Steamed Pork Bun

5 from 33 votes
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Traditional Chinese steamed pork bun recipe (char siu bao). Each soft and tender bun is filled with sweet and savory barbecue pork. You don’t have to leave home for some dim sum!

Steamed Pork Buns

The Chinese lunar calendar is based on a 12-year cycle represented by different animals (except the majestic dragon) and their characteristic attributes. To celebrate the new year, I thought it would be fun and festive to make a classic steamed pork bun recipe, also called char siu bao.

The filling is made up of tender pieces of pork marinated in various Chinese spices and sauces giving tons of flavor in each bite. You can take a look at my Cantonese char siu recipe to see how I made the pork.

Pork filled bun before steaming

Showing Pork filled bun rolling process

The buns are made from a yeast-raised dough, the yeast acting as the leavening agent. The magic that happens to help make the dough rise is fermentation. Yeast is living organisms, so just like us, they need food to grow. During fermentation, the yeast eats the sugars in the dough, and the result (by-product) is the creation of alcohol and carbon dioxide. The alcohol evaporates during baking, and the carbon dioxide assists in leavening.

The absolute most important step in making yeast-raised dough is not to kill the yeast. It is one of the first steps in the process and the most integral. Yeast dies at temperatures above 138°F!

To shape the bun, each piece of dough is gently hand-rolled to create a round surface, 1 tablespoon of pork filling is placed in the center, and then the bun dough is carefully pleated until the filling is encased in the dough. The buns are covered and allowed to rise for about 30 minutes to yield a lighter and more tender bun after steaming.

pork buns in a steamer basket

Steamed Pork Buns on a cutting board split into two showing the filling inside

The steamed pork buns are cooked for 8 to 10 minutes in the steamer, and expand almost double in size! Once uncovered, the buns are piping hot and extremely tender and soft, making it hard to eat only one! The steamed pork buns reheat very well too. I have some in my freezer for any time I get a craving!

The pork in this steamed bun recipe can be substituted for any of your favorite fillings, in one of my other favorite recipes I made steamed custard buns, also known as Nai wong bao.

pork bun split in two revealing the inside meat

This is my go-to steamed bun recipe, it has worked perfectly every time I’ve made the buns, and I promise that your friends and family will be very impressed! You can learn how to make the basic steamed bun recipe and how to shape the buns in the video below.

Temperatures between 100 to 110°F is optimal for hydrating active dry yeast. In the recipe, I indicate to combine warm water at 105°F with sugar and yeast. When the yeast mixture is allowed to sit for 10 minutes, you can see fermentation in action! The mixture starts to foam from the yeast eating the sugar and creating carbon dioxide. If you do not see any foam created, your yeast has died. Start over and make sure to use a digital thermometer to test the temperature before you add the yeast to the water.

Steamed Pork Bun (Char Siu Bao)

Traditional Chinese steamed pork bun recipe (char siu bao). Each soft and tender bun is filled with sweet and savory barbecue pork. You don't have to leave home for some dim sum!
5 from 33 votes
Prep Time4 hours
Cook Time40 minutes
Total Time4 hours 40 minutes
Servings 24 buns
Course Entree
Cuisine Chinese

Ingredients  

  • 2 cups barbecue pork, ¼-inch dice, char siu

Seasoning

  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil

Filling Base

  • 4 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 4 teaspoons shallots, minced
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 12 tablespoons chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce

Bun Dough

  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup water, warm (105°F)
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons lard, or shortening
  • ½ cup granulated sugar, extra-fine (pulse in a grinder for 30 sec)
  • 1 cup whole milk, warm (105°F)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder, mixed with 1 ½ tablespoons water

Instructions 

Filling Base

  • For the filling base heat the oil over medium heat and sauté the shallots 2 minutes or until light brown. Add the flour, stir to combine, and cook 1 minute.
  • Add the chicken stock, stir well, and cook 2 minutes. Add soy sauce and cook one minute.
  • Remove from heat and stir in cut pork and seasoning ingredients (oyster sauce, sugar, peanut oil, and sesame oil). Chill until very firm.

Dough

  • Dissolve sugar in warm water, sprinkle yeast over; let stand 2 to 3 minutes and then stir to mix well. Let set until it starts to foam, 10 minutes.
  • Sift flour and make well in the center. Whisk together the lard, sugar, yeast mixture, and milk. The fat will not completely dissolve into the liquid.
  • Combine liquid mixture with the flour; gradually incorporate the flour with the liquid to make the dough. Knead the dough for 10 minutes, sprinkling with flour as necessary.
  • Use the oil to grease the outside of the dough; cover and let rest in warm area 1 ½ hours or until double in size.
  • Punch dough down and flatten out to about ¾-inch thick. Spread the baking powder mixture evenly on the dough (this acts as a stabilizer). Roll the dough up and knead about 10 minutes, or until smooth and satiny. The dough should be firmer than regular white bread dough. Cover and let rest 30 minutes.

