Bao Buns Recipe
Super easy and fluffy homemade steamed bao buns. Bao buns are a steamed bread made without butter or eggs yielding a very light, soft, and airy texture. Since it has a delicate taste, it’s versatile accommodating almost any type of filling making it an easy addition to breakfast, lunch, or dinner!
Why This Works
Steamed buns are very simple to make at home and are an excellent recipe to start with if you’re trying to get into baking because it doesn’t require much technique outside of mixing.
What are Bao Buns?
Plain steamed buns (baozi, mantou) are a type of bread that is airy, fluffy, and subtly sweet adding a beautiful balance to savory or sweet fillings. Unlike standard bread, it is made without eggs or butter and is steamed instead of baked. Buns with fillings are most commonly made round with a dough that is made from bleached flour, yeast, sugar, and water. They have a fluffy and slightly chewy texture and can be filled with a variety of fillings such as pork, chicken, vegetables, and sweet bean paste. Another type of bun with fillings is the “taco-shaped” bun that we are using here. These buns are typically made by shaping the dough into a flattened oblong shape and then folded to form a taco-like shape. They are designed to be filled with cooked meat after cooking, unlike baos (baozi) which are typically filled with raw meat before steaming.
Where can I buy bao buns?
Bao buns are readily available at Chinese grocery stores or through online Chinese food grocery apps, usually in the frozen section. To make them at home, refer to my Bao Buns recipe. Keep in mind, homemade buns made with all-purpose flour may not look as white as store-bought buns which use bleached all-purpose flour. When buying store-bought bao buns, select ones that are not frozen clumped together for easier handling and neater presentation. They may be labeled as guabao, gwa pao, butterfly bao bun, bao bun, Taiwanese hamburger, or steamed sandwich buns.
Can I substitute out bao buns?
Peking Duck Wraps (Mandarin pancakes, Peking pancakes) are a traditional Chinese ingredient that are often served alongside Peking duck but can also be used as a substitute for bao buns. They are thin, pliable wheat-flour pancakes that may be used like a burrito. The pancakes are soft and slightly chewy and are not as calorie/carb dense as bao buns.
How do I store fresh Bao Buns?
Bao Buns are a very convenient bread to have around the house because it freezes easily and may be re-steamed whenever you are ready to use it!
What is Yeast?
Yeast is a microorganism in the fungi family. It feeds off of carbohydrates such as flour and sugar and releases gases which causes fermentation. Yeast plays an important part in creating structure in bakes through the development of gluten and contributes to the texture of the final outcome.
What type of yeast do I need?
Yeast is available in fresh or dried form. Fresh blocks of yeast tend to be more expensive than dried and is more highly perishable. Fresh yeast tends to be used more by professionals in a bakery.
Opt for dried yeast that is stored in dark glass jars (found at the refrigerated section of the supermarket) because they are more reliable than the dry yeast in envelopes. The dark containers protect the yeast from the elements and extends its shelf life. Active dry yeast is available in regular or fast acting form. If a recipe does not specify which type of yeast is needed, use regular active dry yeast.
How do I use yeast?
The reason why most bakes fail is because the yeast that was used was no longer alive. Do not trust yeast that has been sitting in your pantry for a mysterious amount of time. Use yeast within 3 months of purchase after it is opened regardless of the date on the package. To test yeast, add 1 tsp of yeast into a small ramekin. Mix with 1 tbsp of lukewarm water no hotter than 115°F and sprinkle with a pinch of sugar. The yeast should react within 2-5 minutes. Visual cues of a yeast that is alive and usable is a prominent yeast aroma and the presence of foam or bubbles. Be careful not to overproof your yeast by getting it sit for too long as this can impact the rise of your dough and foster a strong yeast flavor.
Super Easy Bao Buns
- 300 g all purpose flour plus extra for dusting
- 4 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tbsp dry milk powder
- 1/4 fine sea salt
- 1 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 tbsp neutral oil plus extra for brushing
- 140 g filtered water warm
- Prep | Cut 12 4×4 inch squares out of parchment paper.
- Dough | Add flour, sugar, baking powder, milk powder, salt, active dry yeast, oil, and water into a bowl. Mix until crumbly. Firmly knead with one hand until smooth, 10 mins. If using a stand mixer, place the dough into the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment and mix on medium speed for 5 mins. Place the dough into the center of an extra large bowl lightly greased with oil, seal with plastic wrap or a lint free towel. Set in a draft free space like the oven, microwave, or book shelf. Proof until doubled, up to 1 hr and 30 minutes depending on your environment (e.g. wild yeast, humidity, temperature).
- Shape Buns | Once the dough has proofed, dust the counter with a light coat of flour. Transfer the dough to the counter, then lightly dust the surface and rolling pin with another coat of flour. Using a dusted rolling pin, roll out until 1/4 inch thick. Using the lid of a mason jar, place the lid onto the flattened dough, press down firmly, and twist until released. Repeat until there are only scraps remaining. Reroll and repeat until all the dough has been used. Steam immediately to prevent the surface of the dough from drying and cracking.
- Cook | Heat a large steamer at medium-high. Once the water starts boiling, place the buns lined with parchment paper onto the steamer, spacing them 2 inches apart. Steam the buns with the lid covered, 3-4 mins each batch. Eat plain or fill while they’re still warm. If you're using these later, freeze in a freezer safe bag and re-steam when ready for use.
Those look amazing. Do you have a recipe for the meat inside too?
Hello! Yes I had posted my recipe for my pork belly baos on my original website. I am still in the process of migrating all of my recipes over but I’ll prioritize that one. I will let you know when it is up sometime tomorrow. 🙂 thanks for stopping by here!
Hi Angel! Thanks for patiently waiting. Here is the recipe for my Pork Belly Buns. Please let me know if the post was useful, the directions were easy to follow, and if you have any questions regarding the ingredients. 🙂