This steamed chicken and pork buns recipe uses a featherlight tangzhong bao bun dough filled with a slightly sweet and savory Chinese BBQ pork and chicken thigh filling. Homemade Chinese pork buns are truly like the ones you’ll find being sold steaming hot from street trolleys in Chengdu, Chinatown, NYC, or from dim sum carts for yum cha in Hong Kong.
For the baozi dough, I’ve created a spinach (green) and black sesame (grey) tie-dyed bun. And while they taste great and are fun to look at, these steamed pork buns are just as delicious if you use my classic (white) tangzhong bao bun dough instead. As always, step-by-step recipe photos follow to help make the process easier, especially for anyone new to making homemade bao buns.
What are Chinese Pork Buns? What is Bao?
As you can see from the photos below, there are endless varieties of Chinese steamed pork buns from Beijing to Chengdu. And bāozi have endless delicious meat and/or vegetable fillings depending on what region of China you’re in. The most popular bao bun filling is usually comprised of a braised, barbecued, or seasoned ground pork mixture surrounded by a fluffy yeast-leavened bun (called bao) that gets steamed until piping hot and light as air. But they can also be filled with dessert fillings like sweet bean paste or egg custard. Pork buns are Chinese fast food at its finest.
And while pork buns originated in China, they’ve been deliciously adapted worldwide where you’ll often find the “sandwich-style” bao buns made famous by Momofuku and Ippudo in NYC. If you’re looking for these pork buns, hop over here to get it (they’re delicious).
For Chinese New Year, I wanted to recreate some of my favorite Sichuan street foods and snacks. In China, there are endless choices for tasty baozi that all vary depending on who makes them and the quality of ingredients being used. One of my favorite pork buns came from the “pork bun lady” who steamed them fresh daily (rain or shine) in the alley off the street behind my apartment building. If she was sold out, I’d head back to Family Mart (a Japanese convenience store chain) which was next to my apartment building, and order the commercially-produced pork buns with a soft dough surrounding a fairly rubbery (yet still tasty) meat puck.
Making your own homemade pork buns means you get to choose what filling to make and use high-quality ingredients which always tastes better — plus, there’s never any “mystery meat filling” to worry about.
Why We Love This BBQ Chicken and Pork Bao Bun Recipe
- Tangzhong bao bun dough makes the softest pork buns ever
- Adding potato to the dough makes it even squishier and lighter
- Fatty pork and tender chicken thigh make a super flavorful BBQ pork bun filling
- The filling cooks in just 12 minutes (and it’s also delicious in noodle dishes)
- Tastes just like what you’ll find in your favorite dim sum parlors around the world
- Taste great even if your pleats aren’t pretty (just look at mine above♡)
- The bao buns can be steamed and frozen for up to 3 months and reheated (steamed, pan-seared, or even microwaved for 30 seconds)
BBQ Chicken and Pork Bāozi (Pork Buns) Ingredients
There are 2 parts to this pork bun recipe: the buns (bao) and the Chinese chicken and pork BBQ filling. I experimented off and on for the better part of a year to create a softer, fluffier bao bun dough. And I’m happy to say that whether you use this tangzhong dough for Momofuku-style Japanese pork buns, or for these traditional Chinese pork buns, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a softer, more enjoyable squishy bao bun to eat. Keep reading to learn all about this fluffy tangzhong bao bun recipe. You’ll notice I’ve colored the bao dough with black sesame (for the grey dough) and spinach (for the green dough), but feel free to omit these ingredients to make traditional white bao dough.
Extra Soft Bao Bun Ingredients
- cake flour or 00 flour
- instant yeast (or active dry)
- dehydrated potato flakes (sub potato flour)
- dried milk powder
- baking powder
- baking soda
For Coloring the Bao Dough (OPTIONAL) *Choose ONE of the below additions if you want to color the bao bun dough green OR grey)
- frozen or fresh spinach
- black sesame paste
Ground Pork and Chicken Baozi Filling
- fatty ground pork (70:30 meat-to-fat ratio)
- ground chicken thigh
- ginger water
- vegetable oil
- garlic clove
- Shaoxing wine
- hoisin sauce
- dark soy sauce
- oyster sauce
- Pixan spicy doubanjiang sauce
- toasted sesame oil
- white pepper
- Chinese five-spice (optional but recommended)
How to Make BBQ Pork and Chicken Bao Buns
These steamed pork buns take a little extra effort to make the dough and then wait on it to rise multiple times but they’re actually simple and straightforward to make. I’ve used the tangzhong method for this yeasted dough along with some dehydrated potato flakes to get the maximum (softest) texture and best flavor. And if you’re looking for a traditional bao bun dough (classic white bao buns), don’t use the spinach or the black sesame paste that I’ve used to color this tie-dye bao bun dough.
