Vegetable Gyoza (野菜餃子)
Gyoza are small Japanese potstickers that are most commonly made by filling a thin round wrapper with a mixture of pork and cabbage. The flavorful seasonings and umami-rich cabbage doesn't need meat to taste good, though. In this recipe, I want to show you how you can make Vegetable Gyoza flavorful enough that vegans, vegetarians, and meat-eaters can all enjoy.
Table of contents
Why This Recipe Works?
- Fresh shiitakes and quinoa create a texture that's very similar to meat, and by cooking these together with the cabbage first, it not only saves some time, it also infuses the quinoa with tons of flavor.
- Ingredients rich in amino acids such as shiitake, cabbage, konbu, and sake add a ton of umami to the filling giving these Vegan Gyoza a meaty flavor despite being plant-based.
- The pleats at the top of a folded Gyoza provide a curve to the potstickers, which helps them stand upright.
- Steaming and then frying the Vegetable Gyoza results in a crisp bottom and noodly top that provides a great textural contrast that makes these Japanese dumplings irresistibly good.
Key Ingredients for Vegetable Gyoza
- Fresh shiitake - shiitake mushrooms have a meaty flavor and loads of guanylates that make them a great meat substitute.
- Quinoa - Quinoa is loaded with protein, fiber, and minerals, which not only makes it a healthy addition to these Japanese dumplings, it also provides a texture that's similar to ground meat.
- Cabbage - Cabbage is a common ingredient in most Japanese Gyoza, and it's not unusual for store-bought dumplings to have more cabbage than meat. This was no doubt a cost-cutting business decision, but cabbage is rich in glutamates and provides juiciness to the potstickers that make them taste good as well.
- Garlic chives - Gyoza are typically made using garlic chives rather than garlic as it's a little more mellow while providing the flavor of green onions as well. If you can't find them in your area, you can replace an equal amount of scallions and add a clove or two of grated garlic as well.
- Ginger - Ginger is one of Gyoza's primary flavors, along with the garlic chives and sesame oil.
- Umami powder - The umami taste receptors in your mouth are triggered by amino acids such as glutamate, guanylate, and inosinate. These amino acids are essential building blocks of the human body, which is probably why we evolved taste receptors to detect them. Meat and seafood tend to be loaded with these compounds, but there are many plant-based sources as well. To boost my Vegetable Gyoza's umami, I like to add a powder made from dried shiitake mushrooms and konbu, which provide a one-two punch of guanylate and glutamate. If you can't find dried shiitakes, other mushrooms such as dried porcinis will work as well.
- Seasonings - Toasted sesame oil provides a deep nutty flavor that is one of Gyoza's main seasoning ingredients. I've also added sake and soy sauce to provide an additional umami boost to the filling.
- Binder - Without something to bind the ingredients together, the filling will be very crumbly and difficult to work with. The binding power comes from the potato starch, as well as the konbu in the umami powder.
- Wrappers - Gyoza wrappers tend to be thinner than their Chinese counterparts, which gives these Japanese dumplings a more delicate texture. You should be able to find them along with other fresh wrappers and noodles in the refrigerated section of supermarkets with a decent selection of Asian foods.
- Sauce - Gyoza sauce is made with soy sauce and rice vinegar. If you want a spicy sauce, you can add chili oil, such as rayu.
How to Make Vegetable Gyoza
Gyoza wrappers are typically plant-based, so we're going to focus on a vegetable and mushroom filling that will work for vegan, vegetarians, and meat-eaters alike!
The first thing you want to do is sautee the fresh shiitake in vegetable oil. This helps bring out more complexity in the mushrooms' flavor while pre-shrinking them, so your filling doesn't shrink after you stuff your gyoza.
After the mushrooms have started to brown, add the chopped cabbage, washed quinoa, water, sake, and salt and cover the pan with a lid. Turn down the heat to low and let this cook for 15 minutes, or until there is no excess water remaining at the bottom of the pan.
While you wait for the quinoa to cook, prepare the remaining ingredients. To make the umami powder, trim the ends off of the dried shiitake stems and crumble the mushrooms into a spice grinder along with the konbu. Spin the mushrooms and kombu until you have a fine powder. If you don't have a spice grinder, you can use a grater or Microplane as well.
