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Bao Buns without Bamboo Steamer

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5 from 2 reviews

  • Author: Maxine Dubois
  • Total Time: 2 Hours 42 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x


This is how to make light, fluffy and soft bao buns without steamer using water, milk, yeast, oil, flour and baking powder. 


  • 1/3 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup warm milk
  • 1 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  1. Activate the yeast. Add the warm water and warm milk in a small bowl. Make sure it is not hot when you touch it but warm to the touch. Add the yeast, oil and sugar. Stir and let it sit for 4 minutes.
  2. Create the dough. In a stand mixer, add the flour, baking powder and salt. Using a dough hook, mix until combined. Slowly add in the wet ingredients and knead for 3-5 minutes on medium speed.
  3. Rise the dough. Let the dough sit in a bowl and cover with cling wrap for 2 hours, or until the dough has doubled in size.
  4. Form the buns. You will not need to add more flour like you do with pasta. With a rolling pin, roll out the dough until 1/3 inch thick. With a glass, cup, or round cookie cutter, cut through the dough to form perfect circles and repeat with the rest of the dough. Pull out the dough you won’t use and repeat the same process until you are left with little or no dough.
  5. Form the buns. Lightly brush vegetable oil on the circles and fold in half like a half moon. Press down with your hand so it stays folded. They might fold back out into a circle – those might need extra pressure! Let them rest for another 30 minutes.
  6. Steam the buns. Meanwhile in a wok or steamer, bring water to a boil. If you have a bamboo steamer, use that. If you don’t: Cut parchment paper into squares the size of your buns.  Spray the squares with nonstick cooking spray and place the buns on them and on the steamer. Wrap the lid with a tea towel and, with a rubber band, tie the towel around the handle. Steam the buns for 8 to 12 minutes, depending on the thickness of your dough. Repeat with the rest of the buns. Tip: While you’re steaming the rest of your buns, you can wrap the steamed ones in a clean towel to keep them warm.


  • If you use instant yeast, be sure to use 2 ¼ teaspoons and rise time will only be around 30 minutes or until it doubles in size.
  • I highly recommend testing the yeast for activity before starting to work on this recipe. Add 1 teaspoon of sugar and 2 1/4 teaspoons of yeast (one envelope) to 1/4 cup of warm water. Wait for 10 minutes and if you see foams and bubbles and you smell that yeast aroma, your yeast is still good to go. If not, then you need to get fresh yeast.
  • Proper Yeast Activation: Make sure to activate the yeast properly by using warm water or milk and a pinch of sugar. The liquid should be around 110°F (43°C) to activate the yeast without killing it. Let the yeast mixture sit for a few minutes until it becomes frothy before adding it to the dough.

  • Kneading the Dough: Kneading the dough is crucial to develop gluten and achieve the desired texture of the buns. Knead the dough until it becomes smooth, elastic, and slightly tacky. This may take about 8-10 minutes of kneading.

  • Resting and Proofing: Allow the dough to rest and rise in a warm and draft-free area until it doubles in size. This step is essential for the buns to become light and fluffy. Cover the dough with a damp cloth or plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out.

  • Shaping the Buns: When shaping the bao buns, roll out the dough into a long cylinder shape and cut it into equal-sized portions. Use a rolling pin to flatten each portion into a round disc, leaving the center slightly thicker than the edges. This will ensure that the buns have a puffy and well-formed shape after steaming.

  • Proper Filling-to-Dough Ratio: Be mindful of the filling-to-dough ratio when adding the filling to the buns. Overstuffing can make it challenging to seal the buns properly, while too little filling may result in bland buns. Aim for a balanced amount of filling that can be easily enclosed within the dough.

  • Steaming Technique: When steaming the bao buns, make sure to use a steamer lined with parchment paper or cabbage leaves to prevent sticking. Space the buns apart, as they will expand during steaming. Place the steamer over boiling water and steam the buns for the recommended time to achieve the desired texture.

  • Avoid Opening the Steamer Lid: While steaming the bao buns, avoid opening the steamer lid during the first few minutes. This can cause temperature fluctuations and affect the steaming process, leading to unevenly cooked buns.

  • Enjoy Freshly Steamed Buns: Bao buns are best enjoyed fresh and warm. Serve them immediately after steaming to savor their fluffy texture and aromatic filling. If you need to store or reheat the buns, follow the storage tips mentioned earlier.

  • Prep Time: 2 Hours 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 12 minutes
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Steaming
  • Cuisine: Chinese


  • Serving Size: 1
  • Calories: 96.9
  • Sugar: 2.5 g
  • Sodium: 90.0 mg
  • Fat: 2.5 g
  • Saturated Fat: 1.7 g
  • Carbohydrates: 16.6 g
  • Fiber: 0.6 g
  • Protein: 1.9 g
  • Cholesterol: 0.0 mg