How To Steam Dumplings Without a Steamer: Step by Step Guide

Steaming dumplings without a steamer is easy using simple tools like a metal steaming basket over boiling water or a Ziploc bag.

how to steam dumplings without a steamer

If you’ve had a craving for dumplings & sides at home without a steamer handy, don’t abort your mission just yet. You just need to know how to steam dumplings without a steamer.

Some know these dumplings by the name of potstickers, Asian dumplings, or Chinese dumplings. See more on the origin of dumplings below.

Whatever you call them, they make for a delicious meal or side dish with a combination of tender plus the perfect crisp. 

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Tips to make good dumplings (potstickers) at home

Dumplings are pretty easy to make, but you do need to make sure you’re using fatty meat or have the right amount of moisture for a plant-based dumpling. Make sure the final texture of your filling is smooth and creamy. 

It’s simple to make the dumpling skins, which you may also find under the name potsticker wrappers, dumpling wrappers, or gyoza wrappers

You only need two ingredients: wheat flour and water. If you still want to save time on the prep and clean-up, you can find the dumpling skins at most Asian grocery stores.

While you’re stuffing your dumplings, water is your best friend. If you find that they start to dry out or toughen up around the edges, dip your fingers in water and smooth them around the edges.

Origin of Dumplings

Every culture has its own spin on what it can do with a ball of dough, meat, or veggies, and sauce. The Asian culture is no exception.

It’s not completely cut and dry where dumplings originated, but you can find them throughout Eurasia.

Like many other foods, western culture enjoys the delicacy of dumplings, whether as part of a restaurant meal or in the comfort of their homes.

You can expect the restaurants to have all the high-tech cookware they need to please palates, but not at home. 

Sure, it’s nice to have fancy-schmancy kitchen gadgets that do exactly what you want them to do. That’s not always convenient for last-minute cooking or if you’re on a budget. Fortunately, there’s always an alternative.

The main thing to keep in mind with steaming is that you need some sort of heat to produce the liquid and then the vapors that make steam. If you run the water hot enough from the faucet, it even creates steam on its own. 

There are many different options for steaming food, including dumplings. If you want to learn how to steam dumplings without a steamer, try one of the following options:

Use a metal steaming basket over boiling water

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Metal steaming baskets are inexpensive and easy to use. Just like you use them to steam vegetables, you can use the metal basket to make delicious steamed dumplings.

All you need to do is fill a large pot with hot water and place it over heat until it begins to boil. Make sure the pot is not too full so that the water doesn’t touch the steaming basket.

Spray your steaming basket with a cooking spray to prevent the dumpling dough from sticking to it. 

Once the water comes to a boil, spread open the steaming basket and place it on top of the pot rim. Add your dumplings on top of the steaming basket and allow them to steam until moist and tender. For faster results, place the lid on top of the pot. 

If you don’t have a steam basket handy, you can try using a metal rack or even chopsticks.

While using the chopsticks, line them up parallel across the pot with just enough space to hold the dumplings in place. You can even boil noodles or accompanying food as shown above this tutorial

Use a ziplock to steam the dumplings without a steamer.

Yes, it’s as easy as using a Ziploc bag. Remember, all you need is to contain moisture and heat. This method works well with frozen dumplings.

Cook dumplings in a microwave-safe bowl.

Another option for how to steam dumplings without a steamer when they’re frozen is to use water and the microwave. Place your frozen dumplings in a microwave-safe bowl.

Fill the bowl with enough water to cover the dumplings. Set the microwave on high and cook the dumplings for 4-6 minutes. 

First, fill the Ziploc bag with water. Then add the number of dumplings you would like to steam. Cover the dumplings with water and let them soak for a moment.

Next, drain the water. Keep the dumplings in a plastic bag and seal them, leaving only a small corner open. Heat the dumplings in the microwave on medium for a few minutes. 

Create a DIY steamer basket

There is more than one way to do just about anything. Steaming dumplings is no exception. With some simple staples you’ll find in your pantry, you can DIY your way to delicious dumplings with a homemade steamer.

All you need is a metal pot, aluminum foil balls, a plate coated with sesame oil, and these instructions:

  1. Add about three large foil balls to the metal pot. Make sure the balls extend enough to raise the plate and allow steam to flow from the pot.
  2. Fill the pot with a little water. The water should be enough to fill the bottom of the pot and release steam (about a half-inch).
  3. Bring the water to a boil and lower to medium heat. 
  4. Once you coat the plate with the sesame oil, set it above the foil balls in the pot. Make sure the plate is level. 
  5. Add the dumplings to the plate.
  6. Cover the list with a tight-fitting lid and steam for 6-7 minutes, being careful not to oversteam. 

Use a wire rack between your plate and pot

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This is very similar to the DIY dumpling steaming method above. The difference is, you will replace the aluminum foil balls with a metal rack. You’ve probably seen one of these racks before and have one tucked away somewhere.

Many people use them to cool their baked goods fresh from the oven, for roasting, or for grilling. Just as they keep your goodies elevated while they cool, they’ll raise your plate from the pot as your dumplings steam. Using an aluminum rack will allow more steam to flow freely through to the plate. 

