Juicy on the inside, crispy and golden brown on the outside, these Japanese pan-fried dumplings, Gyoza, are popular weeknight meal as well as a great appetizer for your next dinner party.
Gyoza (餃子), or Japanese pan-fried dumplings, are as ubiquitous as ramen in Japan. You can find these mouthwatering dumplings being served at specialty shops, izakaya, ramen shops, grocery stores or even at festivals.
What is Gyoza?
The original Chinese dumplings are called Jiaozi (餃子). These dumplings consist of ground meat and vegetable filling that are wrapped into a thinly rolled piece of dough, which is then sealed by pressing the edges together. Finished jiaozi can be boiled (水餃), steamed (蒸餃), pan-fried (煎餃, we call potstickers), or deep-fried (炸餃子).
So what is the Japanese version like? The key characteristic of gyoza (餃子) lies in its cooking method, which involves both pan-frying and steaming. They are first fried in a hot pan until crispy brown on the bottom sides, then a small amount of water is added before the pan is covered to quickly steam the entire dumplings. This technique gives gyoza the best mix of textures, where you get crispy bottoms and tender soft tops that encase the juicy filling inside.
What is the difference between Gyoza and Chinese potstickers?
Gyoza and potstickers are both prepared in a similar manner with the combination of frying and steaming, so they are not too different.
One of the distinctive differences is that gyoza usually comes in a smaller size with thinner skin. With thinner skin, you will find gyoza yield a much more crispy texture and bite. The filling is also finer in texture. Some say gyoza tends to be heavier on the garlic, which is great if you like garlic.
Watch How To Make Gyoza (Japanese Potstickers)
Click here to watch on YouTube
Let’s Talk about Gyoza Fillings
- Pork –While the original Chinese dumplings use ground beef, pork, lamb, chicken, fish, and shrimp for fillings, classic gyoza usually consists of ground pork.
- Cabbage –Chinese dumplings use napa cabbage, but regular cabbage is commonly used for gyoza. As cabbage leaves are thick and hard, we use different ways to make the cabbage leaves wilted. Some blanch them or microwave for a minute or two. Some sprinkle salt to dehydrate the cabbage and squeeze the water out before mixing with meat. And some skip the entire process altogether. I usually decide what to do based on the cabbage leaves I use.
- Chinese Chives –My mom adds Chinese chives (Nira in Japanese) to her gyoza, but I usually skip the chives as my children don’t like its strong taste. Instead, I add more green onions to the filling.
- Aromatics –Garlic is commonly used in Japanese gyoza. My mom always adds grated ginger too, so I do the same for my recipe.
- Seasonings – The seasonings are simple, with just sake, soy sauce, sesame oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper. This way you can just enjoy the flavor and freshness of the main ingredients.
Be Creative – There is plenty of room for creativity when comes to making gyoza. To change things up, I like to make different versions at home. This gyoza recipe includes shiitake mushrooms and this is my specialty. I like the meaty texture and juicy umami flavor from shiitake mushrooms. For the delicious filling, the rule of thumb is to consider ingredients with different textures. So feel free to experiment with different ingredients or seasonal vegetables.
If you’re interested in making plant-based Vegetable Gyoza, click here.
Store-Bought or Homemade Wrappers
Back in the days, the Japanese used to make gyoza wrappers from scratch. In recent years, however, most people use store-bought wrappers to make gyoza for convenience. You can find the wrappers in Japanese or Asian grocery stores.
If you can’t find gyoza wrappers in your area, you can make them from scratch. Here’s a tutorial on How To Make Homemade Gyoza Wrappers.
Gyoza Folding Techniques
I’ll show you 3 different ways to fold gyoza wrappers in my step by step pictures below. I also have a tutorial here on How To Wrap Gyoza for your reference. With just a little bit of practice, you will master the folding very quickly.
How to Store Gyoza
Gyoza are best stored in the freezer before they are cooked. If you properly save them, they last in the freezer for up to a month!
Why we don’t cook first and freeze? When you freeze gyoza after being cooked, they lose the crispness and will turn soggy and too soft after reheating.
If you have any leftover gyoza wrappers, don’t throw them away. I love using the leftover wrappers for crispy cheese wraps. Fill the wrappers with some cream cheese or brie cheese, fold them into half and pan fry or deep fry them. You can make these with wonton wrappers (below) or gyoza wrappers.
The golden parcels with hot, gooey melty cheese make an easy and yummy appetizer that goes well with beer!
