Soft and fluffy homemade bao buns, gently steamed to perfection. I'll show you step-by-step how to make bao in your own kitchen that everyone absolutely loves, including a trick to get that perfect fold.
I'll also share some of my favourite filling suggestions.
The first time I had Bao (in the form of Gua Bao - or Pork Belly Bao) at a restaurant, made me totally fall in love with them. Soft, fluffy and stuffed full of all my favourite things.
I make them pretty often now, as a weekend treat, and the kids love to take in leftover bao for their packed lunches at school. I think they like having something a little unusual instead of boring old bread for sandwiches.
They're made from simple store cupboard ingredients and although they look a little tricky, I've broken down the recipe into easy steps below.
This is a good one to get the kids involved too as they seem to love helping to knead the dough and watching it rise.
Then once they have been steamed, I like to lay out a selection of fillings so we can make our own little mouthfuls of heaven, one is never enough.
🔪 How to make Bao at home
Full recipe with detailed steps in the recipe card at the end of this post.
- Place the flour, sugar, salt and yeast in a bowl.
- Add the warm water and butter to a jug, then add to the flour mixture.
- Knead for ten minutes, then cover with a damp tea towel for two hours, until doubled in size.
- Knead the dough again and split into 20 pieces, roll each one into an oval, then brush with oil.
- Using a chop stick, fold the dough in half, transfer to baking parchment and remove the chop stick.
- Loosely cover with cling film for an hour to prove.
- Put a large steamer on to boil, then steam the bao buns for 10 minutes and serve.
👩🍳PRO TIP Brushing the inside with oil before folding helps to ensure the buns don't rip when you open them up. You could brush with garlic or chilli oil for an extra hit of flavour.
So cute, soft fluffy bao buns ready to be filled.
I can't decide which one I like the best, I love them all.
What would you put in yours?
I have a steam oven - can I make bao buns in that rather than a steam pan?
So long as it's a full-steam oven (not a combi-steam), then yes. Place the mini buns on trays lined with baking parchment and steam for 8-10 minutes on 100C/210F full steam until puffed up.
If your steam oven has a bread proving function, you can also use this function to prove the buns too. This will take 30 minutes for the first prove and 20 minutes for the second prove.
📺 Watch how to make it
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- 450 g (3 ¾ cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
- 2 tbsp caster sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tsp (equivalent to one packet or 7g) instant dried yeast
- 210 ml (¾ cup + 2 tbsp) warm water
- 45 g (3 tbsp) unsalted butter - very soft
- 3 tbsp whole milk
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Place the flour, sugar, salt, and yeast in a bowl and mix together.450 g (3 ¾ cups) plain (all-purpose) flour, 2 tbsp caster sugar, ½ tsp salt, 2 tsp (equivalent to one packet or 7g) instant dried yeast
- Add the warm water and butter to a jug and stir together until the butter melts.210 ml (¾ cup + 2 tbsp) warm water, 45 g (3 tbsp) unsalted butter
- Stir the butter-water mixture and the milk into the flour mixture at first with a spoon, and then with your hands, until combined.3 tbsp whole milk
- Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes. Alternatively, you can do this in a mixer fitted with a dough hook.
- Place the dough in an oiled bowl. Cover (with clingfilm or a damp tea towel) and leave to prove until doubled in size - about 90 minutes - 2 hours).
- Get some baking parchment, and cut/rip into 20 pieces, each approx 7cmx7cm in size.
- After the dough has proved, tip it out of the bowl onto a floured surface. Knead the dough again and split into 20 pieces (if you want to be precise, you can weight the dough and divide by 20 to get the same amount of dough per bao. Mine were 38g each) and roll each into a ball.
- Roll each ball into an oval – approx. 9cm x 6cm, using a rolling pin. You can do this on a lightly floured surface, or on a large piece of baking parchment.
- Brush the top of each oval with the olive oil.1 tbsp olive oil
- Place a chopstick on top of one of the ovals, and fold the dough over the chopstick(so the oil is on the inside of the fold). Transfer the bun to one of the small pieces of baking parchment and remove the chopstick. Repeat with all of the buns.
- Place the buns on the trays - still on the individual pieces of baking parchment (as this will help you to move them later).
- Loosely cover each tray with clingfilm or a carrier bag* (see note 1) and leave to prove for a further hour, until puffed up.
- Put a large steamer pan on to boil. Working in batches, place the buns in the steamer (keeping them on the baking parchment) and steam for 10 minutes. NOTE: If you use a stacked steam pan, ensure the heat isn't on too high. If you do, the excess steam may cause lots of water drips from the pan lid, which can drip down on the buns, causing them to become a little soggy.
- You can keep cooked buns warm whilst you're making the rest by placing them on a warm plate and covering them with some non-stick foil.
- Once the buns are cooked, open them up and stuff them with your favourite fillings.
You can also reheat the bao buns from frozen, by placing them in the steamer for 5-6 minutes, until hot throughout. Nutritional Information is approximate and is per bao.
Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links – which means if you buy the product I get a small commission (at no extra cost to you). If you do buy, then thank you! That’s what helps us to keep Kitchen Sanctuary running. The nutritional information provided is approximate and can vary depending on several factors. For more information please see our Terms & Conditions.