These gluten-free crystal dumplings are steamed dumplings with a translucent skin. They are filled with tofu and vegetables and seasoned with gochujang and tamari. Also, the dumplings are freezer friendly.
Thank you to Bob’s Red Mill for sponsoring this post!
Crystal dumplings are a staple of dim sum menus. The dough for this variety of dumplings becomes translucent once cooked, revealing the beautiful color of the fillings. Shrimp dumplings (蝦餃) and Chiu Chow fun go (潮州粉粿) are examples of crystal dumplings.
Typically, crystal dumpling dough is made with wheat starch and another variety of starch. I decided to make a gluten-free crystal dumpling recipe because I have received many requests to make gluten-free dumpling recipes.
To make these dumplings gluten free, I used Bob’s Red Mill’s potato starch and tapioca flour (tapioca starch) to make the dough. What I love about Bob’s Red Mill’s flours is that they’re easy to find in my neighborhood supermarkets. Plus, their gluten-free flours are actually tested and verified as gluten free in their laboratories. For those of you who are sensitive or allergic to gluten, you can buy Bob’s Red Mill’s gluten-free flours with confidence.
HOW TO MAKE CRYSTAL DUMPLINGS
Crystal dumplings are one of the trickiest dumplings to make because the skin can dry out or tear easily. If this is your first time making crystal dumplings, don’t worry if you don’t get the hang of the pleating that I demonstrate below. Feel free to skip the pleating and just fold up the dumplings into a half-moon shape.
PREPARE THE FILLING
You’ll need about 7 ounces of extra-firm tofu. I bought a 14-ounce box of extra-firm tofu and sliced the block of tofu in half. Wrap the small block of tofu with paper towels, a muslin cloth, or cheesecloth. Then, place a weighted object (a bowl or saucepan works) over the wrapped tofu and press it for 15 to 20 minutes. Pressing the tofu ensures that the filling won’t be watery.
After pressing the tofu, use your hands to crumble the tofu. You should have about a cup of crumbled tofu. Then, mix the tofu with the rest of the ingredients for the filling: garlic chives (Chinese chives), carrots, shiitake mushrooms, ginger, gochujang (Korean fermented red chili paste), and tamari. Not all gochujang brands are gluten free, so be sure to check the label.
You’ll likely have a lot of filling leftover, so stir fry it with rice or vegetables.
MAKE THE DUMPLING DOUGH
Mix potato starch, tapioca starch, and salt inside a bowl. Then, mix the flours with boiling hot water. It is common in Chinese cooking to use boiling hot water to make certain dumpling doughs, especially dough made with gluten-free or low-gluten flours. The hot water “cooks” the flour and turns it into a dough that is pliable enough to shape dumplings.
Make sure to use boiling hot water to make the dough. During my recipe testing, I used water that wasn’t quite hot enough (about 140ºF to 150ºF). I ended up making a white sludge that looked more like icing than dumpling dough (see photo below). You need boiling hot water to coagulate the starches into a solid dough.
I usually boil about 1 1/2 cups of water in a saucepan and then pour 150g (or 2/3 cup) of water into the bowl with the flours. If you are worried about accidentally pouring out too much water from the saucepan, you can pour the boiling water into a measuring cup first. The water should still be hot enough for the dough. It’s good to have extra hot water handy, in case your dough turns out to be a little dry and needs more hydration.
After you mix the hot water and starches together, drizzle 1 1/2 teaspoons of oil over the dough (any neutral oil works). The oil helps make the dumpling dough even smoother. Traditionally, dumpling masters use lard instead of oil.
Start kneading the dough by hand. If you find the dough too hot to touch, cover the dough with a lid and wait 2 minutes before kneading. After you gather all the loose flour into a large lump of dough, transfer the dough to your counter. Knead the dough for another 2 to 3 minutes, until it is completely smooth. The dough will feel moist but not sticky.
At this point, some people like to rest the dough for an additional 5 to 10 minutes before making the dumplings. I usually make the dumplings right away to ensure that the dough doesn’t dry out before I make my last dumpling.
SHAPE THE DUMPLINGS
Divide the dough in half and place 1 half of dough back into the bowl and cover it with a lid or damp towel. Then, divide the other piece of dough into 12 equal pieces, about 13 to 15 grams each. Roll the small pieces of dough into balls and cover them with plastic wrap. Alternatively, place them into the bowl with the larger piece of dumpling dough and cover the bowl again. The pieces of dough shouldn’t stick together inside the bowl.
This gluten-free dough is a little tacky when you roll it out, so I recommend rolling out the dough between 2 sheets of plastic. You can cut up a quart-size ziploc bag to get the sheets of plastic. If you have a tortilla press, use it! It’ll save so much time and I wish I had one. I recommend covering the plates with plastic to easily remove the flattened out dough.