Serve Gyoza with Dipping Sauce
Often served in a group of six or eight, Japanese enjoy gyoza not only as a snack but also as a main meal alone. They come in the carb, vegetables, and protein in one parcel after all. Gyoza is best when enjoyed with a simple dipping sauce of soy sauce, rice vinegar, and a bit of la-yu (Japanese chili oil).
It may look difficult to make Gyoza at home, but the method is fairly simple once you know how to prepare them. I think part of the fun of making homemade gyoza is the process and the room for creativity.
You can experiment with different ingredients for the filling based on your preference. They also taste better when you can engage family or friends to make gyoza together, making it an enjoyable activity.
Japanese Ingredient Substitution: If you want to look for substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients, click here.
For The Gyoza Fillings
- ¾ lb ground pork
- 5 oz cabbage (2-3 leaves)
- 2 green onion/scallion (0.5 oz, 15 g)
- 2 shiitake mushrooms
- 1 clove garlic (minced)
- 1 knob ginger (1", 2.5 cm: grated)
For The Gyoza Filling Seasonings
- Gather all the ingredients. Tip: After you open the gyoza wrappers, make sure to cover them under a damp towel or plastic wrap so they won't dry out.
To Make Gyoza Filling
- Optional step: As cabbage leaves are thick and hard, we use different ways to make the cabbage leaves wilted. You can blanch or microwave them for a minute or two. You can also sprinkle salt to dehydrate the cabbage and squeeze the water out. Or you can skip the entire process altogether.
- Remove the core of the cabbage leaves and cut into very small pieces.
- Cut green onions and shiitake mushrooms into small pieces.
- Combine the ground meat, cabbage, green onion, and shiitake mushrooms in a large bowl.
- Add minced garlic and grated ginger to the bowl.
- Add the seasonings (1 tsp sesame oil, 1 tsp soy sauce, ¼ tsp kosher salt, 1 tsp sake, and ⅛ tsp freshly ground black pepper).
- Mix well and knead the mixture with hand until it becomes pale in color and sticky.
To Fold Gyoza
- Take a wrapper and place it in the palm of your non-dominant hand. Use a teaspoon to take a small amount of filling and put it in the center of the wrapper. Dip one finger in a bowl of water and draw a circle around the outer ¼” of the wrapper with your wet finger until it’s wet all around.
★ Folding Method 1 (Toward Center)
- Fold the wrapper in half over the filling and pinch it in the center with your fingers (but don’t seal yet!).
- Using your thumb and index finger, start making a pleat about once every ¼“ on the top part of the wrapper from the center toward the right side, making 3-4 pleats. Tip: As you fold each pleat, press the folded pleat tightly against the back part of the wrapper using your other thumb and index finger.
- Continue with the left side of the gyoza.
- Press the pleats and shape the gyoza.
★ Folding Method 2 (Toward One Side)
- Fold the wrapper in half over the filling.
- Using your left thumb and index finger, start making a pleat about once every ¼ inch on the top part of the wrapper.
- Once you make each pleat, press it down with your right thumb and make pleats toward the left side.
- Continue all the way till there is no more top wrapper to pleat.
- Press the pleats and shape the gyoza.
To Store (If you don't cook all of them)
- Before the filling starts to release moisture to the wrappers, cover the gyoza with plastic wrap and “flash freeze” them in the freezer until solid (at least outside is frozen). Make sure to layout the gyoza flat. Once the gyoza is solid, pack them in an airtight bag. Because you flash freeze them, gyoza won’t stick to each other in the bag. You can store gyoza for up to a month. When you use frozen gyoza, do not defrost. Cook while frozen and steam for extra 1-2 minutes.
To Cook Gyoza
- Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat. When the pan is hot, place the gyoza in a single layer, flat side down in a circular shape (or place them in two columns).
- Cook until the bottom of the gyoza turns golden brown, about 3 minutes.
- Add ¼ cup of water to the pan. Immediately cover with a lid and steam the gyoza for about 3 minutes or until most of the water evaporates.
- Remove the lid to evaporate any remaining water. Add 1 tsp sesame oil around the frying pan.
- Cook uncovered until the gyoza is nice and crisp on the bottom.
- Transfer to a plate and serve with dipping sauce. For the dipping sauce, combine the sauce ingredients in a small plate and mix all together.
- You can keep the leftovers in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for a month.
More Amazing Dumpling Recipes You’ll Love:
Editor’s Note: The post was originally published on Feb 9, 2011. Photos and the recipe were updated in November 2013. The video was added and content and photos were updated in July 2017.