Chinese Steamed Pork Buns

published Apr 21, 2024
Steamed Pork Buns Recipe

These tender and fluffy pork buns are a great way to start any day.

Makes12 (3-inch) buns

Prep1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours

Cook27 minutes

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steamed buns on surface with one split open
Credit: Photo: Ryan Liebe; Food Styling: Brett Regot

Steamed pork buns are a comforting and filling breakfast item that can be found in many Chinese bakeries next to the steamer. With its fluffy skin and delicious savory pork filling, each bun has the perfect balance of flavors. 

A steamed pork bun along with a cup of milk tea or hot coffee is a great way to start the day. And they’re not too hard to make at home! Make a batch, eat as many as you want, and freeze the leftovers.

Why You’ll Love It

  • This recipe makes steamed pork buns that taste exactly like the ones you’d get in a Chinese bakery. Each ingredient works together in harmony, delivering tender baos with a subtly spiced filling. 
  • The key to the filling is all about how you mix it! Stirring the pork filling in one direction while scooping it up and throwing it back into the bowl a few times helps give it a bouncy texture.  
Credit: Photo: Ryan Liebe; Food Styling: Brett Regot

Key Ingredients in Steamed Pork Buns

  • All-purpose flour. I prefer to use bleached all-purpose flour, which has a lower protein than unbleached flour. This results in a tender and lighter-colored bun, while the unbleached flour produces one with an ivory hue. Both can be used interchangeably. 
  • Soy sauce. I’ve tested the recipe with and without dark soy sauce, which affects the color of the pork filling, but not the flavor. Feel free to omit the dark soy sauce if you cannot source it.
  • Seasonings. Ginger, star anise, and Sichuan peppercorn add a subtle heat and spice to the filling. 

How to Make Steamed Pork Buns

  1. Make the ginger water. Start out first making the infused water with ginger and spices, which will steep and cool down in time when the filling is made. 
  2. Make the dough. Prepare the dough by mixing all the liquids with the yeast to bloom, and then mix all the dried ingredients together with the yeast mixture. The dough will be soft, and not sticky. 
  3. Make the filling. Mix the pork filling in one direction for a tender filling. As you work the filling, throw the pork against the bowl a few times; this will keep it bouncy. 
  4. Assemble the buns. Roll each piece of dough into a large round with the edges thinner than the center and make pleats to seal in the pork filling. Place on a parchment square or a perforated parchment circle. 
  5. Steam the buns. Proof and steam covered over hot water until fluffy and doubled in size. Buns can be steamed in different ways: on a plate that fits your steamer setup, on a plate above a steamer rack, on a folding steamer basket, or with a bamboo steamer basket.
Credit: Photo: Ryan Liebe; Food Styling: Brett Regot

Helpful Swaps

There are a few substitutions that can be made with this recipe.

  • Ground chicken can be swapped for ground pork as long as the chicken is dark meat and has a high portion of fat. 
  • If you can get your hands on garlic chives, they can be substituted for scallions in this recipe as long as there is 1/4 cup worth of garlic chives. There will be a stronger onion flavor due to garlic chives being more pungent. 
  • The dough and the filling can be made in the stand mixer. Knead the dough on medium-low speed with the hook attachment, transfer the dough to another bowl for proofing, then mix the filling in the stand mixer bowl with a paddle attachment on low speed until sticky. 

Storage and Make-Ahead Tips

I don’t recommend making ahead with this recipe due to the nature of yeast. That said, you can make the recipe entirely and then store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or freeze the buns in a single layer without touching each other for up to 2 months.

What to Serve with Steamed Pork Buns

Steamed Pork Buns Recipe

These tender and fluffy pork buns are a great way to start any day.

Prep time 1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours

Cook time 27 minutes

Makes 12 (3-inch) buns

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the filling:

  • 1 (about 1 1/4-inch) piece

    ginger

  • 1/3 cup

    boiling water

  • 2

    star anise pods

  • 1 teaspoon

    dried red Sichuan peppercorns

  • 4

    medium scallions

  • 12 ounces

    ground pork

  • 2 teaspoons

    soy sauce

  • 2 teaspoons

    cornstarch

  • 1 teaspoon

    Shaoxing wine or dry sherry

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    dark soy sauce (or use 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce)

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    granulated sugar

  • 1/8 teaspoon

    ground white pepper

  • 1 tablespoon

    toasted sesame oil

For the dough:

  • 3/4 cup

    warm water

  • 3 tablespoons

    granulated sugar

  • 3 tablespoons

    vegetable oil

  • 1 teaspoon

    active dry yeast

  • 1/8 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 2 cups

    all-purpose flour, preferably bleached

  • 3/4 cup

    cornstarch

  • 2 teaspoons

    baking powder

Instructions

Make the ginger water:

  1. Cut 1 (1 1/4-inch) piece ginger into 1/4-inch-thick rounds (5 slices; no need to peel). Place in a small bowl and add 1/3 cup boiling water, 2 star anise pods, and 1 teaspoon dried red Sichuan peppercorns. Let sit until cooled to room temperature, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, make the dough.

