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Best Steamed Bun Recipes

Best Steamed Bun Recipes


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Steamed Bun Shopping Tips

Staples of Asian cuisine such as ginger, daikon, rice vinegar, and spicy chile sauces like Sriracha add bright, fresh flavors without lots of fuss.

Steamed Bun Cooking Tips

Sriracha has good heat but also has flavor - its mild sweetness comes from sun-ripened chile peppers as well as sugar and garlic.


6 Amazing Ideas For Your Steamed Bun Fillings This Holiday Season

Steamed buns, or better-known bao buns are a delicacy that trace their roots back to the Fujian region of China. Steamed buns initially acted as snacks or part of a larger meal however with increase in creativity and diversity in steamed bun fillings, some bao buns fall within the dessert category.


  • 3 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil, or as needed

Mix flour, sugar, salt, and yeast together in a large bowl. Add water and 1/4 cup oil mix into a dough. Knead until smooth and elastic, at least 10 minutes. Dust with extra flour if necessary.

Warm up the oven for 1 minute. Turn oven off.

Oil a large bowl place dough inside and cover with cheesecloth. Place in the warmed oven until size has doubled, about 1 hour.

Punch down dough. Keep in the oven until risen, at least 15 minutes more. Knead dough onto a flat work surface and divide into 12 golf-sized balls. Roll out each ball and fill with choice of filling (see footnote for my chicken and pork filling). Gather and twist the edges together to secure the filling.


As for equipment, we used our rice cooker which comes with a steamer basket attachment. There are steamer basket attachments sold online or in stores that just sit inside an ordinary stockpot. I also know of the method where you use foil balls to lift a plate inside a pot — if any brave soul tries this, let us know!

The instant pot can also steam these if you don’t have a rice cooker with a steamer option. Here’s the instant pot on amazon . Buy the steamer basket separately here .


Recipe Summary

  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 4 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 (.25 ounce) package instant yeast
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 egg

In a small saucepan, heat milk, water and butter until very warm, 120 degrees F (50 degrees C).

In a large bowl, mix together 1 3/4 cup flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Mix milk mixture into flour mixture, and then mix in egg. Stir in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.

Divide dough into 12 equal pieces. Shape into smooth balls, and place on a greased baking sheet. Flatten slightly. Cover, and let rise for 30 to 35 minutes.

Bake at 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) for 10 to 12 minutes, or until golden brown.

For Hot Dog Buns: Shape each piece into a 6x4 inch rectangle. Starting with the longer side, roll up tightly, and pinch edges and ends to seal. Let rise about 20 to 25 minutes. Bake as above. These buns are pretty big. I usually make 16 instead of 12.


  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 350 g (12.3 oz. or about 2 3/4 cups) all-purpose flour
  1. Add the milk, yeast and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer attached with a dough hook. Stir the mixture with a pair of chopsticks or a spoon.
  2. Add the flour to the yeast mixture. Turn on speed 1 and knead the ingredients until it forms a smooth dough, about 6 minutes. If the dough starts to "climb up" the dough hook, stop the stand mixer and push the dough down to the bowl.
  3. Transfer the dough out and cover it with plastic wrap and let rest for 5 minutes.
  4. On a slightly floured surface, roll out the dough with a rolling pin, from bottom to top.
  5. Turn the dough horizontally and roll from bottom to top.
  6. Continue to roll out the dough to form a 14x10" rectangle.
  7. Roll up the dough into a log, from left to right. Make sure you tuck and roll the dough so it forms a tight log.
  8. Roll out the log a few times or until the surface looks smooth and reaches 12-inch in length.
  9. Cut the dough into 8 equal-sized pieces using a sharp knife. Transfer each dough to a 3x4"-inch parchment paper. You may roll each dough into a round ball after cutting.
  10. Place the dough into a steamer. Cover the lid of the steamer and let rise for 60 minutes, or until the dough balls expand in size. Make sure you leave enough space between each dough ball so they don't stick together.
  11. Add water to the bottom of the steamer. You may add 1 teaspoon of Chinese white vinegar to make the steamed buns whiter. Cover the lid tightly.
  12. Turn on high heat and steam for 10-12 minutes, or until the dough expands to soft, puffy and fluffy steamed buns. Turn off the heat and serve the steamed buns warm. Dip with condensed milk if you like sweet steamed buns.

