Homemade Steamed Buns (Bao) Recipe – Easy & Authentic!

by Ella

Steamed buns, known affectionately as “bao” in Chinese cuisine, are a quintessential delight that has charmed palates around the world. These soft, pillowy vessels encapsulate various fillings, creating a harmonious blend of textures and flavors that is both comforting and indulgent. In this comprehensive guide, we embark on a culinary journey to explore the art of crafting authentic steamed buns, unraveling the techniques, ingredients, and nuances that contribute to this delectable masterpiece.

How To Make Steamed Buns (Bao)

Steamed buns, commonly referred to as "bao" in Chinese cuisine, are a delightful and versatile culinary creation that has captured the hearts and taste buds of food enthusiasts around the world. These soft, pillowy buns can be filled with an array of savory or sweet fillings, making them a cherished staple in Chinese dim sum and street food culture. In this step-by-step guide, we will unveil the art of crafting authentic steamed buns, allowing you to indulge in the comforting and delectable experience of making your own bao at home.
Prep Time15 minutes
Active Time20 minutes
Course: Appetizer
Yield: 3
Cost: $3


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup warm milk
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • Your choice of filling: Char Siu Pork Filling (e.g., char siu pork, barbecued pork, vegetables, red bean paste)
  • 1 cup diced char siu pork (Chinese barbecued pork)
  • 2 tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch (optional, for thickening)


  • In a large bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, instant yeast, granulated sugar, and salt. Mix the dry ingredients until well incorporated.
  • Gradually add the warm milk while stirring, and then add the vegetable oil. Continue to mix until the dough starts to come together.
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 8-10 minutes, or until it becomes smooth and elastic.
  • Shape the dough into a ball and place it back into the bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and let the dough rest for about 1 hour, or until it has doubled in size.
  • In a bowl, combine the diced char siu pork, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Mix well to coat the pork with the flavorful sauces.
  • If desired, you can add cornstarch to the filling mixture to create a thicker consistency.
  • Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down to release the air.
  • Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and divide it into small portions, each weighing about 40-50 grams.
  • Take a dough portion and flatten it with your palms to form a small circle, leaving the center slightly thicker than the edges.
  • Place a spoonful of the char siu pork filling in the center of the dough circle.
  • Gently gather the edges of the dough and pleat them together, twisting and pinching to seal the bao. Repeat this process for the remaining dough portions and filling.
  • Place each filled bao on a small piece of parchment paper to prevent sticking during steaming.
  • Arrange the filled bao on a steamer tray, leaving enough space between them to expand during steaming.
  • Cover the steamer with a clean cloth or a lid to prevent condensation from dripping onto the bao.
  • Steam the bao over high heat for about 15-20 minutes, or until they have puffed up and the dough is cooked through.


Tips and Variations:

Experiment with different fillings, such as barbecued pork, vegetables, red bean paste, or even sweet custard.


For added visual appeal, brush the steamed buns with a little water before steaming to create a glossy finish.


If you’re short on time, you can use store-bought char siu pork or other pre-cooked fillings.


Enjoy the steamed buns on their own, or pair them with a dipping sauce like soy sauce, hoisin sauce, or chili oil.


What to eat with Steamed Buns (Bao)?

1. Peking Duck: Peking duck, with its crispy skin and succulent meat, pairs wonderfully with steamed buns. The buns provide a delightful contrast to the duck’s textures and flavors, creating a harmonious balance.

2. Braised Pork Belly (Gong Bao Rou): The rich and savory flavors of braised pork belly complement the sweetness of the steamed buns. The combination offers a delightful play of flavors and textures.

3. Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Pork): Char Siu, with its tender and flavorful slices of marinated pork, is a classic filling for steamed buns. The sweet and savory notes of char siu harmonize beautifully with the buns.

See Also: How To Make Char Siu Pork at Home: A Step-by-Step Guide

4. Stir-Fried Vegetables: For a vegetarian option, pair steamed buns with stir-fried vegetables such as bok choy, snow peas, mushrooms, and bell peppers. The vibrant and crunchy vegetables provide a refreshing contrast to the soft buns.

5. Crispy Tofu: Crispy tofu, seasoned and cooked to perfection, can be a delicious filling for steamed buns. The combination offers a blend of textures and flavors that appeal to both vegetarians and meat lovers.

6. Fried Chicken: Crispy fried chicken, whether coated in a flavorful sauce or seasoned with herbs and spices, provides a satisfying and indulgent pairing with steamed buns.

