Baozi Recipe

This formula is somewhat different from the traditional baozi dough recipes I’ve seen. It uses a machine for one, because I’m lazy. Next, it employs instant yeast instead of regular active dry, which eliminates a step. It also incorporates the baking powder early. The reason, because modern baking powders can sit in a wet medium and still react when heated hours or even days later. Though it’s not strictly traditional, it works splendidly.

1 lb. (3 cups) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
8 ounces (1 cup) water
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) canola or peanut oil

Combine the dry ingredients in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle (beater) attachment. Stir on low to combine. Meanwhile combine the water and the oil. Turn the mixer up to medium and pour in the wet stuff. Keep the mixer running until a dough begins to form. Switch to the dough hook and knead until the dough is smooth and uniform, 4-6 minutes.

Remove the dough to an oiled bowl and let it rise for 1 1/2 hours. Divide the dough into 12-15 pieces and roll each into a ball. Cover the balls with a cloth while you work.

Roll each ball out into a roughly 5” circle. Place a tablespoon of the filling of your choice in the center and crimp the dough to enclose it (photo tutorial to come). Place each finished bao on a small square of parchment. Allow them to rise for about half an hour. Meanwhile set an Asian steamer on the boil.

Gently set the buns into the steamer giving them some room to expand. Steam the buns for about 20 minutes. Remove the steamer from the heat without opening it and allow the steam to dissipate for roughly 10 minutes. Serve them warm.

39 thoughts on “Baozi Recipe”

  1. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a recipe that called for both yeast and baking powder. The combination should create an interesting texture. I hope the science side of you is ready, ’cause you got some splainin’ to do!

    1. Hehe…I’ll do my best. And if I can’t figure it out I’ll make something up!

      – Joe

      1. Bronwyn she does the same in this recipe…

        I don’t know “why” but those are the best cinammon rolls I’ve ever had. I make them several times a year, christmas, easter, kindness day (I distribute them around the hospital I work at for handover breakfasts) and kids birthdays. They never fail and people RAVE about them!

  2. That’s very interesting… while I have never heard of Baozi, that is actually an ancient austrian (read: austrian empire) recipe for… dumplings; sweet dumplings to be exact, since the filling is jam, which is traditionally made of dried (!) plums… Powidl. The dumplings are called “Germknödel” and they are not small, but huge. The dumplings are served with hot butter all over it and dusted with a mixture of sugar and grounded poppy seeds. Actually I should say “the dumpling”, because you get one served and due to it size, you almost can’t finish it…

    I look forward to know if the filling for Baozi is sweet or savory…

    1. Hi Tom!

      There are all sorts of filling both sweet and savory. My problem will be to choose one! 😉

      – Joe

  3. I made these for Chinese New Year last year, using this recipe: It’s pretty similar to yours–a bit more sugar and a bit less water. I look forward to trying yours, too!

    They’re somewhat time-consuming, but really easy to throw together (especially if you can snag an extra set of hands). If you have cheap quality parchment paper they’ll stick anyway so oiling the parchment doesn’t hurt. Don’t use foil; it sticks horribly. Also they expand way more than you would think for something that’s already had a chance to rise. We’ve done the traditional pork filling and also something more along the lines of beef with hoisin sauce. Both were delicious. Supposedly if you put vinegar in with the steaming water, it keeps the buns whiter, but I’ve never not done that, so I’m not sure how much of a difference it makes. Now I want baozi…

  4. I’ve tried a couple of baozi recipes (in Hawaii we called them manapua), but never had what I would consider real success – they never really rose to the same level of “fluffiness” I would get at the restaurant. I’ve begun to suspect that an additional leavener would help the cause, so I’m really interested to see what happens with the added baking powder. There’s also the issue of getting the right balance between dough and filling, but I figure I can get the hang of that once I find the right dough.

  5. i’ve tried the delayed-add baking powder method, and, yep, you get pock marks, and i’m not sure it got fully absorbed.. leaving the baozi tasting a little metallic, and not quite fluffy. good to know baking powders stay active!

    I never did work up the courage to try again. This recipe looks promising!

