Vegan Steamed Bao


Let’s be real–

all buns look better with a little color on ’em



These steamed Dim Sum Bao are no exception.

When I lived in San Francisco (before I even knew how to scramble an egg) my step-dad bought me an entire donut box full of steamed pork buns, and I lived on them for straight up a whole week. Maybe a week and a half…until the buns grew crusty and ain’t no body got time for crusty buns.

Not that I’m offa the pork, I have a hard time finding veggie Bao to my liking. Enter:


Chock full of calcium-rich tofu for satiating protein, creamy peanut sauce for them healthy fats, and duh, lot’s o’ veggies. The cilantro ain’t bad either: just 1/2 cup of this herb packs ~25 micrograms of vitamin K, which is super important for blood coagulation. So when you cut your finger from chopping said cilantro, you don’t f*cking bleed to death in the kitchen while your dog watches you perplexed at the ongoings of the evening.


I invite you to try this drool-worthy dim sum recipe at home– I know I may come off like a cheap used car salesman when I say this but…I guarantee you will be astounded by how incredibly delicious and easy it is to make your own Bao. Veg-style, baby.

Vegan Steamed Bao

Makes 10-12 steamed buns

For the creamy tofu peanut filling: *Make this first!

  • 1 T extra-virgin olive oil or coconut oil
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced finely
  • 2 medium carrots, diced finely
  • 1 14-ounce package tofu, drained, pressed, and crumbled
  • peanut sauce: click here for this easy sauce recipe
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped, divided (you’ll use half after cooking)
  1. In a large deep skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the bell pepper and carrots and saute for 4-5 minutes. Add in the tofu and saute for another 5 minutes.
  2. Place contents inside a food processor. Pour peanut sauce and half of the cilantro (1/4 cup chopped) over the veggies and tofu and pulse for several seconds until it begins to take on a creamy consistency. Set aside until you need it for the bao. Filling can be made 1-2 days ahead of time and stored in zee fridge.

For the dough: *Make this second!

  • 1 cup warm water (check w/ a candy thermometer to make sure it’s in between 100-110 degrees F)
  • 3 T cane sugar
  • 1 package dry yeast (~2 1/4 tsp)
  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour + a bit more for dusting
  • 3 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • Cooking spray (any oil will do)
  1. Just to preface, my uber-intense water temperature instructions aren’t just to be snippety mkay…they’re  so that the yeast don’t die; they only thrive in a certain range of temps and this is what gives yo’ buns that nice yeasty fresh flavor and makes ’em rise up all puffy, fluffy, and delish-like. Mix dat water, suga’, and yeast in a large bowl and let it sit for ~5 mins. It will look a little frothy after the 5 minutes are up– this is what you want!
  2. Add in the flour, oil, and salt and knead until a pliable dough forms. Dust a cutting board with a little bit of flour and using your hands, knead the dough on this surface for ~10 minutes, until it forms into a smooth ball.
  3. Spray another medium-large bowl lightly and place dough inside, turning to coat the ball. Cover the bowl with a dish towel and place in a warm place where a breeze can’t get to it for ~1 hour, or until it pretty much almost doubles in height. I leave mine in the oven with the heat turned off and the light left on.
  4. Now you’re going to take the dough back out and “punch it down” which basically means beating the sh*t out of it with your fists until it drops back to its regular height. Place the dough back on the floured cutting board and knead the baking powder in with your hands. Let the dough rest for 5-7 minutes on the cutting board.
  5. Divide the dough ball into equal sized smaller balls (around the size of big golf balls). With a rolling pin, roll out each individual ball into 5″ circles. Fill each one with a few tablespoonfuls of the creamy tofu peanut filling, placing it in the center and using your fingers to gently bring up the sides of dough circle and pinching it closed at the top. You can also pinch and twist the top to seal it off. *Note: Don’t worry if at first your bao remind you of a crude Picasso portrait– it will get easier as you go along and they’re extremely forgiving in that when they’re done, they smooth out and will look pretty perfect much to your amazement.
  6. If you have a bamboo steamer, use the force. If not, fill a large wok or saucepan (just make sure it’s big enough the steamer doesn’t touch the edges of the pan) with 1-2″ water and boil the water. Place the bao in the steamer, using steamer papers in each tier and steam for 10-15 minutes or until puffy and set. You can also use a metal colander and line it with parchment paper. I actually had to look up this part and ummm… click that if you need more clarification.
  7. Remove from heat, let cool, sprinkle with remaining cilantro, and bao to me.

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