Ask Casey: The Perfect Dumpling

Ask Casey: Cooking and Kitchen Questions Answered

What makes the perfect dumpling? Everyone I’ve asked has a different version, but all agree that it consists of flour, eggs, milk, baking powder, and maybe melted butter. Two respected sources claim that Bisquick is the answer to the perfect dumpling. Your thoughts?

First, the bad news: no, there is not one perfect dumpling. Now, the good news: there are in fact two perfect dumplings.

And though some might think of “drop” dumplings that puff up in broth to a fluffy, doughy cobbler-style blob as a Northern delicacy, and “rolled” dumplings that are similar in consistency and texture to an egg noodle, as a Southern specialty, the consensus is that there is no consensus.

chicken and dumplings, rolled dumplings

rolled dumplings

Through my research, I’ve found Pennsylvania Dutch recipes for the stew/soup known as pot pie (or “bot boi,” as it was initially termed by the Germans) that feature flat rolled noodles, and recipes for Southern chicken and dumplings with drop biscuits bobbing around in the soupy gravy like matzo balls.

ham pot pie, drop dumplings

drop dumplings

Simple Fresh Southern co-author Ted Lee, who splits his time between New York and South Carolina, has a soft spot for both types. “I think they’re both worthy and wondrous,” he admits. “It just depends what kind of ‘soup’ they’re going in, and what kind of mood you’re in—I put soup in quotes because some chicken and dumpling recipes are more like a dense chicken gravy with biscuits in it.”

What follows might not be the definitive way to make drop dumplings or rolled dumplings, but there’s no denying that both are filling and comforting no matter what your geographical or emotional situation. Throw the dumplings into a classic ham or chicken soup and watch the magic happen as it thickens into a savory stew.

One note: despite your sources’ confidence, I must sincerely disagree that an egg has any place in a drop dumpling. An all-butter dumpling has a richer flavor, smoother texture, and makes a creamier gravy than its egg-based counterpart. Try it yourself and taste the difference.

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  1. says

    So funny, when I first clicked on your post, I thought I’d be seeing info on Chinese dumplings! I like the drop version better myself. And I’m with you on adding more butter and nixing the egg.

  2. says

    Mmm, dumplings. Reminds me of spaetzle, which I haven’t had in ages. Mmm, spaetzle…

    Also, LOVE the New Doubleday Cookbook! I use it far more than Joy of Cooking.

  3. says

    I go for the drop sort too, usually, and I’m from the south. they’re both good though, and good with vegetarian soup and stew as well as the chciken and ham kind.

  4. says

    Interesting…so the German version was actually more like chicken noodle soup? Because that’s the same recipe I used for pappardelle noodles this past weekend. That being said, if I’m having chicken and dumplings, I want the biscuity dumplings.

  5. casino says

    I’m just going to have to try this recipe.Sounds and looks great.I have never made dumplings, but looking forward to it now.Your doing great. Keep up the great work.

  6. Jennifer Margulis says

    Perfect timing, my daughter and I want to make dumplings. I don’t think ROLLED ones count though, honestly! They have to be drop!!

  7. Merr says

    This might sound funny, but I really enjoyed seeing the different types of dumplings. It occurs to me that every culture has its own version of the dumpling…so delish!

  8. Conman says

    You left out one important ingredient….Egg…Add 1 egg per cup of flour. Huge fat stay together dumplins

    • Casey BarberCasey Barber says

      Conman, as noted in the post, I have tried egg in the dumplings, but prefer the butter style. As I wrote, “I must sincerely disagree that an egg has any place in a drop dumpling. An all-butter dumpling has a richer flavor, smoother texture, and makes a creamier gravy than its egg-based counterpart.”

  9. Kamsue101 says

    I don’t think an egg has any place in a rolled dumpling either. That makes it a noodle, not a dumpling. Dumplings are biscuits which are boiled rather than baked. You can either drop them or roll them, bake them or boil them, they are still delicious

  10. Butch says

    You can disagree all you like. There are a butt-ton of Sutherners that know differently. Egg dumplings are much tastier and have a better, denser quality you can bite down on, just like al dente noodles. Standard dropped biscuits are just wet biscuits, NOT dumplings. You like yours. We like ours. But you can’t say they don’t belong there. They may not belong in your version, but technically we don’t consider your biscuits “dumplings.” Dumplings sink, biscuits float. If yours float, they’re drop biscuits.