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Jan 12, 2021

Beef and Sweet Onion Dim Sum Pandas

Beef and sweet onion dim sum pandas: a sweet bread dough filled with a delectable beef and sweet sautéed onion mixture and steamed until the bread is puffy and the filling is succulent.  

Beef and Sweet Onion Dim Sum in a Steamer

These little dim sum buns with panda faces were so fun to make and totally delicious to eat. I had originally wanted to fill them with char siu (Chinese barbecue pork), but I decided to try this hearty combination of bef and sweet onions. 

It was delicious and will appeal to your picky eaters who are suspicious of new flavors. In fact, the flavor kind of reminds me of a burger with caramelized onions (think, In-n-Out animal style). I did spice it up with a bit of chili garlic sauce, but if you don't have any on hand, you can skip it. 

The dough is the same one I used for these little piglets and these buns. It's a reliable dough that is very easy to mix and roll out. 

Beef and Sweet Onion Dim Sum plated

To make the ears, eyes, and noses, I ground up some black sesame seeds and worked it into the dough until the dough looked black. I also added a drop of black gel food coloring to the dough. 

It takes a while for all of the ingredients to come together, but eventually they will. 

True confession: I served these to my daughter and she had no idea what "those black things" were. I tried to show her the buns with the faces but she still didn't see the pandas! Clearly, she wasn't willing to humor me. Fortunately, she loved the flavor of these buns. 

Do you see the panda faces in these buns waiting to be steamed? 

Beef and Sweet Onion Dim Sum before steaming

I adapted the filling from the book Dumpling Galaxy Cookbook by Helen You. The filling was originally intended in the cookbook to use in pot stickers and boiled dumplings but I thought I might try it in these buns. 

P.S. While there aren't any yeasted dough recipes in the book, it is filled with lots of recipes and instructions for making dumplings from one of New York City's favorite food destinations. 

I decided to try the beef and onion filling in these steamed buns and loved it. The resulting buns were like little oniony burgers surrounded by a soft and fluffy bread. 

Depending on the fat vs. lean percentage of your beef, be prepared for some fat to seep out if the bottom of your dim sum as the buns are steaming. I used 85% lean ground beef and I loved the beefy and oniony flavor that seeped into the bottom of the dough. Use a leaner beef to prevent the filling from coloring the bread. 

Beef and Sweet Onion Dim Sum Pandas in a steamer

To make the filling for these buns, you first sauté some chopped sweet onions for about ten minutes, until they are lightly browned and transluscent, and let them cool. 

Next, you mix the cooked onions with ground beef, scallions, soy sauce, oyster sauce, ground ginger, sesame oil, and salt and pepper. Finally, you portion the filling into the rolled out dough, seal it up, and let the dough rise. 

I had some leftover ground beef mixture, which a formed into a patty and made a hamburger, which was delicious. 

Once the buns have rested, steam them in a bamboo steamer, steamer basket, or double boiler for about 15 minutes. 

Dim sum steamer

The dough for these buns includes all purpose flour, either bleached or unbleached (I use unbleached), instant yeast, sugar, and baking powder. There is no salt in this dough, as it absorbs a lot of the savory flavors from the filling. 

More tips for making these dim sum pandas: 

One thing I forgot to do was roll out the dough so that the middle of the dough was thicker than the edges. When you fold the edges over each other, you will have plenty of thickness on the bottom, so you want to strive for an evenly thick dough. 

Actually, it's just as tasty regardless.

If you want to, instead of making the dough ears, eyes, and noses, you can instead cut out little eyes and noses with nori and stick them on after steaming the buns. My fine motor skills aren't quite there yet. 

Alternatively, just make the buns and skip the panda faces. They still taste just as delicious. 

Leftovers can be individually wrapped and placed in a freezer bag in the freezer. You can either re-steam them for five minutes in the steamer, or wrap them in wet paper towels and microwave them on a plate for about 1 to 2 minutes in bursts depending on your microwave. 

Beef and Sweet Onion Dim Sum sliced

I had about 4 ounces of leftover beef filling, so I shaped it into a burger, pan fried it, and had it on a bun. It was delicious. 

#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. You can see all our lovely bread by following our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated after each event on the #BreadBakers home page. We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient.

