Good luck dumplings for the Lunar New Year

Good luck dumplings for the Lunar New Year

January 25 marks the first day of the 2020 Lunar New Year, also known as the Chinese New Year. It’s the year of the rat, the first sign in the Chinese zodiac (of twelve).

If you were born in 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020, this could be your year of good luck! People born under this sign are thought to be clever, quick thinkers; successful, but content with living a quiet and peaceful life..

Like new year observances in many cultures, this is a day of renewal and celebration — and rest. Tradition dictates that no cleaning, cutting, or chopping be done on this day, so it’s a day off for home cooks. 

The days leading up to the New Year, however, are busy with house cleaning (sweeping away the bad luck!) and preparing the foods that are associated with good luck and fortune in Chinese culture.

These include dumplings (jiao zi), whose shapes resemble the gold ingots used as currency during the Ming Dynasty; sweet sticky rice cakes (nian gao), which symbolize the persistence needed for prosperity; and long noodles, for longevity. Whole fish and chicken (beak and feet included) are served to ensure the completeness of the family’s good fortune.

Many other traditional foods are served because their names are homophones for words such as luck and wealth in Cantonese and other Chinese dialects. Fish (yu), for example, sounds like the phrase meaning “having enough to spare”; garlic chives (jiu cai) sounds like a word meaning “everlasting”; and a word for oysters (hao), recalls the word for “an auspicious event.”

Besides eating, the Chinese New Year is a time for family reunions and celebrations. Hong bao, or red envelopes, filled with money are given to children, firecrackers are set off to chase away bad luck, and new clothes, preferably in lucky red, are bought to start the year off right.

The Chinese New Year celebrations go on for an entire month, so it’s not too late to prepare for a year of good luck, happiness, and prosperity. I’m sharing a healthy version of the Chinese dumpling or potsticker, which I have presented before in some of my classes. I am all about kale, and so I came up with a kale filling for those of you who are looking for more ways to incorporate this superfood into your diets. Boil them to eat as dumplings, or pan-fry to make potstickers; both techniques are included in this recipe.

If you want to add some excitement for kids, include a goji berry, pomegranate seed, or something else that’s small, brightly colored, and edible in a handful of dumplings as you wrap them. Whoever bites into a dumpling with one in it gets a red envelope with a small amount of money or another fun prize.

Gong xi fa cai (Happy New Year)!

Servings: 48

Prep time: 45 to 60 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes


  • 4 leaves of kale, minced (in a food processor if possible)
  • 2 scallions, minced
  • 2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 package prepared round dumpling wrappers
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil (for pan-frying potstickers)
  • 1/2 cup of water, divided (for potstickers)

For dipping sauce

  • 3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar
  • 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced scallions and 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger (optional)


  1. Mix all ingredients except wrappers in a bowl until well combined.
  2. To make each dumping, place a wrapper on a clean surface or your palm, and heap a teaspoon or two of filling into the center, depending on the size of the wrapper. Be careful not to overfill or it will be hard to get a good seal.
  3. Moisten the inside edges of the filled wrappers using your finger or a chopstick dipped into a little water and fold over, forming crescents. 
  4. Press the edges together, making pleats to seal. Make sure they are well sealed, or the filling will fall out when you cook them.

For potstickers:

  1. Heat a tablespoon of canola oil into the bottom of a frying pan and place dumplings (standing up) into the pan, leaving a little room around each dumpling.
  2. Add 1/4 cup of cold water, then turn heat to low and cover pan.
  3. Cook on low heat for about 3 minutes, until water is almost evaporated, then add another 1/4 cup of cold water and repeat the process. 
  4. Dumplings are done when the water has evaporated and the bottoms have a nice golden, sticky crust (potstickers!)

For boiled dumplings:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil and carefully drop in dumplings. There should be a lot of room for them to move around. When water resumes boiling, add 1 cup of water to cool.
  2. When the water resumes boiling again, add another cup of cold water to cool. Repeat this process one more time. 
  3. When the water boils for the third time, the dumplings will be done. They should be floating. 
  4. Drain and serve immediately with your favorite dipping sauce.

For dipping sauce:

  1. Combine soy sauce plus any combination of sesame oil, chili sauce or oil, vinegar, minced scallions, minced cilantro and minced ginger, to taste.

Nutrition information (per serving)

  • Calories: 143
  • Total fat: 5 g
  • Sodium: 207 mg
  • Total sugars: 0 g

Per teaspoon of dipping sauce:

  • Calories: 6
  • Fat: < 1 g
  • Sodium: 125 mg
  • Carbohydrate: 0 g
  • Sugar: 0 g
  • Protein: 0g