Recipe: Steamed Pork Buns (Baozi) (2024)

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Nealey Dozier

Nealey Dozier

Nealey Dozier is a former wedding planner turned chef, culinary instructor, recipe developer, and food writer. She is based in Atlanta. You can find more of her Southern adventures in eating and entertaining at

updated Jan 21, 2020

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Recipe: Steamed Pork Buns (Baozi) (1)

Makes16 buns





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While on a recent trip to Taiwan, I was honored to spend a few irreplaceable hours in the home and kitchen of a local urban family. My generous host not only prepared a traditional Taiwanese breakfast, lunch, and dinner; but also took me shopping for the day’s fresh ingredients and allowed me to get hands-on with a few of the recipes!

My intention was to learn how the local women (and men!) feed their families on a day-to-day basis, which to me is of central importance when immersing yourself in a new food culture. What fads people eat in restaurants and what trends famous chefs create don’t hold a candle to the traditions upheld within the walls of a home kitchen, prepared lovingly by a home cook. And how one shops for groceries, organizes a pantry, and plans the weekly meals can be revealing of so much more than just their culinary prowess.

Prior to my arrival, I had naively convinced myself I would be visiting a secluded old farmhouse and cooking with an elderly grandmother, all while learning the closely guarded secrets of ancient Taiwanese cuisine. In my fantasy, we would gather still-warm chicken eggs from the backyard and pluck tropical fruit from lush trees outside the kitchen window. So you can imagine my surprise when the cab pulled in front of a monstrous high-rise in the dusty outskirts of Taipei. But it wasn’t until I was ushered past both a 7-11 and a McDonald’s in the building’s lobby that my farm-to-table dreams were completely dashed.

Shoes of all shapes and sizes were piled in the hallway leading to the apartment and a glow-in-the-dark paper skeleton marked the entrance to the door. Rainbow crayoned walls hinted that an active family lived here. I was hurriedly greeted with a pair of gently-used Marriott slippers and escorted into the small but modern apartment. My host, an energetic young mother, was multitasking like a pro, playing songs on the 27-inch iMac for her screaming toddler while discreetly sweeping scattered toys into a closet. Wait, was this Taiwan or New York City? Maybe jet lag was finally getting the best of me…

The host pointed to a chair for me and suggested coffee. I’d been up since dawn so I jumped at the offer. A cup of lukewarm Nescafé arrived in a Texas-sized mug, San Antonio scrawled across the side. It was delicious. While she slipped back to the kitchen to finish up cooking, I took a brief moment to settle into my surroundings. It was the last day of my two-week journey, and I was still reeling from sensory overload. But in this house at this very moment, all felt calm. And I felt welcome. Just then my stomach gurgled loudly and I was reminded of my purpose here. I wondered what could possibly be for breakfast? One more fish stomach and I was going to scream.

As if she heard my hesitation, a bowl of steaming, snowy-white balls appeared followed immediately by a platter of glistening sliced sweet potatoes. She nudged the plump little buns towards me and I reluctantly put one on my plate. After being bombarded with more than a few strange and unfamiliar ingredients during the trip, I’d learned not to be fooled by something so innocent looking as a bowl of fluffy dumplings. I took a little nibble, then another. Okay, still alive. It wasn’t until I reached the meaty center that I realized I was eating a glorified sausage biscuit: a savory pork filling blanketed in a soft yeasty bun. It was hearty, satisfying, and in a strange sense, familiar. I polished off two more in the blink of the eye.

She picked at her plate of sweet potatoes, explaining to me she was watching her (already slim) figure. She then elaborated that her husband and sons preferred eating Egg McMuffins for breakfast, however she enjoyed fresh fruits and vegetables. She confessed it was a constant battle. (I knew immediately we were going to get along splendidly. My boyfriend would have fit in quite nicely, too.) I reached for another steamed bun and inquired about the recipe. I couldn’t wait to make them back home; they were going to be a huge hit with my friends. She stared at me blankly for a moment. “Oh, the baozi? I get these frozen at the supermarket and just heat them up in the microwave.”

