a Fluffy Inner Consistency and a Velvety Outside Texture

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 tsp bakng powder
  • 1/2-1 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp soft butter or margarine
  • 1 cup milk

A Close Second to Biscuit Dough

You'll notice by looking at the ingredients that this is a basic biscuit dough. It is, but as touched on, when making dumplings, to achieve the difference in texture, you have to use the right type of fat, and you might opt to add just a little more liquid so that your dough is on the moist side. Unlike biscuits that are baked in the oven, dumplings are steamed and cooked in hot liquid, so they cook in a different fashion and have a different taste and consistency.

Will it be Soup or Stew?

Dumplings are perfect with either dish

Soup With Dumplings

Source

Method For Making Light and Tender Steamed Dumplings

  1. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.
  2. Cut in butter or soft margarine that's been kept at room temperature. Use either a pastry cutter, a tablespoon, or your fingers to mix it into the flour mixture.
  3. Stir milk in lightly with a wooden spoon and adjust liquid amount to make sure that you have a moist dumpling dough.
  4. Drop by a teaspoonfuls into a gently simmering pot and cover with a lid.
  5. Check after about 10-15 minutes by making a slit in a dumpling and looking inside to ensure that no raw dough is hiding in the middle. Continue checking until dumplings are cooked to your preference.

Borscht With Dumplings

The subtle flavor of dumplings enhances the taste and adds texture to a flavorful soup.
The subtle flavor of dumplings enhances the taste and adds texture to a flavorful soup. | Source

Burn Alert

Never boil your pot ingredients in order to cook your dumplings. This is the fastest way to burn your soup or stew and spoil your dinner.

Cooking Tips

  • Make sure your soup or stew is on a gentle simmer. The liquid does not have to be boiling to cook tender dumplings. Remember that pot temperature rises once you put the lid on and you don't want the contents to stick to the bottom and burn.
  • Drop dumpling dough into the liquid by teaspoonfuls. There's no need to worry about shaping perfect dumplings because they will puff up as they cook. Cover your pot with a lid so that the dumplings can steam and cook in the middle.
  • Check your dumplings after about 10 minutes. The old rule of thumb was "no peeking" but this makes no difference to the finished result. Use a knife to cut a slit in a dumpling and check inside. Cook until dumplings are no longer raw in the middle. They should be slightly moist and light.

Overcooking Alert

Just as bad as undercooking is overcooking. Do not overcook your dumplings. They may disintegrate if left to cook too long.

A Gentle Simmer is All That is Needed

Reminders

 
Dumpling dough should be moist
You can lift the lid
Ingredients don't have to be boiling

Dumpling Disaster?

See results

Did You Know?

Dumplings are like drop biscuits, except they are steamed in a pot instead of baked in the oven.

Dumpling Variations

Like a little sweet with your meat? Get creative and combine salty and sweet flavors.

Raisin

Add the following ingredients to recipe:

  • 1/2 cup of raisins
  • 1 tsp chopped onion
  • 1 tbsp. chopped pecans

Sweet Drop

For a spicy sweet flavor, add:

  • 1/4 cup of raisins
  • 1/4 cup of apples
  • dash of cinnamon

Sweet Dumplings for Chicken or Turkey Dishes

Add peaches or mangoes to your recipe:

  • 1/4 cup of raisins
  • 1/4 cup of chopped peaches or mangoes

Favorite Dumplings?

See results

Best Dumplings Ever

You are now set to make light and tender dumplings every time. A few simple ingredients and a little know-how are all it takes to produce excellent results. Happy eating and please leave your comments if you've enjoyed these tips or try this recipe.

3.2 stars from 15 ratings of Tender Dumplings

© 2013 Athlyn Green

How Do Your Dumplings Turn Out?

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Athlyn Green profile image
      Author

      Athlyn Green 4 weeks ago from West Kootenays

      Thank you, Carol. Glad to hear they turned out.

    • profile image

      Carol 4 weeks ago

      Best dumplings ever!!!!!

    • profile image

      Earlyne 3 months ago

      I love dumplings with stew but 9 times out of 10 they turn out like hockey pucks. Thanks so much for the above recipe. I will definitely make them by following directions. Making dumplings sweet or savoury is a great idea too. Gotta try it!

    • profile image

      amisyandre 4 years ago

      The secret to a good dumpling is the texture of the filling. The filling should be firm, consistent and springy.

      Too many homemade dumplings suffer from fillings that are separate and grainy, and which do not offer sufficient resistance to the teeth.

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 4 years ago from America

      They sound very good. Voted up.

    • Seafarer Mama profile image

      Karen A Szklany 4 years ago from New England

      yuuuummmy! Can't wait to try to make these dumplings. Love the variations that you included, too.

      Lots of "up" votes to this hub!

    Show All Categories