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Where Do Pot Stickers Sit on the Takeout-Junk-Food Continuum?

Are we talking fried jalapeño poppers bad or hummus and veggies good?

Pot stickers certainly arrived in the U.S. along with the very first immigrants who traveled over from China, but the fried-and-steamed dumplings began to amass attention under their contemporary name in the late 1960s, when the initial mentions of pot stickers were printed in U.S. newspapers, essentially categorizing them as a Chinese delicacy.

Nowadays, with the contents of every conceivable food item plastered all over the internet for public consumption, ordinary people have all the instructions they require to recreate their favorite Chinese takeout items themselves.

What, though, is the caloric cost of pounding down pot stickers? 

There’s only one way to find out. Let’s get one on the examination table, dissect it and see what we can determine from inspecting its tasty innards. 

What’s even inside of a pot sticker?

The primary protein inside of a pot sticker is normally going to be ground pork. All things being equal, your ground pork will deliver protein and dietary fat to your system in ratios similar to that of ground beef at an equivalent level of leanness. Depending on how lean your pork is, one pound of ground pork could contain anywhere from 900 to 1,900 calories.

Aside from the pork, the other prominent food source found inside of your pot sticker will be cabbage. Ideally, you’d have access to napa cabbage in order to help your pot stickers retain a degree of Chinese authenticity, but green cabbage can be substituted if there are no native Chinese cabbages within arm’s reach. Most pot-sticker recipes call for one cup of shredded cabbage, which is typically between 15 to 20 calories.

Beyond the pork and the cabbage, you may opt to further flavor your pot-sticker mixture with green onions or an egg. The egg will obviously raise both the overall fat and protein content of your pot sticker, but its 70 calories, 5 grams of fat and 6 grams of protein will be equally distributed amongst every pot sticker in the batch (i.e., it doesn’t add another 70 calories per pot sticker). Similarly, an entire cup of chopped green onions will only add 30 calories to the proceedings (on the negative side of the ledger, that’s not enough green onion to pack the substantial amounts of vitamin C and vitamin K it otherwise might). 

Several of the pot-sticker recipes I’ve seen include minced garlic and chopped ginger as well. Again, calorically speaking, both are negligible. You could chop and add four entire garlic cloves to the mixture, and you still wouldn’t pump even 20 additional calories into it. Similarly, five whole slices of ginger would only elevate your overall caloric count by nine.

Now, onto the main liquids — soy sauce and sesame oil. This is where things begin to get dicey, because it’s very easy to get heavy-handed with the soy sauce and doing so can skyrocket your sodium intake, since a mere tablespoon of the stuff will provide you with 40 percent of your recommended daily consumption. Even so, drinking an entire 18.5-ounce bottle of Kikkoman soy sauce would only add 300 calories to your meal (don’t you dare!). Provided you’ve carefully measured and added one tablespoon to the mixture, you’ve only raised your total calories by 10. Obviously, sesame oil is straight fat, and just one tablespoon will add 120 calories into the mix, but that’s all most recipes call for. 

At the moment then, if we went with a middling pork variety that added 1,400 calories from the get-go, we’re still only looking at around 1,600 calories worth of ingredients in total. If you sauteed that and ate it over the course of a day all by yourself, it would be a rather keto-friendly way to spend an afternoon and evening — not that I’d ever recommend it.

But aren’t you forgetting something?

Nothing comes to mind

The dough, stupid! What about the dough?!

It was a joke! Gee whiz…

Okay, so the dough consists of two cups of all-purpose flour, some salt and some hot water. This amount of flour should help you form approximately 30 pot stickers. Once you fry and steam these pot stickers in oil, each one will clock in at between 80 and 90 calories. 

Wait… Thirty times 90 is 2,700. So we went from 1,600 calories to 2,700 calories just like that?

Just like that. That’s what the fried and steamed dough will do for you. But seriously, they’re pot stickers. You’re not supposed to eat them all by yourself… Okay, who am I kidding? Of course, you’re gonna try to eat them all by yourself.