Make the dough:

  1. Place 3/4 cup warm water, 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon active dry yeast, and 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt in a large bowl and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add 2 cups all-purpose flour, 3/4 cup cornstarch, and 2 teaspoons baking powder. Mix until a shaggy dough forms.

  2. Transfer the dough onto a work surface and knead with your hands until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. If the dough is dry, dampen your hands while kneading. Return to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel, and let rise in a warm place until puffed and roughly doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, make the filling.

Make the filling:

  1. Finely chop 4 medium scallions until you have 1/4 cup and place in a medium bowl. Add 12 ounces ground pork, 2 teaspoons soy sauce, 2 teaspoons cornstarch, 1 teaspoon Shaoxing wine, 1/2 teaspoon dark soy sauce, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper. Mix with your hand in one direction until combined and sticky. Scoop up all the filling in one hand and throw it forcefully back into the bowl (this helps give it a bouncy texture).

  2. Pour about half of the ginger water through a fine-mesh strainer over the filling. Mix again in the same direction until the water is absorbed. Repeat straining in the remaining ginger water and mixing it in. Add 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil and mix in the same direction until combined. Cover and refrigerate until ready to assemble.

  3. Cut 12 (3 1/2-inch) squares of parchment paper.

Assemble the buns:

  1. Scoop out the filling into 12 (about 2-tablespoon) portions and place on a plate.

  2. Transfer the dough to a work surface and roll out into a rough 12-by-13-inch rectangle (about 1/8-inch thick) with a shorter side closer to you, popping as many bubbles as possible. Starting at the bottom, roll the dough up into a tight log and arrange seam-side down. Cut crosswise into 12 pieces. Cover with a damp kitchen or paper towel.

  3. Working with one piece of dough at a time, place it on a cut side, then press into a 2-inch-wide round. Roll out with a rolling pin or small dowel until 5 inches wide, then roll so that the outer 2 inches are thinner than the center and the wrapper is 6 inches wide.

  4. Holding the wrapper flat in your non-dominant hand, drop a portion of the filling onto the center, cupping your hand slightly.

  5. Pleat with your dominant hand: Place your thumb next to the filling and your index finger on the underside of the wrapper and lift that section up slightly. Use your middle finger to gather and pull the next section of wrapper toward your thumb to form a pleat. Pinch the pleat together.

  6. Keeping your thumb in the same position the whole time and using your index finger to hold the last pleat in place, repeat using your middle finger to grab and fold more pleats, working your way around until all the wrapper is pleated. Use your non-dominant thumb to push the filling down as you pleat.

  7. Pinch the dough where all the pleats meet and twist this part toward you while at the same time twisting the bun away from you with your other hand. This will make the folds take on a more swirled look. Gently round out the bun with your hands if you’d like, then place on a parchment square. Repeat filling the remaining buns.

Steam the buns:

  1. Fill a steamer with hot tap water. Place as many buns as will fit in the steamer basket with at least 1 1/2 inches of space between them (6 in a 12-inch steamer; the parchment can overlap slightly). Cover and let proof until puffed and slightly larger, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, cover the remaining buns with the damp towel.

  2. Leaving the buns in the steamer, return the water to a boil over high heat. Steam until the buns are puffed and fluffy, about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let cool covered in the steamer for 5 minutes to prevent the buns from collapsing.

  3. Transfer the steamed buns to a plate. Place the remaining buns in the steamer basket, cover, and let proof over the hot water until puffed and slightly larger, about 15 minutes. Return the water to a boil over high heat (check and add more water if needed before turning on the heat). Repeat steaming for 15 minutes and cooling in the steamer for 5 minutes.

Recipe Notes

Stand mixer: The dough and the filling can be made in the stand mixer. Knead the dough on medium-low speed with the hook attachment for 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer the dough to another bowl for proofing, then mix the filling in the stand mixer bowl with a paddle attachment on low speed until sticky, about 30 seconds.

Storage: Leftover steamed pork buns can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. Resteam the buns until warmed through; 5 minutes if refrigerated and 7 to 8 minutes if frozen, or microwave refrigerated buns covered with a damp paper towel in 30-second intervals until warmed through.