Xiao Long Bao Recipe (Soup Dumplings)

Xiao Long Bao

The Spruce Eats / Brian Yong

Prep: 105 mins
Cook: 6 mins
Set Aspic and Rest Dough: 75 mins
Total: 3 hrs 6 mins
Servings: 8 servings
Yield: 48 dumplings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
488 Calories
20g Fat
51g Carbs
25g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8
Amount per serving
Calories 488
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 20g 25%
Saturated Fat 5g 26%
Cholesterol 53mg 18%
Sodium 1102mg 48%
Total Carbohydrate 51g 19%
Dietary Fiber 2g 7%
Total Sugars 2g
Protein 25g
Vitamin C 1mg 6%
Calcium 30mg 2%
Iron 4mg 22%
Potassium 345mg 7%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Xiao Long Bao is a remarkable piece of Chinese gastronomy. Its aesthetic appeal is only surpassed by the ingenious culinary construction that lies within. Culinary traditions from all corners of the world are convergent in their love for savory broths, and for protein wrapped in starch. The Xiao Long Bao, commonly known as a soup dumpling, idiosyncratically combines these two beloved eating experiences into one delectable bite. 

The tradition of constructing dumplings with a soup filling began with Tang Bao (literally, soup dumpling) during the 11th century in Kaifeng, located in the east-central province of Henan. The core ingredients, pork and wheat, have a strong agricultural history in Henan and Anhui respectively, and thus informed the development of Tang Bao in Kaifeng. As the concept of a soup dumpling spread throughout China, regional adaptations blossomed, incorporating the bounty of the native terroir and catering to local tastes.

Conventional dumplings derive their juiciness from the natural moisture content in the meat and vegetable filling, but Xiao Long Bao goes the extra mile with a gelatinized consommé, or aspic, which is mixed into the filling. There it becomes a luscious, aromatic broth that spills out of the dumpling as it’s consumed. The aspic is traditionally made through extraction of collagen and gelatin found in the connective tissue of pork trim and bones—a long and somewhat messy process. But we can lean on plain gelatin to gel our consommé, which itself is derived from a low-sodium chicken broth that is augmented with aromatics and natural flavor enhancement. 

Before we get started, make sure that you have a steaming implement, parchment paper (or Napa cabbage leaves), and a small rolling pin, preferably 1/2-inch in diameter. Keep a close eye on the pro tips and you’ll be enjoying delicious Shanghainese Xiao Long Bao in just a few hours!

"Although a bit of work, these soup dumplings were very juicy and satisfying. Make sure to roll out the wrappers thinly. To avoid a thick, doughy top, I pinched off any excess dough after pleating and sealing the top. Chinese vinegar and ginger are the perfect complement to this fully seasoned dumpling." —Young Sun Huh

Xiao Long Bao Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester

Ingredients

For the Aspic

  • 1 medium scallion

  • 1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth, divided

  • 1 dried shiitake mushroom

  • 1 (1/4 inch thick) slice ginger root

  • 3/4 ounce plain gelatin (3 packets)

For the Dough

  • 1/2 cup 125 F water

  • 4 cups (480 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

  • 2 teaspoons salt

  • 1/2 cup room temperature water

  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil

For the Mince

  • 1 pound ground pork, preferably 80/20 lean to fat ratio

  • 1 tablespoon minced scallion

  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic

  • 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger root

  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 4 teaspoons sesame oil

  • 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce

  • 3 teaspoons Diamond Crystal brand kosher salt

  • 3 teaspoons sugar

  • 1/16 teaspoon white pepper

For Serving

Steps to Make It

Prepare the Aspic

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Bruise the scallion stalk by pounding it with the flat side of your knife. 

  3. In a small pot over medium-high heat, bring 1 cup of low-sodium chicken broth, dried shiitake mushroom, ginger slice, and scallion to a simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes, submerging the mushroom occasionally.

  4. Mix 3 packets of plain gelatin with the remaining 3/4 cup chicken stock in a heat-safe bowl.

  5. Remove solids from simmering broth and pour it into the bloomed gelatin, whisking to incorporate thoroughly. Pour into a sheet tray and refrigerate until set, about 45 minutes. While setting, prepare the dough and mince.

Make Dough

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Heat 1/2 cup of water to 125 F. If you don’t have a thermometer, it should be on the verge of being very hot to the touch.

  3. Place 4 cups of flour and the salt in a large mixing bowl and stir to combine. Add 1/2 cup of room-temperature water and incorporate.

  4. Once the initial portion of water has been absorbed, add 1/2 cup of the hot water and knead until all flour has been incorporated.

  5. Then add oil and knead again until a dough ball has formed. The dough should be soft but not sticky.

  6. Cover bowl of dough with plastic wrap and rest for 30 minutes.

Prepare the Mince

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. While the dough is resting, prepare the mince. Place the meat in a large bowl and add the scallion, garlic, ginger, Shaoxing wine, sesame oil, and dark soy sauce. Mix until uniformly combined.

  3. Add the salt, sugar, and white pepper, and mix vigorously, kneading and crushing the mince through your fingers.

  4. Your mince will be ready when the texture is paste-like, and it leaves a film on the walls of the bowl. Set aside and retrieve the aspic.

