Dumplings vs Wontons: Unraveling the Distinctions

Dumplings vs. Wontons: Exploring the differences

Dumplings and wontons are two popular Chinese dishes that have gained international recognition for their unique flavors and culinary versatility. While both are types of dumplings, they have distinct characteristics that set them apart. In this article, we will explore the key differences between dumplings and wontons, including their origins, ingredients, shapes, fillings, cooking methods, and regional variations. By understanding these nuances, you will be able to appreciate and differentiate between these delicious Chinese delicacies.

Origins and Background

Dumplings have a rich history dating back to ancient China. While the exact origins of dumplings are uncertain, it is believed that they were invented by Zhang Zhongjing, a Chinese physician, during the Eastern Han Dynasty. The concept of using dough to enclose medicinal herbs was inspired by observing peasants wrapping their feet in cloth to protect them from the cold. This ingenious idea led to the development of dumplings as a means of delivering medicine to patients.
On the other hand, the origins of wontons can be traced back to the Tang Dynasty, where they were first mentioned in a cookbook. Since then, wontons have become a staple of Chinese cuisine and are enjoyed by people all over the world. Similar to dumplings, wontons are a type of dumpling, but with their own unique characteristics.

Ingredients and wrapper

Dumplings are typically made with dough that can be made from various types of flour, such as wheat, potato, or other grain flours. The dough is mixed by hand and then formed into small balls with a spoon or by hand. Dumplings can be either plain dough or filled with a variety of ingredients, including meat, vegetables, or cheese. Dumplings tend to have thicker shells that provide a substantial cushion for the fillings.
Wontons, on the other hand, have a thin, square-shaped wrapper. These delicate wrappers are specifically designed to hold meat, seafood, or vegetable fillings. Wonton wrappers are lighter and more delicate than those used for dumplings, allowing the flavors of the fillings to shine through.

Shapes and Fillings

Dumplings are often formed into circular shapes due to the traditional method of hand forming. This results in dumplings having a rounded appearance, regardless of the specific variety. Dumplings can be filled with a wide variety of meats, vegetables, or seafood. However, some types of dumplings may have no filling at all, and may be served as an accompaniment to soups or as a side dish. The fillings of dumplings are lightly seasoned, allowing the thick dough to harmonize with the flavors.
Wontons, on the other hand, offer more flexibility in shaping. Because they are made with square wrappers, the filling can be wrapped in a variety of ways, including tubes, triangles, rectangles, or squares. Wontons always have a filling, which is usually minced pork, vegetables or seafood. Wonton fillings are well-seasoned, creating a rich flavor profile that can be enjoyed on its own without the need for additional dipping sauces.

Cooking methods and serving styles

Dumplings can be cooked in a variety of ways, with boiling and steaming being the most popular. Boiled and steamed dumplings are quick to prepare and easy to customize. They can be served with a variety of dipping sauces or enjoyed on their own.
Fried dumplings, also known as potstickers, have a heavier dough than their boiled or steamed counterparts. The frying process gives the dumpling skin a crisp, golden-brown texture that enhances the overall flavor. Often served as a pre-dinner appetizer, fried dumplings are seasoned with ginger and other spices for a distinctive flavor that pairs well with dipping sauces.
Wontons are typically boiled, fried, or steamed, depending on the desired result. Boiled wontons are tender and retain their delicate flavor, while fried wontons have a crispy texture that complements the savory fillings. Steamed wontons are a lighter and healthier option. Wontons are often served in soups garnished with green onions and fresh ginger, which add layers of flavor to the dish.

Regional Variations

Dumplings and wontons have regional variations that reflect the diverse culinary traditions of China and other Asian countries. Dumplings can be found in various forms throughout Asia, with slight modifications to suit local tastes. In Japan, for example, dumplings are usually made with pork and cabbage and served with a dipping sauce. In Korea, dumplings are typically made with beef or vegetables and are often part of a larger meal.
Wontons, on the other hand, are primarily popular in Chinese cuisine and have fewer regional variations than dumplings. However, wonton fillings can vary, with different regions favoring chicken, shrimp, or pork as the main ingredient. These variations in fillings and cooking methods contribute to the wide variety of wonton dishes found in different parts of China.


Dumplings and wontons, although both considered types of dumplings, have different characteristics that set them apart. Dumplings are typically made with thicker dough, can be filled or unfilled, and can be cooked by boiling, steaming, or frying. Wontons, on the other hand, have thin, delicate wrappers and are always filled with seasoned ingredients. Wontons can be boiled, fried or steamed and are often served in soups.
Understanding the differences between dumplings and wontons allows us to appreciate the unique flavors and culinary traditions associated with each dish. Whether you prefer the hearty and versatile nature of dumplings or the delicate and flavorful experience of wontons, both offer a delightful culinary adventure that showcases the rich heritage of Chinese cuisine. So the next time you encounter these delicious treats, you can enjoy them with a newfound understanding of their distinctive qualities.


What is the main difference between dumplings and wontons?

Dumplings and wontons differ in dough thickness, shape, fillings, and cooking methods. Dumplings have thicker dough, can be filled or unfilled, and are typically boiled or steamed. Wontons have thin wrappers, are always filled, and can be boiled, fried, or steamed.

Are dumplings and wontons made from the same dough?

Dumplings and wontons can be made with different types of dough. Dumplings often use dough made from wheat, potato, or other grain flours. Wontons, on the other hand, have wrappers made from a special type of thin dough.

Can dumplings and wontons be served as separate dishes?

Yes, both dumplings and wontons can be served as individual dishes. Dumplings can be enjoyed on their own or with dipping sauces, while wontons are often served in soups or with sauces and garnishes.

Do dumplings and wontons have regional variations?

Yes, both dumplings and wontons have regional variations. Dumplings can vary in fillings, shapes, and cooking methods in different Asian countries. Wontons, which are primarily popular in Chinese cuisine, can have variations in fillings and regional cooking styles within China.

Are there vegetarian or vegan options for dumplings and wontons?

Yes, there are vegetarian and vegan options for both dumplings and wontons. Vegetarian dumplings can be made with vegetable fillings, while vegan options exclude all animal products. Wontons can also be made with vegetable fillings to accommodate vegetarian and vegan diets.

Can dumplings and wontons be frozen and reheated?

Yes, both dumplings and wontons can be frozen and reheated. To freeze, place the uncooked dumplings or wontons on a baking sheet and place in the freezer until firm. Then transfer them to a freezer-safe container or bag. To reheat, boil, steam, or fry until heated through.