Imagine biting into a delightfully crisp pork gyoza that gives way to a filling that explodes with savory juices that are rich and porky with a hint of garlic and ginger. I started making Gyoza with my mom as a kid, but I've spent the past 30 years refining her recipe for these delightful Japanese dumplings, and I'm confident that this method will match or beat the best gyoza shops in Japan.
Why This Recipe Works?
- Although pork is used to flavor the filling, cabbage is the primary ingredient used to make filling for authentic gyoza.
- Boiling the cabbage until it's super tender makes it sweeter while turning it into a reservoir of flavorful broth that makes this pork gyoza recipe super juicy.
- Resting the cabbage and pork gyoza filling overnight in the fridge allows the ingredients to mingle, resulting in a more flavorful dumpling.
- Steaming and then pan-frying the potstickers results in a wrapper that's like a noodle on top while the bottom crisps up like a cracker.
What is Gyoza?
Gyoza is a popular Japanese dumpling typically filled with cabbage, ground pork, and garlic chives and seasoned with ginger, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Although originally from China, Gyoza has become a beloved staple of Japanese Chinese cuisine or Wafu-Chuka. The dumplings are characterized by their tender, juicy filling wrapped in a delicate wrapper that's pleated and sealed before being cooked. They're most commonly steamed and then pan-fried to achieve a crisp, golden-brown bottom, while the top remains soft and slightly chewy. Gyoza can also be boiled to make sui gyoza.
Originally, the high ratio of cabbage in Gyoza filling was intended to make the dumplings cheaper while bulking them up. However, there are several reasons from a taste and texture perspective to use more cabbage in your Gyoza than meat:
- Cabbage naturally contains a high concentration of amino acids like glutamic acid, which is responsible for creating the taste of umami.
- Cabbage is naturally sweet and adds a balancing sweetness to the dumplings without adding sugar.
- Cooked cabbage holds onto those umami-rich juices like a sponge, making the Gyoza burst with flavorful juices when you bite into them.
I generally use regular cabbage for gyoza, but napa cabbage will work as well.
Other Gyoza Ingredients
- Garlic chives (nira): These add a subtle garlicky flavor and a vibrant green color to the filling. If garlic chives are unavailable, you can substitute an equal quantity of green onions plus a large glove of grated garlic.
- Ground pork: Pork provides a savory, umami-rich base to the filling, which balances out the sweetness of the cabbage. The fat from the pork also adds richness and body to the filling. If you don't eat pork, ground chicken thighs or beef will work, and you can even use turkey as a leaner option. To make these vegan or vegetarian-friendly, check out my mushroom gyoza or tofu gyoza recipes. And for a more avant-garde take on a pork filling, take a look at my Gorgongyoza recipe, where I also show you how to make the delicate, crispy "wings" of potato starch.
- Ginger: Grated ginger adds a bright warm kick to the filling, smoothing over any gaminess in the meat while contributing to the signature flavor of these Japanese dumplings.
- Oyster sauce: Oyster sauce is the primary seasoning ingredient, and it lends a deeply satisfying umami to the Gyoza filling along with a bit of sweetness.
- Toasted sesame oil: Sesame oil adds a nutty aroma and flavor to the filling while adding a bit of richness. This is another major component in the signature flavor of pork Gyoza.
- Soy sauce: Using oyster sauce alone will make the filling too sweet, so I use some soy sauce to add additional salt and umami. If you need a gluten-free option, use tamari or coconut aminos.
- White pepper: White pepper adds mild heat and a touch of earthiness to the filling. White pepper can take on a barnyard aroma once it's been ground, so I highly recommend grinding it fresh. If you don't like the taste of white pepper, you can substitute black pepper.
- Gyoza wrappers: These thin rounds of wheat flour dough are specifically designed for making Gyoza. They're usually sold in the refrigerated section along with spring roll wrappers and wonton wrappers.
- Vegetable oil: The vegetable oil is for pan-frying the Gyoza, and you will use 1 tablespoon of oil for each batch you fry. Any neutral-flavored oil, such as canola, sunflower oil, corn, or grapeseed oil will work.
How to Make Gyoza Filling
To make the pork Gyoza filling, boil the cabbage until it's tender and sweet. Use a pot that's big enough to hold both halves of the cabbage, then fill it with 6 cups of water and 2 teaspoons of table salt. When the water comes to a boil, add the cabbage, and cover the pot with a lid. Cook the cabbage for about 15 minutes, or until a skewer can easily pass through the thickest part of the stem, and then transfer it to a tray and let it cool until it's safe to handle.
