Vegan Chinese Steamed Buns (Bao)

These are a fabulous snack—€”if you're a carbaholic like me it's hard to stop eating them. The recipe doubles well and freezes well; it takes just a quick nuke and they're ready to eat (you can also re-steam to thaw). Most of the prep time is waiting for the dough to rise, and most of the cooking time is putting batches in your steamer. The filling can be prepared a day in advance.

Prep time 2 1/4 hours | Cooking time 30 minutes
Source: Ann Ray


Generally I start the filling when the dough is on its first rise. If you're not familiar with seitan (wheat gluten), it has a chewy texture that contrasts well with the fluffy dough (tofu is too soft).

8 oz traditionally seasoned seitan, cut in 1/2" cubes
1/2 yellow onion, cut in 1/2" dice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ginger, grated
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon corn starch
1/4 C soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry cooking sherry
2 tablespoons water

On medium heat, saute the garlic, ginger and onion in a non-stick fry pan with minimal oil until the onion is translucent.

Mix the corn starch and sugar with the liquids, stirring well to get rid of lumps. Add the corn starch mixture and seitan to the pan, cooking on medium heat and stirring frequently until the sauce is clear and thickened.

Set in the refrigerator to cool.


This has just enough whole wheat flour to add some flavor, but not so much it hurts the light fluffy texture. Be sure you have a warm spot for the rises.

1 packet active dry yeast
1 C warm water (about 110 degrees)
2 tablespoons unflavored cooking oil
1/3 C Turbinado or other sugar
1 C whole wheat pastry flour (or regular if pastry isn't available)
2 1/4 C (+ extra for dusting) all purpose white flour
1 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl or your KitchenAid bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water. Stir in the sugar, oil and salt. Let stand in a warm place until bubbles appear (about 15 minutes).

Add the wheat and 2 1/4 C white flour and mix until the dough forms a ball (in KitchenAid, use flat mixing paddle).

By hand, turn out on a board lightly dusted with flour and knead about 8-10 minutes until smooth and elastic. In KitchenAid, switch to dough hook and knead about 90 seconds until becoming elastic, then turn out on board and knead by hand a few more times.

Place dough in large greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place until doubled, about 75 minutes. Cut up 12 3"x3" squares of parchment paper or tinfoil. This is when I usually prepare the filling.

Turn doubled dough out on floured board and knead another minute. Form into a rectangle, cut in half lengthwise, then cut each long section into 6 pieces, for a total of 12 buns. Don't worry if they're not perfectly equal, that just proves they're home made.

Pat each piece of dough into a circle about 4" around, with the edges thinner than the center. Add about 2 tablespoons filling to the middle (less for smaller bits of dough). Draw up the edges of the dough, pinch together, and then give a twist to seal. While it's tempting to load them up with filling, you don't want it to burst out the top of the bun (board side while filling) or interfere with the seal. Place twisted side down on a square of parchment paper or foil, and set aside on cookie sheet. Cover the cookie sheet with plastic wrap.

Once you have all the buns filled, set aside in a warm place to rise again until puffy, about 30 minutes. While this is the last rise, they will puff up a bit more while cooking.

Steam the buns for 12-15 minutes until the tops are shiny. I use a 2 tier bamboo steamer that fits in my wok. I can fit three buns in each level without them expanding into each other, which means two batches to steam a dozen buns. Be sure to top off the water so it doesn't run dry on the later batches.

You can also bake the buns at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, though I prefer the soft steamed texture. I've tried brushing the tops with margarine, which is supposed to make them golden, but the non-brushed portions actually turned a darker brown.


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