I sat there in shock for a moment. Not necessarily because my delicious breakfast came from a box, but that this foreign women, so strange to me in so many ways, was actually not a stranger at all. She was smart, and honest, and completely unapologetic for her choices. (And why should she be?) A modern lady in every sense of the word. She then mentioned she did in fact know how to make them from scratch, but that the ones from the store were just as good. Maybe even better. She said most families now purchased them frozen. It was just easier. I nodded with complete understanding — Blueberry Eggos are no stranger to my toaster oven.

We continued chatting in broken English for a while, discussing food and cooking and family. I learned about her husband’s love for T.G.I. Friday’s and his obsession with Western food. I learned that she taught herself recipes from American cookbooks but still very much preferred her native cuisine. I could have just sat and listened for hours. But with a quick glance at the clock she jumped out of her chair. We were late for the market! And just like that, we were out the door and headed to the largest outdoor “farmers market” in New Taipei City. And my adventure continued…

Makes 16 buns

Nutritional Info


For the buns

  • 1 tablespoon

    (1 packet) active dry yeast

  • 1 cup

    warm water, plus additional as needed

  • 4 cups

    all-purpose flour (I like White Lily)

  • 2 tablespoons

    granulated sugar, divided

  • 1 teaspoon

    double-acting baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt

For the filling

  • 8 ounces

    ground pork

  • 1/4 cup

    finely chopped Chinese cabbage or bok choy

  • 1/4 cup

    finely chopped scallions

  • 2 tablespoons

    soy sauce

  • 1 tablespoon

    sesame oil

  • 1 tablespoon

    sherry or rice wine


  1. For the buns, in a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water. Allow to proof until bubbly and creamy, about 10 minutes.

  2. Sift the flour, sugar, and baking powder into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Add the salt. Turn the mixer on low speed, and pour in the warm water-yeast mixture until the dough begins to form a ball. If it looks too dry, add more water, tablespoon by tablespoon, until it forms a ragged clump. Continue to knead on low speed for 5 to 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth, shiny, and springy to the touch.

  3. (Alternately, you can do this by hand: Dribble the water into a large bowl holding the flour mixture, using one hand to slowly mix it in a circular direction. When it forms the ragged clump, turn the dough out onto a floured countertop and knead by hand until the dough is smooth and shiny.)

  4. Place the dough in a well-oiled bowl, flipping the dough to coat it in oil, and cover with plastic wrap. Store the bowl in a warm, draft free place until it doubles in size, approximately 2 to 3 hours.

  5. Prepare the filling (recipe below). Cut 16 squares (approximately 3-inches each) of wax or parchment paper. Spray each square with cooking oil.

  6. Punch the dough down, then divide in half. Roll each half into a rectangular log. Using a pastry cutter, slice each log into 8 pieces. Roll a slice into a ball, then shape it into a thin, flat disc (like a pancake). Try to keep the center of the disc thicker than the edges. (Once steamed, this keeps the bun from being too doughy on one side and too thin on the other.)

  7. Spoon a dollop of filling into the center of the disc. Pull the edges up around the filling and pinch together to form a bun. Place the bun on a square of parchment paper and cover with a towel. Continue this process with the rest of the dough until all of the buns are filled. Allow the buns to rest for 20 - 30 minutes.

  8. To cook, prepare the steamer basket. Working in batches, position filled buns (each still on its parchment square!) into the steamer, allowing room on all sides. (The cooked buns will be up to 50 percent larger.) I placed the buns seam-side down so they would have a smooth, round top.

  9. Steam the buns for 15 minutes, then remove the pan and basket from the heat. Let sit for 5 minutes before removing the lid. Remove the parchment paper from the bottom of the buns and serve immediately. To reheat heat buns (they will keep for a few days in the refrigerator), pop in the microwave for 30 seconds or re-steam.

For the filling:

  1. Combine the pork, cabbage, scallions, soy, sesame oil, and sherry in a large bowl. Set aside.

Related: Recipe: Sweet and Sour Chicken (or Pork!)

(Images: Nealey Dozier)

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Main Dish



Recipe: Steamed Pork Buns (Baozi) (2024)


What is the difference between steamed bun and bao bun? ›

Bao Buns (pronounced “bow”), but also known as a 'steamed buns' or 'baozi' 包子, are a delicious, warm, fluffy treat of stuffing wrapped inside a sweet, white dough. Made with a mix of flour, yeast, sugar, baking powder, milk and oil, the bao is a tad sweeter than its closely related cousin, the dumpling.

