What is Cheese Rangoon?

Cheese rangoon, sometimes called crab rangoon or cream cheese wontons, is a popular Chinese-American appetizer consisting of a crispy deep-fried wonton wrapper filled with a cream cheese filling. The rich, creamy filling combined with the crunchy wrapper creates an explosion of textures and flavors in each bite.

What is Cheese Rangoon

Cheese rangoon has become a staple menu item across American Chinese restaurants and is commonly served as an appetizer or side dish. It's a fan favorite thanks to its craveworthy flavors and textures. While often called crab rangoon, most versions actually use cream cheese as the star filling ingredient.

History and Origins

The origins of cheese rangoon can be traced back to Victor Bergeron, founder of the popular tiki restaurant chain Trader Vic's. According to food historians, Bergeron invented the dish in the 1950s for his San Francisco Trader Vic's location. It was inspired by the Burmese city and port of Rangoon.

The earliest known published recipe for "Crab Rangoon" appeared in the 1957 Herb Caen's Guide to San Francisco, where it was listed as a recommended appetizer ordered with cocktails at Trader Vic's.

While named after Rangoon, cheese rangoon as we know it today actually has no connection to Burmese cuisine. Cream cheese is not traditionally used in Burmese or Chinese cooking. The appetizer was invented in America, fusing Mexican and Chinese flavors and techniques into something new and craveworthy.

Over the decades, cheese rangoon grew in popularity across American Chinese restaurants, becoming a menu staple. It continues to be a favorite thanks to its rich textures and flavors.

Key Takeaway: Cheese rangoon was invented in America in the 1950s, fusing multiple cultural influences into a new, craveworthy appetizer. Victor Bergeron of Trader Vic's receives credit for inventing the dish.

Common Names

This appetizer goes by several common names, including:

The name "crab rangoon" is still frequently used, but it's a bit of a misnomer in most cases. While some restaurants do add crab meat to the filling, the vast majority of popular recipes call for a simple cream cheese filling without any crab.

Cheese rangoon, crab puffs, and cream cheese wontons are all fitting names for this dish highlighting its defining ingredients and characteristics.

Key Takeaway: Several common names are used interchangeably for this appetizer, including cheese rangoon, crab rangoon, crab puffs, and cream cheese wontons.


There are just a few main ingredients that go into making the filling and wrappers for cheese rangoon.

Filling Ingredients

The filling consists of just a few ingredients, with cream cheese being the star player:

  • Cream cheese: Full-fat cream cheese provides the signature rich, creamy texture.
  • Scallions: Minced scallions add fresh onion flavor.
  • Garlic: Garlic powder gives a subtle garlicky bite.
  • Soy sauce or tamari: A small amount of soy sauce enhances flavor.
  • Crab meat (optional): Some recipes add crab meat, but it's generally not authentic or as popular as the simple cream cheese filling.


  • Wonton wrappers: Thin, square wonton wrappers provide the outer shell.
  • Toasted sesame oil: Brushing oil on the outside helps wrappers achieve maximum crispness when fried.
  • Vegetable oil for frying: Any neutral oil with high smoke point like canola or peanut oil.

That's really all you need for the two components. Just cream cheese, scallions, and wonton wrappers, transformed into the ultimate appetizer through the magic of deep-frying!

Key Takeaway: The classic filling contains just cream cheese, scallions, garlic, and soy sauce. Wonton wrappers are used to envelop the filling and then deep-fried to perfection.

How to Make Cheese Rangoon

Making your own cheese rangoon at home is simple. Follow these easy steps:

Make the Filling

In a bowl, mix together the softened cream cheese along with the minced scallions, garlic powder, and small amount of soy sauce until well-combined and creamy.

Fill the Wontons

Lay a wonton wrapper flat and place a rounded 1⁄2 to 1 teaspoon of filling into the center.

Wet the edges with water, then pull the corners together up over the filling, pressing firmly to seal. The rangoon can be sealed into a triangle, rectangle, or rosette shape.

