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Suet and suet-free dumplings

Let’s have some good old British stodge. These dumplings are cheap, quick and easy to make, and add a nice touch to any casserole.


  • 150g/6 oz self raising flour
  • 75g/3 oz shredded suet
  • salt and pepper
  • cold water to mix


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Easy peasy! Bung the flour and suet into a mixing bowl, add a pinch of salt and a grind of pepper to season, add enough cold water to mix into a dough. Too much water will make it sticky and yukky to work with. If you do this by accident, add a little more flour to fix it. Using your hands, form the mixture into golf-ball sized balls. You can make them bigger but they’re more difficult to cook through. Make them small and eat more of them without feeling guilty. Place the balls on top of your casserole or soup, cover the pot and leave for about 10 minutes. Result: lovely stodgy dough buoys! Perfect for sticking to your ribs on a cold day.

Cook’s tips

This is suitable for vegetarians as you can use veggie suet instead of beef suet, without any loss of flavour. I always use the veggie version on the basis of preference. Why use meat when the veggie equivalent is just as good? If you find it difficult to get veggie suet, I believe these can be made with baking margarine. I haven’t tried it but if anyone asks me to, I’ll have a go at adapting the above recipe for you.



Chopped fresh herbs, or even dried herbs, make these dumplings even tastier.

If you are afraid of your dumplings breaking up and perhaps spoiling your casserole, just cook them in stock in a separate pan.


In response to a request from a reader, I had a go at making these without suet. By the way, even if you can’t buy shredded suet in packets like we do in the UK, it may be possible to get some beef suet from your local butcher. Suet is made by grating the hard white fat which surrounds the kidneys – you can always try asking for the fat and grating it yourself.

Here’s how I made suet-free dumplings. Use the same ingredients above but substitute cold hard butter for the suet (I expect you could use margarine but it wouldn’t taste so nice). As with pastry making, the butter must be very cold. Try to make sure your hands are cold too. Cut the butter into small pieces and rub in to the flour using your fingertips. Otherwise use the method above.

The problem I encountered was that these dumplings are prone to breaking up. I overcame this by making sure the dough was a little drier than that with suet. I also let the balls stand for a little while to let them dry out further. Make them small because larger ones will break up more easily. When you pop them into the soup or casserole, put the lid on and leave them for at least 10 minutes. If you start prodding them, they’ll just break up. Urghh. I didn’t find this easy but I got there in the end. As you’d expect, they tasted buttery. All in all, this was a good substitute if you can’t get suet but, given the choice, I’d use suet every time. Good luck!

More feedback:

Alastair in Switzerland wrote in with a useful tip:

“I noticed that you suggest using butter for dumplings. I have successfully used coconut fat (sold in solid form here in Switzerland in Migros) which produces perfect dumplings with no colour/texture/taste difference from suet. I kept it in the fridge and scraped it from the tub with a spoon to get very small fragments for the recipe.

“The next trial is to see if it works for suet puddings …”

9 Responses to “Dumplings”

  1. John Warren

    To get the best tasting ‘Doughbuoys’ for your Welsh Cawl (broth) add a sprinkle of dried thyme to the mix mmmmmm……. I am making them now!

  2. Not Delia

    Hi John

    Thanks for your comment.

    I’ve never heard of Welsh Cawl – must investigate! I agree about adding herbs to a dough buoy mix. Parsley and thyme are always good, and sage goes very well with any pork dish.

  3. Jen Brockley

    Hi there, could you not use lard instead of the suet is this not a similar thing and has a similar consistency to suet over the margarine, I don’t think I can get it in Oz (I am from the UK) and am looking at how to make dumplings as we use the slow cooker a lot over here with us both working but not sure how best to do them, I can certainly ask the butcher tho for a start.

  4. Not Delia

    Hi Jen

    I’ve never tried making dumplings with lard – and it doesn’t seem to be available where I live, so I can’t try the experiment for you. If it works with hard (chilled) butter or marg I don’t see why it wouldn’t work with lard, but you wouldn’t get the nice buttery taste.

    Using a slow cooker for your stews or casseroles is a great idea, but I’d advise against slow cooking dumplings. Just pop them in 10 minutes or so before you’re ready to eat the meal.

  5. Ruth

    Just looked at my slow cooker book and If you want to cook your dumplings in a slow cooker then add them 30-45 minutes before the end and they should be ok, although this recipe did say use suet so no guarentee how the butter substitute will come out?

  6. Annie

    Thanks Ruth for the suet dumpling timings. The booklet that came with my new slow cooker doesn’t do dumplings and I’ve been trawling the net looking for this answer. I’ll try it soon and post up the results!

  7. dorraine

    Alaister thanks been looking for an alternative here in CH … just one question isn’t coconut fat one of the really really big calorie and health evils … so much information now getting confused..

  8. calcait

    Just tried recipe with cold butter and in slow cooker half an hour before serving. They were good but next time will add thyme or parsley to mix

  9. Dumpling Derde

    Ooh. Dumplings. I shall make these today.

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