Filled dumplings are a cross-cultural waste-not-want-not culinary wonder.

Most gastronomic traditions have them on the menu, whether they are called pierogi, ravioli, potstickers, maultaschensuppe, momos, khinkali qvelit, kreplach, wontons, buuz, manti, pelmini, samosa, gyoza, jiaozi, runsas, tiropitakia, mandu, kroppkakor, pelmeni, pastelle or coxinhas.

Dumplings are cheap staple foods made up of a simple dough and flavorful fillings. They get assembled en masse, frozen and then are boiled, steamed or pan-fried any time a tummy grumbles or extra guests arrive for dinner.

And they are a great way to dispatch the bits and bobs in your refrigerator to create something much tastier than compost. Sustainability-minded cooks can fit dumplings into their rotation of use-it-or-lose-it techniques alongside clean-out-the-fridge pasta sauce, spare vegetable frittatas and creatively topped pizzas.

But as with all of these practices, cooks must be open to the distinct possibility that replicating a particularly good batch of dumplings in the future might be impossible because the combination of ingredients – say half a red onion, four frozen shrimp, a spare sausage link, a shredded carrot, two tablespoons kimchi and the last bit of fresh ginger – may never be on hand in the same quantities again.

I regularly line up for lunch at Bao Bao in Portland, where Chef Cara Stadler is very precise with her dumplings’ flavor profiles (the lamb, black bean and chili are my personal favorite). At home, I fill all kinds of dumplings with all kinds of things.

Typically I run with Asian-like ones because I keep flavor-boosting condiments like hoisin, sriracha, black vinegar and sesame oil in the pantry to make the filling pop against the dumplings’ neutral dough. That said, if you’re blessed with your Babushka’s pierogi dough recipe or your Nonna’s fresh pasta know-how, these no-food-waste dumpling guidelines still apply. You’ll just adjust them to the taste profile of your heritage accordingly.

Making your own dough (see recipe) is a rewarding, albeit time-consuming, process that gets shorter with each extra set of hands you can rally. But if you’ve only got two hands and need a quick fix, do yourself a favor and buy round dumpling wrappers in the frozen section of most Asian grocery stores. You can include any ingredient you want in a dumpling filling, but it’s best to combine them all in a food processor so there aren’t any big chunks of any particular ingredient dominating any one dumpling. One cup of filling will make 12 to 15 dumplings.

Pre-cook any animal protein you want to include in the filling. This step means you can taste the filling safely before wrapping it in dough to make sure you like it, and it helps prevent any food safety issues down the line.

Use either raw or cooked vegetables based on what your leftovers look like, but none should be watery, as you don’t want the filling to weep out of the seams or make the dough soggy. If yours spreads out at all on a spoon, add bread crumbs a tablespoon at a time until it holds together.

Make sure the flavor of the filling really pops so the finished dumplings aren’t bland. My favorite flavor-boosting combination includes one teaspoon each of something sweet (hoisin, honey, brown sugar), sour (citrus, vinegar), pungent (minced garlic, ginger) and a liquid spice (hot sauce).

Be diligent about your dumplings’ seal. A busted dumpling is a bummer. Not as bad as food waste, mind you, but not as neat and tidy as creatively cleaning out the fridge can be.

Christine Burns Rudalevige is a food writer, a recipe developer and tester and a cooking teacher in Brunswick. Contact her at: [email protected]