Frugal Dinners: Making Dumplings

One of my big time and money saving tips for food is batch cooking ahead of time.  I usually cook a big, huge meal once a week for the rest of the weekdays.   Then I package them in tupperware (freeze the extra’s, if any), and eat the portions through out the week for lunch and dinners.  This works if you don’t mind eating the same thing the entire week.  If not, then try freezing some portions for next time.

Since my college days, I’ve been a huge fan of dumplings.  Some of my friends’ parents would bring them packages upon packages of the frozen ones from Chinese supermarkets, and I would drool a little inside.

Now that I’ve been working full-time, I find that having these frozen dumplings are a huge time and money saver.  I’ve gone through enough brands to know which ones are the “good” ones.  That is, they have actual meat and are not packed with fat. Yuck.

Usually, when I get them on sale they are 5 packages for $10.  Each package contains 10 dumplings (sometimes, 11).  And one package is usually enough for one meal.  After a long day at work, I just take them out of the freezer and half sear and half steam them.  Then, I dunk them into my home-made sauce of soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil and hot sauce.

One time, while grocery shopping with my dad, he noticed how much I was stocking up on these frozen dumplings.  (They were on sale!)  He had valid point, which was it was processed and I had no idea what they really put in it.  Good meat, bad meat, rubbish filler, etc.  So, I put back the 10 packages I grabbed and just got enough to split the deal with my sister.

I didn’t buy any more frozen dumplings after that.  I didn’t want to think about what kind of ingredients the makes might have used – it could be bad stuff.  But since I loved dumplings so much, I decided to try making my own frozen dumplings.  It was easy and fun.

The first time I made the dumplings, I used only ground pork, chives and mushrooms.  This resulted in a slightly dry center.  The second time I made the dumplings, I revised the centers to include more moisture and also mixed in an egg and corn starch (upon recommendations of dumpling making family and friends).  This second time turned out much better and the centers were moist and yummier.

Total cost of ingredients: $8.50
Total dumplings made: 150
Cost per serving (assuming 10 dumplings): $0.57

Much cheaper, and I know exactly what went into these dumplings.  I also don’t measure my ingredients very well, so feel free to adjust accordingly.  I suggest getting just the “normal” ground pork and not the lean option since I like the extra fat for moisture.

Pork and Chives Dumplings

    • 2lb of ground pork
    • Chives finely chopped
    • Napa cabbage finely sliced
    • 2 packages of dumpling wrappers
    • 1 egg
    • 4 cloves chopped garlic
    • 1 tbsp corn starch
    • light soy sauce
    • fish sauce
    • salt & pepper
    • water
  1. Break up raw ground pork with fork.  Add garlic.  Add chives.  Season with soy sauce, fish sauce, salt and pepper.
  2. Mix corn starch with a bit of water.  Beat egg.  Incorporate starch and egg into pork mixture.
  3. In a separate bowl, season napa cabbage with similar seasonings.
  4. Let napa cabbage mixture sit for 10 – 15 minutes and squeeze out excess water by hand.
  5. Mix napa cabbage and pork together.
  6. Use a teaspoon to place pork mixture into the center of dumpling wrapper.
  7. Dab the edge of half the wrapper with water.
  8. Fold wrapper over meat, and voila!  (You may need to experiment a few tries before you get the hang of how much meat mixture you want/need.)
  9. Line the completed dumplings flat on a cookies sheet or tray.  Make sure they don’t stick to one another.
  10. Pop tray into freezer for about 30 – 45 minutes until dumplings have hardened enough that they may be packed away in Ziploc bags (without becoming one big lump).
  11. Repeat until done.

Note: I only have a stainless steel skillet, and I find the easiest way to cook them is to sear them with oil to get the wrappers browned.  Then add water and cover to steam cook until finished.

Update:  A reader asked for clarifications if the meat was raw in the dumplings.  I’ve updated the directions to include that raw meat should be used.  The only time the meat is cooked is when you cook the dumpling to eat.  Or else, it would be too dry.  Hope this helps!

Enjoy!  What are some of your favourite frozen dinners that you’ve attempted?


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Filed under Frugal Dinners

15 responses to “Frugal Dinners: Making Dumplings

  1. Deedee

    Sounds like a very yummy, easy meal. I just wanted to be sure that I am understanding correctly: you do not cook the ground pork before you freeze the dumplings? It is not real clear to me whether breaking up ground pork with a fork is referring to raw pork or cooked.

    Thank you!

    • The ground pork is raw when you freeze it. Breaking up the ground pork is just to be able to incorporate everything a little easier. Thanks for pointing this out, I’ve updated the instructions, so hopefully it’s more clear now.

  2. Deedee

    Thanks! That’s what I thought…but I wanted to be sure. Thank you for clarifying and I will definitely try these soon!

  3. Omg this sounds so yummy! I must try it! And the homemade sauce sounds DELICIOUS… soy sauce, sesame oil, vinegar and hot sauce mixture is making me drool….

    I used to cook dumplings in college the same way you mentioned – in a pan to sear and then fill up with water and cover. I’m going to try this recipe and add shrimp too. yummy yummy!

  4. Will have to try the sear/steam method for sure!

    I love dumplings but have always thought they were too much work to make myself (we don’t buy the readymade stuff regularly either, though.) But the funny thing is this week we bought dumpling pastry, and bf is whipping up the filling as we speak. Hope it all turns out well!

  5. Astrid

    Dumpling wrappers are fairly easy to make as well. Typically 2 cups of flour to 3/4 cup of just boiled water. It might be slightly cheaper than buying the wrappers, but it all depends on how much extra work you want to do or if you normally have flour in your home.

  6. As soon as I saw your post I thought “I’ll take my dumplings out of the freezer for dinner tonight” 🙂 I’m so giving this recipe a shot next time I go to the asian market for groceries!

    • I’m so happy to hear that! They are super easy to make, and taste even yummier than the store ones (and they are way cheaper!). After I tasted my owns home-made dumplings, I got rid of my remaining stash of frozen dumplings (thought they were the cheap fatty kind and not the good brand that I like).

  7. Most Chinese comfort dishes are actually dirt cheap per serving, and so tasty too. I love making pork and chive dumplings (throwing in some shrimp ups the tastiness but also the cost lol) and freezing, but like you I also buy them frozen and they are pretty decent too.

    Some other cheap meals I like are steamed egg (with some shitake mushroom and ground pork) with rice, or steamed fish fillets with ginger and scallion on top. I get my tillapia fillets from Target – they sell them individually frozen and packaged in a big bag and it’s very affordable for fish!

    • Yummy. I should try adding some shrimp, maybe it will taste a bit like “siu mai”.

      Steamed fish is something that I want to eat more of. One of my favourites is steamed fish with black bean sauce. *drool*

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