Dough Breaking

  • Divide the dough into four equal parts. Roll one piece by hand to form a rope approximately 9-inches long and 1 ¼-inch in diameter. Mark into 6 equal parts, 1 ½-inch long.
  • Holding the dough with one hand, grip at the first mark with the thumb and index finger of the other hand and tear away to break off a small piece. Continue breaking until you have 24 pieces.

Dough Rolling

  • Flatten each piece of dough with your palm. Using a rolling pin, roll each into a round disk, making a quarter turn with each roll.
  • Roll to leave the center thick; thinner edges are easier to pleat.

Assembling

  • Place about 1 tablespoon of filling at the center of each dough round, flat-side up.
  • Gather the edges by first pleating counterclockwise, and then twisting to seal securely. Place the bun round-side up on a square piece of parchment paper (2.5 X 2.5 inches). Let buns rest, covered for at least 30 minutes.
  • Steam on high heat for 8 to 10 minutes. Do not uncover the steamer any time during the steaming. If a flat lid steamer is used, wrap the lid in a kitchen towel to prevent condensed steam from dripping on the buns.

Recipe Video

YouTube video

Notes

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 24 buns
Calories 264kcal (13%)Carbohydrates 41g (14%)Protein 8g (16%)Fat 8g (12%)Saturated Fat 2g (10%)Polyunsaturated Fat 2gMonounsaturated Fat 2gCholesterol 13mg (4%)Sodium 257mg (11%)Potassium 83mg (2%)Fiber 1g (4%)Sugar 9g (10%)Vitamin A 50IU (1%)Vitamin C 0.1mgCalcium 50mg (5%)Iron 1.8mg (10%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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38 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Hazel S says

    Hi Jessica,

    These look so interesting and authentic, can’t wait to try them out! I’m worried about the high altitude though. We’re here 5,200 ft above sea level in Colorado. Any suggestions would be helpful. Thanks and looking forward to see more of your recipes!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      If needed, I would cook the buns in the steamer for longer due to the high altitude. Keep an eye on the change of size of the buns as they steam and puff up, and adjust time accordingly. You may need to add more water if cooking a large batch, so just check the water level after the first steaming. Let me know how it goes!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Joyce- I have not tried gluten-free flour for this recipe. It can be a bit tricky to ferment and requires the addition of gums to create the starchy network to trap the air for tender pork buns. Let me know if end up trying it out!

  2. Jacquie says

    I commented on this steamed bun dough back in 2015 and still use it today, it’s absolutely wonderful! I have a question about freezing them. Do you thaw them out before steaming them again, or steam from frozen? How long do you steam them when reheating? Thanks again for this recipe! I’m always amazed and proud of myself when they come out of the steamer so fluffy and light!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thank you, Jacquie! I’m proud of you too! I Actually wet a paper towel, wrap a frozen bun in it, or cover a few placed on a plate and microwave in 15-30 second intervals. After about a minute they are soft and steamy, just like fresh! If you steam in a pot, don’t defrost.

  3. Diane says

    Thank you for this wonderful recipe! These are just like the manapua I used to enjoy when I lived in Hawaii. It was in the 70’s, and there was a shave ice/manapua truck near the school bus drop off. Fond memories! I really haven’t tasted any manapua nearly as good until we found your recipe–and I have been to Hawaii many times in search of them. This recipe takes a lot of time, but it is so worth the effort because your instructions are perfect. My husband made me these for Christmas this year–what a special gift that I hope will be a tradition! They are fantastic!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      I love hearing your wonderful food memories! I’m thrilled to hear that you enjoy my recipe and it’s become a tradition to make the steamed buns.

  4. Wyllie says

    How about high altitude? We are at 4500′ and recipes like this just don’t turn out correctly. Do you know what changes I need to make? Thanks!

  5. Jocelyn says

    Hi! Do you mix 1 1/2 tablespoons or teaspoons water with the baking powder? I am looking forward to trying this recipe with my family.