In the beginning, I roll the dumpling skin like pie crust with the double-handed rolling technique. First, I push the rolling pin forwards and backwards over the dough. Then, I rotate the dough 90 degrees and roll the dough forwards and backwards again. Repeat this 2 to 3 more times. After the dough is about 2 to 3 inches in diameter, I place the rolling pin over the center of the dumpling wrapper. Then, I push the dough out from the center in a sweeping motion. I continue doing this until the wrapper is about 3.75 inches in diameter. This sweeping method allows me to get a thin, uniform circular shape.
I usually roll out the dumpling skins one at a time and pleat the dumplings as I go. You can roll out 5 or 6 wrappers at a time and cover the rolled out skins with plastic to prevent them from drying out. Dry wrappers tend to crack easily when you are pleating the dumplings.
Place the dumpling skin on one hand and place about 2 teaspoons of filling into the center. Then, pleat them like you would potstickers (see photos above for reference). Don’t overfill the dumpling because the dumpling skin will tear easily.
Transfer the pleated dumpling to a 9” to 10” circular pan or steamer lined with parchment paper. Cover the pan or steamer with a towel to keep the dumplings from drying out. I can usually fit a dozen dumplings on a 9” to 10” pan.
Continue shaping dumpling skins and pleating dumplings until you have used up all the dough.
WHAT IF MY DOUGH IS DRYING OUT BEFORE I ROLL IT?
I work very slowly when I make these dumplings. Sometimes, the dough will be a little dry when I’m making the last few dumplings. There are two things you can do if the dough is feeling dry:
Use your fingers to knead and work the dough until the outside of the small dough pieces are feeling moist again.
Lightly dip the small dough pieces into some water and work the moisture into the dough.
STEAM THE DUMPLINGS
Fill a wok with water and place a steaming rack in the center. Make sure that the water level is below the top of the steaming rack (I usually leave about a 1/4 to 1/2-inch clearance). Bring the water to boil. Then, carefully lower one of the pans filled with dumplings onto the steaming rack and cover the wok. Steam the dumplings for about 5 to 6 minutes on high heat.
SERVE THE DUMPLINGS
The cooked crystal dumping is a little chewy, a bit like mochi. I like to pan fry the dumplings on medium-high heat for about 4 minutes to blister the bottoms of the dumplings. The crunch from the bottom of the dumplings combined with the chewy top makes a wonderful textural contrast.
I like serving the dumplings with the dumpling sauce outlined in the recipe. These dumplings are best consumed right away, especially if you pan-fried them.
HOW TO FREEZE CRYSTAL DUMPLINGS
Line a large plate or pan with parchment paper. Then, arrange the crystal dumplings over the large plate or pan, making sure that the dumplings don’t touch each other. They will be difficult to break apart if they stick together.
You do not need to defrost the dumplings before you cook them. Just steam them like you would fresh dumplings, but steam them for 7 to 8 minutes on high heat.
The dumplings will crack slightly once frozen (see photo above). Don’t worry about the cracks. They will seal up as the dumplings steam.
LOOKING FOR MORE DUMPLING RECIPES?
- Red Curry Tofu Dumplings
- Yellow Curry Tofu Wonton Soup
- Cantonese Sweet Fried Dumplings (Gok Zai)
- You can also see my complete dumpling archives here.
VIDEO: DUMPLING MAKING TECHNIQUE
Gluten-Free Crystal Dumplings with Tofu & Vegetable Filling
- 7 ounces extra-firm tofu, about 1/2 block
- 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil, or any neutral oil
- 1 cup (50g) chopped shiitake mushrooms
- pinch of kosher salt
- 1 medium carrot, grated (about 1 cup)
- 3/4 cup (60g) chopped garlic chives (Chinese chives)
- 2 tablespoons minced or grated ginger
- 2 to 3 tablespoons gochujang, see note 1
- 2 tablespoons tamari
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 160 g (1 cup) potato starch
- 30 g (1/4 cup) tapioca flour/tapioca starch
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 150 g (2/3 cup) boiling hot water , see note 2
- 1 1/2 teaspoons canola oil
- 1 tablespoon warm water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons tamari
- 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons hot sesame oil
- 1 clove garlic, smashed
- 2 mixing bowls
- 9 to 10- inch pans, plates, or bamboo steamer
- parchment paper
- quart-sized ziploc bag
- small rolling pin or wooden dowel
- large wok with lid
- steaming rack
- Wrap the tofu with paper towels, a muslin cloth, or a cheesecloth. Place the tofu on a plate and place a weighted object (like a bowl) over the wrapped tofu. Be careful that what you place on top won’t tip over as you press the tofu. Press the tofu for 15 to 20 minutes. Then, use your hands to crumble the tofu into a bowl.
- Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of canola oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the chopped mushrooms and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes, until the mushrooms start to shrink. Season the mushrooms with a small pinch of kosher salt. Transfer the mushrooms to the bowl with the tofu.
- Add all of the other ingredients for the filling to the bowl and mix together. Some gochujang is spicier than others, so you may want to only use 2 tablespoons instead of 3. Set the filling aside.
Make Dumpling Skins
- Mix the potato starch, tapioca flour, and kosher salt in a bowl.