Prepare the Filling

  1. Take your jellied aspic and cut it into about 4 sections. Julienne the sections, and then brunoise the julienne to achieve small cubes. A rough chop followed by a mince is acceptable as well.

  2. Add your aspic to the mince in 3 to 4 portions, mixing to incorporate. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until dough is ready for use.

Prepare Dumpling Dough

  1. Using a bench scraper or knife, divide the dough ball into 4 even pieces. Take one quarter section and, using both hands, grasp it by its midsection. Gently massage it with an outward motion to elongate the section into a cylinder.

  2. Place the cylinder of dough on your work surface. Starting from the midsection and working your way outwards, roll the cylinder into a uniform, 1-inch-diameter rope. Repeat this process with the other 3 quarters of dough.

  3. Prepare your dumpling skin blanks by cutting 1-inch portions off of the ropes using your first blank as a guide for the remaining. Each rope should yield about 12 portions weighing 15 to 16 grams each.

    Xiao long bao dough

    The Spruce Eats / Brian Yong

  4. Flatten each of the blanks by applying firm pressure with the palm of your hand.

    xiao long bao dough

    The Spruce Eats / Brian Yong

  5. Use your rolling pin to roll each blank into a 3 1/2-inch diameter disc, aiming for a thinner edge and thicker center. Lightly dust the work surface with flour if the dough starts to stick.

  6. To prepare your dumpling skin for folding, place a disc in the palm of your hand and add a tablespoon of the filling into each disc. Depress the filling into the disc with your tool, cupping your hand so that the filling is married to the dumpling skin. Repeat with remaining dumpling skins.

Fold Dumplings

  1. To form the Xiao Long Bao, place your prepared dumpling disc in your left hand, so that its center is aligned with the middle joint of your middle finger. With your right thumb and middle finger, grasp the edge of the dumpling skin at about 2 o’clock (if it were a clock).

  2. Now grasp the skin with your left hand, using your index finger and thumb, with the thumb gently depressing the filling, twist your left wrist in a clockwise motion. This will create a pleat for your right hand to seal.

  3. It won’t be pretty at first, but as you practice the concept described above, it will become natural. As you reach the end of the pleating, you can release the grasp of your left thumb and index finger, while continuing to twist clockwise and seal the pleats with your right hand.

  4. Don’t worry about the look—the important part is the seal, so just be sure to pinch any gaps shut. At this point, you can freeze your dumplings on a parchment-lined sheet tray if not cooking right away.

Cook Dumplings

  1. Bring your steamer to a full boil. Place dumplings in your steamer basket. To prevent your dumplings from sticking to your steamer, cut a piece of parchment paper to size and perforate with a fork. You can also use a leaf of napa cabbage, or a light coating of oil.

  2. Cook for 6 minutes at a full steam (8 minutes if steaming from frozen). Rest for 2 minutes before consuming. Serve steamed Xiao Long Bao with a dipping sauce of Chinkiang vinegar (Chinese black vinegar), and a pinch of raw ginger julienne.

Recipe Tips

  • Preparing Aspic: Ginger and scallion are aromatics that add dimension to the Xiao Long Bao broth and do not require a long cook time to extract their flavor. Shiitake contains guanylic acid, which enhances the umami profile of the dumpling. 
  • Preparing Dough: By using a mix of cold and hot water, we find a balance between workability for preparation of the dumpling skins, and mouthfeel for the final product.
  • Preparing Mince: Vigorously mixing the mince promotes emulsification of the fat and proteins, and development of a toothsome mouthfeel in the cooked dumpling filling.
  • Preparing Filling: If knife work isn’t your thing, a meat grinder can process the aspic in a pinch.
  • Assembling Dumplings: Try to fill and fold the dumpling skins soon after rolling them out, as they can get soft and stick together. If possible, work with a quarter of the dough at a time, rolling out each piece and filling and folding them, then repeating the process with the next quarter of dough. To make the process go faster, have someone work with you: one person can roll out the dumpling skins and the other person can fill and fold each one as it's ready.
  • The filling can be made up to 48 hours in advance, Keep refrigerated in an airtight container.


Recipe Variation

Soup dumplings with pork and crab meat are also popular. Try using 3/4 pound of ground pork and then folding 1/4 pound of cleaned, picked crab meat into the filling mixture at the end.

How to Store and Freeze

  • It’s best to cook these as soon as possible after folding. If you can’t use them within 2 hours of preparation, they freeze well. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet or tray and cover with plastic film. 
  • Cook the frozen dumplings immediately without thawing. Extend cook time to 8 to 10 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 185 F.


How do you serve and eat soup dumplings?

Serve soup dumplings while they're still hot. Ideally you would steam the dumplings in a bamboo steamer (or a similar metal one) that can then be taken directly to the table to minimize touching or transferring the dumplings to a serving platter, which can cause them to tear and leak their precious juices.



To eat the soup dumplings, you'll need a pair of chopsticks and a soup spoon, preferably an Asian soup spoon. Carefully lift the dumpling from the steamer with your chopsticks to your soup spoon without tearing the dough. Poke a small hole with a chopstick or gently bite a small hole into the dumpling skin. Any juices that may leak out will be contained by the spoon. Spoon some of the vinegar and ginger on top, if desired. Slurp the soup and eat the dumpling from the spoon. You could also just set the dumpling directly in the vinegar dipping sauce first and then move it to your soup spoon to eat. Enjoy!