Happy Lunar New Year to my family and friends in China, NYC, and Australia! I love and miss you all ♡. This dessert is dedicated to you. May it bring you luck, prosperity, good health, and a whole lot of love.
Start the Year off right and surprise your loved ones with these delicious cherry-filled mini fried “wontons”. They’re light, crispy, flaky, and bursting with pure cherry flavor. Serve these perfectly sweetened “lucky wontons” family-style at the end of a delicious meal, or with an afternoon tea. The best part, there’s no oven needed. Just grab a mixing bowl nd a fork, and get your woks or skillet ready. As always I’ve included step-by-step photos for you down below. .
Honoring Two Cultures + Traditions
Obviously, this is not a Chinese recipe, but rather, it’s a way for me to celebrate my Chinese family and friends this New Year with a recipe that has roots resting in both cultures. These dessert “wontons” are a sweet treat that I know they’ll all love and I hope you will too.
Living in Chengdu (in the Sichuan Province) for four years afforded me the opportunity to eat some of the best food of my life. And I was also able to celebrate the Lunar New Year and learn about some of the beautiful and tasty traditions that go along with the traditional festivities. My brother and his family still live in China and he happens to be a really good cook. He bakes and cooks with his daughters (my two amazing nieces) and his wife. So I created this fun tasty recipe to honor both of our families and cultural backgrounds that they (and any other family) can enjoy making over this most important holiday.
Symbolism In China
Symbolism is very important in Chinese culture and it can be found everywhere you look especially during Lunar New Year. For this dessert, I wanted to pair some of this ancient symbolism with a special recipe that represents my own family’s culture — to me, there is no better representation of East-Meets-West than this wonton-shaped fried cherry pie.
- Chinese Red Packets. Red packets are red envelopes filled with money and given as gives to family and loved ones throughout the New Year holiday. Red packets are everywhere! They represent fortune and prosperity in the coming year, so it seemed wise to make a filled dessert.
- Wontons. Most of you are familiar with the shape of a traditional (savory) wonton. It sort of looks like larger Italian tortellini and they’re eaten and enjoyed year-round in China. Wontons have a much thinner wrapper than a traditional dumpling and a perfect meat-to-wrapper ratio in my opinion. The classic shape of wontons is similar to that of the ancient “sycee” or silver ingots (metal money made from pure silver that looks like tiny boats or sailor hats and was used as early as the Qin Dynasty, 3rd BC). Wontons represent wishes of wealth, treasure, prosperity, and “a good start” which makes them an important mainstay for any New Year celebration. And Sichuan wontons happen to be one of my favorite things to eat (ever).
- Cherries. We had a cherry tree in our backyard growing up. My brother and I used to climb that tree and sit it in it and pick and eat the cherries until all of the ripe ones were gone. We’d repeat this every day until the cherry season was over, or until my Mom needed some to make a dessert. It’s a great memory of mine. Cherries are also now a very common gift to give (or receive) during the Chinese new year because of their symbolism and outright deliciousness.
- Southern Fried Pies. We have a vast history of fried pies in the south where we grew up. This dessert is so delicious when made well and the dough is easy to mold into the classic wonton shape so that’s what I’ve used for this recipe.
Where Do fried Pies Originate From?
Fried pies filled with fruit or creme mixtures are a traditional American dessert found everywhere throughout the American south. In fact, my home state of Arkansas (go Razorbacks!) is synonymous with this dessert. They’ve been a part of the culinary heritage here for a very long time (check out what Saveur had to say about it).
Everyone’s granny, Mama, or aunt swears they have “the best recipe” (which of course is only sometimes true). When made well, fried pies can be one of the best desserts you’ll ever eat. And I’m happy to say this fried pie recipe is delicious. If you’ve never had the pleasure of eating a real Southern fried pie (made from scratch), there’s no better time to try them than while you’re at home celebrating the Lunar New Year (or any New Year) with your family.
