Is there anything more perfect than gyoza? A tender, flavorful, juicy meatball wrapped in a noodle-y coat is the best bite in the whole world.
I love gyoza. They are one of my go to comfort foods and every time we land in Tokyo, our first meal inevitably is at Gyoza no Fukuho, a chain known for their yaki gyoza (fried gyoza). The gyoza are crisp but not overly oily, extremely flavorful and garlicky. They make me feel like everything is right with the world.
Gyoza is one of those foods that can be both high and low end. You can find Michelin starred chef takes on gyoza and you can also find it at convenience stores in little plastic trays. They appeal to everyone: crispy bottoms, tender tops, and juicy insides. Mike and I love gyoza so much that one year we went on a dedicated gyoza hunt in Tokyo. I miss my Tokyo gyoza eating days.
What are gyoza?
Gyoza are Japanese dumplings. They’re based off of Chinese potstickers or jiaozi, adapted and fully incorporated into Japanese cuisine. Gyoza are ground meat filling wrapped up in a piece of thinly rolled out dough. They can be deep-fried, boiled, steamed, and pan-fried. Gyoza are super popular and versatile, you can eat them for breakfast, lunch, dinner, a late night snack, you name it, and gyoza will be there for you. They are the perfect bite. Gyoza are usually served with soy sauce, vinegar, and Japanese chili oil or rayu.
You can find gyoza at most Japanese restaurants, especially izakaya or ramen shops. In Japan they have restaurants dedicated to only serving gyoza. They come frozen in bags at the grocery stores and there are gourmet shops that ship directly to your house so you can make restaurant specialty gyoza right in the comfort of your own home. Unfortunately they don’t ship world wide so the next best thing is making them at home from scratch. Spend some time making a batch or six, freeze the extras. The next time you’re hungry you can eat your bounty of resourcefulness.
Gyoza vs potstickers
Potsickers, or jiaozi or Chinese dumplings are essentially the same dish with some essential differences. Japanese gyoza tend to be a tiny bit smaller than potstickers and have thinner skins. They’re also seasoned differently, most notably heavier on the garlic.
How to make gyoza
- Mix. First off make the filling by mixing everything into a homogeneous paste. The classic filling is pork, cabbage, nira (Chinese chives) or scallions, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, sake, and toasted sesame oil.
- Wrap. Add a tablespoon of filling to the middle of a round gyoza wrapper, lightly moisten the edges and pleat and press together the edges.
- Fry. Heat up a bit of oil in a non stick frying pan, brown the bottoms, add a bit of water and cover the pan to steam. When all of the water evaporates, lift off the lid, let the bottoms crisp up a bit and you’re done.
- Eat. Enjoy hot and crispy with soy sauce, rice vinegar, and chili oil for dipping!
You can go all out and make gyoza wrappers from scratch but most people buy store bought gyoza wrappers for ease and convenience. You can find them, either frozen or in the fridge, at most Japanese or Asian grocery stores. They’re thinner than Chinese potsticker wrappers, but those are the only ones you can find, they make a good substitute. The brand we like is called Myojo.
How to make the filling
The key to a good gyoza is a juicy, well seasoned filling. You need a mix of ground meat and vegetables so the insides are tender and juicy.
- Prep: Green cabbage is the vegetable of choice for gyoza. Cabbage adds extra moisture, flavor, and texture that compliments the pork. Chop the cabbage very finely, salt it, then squeeze it to remove excess moisture. The other vegetable you’ll usually find is nira, aka Chinese chives. They look like green onions but flat. You can find them at the Asian grocery store but if you can’t get your hands on them, scallions will do.
- Mix: After the cabbage is ready, mix up the meat. Stir together a bit of cornstarch with water then mix it into the ground pork. Cornstarch and water will make the insides super tender. It’s the secret to extra juicy, tender dumplings! When you stir in the water-cornstarch mix everything will come together into a homogenous paste, which is exactly what you want. When the pork is nice and smooth, mix in the squeezed out cabbage and green onions.
- Season: Ginger, garlic, sake, soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, and salt are your friends. Stir them all in and your filling is ready to go.