- Make the tangzhong. In a small pot add 2 tablespoons of water and bring it almost to a boil over high heat, slowly add the flour while whisking the mixture with a fork constantly. Reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking and stirring constantly for just a minute or two more until the mixture starts to ball up around the fork. Remove it from the heat and place the tangzhong in a small bowl to cool completely to room temperature.
- If coloring the dough green. Add frozen thawed spinach to 3 ounces (90g) of hot water and purée using an immersion blender (or food processor). Strain the spinach water through a fine mesh sieve and measure out exactly 3 ounces (90g) of spinach-water. Be sure the spinach-water is warm, but not hot so that it doesn’t kill the yeast.
- If coloring the dough grey. Add 1 teaspoon of black sesame paste to 3 ounces (90g) of warm water and stir well to combine.
- Make the bao bun dough & let it rise (1st rise). Add the flour, yeast, sugar, powdered milk, potato flour, baking powder, and baking soda to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a hook attachment and whisk the ingredients well to combine. Turn the mixer on low speed and slowly add the warm water just until the dough comes together. *If you’re coloring the dough green OR grey, you’ll add either the warm black sesame paste water or the warm spinach water here instead of just plain warm water. With the machine running, add the cooled tangzhong pinching off small pieces into the bowl, and continue kneading and mixing for approximately 12 minutes stopping the machine periodically to pull the dough back down off of the hook (because it tends to climb). Once the dough has been kneaded and is smooth, remove it and shape it into a round. Lightly oil the mixing bowl and place the dough round back into the bowl and turn it over to coat all sides with a little oil. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size (about 1 to 1 1/2 hours or longer if you’re in a colder environment).
- Make the ginger water & cornstarch slurry and add it to the meat mixture. Bring 2 tablespoons of water and 2 tablespoons of large diced ginger to a boil in a small pot. Immediately turn off the heat and allow the mixture to steep for at least 30 minutes and up to an hour. Allow the mixture to cool completely, strain it, add it to the ground meat, stir to incorporate it, and set aside or refrigerate until ready to cook. Add the cornstarch and water to a small bowl and stir until smooth and no lumps remain. Set aside until ready to use.
- Portion the dough & let it rise (2nd rise). Once the dough has risen, punch it down and form it into a log, and cut 8 equal pieces (about 48g each). Keep the dough covered while you work with one piece at a time to form them into small round balls. Cover loosely with sustainable cling film, and allow them to rise for about 30 more minutes.
- Make the pork bun filling. While the dough is rising, mix the Shaoxing wine, hoisin sauce, dark soy sauce, oyster sauce, Pixan doubanjiang sauce, sesame oil, sugar, white pepper, and Chinese five-spice in a bowl. Adjust seasonings if desired and set aside. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil to a wok or large sauté pan set over medium-high heat, add the onions, scallions (white part only), and garlic, and cook until tender and fragrant (about 2 minutes). Add the pork and chicken mixture, season with a little salt, and stir-fry until the meat is cooked through (about 4 minutes). Add the Shaoxing wine mixture to the pork, stir, and cook until the meat has absorbed much of the sauce (about 3 minutes). Add the cornstarch slurry, stir to combine, and cook until the mixture thickens (about 2 minutes). Remove the filling to a bowl to cool and stir in the scallions (green parts).
- Prepare the steamer basket. Line a bamboo steamer with parchment paper punctured with holes, cabbage leaves, or even lettuce leaves. You may also brush the cabbage or lettuce with a little oil if desired. Set them aside until ready to use.
- Shape, fill the buns, & let them rest (3rd rise). Working with one dough ball at a time on a non-stick Silpat or dough mat, press the outer perimeter of the dough ball down with your fingertips leaving a small rounded mound in the middle. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough edges into a circle about 1/4-inch thick without flattening the center where the mound is. *Leaving a thicker mound in the center of the wrapper helps create a sturdier bao bun once the filling is added. Fill the buns with an equal amount of filling and pleat and pinch the dough around the filling to seal it up (see photos). Twist the dough at the top to close it and then transfer the sealed buns to the prepared steamer basket (leaving about 2 inches in between each bun so they don’t stick together as they steam). Cover the buns in the steamer basket using sustainable cling film and let them rest for 30 minutes.
- Steam the buns. Remove the plastic and set the steamer basket over a wok or sauté pan with enough water to steam the buns for 15 minutes. Do not place the buns where they will be in contact with any water. Turn the heat on to high, cover, and set a timer for 15 minutes. Carefully remove the hot buns from the steamer basket and eat them immediately, or allow them to cool to room temperature before storing them in the refrigerator for 3 or 4 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months, Enjoy!
