Are Dumplings Vegan or Vegetarian?

The term “dumpling” refers to a broad classification of quick bread. The flour/water mixture can be in the form of a drop batter, as in chicken and dumplings, or wrapped around any number of fillings, such as in wonton soup.

Are they vegan or vegetarian? Dumplings can be both vegan and vegetarian, especially if we’re talking about the dough portion alone. When egg is present, they’re suitable for ovo-vegetarians but not vegans.

Though the dough can be vegan and vegetarian, it’s usually served in dishes that contain ingredients such as pork and chicken.

Chinese dumplings can be vegan, depending on the composition of e thdough and whether any fillings are used.

What we’ll do here is get into the various forms that dumplings can take along with the pitfalls associated with each (in terms of vegetarian and vegan-friendliness).

Vegan and Vegetarian Forms of Dumplings

This version would be made from drop batters without egg and served as part of an entrée without animal products.

Quick breads can be made from:

  • Pour batters—crepes, pancakes, waffles, and popovers
  • Drop batters—quick tea breads, muffins, coffee cakes, and dumplings
  • Doughs—unleavened or steam-leavened breads like chapatis, tortillas, crisp flatbreads, and matzo; and the chemically-leavened breads like scones, biscuits, and some crackers

Thinner pour batters are used to make waffles, pancakes, crepes, and popovers while thicker drop batters are used to make muffins, cornbread, Boston brown bread, quick tea breads, hushpuppies, certain coffee cakes, and dumplings.1,2

The main difference between the above batters and doughs is the amount of water used. Drop batters contain less water than pour batters—only about ½ to ¾ cup of water per 1 cup of flour—and dough contains the least amount of water.

Dumplings are mostly made of flour and water formed into small balls about an inch in diameter. They can be made of only water and flour, but often call for egg as a binder.3,4

Dumplings Suitable for Vegetarians Only (Non-Vegans)

Not all of these are suitable for all vegetarians. And some can only be consumed by semi-vegetarians or pollotarians.

Egg-Containing Dumplings

If you’re an ovo-vegetarian, a form of vegetarianism that allows for eggs, then you needn’t worry about the presence of egg in your batter.

Quick bread products, like dumplings, are made too fast for gluten to have a chance to form—at least compared to yeast-leavened breads. For this reason, a lot of recipes call for various binders like egg.4

The term gluten refers to a group of proteins present in wheat flour that’s responsible for forming a network that gives structural integrity to the end product. The proteins expand and then solidify in place when heated.

Egg accomplishes the same thing—the egg proteins mix in with the other ingredients and then solidify when cooked.

So, a lot of dumpling recipes will call for egg. And most non-vegan vegetarians allow for egg as a source of animal protein.

American-Style Chicken n’ Dumplings (Semi-Vegetarians, Pollotarians)

While the term dumpling refers to the dough portion of this dish, the word is often synonymous with the entrée. So, for practical purposes, we’ll consider the dish a form of dumplings.

In this version, small pieces of dough are cooked in boiling chicken broth with a variety of ingredients including vegetables, chicken chunks, and spices that are then served as a thick stew or soup.

This version represents a popular comfort food in the Southern and Midwestern US.5-7

This form is unsuitable for actual vegetarians but can be consumed regularly by certain semi-vegetarians or flexitarians known as pollotarians.

The terms flexitarian and semi-vegetarian are interchangeable for the most part.8,9

Within this category of vegetarianism are the pollotarians—a group of dieters who follow an eating pattern that allows for the inclusion of eggs, chicken and other poultry.

Dumplings with Vegetarian Fillings (Lacto-Vegetarians and Pescatarians)

The use of fillings is where a lot of dumplings get disqualified as vegan and vegetarian. They usually include some sort of meat in the mix.

One vegetarian-friendly filling is cheese. Milk products like cheese are popular in Italian and Maltese dumplings and certain regional British and Irish dumplings.3 Lacto-vegetarians can consume all dairy products.

Several East Asian dumplings contain fish as a filling. Fish is suitable if you’re a pescatarian—the subgroup of vegetarians who allow fish in the diet as the sole source of meat protein.

Non-Vegan Forms of Dumplings (Pork, Etc.)

Pork dumplings are perhaps the most common form of dumplings.

We’ll consider this version non-vegetarian, because it’s only suitable for the most flexible of flexitarians, aka the weekend warrior or meatless Monday variety of vegetarian.

I.e. there is no form of semi-vegetarianism that allows for red meat as a sole source of animal protein.

While pollotarians consume chicken, they draw the line at pork, beef and even seafood. They differentiate birds from other “higher” animals, for reasons of health, ethics, and the environment.10,11

So, the above is just a brief summary of the vegetarian and vegan status of dumplings. It does not by any means cover all of the forms dumplings can take.

What I’ll probably do is have separate articles for dumpling-like food products like samosas, wonton soup, etc.

Anyway, that’s it for now. Thanks for reading.

You may also want to check out the following related articles:


  1. Understanding Food: Principles and Preparation (Page 408). Amy Brown – Wadsworth Cengage Learning – 2011
  2. Understanding Food: Principles and Preparation (Page 409). Amy Brown – Wadsworth Cengage Learning – 2011
  3. Dumplings.
  4. Understanding Food: Principles and Preparation (Page 412). Amy Brown – Wadsworth Cengage Learning – 2011
  5. Craving Comfort Food?
  6. Gannon, B.; Smith, L.; Namkoong, J. (2011). Family-Style Meals at the Hali’imaile General Store. Potter/TenSpeed/Harmony. p. 142. ISBN 978-1-60774-142-8.
  7. Skaggs, S. (2016). Real Food Slow Cooker Suppers: Easy, Family-Friendly Recipes from Scratch. Page Street Publishing. p. 116. ISBN 978-1-62414-280-2.
  8. Wanna Go Vegetarian? What Type Do You Think You Would Be. Jolinda Hackett –
  9. What Is a Flexitarian?
  10. Preedy, Victor R.; Burrow, Gerard N.; Watson, Ronald (9 February 2009). Comprehensive Handbook of Iodine: Nutritional, Biochemical, Pathological and Therapeutic Aspects. Academic Press. p. 523. ISBN 978-0-12-374135-6
  11. Hayes, Dayle; Laudan, Rachel (September 2008). Food and Nutrition; Editorial Advisers, Dayle Hayes, Rachel Laudan. Marshall Cavendish. p. 1058. ISBN 978-0-7614-7827-0.