Dig Into These Healthy, Crispy Vegan Tofu Rice Paper Dumplings!
We all have those nights: it’s been a busy week, and you’re in the mood for some yummy comfort food –preferably something home-cooked and that packs a big, tasty punch while being nutritious.
But the idea of cooking up a storm of the usual dishes plus rice seems like a huge chore right now, especially when you're holding a demanding full-time job while living on your own, away from your family. And sometimes you have those days where your budget is just screaming at you to put a pause on expensive food delivery.
What you want is something fuss-free, relatively simple to make, and is ideally a one-pan recipe that doesn’t require the additional stress of storage and consumption within 1-2 days. Which is why easy pan fried dumplings paired with soy sauce are a fantastic, simple way to really hit that spot for a mouthwatering dinner that satiates your cravings while being relatively simple to make!
Despite that, you might be thinking that there are still a lot of elements that will require your time to make dumplings. Especially if you’re trying to make it from scratch or even to look for gluten-free or vegan options – and you’d be absolutely right.
Well, luckily, there’s a quick fix which allows you to experience the best of both worlds. Say hello to our rice paper dumplings, perfect little morsels that won’t have you slaving away in the kitchen for hours on end whilst being both nourishing and comforting all in one go!
Firm and crunchy with a delightful crisp on the outside, soft and tender on the inside, these delicious rice paper dumplings are a surefire way to fulfil your need for some nutritious, yummy homemade meals. Plus, they’re a perfect fit for whether you’re tucking in for a cosy night at home, preparing a potluck dish for a family gathering, or even as a grab-and-go lunch for busier work days.
However, finding a healthier alternative to the traditional dumplings found in restaurants can be a challenging ordeal. Thankfully, our Cosmic Cookware partner and vegan recipe developer Chloe Wheatland has come up with a way to whip up some protein-packed dumplings that will satisfy both your cravings and your nutrition needs all in one recipe!
What Makes These Dumplings Gluten-free and Vegan-friendly?
First off, let’s start with the core ingredients used to make traditional dumplings – typically savoury pouches of which consist of a filling of some sort, and the flour-based dough in which they are wrapped.
The fillings for traditional dumplings are pretty diverse and you can usually find a good variety of them, ranging from minced meats such as ground beef, ground pork, chicken, or even mushrooms and stir-fried vegetables. I think some of you will be familiar with the common ground pork and cabbage combination, or ground chicken and green onions mix of dumpling filling.
However, in this rice paper dumpling recipe, instead of the usual meat-based or vegetarian options, we’re using a mixture of walnuts and an ingredient everyone is more than familiar with and associates fondly with many a homemade dish: tofu.
That’s not all, as we’re taking it yet a step further by making it vegan-friendly and gluten-free, which means our wrappings are also going to be different from the starchy, doughy wraps you’re used to by substituting it instead with a rice paper sheet in place of the typical egg, flour and water dough mixture.
Fun Fact: Did you know that rice papers are naturally gluten-free because they're typically made with only rice flour, tapioca flour, salt, and water?
Are These Rice Paper Dumplings Healthier than Average Dumplings?
The answer is yes, and yes!
By swapping out the starchy, flour-based dough for rice paper, it’s a low-carb, low-calorie option that is ideal for those with specific dietary requirements, or who are simply looking to moderate their food intake, or even just make more nutritious choices this year!
On top of that, the filling is loaded with an invigorating concoction of fresh vegetables to help with digestive health as well as nutrient-loaded ingredients to make up a sustaining and substantial meal that can be a dish on its own or even served up as a supplementary dish if you’re thinking of cooking up a bigger meal!
How do These Vegan, Gluten-free Dumplings Measure Up to Traditional Dumplings?
The difficulty in sourcing gluten-free, vegan recipes is known to anyone who’s ever tried looking up a recipe fitting both these criteria. On top of the challenging finds, there’s also a pretty predominant belief that these alternative recipes don’t taste like their original iterations.
And since we all know what the usual dumplings taste like, there’s a pretty good chance that you might also be curious as to how these healthier alternatives stack up to your usual go-to dumpling orders, and for good reasons as well.
So let’s break down what makes our rice paper dumplings equally, if not more, enjoyable than what we’re used to eating!
Complementing Crispy Rice Paper Dumplings with Delicious Vegan Filling
Unlike letting strips of vegetables or mushrooms do the heavy lifting, the tofu and walnut combination added to the garlic, ginger, carrots and shredded cabbage featured in these rice wrapped dumplings makes for a heartier, heavier stuffing.