Why is my steamed buns not fluffy? ›

Any rush of cool air could potentially make the buns collapse. If you're making fluffy yeasted buns, let the buns sit covered in the steamer for an extra 5 minutes after the heat has been turned off. This resting time is crucial. If you open the lid too quickly, the cool air from outside might deflate the buns.

How do you keep steamed buns from getting soggy? ›

There's a hack to make it possible to create the perfect dish. Just tightly wrap a clean kitchen towel around your traditional metal steamer lid. It will absorb the condensation, protecting your bao buns from excess moisture just like a bamboo option would.

How long should I steam my bao? ›

After 30 minutes, they should be looking a little more puffy and now it's time to cook them. Get a big pot of boiling water over high heat (I boil the kettle and pour that into a pot for ease). Place the steamer on top of the pot and let steam for 10 minutes, until the bao puffs up even more and looks glossy.

Are steamed bao buns healthy? ›

A standard steamed bao typically contains about 200-250 calories, positioning it as a moderate-calorie food option. Additionally, bao serves as a source of protein and dietary fiber, particularly when made with whole grain flours or filled with vegetables or lean meats.

What can I use to steam bao buns? ›

Steam Using a Sieve

You can replicate a steamer with very little effort by placing your buns in a common kitchen sieve or colander, then suspending it over boiling water. Creating a tower from plates and tea towels will stop the steam from escaping, causing your buns to steam cook!

Why add vinegar to bao? ›

In order to get white bao, many Chinese American cooks use low-gluten (low-protein), bleached cake flour for their bao dough; cake flour is milled from soft wheat and has 8 to 10% gluten/protein. To make up for the flour's lack of gluten a touch of vinegar is added to result in more chewy dough.

Can you make bao dough the night before? ›

To make the dough in advance, mix the yeast with cool water instead of warm. Knead as before, then put in a bowl, cover with clingfilm and chill overnight.

How to cook steamed pork buns without a steamer? ›

Boil some water and pour it into a roasting pan or a heatproof dish. Place the roasting pan or dish on the bottom rack of the oven. Put the baking sheet with the buns on the middle rack. Close the oven door and let the buns steam for about 15-20 minutes or until fully cooked.

Can I steam Bao buns in advance? ›

Yes, make the buns, then cool, cover and freeze. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature before reheating. You can reheat in the microwave for 15-20 seconds each bun. Or you can steam them for 4-5 minutes to reheat.

Can you refrigerate Bao buns before steaming? ›

If the bao buns are stored in the fridge, the steaming time is shorter at about 2-3 minutes. Cooked bao buns are typically steamed for about 10 minutes.

Do you need to defrost bao buns before steaming? ›

Place frozen bao into a stove top steamer basket or basket of rice cooker. Steam over boiling water for about 10-12 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165°f. Note: Steam bao from frozen, do not thaw.

Why are my steamed buns hard? ›

I do find that steaming the buns on a simmer or from cold or warm water or the combination allows the steamed buns to puff up into a more tender bite. Preboiling the water can sometimes lead to a firmer texture if the bao has not fully leavened or proofed.

How many bao buns per person? ›

For the Steamed Bao Buns

The bao buns need 10-12 minutes to steam, so I recommend steaming the bao buns (homemade or frozen) just before serving. Allow about 3 buns per person as a main meal.

Are bao and buns the same? ›

"Bao" is a catch-all term for various filled buns and dumplings in Chinese cuisine. However, when we refer to "bao" in the context of comparing it to pork buns, we are referring to the popular steamed bao.

Does bao bun mean bun bun? ›

Bao means "bun", so the name bao bun is redundant, and bao in the Chinese language without any qualifiers is generally used to refer to baozi.

What is another name for a bao bun? ›

As mentioned before Bao Buns are also commonly referred to as “bao, bay, pow, pau, paoare, Mantou, baozi, humbow, nunu, bakpao, bausak, however the most common terminology will be Bao or Steamed Buns. These soft delicious Chinese treats have been in existence for hundreds of years!

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