Chinese soup dumplings are one of those delectable food items that can feel out of reach for those avoiding gluten — until now. After hearing from customers looking for a tried-and-true gluten-free alternative, we donned our aprons and got to work experimenting. The result is a straightforward recipe that tastes just as good as its conventional counterpart.
Ready to bite into a soft purse of savory soup?
Get Rid Of the Gluten, Keep the Consistency
Chinese soup dumplings, traditionally known as xiao long bao, are the ultimate comfort food.
These addictive steamed dumplings boast paper-thin wrappers usually holding a delectable filling of pork and broth. But thanks to their versatility, you can make them using a host of meat and broth mixtures as well as vegetarian ones. Their iconic pleated structure consists of many delicate folds that keep the filling in.
Traditionally, you make these savory little pockets with dough made from all-purpose flour. The gluten in this flour makes it pliable, allowing you to stretch this dough without tearing it.
That's because gluten is made up of proteins that unravel and hook together when they come into contact with liquid ingredients. Kneading helps arrange the proteins in an orderly way that traps gas bubbles. This gives the dough its signature stretch and allows it to rise.
Naturally, we know that gluten-intolerant folks love a good dumpling as much as anyone else does. So finding a way to make the ultimate gluten-free wrapper for you became our No. 1 priority.
Creating Gluten-Free Wrappers That Wow
There are many alternatives you can substitute for all-purpose flour to make gluten-free dumplings, and we tinkered with them all to see what worked best.
And while some gluten-free wrappers might work for other dumplings, many aren't stretchy enough to withstand the pulling and pleating that a soup dumpling requires. After working with gluten-free flour, combinations of quinoa flour, and xanthan gum, it was clear that something wasn't working. These mixtures will do when you're simply folding or pinching, but we needed something that could really stretch to create those beautiful, meticulous soup dumpling pleats.
In the end, a bit of rice flour, tapioca flour, and vegetable oil did the trick. The tapioca offers some starchiness, while a teaspoon of vegetable oil is just enough to mitigate tackiness and give the dumplings their lovely iconic shine when they come out of the steamer.
Although slightly stickier to work with than the traditional stuff, this recipe rolls out very thin, stretches with ease, and pleats perfectly.
Working With Gluten-Free Dumpling Dough
Because the dumpling wrappers outlined here are gluten-free, there's no need to do any kneading or leave them to rest. You'll simply combine your ingredients until they form a smooth ball.
To ensure smooth handling, it's best to keep a bowl of water nearby for when your fingers get too sticky. As you work, remember to keep your wrappers moist so they don't dry out. You can (and should) use them right away, so have your filling ready to go for when you're finished.
Just like traditional xiao long bao, gluten-free soup dumplings are best eaten hot and fresh, straight out of the steamer. Once you make these gluten-free wrappers, your family and friends may never want to go back to the other kind.
Gluten-Free Wrappers for Chinese Soup Dumplings
1 cup rice flour
½ cup tapioca flour
1 cup boiling water
1 tsp. vegetable oil
Dumpling dough roller (included in this Chinese Soup Dumpling Kit)
1. In a medium bowl, combine flours with a whisk.
2. Use a spoon to create a deep well. Add oil and just-boiled water in the center of the well and mix with a fork until the dough is shaggy.
3. Continue to mix by hand inside the bowl until all the loose flour is pressed together into a ball.
4. Transfer to a clean surface and knead for a few minutes or until the dough is smooth.
5. Use the dough right away. Cut in half, roll out to 14 inches, and cut into 14 equal pieces.