    Also, I wonder, can you have a steamer with not enough steam so the buns don’t rise quite all the way?

    And for a filling, might I recommend: 🙂

  6. I have a very similar bao-dze dough recipe that I’ve had great success with since 1999. The biggest difference is that mine has the work spread out over three days. Like all things Yeast, it’s the bread that has the work to do, not me. Let me know if you’d like this recipe (I have no idea where I first got it in 1981). It’s somewhat involved, but excellent. Tell me the best way to get it to you if you want it. BTW, they freeze and reheat *very* well!

    1. I’m game, Sally! Just put it in a comment field. I’d love to see it.

      – Joe

      1. 1t. dry yeast
        1 C. warm water, divided
        3.5 C. cake flour (yes, really)
        1/2 C. superfine sugar
        2 t. baking powder
        1 T. lard, softened
        Dissolve yeast in 1/4 C. water and add 1/2 C flour. Let stand, covered, in a warm place 15 min. Add sugar, 1/2 C. water & 2 C. flour. Cover & let rise til double, 2 hours. Add remaining 1/4 C. water, 1 C. flour, baking powder & lard. Knead til smooth, let rise til double, 2 hours. Chill, covered, overnight. Divide into 16 pieces & shape around blobs of frozen filling. Place on greased parchment squares (or cupcake liners), let rise several hours until double. Steam 15 min. over high heat. Serve or cool and freeze airtight. Filling to follow!

        1. Very interesting, Sally! I may use this, or a variation since ai like the idea of oil a little better than a solid fat, since I think it’ll give the dough a little more flexibility. I’ve also seen cake flour versions (as well as AP and bread flour). They seem to run the gamut in terms of protein content. I think I’ll stick with AP for now since I want some stretch.

          All this might change in a couple of days of course!

          – Joe

  7. Bao-dze filling.
    1/2 lb. pork, in strips
    Chinese bbq sauce
    2 chopped scallions
    2 T. minced garlic
    3 T. oyster sauce
    3 C. sugar
    2 C. soy sauce
    1 T. oriental sesame oil
    2 t. cornstarch
    2 t. flour
    1/3 C. water
    2 T. lard
    Marinate pork strips in bbq sauce 1/2 hr. Roast on rack at 325° 1 hr. Cool & cut into 1/4″ dice. Heat lard & fry pork to heat through. Add scallion & garlic, stir-fry 30 sec. Mix oyster sauce, sugar, soy * sesame oil, stir-fry 45 sec. Mix flour, cornstarch, water & stir til thick. Cool, chill & divide into 16 mounds. Freeze til solid. Keeping the dough cold & filling frozen makes these much easier to shape–not having a Cantonese grandmother to show me how! Or, use a can of sweet bean paste as filling for sweet bao. I triple this recipe.

    1. Thanks for sharing! I am going to try these. For dietary reasons I will use ground pork cooked under a broiler but the filling sounds really good.

  8. I should have mentioned: to reheat these bao, steam for 15 minutes again if they are straight from the freezer. It’s possible (usually) to get 3 of them into a standard vegetable steamer. Since they are so successful frozen, I make 48 at a time.

  9. Not having an ‘asian steamer’, could this work with a rice steamer? Mine has a tray layer that I could put the buns on… thoughts?

    1. I should think that would work very well. Like most steamed things, you have to keep the food above the level of the water. For these you want high heat, lots of steam for cooking and reheating. The only thing to be wary of is that water could drip onto the bao; I try to be very careful in lifting the lid off the pot my vegetable steamer is in, so no moisture drips onto them. Mind your hands!

    2. I think that would be fine, Roger. Anything that steams will work. You just want to be sure you don’t leave too many sitting aside as they will keep proofing while the others steam. That could be a problem after an hour or more.

      Thanks for the question!

      – Joe

      1. Thanks!

        Being of vegetarian persuasion, I’m considering doing a straight swap of tofu (marinated via Trader Joes) for the pork noted above in Sally’s post (excluding the lard as well, of course)… this could be fun!

