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Steamed Bao Buns Without a Bamboo Steamer

Steamed Bao buns lined up on a black tray with other buns in the background on wooden board.
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Incredibly soft and fluffy, Chinese Steamed Buns make a brilliant bread to stuff pulled or crispy chicken and pork in and serve as a tasty appetizer! Unconventionally, our Bao Buns are made without a bamboo steamer, which most home cooks do not have! We utilise our metal steamer pan and an electric vegetable steamer to recreate these delicious little buns!

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What Are Bao Buns?

Bao Buns are steamed sweet buns, originating in the Orient. Made with plain flour, cornflour (cornstarch), oil and yeast, they are proved, then shaped into a folded-over semi-circle and steamed to perfection to create a light and fluffy pocket to stuff savoury and sweet filling in.

Buns are being filled with crispy chicken from a pan.

What Flour is Best for Steamed Buns?

For the softest fluffiest buns, use flour with lower gluten content. Plain (all-purpose) flour works just fine, but if you have some cake flour (with 8-10% protein), use that! Furthermore, if you are looking for that aesthetically pleasing snow-white colour for your Bao Buns, try making them with bleached flour. It will create prettier buns, but won’t affect the flavour. Make sure to add the cornflour into the mixture too – it helps to keep the buns light and fluffy when cooked in a humid environment.

Method: How to Make Bao Buns?

Mix the flour, cornflour (cornstarch), yeast, caster sugar and baking powder in a bowl of your stand mixer (we use and love Kenwood).

Mix warm water with vegetable oil and pour it into the dry ingredients.

Run your stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment on slow-medium speed for about 10-12 minutes until you have a smooth and elastic dough.

Tip the dough onto a work surface and shape a tight ball. Place it in a large clean bowl, cover with cling film and leave in a warm spot to proof for 1-1.5 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

Once doubled, scrape the dough onto a kitchen surface and knock the air out using the bottom of your palm. Knead it gently for a few minutes, then roll it out into a large rectangle, approx 0.5 cm in thickness.

Brush the whole surface of the dough with vegetable oil. Then use a 7-8cm pastry cutter to stamp out disks of dough. Reroll any scraps. We get 18-22 rounds of bao dough.

Cut 18-22 squares of baking parchment and arrange them on a large baking sheet. Brush each square of parchment lightly with vegetable oil. Place the stamped-out rounds on the sheets. Fold each round over and press down (the oiled dough will ensure the buns open up slightly when being steamed).

Loosely cover the buns with a lightly oiled cling film and leave in a warm spot to prove again for 30-45 minutes. The buns will puff up, but they shouldn’t double in size.

Buns are shaped on pieces of baking parchment.

How to Steam Bao Buns in a Metal Steamer Pan?

Pour boiling water into a large metal pan that fits a steamer/colander. You will need the steamer sitting above the water level, so make sure your pan is not too large. Bring the water to a gentle simmer.

Place 3-4 buns (still on the baking parchment squares) in the colander/ steamer and lower them down. Make sure the bottom is at least 2 cm away from the water. Make sure the buns don’t touch the sides of the pan, as the water will drip directly down the sides.

Steam the buns in batches for 10-12 minutes per batch. Be careful when taking the lid off so that the condensation doesn’t drip down on the bao buns. You can also try to cover the pan with a tea towel before placing the lid on top. The fabric will absorb the water and prevent the condensation from making your bao buns soggy. The bao should cook all the way through and be all soft and fluffy.

Bao Buns steaming in a metal steam pan.

How to Cook the Chinese Steamed Buns in an Electric Vegetable Steamer?

Preheat the water in a water compartment of the steamer. Place the buns in the second tear of the steamer still on the baking parchment. Make sure the buns don’t touch the sides of the steamer, as the water will drip directly down the sides. Cover and steam for 10-12 minutes. Be careful when taking the lid off so that the condensation doesn’t drip down on the bao buns.

What to Fill Bao Buns With?

The world is your oyster! Whether you’re a meat-eater or a vegan, there are so many delicious options you can enhance your Bao Buns with. We love to stuff our buns with sticky chicken, pork, or pulled jackfruit, and then add some crunchy Asian-style slaw for a bit of texture. Some of our favourite recipes for bao bun fillings are:

Steamed Bao Buns filled with crispy chinese bbq chicken being picked up with two hands.

And if you are looking for a great slaw recipe, we absolutely love this Asian Cabbage Slaw with Sesame Mayo.

Recipe FAQs

Can I Make Bao Buns in Advance?

Yes, you can! Make them 1-2 days in advance and store them in an airtight container. When you are ready to eat them, place them back into a steamer for a couple of minutes to soften and warm up.

Can Steamed Buns Be Frozen?

Yes. Once steamed and cooled, place them in an airtight container/ bag and freeze. Before using them, defrost and reheat in the steamer for 2-3 minutes for the best results.

Why is Cornflour Used in Bao Buns?

Cornflour is a perfect ingredient for these steamed buns that are cooked in an extremely humid environment, as cornflour absorbs moisture very well. This means your buns stay light and fluffy!

My Bao Buns Are Less White Than the Ones From the Restaurant. Why?

Typically, the restaurant Bao Buns are made with bleached flour, which gives them bot a snow-white colour and makes them softer. However, flavour-wise plain (all-purpose) flour is perfectly ok to use for steamed buns.

How Many Bao Buns to Serve?

Serving size is always a subjective topic. Seb once ate 9 (!!!) of these buns filled with Chinese BBQ Pulled Chicken! If you are serving these buns as an appetiser, I would suggest 1 or 2. But if you want to make a meal centred around bao buns, serve 4-5 per portion with a side of edamame beans and other Asian-style salads.

Steamed Chinese Buns are being filled with cabbage slaw.