With this method, you can use a pot or a wok to boil the water. Just make sure the rack holds the plate high enough not to touch the water. Or you might need to make sure there is not too much water. 

Also, use something to coat the dish so the dumplings don’t stick. A little cooking oil, parchment paper, or a leafy green garnish or cabbage works well as a barrier between the plate and the dumplings.

Just like in the steps above, cover the pot with a lid during the steaming process. 

FAQs About Steaming Dumplings Without a Steamer

Here are a few frequently asked questions.

How do you steam dumplings without a steamer? 

Use other tools and water along with heat from the oven, stove, or grill to create your steam. Some options include metal pots or pans, bamboo or metal steaming baskets, steaming racks, aluminum foil, ceramic plates, or dishes. 

Use a pot or wok to bring water to a boil on the stovetop or in the oven. Place three large aluminum foil balls in the pot. Brush or spread sesame oil on a ceramic plate or dish or line it with a green, leafy vegetable. Place the dumpling on the plate, then tightly cover with a pot lid to steam.

Or place the metal rack or steaming basket above the pot of water, making sure to use oil or cooking spray to prevent sticking. Cover securely with the pot lid to steam.

How do you steam dumplings on the stove? 

There are a few easy options for steaming dumplings on the stove. You can either place a steaming basket, metal rack, or chopsticks over a pot of boiling water. Allow the dumplings to steam as the water rises. To speed up the process, cover the steaming basket or rack tightly with the pot lid.

How do you cook frozen dumplings without a steamer? 

These techniques work for homemade dumplings that you freeze or for store-bought frozen dumplings.

Option 1: Boil a pot or wok of water on the stove, and place chopsticks parallel to each other over the pot to mimic a rack. Leave only a small gap between each chopstick to prevent the dumplings from falling. Line the dumplings with chopsticks. Allow the boiling water to steam the dumplings until tender.

Option 2: Place the number of dumplings you want to enjoy in a microwave-safe bowl. Fill the bowl with enough water to cover all of the dumplings. Place the bowl of dumplings and water in the microwave and heat on high for 6-8 minutes.

Option 3: Place your desired amount of dumplings in a medium to large Ziploc bag. Add water to the bag and let the dumplings soak and defrost for about a minute. Drain water from the bag and seal it, only leaving a small corner opening. Heat in the microwave on a medium setting for around 3 minutes. Monitor the heating process to make sure the bag doesn’t overheat or melt.

What can I use to steam my dumplings?

There are a ton of things you can use to steam your dumplings without needing the latest and greatest gadgets. You can probably find most of these items in your kitchen cabinet. 

To steam dumplings without a steamer, you can use plates, pots, metal racks, aluminum foil, steaming baskets, steaming racks, Ziploc bags, and even chopsticks. 

Just like there are many substitutes for ingredients, there are also subs and DIYs for cooking utensils and equipment. If you don’t have a steamer or bamboo steaming basket, use a rack or metal steaming basket. 

Even if you don’t have a rack, look in your cabinet for some aluminum foil. You can even make a DIY rack with your extra chopsticks from your previous takeout order. Everybody has that drawer full of napkins and plastic utensils. Check there for chopsticks.

Be creative about finding how to steam dumplings without a steamer. If you don’t have anything, another option will. Just keep in mind that the two most important components for steaming are water and heat.
The rest is just what holds it all safely, keeping the dumplings the least sticky and most tasty as possible.

What can I use instead of a dumpling steamer?

Instead of a dumpling steamer, you can steam dumplings in a microwave, use aluminum foil or a wire rack on the stove, create a chopstick rack, or steam-fry dumplings in a pan.

How do you steam Trader Joe’s dumplings without a steamer?

To steam Trader Joe’s dumplings without a steamer, you can bring 3/4 to 1 inch of water to a boil in a wok over high heat. Once the water is boiling, you can either place the plate in the wok (resting it on the sides of the wok) or place it on a bowl that is right side up in a Dutch oven. Then, simply cover the wok or Dutch oven and allow the dumplings to steam.

Can I use a strainer to steam dumplings?

Yes, you can use a strainer to steam dumplings. If you don’t have a traditional steamer, a metal strainer or sieve can be used as an alternative. To do this, fill a pot with water, making sure that the water level is below the bottom of the metal strainer or sieve when it is placed inside the pot.

How do you steam dumplings on the stove?

To steam dumplings on the stove, you should start by bringing the water in your steamer/wok to a boil. Next, arrange the dumplings about 1-inch apart, allowing space for them to expand. Once the water is boiling, carefully place the dumplings inside, cover the steamer/wok, and let them steam over medium to medium-high heat for approximately 8-10 minutes. It is important to ensure that the water is simmering enough to generate steam during the process.

Is boiling dumplings the same as steaming?

Boiling dumplings is not the same as steaming them. Steaming results in dumplings that are silky and tender, with slightly firmer skin compared to boiled dumplings, yet still stretchy. To achieve a softer texture, it is recommended to use hot water dough when making your own dumpling wrappers for steaming.