Resist the temptation to squeeze the cabbage – you want to retain its juiciness. Instead, you want to mince the cabbage into pieces no larger than ⅛-inch (3mm). Then, transfer the minced cabbage and any accumulated juices on the cutting board to a large bowl and add the chopped garlic chives, ground pork, fresh ginger, oyster sauce, toasted sesame oil, soy sauce, and white pepper to the bowl.
Whisk the mixture together with your hand until it forms a sticky cohesive mass. Cover the filling and let it rest in the fridge overnight for the best results. This allows the flavors to mingle and develop. However, if you're in a hurry, you can wrap the Gyoza without this resting period.
How to Wrap Gyoza
Wrapping the Gyoza encases the filling, and the pleats are not just for looks; they add a curve to the dumpling, which helps them stand up. Start preparing your workspace by opening the package of gyoza wrappers and placing them under a damp paper towel to prevent them from drying out. Then, prepare a small bowl of water, which you'll use to moisten the edges of the wrappers.
Place a gyoza wrapper on the palm of your non-dominant hand; I'm right-handed, so I use my left hand for this. Scoop about a tablespoon of the filling into the center of the wrapper. Next, wet the fingers of your other hand and use them to wet the edges of the wrapper. The water makes the wrapper stick to itself.
Next, fold the wrapper in half over the filling, pressing out any air as you go so the dumplings don't burst when you cook them. Secure the dumpling your non-dominant hand and use the forefinger and thumb of your dominant hand to fold pleats into the edge of the top half of the wrapper as you seal it shut (watch the video below to see the process).
Repeat the wrapping process until you run out of filling, lining the finished dumplings up on a parchment paper-lined tray. Keep them covered with a damp paper towel to prevent them from drying out. If you're new to wrapping Gyoza, I recommend starting with less filling as it will make them easier to wrap. It'll take some practice to get the pleats right, but with patience and repetition, you'll soon master this technique!
How to Cook Potstickers
Potstickers get their name from the way they tend to stick to the pan when they're pan-fried. That's why it's important to use a non-stick pan or a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet. I usually cook them in batches of 18-20 in a 10-inch pan.
Heat your pan over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of oil. Arrange the Pork Gyoza in a circular pattern around the pan, leaving the middle open; then, you should be able to fit two more dumplings in the center.
Next, prepare a lid and measure out ¼ cup of water. With the lid hovering over the pan, pour the water into the pan and immediately cover it. The sudden burst of steam will cook the wrapper almost instantly, preserving its chewy texture. Then turn down the heat to maintain a gentle boil, to steam the filling until the water evaporates (about 3 minutes).
Once most of the water evaporates, remove the lid and turn up the heat to medium-high. Let any remaining water burn off, and then pan-fry the potstickers until they're golden brown and crisp on the bottom.
To serve the Gyoza, carefully flip them onto a plate with the browned side facing up. Serve immediately with a dipping sauce made with rice vinegar, soy sauce and chili sauce before the wrappers go soggy from the juicy filling. Check out my Gyoza Sauce recipe for three different dumpling sauces including a traditional one, a miso sauce, and a spicy sauce.
Serve it With
Gyoza have all the macronutrients needed to make them a complete meal, but if you want to serve them with something else, here are a few ideas. My Smashed Cucumber Salad makes for a refreshing Japanese-style Chinese side dish for these dumplings, but a green salad with my Creamy Sesame Dressing is another great option. If you wanna go for an izakaya-style menu, you could also prepare my chicken karaage or tebasaki to go along with these potstickers. If you want to add some more carbs to your meal, Japanese fried rice or a bowl of spicy tantanmen are a great way to close out gyoza night.
Gyoza, the popular Japanese dumplings, have a long and fascinating history that can be traced back to ancient China. The original Chinese dumplings, called "jiaozi," are believed to have been created more than 1,800 years ago during the Eastern Han Dynasty. One theory posits that they started as a form of medicine, with the filling comprising a variety of herbs and meats thought to have healing properties.
These dumplings made their way to Japan during the Edo period but didn't become widely popular until the late 1940s. Like ramen and other Japanese-style Chinese dishes, these dumplings were adapted to local tastes and differ from their Chinese counterpart in a few key ways. The filling for Gyoza typically contains a higher proportion of cabbage and garlic chives, which lends a unique flavor and texture to the dumplings. Additionally, Gyoza are typically wrapped in a thinner skin which gives them a delicate light crispy texture with a higher ratio of filling to wrapper.