  6. Jacquie says

    Jessica,
    I have been searching for the perfect steamed bun dough for more than 7 years now. I can’t believe how easy and lovely your recipe is!!!!! My friends and family thank you!
    Jacquie

  7. L.Toma says

    I will be trying to cook your chasiubao today for snacks and dinner extras.I mixed all the ingredients,but forgot to mix the yeast with water and sugar first…..but the texture of the dough feels okay so far…….I will try it again tomorrow and remember to mix the yeast with warm water and sugar thoroughly.The photographs of all your foods look so delicious and I can smell the aroma.

  8. vanessa tan says

    hi, I have tried your recipe. it works and the skin is so soft and fluffy. But it was too much buns and we could not finish it all. if I reduce to one cup of flour, how many tsp of yeast should i add in and how many tsp of bakingpowder is required? thanks

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Vanessa! Reducing the recipe to 1/4 of the batch size will not provide as accurate of measurements, however if you would like to use only 1 cup of flour, then I reccomend the following (however you will have to approximate by sight): 1 cup flour, 1/2 teaspoon of yeast, 3/4 teaspoon of baking powder mixed with 1 teaspooon of water. Please let me know if you have any questions!

  9. Kathryn says

    Thanks Jess. Your recipe and video were very helpful for my first attempt at steamed pork buns. I halved the recipe and they turned out better than i expected and certainly satisfied my craving. Unfortunately i don’t have any left over!

  10. Ellen says

    Hi, Recipe looks like the real thing and I can’t wait to try it. I’m not clear on the char sui though……do you make the seasoned char sui recipe that I found also on your site and then use it as the base for this recipe and then add the additional seasonings listed on this recipe? Seems like a lot of different seasonings but I’ll try it if that’s the way it goes. Thanks!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      HI Ellen! Yes, if you want to make homemade char siu please follow my recipe in the link. I made the directions hopefully more clear in the char siu bao recipe for the seasonings, and when to add them. Many of the seasoning ingredients are used again and are similar. When I have limited time, I also buy some char siu from local chinese restaruants, but it’s fun to make it at home too! Thank you for your comments!

      • Ellen says

        Jessica, Thanks for the reply. 🙂 I made the char siu and to say it was a big hit is an understatement! My son’s wife is from Hong Kong and they both eat a lot of Chinese food and they said it was just like Hong Kong char siu! I had to fight their forks to keep 2 cups of pork to make the bao tomorrow ( and I had doubled the char siu recipe!) I did a lot of research before choosing your recipe; your pictures looked and the two recipes read more authentic Chinese than others out there..and I was right. Thanks so much. Now…if I can just get the pork filling _into_ the bao dough tomorrow I’ll be a hero again! 🙂

        • Ellen says

          Hi again I made the bao and the recipe was right on! In fact we’ve gone through two batches now and have people lined up to visit to try them next time we cook. 🙂 Many thanks!

  11. Kiki says

    Hello Jessica Thanks for the nice recipe. I made this today with chicken instead of pork (hubby doesn’t really like pork) and it was phenomenal. I believe all the time and effort that I put into it was all worth the delicious bao waiting to be consumed. I followed your recipe to a t, except that I made this to 16 bigger ones and ended up with thicker dough on top. Anyway it was still enjoyed, very yummy i should say.
    The video was such a big help. Thank you.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Kiki! It’s so great to hear that the recipe was a success! Your feedback makes me so happy and encouraged to continue to share recipes. I’m glad that the you tube video also helped! Happy cooking!

  12. Kristan D says

    Thank you for this recipe Jessica.
    I noticed that the filling you used looks different (wet) from your char siu pork recipe. Did you add any additional ingredients?

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Kristan! Yes, check out the ingredients section in the recipe, the “seasoning” and “filling base” lists the ingredients I used to combine with the diced pork for the buns. Essentially a mixture of oyster sauce, sugar, soy sauce, shallots, flour and chicken stock. Please let me know if you have any other questions!

  13. irene says

    at what point can you freeze the buns? after forming them, after letting them rest? thanks for a great recipe!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Irene! I freeze the bun actually after I steam them and allow them to cool. Then you can either re-steam them or pop them in the microwave for a few seconds when you are ready to eat!

        • Jessica Gavin says

          Hi Ken, great question! I have not tried freezing the buns before baking. I have cooked them them froze them and reheated in the microwave for a few seconds. That worked great, I could enjoy them anytime 🙂

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Irene! I freeze the bun actually after I steam them and allow them to cool. Then you can either re-steam them or pop them in the microwave for a few seconds when you are ready to eat!

  14. Lokness @ The Missing Lokness says

    These bbq pork buns look so good! I love them, but never try to make them. This recipe would be a great start for me. Thanks for sharing.