The Absolute Best Dumplings in NYC
Endlessly versatile and always comforting, the dumpling is one of the world’s most well-traveled dishes. Nowhere except New York can you find French-inspired soup dumplings, Sichuan chili-infused wontons, and brown butter-bathed gnudi as good as you’ll find in Italy -- all without leaving the confines of the subway system. The dumpling is one of the best examples of the city’s rich cultural history -- no matter what regional variation you’re looking for, you’re going to find a fantastic version of it here.
But in the boundless dumpling paradise that is New York City, it can be hard to know which places are worth frequenting. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to the best types of dumplings available in the city and exactly where to find them.
Xiao Long Bao
Xiao Long Bao, or soup dumplings, are a fixture of the dim sum canon -- plump, delicate pockets filled with meat or seafood (pork and crab are both common) and a richly flavored broth. While the concept may seem relatively simple, there are plenty of ways soup dumplings can go wrong: The broth could leak out the sides, the skin may not be thick enough, or the soup might turn gelatinous. But The Bao, a modern (and affordable!) Chinese spot on St. Mark’s Place, has the soup dumpling math down, serving a perfectly executed version of the classic: round XLBs filled with a deeply porky soup, along with juicy pieces of minced pork.
Xi’an cuisine is all about boldly sour and aggressively fiery flavors. At Xi’an Famous Foods, one of the first restaurants in New York to fully embrace the cuisine of the region, the lamb dumplings aren’t your average dim sum offering. Yes, the skin is nice and chewy, and the lamb filling is rich without being overbearing, but what really makes the dish stand out are its accompaniments: the pool of vinegar-spiked sweet and sour sauce that soaks into each dumpling bottom, and the assortment of greens -- cilantro, and sometimes scallions and cucumbers -- that are piled high on top, adding a refreshing and peppery bite.
Sheep’s milk ricotta gnudi with brown butter & crispy sage
The chargrilled burger is what put April Bloomfield’s pioneering gastropub, The Spotted Pig, on the map; but the ricotta gnudi is what turned it into the iconic, all-purpose spot it is today. “Gnudi,” means “naked” in Italian, which is fitting, as the pasta has no wrapper -- it’s simply a plump cushion of ricotta and flour that, in the case of this particular dish, gets doused in a nutty brown butter sauce and topped with flaky bits of sage and a generous dusting of Parmesan.
The East Village is a bastion for old-school cafes serving hearty Eastern European fare, but none is quite as popular as the 24-hour institution, Veselka, and no dish is more well known than the restaurant’s pierogies. Veselka offers several varieties of pierogi -- potato, cheese, meat, sauerkraut and mushroom, spinach, and even arugula and goat cheese -- which can come either steamed or fried. The end-of-the night (or hungover morning) move is the classic potato, fried; the thick, semicircular dumplings are crisp and buttery on the outside, and hearty and fluffy on the inside. Be sure to dip them in the cooling sour cream and applesauce sides.
Borsa “Little Purse”
There are a plenty of places in Downtown Manhattan serving casual Italian food in a neighborhood-y atmosphere, but the Little Purse pasta is a reason to keep returning to Vic’s. Each purse is a perfectly al dente pocket of lemon, hazelnuts, and ricotta cheese, reinforced by a glossy coating of lemon-butter sauce and a sprinkling of crunchy hazelnuts. The filling is dense, but the dish manages to taste extremely light -- like a lemon bar in pasta form.
Most people come to Lam Zhou for the namesake dish -- which the restaurant certainly does well -- but the most standout item on the menu is the pork dumplings. Lam Zhou doesn’t go the thin and delicate route that a lot of the city’s fast-casual spots take when it comes to dumplings; these are hefty, tender, and overloaded with chive-infused pork. The accompanying tangy, garlicky sauce that you’ll find at your table is the kind of condiment you’ll want to put on everything.
Sheeps milk cheese filled agnolotti with saffron, dried tomato, and honey
When Lilia opened in Williamsburg last year, it quickly became one of the city’s best places for pasta, thanks to chef/owner Missy Robbins’ creative yet refined approach to Italian food. Her dishes shine the most when they take a familiar preparation -- like cacio e pepe, or arrabiata -- and give it an unexpected twist, like pink peppercorns, or pistachios. The Agnolotti -- a take on cheese ravioli that elevates the childhood staple beyond recognition -- combines mild and creamy sheep’s milk cheese-filled cigars with sweet (honey), followed by deeply salty (dried tomatoes), and then earthy (saffron) for a harmonious dish that probably shouldn’t work, but really, truly does.
