Fried Dumplings vs Steamed Dumplings: What’s the Difference?

Written By Acacia Crossley


Dumplings are one dish you only think to question once you try to make them fresh for yourself. Then you realise just how many types of dumplings exist in the world and how many cultures have their variations.

As a general dish, dumplings can be split into two categories — fried and steamed. What separates these two classifications, and are the two types of dumplings as different as they seem?

As their names suggest, the main difference between fried and steamed dumplings is how they are cooked. Fried dumplings are fried, while steamed dumplings are steamed over water in a basket. 

What are Fried Dumplings?

Depending on the type of fried dumplings you prefer, you may have heard fried dumplings be referred to as potstickers, though not all are potstickers. 

Basically, a fried dumpling is any type of dumpling whose cooking method involves being fried off in a hot pan with some oil or other choice of fat.

As the dumplings are fried, their fillings cook or warm up while the exterior of the dumplings develops a crispy bite. They also develop a hint of nuttiness because the dumplings caramelise while frying. 

Some fried dumplings require that you use both water and oil in a pan to cook them, making a cooking method that is both frying and steaming.

However, the dumplings still have the same crispy taste as fried ones, just with a slightly chewier wrapper. 

Crispy Fried Dumpling

What are Steamed Dumplings?

It may seem obvious from their name, but it is worth clarifying that steamed dumplings are any dumplings that have been steamed.

The most well-known example of steamed dumplings is probably the Chinese steamed dumplings, which are typically filled with ground meat.

Steamed dumplings are extremely popular in Chinese cuisine with more varieties than anywhere else in the world, though other cultures also have their own 

There are a few ways that you can cook steamed dumplings. Traditionally they are cooked in a bamboo steamer which comprises a couple of layers and sits on top of a pot of scolding hot water. You set the dumplings in the steamer and allow the natural steam of the hot water to collect and cook the dumplings. 

The result of steaming dumplings is chewy, unflavoured dumplings that allow the filling to shine. Though chewy, the dumplings will be pillow soft. 

Similarities Between Fried Dumplings and Steamed Dumplings

At first glance, fried dumplings and steamed dumplings seem too different to have any notable similarities. However, they are much more similar than you would think: 

No One Filling

There are no limitations to the type of filling you can use for either fried or steamed dumplings.

It would be impossible to pinpoint only one or two fillings for either, as there are so many varieties of both worldwide. 

World Wide Use

Speaking of worldwide varieties, both frying and steaming dumplings are widely used. Some cultures and cuisines tend to lean towards one cooking method or the other, but there is little exclusivity. 

Soft Interior

Though the dumplings’ exterior change texture depending on how they are cooked, frying and steaming them will produce the same soft interior.

This softness helps protect the dumplings’ filling and makes for a pleasant texture to bite into, regardless of the exterior texture of the dumpling. 

Dumpling Dough Ingredients

It would not be entirely accurate to say that every type of steamed and fried dumpling uses the same ingredients in its dough, as some cuisines and recipes vary the base dumpling dough ingredients.

However, for the most part, fried and steamed dumplings are made with the same essential dough ingredients: flour, water and salt. 

Differences Between Fried Dumplings and Steamed Dumplings

There are some very clear differences between fried dumplings and steamed dumplings that are impossible to ignore:

Cooking Method

Of course, the way the dumplings are cooked sticks out as a key difference between fried and steamed dumplings. 

Simply put, fried dumplings are fried in a pan with some source of fat. They are left to caramelise until they develop a crispy exterior and then enjoyed.

Steamed dumplings on the other hand are typically cooked in a steaming basket, using the steam of hot water. 

Steamed Dumplings

Final Taste

A consideration when frying dumplings is the use of fat, whether that be oil or butter. Regardless of the fat you use to fry the dumplings, there will be a slight change to the flavour of the dumpling wrapper.

It will caramelise, giving the dumpling a slightly nutty taste. 

Steamed dumplings only require natural steam from boiling hot water to cook, which will not alter the dumplings’ flavour. Some may think this creates a bland dumpling, but the lack of flavour can work in your favour. 

Dumpling Texture

The reason that most people prefer one type of dumpling over the other is because of the texture that their different cooking methods produce for the wrapper of the dumpling itself.

As expected, fried dumplings become crispy as they fry, while steamed dumplings remain soft. 

Crispy Dumplings

Fried Dumplings vs Steamed Dumplings: Which Wins?

Most people have a favourite when it comes to the way their dumplings are cooked. Do you have a favourite when we present you with fried dumplings vs steamed dumplings?

Do You Prefer Fried Dumplings or Steamed Dumplings

Fried Dumplings and Steamed Dumplings FAQs

Do you have further questions about these two types of dumplings? Then have a read through these FAQs:

What Should You Fry Dumplings In?

The type of fat you use to fry your dumplings will affect their texture and taste. That is why it is best to use a neutral fat like butter to not alter the taste of the dumplings too much. 

Can You Steam Dumplings Without a Steamer?

When you don’t have a traditional steamer, you can steam dumplings by elevating a plate or dish inside a pan of hot water so that the plate sits above the water. This can be done with a wire rack or some balls of kitchen foil placed at the bottom of the pan in the water. 


Where we obtain our information and verify the facts in this article:


Recipe for steamed dumplings

The Spruce Eats

Recipe for fried dumplings

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