Homemade Fried Cherry Pie “Wonton” Ingredients
This dessert is 100% made from scratch (and it’ll grab your pink little heart and never let go). Made with just a few basic pantry ingredients that you can easily find in China (check Olé Supermarket, Metro Cash & Carry, or Taobao) or anywhere in the world. Plus, if you can’t find buttermilk, don’t worry because I’ve provided a really easy “faux buttermilk” you can make using regular milk and lemon juice.
for the dough
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (225g)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons pure cane sugar, or granulated sugar (23g)
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (2g)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 cup lard, pinched off into small pieces (95g)
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature (88-121g) *see notes for buttermilk substitution
- 2-3 cups neutral vegetable oil for frying (450g-675g)
- powdered sugar for dusting fried “wontons”
- a pinch of cinnamon (optional, but recommended)
for the pie filling
*If you don’t have buttermilk, add 1 tablespoon (14g) of freshly squeezed lemon juice to a liquid measuring cup, then pour in whole milk until it reaches the 1/2 cup mark on the measuring cup. Stir the mixture and allow it to rest at room temperature to thicken for 5 to 10 minutes before adding to the flour mixture.
Sour Cherries Around the World
In Italy, we have access to the geographically protected (IGP) tart Italian Marostica cherries and in China, we had the special Wenchuan area highland cherry which has been given its own “preserved agricultural geography” status by the government (similar to the honor given to the Italian Marostica cherries by the Italian government). Growing up in Arkansas, we had a single sour cherry tree in our backyard. If you decide to make this recipe, you may also use frozen sour cherries instead for the pie filling instead of fresh ones.
Do You Need an Easier Way to Shape These Fried Cherry Pie “Wontons”?
If you’re in a hurry, cut circles instead of squares out of the rolled-out dough. Then shape the dough into crescent moons instead of the traditional wonton shape as shown in the photos below. Be sure to use a fork to make the final seal on the moons. This dessert is super delicious no matter what shape you choose to use♡.
How to Make the Best Lucky Lunar New Year Fried Cherry Pie “Wontons”
This fried pie dough comes together quickly using just a mixing bowl and a fork. And it only takes 10 minutes to make delicious homemade cherry pie filling. If you happen to have a dough cutter or food processor, feel free to use them instead of the fork. But it’s not necessary because the fat (lard in this case) is used at room temperature in this recipe. And if you’re looking for a slightly easier way to shape this dessert, make the traditional crescent moon or hand pie shape.
- Mix the dry ingredients. Add the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder to a medium bowl and whisk to combine.
- Add the lard. Pinch the lard off into 1/2″ (1cm) pieces and add them to the dry ingredients. Use a fork (or dough cutter) to cut the lard into the flour mixture until you have pea-sized crumbles.
- Add the buttermilk. Next, slowly add the buttermilk to the mixture approximately 1/4 cup (40g) at a time, stirring the mixture with a fork to incorporate the buttermilk into the flour until the mixture leaves the sides of the bowl. Form the dough into a disc and turn it out onto a floured surface and sprinkle it with a little more flour. Fold the dough over itself 3 to 4 times. Wrap with plastic wrap and rest the dough in the fridge for at least 4 hours and up to 2 days.
- Roll out the dough. After the dough has rested, remove it from the fridge and place it onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into an 8×7 inch (20x17cm) rectangle approximately 1/4″ thick.
- Cut the dough and fill. Using a knife, pizza cutter, or 3 to 4-inch (7.5-10cm) square biscuit cutter, cut the dough into equal size pieces. Fill each square with about 1 tablespoon (15g) of cherry filling. Brush one halve of the square (an “L”-shape) with the egg wash, and fold one half of the dough over the filling to create a triangle shape. Press down with your fingers to seal the edges and place the filled triangles onto a parchment-lined tray and refrigerate for 10 to 15 minutes to chill the dough. Colder dough makes it easier to shape the triangles into the final traditional “wonton” shape. *If the filled triangles are too warm, or too cold they’ll be more difficult to shape without them tearing or breaking apart.