How to fold gyoza
There are infinite ways of folding gyoza. My tip to you is: don’t worry about it! If your first batch of dumplings is just folded over and pressed together it’s totally fine! The goal is to make homemade gyoza, not to stress out about different dumpling folds.
If you want the classic pleats, here’s how
1. Take a wrapper in your non-dominate hand and place it on your fingers. Dip your other hand’s fingers in a bit of water and moisten the outer edges of the dumpling wrapper.
2. Place a tablespoon of filling in the middle of the wrapper.
3. Pinch together one corner of the dumpling wrapper and press.
4. Take one side of the wrapper and pleat it towards the corner that you just sealed.
5. Continue to pleat until you reach the other corner of the dumpling.
6. When you reach the end, press together the pleats to make sure the seals are air tight.
7. And that’s it! Now to make a bunch more. Don’t worry, it’s fun and fast once you have the hang of it.
How to cook gyoza
Crispy bottom dumplings are the best, am I right? The textural contrast between super crispy golden bottoms and tender steamed tops is the best. To get crispy bottoms:
- Pan fry them in a bit of oil over medium heat for 2-3 minutes,
- Add a bit of water and cover to steam to 4-5 minutes.
- Lift off the lid and cook until the bottoms turn golden and crisp, and the insides are tender and cooked through.
If you’ve seen fancy gyoza with a skirt all over your instagram, this is how you make it. Skirts are a lacy, crispy pancake-like layer that connects all the dumplings together when you’re cooking. A slurry of water and flour is poured into the pan as the dumplings cook up and crisps. When the water evaporates from the pan, a thin crispy skirt forms.
How to make a dumpling skirt
- Heat up a bit of oil in a non-stick pan over medium to medium high heat.
- Add your gyoza, leaving a bit of space between them.
- Crisp up the bottoms, 2-3 minutes.
- Whisk 2 teaspoons of flour with 1/3 cup of water and add to the pan. Cover the pan with a lid and steam for 3-4 minutes.
- Remove the lid and continue to cook until the flour slurry starts to evaporate and crisps up golden brown.
- Flip over on to a plate and admire your extra crispy dumpling skirt.
How to freeze
If you’re smart, you’ll make a triple batch and freeze the extras to secret away for a rainy day. To freeze them, space out uncooked, formed dumplings in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze until solid. Transfer to freezer bags. Cook from frozen.
How to serve
You can also make a huge Japanese feast
- 1.5 cups cabbage finely chopped
- 1 lb ground pork
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 tbsp ginger minced
- 1 tbsp garlic minced
- 1/2 cup nira chives sliced, also known as chinese chives, sub green onions
- 1 tbsp soy sauce Japanese preferred
- 1 tbsp sake
- 1.5 tsp toasted sesame oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 40 gyoza wrappers
Toss the cabbage with a pinch of salt in a large bowl and mix well. Let rest for 10 to 15 minutes, the squeeze out and drain as much of the extra water as possible. Mix together 2 tbsp water with the teaspoon of cornstarch and stir into the pork until it forms a paste. Mix in the ginger, garlic, nira/green onions, soy sauce, sake, sesame oil, salt, and squeezed out cabbage until incorporated. For best results, optionally pulse in a food processor until smooth (as shown).
Place 1 tablespoon of filling in the middle of the wrapper. Lightly moisten the edges with water then fold over into a half moon shape and pinch the edges to seal. Keep wrappers and gyoza covered with plastic wrap so they don’t dry out while you make them.You can also pleat/fold the dumplings: start by folding the dumpling skin in half and pinching. From the middle, fold over/ pleat one side of the dumpling skin and push against the back to secure. Repeat until you reach the edge, then pleat the other side. See post for more details.
In a nonstick pan, over medium heat, heat up a touch of oil. When hot, lay the gyoza in the pan, in one layer. Cook, until slightly browned, then add 2-4 tablespoons of water and cover and cook for 3-4 minutes. When the water has cooked off, lift off the lid and continue cooking until the bottoms are brown and crisp. Enjoy hot, with soy sauce, rice vinegar, and Japanese chili oil.
Estimated nutrition based on a yield of 40 gyoza (10 per person).
Japanese Gyoza Recipe
Amount Per Serving (10 gyoza)
Calories from Fat 112
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat 4.3g27%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.