          1. Didn’t get around to the tofu option, but intstead went with some fun stuff around the house.

            a) Plain white rice (I’ve got a very picky eater). Results were nothing to write home about.

            b) spicy rice (basically used a spice kit that had been hanging around for a while for Rosemary Roasted Chicken and Potatoes) 2 tsp paprika, 1.5 tsp dried/crushed rosemary leaves, 1 tsp dried/minced garlic, .5 tsp black pepper, added some olive oil, salt, 2 T worcestershire sauce, 1 tsp sugar – mixed into the freshly steamed rice. Decent!

            3) Mixed said spicy rice with some leftover homemade potato soup. VERY good.

            4) just potato soup from 3) – too runny, to be honest. The rice as a thickener seemed to be necessary.

            But fun to try, and one of my kids is gobbling them down about as fast as I can make them.

            Oh, side note – I was able to use an electric rice steamer to cook them, though I could only do 2 at a time. Note to self, get a much bigger steamer setup (particularly with 4 kids, the 1.5 cups of dried rice max capacity just isn’t going to cut it any more).

            Thought you’d enjoy the answers (and debating a little leftover black bean chili next time)….

          2. Ha! Love those improvisations, Roger!

            Thanks very much for taking the time to write in with them!


            – Joe

      2. With my dough recipe it doesn’t matter if all the buns can’t be steamed at once. Starting with frozen filling and chilled dough means that they take close to 6 hours to rise in a warm spot; another 15-30 minutes isn’t a big deal. These are much better if given time to fully double before steaming. And, I put the pinched end on the bottom, not the top.

  10. Baozi are so good, maaybe I have to make them soon again. I’ve made these with the baozi flour bought from an Asian food market. Later I made them using all-purpose flour and was disappointed. They get really really fluffy with that baozi flour, I really resommend trying it 🙂 The dough is also easier to handle if using the baozi flour: it’s less elastic (maybe less glutein?)

  11. D’you think it would work at all to freeze the buns assembled, with the filling in, but before steaming? I want to make a big batch and have them available as a low-impact lunch.

    1. In theory that should work, Erika, though they’ll need to be completely thawed before they go in the steamer. Let me know how they turn out!

      – Joe

  12. We have a Wolfgang Puck slow cooker that came with a steamer insert. Potentially stupid question incoming: Can I use that for the buns? Thanks,and thanks for the blog!

    1. Hey John!

      Yes you can…if it creates steam, you can make baozi!

      Cheers and let me know how they go!

      – Joe

  13. Hi Joe and All,

    Has any every made an open face Baozi?
    I had this at a non asian restuarant many years ago where the bun was a disc shape and the fillling was placed on top and eaten like a mini taco. I’m trying to recreate it using braised short rib meat filling.

    1. Hi Maira!

      I haven;t made anything like that intentionally, but I can tell you I’ve made those by accident! That is to say, if you aren’t thorough about pinching the tops closed they open in the steamer. Maybe something you can experiment with? Just a thought!


      – Joe

  14. I have never heard of Baozi before so I was intrigued instantly from this post. From the summery I picked up that a Baozi is essentially a steamed, filled bun or bread-like item that can be filled with either savory or sweet applications. Looking at the ingredients and instructions a few things stuck out to me. The first thing is that you are using All-purpose flour. To make for a more tender and airy dough why not use a cake or pastry flour instead? Also your use of both yeast and baking powder. Why do you have to use both leaving agents into the dough? The savory fillings look amazing, but I would be interested in seeing how the sweet variations taste and look. Maybe doing a neo-classical dessert on a molten chocolate cake by adding cocoa into the Baozi dough and adding a firm chocolate ganache truffle for the filling.

    1. Those are good ideas Courtney! Send me pictures if you decide to try them. As for the double leavening, I believe that yeast (or old dough) was probably traditional for these, and some chemical leavening was added later to give them a little extra “pop”. You see this double-leavening technique in other Chinese wheat pastries like youtiao:

      The advantage is that you get the lightness of chemical leavening plus the deeper flavor of yeast.

      Thanks for the comment!

      – Joe

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