A deft recipe for dumplings: a quest fulfilled

I reckon that right about now, you’re probably staring at the turkey carcass (here in the Northeast, it could be in the mudroom or the porch, because the fridge is so overstuffed, just like you feel….) and wondering, WHY did I think I needed a 23 pound bird???? Because you wanted leftovers. But how much turkey tetrazzini can a family face? Here’s my all-time favorite way to get another meal from that behemoth bird: Turkey and Dumplings.

I struggled with dumplings for years. I kept thinking, “they’re just a wet biscuit, how hard can they be?” But for some reason I kept stumbling all around the edges of the ideal dumpling, chasing one recipe after another, each one coming up short in some way. Some fell apart, some were leaden. There were all kinds of warnings about lid lifting and bad consequences. it was a bit like a series of bad dates.

I know that in Amish country dumplings are more like fresh noodle dough: they’re more substantial and a little bit chewy, and I love that version. But I was looking for something more ethereal. It should be pillowy, tender, light, and just right for soaking up delicious gravy or sauce from underneath. About a year and a half ago, I found my ideal dumpling recipe, and have been going to town with it ever since.

Time to work your magic with the aftermath of the Thanksgiving feast. First, let’s get the dumpling mise en place (chef’s term for everything you need to cook, measured, prepped, and ready to go) set up.

First, the flour, salt and leavening go into a bowl, to be whisked together.

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Cut in the butter; it should be pretty small.

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If you want to add herbs, they go in next.

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This is how the mixture should look.

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Make sure you have your buttermilk and egg on hand; we’ll come back to the dumplings once we have the pot pie part taken care of. Now for the pot pie fixin’s.

You’ll need 4 cups of cooked meat.

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Did you make stock from the bird? Good for you. If you refrigerated it overnight, it’s a simple matter to skim the fat off afterward.

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Have any leftover gravy? If you haven’t used it for hot turkey sandwiches (another delight), this is a good place to use it up. If not, don’t fret, we’ll make the sauce we need.

Heat the butter in a large saucepan or stockpot, then whisk in the flour. The mixture should have enough flour so it doesn’t look greasy.

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Add the stock, a little at a time.

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When you do it this way, you allow the flour in the roux to absorb the liquid gradually, and you’ll have far fewer lumps. Whisk until smooth, then add some more stock.

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Add any leftover gravy.

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Add a bay leaf and some thyme.

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Let the sauce simmer for 20 minutes, stirring it occasionally. It will be a little on the thin side, but that’s OK, because the dumplings are going to absorb some of the liquid and thicken the whole business.

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Now add the meat and any vegetables you like. Frozen mixed can come in handy here.

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You have two choices here. You can put the mixture into a covered casserole and bake it at 350°F for 30 to 40 minutes, until it’s simmering, then mix the dumplings and put them on top. Or you can finish the dish on the stove, if your burners can hold a low flame without scorching the bottom of the pot. You could even put the hot mixture in a slow cooker, keep it warm, and scoop the dumpling mixture on top a half hour before you want to eat. The only requirement is that you have 2” to 3” of headroom above the top of the pot-pie mixture, and the container you’re using has a lid that fits. I slightly prefer the oven, because it leaves me free to do other things while the dish is baking, and there’s no chance of scorching.

Now that the stage is set, back to the dumplings.

Add the liquid to the dry, all at once, and stir until the mixture is evenly moistened.

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Now scoop the dumplings on top of the simmering liquid, leaving plenty of space around them to expand.

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Put on the lid, and bake for another 25 to 30 minutes.

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Try not to peek: the steam from the sauce is what cooks the dumplings.

OK, now your patience is rewarded:

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Dinner’s ready.

Please read, rate, and review our Turkey and Dumplings recipe here.

Here’s a real testament to the economy of cooking at home:

