Vegetarian Bao Buns

Appetizers, Dinner

Soft. Fluffy. Luscious. Pillow-y. A dream.

These bao buns are what my carb dreamzzzz are made of. They’re so delicious and soft and before now, I had no idea they were so, so, so simple to make at home.

If you make them the legit AF way, the way you’re supposed to, you’re going to take pork fat and render it and pour it into this bread dough. But, I found that butter (a bit easier to find and deal with) is just as good. I adapted this recipe from David Chang’s recipe.

This dough is so simple, if you’ve ever made, like, cinnamon rolls, this dough is comparable. The milk adds such a nice softness that is so v necessary.

There are two shorter-than-usual rises and then they steam in a basket for only about five minutes. Before doing this, I had never steam-cooked bread and now I’m like, man, what else can I do with this dough?!?! what other dough can i steam?!

It’s dreamy.

I filled them with a super easy filling:

sautéed mushrooms with tons of green onions and sesame seeds
some julienned carrots
sliced cucumbers
and micro greens!

But I also had the super trashy idea of making mini meatballs and making bao buns meatball sandwiches…Josh thinks this idea is the trashiest/best idea in the world. I think it’d be dope but I also think I prefer the snappiness and freshness the cucumbers and carrots and micro greens offer.

Do what you want!

Here’s a link to the steam basket, see below in the *NOTES for what to do if you don’t own one.

Vegetarian Bao Buns

5 from 1 vote
Prep Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Serving Size: 6 TO 8


Very Easy Bao Bun Dough:

  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 3/4 cup warm milk
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 3/4 cup bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Mushroom Filling + For Serving:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 pound mushrooms of choice, I used enoki and oyster mushrooms
  • 2 green onions, trimmed and sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 2 tablespoons light-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon Sriracha hot sauce
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds, plus more as garnish
  • 1 Persian cucumber, sliced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and julienned
  • Handful of micro greens


To Make the Dough:

  • To the bowl of a stand-up mixer, with the hook attachment, pour in the warm water, milk and active dry yeast. Allow to stand until activated and foamy, about 5 minutes.
  • In another medium bowl, whisk together the bread flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda.
  • To the stand-up mixer, slowly add the bread flour mixture. And then pour in the melted butter. Continue mixing on the lowest speed for 8 minutes. During this time, the flour should pull away from the bowl and become a cohesive dough. Remove the dough from the bowl and shape it into a ball. Return it to the bowl and cover the bowl with a clean towel. Place it in a warm place until it’s doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  • Punch the dough down and transfer it to a lightly floured countertop. Using a rolling pin (or wine bottle), roll it out so it’s about 1/2-inch thick. Using a 3-inch cookie cutter, stamp out as many bao buns as you can manage.
  • Fold the rounds over into a moon shape, like a taco. Lightly roll them using the rolling pin, flattening them slightly. Allow them to proof on the counter for about 15 minutes.
  • Find a saucepan or pot that fits your steam basket. Fill it with a few inches of water and place it over medium-high heat. Add a round of parchment to the bottom to the center of the steam basket (this will prevent the bao buns from sticking!).
  • Remove the steam basket from the saucepan or pot and add three or four bap buns. Place the top on and transfer it to the saucepan. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the bao buns are puffy and soft to the touch. Remove from the parchment and set aside. Repeat with the remaining bao buns.
  • Keep in a 200 degree F oven to keep them warm while you cook the rest.

To Make the Filling:

  • You can make this filling before you start steaming the bao buns so it’s ready to go!
  • To a small skillet, set over medium heat, add the olive oil. When warm, add the mushrooms and green onions. Cook until softened, about 5 to 7 minutes. Pour in the garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil and Sriracha. Give it a mix and let it cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Salt to taste. Mix in the sesame seeds.

To Assemble the Bao Buns:

  • Slice the bao buns in half with a knife. Add a spoonful of the filling into the bao buns and fill with a few slices of cucumbers, julienned carrots and micro greens.


