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 dumplings is 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. Often served in a group of six or eight, Japanese enjoy gyoza not only as snack but also as a main meal alone. They come in carb, vegetables and protein in one parcel after all.
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.
Watch How To Make Gyoza (Japanese Potstickers)
Click here to watch on YouTube
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 or yakigyouza) lies on 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 similar manner with the combination of frying and steaming, so they are not too different. One of the distinctive differences is that gyoza usually come in 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 tend to be heavier on the garlic, which is great if you like garlic.
Pork: While Chinese dumplings use ground beef, pork, lamb, chicken, fish, and shrimp for fillings, classic gyoza usually consist 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 all together. I usually decide what to do based on the cabbage leaves I use.
Chinese Chives: My mom sometimes adds Chinese chives (Nira in Japanese) to her gyoza, but I usually skip the herb as my children don’t like the strong taste. Instead, I add more green onion/scallion (Tokyo negi) 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 a few drops of 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 delicious filling, the rule of thumb is to consider ingredients with different textures. So feel free to experiment with different ingredients or seasonal vegetables.
Store-bought or Homemade Gyoza Wrappers
Back in the days, Japanese used to make gyoza wrappers from scratch. In the 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.
Extra Wrappers? 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. The golden parcels with hot, gooey melty cheese make an easy and yummy appetizer that goes well with beer!
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.
I hope you have fun making gyoza at home. These delectable dumplings are best when enjoyed with a simple dipping sauce of soy sauce, rice vinegar and a bit of la-yu (Japanese chili oil).
Japanese Ingredient Substitution: If you want to look for substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients, click here.
- ¾ lb ground pork (¾ lb = 340 g)
- 2-3 leaves cabbage (2-3 leaves = 140 g or 5 oz)
- 2 green onion/scallion (2 green onion = 15 g or 0.5 oz)
- 2 shiitake mushrooms
- 1 clove garlic (minced)
- 1 inch ginger (1" = 2.5 cm) (fresh, grated)
Gather all the ingredients. Tip: If you open the gyoza wrappers, make sure to cover them under a damp towel or plastic wrap so they won't dry out.
(Optional) 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 all together.
- Remove the core of the cabbage leaves and cut into very small pieces (See Notes).
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 freshly ground black pepper).
Mix well and knead the mixture with hand until it becomes pale in color and sticky.
- 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 1/4” of the wrapper with your wet finger until it’s wet all around.
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. As you fold each pleat, press the folded pleat tightly against the back part of wrapper using your other thumb and index finger. Make 3-4 pleats.
Continue with the left side of the gyoza. Start making a pleat from the center to the left.
Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium high heat. When the pan is hot, place the gyoza in a single layer, flat side down (in two rows or in a circular shape).
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.
To save gyoza for later, put the gyoza on a baking sheet leaving some space between to keep them from sticking, and put it in freezer. Transfer frozen gyoza into a freezer bag and store in the freezer up to a month. When you use frozen gyoza, do not defrost. Cook while frozen and steam for extra 1-2 minutes.
Gyoza wrappers: Homemade recipe, click here.
Cabbage Leaves: As I mentioned in the blog post, you can blanch/microwave the cabbage leaves for a minute or two to help the leaves a bit more tender. Another method is to sprinkle some salt to dehydrate and squeeze water out. These method helps the cabbage leaves blend well with other ingredients for the filling. You can also skip this process as I demonstrate in this recipe.
After you fold gyoza, cook or freeze it right away; otherwise water from the ingredients will start to make the wrapper wet.
Recipe by Namiko Chen of Just One Cookbook. All images and content on this site are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission. If you’d like to share this recipe on your site, please re-write the recipe and link to this post as the original source. Thank you.
Editor’s Note: The post was originally published on Feb 9, 2011. Photos and recipe were updated in November, 2013. The video was added and content and photos were updated in July 2017.