Buy vs. Bake

Buy: Hungry Man Turkey White Meat Dinner: $3.50/serving

Ingredients: Turkey And Chicken Broth, Reconstituted Potatoes, Cooked Turkey Meat (Mostly White), Peas, Rehydrated Apples, Water, Stuffing (Bleached Enriched Wheat Flour [Enriched With Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid], Cider Vinegar, Partially-Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Sugar, Salt, Baking Soda, Yeast, Yeast Nutrients [Calcium Sulfate, Ammonium Chloride], Dough Conditioners [Ascorbic Acid, Cysteine Hydrochloride, Azodicarbonamide], Flavoring), Sugar, Cranberries, Contains Less Than 2% Or The Following Ingredients: Modified Food Starch, Margarine (Partially Hydrogenated Soybean And/Or Soybean And/Or Cottonseed And/Or Palm Oils, Water, Mono-Diglycerides, Beta Carotene For Color, Vitamin A Palmitate. May Also Contain Salt, Whey, Soy Lecithin, Flavor), Vegetable Oil, Celery, Salt, Carrots, Hydrolyzed Whey Protein, Tomato Puree (Water, Tomato Paste), Turkey Fat, Cooked Mechanically Separated Turkey, Dried Whey, Cornstarch, Wheat Flour, Flavoring (Sautýed Vegetables [Carrots, Celery, Onions], Sugar, Maltodextrin, Corn Oil, Salt, Cornstarch, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Flavoring), Dehydrated Apples, Dehydrated Onions, Yeast Extract, Sodium Phosphates, Carrageenan, Hydrolyzed Wheat Gluten, Butter, Onion Powder, Mushroom Flavor Base (Mushrooms, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Potato Flour, Butter, Maltodextrin, Flavoring, Caramel Color), Flavoring, Dehydrated Parsley, Orange Peel, Caramel Color, Spice Extract, Spice, Vanilla Extract, Cream Powder, Nonfat Dry Milk, Enzyme Modified Butter, Lipolyzed Butter Oil, Oleic Acid, Butter Oil, Lactic Acid, Butter Flavor (Enzyme Modified Butter, Acetic Acid).

Bake at home: Turkey and dumplings: $.65/ serving (the turkey and stock are free!) Ingredients? Turkey, stock, flour, butter, vegetables, spices, egg, buttermilk, leavening, and spices.

Susan Reid
About

Susan Reid grew up in New Jersey, graduated from Bates College and the Culinary Institute of America, and is presently enjoying her fourth career after stints in advertising, running restaurants, and teaching at the New England Culinary Institute. She joined King Arthur in 2002 to ...

comments

  1. Sara

    These look delicious! Can you recommend what to substitute for buttermilk – my daughter can’t have cow’s milk? I’ve tried goat milk+lemon juice and goat milk+vinegar in other recipes (to make the same total volume as the buttermilk) but it didn’t work well…Have you tried souring: soy, rice or nut milks? Please give us a call if you need a hand. Frank from KAF?

    Reply
  2. Sandy

    Oh my gosh….I just finished eating this dish for supper. It is absolutely amazing and one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten!!!!!!!! And the best thing I have ever had for leftover turkey. The biscuits just melt in the mouth. I used the dried herbs and made a combo of thyme, rosemary and sage. I am in love!!!!!!!! This dish is definitely a keeper and will be a regular in our house from now on!!
    Sandy: I’m so glad it was a home run for you. It’s a regular on my table at home, too. I can’t tell you how fast this dish vanished when I put it in the tasting kitchen here at KAF! Susan

    Reply
  3. Terri

    Do you think this would freeze well? It looks so good, but it’s just me, so I’ll have a lot left over (I already have a lot of leftover turkey!).It has been my experience that this style of dumpling gets gummy after freezing and reheating. But, give it a try and see what you think. Frank from KAF.
    Another thing you can do is divvy up the pot pie into 2-serving portions, and do the same with the dry mix (mix it up and divide it in quarters, for instance. Then mix up the liquids, use what you need, and freeze the rest of it for later. That way you can do the whole thing in miniature batches. Susan

    Reply
  4. Chuck

    What about using buttermilk powder in place of the buttermilk? Easy to have on hand, for 1 cup of water use 4 tablespoons of powder, or 3 tablespoons for 3/4 cup of water.
    Dear Chuck: you certainly can use buttermilk powder, but I’ve never been as pleased with the results as when I use the real thing. I use buttermilk pretty regularly, but if you don’t, I recommend freezing the excess in an ice cube tray. Each cube is roughl 2 ounces. When you want some buttermilk, just pull out as many 2 ounce cubes as you need and thaw in the microwave. The buttermilk will separate, but it will still bake just fine. Susan

    Reply
  5. Sue

    Great recipe!
    My grandmother used to make the Amish style dumpling. She’s been gone for a long time. She never used recipes. Where would I look for a recipe for that style of dumpling? Hi Sue, Can you give us more information about Amish style dumplings? We don’t have any recipes for them on our web site and when I googled it, I found a lot of apple dumpling recipes. Molly – KAF Baker

    Reply
  6. Suzanne

    Good Morning KAF…I’m just responding to Sues’ request for a dumpling recipe. I grew up in PA Dutch country & this is the recipe that my grandmother used to use. Sift together 2 cups flour (King Arthur, of course!), 4 tsp. baking powder, 1/4 tsp. pepper & 1 tsp. of salt. Put 3 TBsp. melted butter & 1 egg into a measuring cup, beat with a fork until combined then stir in enough milk to measure 1 cup. Add your wet mixture to your dry mixture & stir to moisten thoroughly. Drop this mixture by spoonfuls onto your hot potpie or stew, cover tightly & allow it to cook 15 minutes; don’t uncover to peek, you need the steam that’s created to help cook the dumplings. I hope this is what you are looking for.

    Reply
  7. Sue

    Suzanne, Thank you for posting that. I will write it down and give it a try.