- Shape the wontons. Once the filled triangles are cooled (but not so cold that the dough is hard to shape without cracking) create the traditional wonton fold securing the bottom “tails” together and place them onto a parchment-lined tray. Repeat remaining triangles. Place the “wontons” into the refrigerator while you preheat the oil.
- Fry the “wontons”. Preheat the oil to 350°F/176°C and add the “wontons” one at a time to the hot oil. Fry 3 to 5 “wontons” at a time, turning the pies over every 30 seconds or so, to ensure even cooking. Cook the “wontons” for approximately 3 to 4 minutes, or until golden brown.
- Sprinkle “wontons” with powdered sugar. Remove “wontons” from the oil to a cooling rack or paper towel-lined platter and lightly dust with powdered sugar. After the pies have cooled for about 10 minutes sprinkle them once more with powdered sugar and serve hot or at room temperature. Enjoy!
Lunar New Year Lucky Fried Cherry Pie “Wontons” step-by-step recipe photos
How to Roll Out and Cut the Dough for Fried Pies and Hand Pies
When rolling out this fried pie dough be sure to dust the surface of the countertop (and the rolling pin) with a little flour to keep the dough from sticking. Try not to add too much flour. Roll out the dough using even pressure until it’s about 1/4 inch thick. Once you’ve got it rolled to the desired thickness, use a floured 3 or 4-inch round cookie cutter to cut circles. If the dough circles become too warm while you’re working with it, place them on a floured or parchment-lined tray, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and pop them into the fridge for a few minutes to chill and firm up slightly before adding the filling and sealing the edges. Keeping the dough nice and cool or cold but still, malleable is key to being able to easily fill the dough without it becoming too messy.
Do Not Over-Fill the “Wonton” Dough — Too Much Filling Can Ruin a Fried “Wonton”
As tempting as it is, do not overfill the “wonton wrappers”. It’s easy to want to put in “just a little more”, but resist the urge to do it. If you overstuff the “wrappers”, they can tear and split apart when you’re sealing it or while the “wontons” are frying. The goal is to get a good dough-to-cherry filling ratio and be able to fill the “wrappers” without the cherry pie filling seeping out. A little filling goes a long way. Once you have the “wrapper” filled, form the triangle to close the dough by pressing down with your fingers. This process can be a little messy but it’s still quick and easy (and totally worth it).
What Makes the Crispiest Best Fried Pie Dough? One Secret Ingredient
Baking powder is my “secret” ingredient in this fried pie dough recipe. It’s a leavening agent that when combined with a liquid in a flour-based recipe, allows for the escape of carbon dioxide gas adding lightness and unbeatable crispiness to the final fried cherry pie “wontons”. You can see from the photos how light, bubbly,= and crispy the fried dough is (which equals crispy-crunchy flaky goodness).
How To Fry Fried Pies and Other Pastry Doughs the Right Way
Always make sure the oil is at the right temperature before frying. If you’re new to deep-frying, test-fry one “wonton” or a small leftover piece of dough to get the hang of it first, or buy a cheap oil/deep-fry thermometer. You can always check to see if the temperature of the oil is ready by placing a wooden chopstick into the hot oil being sure the chopstick touches the bottom of the pan. If you see bubbles coming up around the chopstick, the oil is ready.
- If the oil is too hot it’ll brown the outside before the inside has time to cook through.
- If the oil temperature is too low, the pies will absorb too much oil and become greasy.
- Keep the oil temperature between 350°-375°F (176°C-190°C) when you first drop the pies into the oil.
- Try to maintain an oil temperature of 325-350°F (163-176°C) throughout the duration of the frying time.
- Don’t overcrowd the “wontons” while cooking. Doing so can lead to a rapid drop in oil temperature which leads to greasy fried pies.
