Noodles & Dumplings: Which is Which?

Ruth and I had a discussion during the New Year’s holiday about the differences between noodles and dumplings. She says noodles don’t have any leavening agents and are always boiled, while dumplings are usually balls of dough that can be cooked any number of ways.

Okay, that made some sense. I see prepared Italian noodles in the refrigerated section of the grocery store and understand they are “fresh” not dried noodles. I also get that noodles are dried and come in a variety of shapes (and names).

I’m told that noodles can be made with eggs and flour. The chief dry flour ingredient can be wheat (such as ramen or pasta), rice (rice vermicelli), mung beans (cellophane noodles), potato (gnocchi or halusky), buckwheat (soba), or other ground flours, too.

But what I don’t get is the term dumplings. They seem to be the same thing as noodles, only lumpy, and sometimes with stuffings. I think of dumplings as small lumps of dough that are boiled in a broth, like some dim sum dishes I like to eat.

Here’s what Wikipedia says about dumplings:

“Dumplings are cooked balls of dough. They are based on flour, potatoes, bread or matzoh meal, and may include meat, fish, or sweets. They may be cooked by boiling, steaming, simmering, frying, or baking. Ingredients may be as a part of a filling, or mixed throughout the dumpling. Dumplings may be sweet, spicy or savory. They may be eaten alone, in soup, with gravy, or in many other presentations.”

Here is a partial list of some dumpling dishes Ruth named from other parts of the world, whether they have fillings, and how they are typically cooked:

Armenian “manti” – filled, boiled
British/Irish “dumplings”- not filled, boiled
Caribbean “dumplin”- not filled, fried, boiled
Central Europe “galuska” or “spaetzle” – not filled, boiled
Chinese “wonton” – filled, boiled
Eastern European “pierogi” or “pelmeni” – filled, boiled, fried
Indian “kadabu” – filled, steamed
Italian “tortellini” or “ravioli” – filled, boiled
Japanese “gyoza” – filled, boiled, steamed
Jewish “matzo ball” – not filled, boiled
Korean “mandu”- filled, steamed, fried, boiled
Mongolian “buuz” – filled, steamed
Scandinavian “pitepalt” – filled, boiled
Venezuelan “papas rellenos”- filled, fried

All I know is that my grandmother made “pastry” with self-rising flour, lard, salt and pepper, and water. The resulting dough was rolled, cut into 2″ x 2” pieces, dried, and then cooked with chicken to make “Chicken and Pastry.” It was a labor of love, and still conjures up pleasant memories, although I haven’t made her Chicken and Pastry recipe (that I have in my family cookbook) for many years.

Perhaps making Chicken & Pastry/Dumplings/Noodles again will be my New Year’s resolution.

Happy Cookbooking,


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  1. I disagree with most people on this but where I grew up in the south if it was made out of flour it was called pastry and if it was made out of corn meal it was called dumplings but I guess things change it used to be called breakfast dinner and supper now most people say breakfast lunch and dinner

  2. As long as it tastes good, I figure you can call it what you want!

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