Bao, or Baozi, is a popular Chinese dish better known in America as steamed buns. A bread-like bun is stuffed with a variety of fillings. Because of their small size, these buns are ideal as appetizers or light lunches. Other versions wider in diameter are available but both bao preparations are fairly similar. Chinese in origin, bao are now part of other Asian traditions and cuisines, with Korean, Japanese, and Malaysian versions of these little sandwich-like treats.
Our collection of recipes for steamed buns features this beloved dish with beef, pork, and even spam. Vegetarian options are also included. We hope these recipes give you inspiration to create your own bao. The majority of the recipes require buns that are ready to steam, but the Char Siu Bao gives you the option of making the buns from scratch.
01 of 10
Here, steamed buns are enhanced with Korean bulgogi beef, which is made with a spicy blend of gochujang, ginger, garlic, spices, and soy sauce, then marinated, grilled, and stuffed into slightly sweet steamed buns. Fresh shredded carrot, sprigs of cilantro, slices of pickled burdock (or radish), and pickled cucumbers rounds are added to the sandwich to lighten and freshen it up. And as for the kewpie mayo, well, that creamy Japanese goodness is smeared on the inside of the steamed buns to help it all stay together.
The meat needs to marinate for at least 2 hours, but after you've cooked the meat and steamed the buns, you can assemble your baos in no-time. Ready in 5 hours and 25 minutes.
02 of 10
This awesome bao recipe packs crispy fried pork belly, a sweet and spicy honey-Sriracha sauce, chopped peanuts, and soy sauce-glazed Brussels sprouts into an airy steamed bun.
The base for your bao is steamed pork belly that's then crisped in a pan. Cook the Brussels sprouts until caramelized and make the honey-Siracha mixture. Once you're ready to assemble, spread the sauce, top with the crispy pork belly and vegetables, and add chopped peanuts for crunch. Ready in 30 minutes.
03 of 10
Traditionally made with pork belly, this hoisin-glazed mushroom bao is vegetarian, but even meat lovers will love its umami richness: sweet and savory hoisin glazed mushrooms, creamy kewpie mayo, nutty toasted sesame seeds, and bright cilantro come together between two pillowy steamed buns.
Use shiitake mushrooms and enokitake mushrooms and cook them in soy, hoisin sauce, honey, and canola oil. A thick addition of kewpie mayo, made with just the egg yolks, gives the bao a wonderful creaminess. Ready in 35 minutes.
04 of 10
There's spam in these steamed buns, but wait, don't panic just yet. This version is an adaptation of musubi, a traditional Hawaiian sushi snack typically made by grilling spam and then brushing it with teriyaki sauce. The glazed spam is then placed on top of pressed sushi rice and wrapped in nori to make it handheld. Musubi is sweet and savory and despite spam's questionable reputation, it's surprisingly delicious.
Our recipe is quick, simple and makes a great lunch. Steam the buns according to the instructions and crisp up the spam while glazing it with teriyaki sauce. Ready in 25 minutes.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
05 of 10
This type of bao is vegetarian and utterly delicious. And if you like things a bit spicier, then load up on the Sriracha. Toss crispy fried tofu nuggets in a sweet yet slightly spicy sesame orange sauce and then stuff them in light and airy steamed buns. Ready in 1 hour and 5 minutes.
06 of 10
Crispy curry fried chicken, tart pickled red onions, refreshing lime-cabbage, and the bright zip of fresh mint come together in this not so traditional curry fried chicken steamed bun.
Marinate the chicken breast in spices and curry, cover in egg wash and panko bread crumbs, and fry until crispy and golden brown. Steam your buns and stuff them with marinated cabbage, rich kewpie mayo, chicken, and mint. Ready in 1 hour.
07 of 10
This recipe results in a spicy, delicious chicken sandwich with a kick from Sambal, a spicy, vinegary Asian hot paste, a hint of tartness from quick pickled cucumbers, and a pop of herbal freshness from cilantro.
Use chicken breasts and slice them in chicken tenders, cover with cornstarch, egg wash, and panko, alternating until they're surrounded by a thick coating, and fry until crispy. Steam the buns, cover in melted butter and add sesame seeds on top. Stuff with chicken, sambal, cilantro, and cucumbers. Ready in 50 minutes.
08 of 10
This recipe is the offspring of a super fresh Thai spring roll and a rich Chinese steamed bun. Swap out the rice paper for light steamed buns and add a dollop of spicy chili sauce, a few creamy slices of avocado, crisp strands of carrots and cucumbers rounds, zippy pickled red onions, spicy jalapenos, and rich, umami Hoison sauce.
If you like it hot, add some Sriracha or sambal and get ready to indulge in an almost perfect vegetarian treat. Ready in 15 minutes.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
09 of 10
Nestle crispy five-spice fried tofu nuggets layered with spicy kimchi mayo, creamy avocado, and crisp, pickled red onions between two halves of a pillowy steamed bun. If you don't have five-spice on hand, make it yourself by combining ground cinnamon with ground cloves, ground toasted fennel seeds, ground star anise, and ground toasted Szechuan peppercorns.
Fry the seasoned tofu in abundant oil until crispy, make your kimchi mayo, and steamed the buns. Assemble the bao adding avocado slices and red pickled onions. This vegetarian dish is ready in 40 minutes.
10 of 10
Char Siu Bao
This recipe teaches you how to make the bun dough from scratch, and it's a great opportunity to practice and master the art of making bao dough buns so you can fill them up with your own creations.
The yeast-and-oil dough has to prove twice in the course of 3 hours to make a fluffy dough for your buns. Scallions, oyster sauce, soy sauce, and barbecued pork make a sticky and flavorful filling. Once you've assembled the buns by making circles and stuffing them with pork, let them prove for an extra hour and then steam them for 10 minutes. Ready in under 5 hours.