Fluffy and chewy Bao Buns are wildly popular throughout Asia and beyond for their mild yet delicious taste and convenience. An evolved form of Chinese “mantou,” these steamed bao buns puff up beautifully and are perfect for filling with your favorite BBQ or veggie stir fry dishes.
Taiwanese steamed bao buns are pillowy soft, pleasantly chewy, and incredibly fluffy rolls that are simple to make and eat. Traditionally, each bun is stuffed with some sort of filling and eaten on the go. They’re a versatile comfort food and convenient fast food item rolled into one.
It takes roughly two hours to prepare this recipe at home, but most of that time is spent allowing the yeast dough to rise. It takes only 15 minutes of prep and less than 15 minutes of cook time. With a little patience, you can make a whole batch of these delicious Taiwanese treats in no time!
These Asian rolls are very commonly served with a BBQ pork filling, such as this Chinese BBQ Pork. You could also fill them with Pork Belly (Hong Shao Rou) or the sweet and spicy shrimp used in my Thai Shrimp Pizza recipe!
INGREDIENT NOTES AND SUBSTITUTIONS
- Flour - All purpose flour will do the trick. If you prefer unbleached flour, that’s fine — the dough will be just as moist, soft, and fluffy.
- Sugar, Salt, & Yeast - You’ll rarely find a bread recipe without this trio. Sugar feeds the yeast, and the salt slows it down, facilitating the fermentation process.
- Baking Powder - To make the bao bun dough light and fluffy.
- Milk - It’s important to use room temperature milk — it allows the milk to trap air, which expands and makes the buns even fluffier while they bake. Using cold milk will result in flat, almost crumbly bread.
- Vegetable Oil - For incredibly moist, soft rolls. Some alternatives include coconut oil, olive oil, or butter. In my experience, however, they don’t bring the same moisture to the dough.
- Sesame Oil - A little bit of this oil goes a long way. I simply brush it over the dough before baking, both for flavor and to help the leavened dough expand.
HOW TO MAKE BAO BUNS
- Make the Dough. Add the flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and baking powder to the bowl of your stand mixer. Slowly add the milk and oil. Using a dough hook attachment, mix on low until it becomes pliable and smooth. Work the dough into a ball, cover with a damp paper towel, and let rise for 1 hour.
- Cut the Parchment Paper. Meanwhile, cut out ten 4” parchment paper squares for steaming the rolls.
- Roll the Dough. Roll it out until it is ½“ thick. Brush the top with sesame oil.
- Shape the Buns. Using a cookie cutter or rim of a cup, cut circles out of the dough that are 3 ½ - 4 inches wide. Fold in half, transfer to the parchment squares, and gently flatten with your hands. Cover with a towel while it rises for another 30 minutes.
- Steam. Boil water in your steamer and add the steamer basket. Carefully lift the buns by the parchment squares and place them in the basket, leaving an inch of room around each square. Steam the dough on medium for 12 minutes. Then, turn off the heat, and let rest for 5 minutes before uncovering and repeating with the remaining dough.
What is a bao bun?
Bao buns are steamed Asian buns that are pillowy, chewy, and soft. They’re made with a simple yeast dough and are often filled with a variety of ingredients, such as meat, beans, vegetables… really, anything you can think of!
These steamed rolls are handheld and meant to be eaten on the go. Just pick one up and take a bite!
Are bao buns Chinese or Japanese?
Steamed bao buns are, traditionally, a Chinese invention derived from the Northern Chinese “mantou.” However, they have taken on a new life in Taiwanese cuisine in the form of a wildly popular fast food meal. Generally, you’ll find a Taiwanese bao bun stuffed with everything from meat to veggies.
Can you freeze bao buns?
Absolutely. You can freeze the rolls after they’ve been steamed, or simply freeze the bao bun dough to be steamed at your leisure later on. They’ll retain their texture for a couple of months.
If steaming from frozen, allow the dough to thaw in the fridge before adding to your steamer.
To reheat steamed buns from frozen, wrap them in a damp paper towel and microwave in 10 second bursts until warmed.
Taiwanese Steamed Bao Buns
- 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- ⅛ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon dry instant yeast
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ⅔ cup milk (room temperature)
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- sesame oil (for brushing over the rolled dough)
- In a stand mixer using dough hook, combine flour, sugar, yeast, salt and baking powder. Slowly pour in room temp milk and tablespoon oil. Mix for 10 minutes on low speed until dough is elastic, smooth and soft. (If you find the dough too wet, add ½ tablespoon flour at a time and knead it in until it reaches a consistency that's not too sticky.) Shape it to a large ball and cover with damp cloth. Set aside for 1 hour to rise.
- Cut 10 4-inch square parchment paper squares for steaming.
- Punch the dough down and roll out to ½ inch thickness, then brush sesame oil over the top. (This will help the baos open up the after being steamed).
- Use a cookie cutter or cup to cut 3 ½ - 4 inch circles out of the dough. Fold each circle in half, place it onto the parchment squares and gently press down to flatten. Cover with kitchen towel and let the baos rest for another 30 minutes (they will rise during this time).
- In a wok or steamer boil water and place steamer basket inside. Transfer buns with parchment squares to the steamer with 1 inch room around each. Cover and steam over medium heat for 12 minutes. Turn heat off and leave lid on, let rest 5 minutes.
- Remove to rack to cool and repeat with remaining buns.
*The information shown below is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.