How to Make Chinese BBQ Chicken & Pork Buns step-by-step recipe photos
How to Store Homemade Bao Buns (Baozi)
Once the buns have been steamed and cooled completely, you can bag them and place them into the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days, or into the freezer for up to 3 months in an airtight container or freezer bag. For longer-term freezer storage, it’s best to first wrap them individually with sustainable cling film to keep the frost off of them and then into a larger bag or container. You can steam the buns again from frozen (they take about 8 minutes to heat back up), or you may thaw the buns in the refrigerator overnight and steam them for 4 to 6 minutes.
5 Ways to Reheat Chinese Pork Buns (Bāozi)
One of the great things about making pork buns at home is that you can freeze them once they’ve been steamed which makes for super quick breakfasts or dinners when you don’t have time to cook. Here are the best ways to reheat pork buns to make sure they taste just like they were steamed.
- Pan-sear pork buns in a hot skillet with a little oil until golden brown and heated through. This is an easy and delicious way my Chinese friends like to reheat cold pork buns.
- Microwave pork buns. Wrap the buns in a damp paper towel and microwave for 30 to 40 seconds, or until steaming hot.
- Steam the buns to reheat them. Add the buns to a parchment-lined steamer basket set over a wok or pot with about 2 inches of boiling water and steam the buns for about 5 minutes, or until warmed through and soft. Make sure the buns never have contact with the water.
- Reheat them in the oven by placing the buns on a large piece of aluminum foil and adding two damp paper towels to the tops of the buns, close the aluminum foil to seal it completely, and place them into a preheated 350°F176°C oven for 15 minutes or until warmed through and soft.
- If you don’t have a steamer basket, make a DIY steamer using a small pot and a metal colander. Place the buns in the colander set atop a pot with a little boiling water and place a lid on top of the colander being sure not to allow the buns to have contact with the water. Steam for several minutes until warmed through and fluffy.
Looking for More Delicious Pork Bun Recipes to Make?
If you’re looking for even more delicious pork buns, here are a few of our favorite recipes that are worth the effort to make.
- Fluffy-Soft Homemade Pork Buns (Momofuku & Ippudo-Style)
- Easy Japanese Braised Pork Belly (for Momofuku & Ippudo Style Pork Buns)
- BLT Bao Buns (Japanese-Style BLTs on Homemade Buns)
- Easy Chashu Pork チャーシュー(Marinated Braised Pork Belly Recipe For Ramen )
Chinse Pork Buns (Bao Buns or Baozi) FAQ’s
- Can I steam pork buns without a steamer? You can steam bao buns without a steamer by using a colander set over a small pot with water in it. Bring the pot of water to a boil, place the pork buns on top of a piece of parchment paper and put them into the colander and cover them with a lid. Steam until cooked through.
What Are Pork Buns? Are Pork Buns the Same as Bao Buns?
Pork buns come in many different forms and have an endless number of delicious fillings (usually comprised of braised pork or ground pork filling). Pork buns originated in China, but have been deliciously adapted in Japan (and NYC). No matter what type of pork bun you’re eating it will usually consist of a fluffy, snow-white yeasted steamed bun (bao or mantou) and slices of braised or barbecued pork or a ground pork mixture. Let’s dive into the different varieties of pork buns.
- Mainland China Chinese pork buns (baozi 包子, or bao buns). Snow white fluffy yeasted dough wrapped around a filling of char sui, ground pork, vegetables, or a combination of pork and veggies, and steamed. These are one of my favorite snacks to eat in China (or any city with its own Chinatown or a good dim sum restaurant). Each region of China has its own specialty pork fillings but baozi (bao buns) are not always filled with meat. They’re often filled with dessert fillings like whipped cream, egg custard, or red bean paste.
- Japanese pork buns (nikuman 肉まん). Snow white fluffy yeasted dough wrapped around a filling of ground pork, vegetables, or a combination, and steamed. These are very similar to baozi or mainland China pork buns.
- Taiwanese pork buns (gua bao 割包). Snow white, fluffy yeasted steamed buns in a half-moon shape filled with slices of saucy braised pork belly and various toppings like pickled mustard, cilantro and peanuts and eaten like a sandwich or taco. This is what the Nagasaki kakuni manjū and Momofuku and Ippudo pork buns below are based on.
- Nagasaki kakuni manjū pork buns (Nagasaki Chinatown pork buns). Snow white, fluffy yeasted steamed buns in a half-moon shape with braised pork belly slices and various toppings added. It’s stuffed with the mixture and eaten like a sandwich or taco.
- Momofuku and Ippudo-style pork buns (based on gua bao from Taiwan). Snow white, fluffy yeasted steamed buns in a half-moon shape filled with braised pork belly slices and various toppings (sugar-and-salt quick pickled cucumbers, mayo, scallions, hoisin sauce, Sriracha sauce, etc.) and eaten like a sandwich or taco.