- Bring 1 1/2 cups of water to boil into a saucepan. Measure 150 grams or 2/3 cup boiling hot water and pour it into the bowl with the flours. I usually pour 150 grams of hot water directly into the bowl. Cover the saucepan with the lid and set it aside. You may need the water again if the dough is feeling dry.
- Stir the flour and water together for about 1 minute. By now, most of the loose flour should be gathered into small bits of dough. Drizzle 1 1/2 teaspoons of oil over the dough.
- Use your hands to start gathering and kneading the dough together. If the dough is too hot to touch, cover it with a lid and let the dough rest for 2 minutes before kneading. The dough should come together pretty easily. If the dough feels very dry even after 1 minute of kneading the dough, drizzle 1 tablespoon of the reserved hot water over the flour and knead. Continue doing this until you’ve gathered up all the bits of dough into one large lump of dough.
- Transfer the dough onto a counter or surface and knead the dough for another 2 to 3 minutes, until it is nice and smooth. You don’t need to flour the surface. The dough will feel moist but shouldn’t be overly sticky after 2 minutes of kneading. If it is feeling sticky, sprinkle some potato starch over the dough and knead it into the dough.
Make Dipping Sauce
- While you still have warm water on hand, make the dipping sauce. In a small bowl, combine 1 tablespoon of warm water with 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar until the sugar fully dissolves.
- Mix in the rest of the ingredients for the dipping sauce. Set the sauce aside.
Make Dumplings (see video below for a demonstration)
- Cut off the zipper portion of a quart-size plastic ziploc bag. Then, cut open 2 sides of the plastic bag. The bag should now open and close like a folder. (See note 3)
- Divide the dough in half, and transfer 1 piece of dough back into the mixing bowl and cover it with a lid or damp towel.
- Cut the other half of dough into 12 equal pieces, about 13 to 15 grams each. Roll the pieces into small balls. Place all the small balls of dough except 1 into the bowl with the large dough half. Keep the bowl covered. Alternatively, you can leave the small balls of dough on your counter and cover them with plastic wrap to prevent them from drying.
- Open up the ziploc bag. Place one ball of dough in the center. Cover the dough with the other side of the ziploc bag. Use the palm of your hand to flatten the dough into a disc. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough like pie crust until the dough is about 2 to 3 inches in diameter. Then, place the rolling pin over the center of the wrapper. Press and push the dough outward in a sweeping motion, until the dumpling skin is about 3.75 inches in diameter.
- Uncover the dumpling skin and place it on one hand. Place about 2 teaspoons of filling on the center of the skin. Pinch together the skin on the right. Using your index fingers, create a pleat and seal it over to the right. Continue making pleats and seal them over to the right until you have finished making the dumpling. (See note 4)
- Transfer the dumpling to a pan or bamboo steamer lined with parchment paper. Cover the pan or bamboo steamer with a towel to keep the dumplings from drying out.
- Continue making the dumplings until you’re out of dumpling dough. You’ll likely have a lot of filling leftover, so use it in a stir fry.
- Fill a large wok with water and place a steaming rack in the center. Make sure that the water level is below the top of the steaming rack (by about 1/4 to 1/2 inch). Bring the water to boil.
- Carefully place one of the plates with the dumplings onto the steaming rack and cover the wok with the lid. Steam the dumplings for 5 to 6 minutes. Then, steam the rest of the dumplings.
- The dumpling skin is a bit chewy in texture. I recommend pan frying them in oil over medium-high heat for about 4 minutes to blister the bottoms. Make sure to do this in a nonstick pan to prevent the dumplings from sticking to the pan.
- Serve the dumplings immediately.
- Freezer Directions: Line pleated dumplings on plates or pans lined with parchment paper. Make sure the dumplings aren’t sticking together or else they’ll be tough to break apart. Once the dumplings harden, transfer them to freezer bags. The dumplings will have minor cracks once they’re frozen. Don’t worry, the cracks will seal up during the steaming process. You do not need to defrost the dumplings before cooking. Just steam them on high heat for 7 to 8 minutes.
- Not all gochujang brands are gluten free. Be sure to check the label. Also, the spiciness of gochujang can vary across brands. Taste the gochujang before you add it to the dumpling filling. If it tastes too spicy, consider using my sweet chili sauce instead. To make it vegan, use sugar or agave in place of honey.
- It’s better to boil more water than you need as opposed to measuring out exactly 2/3 cup of water and boiling it in the saucepan. Water evaporates during the boiling process. If you poured only 2/3 cup of water into the saucepan, you’ll likely end up with slightly less when you make the dough.
- If you have a tortilla press, use it! Make sure to cover the plates with a layer of plastic so the dough doesn’t stick to it.
- Oftentimes, one part of the dumpling skin is thinner than the other. Use the thinner side to create the pleats. If you find the pleating incredibly frustrating, don’t worry! Just seal up the dumpling into a half-moon shape. If you want extra flourish, you can braid the edge like I do here.