Beef and Sweet Onion Dim Sum Pandas

Beef and Sweet Onion Dim Sum Recipe

Beef and Sweet Onion Dim Sum Recipe
Yield: 16 buns
Author: Karen Kerr
Beef and sweet onion dim sum pandas: a sweet bread dough filled with a delectable beef and sweet sautéed onion mixture and steamed until the bread is puffy and the filling is succulent.


Dough ingredients
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 385 grams (2 3/4 cups) bleached or unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 180 grams (3/4 cup) water, plus more as needed
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon black sesame seeds, ground into a fine powder
  • A few drops of black food coloring gel (optional)
Filling Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 3 scallions, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce or sambal oelek (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


To Make the Dough
  1. Add the yeast, flour, sugar, and baking powder to the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk to combine.
  2. Mix the water and oil in a measuring cup. Using the dough hook, begin mixing the dough while slowly pouring in the water and oil. Mix on low until you have a shaggy dough, adjusting the water as necessary.
  3. Mix the dough on second speed for about 6 to 8 minutes until you have a springy dough. Cover and let the dough rise until doubled, about an hour. 
  4. Divide dough into 17 equal pieces and form 16 of them into balls. Cover the dough you are not shaping with oiled plastic wrap.
  5. Knead the ground sesame seeds and optional food coloring into the 17th piece of dough to create a black dough. 
To Make the Filling
  1. In a skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat until it begins to shimmer. Add the onions and cook, stirring regularly, for 9 to 10 minutes, until soft and slightly browned around the edges.
  2. Remove to a plate to cool.
  3. In a bowl, mix the beef, scallions, soy sauce, oyster sauce, ginger, chili garlic sauce, sesame oil, pepper, and salt with your hands. 
  4. Add the onions and gently mix. 
  5. Cover and refrigerate until cold. 
To Make the Dim Sum
  1. First, mix the filling ingredients and refrigerate. 
  2. Next, make the dough according to the instructions through the first rise and dividing the dough. 
  3. Cut 16 three-inch squares of parchment paper.
  4. Finally, form and steam the dim sum. 
  5. Roll a piece of dough out into a 5 inch round (keeping it thicker in the middle) and place 2 tablespoons o the filling in the center. Fold the dough over the filling, forming a ball, and seal with a bit of water. 
  6. Place the ball, seam side down, onto one of the parchment squares. 
  7. Cover with oiled plastic wrap. Repeat with the other 15 pieces of dough.
  8. Form small pieces of the black dough into 32 eyes, 16 noses, and 32 ears. You will probably have extra dough, which you can discard. 
  9. To shape the eyes, pat the dough down and use a drinking straw to cut out holes in the middle. 
  10.  With a bit of water, stick the eyes, ears, and noses onto the dough balls. 
  11. Cover the pandas with oiled plastic wrap and let rise for 20 minutes.
  12. Place the buns with their parchment in the steamer, 2 inches apart. Bring about 3 inches of water to a boil in a wok. Place the steamer over the water (the water should not touch the bottom of the steamer, but be just below). Steam for about 13 to 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the buns sit for about 2 minutes. The dough should be shiny. Serve immediately. My steamer had three layers so I was able to steam them all at once. You can also steam the buns in stages. 



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beef, dim sum
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Would you like to comment?

  1. Karen, your pandas look super cute and the filling sounds so delicious. Sweet sauteed onions always make a great addition to bread. I can image the taste :)

  2. Cute looking pandas with yummy filling!

  3. Your daughter is too funny - these are clearly PANDAS! They are adorable and your filling sounds very tasty.

  4. I totally see the pandas! And I can't wait to try this. You know I love savory things. I just couldn't think of a savory for this month's theme. I'm glad you did.

  5. They look exactly like pandas!! Adorable Karen and love the filling you chose.

    1. Thank you! The meat filling was sooooo good.

  6. These are just SO CUTE!! And they sound absolutely delicious! I recently bought a steamer basket... but I'm afraid of it... lol!!

  7. These pandas area really cute. I love the dim sum version.

  8. Totally cute! We will totally make these, my kids actually prefer savory treats oftentimes. My eldest just recently made steamed pork dumplings for the first time from scratch and they were delicious, so maybe I can get her to help out. Need to use our bamboo steamer more often anyway.

    1. Thanks Kelly. It's a great excuse to break out the steamer!

  9. The panda buns look like pandas. They look beautiful and delicious!

  10. They look just like pandas! Wow. That filling sounds delicious.

  11. Cute little pandas they are and the filling sounds delicious


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