Basic Chinese Bun Dough

Basic Chinese Bun Dough

The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

Prep: 3 hrs
Cook: 0 mins
Rise: 2 hrs
Total: 5 hrs
Servings: 12 servings
Yield: 12 buns
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
133 Calories
4g Fat
19g Carbs
4g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12
Amount per serving
Calories 133
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 4g 6%
Saturated Fat 0g 2%
Cholesterol 16mg 5%
Sodium 95mg 4%
Total Carbohydrate 19g 7%
Dietary Fiber 1g 3%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 4g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 7mg 1%
Iron 0mg 2%
Potassium 38mg 1%
*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 warm water

  • 1 teaspoon sugar, divided

  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 3 tablespoons cooking oil

  • 1/4 cup boiling water

  • 1 large egg

  • 2 1/4 cups white bread flour

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Basic Chinese Bun Dough ingredients

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

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

    sugar and water in a bowl

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

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

    yeast, water, sugar mixture

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  4. Stir to dissolve the yeast.

    yeast mixture

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

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

    sugar, salt, and cooking oil in a bowl

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

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

    add water to the sugar-salt mixture

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  7. Stir in the egg and the yeast mixture.

    Stir in the egg and the yeast mixture

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

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

    dough in a bowl

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

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

    knead dough

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

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

    Place the dough in large greased bowl, parchment paper and towel on top

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  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.

    dough rising in a bowl

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  12. Punch down the dough.

    Punch down the dough

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  13. Cover and let it rest for 5 minutes.

    dough resting under a towel

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

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

    dough shaped into a log

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  15. Cut it into 12 pieces.

    dough cut into pieces

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

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

    Basic Chinese Bun Dough

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn


  • 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.

How to Store and Freeze

  • Make sure to put your bao and steamed-filled buns in the refrigerator to keep them fresh. After cooking them, cool them to room temperature and then place in an airtight container and put in the fridge. They will keep for three to four days.
  • To freeze these delicious buns, once again, cool to room temperature, and put the cooked buns on a baking sheet, and freeze until solid (approximately two hours). Place the frozen buns into a plastic container or bag and freeze for up to three months.