Steamed bao buns easy (1)
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  • Food: Steamed Bao Buns
  • Writer: Lizzie Green
  • Content-Type: Food Blog

One of our favorite foods to make on a date night in is steamed bao buns. While I prepare the filling, Jack prepares the dough. Then it’s time to eat!

Our notion of a perfect Valentine’s date is to make these steamed bao buns. See, Jack and I like to dine out, but we never do it on Valentine’s Day.

Restaurants are busier, food is more expensive, and we always have a better time at home. So we avoid the crowds and simply celebrate by spending time together creating something we both enjoy.

We’ve learned to make pasta (I make a great sauce while he cranks the pasta machine), handmade pizza (Jack makes the crust while I make the toppings), and sushi (I prepare the ingredients and he rolls it up) in the past, but lately, we’ve become hooked on these lovely tiny bao buns!

If you ask me, they’re the ideal cooking project for a pair. One person (Jack) can make the dough while the other (me) prepares the filling. Then combine the two for a delectable date-night dinner!

But don’t panic if you’ve already made arrangements for Valentine’s Day! Making these bao buns would be a wonderful hobby to do with friends, a partner, or even by yourself on any given night.

The buns are fluffy and puffy on the inside. They become little explosions of texture and taste when stuffed with zesty marinated tempeh, avocado, and heaps of fresh toppings. This is a recipe you won’t want to miss, believe me!

How can you get ready-to-cook steamed bao buns?

Steamed Bao Buns (1)
Food: Steamed Bao Buns (Source: Eat little bird)

This is what you must do:

  1. Make the dough first. Combine the dried yeast, sugar, and warm water in a mixing bowl and let aside for 5 minutes, or until the yeast foams. In a large mixing basin, combine the dry ingredients, then add the yeast mixture and avocado oil. To make a rough ball, combine all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl. Turn it out onto a lightly floured area and knead vigorously for about 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Allow 45 minutes for it to rise.
  2. Cut out the bao buns once the dough has risen. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin until it is 1/4-inch thick. After that, cut out 3-inch circles of dough using a drinking glass and set each one on a square of parchment paper. Brush the tops with oil and fold each dough piece in half, lightly pushing it down. Wrap the buns in plastic wrap and set them aside for another hour to rise. Before you move on to the next phase, they won’t have quite doubled in size, but they will have puffed up slightly.\
  3. Finally, prepare to cook! Place each bun in a bamboo steamer placed over an inch of water, still on its paper square. Cover and steam for 9 to 11 minutes, or until puffy. That concludes our discussion.

Filling for Bao Buns

Bao buns are traditionally stuffed with seasoned pork belly, but I prefer a plant-based version.

I use my favorite tempeh cooking method: steam, marinade, and bake, to make sweet and delicious hoisin tempeh. Tofu that has been marinated and baked would also be wonderful in this dish.

I wash and slice the fresh veggie toppings while the tempeh bakes.

Thinly sliced carrot and/or cucumber, fresh cilantro or mint, avocado, chilies, and sesame seeds are always served with these buns. A couple of pickled jalapeos or the pickles from this recipe’s banh mi will also work well here.

Fill the buns with the filling as soon as they come out of the steamer because they’re best warm and tender. Enjoy with more tempeh marinade, soy sauce, or tamari on top, as well as a generous squeeze of lime juice.

Recipes for Bao Buns

  • Use a neutral-colored oil. In my recipes, I nearly always call for extra-virgin olive oil, but I prefer avocado oil here. Its bland flavor complements the aromatic ingredients in this dish. If avocado oil is unavailable, substitute another neutral oil, such as grapeseed oil.
  • If the dough is too dry, add a tablespoon of water at a time. This bao bun recipe yields a stiff dough, so don’t be discouraged if it takes a few minutes to mold it into a ball. If the dough is too dry, drizzle in a tablespoon of water at a time until it comes together.
  • Allow the dough to rise in a warm place. Because yeast thrives in warm environments, letting your dough rise in one will provide the best results. Ours looks great on a sunny windowsill!
  • The bao buns should be served hot from the steamer. When the steamed buns are still soft and malleable after they’ve been removed from the heat, they’re at their best. If you have any leftover buns, they can be frozen.

Steamed Bao Buns

Time to prepare: 2 hours and 15 minutes
Time to cook: 10 minutes
Serving: 12 buns per serving

These steamed bao buns are easy to make and tasty! I stuff the soft, fluffy buns with marinated tempeh and plenty of fresh toppings.


Bao Buns

  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ cup + 2 tablespoons warm water, 110°
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • ¼ cup avocado oil, more for brushing


  • 8 ounces tempeh, sliced into 12 strips and steamed
  • 6 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 3 tablespoons sriracha
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • Avocado slices
  • Sliced cucumber and/or carrot
  • Mint or cilantro
  • Diced Thai chiles
  • Lime wedges, for serving


To make the bao buns

Steamed Bao buns yum (1)
Food: Steamed Bao Buns (Source: Eat little bird)
  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Stir together the yeast, sugar, and water in a small basin. Allow for 5 minutes or until the yeast has foamed up.
  2. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the avocado oil and yeast mixture until a rough ball form; if the dough is too dry, add 1 to 2 tablespoons additional water. Transfer to a lightly floured surface, roll into a ball, and vigorously knead for 5 minutes, or until smooth and elastic.
  3. Place the dough inside a basin that has been brushed with a little oil. Cover and put aside for 45 minutes in a warm location. (Note that it will not rise as much as other yeasted doughs.)

To make the tempeh filling

  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl. Preheat the oven to 425°F and place parchment paper on a baking pan. Whisk together the hoisin sauce, sriracha, ginger, and lime zest in a small bowl. Half of the sauce should be saved aside for serving, while the other half should be mixed with the tempeh slices and left to marinate for 20 minutes. Place the tempeh on a baking sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the edges are browned.
  2. Complete the buns. Using parchment paper, cut twelve 4-inch squares and arrange them on a large baking sheet. Roll out the dough to a thickness of 14 inches on a clean work surface. Cut out circles of dough with a 3-inch glass and set them on the paper squares. Brush the tops with a little oil, then fold each circle in half and gently press down, flattening slightly so the halves stay together but the puffy bun shape remains. Wrap in plastic wrap and set aside for 1 hour, or until puffy. Place in a bamboo steamer over 1-inch of water in a pan. Bring the water to a simmer, cover, and steam for 9 to 11 minutes, or until puffed. Organize your work in batches.
  3. Assemble. Over the avocado, cucumber, and carrot, squeeze a little lime juice. Assemble each bun with tempeh, avocado, veggies, herbs, and chiles, spooning a little sauce over each tempeh piece. Serve with lime slices for squeezing and the remaining sauce on the side.