Pan frying, steaming, and boiling are just the beginning
The first thing I see when I open my freezer is a stack of frozen dumplings. Whether they’re round and filled with kimchi or square and stuffed with chives, they always come in handy when I want to eat well with no effort. I can pan fry, steam, or air fry them (which has been my go-to method lately), drizzle them with loads of chile crisps and a dash of ponzu, and I’m happy. But, sometimes, I want more.
So I began to research fun ways to up my frozen dumpling game. As expected, the Internet didn’t disappoint: There are so many creative dishes that I never considered using dumplings for, but that I’ve now added into my rotation. The common denominator is that frozen dumplings can do so much more than what the package tells you — the key is to think of them as a blank canvas, similar to pasta, rice, or noodles. And since they’re already filled with meat and/or vegetables, it doesn’t take much additional work to make them into a truly impressive dish.
If you’re in the mood for something saucy:
Treat your frozen dumplings like you would any type of protein, like chicken or tofu. Dumplings are already packed with seasoned fillings, but when they get baked or coated with sauce, they become something completely different. I suggest making rice to serve alongside to help sop up the sauce, but these recipes are all flavorful enough that no other add-ons are really needed.
Dumplings with hot pepper sauce: This recipe is inspired by kkanpunggi, spicy, garlicky fried chicken with vegetables. It’s one of the most beloved Korean-Chinese dishes, famous for its balance of spicy and sweet flavors. Instead of fried chicken, you can use crispy dumplings as a vehicle to carry that delicious sauce to your mouth.
Dumpling gyudon: Gyudon is a classic Japanese rice bowl, and there are several variations with eggs, beef, and even frozen dumplings. Microwave your frozen dumplings with a splash of water for a minute, just so that they are not completely frozen. Then treat them like you would a protein using this recipe from Just One Cookbook. As they cook, the dumplings will steam and soak up the sweet-and-salty mirin and soy sauce. Topped with a velvety soft-cooked egg, the steamed dumplings make an easy, comforting rice bowl in minutes.
Dumplings in alfredo sauce: Alfredo sauce is an easy way to elevate frozen dumplings. Treat them like pasta and cook them in the simmering sauce; sliced onion, chopped garlic, or bacon are all good additions for extra flavor. If you don’t have jarred sauce on hand, milk or heavy cream can be a quick fix.
Dumplings gratin: Dumplings are fantastic with tomato sauce and cheese. All you do here is break them apart into bite-sized pieces, pour tomato sauce (or even marinara or vodka sauce) over them, add a few vegetables like corn, onions, and mushrooms, lay some cheese on top and heat the whole thing up in the microwave or in the oven.
Gochujang dumplings: Crispy dumplings, preferably cooked in the air fryer, are great coated with the sauce here, which is heavy on gochujang and gochugaru. Although it packs a lot of heat, the sauce is sweetened with corn syrup (or honey), which creates a balanced, savory flavor. Serve the dumplings with a bowl of rice to make it a full meal.
If you’re in the mood for something more hearty:
Sometimes I feel like something’s missing if I’m just eating dumplings for dinner. I always have to pair them with something else, like crispy scallion pancakes or peanut noodles, to make a complete meal. But these recipes are so hearty and filling that they don’t need anything extra — just your appetite.
Dumpling jeongol: Jeongol is a term for a Korean-style hot pot. With frozen dumplings, you can put together a show-stopping centerpiece in minutes: Just arrange all your vegetables, make the seasoning paste, add the dumplings and the broth, and you’re done. The beauty of this dish is that there are no exact rules for what to add, as long as you make the seasoning paste. Just mix and match whatever vegetables you have in the fridge with different types of dumplings, and enjoy this super-filling dish.
Dumpling quesadilla: A cheesy quesadilla is one of the easiest and most satisfying snacks you can make quickly, and smashed steamed dumplings can give it an extra-savory layer of flavor. Just load up one side of your tortilla with the dumplings, sprinkle them with plenty of cheese, crisp up the tortilla, and sauce it with anything from hot sauce to mayo.
Dumpling fried rice: You can make fried rice with pretty much anything, and frozen dumplings are no exception. Because they’re already filled with seasoned meat and vegetables, you don’t need to prepare a lot of other ingredients, but I’d add a splash of oyster sauce to tie everything together. Don’t forget to finish with a yolk-rich, fried egg on top.
Spicy cabbage slaw with crispy dumplings (bibim mandu): Pair crispy dumplings with tangy, spicy cabbage slaw for a dish that’s both refreshing and satisfying. The slaw gets mixed with gochujang, soy sauce, and vinegar, bringing together spicy and tangy flavors. I recommend combining dumpling and slaw into each bite to enjoy the incredible textures. It’s the perfect drinking food.
Dumpling egg pancake: When pan frying dumplings, you can mix water and starch into a slurry to form a starch skirt, a thin, crispy layer that forms around the dumplings as they cook. But how about using eggs? Your dumplings may not get those super-crispy edges, but you’ll get a halo of fluffy, silky egg around them instead. Top it off with fresh scallions, drizzle some furikake for garnish, and you’ve got yourself an impressive two-ingredient dish.