    Molly, I would say that my grandmother’s dumplings weren’t light and fluffy but were more of a noodle texture in dumpling form. They had a bit of chew to them.

    Reply
  8. Marianne

    Wow! That looks so good. I’m going to make this with chicken thighs – sprained my ankle soon before so no leftover Thanksgiving turkey (we had pasta & salad and talked about things we were grateful for – it was just fine!) Thanks so much for the wonderful dumpling recipe – I can just imagine the beautiful fluffy texture from cutting the butter into the dry ingredients, and the brief mix time keeping the gluten in the flour from bonding. I guess if you wanted a chewier texture you could melt the butter and/or mix the batter a little longer – but I’ll take fluffy dumplings over chewy any day!

    Reply
  9. Sheryl

    I would love to try these dumplings on my beef stew to replace my normal Bisquick dumplings, which I love, but the rest of my family would rather have “home made”. If I put these on top of my stew on the stove top, how long would I cook them. Also, would I cover them or uncover them? I have not had any luck with homemade dumplings, more like wallpaper paste covering my stew, so I am anxious to give this a try.
    Yes, you can certainly do these on top of the stove. You need to have some head room in the pot, a little extra liquid, too. They’ll cook, covered, for 20 to 25 minutes. Susan

    Reply
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  11. Sharon Hovey

    My grandmother made these chewy dumplings too..She didn’t add butter. When you spoon them into the soup, et al…if you dip you spoon into the boiling liquid and then scoop out the dumpling, the dumpling will not stick to the spoon, but will slide off. Keep the lid on the pot, when they are done they will come to the top . We would put them on a plate and slice..add butter and they would be like buns.

    Reply
  12. bziol

    OMG this sounds so good! My son is not a fan of potpies, but I think even he will enjoy this one. Will definitely try this weekend with my leftovers!!!!

    Reply
  13. eskarp

    I’m really fond of cornmeal based dumplings too. They’re a favorite here during the summer. I float them on top of a pot of greens and a ham shank. Very tasty—and an easy way to get everybody to eat their dark green, leafy vegetables.

    Reply
  14. kaf-sub-listval

    Made this last night using leftover gravy and stock (had enough roux-based gravy left over that I didn’t need to make the roux for the sauce, so I left out the butter/flour from that portion of the recipe) and about doubled the herbs in the dumplings. Used carrots, turnips, parsnips, mushrooms, celery that I had in the fridge. Fabulous, a definite keeper for future post-Thanksgivings! One question: 1/4 t of Worcestershire isn’t much — is that correct? I was tempted to use more but I don’t like to mess too much with recipes the first time I make them, and since I’d already eliminated the roux I didn’t want to mess with the “sauce” recipe any more.
    Definitely feel free to add more sauce the next time. It’s meant to be a subtle addition, but you should certainly season according to your taste preferences. ~Amy

    Reply
  15. Gail McGaffigan

    How I place the uncooked dumplings in the pot can greatly affect the results. I’ve found if I scoop them in in a clockwise order, they form a big dumpling “Frisbee:” you know, all stuck together and unevenly cooked?
    Instead, I place each scoop of batter opposite from the previous one; so, picturing your pot as a clockface, one at 12, the next at 6, one at 3, the next at 9, and so on. This gives each dumpling a moment to firm up, before another one is placed next to it.
    Now, the dumplings form individually, without ganging up into a mass. The steam can circulate freely around each dumpling, and the results are much more consistant: firm on the outside, fluffy on the inside.

    Reply
  16. Lisa

    I was planning on making this dish this weekend and I was planning on making the soup on the stove and then transferring it to the slow cooker for the dumplings. Should I put the temperature of the slow cooker at warm? How long should I leave it in there?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Please be sure the liquid is boiling when you put it in the slow cooker. I’d keep it on a medium setting, and keep covered for the same amount of time as the recipe directs. Test, and finish cooking as needed. Laurie@KAF

  17. Bill_Lundy

    I just printed this off (to PDF – then I can call it up on my tablet :-)) Just wanted to note that your new interface for printing commands is very nice: I like the fact I can change the font size (I am of an age that “I Like[d] Ike”), change the units to grams if I forgot to do it before selecting the print version, and (no disrespect intended) optionally delete the intro. (Sometimes the intro forces the printed version, when in hard copy, onto 2 sheets.) Thanks to your web boffins for arranging this.

    Reply
  18. Ellen

    My Grandmother used to make Chicken Soup with carrots and swiss chard from her garden, and drop the dumpling mixture by tablespoonfuls into the boiling soup. Can this recipe for dumplings be ‘dropped’ in to cook? The dumplings were floating all over and were so yummy.
    Thanks

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      That should work well. Make them small because they will expand, and you don’t want them to overtake the soup spoon! Happy baking- Laurie@KAF

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