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South African dumplings

By October 28, 2022Newsletter

South African dumplings

October 28, 2022


There’s something truly South African about dipping a steamed dough ball of bread into a spicy curry sauce or hearty gravy. In fact, there’s nothing quite like the tantalising flavours of hot fresh South African dumplings and meat, especially when eaten directly from the stew pot with your fingers. Although thinking about it,  that’s likely to earn you a klout from the cook’s rolling pin, so watch out!

What are South African dumplings?

According to various cultures around the world, dumplings are much loved and can be made from pastry, dough, pasta, or rice, but in South Africa, they are made from dough or mielie meal. These tasty balls of flavour, also known as dombolo (Xhosa word for dumplings), are plonked raw on top of the stew or curry while it is still cooking. They are then left to steam for approximately fifteen to twenty minutes until light and fluffy. Once cooked, these steamed dough balls are dipped into the sauce or gravy and eaten with the stew.

Where do South African dumplings come from?

South African dumplings have been around since the dawn of time, well, almost! According to those in the know, dumplings are thought to have reached our shores in the early 17th century. In those days, when one-pot cooking was all the rage (cooking on a campfire), adding some dough balls to the evening stew would have been a simple way of soaking up all that tasty gravy and filling up hungry tummies after a hard day of travelling.

Today, not much has changed, and the dumpling is still a favourite for many Saffas, providing a great taste sensation and reducing the time spent washing up!

Dumplings around the world

Although our dumpling heritage is certainly historic in terms of time, it in no way competes with the Chinese culture where legend has it; their dumpling heritage goes as far back as 225AD. However, it’s not just the Chinese culture that indulges in delectable dumplings; other countries such as India, Spain, Poland, and Germany also have a great love for dumplings.

Of course, each is made slightly differently, containing a variety of fillings from meat and vegetables to fruit and more. But, whether you call them amadombolo, souskluitjies, albondigas (Spanish), pyzy (polish), ladu (Malay), or knödel (German), everyone agrees, they are certainly the highlight of any self-respecting stew!

How to make South African dumplings

When searching for the ultimate dombolo recipe South Africa definitely has a range of tasty variations. Our dombolo recipe uses basic ingredients, most of which can be found in your cupboard right now. Simply follow the easy steps below, and you will soon enjoy dumplings with almost every dinner! Yum!

What you need


  •  Large mixing bowl
  • Wooden spatula


 2 tbsp unsalted butter (you can also use margarine)

  • 200 ml milk (room temperature)
  • 1 ½ cups plain flour/cake flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp thyme ( or preferred herbs and spices)

What to do

 Add the flour, salt, and butter to a large mixing bowl.

  • Then using your fingertips, gently rub the butter into the flour until it resembles a breadcrumb consistency,
  • Next, add the baking powder. When making dombolo or baking powder dumplings fluffy is the name of the dumpling game! In fact, baking powder is the number-one secret ingredient to a light and airy dumpling.
  • The next ingredient to add is thyme; however, if you like plainer dumplings, you can leave these herbs out or add any you prefer. For example, why not try adding a little garlic powder or chilli flakes for extra zest?
  • Slowly add the milk to the floury mixture, using the wooden spatula to mix it in. Keep stirring as you add the milk to create a nice batter. The batter should not be too runny and should have a sticky consistency when scooped.
  • The next bit is slightly tricky as you need to scoop the batter with one tablespoon and use a second spoon to scrape it off into the stew. This scooping process should form ball-like dollops of dumpling batter when dropped into the stew’s hot gravy. However, don’t worry if your dumplings seem uneven or misshapen; they will still taste just as good!
  • Replace the lid on the stew pot and allow it to simmer on low heat for approximately twenty minutes. During this time, resist the urge to lift the lid, as this will prevent the dumplings from fluffing up into tasty dombolo!
  • Once the twenty minutes have passed, you can remove the pot from the heat and lift the lid.
  • To test if your dumplings are thoroughly cooked, tear one open and look at the center; it should be light and fluffy in the middle.
  • Serve the dumplings while still warm alongside your delicious stew or curry.

The final dumpling

 If you are looking for an amadomolo-more-ish feast, the above dumplings are by far the best. However, remember to keep that lid on while they are cooking, and watch out for sneaky family members on the hunt for a quick snack before dinner!

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