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When it comes to dipping your dumplings, it can be tempting to reach for a bottle of soy sauce, vinegar, chili oil, or store-bought teriyaki rather than whip something up from scratch. And if you're eating great quality fresh or homemade dumplings, those sauces will do just fine.
But what if you're digging into a plate of frozen dumplings, where the filling may be satisfying but isn't exactly top-notch? Enter the homemade dipping sauce: a world of complex, customizable flavor boosters at your fingertips. Of course, the point of making frozen dumplings is to save on time and effort, so lots of prep and long cooking times just don't make sense. That's why I've put together five easy sauces that each take about five minutes to make. And they're all designed to pair with potstickers, dumplings, and wontons, regardless of filling. Let's get to it.
Kimchi and Honey Dipping Sauce
If you've never heard of kimchi paste, you're not alone. I only encountered it recently, jarred by a company called Mama O's. But the DIY-inclined could easily replicate the puréed mixture of kimchi seasoning at home—it's a simple combination of red pepper flakes, garlic, ginger, sugar, lime juice, water, salt, and fish sauce. It's punchy and sharp, tangy, and incredibly invigorating.
Unfortunately, it's also a paste—too dry for dipping and so concentrated that it would overshadow the dumpling itself. To make it dip-worthy and a little softer on the palate, I combine it with honey, sesame seeds, and melted butter in a saucepan and quickly heat the mixture up, stirring until it's fully combined. After about 10 seconds, you're left with a thick but smooth sauce that's intensely sweet, spicy, buttery, and just a little nutty all at once.
Leftovers will harden in the fridge while remaining emulsified: A quick zap in the microwave or a few minutes over low heat on the stove will return it to its former glory.
Thai-Style Dipping Sauce
Fish sauce—the umami-bomb of salted and fermented anchovy—can be overpowering on its own, but something very special happens with you combine it with lime juice and a little sugar. It's one of my go-to mixtures whenever I'm craving something sweet-and-sour; the sauce is tart and bright but well-rounded. Here, I throw in raw garlic for some bite, cilantro for a little freshness, and chili flakes for a low rumble of heat. The flavors blend seamlessly into a sauce that's versatile enough to dress a salad, marinate a steak, and, yes, coat your dumplings.
Black Bean-Peanut Butter Dipping Sauce With Maple Syrup
Chinese fermented black soy beans are eye-bulgingly salty and all kinds of funky. And the jarred sauce, which is usually spiked with some additional seasonings, isn't exactly the kind of thing you'd want to eat with a spoon. But some unlikely additions anchor that powerful saltiness and let the black beans' more subtle flavors shine. Maple syrup coaxes out a distinctive layer of sweetness, while creamy peanut butter softens the blow of that sharp, fermented tang. Chili oil ties it all together with some warm heat, and a splash of water thins it out just enough. The result is thick and rich, but still very much dipping-friendly.
Coconut Curry Dipping Sauce
The warm Southeast Asian spices of red curry paste are quickly cooked in coconut milk, then mixed with honey, soy sauce, and fish sauce for contrast. The mildly sweet combination is brought to life with a dose of fresh ginger and lime juice, which make the combination pop.
Ponzu-Ginger Dipping Sauce
Frankly, ponzu—the Japanese sauce made from citrus, seaweed, bonito flakes, mirin, and vinegar—is pretty great all on its own. But that doesn't mean you can't enhance it with other flavors. For this recipe, I stirred in even more mirin for extra sweetness and body, then added grated ginger for heat, and finished it with sliced scallions for a punch of fresh onion intensity. A dash of sesame oil smooths the whole thing out. The result is a little like a thinned out teriyaki sauce, but it's substantially more complex than anything you can find on store shelves. It would go especially well with more mild dumplings stuffed with vegetables or chicken.