Basic Chinese Bun Dough

Chinese steamed buns

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  • Total: 3 hrs
  • Prep: 3 hrs
  • Cook: 0 mins
  • Rise: 2 hrs
  • Servings: 12 servings
  • Yields: 12 buns
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
119 Calories
7g Fat
12g Carbs
4g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12
Amount per serving
Calories 119
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 7g 8%
Saturated Fat 1g 7%
Cholesterol 75mg 25%
Sodium 147mg 6%
Total Carbohydrate 12g 4%
Dietary Fiber 1g 3%
Protein 4g
Calcium 28mg 2%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

This dough makes slightly sweet, light, and fluffy buns. Use this dough to make steamed filled buns (baozi or bao), unfilled steamed buns (mantou), baked Chinese cocktail buns, and other basic Chinese bun recipes.

This recipe reprinted with permission from "Chinese Cooking (Company's Coming)" by Jean Pare, uses bread flour, which has a high protein and gluten content to help the bread rise and take shape. The basic principles of making Chinese bun dough are the same as for making any type of yeast dough. You need to have the right conditions for the yeast to do its work of digesting sugar and producing carbon dioxide gas which gets trapped in the dough, causing it to rise.


  • 1/3 cup water (very warm)
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar (divided)
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1/4 cup water (boiling)
  • 1 large egg (fork-beaten)
  • 2 1/4 cups white bread flour

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. In a small dish, stir the warm water and 1 teaspoon sugar until the sugar is dissolved.

  3. Sprinkle the yeast over the top. Let it stand for 10 minutes.

  4. Stir to dissolve the yeast.

  5. In a large bowl, stir together 1/3 cup of sugar, salt, and cooking oil.

  6. Add the boiling water. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.

  7. Stir in the egg and the yeast mixture.

  8. Slowly work in enough flour until soft dough forms.

  9. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.

  10. Place the dough in large greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. Cover it with greased waxed paper and a tea towel.

  11. Let it rise in the oven with the oven light on and the door closed for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until doubled in bulk.

  12. Punch down the dough.

  13. Cover and let it rest for 5 minutes.

  14. Shape it into a 12-inch (30-centimeter) long log.

  15. Cut it into 12 pieces.

  16. Fill, shape, and bake the buns according to your desired recipe. Enjoy.


  • You can use the dough immediately or refrigerate it overnight before shaping and filling it as desired.
  • Use this bun dough for both sweet and savory buns. In Chinese steamed pork buns (char siu bao), the savory barbecue pork plays well with the slight sweetness of the bun itself.

Recipe Variations

  • You can also roll out the dough and cut it into 3-inch circles, brush it with oil, fold in half, and steam. This makes the bread into little fillable delights you can stuff with pork belly for "tiger bites pig", barbecue pork, or many creative combinations. Or simply serve them with Peking duck.
  • For a sweeter treat, Chinese coconut buns have a coconut filling. The dough is crimped into a half-moon shape, brushed with egg wash, baked, and brushed with a honey wash.