Tips for making Chinese steamed buns

After making batches and batches of mantou, here are some tips I’ve learned along the way:

  • Use your pointer finger to press down on the top edge of the dough to flatten it. This thinned out edge will help you seal the log of dough after rolling.
  • Brush on some water before rolling to get the dough to stick to itself and seal better.
  • Use the palms of your hands to roll out the log of dough. This will help combine all the layers and keep them from spreading too much.
  • Allow the dough to sit in the steamer over warm water and proof for 20 minutes, but not more than that, or it will overproof and wilt after it steams. Proofing will give you soft and fluffy Chinese bread texture.
  • After it’s done steaming, move the steamer off the heat and let it rest without removing the lid for at least 4 minutes. Resting lets the temperature inside the steamer come down and doesn’t shock the mantou. Sometimes when you remove the lid too quickly after steaming the mantou will collapse and become wrinkled.

Making Homemade Steamed Buns

But I am also under zero illusions. I know many people shy away from making steamed buns. They’re not the most approachable of at-home Chinese recipes, and, trust me, it can definitely be frustrating when they turn out less than impeccable.

But still, it’s a valuable skill to learn and preserve, and, once you’ve learned the basics, you can change up the filling however you want. I’m certainly not a bun-making master, I still find it thrilling to see those fluffy, delicate buns when I lift the steamer cover–a feeling that too few people can relate to!

(Have I said the word “buns” too many times yet for you to go on? No? Good. Buns. )

While few people know how to make steamed buns, it seems that more and more people love eating them. It’s a favorite Chinese breakfast item in the winter months, along with porridge, and they’re becoming more mainstream stateside as well!

There are many dough recipes out there, and everyone has their preferred texture. I like mine fluffy and slightly chewy, so I borrowed this bun recipe from Bill’s recipe for Chinese Sausage Buns.

The key to making the dough for any good steamed bun is that the flour and water must be well incorporated, and the texture of the dough must be soft, but not wet.


Steamed Bao Buns

These steamed bao buns are one of our favorite recipes to make on a date night in. I prep the filling while Jack mixes up the dough. Then, we eat!

Making these steamed bao buns is our idea of the perfect Valentine’s date. See, Jack and I enjoy going out to eat, but never on Valentine’s Day. The restaurants are more crowded, the food is more expensive, and we always end up having more fun at home. So we skip the crowds and celebrate simply, spending time together making something we both love. In years past, we’ve learned to make pasta (I make a delicious sauce while he cranks the pasta maker), homemade pizza (Jack does the crust while I do the the toppings), or sushi (I prep the fillings, and he rolls it up), but lately, we’ve been hooked on these cute little bao buns!

If you ask me, they’re the perfect couples cooking project. One person (Jack) can make the dough while the other (me) can whip up a fun, fresh filling. Then, combine the two to make a delicious date night meal!

But if you already have Valentine’s Day plans, don’t worry! Making these bao buns would be a fun project any night, with friends, a partner, or even solo. The buns themselves are soft and puffy. Stuffed with zesty marinated tempeh, avocado, and lots of fresh fixings, they become mini explosions of texture and flavor. Trust me, this recipe’s one you don’t want to miss!

How to Make Steamed Bao Buns

Ready to cook? Here’s what you need to do:

First, make the dough. Stir together dried yeast, sugar, and warm water, and set them aside for 5 minutes, until the yeast becomes foamy. Then, combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl, and add the yeast mixture and avocado oil. Mix to form a rough ball. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead vigorously until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Set it aside to rise for 45 minutes.

When the dough has risen, cut out the bao buns. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough until it’s 1/4-inch thick. Then, use a drinking glass to cut out 3-inch circles of dough and place each one on a square of parchment paper. Brush the tops with oil and fold each piece of dough in half, pressing it down just lightly. Cover the buns with plastic wrap and let them rise for another hour. They won’t have quite doubled in size, but they will have puffed up slightly, before you move on to the next step.

