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Steamed gua bao buns in a bamboo steamer

How to make Steamed Bao (Gua Bao)

Course 'How to's
Cuisine Chinese
Keyword vegan steamed bao buns gua bao
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Rising Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours
Servings 20
Author Izy


  • 420 g (3 1/2 cups) plain white flour (all-purpose flour), plus more for kneading
  • 2 1/4 tsp (1/4 oz or 7g) easy bake yeast (instant yeast)
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 250 g (1 cup) warm water
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil , plus more for the bowl + brushing
  • 1 tsp baking powder


Make the dough & first rise:

  • Place the flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Stir together to combine.
  • Add the warm water and vegetable oil to the bowl and stir together to form a rough dough. Tip the contents of the bowl out onto a work surface and knead together, dusting lightly with extra flour as needed to prevent it sticking to the surface (just try to add as little extra flour as possible). Knead for about 10 minutes - the dough will be slightly sticky and quite soft but should be stretchy and smooth. You can also use a stand mixer with the dough hook fitted to knead it if you'd like.
  • Pour a little extra vegetable oil into the bowl you were using. Place the dough in and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave somewhere warm for 1 hour to rise until doubled in volume (I place it in my oven, turned off, with a baking tray full of boiling water on the rack below - it makes the perfect warm, steamy environment for the dough to rise in).
  • Once the dough has risen, tip it out onto your work surface and pat out into a large rectangle. Sprinkle the baking powder all over the surface of the dough, roll it up, and then knead for 5 more minutes so the baking powder is incorporated.

Shape the buns & second rise:

  • Divide the dough into 20 equal pieces. Shape each of these into little balls, dusting with more flour as needed to stop them sticking to the work surface.
  • Cut 20 squares of baking paper, each roughly 3.5 inches (9 cm) wide.
  • Take each ball of dough and roll it out into an oval about 3.5 by 4.5 inches (9 x 12 cm). Brush the surface of each oval with a light coating of vegetable oil. Fold each oval in half to get a half-moon shape. Place onto the individual squares of baking paper.
  • Set aside to rise for 20 minutes on your counter so they get a bit puffy.

Steam the buns:

  • Gently place a few of the risen buns into your bamboo steamer - I can fit 3 buns in each layer of mine so a total of 6 buns. Make sure when you do this you don't squish the buns, so lower them in by grasping the corners of the baking paper square. You also want to leave room for expansion as the buns will rise even more when they are steamed - try to make sure they're not touching each other/ the edges of the steamer or they'll stick.
  • Put the remaining risen buns on a baking tray in the fridge to stop them overproofing as the first batch steams.
  • Fill a wide saucepan with ~1 inch (3 cm) of water. Bring to the boil over a medium heat then lower the bamboo steamer in, covering it with its lid. Turn the heat down so the water is simmering and let the buns steam for 6 minutes.
  • Let cool slightly then remove from the steamer so you can steam the next batch, you may need to top up the water to prevent it running dry (you can take the dough straight from the fridge, no need to let it come to room temperature).
  • Eat the buns warm! If they cool off, you can reheat them once more by steaming again for ~2 minutes.


  • Steam all of the buns as directed above. Allow to cool to room temperature then place on a baking sheet (with the baking paper squares still attached). Freeze on the tray for 1-2 hours until solid. Tip the frozen buns into a resealable bag which is labelled and dated. Keep in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  • To reheat, place frozen buns into a steamer. Steam for 5-8 minutes until piping hot inside.


  • Recipe adapted from School of Wok (Jeremy Pang)
  • you can use melted butter or lard in place of the vegetable oil if desired
  • you can replace half of the water with warm milk in the dough for a slightly softer result
  • if you don't have easy bake/instant yeast: first mix the yeast with the warm water in a jug and set aside to bubble up for 5 minutes before pouring into the bowl of flour/salt/sugar/oil.