Ask Casey: The Perfect Dumpling

Casey Barber

by Casey Barber on February 21, 2011

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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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

MyKidsEatSquid February 21, 2011 at 8:37 am

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.

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debbie koenig February 21, 2011 at 11:01 am

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.

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Kerry February 21, 2011 at 4:11 pm

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.

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Sarah - A Beach Home Companion February 24, 2011 at 12:27 am

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.

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casino February 27, 2011 at 10:04 pm

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.

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NoPotCoooking February 28, 2011 at 10:57 am

I like mine rolled, but if I have a choice I prefer my chicken with biscuits!

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Natalie February 28, 2011 at 12:28 pm

I can attest that they both were delicious!!!! But man-oh-man those dropped suckers were divine.

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sheryl February 28, 2011 at 5:14 pm

Never really thought about this. But I’d say that rolled sounds like a nice alternative!

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Alisa Bowman February 28, 2011 at 6:02 pm

I adore dumplings. Mom used to make them in a stew and I used to eat all of the dumplings and none of the stew.

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Melanie @ Frugal Kiwi March 1, 2011 at 12:47 pm

Being a Southerner, I roll my dumplings. I probably wouldn’t turn my nose up at eating drop ones though!

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