Chinese Steamed Bun Recipe: How to Make Soft and Fluffy Buns at Home – Seaco Online
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Chinese Steamed Bun Recipe: How to Make Soft and Fluffy Buns at Home

If you're a fan of Chinese cuisine, you've probably tried Chinese steamed buns, also known as mantou or baozi. These fluffy and soft buns can be eaten on their own or stuffed with various fillings, making them a versatile and delicious dish to enjoy any time of the day. In this article, we'll be sharing a Chinese steamed bun recipe that you can easily make at home, along with some tips and tricks to help you perfect your technique.

A bamboo steamer filled with freshly steamed Chinese buns, surrounded by small dishes of soy sauce and chili oil

To make Chinese steamed buns, you'll need a few basic ingredients such as flour, yeast, sugar, and water. You can also incorporate other ingredients such as milk, eggs, or vegetable oil to enhance the flavour and texture of your buns. Once you've prepared the dough, you'll need to let it rest and rise before shaping it into small balls and steaming them until they're fluffy and cooked through.

If you're feeling adventurous, you can also experiment with different fillings for your Chinese steamed buns. While traditional fillings include pork, beef, or vegetables, you can also try using seafood such as shrimp or crabmeat to add a unique and delicious twist to your buns. With our easy-to-follow recipe and helpful tips, you'll be able to make perfect Chinese steamed buns every time.

Key Takeaways

  • Chinese steamed buns, also known as mantou or baozi, are a staple in Chinese cuisine that can be eaten on their own or stuffed with various fillings.
  • To make Chinese steamed buns, you'll need basic ingredients such as flour, yeast, sugar, and water, and you can experiment with different fillings such as seafood to add variety to your buns.
  • With our easy-to-follow recipe and helpful tips, you'll be able to make fluffy and delicious Chinese steamed buns at home.

Ingredients and Substitutions

A table with flour, yeast, sugar, and water. Bowls of fillings like pork, chicken, and vegetables. A steamer pot on the stove

When it comes to making Chinese steamed buns, the ingredients you use can make all the difference. Here are some of the key ingredients and substitutions you can use to make your buns perfect.

Flour Varieties

The most common flour used for Chinese steamed buns is all-purpose flour, but you can also use cake flour, wheat starch, cornstarch, or potato starch. Each flour will give a different texture and flavour to your buns, so experiment to find your favourite.

Yeast Options

You can use either instant yeast or active dry yeast in your dough. Instant yeast is easier to use and can be added directly to the dry ingredients, while active dry yeast needs to be activated in warm water before use.

Liquids and Fats

Water, milk, and vegetable oil are the most common liquids used in Chinese steamed buns. You can also use lard or sweetened condensed milk for a richer flavour. For a savoury twist, try adding a splash of soy sauce or a pinch of MSG.

Sweet and Savoury Fillings

Chinese steamed buns can be filled with a variety of sweet or savoury fillings. For a classic sweet filling, try red bean paste, lotus seed paste, or sweet taro. For a savoury filling, try pork, chicken, or seafood. If using seafood, prawns or crab meat work well.

Remember to experiment with different ingredients and substitutions to find your perfect steamed bun recipe.

Preparing the Dough

A pair of hands kneading dough for Chinese steamed buns on a floured surface, with various ingredients and utensils nearby

Making Chinese steamed buns requires a bit of time and effort, but the result is well worth it. Here's how to prepare the dough for your steamed buns:

Mixing and Kneading

To start, mix together the all-purpose flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and baking powder in a large bowl. Slowly add in warm water while stirring with a wooden spoon until a dough forms. Once the dough has come together, knead it for about 10 minutes, until it becomes smooth and elastic. You can use a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment if you prefer.

Proofing Process

Once you've kneaded the dough, it's time to proof it. Place the dough ball in a large bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Leave it in a warm, draft-free place for about an hour, until it doubles in size. This is when the yeast will work its magic and create a network of gluten that will give the buns their characteristic softness and elasticity.

Shaping the Buns

After the dough has proofed, punch it down and knead it again for a few minutes. Then, divide the dough into small dough balls, about 50g each. Roll each dough ball into a circle with a rolling pin, leaving the centre slightly thicker than the edges. This will help the buns puff up nicely when steamed.

If you want to add seafood to your steamed buns, you can mix it into the dough before shaping the buns. Shrimp, crab, and scallops are all great options. Simply chop the seafood into small pieces and mix it into the dough along with the other ingredients.

That's it! Your dough is now ready to be steamed and turned into delicious Chinese steamed buns.

Steaming Techniques

Steam rises from a bamboo steamer filled with fluffy, white Chinese steamed buns. The buns are arranged neatly and surrounded by a cloud of steam, creating an inviting and appetizing scene

Setting Up the Steamer

Before steaming your Chinese steamed buns, you need to set up your steamer. There are two types of steamers that you can use: a bamboo steamer or a metal steamer. The bamboo steamer is traditional and commonly used in Chinese cooking. If you don't have a bamboo steamer, you can use a metal steamer.

To set up your steamer, fill a wok or a deep pan with water and bring it to a boil. Place the steamer basket on top of the wok or pan. If you are using a bamboo steamer, line the steamer with parchment paper or cabbage leaves to prevent the steamed buns from sticking.

Steaming Process

Once your steamer is set up, it's time to steam your Chinese steamed buns. Place the buns in the steamer basket, leaving enough space between them to expand. Cover the steamer with a lid and steam the buns for about 15-20 minutes, depending on their size.