If, after 15 minutes, you still have water at the bottom of the pan of quinoa, remove the lid and turn up the heat to let it evaporate. You want the mixture to still be very wet, so don't overdo this.
Transfer the mixture to a bowl to cool.
When the mixture has cooled enough to handle, add the chopped garlic chives, ginger, umami powder, sesame oil, white pepper, potato starch, and soy sauce.
Use a clean hand to knead the mixture together thoroughly. This is important because the starch and konbu need to be hydrated to start binding the filling together. The mixture will still be more crumbly than a meat-based mixture, but it should be fairly sticky.
Now you just need to fold the filling into the Gyoza wrappers.
How to fold Gyoza
Although they add a decorative touch, the folds in Gyoza have a functional purpose. By pleating one side of the wrapper as you fold them in half, it causes the base of the dumpling to curve. This provides a stable base, which allows the potstickers to stand up in the pan so you can brown the bottom and steam the top.
It's worth noting that Gyoza presses will mimic the decorative folds in the dumplings, but they don't actually pleat them, so they will not stand up properly in the pan.
Before you start to fold the Vegetable Gyoza, prepare a bowl of water, a parchment-lined sheet pan, as well as a clean dish towel. Be sure you keep the wrappers covered to keep them from drying out. The following folding directions are for right-handed people, and you may want to reverse them if you are left-handed.
- Place a wrapper in the palm of your left hand.
- Dip the index and middle fingers of your right hand into a bowl of water and use them to wet the entire rim of the wrapper. This makes the wrapper sticky so it can be sealed shut.
- Place about a tablespoon of filling into the center of the wrapper. Gyoza are best when they're packed with filling, but the more filling you add, the harder they are to fold, so I recommend starting with about a tablespoon and working up from there.
- Fold the wrapper over the filling like a taco but don't seal it shut yet.
- Use the index finger and thumb of your right hand to fold a pleat in the upper half of the wrapper about a ½-inch from the left side.
- Move your right thumb and index finger over about a ½-inch and then pinch the pleat shut with the thumb and index finger of your left hand.
- Repeat steps 5 and 6 three or four more times until you've reached the right side of the wrapper and seal it shut. Be sure to press out any air in the wrapper before you seal it shut as this will expand while cooking and could cause your potstickers to burst.
- Place the folded Gyoza on the parchment-lined pan with enough space between them, so they don't stick together. You will also want to cover them with a clean dish towel to keep them from drying out.
How to cook Gyoza
Gyoza are typically prepared by steaming and frying them, but they can also be boiled, in which case they're called Suigyoza (水餃子). For this recipe, I'm going to show you how to cook these Gyoza using the traditional three-step process.
- Place a non-stick frying pan over high heat and add a generous tablespoon of vegetable oil. Line up the gyoza in the pan, so they're close together, but not touching. I usually add about 12 in a circular pattern to a 9-inch pan.
- With a lid in one hand and ¼ cup of water in another, dump the water in and quickly cover it with the lid. The oil will spatter when you add the water, so it's important to do this quickly, so you don't burn yourself. Adjust the heat down so you don't have steam escaping from all sides of the lid and let this cook until there is almost no water remaining in the pan (this should take about 3 minutes).
- Remove the lid and fry the gyoza until they're golden brown and crisp on the bottom. If there's not enough oil in the pan, the potstickers will not brown evenly, so add more oil if the pan is looking dry.
How to Make Gyoza Sauce
Making the sauce for Gyoza is as simple as mixing soy sauce and rice vinegar together. I usually use a 1:1 ratio, but depending on your preference, you can add more of one ingredient or the other for a sauce that's more salty or tangy. I've done a post with a trio of dumpling dipping sauces that go great with Gyoza so check that out for more ideas.
Other Vegan/Vegetarian Asian Recipes
Originally a Chinese dumpling called Jiaozi, Gyoza is the Japanese transliteration of the name and an example of Wafuchuka cuisine (Japanese-style Chinese food). In the same way, Chinese-American cuisine has brought us classics like Chop Suey and Orange Chicken, Wafuchuka has produced dishes like Ramen and Karaage.
The Japanese version of these dumplings typically uses regular cabbage instead of napa cabbage, they have a more pronounced garlic flavor, and they're wrapped in a thinner wrapper than their Chinese counterparts. That being said, an exchange of cultures over the years has led to many similarities between the two. It's possible to find Jiaozi in China that are very similar to Gyoza.