This serves as a wonderful plant-based substitute that shares a more similar texture to its meaty counterparts, whilst seamlessly blending the sweetness of the carrots and cabbage with the more savoury quality of the tofu and walnuts.
To pan-fry the dumplings, sesame oil is also used to cook the ingredients. Well known for its fragrance, the oil also adds a more distinct, nuttier flavour that complements the walnuts within our dumpling filling.
To top that off, sesame oil has a lower smoke point than most other vegetable oils, so it’s better suited for low to medium-heat cooking – perfect for this precise rice paper dumpling recipe.
Finally, the accompaniment of tamari, vegan fish sauce, sriracha, and rice malt syrup are well-seasoned, aromatic constituents that perfectly merge and balance the complex flavours within the recipe together, wrapping it all up nicely.
Swap Out Soy Sauce to Suit Your Tastes
Dumplings are great, but you know what is especially fun when it comes to eating them? The sheer variety of dipping sauces you can create to munch on them with.
Dumplings are typically paired with salty dipping sauces, such as the tamari, as they’re the perfect items to counterbalance the freshness of any aromatic garnish you might have, such as the spring onion and cilantro we recommend here.
That having been said, you can easily mix it up with whatever dipping sauce might suit your fancy instead, whether it’s the honeyed tang of sweet chili sauce or the spicy aftertaste of everyone’s favourite chili oil or sambal.
If you’re looking to elevate this further and make it a soy-free recipe, you can swap out the tamari for coconut aminos, which are a soy-free alternative to soy sauces. They also contain less sodium compared to both tamari and soy sauces, which works well if you’re looking to control your sodium intake.
Our Unexpected Star, Rice Paper Sheets
If you’ve never used rice paper before, you might be wondering what it’s like compared to the traditional dumpling dough. Well, rice paper takes after its name, and soaked rice paper is very similar to rice itself in its taste, with a chewy, neutral flavour.
On the flip side, you might be worried about it tearing when cooked, especially since it’s thinner than the regular flour that you’d use.
However, there’s an easy way to prevent this: by using enough oil and high-quality non-stick cookware such as Cosmic Cookware’s non-stick Cosmo Fry Pan or its non-toxic, non-stick Cosmo wok to fry your rice paper dumplings, you can prevent the thin layer of your rice paper wrappers from getting stuck and breaking apart.
This helps not just keep your rice paper dumpling intact, it also sears the outside to a lovely golden-brown that promises a crunch with every bite while keeping the inside moist and soft.
How to Handle Rice Paper Sheets Properly
Like its name suggests, rice paper can be pretty delicate – especially after it’s soaked. If handled too roughly or carelessly, it’s easy for these sheets to break apart or tear, which is why our recipe calls for our dumplings to be double wrapped, to make absolutely sure everything is held tightly and securely in place when it comes to the pan frying process.
With that, here are a few tips on how to properly handle rice paper to make sure you don’t accidentally pull them to pieces while assembling your rice paper dumplings!
When buying rice paper to be used as your rice wrapper for these veggie dumplings – which should be easily accessible in any nearby hypermart or supermarket – be sure to check that they’re fully intact and not visibly cracked or chipped, and be sure to put them on top of your other groceries so they’re not damaged on the way back!
When storing rice paper, it’s best to make sure it has its own place, and it’s best if you can lie it flat. Once it’s opened, you can easily store them in an airtight container.
When working with rice paper, it's important to have the your work surface slightly damp. Soaked rice paper can be sticky, and the easiest way to make sure they don’t cling onto the surface you’re working on is to also make sure there’s an adequate amount of water there too. Alternatively, use parchment paper or a paper towel to prevent them from sticking.
Dip your rice papers one at a time into warm water or room temperature water for a few seconds and shake off the excess liquid. You don't want cold water because it takes much longer for it to soften, but you also don't want to work with hot water because it softens it up too quickly and makes it tougher to work with overall.
This might seem obvious already, but it’s better to be safe than sorry! If you dip the rice paper all at once, you will end up with a lumpy, gooey mess that is stuck all together.
Be patient! This is extra important, and if you’re not used to these ingredients, just remember that folding them doesn’t require as much force as dough would, and you can easily fold the corners inwards without having to press down too hard on your rice paper wrapped dumplings.