Turn Thanksgiving leftovers into fancy dim sum using this turkey dumplings recipe. It uses very simple ingredients to make crispy, hearty, and juicy dumplings that are even better than takeout.
If you had told me to make dumplings with leftover turkey meat five years ago, I would have laughed out loud and thought you were crazy. If I told my mom about this idea, she would not approve of it. In my parents’ mind (and according to what I was told growing up), you should always use fresh homemade dough and a juicy filling to make proper dumplings.
After living in the US and trying out numerous American Chinese dishes that I’d never heard of, my attitude towards dumplings has relaxed quite a lot.
First of all, I realized that store-bought wrappers are not that evil! Running a business myself, I can sympathize with those who don’t have much time to cook. Second, I think cooking is supposed to be fun. Everything is possible as long as the result is delicious. If Thanksgiving leftovers make tasty dumplings, I don’t care if the ingredients are “politically correct” in my parents’ eyes.
So, here I am. Born and raised in China and only been in the US for 5 years, I’m making dumplings using leftover turkey, squash casserole, and cranberry sauce! None of these were things I’d even eaten back in China, but now I enjoy them a lot.
Turkey dumplings using Thanksgiving leftovers
The beauty of these turkey dumplings is, they use a LOT of your Thanksgiving leftovers and they allow you to create something that’s entirely different. On the other hand, the recipe is very flexible and forgiving. If you simply want to use your leftover rotisserie chicken to make these dumplings, it’s totally fine.
The best of all, these dumplings are juicy and taste fresh. I’ve seen a lot of leftover turkey dumpling recipes. They look so dry! In this recipe I used mashed squash and sauteed spinach to increase the moisture in the dumpling filling, so the results are superb.
How to make the filling
The turkey filling prep consists of three steps:
(1) Make the base
You can use roasted squash, mashed potato, or sweet potato casserole.
I mix it with butter, broth, and spices to create a base that binds everything together. Not only does it increase the moisture of the dumplings, it makes wrapping them very easy.
If you have leftover gravy, turkey drippings, or those gelatinous pieces from chilling leftover turkey (or chicken), throw some into the base as well! It adds a great taste and makes the filling juicy.
- Saute spinach with garlic
It adds color, nutrition, and moisture to the filling.
- Mix everything with chopped turkey
Be sure to chop the turkey into small pieces, so it creates a smooth mouthfeel.
How to wrap dumplings
There are so many ways to wrap dumplings. In this recipe I used one of the most popular methods – creating the pleats on one side of the dumpling.
All you need to do is:
- Wet the edge of the dumpling wrapper using your finger.
- Place 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of filling onto the center of the dumpling wrapper. Shape it into an oval shape.
- Pinch together the wrapper at one tapered end of the filling.
- Fold the rest of the wrapper towards the pinched end, one side at a time, so it forms the pleats (see the pictures below).
- Once the dumpling is sealed, use your fingers to press the pleats so it seals tightly. Set it aside and work on the rest of the dumplings.
For the traditional folding method, watch this video.
How to cook the dumplings
The recipe below shows how to fry the dumplings, but you can steam them as well.
Different from a lot of traditional Chinese dumplings that use an uncooked filling, these dumplings use leftovers that are already cooked. So you only need to make sure the wrappers get cooked.
If you’re frying the dumplings:
- Heat the oil until hot. Add the dumplings. Pour in water and cover to steam the dumplings.
- Once the skin turns semi-transparent, it means the dumplings are cooked. If the bottom of the dumplings is still pale, uncover the pan and cook the dumplings until the bottom turns golden brown.
Note, the more oil you use, the crispier the dumplings will turn out. If you want a healthier result, you can either steam the dumplings (no oil required), or you can use a nonstick pan with very little oil.
A cast iron or carbon steel pan will create crispy dumplings, but you will need to use enough oil to cover the pan to prevent sticking. In this case, it’s very important that you do not move the dumplings once you add them to the pan. The dumplings will stick to the pan when they are raw. But once the bottom turns golden, you can easily release the dumplings using a sharp wok spatula.