More Chinese-Inspired Recipes

We love the sticky and sweet Chinese-inspired dishes. Especially the ones that come together quickly. Here are some of our absolute favourites:

Recipe Card

Steamed Bao buns lined up on a black tray with other buns in the background on wooden board.

Bao Buns Without a Steamer

Incredibly soft and fluffy, the Chinese Steamed Buns make a brilliant bread to stuff pulled or crispy chicken and pork in and serve as a tasty appetizer! Unconventioanlly, our Bao Buns are made without a bamboo steamer, which most home cooks do not have! We utilise our metal steamer pan and an electric vegetable steamer to recreate these delicious little buns!
5 from 11 votes
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Proving Time: 2 hrs
Total Time 2 hrs 45 mins
Course Bread, Snack
Cuisine Chinese
Servings 30 buns
Calories 77 kcal

Equipment

  • Metal Steamer Pan or Electric Vegetable Steamer

Ingredients
 
 

For the Steamed Bao Buns:

  • 300 g plain flour
  • 120 g cornflour
  • 60 g caster sugar
  • 3.5 g fast-action yeast about 1/2 a packet
  • 2 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 180 ml water lukewarm
  • 60 ml vegetable oil

Instructions
 

  • Mix the flour, cornflour, yeast, caster sugar and baking powder in a bowl of your stand mixer.
  • Mix warm water with vegetable oil and pour it into the dry ingredients.
  • Run your stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment on slow-medium speed for about 10-12 minutes until you have a smooth and elastic dough.
  • Tip the dough onto a work surface and shape a tight ball. Place it in a large clean bowl, cover with cling film and leave in a warm spot to proof for 1-1.5 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.
  • Once doubled, scrape the dough onto a kitchen surface and knock the air out using the bottom of your palm. Knead it gently for a few minutes, then roll it out into a large rectangle, approx 0.5 cm in thickness.
  • Brush the whole surface of the dough with vegetable oil. Then use a 7-8cm pastry cutter to stamp out disks of dough. Reroll any scraps. We get 18-22 rounds of bao dough.
  • Cut 18-22 squares of baking parchment and arrange them on a large baking sheet. Brush each square of parchment lightly with vegetable oil. Place the stamped-out rounds on the sheets. Fold each round over and press down (the oiled dough will ensure the buns open up slightly when being steamed).
  • Losely cover the buns with a lightly oiled cling film and leave in a warm spot to prove again for 30-45 minutes. The buns will puff up, but they shouldn't double in size.

Cook in a Metal Steamer Pan:

  • Pour boiling water into a large metal pan that fits a steamer/colander. You will need the steamer sitting above the water level, so make sure your pan is not too large. Bring the water to a gentle simmer.
  • Place 3-4 buns (still on the baking parchment squares) in the colander/ steamer and lower them down. Make sure the bottom is at least 2 cm away from water. Steam the buns in batches for 10-12 minutes per batch. Be careful when taking the lid off so that the condensation doesn't drip down on the bao buns. The bao should cook all the way through and be all soft and fluffy.

Cook in an Electric Vegetable Steamer:

  • Preheat the water in a water compartment of the steamer. Place the buns in the second tear of the steamer still on the baking parchment. Cover and steam for 10-12 minutes. Be careful when taking the lid off so that the condensation doesn't drip down on the bao buns.

Notes

Filling ideas: 

Nutrition

Calories: 77kcalCarbohydrates: 13gProtein: 1gFat: 2gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 1gSodium: 33mgPotassium: 11mgFiber: 1gSugar: 2gCalcium: 19mgIron: 1mg
Keyword Bao Buns, Bao Buns Without A Bamboo Steamer, Bao Buns Without a Steamer, Gua Bao Buns, Steamed Bao Buns
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
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17 Replies to “Steamed Bao Buns Without a Bamboo Steamer”

  1. 5 stars
    These bao buns are a total discovery for me! It looks amazing and it is not hard to prepare. Will be making them soon again, thanks!

    1. So glad you found these! We felt the same way when we first made them 🙂

  2. 5 stars
    I didn’t know you can make them without a bamboo steamer. That is great to know there is an alternative.

    1. Absolutely! It’s really not hard to make without the bamboo steamer!

  3. 5 stars
    I always wanted to learn how to make bao buns but it never was a perfect timing really. Well, this recipe is too good – time to give the bao buns a try!

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Mahy! Glad you decided to give them a try! Let me know how it goes 🙂

  4. hi, thank you so much for your most inspiring post. these Boa were so lovely, leftovers were enjoyed the following morning for breakfast with jam! can you believe it, yes JAM! a total win. Although they’re weren’t as authentic as my gtrsandma used two make them, it definitely was simple and easy to follow that left a taste of memories tingling on our tastebuds.

    1. Thank you so much for trying the recipe! I wish I could taste some truly authentic buns one day! And I have to try them with jam too – thanks for the idea 😀

  5. 5 stars
    What an informative post, I’ve never tried making Bao Buns and looking forward to having a go. I’ll being using a tea towel to stop the buns from going soggy and making them the day before and warming them up, thanks for sharing.

    1. You are most welcome! A fabric teatowel is a great way to stop the water from dripping on them! 🙂

  6. Gina Abernathy says: Reply

    5 stars
    First time making steamed buns, but will not be the last. Loved them!

    1. Thanks, Gina! 🙂

  7. 5 stars
    oh my gosh, these turned out amazing!! I never thought I’d be making bao buns, but here we are, and it was so easy with your post!

    1. Oh, I’m so glad you tried making these buns! 🙂

  8. 5 stars
    Thank you so much for showing how to make them without a bamboo steamer!

    1. You are most welcome! 🙂

  9. 5 stars
    These delicious little buns are so fun to make and eat!! MY whole family enjoyed it!

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