How to make homemade steamer for dumplings?

To make a homemade steamer for dumplings, you can create a makeshift steaming setup using aluminum foil and a dinner plate. Start by forming several sizable foil balls, which will serve as elevators for the plate inside your preferred steaming pot. Next, pour approximately an inch of water into the pot, place the foil balls inside, and use the dinner plate to weigh them down.

Can I steam dumplings in the microwave?

You can steam dumplings in the microwave by placing them in a microwave-safe dish with a small amount of water, covering it, and cooking on high for 2-3 minutes. This method allows you to enjoy your tasty dumplings without the need to wait for a pot of water to boil.

How do you tell when steamed dumplings are done?

When determining if steamed dumplings are done, a toothpick can be used as a helpful tool. By inserting a toothpick into a dumpling and removing it in a straight manner, one can assess their readiness. If the toothpick emerges clean, it indicates that the dumplings are ready to be enjoyed.

How can I steam without a basket?

You can steam without a basket by filling a metal strainer or colander and placing it in a wide saucepan that is deep enough for the strainer to not touch the bottom. Another option is to use a wire cooling rack or a splatter screen. Alternatively, you can try using a foil pie tin or even steam in the microwave.

What’s the difference between a dumpling and a Potsticker?

The difference between a dumpling and a potsticker lies in the type of wrapper used. Potstickers are made with a thin wrapper, also known as a dumpling skin, which allows them to be steam fried and achieve a crispy golden bottom layer. This cooking method ensures that the filling inside remains juicy and delicious.

Are steamed or pan fried dumplings better?

Steamed dumplings are generally considered a healthier option as they contain less oil, whereas fried dumplings tend to have significantly more calories due to being deep-fried in oil.

How do you steam dumplings quickly?

To steam dumplings quickly, you can start by covering the pan with oil. Then, place the dumplings in a single layer in the pan and cook them until the bottom layer turns golden brown, which usually takes around two minutes. Next, pour half a cup of water into the pan and cover it with a lid. This will allow the dumplings to steam and cook thoroughly within approximately five minutes.

Can you steam dumplings in microwave?

Yes, dumplings can be steamed in the microwave. To steam dumplings in the microwave, you just need to place them in a microwave-safe dish with a small amount of water, cover the dish, and cook on high for approximately 2-3 minutes. This method allows you to enjoy your tasty dumplings without the need to wait for a pot of water to boil.

How long do dumpling take to steam?

The dumplings take about 15 to 20 minutes to steam until they are tender and cooked through. To steam them, fill a wok with water until it is one-quarter full and bring it to a boil over high heat. Then, place the steamer over the wok, making sure that the base does not touch the water.

How do you steam dumplings without them getting stuck?

To steam dumplings without them getting stuck, you can avoid this issue by applying oil onto the steamer base and the bottom of the dumplings. Another option is to place the dumplings on lettuce leaves or line the steamer with baking paper that has small holes cut out to allow steam to pass through.

How to cook dumplings in microwave?

To cook dumplings in the microwave, you can follow these steps: Place the frozen dumplings in a microwave-safe container and ensure they are covered by half or 2/3 with water. Next, cover the container and microwave it on high for approximately 2-3 minutes, or until the dumplings are fully cooked. Finally, drain any excess water from the container before serving.

How do you steam dumplings with a colander?

To steam dumplings with a colander, you can follow these steps: Take a saucepan and fill it with less than an inch of water. Place a metal colander/strainer (as plastic/silicone ones may cause the dumplings to stick) in the pan, ensuring it does not touch the water below. Lastly, have a cover ready to use for your improvised steaming setup.

How do you know when dumplings are cooked?

When dumplings are cooked can be determined by a simple trick involving a toothpick. To check if the dumplings are ready, insert a toothpick into a dumpling and remove it straight away. If the toothpick comes out clean, it indicates that the dumplings are cooked and ready to be eaten.

How do you cook frozen dumplings in a pan?

To cook frozen dumplings in a pan, you can follow these steps: In a nonstick pan, heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil over medium-high heat and add ½ cup of water. Place the frozen dumplings flat side-down in the pan and cover it with a lid. Allow them to cook for 8 to 12 minutes until all the water has evaporated and the flat side of each dumpling turns golden.

How do you cook frozen dumplings at home?

To cook frozen dumplings at home, start by placing a non-stick pan on medium heat and adding 2 tablespoons of oil once the pan is hot. Next, arrange the frozen dumplings in a single layer in the pan. Then, pour in enough water to reach about 1/2 – 3/4 up the sides of the dumplings. Cover the pan and cook on medium to high heat for approximately 10 minutes or until the water has evaporated.

How do you cook dumplings in an air fryer?

To cook dumplings in an air fryer, start by placing the frozen dumplings into the air fryer basket. Ensure all sides are evenly sprayed with oil. Proceed to air fry the frozen dumplings at 375F for 8 minutes. If you prefer a crispier texture, shake the basket and continue air frying for an additional 2 minutes.

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