Finally, cook! Transfer each bun, still on its parchment square, to a bamboo steamer set over an inch of water. Cover and steam until puffed, 9 to 11 minutes. That’s it!

Bao Buns Filling

Traditional bao buns are filled with seasoned pork belly, but of course, I opt for a plant-based alternative. I make a sweet & savory hoisin tempeh using my favorite tempeh cooking method: steam, marinate, and bake. Marinated, baked tofu would be a delicious option in here as well.

As the tempeh bakes, I wash and slice the fresh veggie toppings. We always serve these buns with thinly sliced carrot and/or cucumber, fresh cilantro or mint, avocado, chiles, and sesame seeds. A few pickled jalapeños or the banh mi pickles from this recipe would also be excellent here.

Stuff the buns with the filling as soon as they come out of the steamer, as they’re best when they’re warm and soft. Top them with extra tempeh marinade, or soy sauce or tamari, and a big squeeze of lime juice, and enjoy!

Bao Bun Recipe Tips

  • Use a neutral oil. I almost always call for extra-virgin olive oil in my recipes, but I prefer avocado oil here. Its neutral taste allows the flavorful fillings in this recipe to shine. If you can’t find avocado oil, use another neutral oil, like grapeseed oil, in its place.
  • Add water, a tablespoon at a time, if the dough is too dry. This bao bun recipe makes a stiff dough, so if it takes a bit of mixing to form it into a ball, don’t worry. However, if the dough is too dry, add water, a tablespoon at a time, until it comes together.
  • Let the dough rise somewhere warm. Because yeast responds to warmth, letting your dough rise in a warm place will yield the best results. We like to put ours on a sunny windowsill!
  • Serve the bao buns warm from the steamer. The steamed buns are best as soon as they come off the heat, when they’re still soft and pliable. If you have extra buns, they freeze well.

More Favorite Date Night Recipes

If you love to cook with your partner, try one of these fun cooking projects next:

Or, check out my 25 Best Pasta Recipes or Favorite Vegan Desserts for more Valentine’s Day inspiration!


Steamed Bao Buns

  • Resting Time: 2 hours
  • Author:Thanh | Eat, Little Bird
  • Prep Time: 1 hour
  • Cook Time: 10 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Yield: Makes 12-16 buns
  • Category: Bread
  • Method: Stove Top
  • Cuisine: Chinese

How to make the perfect, soft and fluffy steamed bao buns with step-by-step photos. Follow these tips and tricks to make the perfect homemade bao buns, perfect for filling with your favourite ingredients.

Ingredients

  • 300 g ( 2 cups ) plain flour (all-purpose flour) or bleached flour
  • 125 g ( 1 cup ) cornflour (cornstarch)
  • 5 tablespoons caster sugar (super-fine sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast (also called instant dried yeast or fast-action dried yeast) (see Kitchen Notes)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 180 ml (3/4 cup) warm water
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) vegetable oil, plus extra

Instructions

To prepare the buns

  1. Measure all of the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric stand-mixer (if using).
  2. Measure the warm water and oil into a measuring jug. The water needs to be a bit more than lukewarm to help activate the yeast, but it shouldn’t be boiling hot.
  3. Using the dough hook on medium speed, mixing the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients. Depending on the type of flour which you have used, you might need more or less liquid that than stated in the recipe.
  4. Once you have a sticky dough, continue kneading the dough on medium speed until it becomes soft and smooth to touch. This should take about 10 minutes using the stand-mixer on medium speed, or about 5 minutes by hand.
  5. Once the dough is soft and smooth, I recommend kneading it by hand for a few more minutes on the kitchen benchtop.
  6. Place the ball of dough back into the (clean) mixing bowl.
  7. Place the bowl somewhere warm for about 60 to 90 minutes for the dough to rise and double in size.

