How to Make Soft Fluffy Asian Steamed Buns Every Time (Bao Zi)

Soft Fluffy Chinese Steamed Buns Recipe (Mantou)

Course: Breakfast, Dim Sum, Snack
Cuisine: Chinese
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 8 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Servings: 12 medium buns
Calories: 96kcal
Author: Marvellina
Learn how to make soft fluffy Chinese Steamed Buns. All the tips you need to know to make very smooth soft steamed buns with this recipe.
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  • 300 gr cake flour About 3 cups, plus more for dusting. See note 2
  • 4 gr Instant yeast About 1 1/4 tsp, see note 1
  • 3 tsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp cooking oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt optional
  • Start with 150 ml (about 1/2 cup) milk or water (room temperature) plus more to dab the buns later


  • Place the flour, instant yeast, sugar, and cooking oil in a mixing bowl. If you are using a stand mixer, use a dough hook attachment. Gradually add in milk or water. You may need more than 150 ml or not. Add more teaspoon by teaspoon until the dough comes together and continue to knead for 5 minutes. If you are kneading by hands, about 10 minutes until the dough is no longer sticky and smooth. Then add in the salt and continue to knead until the dough is smooth again

Shaping into ultra smooth round buns:

  • Lightly dust your work surface with cake flour. Not too much. If you use a silicon pastry mat, you may not even need to dust with flour. Divide the dough into 12 equal portions. Keeping the dough covered and work with one dough at a time
  • Roll the dough into a long strip
    How to Make Soft Fluffy Asian Steamed Buns Every Time (Bao Zi)
  • Fold it like this
  • Roll it into a long strip again and try to push out any air or bubbles if any. Repeat this process 2 more times
  • Roughly roll it into a ball and then flatten with your palm into a circle
    How to Make Soft Fluffy Asian Steamed Buns Every Time (Bao Zi)
  • Tuck the edge into the middle with your finger and then press with the palm of your hand and continue with this tuck and press motion until you go around all the edge about 2 rounds at least.  Please refer to my short video to make more sense
  • Then roll the dough into a smooth round ball in between the palm of your hand or as I did in the video. REALLY make sure the dough is smooth. If you going to fill the buns with filling, flatten the dough with your palm and then use a rolling pin to roll it out to form a circle about 4-5 inches, with a slightly thicker middle part. This is to support the weight of the filling. Don't roll the dough too thin. If you roll the dough too thin, the filling might make the steamed buns "wrinkle" later when you steam then gather the sides to enclose the bun and pinch to seal. Flip the bun so the seam side is down now
  • Cup the dough with both palms and move the dough in a circular motion to shape it taller. This part is important so your steamed buns come out tall instead of spreading to the side after steaming
  • Place on a piece of parchment paper. Lightly dab the surface of the bun with some milk using your finger to smooth the surface. Loosely cover with a saran wrapper or clean kitchen towel to prevent drying. Work with another dough and do the same
    How to Make Soft Fluffy Asian Steamed Buns Every Time (Bao Zi)
  • Let the dough rise at room temperature.  If it's winter where you are, you can use your oven "bread proof" function to let them proof in there, or simply turn on your oven to lowest temperature and then turn off and after 15 minutes, place the shaped buns in there to let them proof. They won't necessarily double in size, but at least puff up to about 50% of original size. This may take about 15 mins at warm temperature. Do not overproof your dough


  • Most likely your steamer won't be able to accommodate steaming all buns at one go. You may need to steam in 2-3 batches, which means, the rest of the batches will sit longer and continue to proof while waiting for the steamer. Not good for the buns! Here's what you can do: Make sure the cover them with plastic wrap and then place them in the refrigerator to slow down the yeast activity or halt it all together until they are ready to be steamed
  • Bring the water in your steamer to a boil. Wrap the lid of your steamer with a kitchen towel to prevent moisture dripping back on the steamed buns as this will create "burn" spots 
  • LOWER THE HEAT TO LOW (Yes, I type this in caps so you don't miss it!). Place the buns in there, leaving about 1-inch space in between and steamed on LOW heat for 8 minutes for medium buns like this
  • After 8 minutes, turn off the heat. DO NOT OPEN THE LID of the steamer. Let the buns sit there for 3 minutes like this. The buns will not sink or wrinkle due to the sudden change in temperature


  • Remove the buns to wire rack to let them cool down. This is to ensure the bottom of the steamed buns will not be wet and soggy


  • If you make extra and plan to store them, place them on a baking sheet, not touching each other, and then put the entire tray inside the freezer for about 1 hour. They will harden, but not completely frozen yet. Transfer to a freezer bag and they will not stick to each other anymore. Try not to keep for more than 1 month


  • They can go straight from freezer to steamer when you ready to eat them. Steam on high heat for 5 minutes and they are as good as new



  1. You can use active dry yeast, but make sure to rehydrate the yeast in water or milk with 1 tsp of sugar. It will dissolves and be all foamy, about 10 minutes. If it's not, your yeast is not longer good. You can add the rest of the sugar into the dough later
  2. You can also use 255 gr all-purpose flour (about 2 1/2 cups) + 45 gr (3/8 cups) cornstarch (or Chinese wheat starch (not wheat flour)) if you don't have cake flour. The texture is not really the same. Both are soft, but using cake flour has an even softer cake-like texture, which I like.


Serving: 1piece (about 45 gr) | Calories: 96kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 2g