Wontons in chili oil
The spicy parcels of pork and vegetables from this tiny Flushing shop are worth the trip to the end of the 7 train alone. The dumplings may look small, but they certainly don’t skimp on the spice -- they’re doused not only in chili oil, but also numbing Szechuan peppercorns, for a tingling, lingering heat. A topper of freshly chopped scallions help to balance out all the peppers, though it wouldn’t hurt to also have a tall glass of beer handy.
Pumpkin with black sesame tang yuan
There’s 100 distinct varieties of dumplings offered at this Flushing mainstay, but despite how many you order, it’s worth saving room for dessert. The chewy, pumpkin-scented, sesame-filled tang yuan are a prime example of sweet flavors working just as well -- if not better -- than savory ones in a dumpling. The tang yuan are little spheres similar in texture to mochi that float in a nutty, mildly sweet broth made with egg whites -- it’s like having bubble tea in soup form.
Pretzel pork & chive dumplings
Nothing better exemplifies Dale Talde’s inventive Asian-fusion cuisine than the pretzel pork & chive dumplings at Talde. The dish brilliantly takes the classic pork dumpling and turns the outside into a pretzel, with a bath of baking soda batter, a buttery coat, and specks of salt. To fully complete the pretzel effect, the dumplings are also served with tangy, sesame-infused Chinese mustard. The traditional filling stands up nicely to the salty, chewy exterior -- it’s like a dim sum parlor meets a ballpark stadium.
This Tibetan café in Queens specializes in the country’s take on the dumpling, known as the momo: thick, meat-filled purses typically served in some kind of flavorful sauce. At Woodside Café, the sauce looks Italian and tastes mildly Indian -- thick and tomato-y, but fragrant and complex from spices like cumin and red chili. Once you’ve finished the dumplings, order a bowl of rice and toss it in the saucy remains.
French onion soup dumplings
The perennial problem with French onion soup is that it’s all too convenient to polish off the cheesy topcoat before you even dig into the soup itself -- so you can never really enjoy both elements together. The Stanton Social solved this issue with the French onion soup dumpling, which allows you to enjoy the gooey, browned cheese with the rest of the dish. The dumplings are filled with a classic version of the soup (thick, mildly sweet, slightly smoky), then buried in an avalanche of melted cheese. The finishing touch is the crouton, which comes speared to the top of the dumplings to simulate a crunchy bread topping.
Chicken and dumplings
There aren’t a lot of New York restaurants these days serving chicken and dumplings -- a classic soul food dish involving little biscuits boiled in a thick, savory broth. But cozy Boerum Hill restaurant The Soul Spot will make you fall in love with the Southern staple. The buttery biscuits sit in a broth that’s more sauce-like than anything; but it’s deeply flavored, mildly spicy, and the perfect stew to slurp on a cold night.
To enjoy a proper Afghan feast, head to Sami’s Kabab House in Astoria, where the vibe feels more like dining at someone’s home than at a restaurant. The menu is full of hits -- including dishes like chalaw (Afghan rice), and mashawa (bean stew) -- but the manto are the real star. They’re everything the ideal dumpling should be: juicy, tender, and deeply aromatic from the fresh spices. The cooling yogurt sauce is laced with garlic (in a pleasant, not overbearing way), and the most inspired move of all are the crumbles of beef that go over the top of the dish, like little explosions of salt and fat.
Lamb & green squash dumplings
Lamb and squash might not seem like the most intuitive pairing -- but the richness of the former and the sweetness of the latter mesh together perfectly in a dumpling. The team behind Tianjin Dumpling House (the sister restaurant of Dumpling Galaxy) has it perfected -- from the fatty, peppery lamb to the soft dumpling skin to the ideal ratio between wrapper to filling.
Italian-born pasta and sauce company, Giovanni Rana, is like the Willy Wonka of pasta, churning out unexpected flavors like red lentil spaghetti and chili and garlic infused pappardelle daily in its part-factory part-restaurant inside Chelsea Market. The place’s signature dessert -- ravioli made with dark chocolate -- is a childhood fantasy come true. Freshly made cocoa-infused pasta gets filled with house-made chocolate-hazelnut cream, fried until cracker-crispy, and topped with powdered sugar. You can eat yours with the bright raspberry dipping sauce that comes on the side -- or, you can ask for chocolate sauce, which makes for an even more decadent bite.
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