Chinese Steaming Recipes

Put dumplings in basket

The Spruce Eats / Ulyana Verbytska 

Steaming is one of the three main cooking techniques used in Chinese cuisine, alongside stir-frying and deep-frying. Steaming is a healthy cooking method that allows the ingredients to truly shine without adding oils or empty calories, and because it doesn't require mixing or stirring is the preferred cooking method for delicate foods that might otherwise break apart.

We compiled our favorite steamed dishes and divided them into appetizers, mains, and desserts, and then into subcategories depending on their ingredients.


Buns: Vegetarian options are always important when planning for a Dim Sum experience; this recipe for flower rolls brings you a basic savory dough roll that you can offer as a side dish alongside rich and fatty meats. Although cooked just for 20 minutes, the dough requires many steps and 4 hours to be ready for the steamer. The beautiful shape makes them a must in all traditional tables and you'll be happy to you made them when you hear your guests' compliments on their appearance and flavor. For another mild-flavored bun, try this steamed bun, slightly sweet and an excellent side to duck.

Potstickers: Famous potstickers are pan-fried on one side and steamed on the other, for a chewy-crunchy texture combo that is hard to resist. This recipe uses pork and cabbage as the base of the filling and a soy-sesame dipping sauce as the final touch.

Beef: These beef balls are prepped and cooked in under 30 minutes after a 4 hour rest period in the fridge. Use skewers to plate, or steam with snow peas (or peas) to serve as a family-style appetizer.

Pork: These Char Siu Bao, or pork chop buns, could be part of a Dim Sum spread in which small-sized buns and dumplings compose a dinner made out of several dishes. For our pork buns, you need to make your own dough and filling but despite the many steps the recipe is fairly simple. Make the buns, steam, cool off, and freeze to have some ready for a last-minute gathering.

Shrimp: Har Gau dumplings are very famous shrimp dumplings and one fo the most sought after dishes in Dim Sum houses. A delicate dough is filled with chopped shrimp, bamboo shoots, eggs, and green onions, and then steamed until translucid, for about 15 minutes. The total prep and cooking time is 1 hour and 15 minutes, but once you dip the dumpling in soy sauce or hot chili oil, you'll know the labor was all worth it. For another shrimp dumpling, try shu mai. Beautiful and tasty, they are easier to make because the dumplings do not need to be enclosed. You can see the filling inside for a lovely presentation.

Main Dishes

Chicken: This Cantonese Steamed Chicken is a complete meal when served over rice. After 30 minutes of chopping and prep, the chicken is steamed with mushrooms for 15 minutes. A simple recipe for steamed lemon-chicken is a good option for a low-fat dinner. Marinate the chicken in a mixture of soy sauce, sherry, oyster sauce, and brown sugar. Steam the chicken until cooked and serve over rice. These classic steamed Lotus Leaf Wraps have chicken, sausage, rice, and mushrooms as a filling, and are cooked in a lotus leaf for a beautiful presentation.

Pork: This classic pork with egg custard dish features a thick layer of ground pork covered with egg custard. The pork is flavored with soy, sesame, cilantro, green onion, and ginger, and the beaten eggs have chicken broth and green onions. The two layers are steamed for 15 minutes and this quick and easy dish goes beautifully served over rice.

Fish: This delicate recipe for ginger-soy fish uses halibut marinated in ginger, garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil, oyster sauce, sugar, and pepper. The marinade and cooking technique can be used for whole fishes (if you have a big enough steamer) or for fillets.

Celebratory turnip cake is one of the most traditional Lunar New Year's dishes. Although technically not a cake as we know it in the Western tradition, this savory preparation is present in all holiday dinner tables because it brings good luck and represents one's disposition to be better with each passing year. Shiitake mushrooms, pork, gammon, prawns, rice and daikon are just a few of many ingredients that take part in this elaborate recipe. A total of 6 hours of soaking the rice is necessary, but the cake steams in 45 minutes. Cool off before pan-frying each slice in vegetable oil.


Fruit: For a fruity end to your meal, try our bananas with coconut sauce. Simply steam the whole bananas and make a sauce on the stove. Cover the steamed bananas with sauce and garnish with mint. The whole process only takes 20 minutes and it's an ideal gluten-free dessert. These steamed pears cook in 30 minutes and use honey and dates as additional flavoring. The sweet and tangy flavor of Asian pears is beautiful when steamed but replace for Bosch or Anju if you can't find Asian pears.

Cake: This very simple recipe for sponge cake includes an eggy batter steamed for 25 minutes into a moist and delicious cake that you can eat plain or with fruit compote.