Fried Cherry Pie “Wontons” tips & tricks
- If you don’t have buttermilk, add 1 tablespoon (13g) of freshly squeezed lemon juice to a liquid measuring cup, then pour in whole milk until it reaches the 1/2 cup mark on the measuring cup. Stir the mixture and allow it to rest at room temperature to thicken for 5 to 10 minutes before adding it to the flour mixture.
- This recipe can easily be doubled. Wrap the extra dough and seal it in a freezer bag for up to 3 months.
- How do I know if my dough is ready to form into a brick? You’ll know the dough is ready to be formed into a ‘brick” when you can squeeze a handful of dough together and it holds. If the dough crumbles, add just a bit more buttermilk a teaspoon (6g) at a time until the mixture just holds together. Avoid adding too much buttermilk or the dough will be wet and sticky and never add all of the buttermilk all at once. Instead, add it in increments so you can be sure to use just the right amount.
- Substitute vegetable shortening for the lard if you prefer. You may also use a mixture of half butter and half lard. Using butter only will yield a slightly different texture and wonderful flavor.
- Let the pie dough rest. Do not skip this step. It’s very important to let the dough relax so that it’s more pliable and easier to roll out.
- Use a scale to weigh the ingredients for more consistent measurements. Use measuring cups and spoons if that’s what you have, but a good scale is priceless in any kitchen.
- I use a pizza wheel cutter for this recipe. Feel free to make the “wontons” smaller or larger. For a 4-inch round cutter, I fill the dough with no more than 2 tablespoons of filling. Doing so helps ensure the “wontons” will seal and fry properly. If you make larger or smaller “wontons”, be sure to adjust the amount of filling. Whatever you do, resist the urge to overfill them or they may bust open while frying.
- Dust the “wontons” with powdered sugar twice. The first time is right after they finish frying. This allows the sugar to melt into the hot pies. Then I dust them a second time after about 10 minutes.
- Add extra flavor to the powdered sugar by adding a pinch or two of cinnamon to it before dusting the pies. This is especially good for peach, cherry, and apricot fried pies.
- Use this pie dough with other fillings. Try chocolate, peach, strawberry-rhubarb, lemon cream, apricot, vanilla-bean cream, wild blackberry, sweet potato, pecan, or even coconut.
Looking for a For More Chinese New Year or Dim Sum Dishes?
If you’re looking for a few other dishes to round out your Lunar New Year menu, or takeout night in, below are a few of our favorites we think you may also enjoy.
- Lucky Lunar New Year Fried Cherry Pie “Wontons”
- Homemade Chinese Soup Dumplings Xiaolongbao (小笼包) (100% From Scratch)
- Easy Egg Drop Soup with Crispy Fried Wonton Strips (Danhuatang 蛋花湯)
- Easy Japanese Braised Pork Belly (for Momofuku & Ippudo Style Pork Buns)
- Easy Homemade 2-Ingredient Chinese Dumpling Dough
- Easy Pork and Chive Potstickers w/Sautéed Napa Cabbage & Carrots (Jiaozi)
- Crispy Pork and Chive Spring Rolls w/Glass Noodles & Vegetables
- 20-Minute Singapore Mei Fun Noodles (Shrimp Mei Fun)
- Best Ever Chicken Dumplings Recipe (Plump & Juicy Jiaozi)
- Easy Shrimp and Vegetable Stir Fry (w/Cantonese Style White Sauce)
- Easy and Delicious Pork Potsticker Recipe (Cantonese Style Jiaozi)
- Easy Chashu Pork チャーシュー(Marinated Braised Pork Belly Recipe For Ramen )
- Steamed Pork & Chive Money Bag Dumplings (Beggar’s Purse Dumplings)
- Hoisin Garlic-Ginger Oven-Braised Pork Ribs
- Chinese Takeout Chicken & Vegetable Stir-Fry w/Glass Noodles (a Family Favorite)
- Takeout Style Pork and Green Bean Stir-Fry w/Glass Noodles