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Oct 16, 2018

Steamed Bao Buns | World Bread Day

These Steamed Bao Buns (Chinese Steamed Rolls also know as Gua Bao) are classic light and fluffy dim sum breads that are typically filled with Chinese barbecue pork and pickled vegetables. 

Steamed Bao Buns
These Bao buns are easy to find in the frozen food section of fully stocked Chinese markets, but I thought it would be fun to make my own. Think of them as soft and fat taco shells or folded hamburger buns.

The first time I tried making steamed bread, I was a little nervous, but then I fell in love with these pork and Chinese chive steamed buns. While they don't have the burnished look of oven baked bread, they are totally delicious.

Bao Buns in a bamboo steamer

To make these buns, you can use a steamer, or if you have one, a wok and a bamboo steaming basket, which is what I used. The bamboo steamers are inexpensive and easy to use. I also use mine to make Chinese dumplings. The tightly woven bamboo really holds in the steam.

I stuffed these buns with this barbecue pork char sui, along with some sweet chili sauce, pickled red onions, cilantro, and shredded carrots (the barbecue pork is pretty much meat candy in my book).

I've also tried them with caramel shrimp and spicy lobster, both of which were delicious. Any stewed meat or or spicy and flavorful filling would be wonderful. Get creative!

Bao Buns Recipe Notes:

  1. You may not be able to steam them all at once, depending on the size of your steamer. That's okay, just steam them in batches. 
  2. If you don't have parchment, you can use lettuce leaves to keep the buns from sticking to your steamer.
  3. After making these, I individually wrapped and froze the leftovers, thawing them when I wanted one. Just wrap the thawed bun in a damp paper towel and microwave for 20 to 30 seconds, or re-steam it in your steamer for 3 minutes. 
  4. You can also make them tiny, Momofuki-style, for appetizers. This recipe would make about 25 tiny versions.

October 16 is World Bread Day, hosted by Zora Kochtopf. It is an international celebration to honor bread, one of the oldest prepared foods. Bread is symbolic both culturally and religiously, and can symbolize the basic necessities of life as well as the ups and downs of the human condition.

And then there is the baking.....

“The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight...

[Breadmaking is] one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony. It leaves you filled with one of the world's sweetest smells... there is no chiropractic treatment, no Yoga exercise, no hour of meditation in a music-throbbing chapel. that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread.”  M.F.K. Fisher

Bao Buns filled with char sui

To celebrate World Bread Day, I am both the host kitchen for the Bread Baking Babes, as well as hosting a group of bloggers posting their own favorite breads in honor of the day.

First, here are the Bread Baking Babes' takes on this recipe. I know that the Babes each like to make a recipe their own, so it should be interesting how their bao buns turned out:

Second, I asked some of my food blogger friends to join me in celebrating World Bread Day. Be sure to check out the beautiful loaves made by my fellow bakers who joined me in the celebration! (You guys rock!)

Bao Buns with picked vegetables and filled with char sui

This recipe was adapted from Food 52.

Bao Buns, bread
Chinese Food, sandwich, bread
Yield: 8 to 10 buns

Bao Buns


  • 2 cups (250 grams) all purpose flour, plus more for rolling out the dough
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/3 cup (70 grams)  sugar
  • 4 grams instant or active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup (120 grams) water, about 100 degrees
  • 1 teaspoon neutral oil


  1. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the water, and mix with the dough hook on medium for about 30 seconds. Add the oil, and knead on low for 5 to 7 minutes, until smooth. The dough should not stick to the sides of the bowl. This dough can also be kneaded by hand. 
  2. Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled (30 minutes to 2 hours). 
  3. Cut parchment paper into 10 four inch squares. You could also use lettuce leaves. (the purpose is to keep the buns from sticking to the steamer). 
  4. Deflate the dough and divide it into 10 equal pieces (about 50 grams each). Give each piece a quick knead. 
  5. On a floured surface roll the dough out into a 3 inch by 6 inch rectangle with rounded edges. Fold the dough in half lengthwise, and place on a parchment square. Cover lightly with oiled plastic wrap or a damp towel, and repeat with the rest of the dough pieces. Let proof for 30 to 45 minutes, until slightly puffy. 
  6. Bring a pot or wok of water to a steady boil (just slightly more than simmering) and fit your pan or wok with a steamer, bamboo basket, or steaming rack just above the water. Place the baos in the steamer, cover, and steam for 12 minutes. Cool slightly, fill with a filling of your choice, and eat. 
  7. You can refrigerate or freeze (I prefer freezing) leftovers. You can either thaw and re steam for 3 minutes, or wrap one in a damp paper towel and microwave for 20 to 30 seconds. 

Would you like to comment?

  1. These sound delicious Karen. Thanks so much for hosting today. Happy WBD!!

  2. If only I was an obedient BBBabe!! Then I too might have produced beautiful snowy white pillows like yours. So lovely!!

    1. Thanks. I really wish you'd given them a chance! =)

  3. Great contribution to the party, Karen! I am part of it too, with a sourdough, managed to join this year....

    1. Your loaf looks amazing with its British starter!

  4. These look so tasty! You can fill them with so many delicious things!!

  5. I love how fluffy and soft these were. And better than the bought ones that came in our recipe box for a Hoisin Chicken Bun dinner!

  6. Those buns look so soft and scrumptious. I wish a had a couple for dinner right now!

  7. These make me want to get my steamer out of the back cabinet and join the fun. They look both easy and delicious (and I love buns)

  8. They look awesome! You convinced me, I have to try them too! Thank you for joining WBD with this special buns.

  9. Thanks for choosing the bao buns Karen! I finally used my steaming basket. Ha! I even liked them without the salt.

  10. Your Bao Buns are the best looking of the lot. Thank you for picking such a lovely recipe - easy to make and absolutely delicious. We enjoyed them.

    1. Thanks! It may have something to do with following the recipe, lol! Glad you liked them!

  11. I emailed (to address from "about me") pictures of the Chinese buns as a BBB buddy yesterday. Don't know whether you're received them or not. I'll send you the link to my blog. Is that the email address to use? Thanks.

  12. These look incredible! I love Asian cuisine but have never tried to make this. I do have a bamboo steamer. Guess I need to get to work!

  13. Wow! These look magnificent! Soft and pillowy!

  14. These buns look amazing but because me & my partner can't have gluten I used the exact amount of ingredients but used gf flour and used a mix of potato starch & soya flour to make it into a dough and the results where amazing, just wish I took a photo but we ate it so fast.

    1. I think these do lend themselves to your flours because they also include baking powder. I'm so glad your tinkering worked out!


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