Craving authentic steamed pork buns complete with fluffy bao buns filled with juicy pork filling? Try this recipe that is guaranteed to impress even the most traditional lovers of baozi.
Top cooking accomplishment to this day? Presenting these baozi to my immigrant parents and earning their *grudging* seal of approval. Therefore, I just had to share this spectacular recipe that will never fail to impress.
What is baozi?
Baozi (包子), also known as bao, is an authentic Chinese steamed pork bun. The bun itself is a fluffy yeast-leaven dough that catches all the liquid from the filling. It’s different than a char siu bao (barbeque steamed pork buns traditionally served for dim sum) or a gua bao (Taiwanese braised pork belly bun). Baozi is actually much more straightforward than either of those and gives off all the homey vibes.
How to Make Perfect Baozi Dough
The ideal baozi dough is smooth, soft, and pillowy. This happens through using a simple mixture of flour, instant yeast, sugar, and water. Some recipes call for seasoning or oil but I find this to be the most reliable. The key to a soft dough is to knead it (either by hand or with a stand mixer) until it comes together as a cohesive mass. Using my KitchenAid, it takes about 5 minutes using a dough hook on speed 2. My mom likes to say that if the dough is right, your hands and the bowl should be free of any sticky bits of dough. When you press a finger into the dough, it should leave a shallow imprint.
It is essential to have your dough rise until it has doubled in size. This, along with the second rise, is what will keep the dough from collapsing after steaming. Don’t skimp on these steps!!
How to Make Pork Filling
The baozi filling should be savory, juicy, and fragrant. Start with some basic ground pork (if it’s particularly lean, add in extra oil). Add in the soy sauces, oyster sauce, salt, ground white pepper, five-spice powder, and oil. I usually eyeball here and go a little more heavy-handed. This is because while dumplings (jiaozi) are usually served with a dipping sauce to add flavor and moisture, baozi are traditionally eaten on their own.
Mix using chopsticks in one direction until very well combined. Gradually add in water one tablespoon at a time until no more liquid is visible. Then, right before assembly, add in shredded napa cabbage, scallion, and cilantro. Feel free to omit cilantro if you’re not a huge fan, but I found that it adds an incredible layer of flavor! Also, ensure that everything is chopped as finely as possible. Mix until uniformly combined. The filling should be a sticky and cohesive mass.
How to Assemble Baozi
First, take your dough and knead it until it returns to its original size. Divide dough into 30 equal portions – I find that dividing by halves each time helps to ensure uniformity. Roll each piece into a disk-like wrapper approximately 3-4 inches in diameter. Try to roll from the outside end in so that the edges are slightly thinner than the center. This helps with keeping the dough even after pleating.
Place approximately 1 tablespoon of filling in the middle of a wrapper then fold into a bao shape. This will take some practice and I recommend referencing a video like this one.
Leave all the assembled buns to rest for another 15 minutes or so, covered with a towel or plastic wrap. This ensures that they will not deflate after steaming and will retain the fluffy texture.
How to Steam Baozi
Line a steamer basket with parchment paper. Place buns at least 1 inch away from each other and the edge of the steamer. Start with cold water over high heat. When the water boils, steam for 15-18 minutes.
Serve the buns HOT with optional dipping sauce for more flavor (sometimes we opt for a soy sauce/chinkiang vinegar mixture). They should be savory and so so satisfying. My absolute favorite part is that the filling coats the inside of the bun – almost like a soup dumpling (xiaolongbao) – which amplifies the flavor.
Enjoy with friends, family, or just feast on these whenever! You can freeze cooked buns. To serve, defrost in the fridge then steam for 8 minutes, or steam for 15 minutes without defrosting.
The Best Steamed Pork Buns (Baozi)
- 600 grams all-purpose flour around 5 cups
- 2 tsp instant yeast
- 1 tsp sugar
- 280 mL lukewarm water around 1¼ cup
- 450 grams ground pork around 1 pound
- 2 tbsp light soy sauce
- 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 tsp five-spice powder
- 1 tsp salt
- pinch ground white pepper
- 1 tbsp cooking oil
- ⅓ cup water
- 170 grams Napa cabbage, shredded 6 oz
- 2 tbsp scallion, minced
- ¼ cup cilantro, minced less if desired
- Mix flour, yeast, and sugar in a large mixing bowl until combined. While mixing, slowly pour in water until it is absorbed and forms a shaggy dough.
- Stand Mixer: using a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, knead on low speed for 5-8 minutes until dough comes togetherBy Hand: knead with your hands either in the bowl or on a lightly floured surface for 10-15 minutes.The dough should be soft and smooth.
- Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size. It will take between 40 minutes and 1.5 hours depending on the room temperature.
- Combine pork, soy and oyster sauces, five-spice powder, salt, ground white pepper, and cooking oil in a bowl. Mix, stirring in one direction, until well combined. Gradually add in water one tablespoon at a time until no more liquid is visible.
- Right before assembly, add in napa cabbage, scallion, and cilantro. Mix until uniformly combined. The filling should be a sticky and cohesive mass.
- Knead the dough until it deflates and returns to its original size. Divide dough into 30 equal portions – dividing by halves each time to ensure uniformity. Roll each piece into a disk-like wrapper approximately 3-4 inches in diameter. Place approximately 1 tablespoon of filling in the middle of a wrapper then fold into a bao shape. Leave all the assembled buns to rest for another 15 minutes or so. This ensures that they will not deflate after steaming.
- Line a steamer basket with parchment paper. Place buns at least 1 inch away from each other and the edge of the steamer. Start with cold water over high heat. When the water boils, steam for 15-18 minutes.
- Serve baozi hot on their own or with dipping sauce. You can freeze cooked buns. To serve, defrost in the fridge then steam for 8 minutes, or steam for 15 minutes without defrosting.