To shape the buns

  1. Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it back and knead it by hand for about 5 minutes to release any air bubbles in the dough.
  2. Then roll out the dough until it is about 1 cm in height.
  3. Use your hands to rub some oil onto the surface of the dough.
  4. Use an 8 cm (3 inch) cookie cutter to cut out rounds from the dough.
  5. Re-roll the dough as needed.
  6. Place these rounds onto a small sheet of baking paper – I like to use plain white cupcake wrappers which I flatten with a rolling pin.
  7. Fold over each round and then use a rolling pin to gently flatten the dough to form the bun shape.
  8. Place all of the shaped buns onto a large tray, cover with a tea towel, and place in a warm place for about 30 minutes for the buns to rise again. After this time, the bao buns should have puffed up slightly.

To steam the buns

  1. Meanwhile, prepare the steamer on the stove (see Kitchen Notes below).
  2. Steam the buns in batches for 10 to 12 minutes, or until they are puffy and soft, and cooked all the way through.
  3. Serve the buns immediately.

Kitchen Notes

DIFFERENT TYPES OF YEAST
* Please note that there is a difference between instant yeast (also called instant dried yeast or fast-action dried yeast) and dried yeast (also called active dry yeast). If you are not sure what type of yeast you have, please check the packaging for instructions on how to use the yeast.
* With instant yeast, you can add it directly to the flour mixture without having to activate it first.
* If you do not have instant yeast, I would suggest using the same amount of dried yeast. In which case, add the dried yeast to the warm water and set it aside for about 5 minutes until it is frothy. Add this yeast mixture, along with the vegetable oil, to the dry ingredients in the recipe above.

WHAT TYPE OF FLOUR TO USE
* Plain flour (all-purpose flour) works well in this recipe as the cornflour (cornstarch) helps to give the buns a light and fluffy texture. However, the resulting buns will be a pale yellow in colour.
* For snowy white buns like those sold in Chinese restaurants, you can use bleached flour found in Asian grocery stores.

HOW TO STEAM BAO BUNS
* The steamer basket (whether bamboo or otherwise) should sit directly on top of a saucepan of the same dimension.
* Fill the saucepan with boiling water until about one-third full.
* Place the steamer basket on top of the saucepan.
* Place the bao buns in the steamer basket, leaving a bit of room for each to rise and puff up during cooking.
* Place the lid on top of the steamer basket.
* Steam over low-medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes.

HOW TO FREEZE BAO BUNS
Any leftover buns can be frozen in zip-lock bags for 1-2 months. Reheat the frozen steamed buns in a stovetop steamer for about 5 minutes, or until they are warmed all the way through.

CONVERSIONS
To convert from cups to grams, and vice-versa, please see this handy Conversion Chart for Basic Ingredients.

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment below and share your photos by tagging @eatlittlebird on Instagram and using #eatlittlebird


Recipe adapted from Johanna Ware, Smallwares, Portland, OR

Yield: 12 to 14 buns

Prep Time: 20 minutes, plus proofing time

Cook Time: 8 minutes

Total Time: 28 minutes, plus proofing time

Ingredients

2 teaspoons instant yeast

1¼ cups bread flour, plus more for if needed

Directions

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the water, yeast and sugar until the yeast dissolves. Let the mixture sit until the yeast starts to get foamy and bloom, 4 to 6 minutes. Stir in the oil and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, sift the bread flour, salt and baking soda together. Add the yeast mixture to the dry ingredients and stir using a rubber spatula. If the dough looks sticky, add 1 additional tablespoon of flour at a time until it is less sticky.

3. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth. Cover the dough with a damp kitchen towel and let the dough rest until it has doubled in size, 1½ to 2 hours. Punch the dough down to flatten it.

4. Portion the dough into balls that are 2 inches in diameter and let rest for 5 minutes. Flatten each ball into a disk 3 inches in diameter.

5. Fill the buns with your filling of choice and wrap by gathering the edge and twisting slightly. Cover with a damp kitchen towel to keep the bao from drying out.

6. Place the buns in a steam basket lined with parchment paper and steam until the buns have expanded, 7 to 9 minutes. Serve.