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three types of dumplings
5min read

World Vegan Month 2020: What Dumplings Look Like Around The World

by Toni Olukiran

5min read

November is world vegan month, created to raise awareness of and celebrate veganism globally. In this series, we look at the diversity of specific foods across different cultures and share some of our favourite vegan variations.

What constitutes a dumpling? It’s a term quite hard to define as there are lots of foods out there that fit the criteria, even if you wouldn’t think of them as dumplings at all. Many countries have their own version of a dumpling in some sense, showing the diversity of the food.

A dumpling is defined as a ‘small mass of dough cooked by boiling or steaming’, though it may also be fried or baked, and often a combination of these cooking methods are used. It can be wrapped around a sweet or savoury filling, or cooked on its own to be eaten with soups and stews. Here’s what dumplings look like around the world, in all their many forms.

The UK and Ireland

british/irish dumplings in stew


Dumplings are traditional British food and can be traced back to Roman Britain. A dumpling is typically a small ball of dough (often suet) that is boiled or poached in stews and hotpots. It is still popular, particularly in Irish and Welsh cooking.


close shot of pumpkin ravioli

Surprising fact time!  Ravioli and tortellini are considered dumplings. They are pieces of dough wrapped in a savoury filling and boiled or steamed, meaning they match the definition perfectly even if you wouldn’t immediately associate it as one. Tortellini is often traditionally cooked and served in a broth, which has parallels to Chinese wonton soup. 

In fact, Italy has a fair amount of food that would be considered dumplings: gnocchi is another example. Want to get your hands on some vegan variations? Try this cheesy gnocchi recipe or this pumpkin ravioli recipe made by Val. 

Central and Eastern Europe

close up of pierogis

Dumplings are a staple in Central and Eastern Europe, though the most well-known outside of Europe is the mighty pierogi and is much loved in North America. Pierogies are unleavened dough and can be filled with mashed potatoes, fried onions, cheese, cabbage, sauerkraut, meat, mushrooms and spinach, though often they’re conjured up from a combination of ingredients. It is typically simmered and then fried. For a vegan version, try our delicious caramelised onion and potato pierogies that went viral on our insta.

Latin America and the Caribbean

vegan empanadas on wooden board


Dumplings are a common food across the Caribbean and Latin America, where pasteles and empanadas are frequently eaten. These are often filled with meat, cheese or vegetables, before being crimped and baked or fried. Other parts of the Caribbean, such as Jamaica and Trinidad, make dumplings in a more similar fashion to the UK, as they are typically not filled but rather eaten with stews or fish.

South Asia

Kozhukattai on bamboo leaf


South Asia has a range of dishes that would fall under the umbrella of a dumpling, including Kozhukattai, which is traditionally a sweet dumpling made from rice flour. It is filled with a mix of grated coconut and jaggery syrup (cane sugar syrup) and is traditionally steamed. It is eaten in India and Sri Lanka. Try this recipe from Veg Recipes of India for a step by step guide on how to make them.

Eastern and South East Asia

basket of siomai

Dumplings are most well known within Eastern Asia. Legend has it that they were first discovered as early as 225AD in China, and has since become one of the most popular foods eaten in the country. There are many different types of dumplings (jiaozi) such as the popular har gau and xiaolongbao, eaten and enjoyed in dim sum during breakfast or lunch. They have a wide range of fillings, from meat, seafood and vegetables and tofu. Japanese cuisine also has gyoza, which is very similar to jiaozi. Korean dumplings are known as mandu, which is typically filled with a mixture of ingredients, including ground pork, kimchi, tofu and vegetables. Filipino street food dumplings are called Siomai or shumai and are influenced by Chinese dumplings. You can find the recipe for vegan siomai here, made by Aliza.

Have a favourite type of dumpling? Let us know in the comments below!


By Toni Olukiran
Toni Olukiran

Toni is one of our lovely Content Marketing Assistants, and when she’s not writing posts about everything from Jamaican cooking to vegan champagne, she’s making a Spotify playlist (she was at 200, at her last count) or playing tennis in the park.

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