Deep Fry the Wontons

In a heavy pot or dutch oven, heat 2-3 inches of frying oil to 350°F. Brush rangoon with sesame oil.

Fry in batches for 1-2 minutes until golden brown and crispy. Drain on paper towel-lined plates.

And that's all there is to it! With just a few simple steps, you can easily make these crispy cream cheese appetizers at home.

Key Takeaway: Making cheese rangoon involves mixing cream cheese filling, enclosing it in wonton wrappers, sealing, brushing with oil, and frying at 350°F until crispy.

Cooking Methods

While frying is the traditional cooking method for cheese rangoon, there are some healthier baking alternatives to consider:

Deep Frying

Deep-frying at 350°F yields the signature crispy texture. Fry for just 1-2 minutes until the edges brown. Frying in batches is crucial for even cooking. Drain fried rangoons on paper towel-lined plates.

Oven Baking

For a lighter alternative, bake cheese rangoon at 400°F for 8-12 minutes, until crispy and golden brown. Cover with foil if browning too quickly. Baking gives a satisfying crunch without deep-frying.

Air Frying

Air frying yields similar results to deep frying with less oil. Air fry at 350°F, shaking the basket halfway, until crispy. Brush rangoons lightly with oil before air frying.

So while frying makes the original crispiest cheese rangoon, oven-baking or air frying lets you enjoy this appetizer the healthier way.

Key Takeaway: Traditional cheese rangoon is deep-fried, but oven baking or air frying are great alternatives that produce delicious results with less oil.

Serving Suggestions

There are so many tasty ways to serve your homemade cheese rangoon creations. Here are some ideas:

  • With duck sauce: The sweet, tangy flavor of duck sauce balances beautifully with creamy rangoon.
  • With sweet & sour sauce: Another classic pairing, sweet and sour sauce makes rangoon pop.
  • With soy sauce: For an easy dipper, go with a small dish of soy sauce.
  • On salad: Cool, crunchy rangoon pairs wonderfully with fresh greens and vinaigrette.
  • In lettuce cups: Spoon rangoon into lettuce leaf cups for a fun way to enjoy.

However you choose to serve them up, the possibilities are endless with these craveworthy crispy cream cheese bites!

Key Takeaway: Cheese rangoon classically accompanies Chinese dishes or salads, and pairs nicely with dipping sauces like duck sauce, sweet & sour, or soy sauce.


Is it hard to make cheese rangoon?

No, cheese rangoon is very easy to prepare at home! Just a simple cream cheese filling in wonton wrappers, sealed and fried. Beginners can make restaurant-quality rangoons.

Do you have to fry cheese rangoon?

No. While frying is traditional, cheese rangoon turns out delicious baked in the oven or air fried. Both methods give a nice crunch without deep-frying.

Can I freeze cheese rangoon?

Yes! Assembled, uncooked cheese rangoon freeze very well for up to 3 months. Place them in a single layer on a sheet tray and freeze, then transfer to an airtight container. Fry frozen rangoons directly from frozen, adding 1-2 minutes to the frying time.

What dipping sauce is best with cheese rangoon?

The most popular dipping sauces for cheese rangoon are duck sauce, sweet & sour sauce, and soy sauce. All provide the perfect balance of sweet, sour, savory, and salty flavors.


From its invention at Trader Vic's in the 1950s to a beloved spot on Chinese restaurant menus nationwide, cheese rangoon has earned its place as a top-tier American Chinese appetizer. Its craveworthy combination of a crispy fried wrapper enveloping rich cream cheese filling makes it universally irresistible.

While traditionally known as crab rangoon, it turns out most versions are filled with just a simple cream cheese mixture. But don't let the name fool you—this appetizer delivers big flavors and textures regardless.

Cheese rangoon has also become a staple among home cooks thanks to how easy it is to prepare. With just a few ingredients and steps, you can easily fry, bake, or air fry restaurant-quality cream cheese wontons right in your own kitchen.

AGAH Productions
AGAH Productions