We tried various dipping sauces, including the traditional types. In the end, we found that a fruity sweet and sour sauce works best with these dumplings. You can either use your leftover cranberry sauce or cranberry relish. You can also use one part strawberry jam mixed with one part apple cider vinegar. These dumplings work with leftover gravy, too, if you prefer a more savory taste.
More Thanksgiving recipes
- Thanksgiving Leftover Curry Puffs
- Easy Milk Bread Rolls
- Sticky Rice Stuffing (A Chinese-Inspired Thanksgiving Recipe)
- Curried Vegan Green Bean Casserole
- Roasted Kabocha Squash Soup
If you give this recipe a try, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it (once you’ve tried it), and take a picture and tag it @omnivorescookbook on Instagram! I’d love to see what you come up with.
Turkey dumplings (A Thanksgiving Leftover Recipe)
- 24 dumpling wrappers , thawed
- 1/2 lb (225 g) cooked squash , mashed potato, or sweet potato casserole (about 1 1/2 cup)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
- 2 teaspoons leftover gravy or turkey drippings (Optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon cardamom
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 2 cloves garlic , minced
- 1/2 batch (5 oz. / 140 g) spinach
- 1 cup leftover turkey , shredded (or leftover chicken, finely chopped)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- Vegetable oil , for pan frying
- Leftover cranberry sauce or cranberry relish (Optional)
- Strawberry jam mixed with a few drops of apple cider vinegar (Optional)
- Thaw the dumpling wrappers overnight in the fridge or 30 minutes at room temperature.
Make the base
- Combine the squash, butter, chicken broth, leftover gravy (or turkey dripping) if using, black pepper, nutmeg, and cardamon in a medium size bowl. Smash everything together and mix well with a spatula.
- Heat the oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat until hot. Add the garlic. Cook and stir to release the fragrance, 30 seconds or so.
- Add the spinach. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the spinach is cooked through and all the liquid evaporates. Let cool for a few minutes.
- Transfer the cooked spinach to a cutting board. Finely chop it into small bits.
- Add the cut spinach, turkey, and salt into the bowl with the mashed squash. Stir to mix well. Taste the mixture. It should taste slightly salty. Add more salt if needed. The texture should be similar to or slightly thicker than mashed potatoes - you should be able to shape it but it shouldn’t be too dry. Add a bit more broth if and mix it again if the mixture is too dry.
- To set up your dumpling station, prepare a small bowl of water, the thawed wrappers, the bowl of dumpling filling, and a tray for the completed dumplings. Also, to prevent the wrappers and dumplings from drying out, wet a few layers of paper towel (or cheesecloth), and squeeze out the excess water. Loosely cover the wrappers and assembled dumplings.
- Wrap the dumplings one by one. Wet the edge of a dumpling wrapper using your finger. Place 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of filling onto the center of the dumpling wrapper. Shape it into an oval shape. Pinch together the wrapper at one of the tapered ends of the filling. Fold the rest of the wrapper towards the pinched end, one side at a time, so it forms pleats (see the pictures in the blog post above or watch this video). Once the dumpling is sealed, use your fingers to press the pleats so it seals tightly. Set it aside and work on the rest of the dumplings.
- Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of oil to a nonstick pan (or use a carbon steel or cast iron pan with more oil). Heat over medium heat until hot. Add the dumplings. You might need to cook the dumplings in batches depending on the size of your pan.
- Pour in 1/4 cup water and cover the pan immediately. Let steam for 3 minutes, or until the dumpling wrapper turns semi transparent. Uncover the pan and check the bottom of the dumplings. If the bottom hasn’t browned, let cook for another minute or so, until the bottom turns golden brown. Transfer the dumplings to a plate.
- Serve the dumplings as a snack, appetizer, or main dish with leftover cranberry sauce or cranberry relish.
- You can store the uncooked dumplings in an airtight container in the fridge for one day or in the freezer for up to a month. To cook the frozen dumplings, use the same method given in the recipe, but cook them covered for a longer time (6 minutes or so). For the cooked dumplings, you can store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat in the microwave or in a pan with oil for a crispier result.
- The nutrition facts are calculated based on 1 turkey dumpling made with roasted squash without dipping sauce.