Freshly made Jamaican fried dumplings piled on a blue and white dish.

Jamaican fried dumplings is a beloved staple in Jamaican cuisine, known for it’s crispy exterior and soft, fluffy interior. Jamaican fried dumplings, also referred to as “Johnny Cakes,” are small, round balls of dough that are deep-fried to a golden-brown perfection. We will explore what Jamaican fried dumplings are and offer some tips and tricks for making the perfect dumplings.

What are Jamaican Fried Dumplings?

The dough is typically made from flour, baking powder, salt, and water, although some variations may include cornmeal or coconut milk for added texture and flavor. The result is a versatile and delicious bread-like dumpling with a crispy crust and a soft, airy interior.  It’s similar to Guyanese Fried Bakes but has a much denser texture.

Fried dumplings hold a special place in Jamaican cuisine and culture. These delicious bites are a breakfast staple, pairing wonderfully with various Jamaican meals such as ackee and saltfish, corned beef, callaloo and saltfish or stewed liver.

overhead shot of ingredients to make fried dumplings


  • all-purpose flour: This is the base of the dough, providing structure and texture.
  • baking powder: Acts as a leavening agent to help the dumplings puff up.
  • sugar: Adds a hint of sweetness that complements the savory dishes typically served with fried dumplings.
  • salt: Enhances the flavor and balances the sweetness of the sugar.
  • margarine (or butter): Adds richness to the dough, creating a tender crumb.
  • Water: Used to bring the dough together, creating the right consistency for frying.

Choosing the Right Flour

The type of flour you use plays a crucial role in the texture of your dumplings. All-purpose flour is the traditional choice, but you can also experiment with whole wheat flour for a healthier twist. If you prefer a denser texture, try adding a small amount of cornmeal to the dough. This not only enhances the flavor but also gives the dumplings a delightful crunch.

Fried Johnny Cake or Jamaican Fried Dumplings

Balancing Wet and Dry Ingredients

The perfect dough consistency is key to making great dumplings. The dough should be soft and pliable but not too sticky. Start by adding water gradually to the dry ingredients and mix until a smooth dough forms. If the dough is too dry, add a little more water; if it’s too sticky, sprinkle in some more flour. Adding a bit of fat to the dough, such as butter or margarine, can enhance the texture and flavor of the dumplings. The fat helps to create a tender crumb and adds richness to the dough.

Dough in a bowl

Letting the Dough Rest

Allowing the dough to rest for about 10-15 minutes before frying can make a significant difference. This rest period helps to relax the gluten, making the dough easier to shape and ensuring that the dumplings are tender and not tough. Cover the dough with a cloth to prevent it from drying out while it rests.

dumpling dough separated

Achieving the Perfect Shape

To achieve the classic round shape of Jamaican fried dumplings, roll the dough into small balls about the size of a golf ball. For uniform cooking, ensure that each ball is roughly the same size. If you prefer a more rustic look, you can flatten the dough slightly before frying. This can create a crispier exterior and a different texture profile.

Raw dough balls ready to be fried into Jamaican fried dumplings on a floured surface

Frying Technique

Heat the oil in a deep skillet or frying pan over medium heat until it reaches about 350°F (175°C). The oil should be hot enough to sizzle when a small piece of dough is added, but not so hot that it burns the dumplings before they cook through. Fry the dumplings in small batches to avoid overcrowding the pan, which can lower the oil temperature and result in greasy, unevenly cooked dumplings.

Golden fried dumplings on a tray

Maintaining the correct oil temperature is crucial for perfect fried dumplings. If the oil is too hot, the dumplings will brown too quickly on the outside while remaining raw inside. If it’s too cool, they will absorb too much oil and become greasy. Adjust the heat as needed to keep the oil at the optimal frying temperature.

Dough Consistency: The dough should be soft but not too sticky. Adjust the water or flour as needed to achieve the right texture.

Flavor Variations: For a twist, try adding a pinch of nutmeg or cinnamon to the dough for a hint of spice.  Add coconut milk to give it a subtle coconut flavor and a hint of sweetness.

Crispy Jamaican fried dumplings served with scrambled eggs

Bake and Dumpling Recipes

Close-up of Jamaican fried dumplings showcasing their golden-brown, crispy exterior and soft, airy interior texture.
Freshly made Jamaican fried dumplings piled on a blue and white dish.

Get the Recipe Jamaican Fried Dumpling


  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tbsp soften butter or margarine
  • 3/4 cups water


  • Prepare the Dry Ingredients: In a large mixing bowl, combine the 2 cups of flour, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and a pinch of salt. Mix well to ensure the baking powder and salt are evenly distributed throughout the flour.
  • Incorporate the Margarine: Add 2 tablespoon of margarine to the dry ingredients. Use your fingers to rub the margarine into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. This step helps to distribute the fat evenly, which will contribute to the flaky texture of the dumplings.
  • Add Water and Form the Dough: Gradually add ¾ cup of water to the flour mixture. Stir with a spoon or your hands until a rough dough forms. The dough should be slightly sticky but manageable. If it’s too dry, add a little more water, a tablespoon at a time. If it’s too wet, sprinkle in a bit more flour.
  • Knead the Dough: Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead gently for about 2-3 minutes until smooth. Be careful not to over-knead, as this can make the dumplings tough.
  • Rest the Dough: Let the dough rest for about 10-15 minutes. Cover it with a damp cloth to prevent it from drying out. Resting the dough helps to relax the gluten, making it easier to shape and ensuring a tender texture.
  • Shape the Dumplings: Divide the dough into 8-10 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball using your hands. You can also flatten them slightly if you prefer a more disc-like shape, which can result in a crispier exterior.
  • Heat the Oil: In a deep frying pan or skillet, heat enough oil to submerge the dumplings. The oil should be about 2-3 inches deep. Heat the oil over medium heat until it reaches 350°F (175°C). You can test the temperature by dropping a small piece of dough into the oil. If it sizzles and rises to the surface, the oil is ready.
  • Fry the Dumplings: Carefully add the dumplings to the hot oil, a few at a time, to avoid overcrowding the pan. Fry them for about 4-5 minutes per side, turning occasionally, until they are golden brown and cooked through. Adjust the heat as necessary to prevent the dumplings from browning too quickly.
  • Drain the Dumplings: Use a slotted spoon to remove the dumplings from the oil. Place them on a paper towel-lined plate to drain excess oil. This step helps to keep them crispy and prevents them from becoming greasy. Serve warm
Cuisine: Caribbean, Jamaican
Course: Breakfast
Author: Jehan Powell