7. Eggplant or Tofu in Garlic Sauce: Eggplant or tofu cooked in a garlic sauce adds a savory and aromatic element to the steamed buns. The combination of flavors is both comforting and delicious.

8. Soy-Glazed Mushrooms: Sautéed or grilled mushrooms glazed with a soy-based sauce create a hearty and earthy filling for steamed buns.

9. Shrimp or Seafood: Steamed or grilled shrimp, seasoned with Asian-inspired flavors, can provide a delectable and seafood-rich option for steamed buns.

See Also: Cooking Calamari: The Ultimate Guide

10. Pickled Vegetables: Pickled vegetables, such as daikon radish or cucumber, can add a tangy and refreshing component to the steamed buns, balancing out the richness of the fillings.

11. Kimchi and Pork: Kimchi, a spicy and fermented Korean side dish, pairs surprisingly well with steamed buns when combined with tender pork.

12. Crispy Pork Cutlet (Katsu) or Fried Fish Fillet: For a fusion twist, consider filling steamed buns with a crispy pork cutlet or a fried fish fillet. The combination of textures and flavors is sure to be a hit.

13. Spicy Tofu or Seitan: If you enjoy a kick of heat, consider filling steamed buns with spicy tofu or seitan for a satisfying and fiery option.

FAQs About Making Steamed Buns (Bao)

Q1. What is the key to achieving fluffy steamed buns?

Achieving fluffy steamed buns involves several factors: using the right proportion of yeast for leavening, allowing the dough to rise sufficiently, and steaming the buns over high heat for the proper amount of time. Also, refrain from over-kneading the dough, as this can lead to denser buns.

Q2. How do I shape and fill the steamed buns?

To shape steamed buns, roll a piece of dough into a ball and flatten it into a small disc. Place a spoonful of your chosen filling in the center, then gather the edges of the disc and pleat them together to seal the bun. Pinch and twist the pleats at the top to ensure a secure seal.

Q3. Can I use different fillings for steamed buns?

Absolutely! Steamed buns can be filled with a wide range of fillings, both savory and sweet. Popular savory fillings include pork, chicken, vegetables, and seafood, while sweet fillings may include red bean paste, custard, or chocolate. Get creative and experiment with various combinations.

Q4. How long should I steam the buns?

The steaming time can vary depending on the size of the buns and the fillings used. As a general guideline, small to medium-sized buns may need to be steamed for about 10 to 15 minutes, while larger buns might require 15 to 20 minutes. The buns are ready when they have puffed up and the filling is cooked.

Q5. Can I freeze steamed buns?

Yes, you can freeze steamed buns. After steaming and cooling the buns, place them in an airtight container or a resealable plastic bag and store them in the freezer. To reheat, steam the frozen buns for about 5 to 7 minutes until heated through.

Q6. What if my steamed buns are too dense or dry?

If your steamed buns turn out dense or dry, it could be due to over-kneading the dough or not allowing it to rise properly. Ensure that you knead the dough until just smooth and elastic, and allow it to rise until it has doubled in size before shaping and filling the buns.

Q7. Can I make steamed buns without yeast?

While traditional steamed buns are made with yeast for leavening, there are yeast-free alternatives available. Some recipes use baking powder or baking soda as leavening agents to achieve a similar fluffy texture.

Q8. Can I make the dough in advance and refrigerate it?

Yes, you can prepare the dough in advance, allow it to rise, and then refrigerate it for a slower fermentation. This can develop more complex flavors in the dough. When you’re ready to make the buns, bring the dough to room temperature, shape, fill, and steam as usual.

See Also: Chinese Breakfast: 8 Classic Recipes


Steamed buns, or bao, are a testament to the artistry and craftsmanship of Chinese cuisine. The process of crafting these delicate parcels encompasses the selection of ingredients, the precision of dough preparation, and the artful assembly of fillings. As you savor the softness of the dough and the explosion of flavors from the char siu pork filling, you’re partaking in a culinary tradition that has traversed generations.

By embracing the techniques and nuances outlined in this guide, you’re not only learning to make steamed buns; you’re immersing yourself in the cultural heritage and gastronomic delight that bao represent. So, roll up your sleeves, gather your ingredients, and embark on a journey to create steamed buns that not only tantalize your taste buds but also pay homage to the age-old art of crafting exquisite Chinese delicacies.



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