Make sure to keep an eye on the water level in the wok or pan and add more water if needed. The steam from the water will cook the buns. You will know that the buns are ready when they are puffy and soft to the touch.

Cooling and Serving

After steaming, remove the steamer basket from the wok or pan and let the buns cool for a few minutes. Do not remove the lid immediately as the condensation will cause the buns to become soggy.

Once the buns have cooled down, transfer them to a wire rack or a bamboo basket to cool completely. You can serve the Chinese steamed buns warm or at room temperature.

If you want to add seafood to your Chinese steamed buns, you can use shrimp, crab meat, or lobster. Simply mix the seafood with your filling and steam the buns as usual. The seafood will add a delicious flavour to your Chinese steamed buns.

Storage and Reheating

A bamboo steamer sits atop a pot of boiling water, filled with fluffy Chinese steamed buns. A microwave and a plate with reheated buns sit nearby

After making your delicious Chinese steamed buns, you may be wondering how to store and reheat them properly. Here are some tips to ensure your leftovers stay fresh and tasty.


To store your steamed buns, wrap them tightly in plastic wrap or place them in an airtight container. You can store them in the fridge for up to 4 days or freeze them for up to 2 months. If you're freezing them, make sure to place them in a single layer on a baking sheet first to prevent them from sticking together. Once they're frozen, you can transfer them to a freezer-safe container.


To reheat your steamed buns, you can use a steamer or microwave. If using a steamer, place the buns in a steamer basket and steam them for 2-3 minutes until heated through. If using a microwave, wrap the buns in a damp paper towel and microwave them for 30 seconds to 1 minute.


If you're making a large batch of steamed buns, you can store them in batches to make reheating easier. Simply wrap each batch in plastic wrap or place them in separate containers, then reheat them as needed.


If you're feeling adventurous, you can try adding seafood to your steamed buns for a delicious twist. Shrimp or crab meat are great options to add to the filling. Simply sauté the seafood with some garlic and ginger, then mix it with your other filling ingredients before steaming.

Tips and Tricks

A bamboo steamer filled with freshly steamed Chinese buns, emitting a tantalizing aroma, surrounded by traditional ingredients and cooking utensils

Achieving Fluffy Texture

To achieve a fluffy texture in your Chinese steamed buns (mantou), it is important to use the right flour and yeast. Use a high-protein flour, such as bread flour, for a chewy texture. Yeast is also crucial to the rising process, so use fresh yeast for the best results. You can also use baking soda to help your mantou rise.

Another important factor is the resting time. Letting the dough rest for at least an hour will help the yeast activate and create air pockets, resulting in a light and fluffy texture.

Creative Shapes and Variations

Mantou can be shaped in many different ways, such as round mantou, twisted mantou, or even filled mantou. To create unique shapes, use your hands to roll the dough into long strands and shape them as desired. You can also add fillings such as meat, vegetables, or seafood to create a more flavourful mantou.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

If your mantou turns out too dense or hard, it may be due to overproofing. Be sure to follow the resting time carefully and avoid letting your dough rise for too long. Additionally, using too much starch when rolling out the dough can result in a tough texture.

For vegan options, replace the milk with water or plant-based milk and use a vegan-friendly filling. If you want to add seafood to your mantou, try using shrimp or crab meat for a delicious twist.

Tips and Tricks Summary

  • Use high-protein flour and fresh yeast for a fluffy texture
  • Let the dough rest for at least an hour to activate the yeast and create air pockets
  • Get creative with shapes and fillings
  • Avoid overproofing and using too much starch
  • Use vegan-friendly ingredients for a plant-based option
  • Consider adding seafood, such as shrimp or crab meat, for a unique flavour

Frequently Asked Questions

A bamboo steamer filled with fluffy, white Chinese steamed buns, surrounded by small dishes of dipping sauces and chopsticks

How can I make steamed buns without yeast?

If you don't have yeast, you can still make steamed buns by using baking powder instead. Baking powder will help the dough rise and give it a fluffy texture. However, keep in mind that the taste and texture of the buns may be slightly different from those made with yeast.

What's the secret to getting fluffy steamed buns?

The secret to getting fluffy steamed buns is to use the right amount of ingredients and to knead the dough until it's smooth and elastic. It's also important to let the dough rise properly and to steam the buns over high heat for the right amount of time. Adding a bit of vinegar to the dough can also help to make the buns fluffier.

Can you suggest some fillings for homemade bao buns?

There are many different fillings you can use for homemade bao buns. Some popular options include pork, chicken, beef, vegetables, and seafood. For seafood lovers, you can try using prawns, crab meat, or fish as a filling for your bao buns.

What type of flour works best for creating authentic bao?

The best type of flour to use for creating authentic bao is low-protein flour. This type of flour will give your buns a soft and fluffy texture. If you can't find low-protein flour, you can use all-purpose flour instead.

Is there a simple method for making Chinese steamed buns at home?

Yes, there is a simple method for making Chinese steamed buns at home. You just need to mix the ingredients, knead the dough, let it rise, shape it into buns, and then steam them. With a bit of practice, you'll be able to make delicious steamed buns in no time.

What are the main differences between mantou and bao buns?

The main difference between mantou and bao buns is that mantou is plain and has no filling, while bao buns are filled with various ingredients. Mantou is often served as a side dish or used as a base for other dishes, while bao buns are usually eaten as a snack or a meal on their own.