Although Gyoza aren't traditionally plant-based, it's possible to find meatless vegan and vegetarian Gyoza these days, even in Japan.
Because there are so many different types of dumplings, they are usually referred to by a specific name rather than as a generic—for example, gyoza, shumai, etc. The generic for Chinese-style dumplings is tenshin (点心).
Gyo-za has two syllables, and each one is pronounced as follows:
gyo is two sounds combined into one syllable. If you say the words "tag yo" quickly, the "g yo" makes the gyo sound.
za like zombie
Traditionally, potstickers are made with pork, so most store bought ones are not suitable for vegetarians and vegans, but with a few substitutions you can make plant-based Gyoza at home that are just as flavorful as the original.
The wrappers will start to absorb liquid from the filling immediately, and within a few hours, the wrappers will be soggy and extremely sticky. That's why I would not recommend folding these more than an hour in advance. If you need to make these ahead of time, I would recommend folding and freezing them.
Yes, after you've folded the Gyoza and placed them on a parchment-lined sheet pan, put the whole pan in the freezer until the dumplings are fully frozen. Then you can transfer the frozen potstickers to a freezer bag to store them. You can cook these frozen Gyoza in the same way you cook fresh ones; however, you will need to add a little more water and steam them for an additional 1-2 minutes. You can make a delicious soup using leftover gyoza right from the freezer. This Gyoza Soup recipe can be made vegan by substituting vegetable stock for the dashi.
- 150 grams fresh shiitake mushrooms 6 large ones, cleaned and minced
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil plus more for frying the gyoza
- 90 grams quinoa ½ cup, washed
- 200 grams cabbage 5 large leaves, minced
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon sake
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 8 grams dried shiitake mushrooms 2 small mushrooms
- 2 grams konbu 1-inch x 1-inch piece
- 100 grams garlic chives 1 bunch
- 20 grams fresh ginger 1-inch knob
- 1 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon potato starch
- ¼ teaspoon white pepper
- 40 gyoza wrappers a.k.a. potsticker wrappers vegetable oil (for frying)
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- chili oil optional
- Sautee the chopped shiitake mushrooms in 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil until they're about ⅓ of their original volume, and just starting to brown.
- Add the quinoa, cabbage, water, sake, and salt. Give it a stir and cover it with a lid. Turn down the heat to low and let this mixture simmer for 15 minutes. If there's still water remaining at the bottom of the pan afterward, remove the lid and turn up the heat to evaporate the excess liquid.
- Prepare the garlic chives, and ginger while you wait for the quinoa to cook.
- Trim the shiitake stems' ends and then break the mushrooms up into smaller pieces as you add them to a clean spice grinder with the konbu. Blitz these into a fine powder. You can also use a blender or grater to make this umami powder.
- When the quinoa is done, transfer it to the bowl with the garlic chives and ginger and let it cool enough to handle.
- Add the soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, potato starch, and white pepper along with the umami powder and use your hand to knead the mixture together until everything is well distributed, and the mixture is sticky.
- To fold this Vegetable Gyoza, prepare a parchment-lined tray, a bowl of water, and a clean dish towel.
- Place a wrapper in the palm of your non-dominant hand and wet the entire rim of the wrapper with water.
- Add about a tablespoon of filling to the center of the wrapper and fold the wrapper over the filling without sealing it shut.
- Use the thumb and index finger of your dominant hand to add 3-4 pleats to the top half of the wrapper as you seal it shut. Be careful not to seal any air into the dumpling. Keep the folded gyoza covered with a clean dish towel to prevent them from drying out.
- When you're ready to fry the dumplings, put a non-stick frying pan over high heat and add a generous tablespoon of oil. Start lining up the gyoza in a circle around the pan, but don't squeeze them in too tight, or they will stick together.
- With a lid in one hand, add ¼ cup of water into the pan with the other and cover it immediately. Adjust the heat down to prevent the water from evaporating too quickly and set the timer for three minutes.
- Remove the lid and allow any remaining water to evaporate. If the pan doesn't have much oil remaining, add a little extra oil and pan-fry the potstickers until they're golden brown and crisp on the bottom.
- Serve these Vegetable Gyoza with a dipping sauce made from rice vinegar, soy sauce, and chili oil.