The terms are often used interchangeably, but they technically represent different things. "Dumpling" is an umbrella term that describes a small ball of dough that can be filled or unfilled. Gyoza are a type of dumpling made by filling a round wrapper with a vegetable and meat filling. These can be cooked in various ways, such as boiling, deep-frying, or pan-frying. "Potstickers" refers to Gyoza that have been pan-fried (then tend to stick to pans without a non-stick coating).
Gyoza is a 2-syllable name pronounced as follows (read the italicized parts).
gyo - the "g" is like "go" and the "yo" is pronounced like "yoyo"
za - the "za" is pronounced with a hard "z" but rhymes with "the"
This recipe makes about 1155 grams of filling, which will make 70-90 gyoza depending on how large your wrappers are and how much filling you add to each dumpling (I usually add 13-16 grams of filling each).
Yes, Gyoza can be frozen after they've been wrapped, but before you cook them. I recommend freezing them in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet first. Then you can pack them in freezer bags to save space. Depending on your freezer, they can last for up to a few months. To cook them, you can follow the same steps as in the recipe, but you will want to increase the amount of water you add when you steam them and double the steaming time to 6-7 minutes.
- 550 grams cabbage (halved)
- 130 grams garlic chives (finely chopped)
- 350 grams ground pork
- 30 grams ginger (grated)
- 3 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 1 ½ tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 ½ tablespoon soy sauce
- ¼ teaspoon white pepper
- 80 gyoza wrappers (9cm or 3.5 inches wide)
- ¼ cup vegetable oil (divided)
- Find a pot that's large enough to hold both halves of 550 grams cabbage, and then fill it with 6 cups of water and 2 teaspoons of table salt. Bring the water to a boil, add the cabbage, and cover the pot with a lid.
- Cook the cabbage until it's tender enough for a skewer to easily pass through the thickest part of the stem (about 15 minutes). Then, use tongs to transfer the cabbage to a tray and let it cool enough to handle.
- Once the cabbage has cooled a bit, it will still be juicy but do NOT squeeze it. Slice it up in one direction, then turn it 90 degrees and chop it up. Go back over it several times with your knife until the cabbage is minced into pieces that are no larger than ⅛-inch (3mm).
- Transfer the minced cabbage and any accumulated juices on the cutting board to a large bowl. Add the 130 grams garlic chives, 350 grams ground pork, 30 grams ginger, 3 tablespoon oyster sauce, 1 ½ tablespoon toasted sesame oil, 1 ½ tablespoon soy sauce, and ¼ teaspoon white pepper.
- Use your hand to mix the gyoza filling ingredients together in a circular motion until the mixture is uniform and all sticks together. Ideally, you want to cover and let this rest in the fridge overnight, but you can continue if you are in a rush.
- To wrap the gyoza, open your package of 80 gyoza wrappers and place them under a damp paper towel to keep them from drying out. Prepare a small bowl of water.
- Place a gyoza wrapper on the palm of your non-dominant hand and then scoop about a tablespoon of gyoza filling into the center of the wrapper. Next, wet the fingers of your other hand and trace them around the edges of the wrapper to wet them.
- Fold the wrapper in half over the filling, and use the fingers of your dominant hand to fold pleats into the edge of the top half of the wrapper as you seal it shut. Repeat until you run out of filling, lining the dumplings up on a parchment paper lined tray. Be sure to keep them covered with a damp paper towel to keep them from drying out. Watch the video above for the full technique.
- To cook the gyoza, heat a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of oil. Line the dumplings up in a circle around the edge of the pan. This should leave room for two more gyoza in the center. I usually fit eighteen to twenty gyoza into my 10-inch pan.
- With a lid on standby, add ¼ cup of water and immediately cover the pan with the lid. Once the water comes to a rolling boil, turn down the heat to maintain a gentle boil. Set the timer for 3 minutes.
- When the timer is up, remove the lid from the pan and turn up the heat to medium-high to burn off any remaining liquid and crisp the bottom of the potstickers. The gyoza are done when they are golden brown on the bottom.
- Flip the gyoza out onto a plate so the browned side is facing up (be careful not to splash yourself with hot oil) and serve immediately with gyoza sauce.