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How to make dumplings

Lynn Wright / 09 November 2015 ( 08 October 2018 )

When the weather is cold and wintry nothing beats a classic stew or casserole topped with fluffy dumplings. Here’s how to make deliciously light, mouthwatering dumplings.

Beef stew with dumplings
Nothing beats a warming stew or casserole topped with dumplings when the weather turns cold

The perfect companions to slow-cooked stews and casseroles, dumplings are a great British favourite.

Dumplings are traditionally made with suet – hard beef, or sometimes mutton, fat that comes from around the kidneys and other organs. Popularly used to make dumplings, steamed puddings and pastries, suet gives dishes a light, melt-in-the-mouth texture and delicious rich taste.

If you can’t find suet, you can make dumplings with any type of fat – the best alternative is cold grated butter.

For more classic recipes, see our British food section.


Serves 4

  • 100g self-raising flour
  • a pinch of salt
  • 50g suet, shredded
  • Cold water – approximately 5 tablespoons

How to make dumplings

1. Put the flour, suet and salt in a mixing bowl.

2. Add the water – a little at a time – mixing until you have a thick dough.

3. Divide the dough into eight and using floured hands shape into balls about the size of a golf ball.

4. Place the dumplings on top of the casserole or stew, allowing enough room for them to expand. Cover with a lid and cook in an oven at around 150°C / 130°C fan / gas mark 2 – or simmer on the top of the stove – for 20 minutes or until the dumplings are tender.

Add flavour to dumplings

Dumplings can be served plain, as in this base recipe, or flavoured to suit your dish. Herbs are a common addition – either fresh or dried herbs are suitable. You could try other flavours, such as a little English mustard, horseradish or lemon zest. Or even add a teaspoon or two of grated root vegetables such as carrots or parsnips.

Try this recipe for braised beef with horseradish dumplings.

Vegetarian or vegan dumplings

Vegetable suet is easily available in most supermarkets, the Atora brand has one in a green box. Alternatively you can use grated butter (vegetarian) or vegetable shortening (vegan).

Cooking tips

  • Keeping ingredients as cold as possible and gentle handling will help ensure your dumplings are light and fluffy when cooked.
  • For best result, cook your dumplings immediately after mixing and shaping the dough.
  • Always simmer your dumplings. Boiling may cause them to break apart.
  • To keep dumplings light, avoid opening the lid during cooking.
  • If you can’t fit all the dumplings on top of your casserole, the remaining dumplings can be cooked in simmering water or stock.
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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.