*If you want to use pork fat, you can directly substitute the butter for liquid pork fat.
*If you don't have a bamboo steam basket, you can use a meat rack placed atop a saucepan. Be sure to put parchment between the rack and the bao buns tho because they'll stick!

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  • Reply Kara Chin April 23, 2018 at 10:34 am

    I love bao and bao buns! I can literally taste the texture and sweetness. As for what else can you do—everything?? I’ve made them simply with scallions and sesame seeds and then tied in knots. A steamed version of pretzel dogs with Chinese sausage (both of those are on my blog) … ohh I’m also thinking something matcha/sweet with chocolate or azuki beans!

    • Adrianna Adarme
      Reply Adrianna Adarme April 23, 2018 at 7:47 pm

      OMG that sound sooo good. They’d make the best pretzel dogs!

  • Reply Jessica April 23, 2018 at 3:46 pm

    Smitten kitchen has an awesome asian-inspired meatball recipe with corresponding glaze – those would be great with these buns!

  • Reply Gabriela Pranata April 23, 2018 at 4:32 pm

    Does it have the same measurement if I use instant dry yeast?

    • Adrianna Adarme
      Reply Adrianna Adarme April 23, 2018 at 7:45 pm

      It’ll be the same measurement but you may need to let it sit for about 10 minutes until it’s activated. But the measurement should be the same!

  • Reply Codrut Turcanu April 24, 2018 at 3:39 am

    This looks cool, but I’m not sure we have bao here in Bucharest, Romania… is there an alternative to it?

  • Reply Martinmug April 24, 2018 at 4:22 pm

    Hellow my name is Martinmug. Wery good article! Thx 🙂

  • Reply Natalie Tuffnal April 26, 2018 at 5:54 am

    I just saw this and it got my interest right away. I’ve never tried steaming dough and this sounds so easy (and delicious) I really have to try it. I might cut back on the sugar a bit but otherwise that recipe looks doable for me. Yes to butter as I don’t like the idea of using pork fat either – great idea, thanks!

  • Reply Billy Parisi April 26, 2018 at 6:23 am

    I don’t think there’s much in this world that I love more than bao buns, I just wish they weren’t so tedious to make! These look amazing!

  • Reply Currently Crushing On. - How Sweet Eats April 28, 2018 at 5:40 am

    […] vegetarian bao buns! delish. […]

  • Reply Evi May 19, 2018 at 2:12 am

    I made these yesterday and they were amazing! Thank you for this recipe! The buns were perfect, and so much easier to make than I thought!

  • Reply Five for Friday July 13, 2018 at 5:06 am

    […] Vegetarian Bao Buns YES PLEASE. On one of our trips to NYC we ate at David Chang’s restaurant (one of many), and the bao buns were by far the favorite thing we tried. I’m not hugely into baking at home, but this seems like the perfect time to conquer my yeasty fears.  […]

  • Reply bao moi July 30, 2018 at 7:47 pm

    Good article. I will be facing many of these issues as well..

  • Reply Anita Parasramka November 26, 2018 at 7:41 am

    Can we make bao buns a day before

  • Reply Veronica January 1, 2019 at 8:07 pm

    Hi, there. I’m confused about how to slice the bao buns in half. Which way are they supposed to be cut? After they’re finished steaming, the buns are shaped like a taco half (moon shape). If I slice it in half, it will be shaped like a pie wedge and I won’t be able to fold it into a semicircle like your pictures show. If I slice it through the thickness lengthwise, then it will only be a half taco shape. Shouldn’t the buns be shaped like a circle and sliced through the thickness after they’re cooked, and then folded in half so you can put the filling inside it? I’m so confused!

  • Reply Nalini August 7, 2019 at 4:38 pm

    Made these and they turned out perfect. Your recipes never disappoint!!! Can I store these after steaming.

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