Have you ever felt torn between your love for fluffy, steamed bao buns and your desire to save the planet one plant-based meal at a time? Well, fear not, because I’ve made a stonker of a vegan version.
These steamed bao buns are lovely and fluffy and filled up with a deliciously meaty mushroom filling. All plants and all of the taste!
Tackling a vegan bao bun recipe may seem quite daunting but with this recipe, you’ll be making these steamed dumplings like a pro in no time.
This particular vegan bao bun recipe utilises the amazing spelt flour, due to it being a lot kinder on your stomach. Plus, I love the nutty taste of spelt flour. But you can use plain white flour instead if you prefer it to be more authentic.
Jump straight to the vegan bao bun recipe or simply scroll down to find out some interesting stuff about this tasty food!
What are bao buns?
Bao buns, also known as steamed buns, are a type of Chinese bread-like dumpling that has become popular in many parts of the world. They are soft, fluffy, squidgy, bundles of joy that melt in your mouth.
The buns are typically made from a simple dough made from flour, yeast, sugar, and water that is then filled with a variety of savoury or sweet fillings and then steamed until they are soft and fluffy.
Typically, they are filled with sticky sweet meat, vegetables and herbs. You will also find sweet variations of this dumpling with a sweet bean paste filling. But you will find variations of this across Asia and in restaurants at home.
The dough is first rolled into small circles, and then a dollop of filling is placed in the centre before the dough is pinched together and sealed, forming a ball-like shape. The filled buns are then placed in a steamer basket and cooked until they are puffy and steaming hot. Sometimes the bao buns are filled after steaming, sandwich-style.
What cuisine are bao buns?
Bao buns (or baozi) originate from China. They are a traditional food in many regions of China, particularly in the northern provinces where they are often served as breakfast or street food.
They are also a really popular dish that you’ll find in Dim Sum restaurants.
They have taken the world by storm, so you will now find them all over the world in Chinese restaurants, street food markets and even in plenty of vegan restaurants! Most people will know them from Wagamamas.
How do you eat bao buns?
To eat bao buns, first, you should pick up the bun with your fingers or chopsticks. I prefer just grabbing them with my hands!
Then, gobble them whole, or take dainty bites – that’s down to you. Some people like to dip their bao buns into sauces such as soy sauce, hoisin sauce, or chilli oil for extra flavour. Although, you probably wont want to do this if you are eating a sweet bao bun, of course.
It’s worth noting that bao buns are typically served hot and steaming, so be careful not to burn your mouth!
Are bao buns vegan?
Bao buns themselves are usually vegan as they are made from a simple dough made from flour, yeast, sugar, and water. Meaning the base dough recipe is plant-based.
However, the fillings inside the bao buns can vary widely and may include meat, seafood, eggs, or dairy products, making them not vegan-friendly.
If you make them yourself (which you definitely should – cause yum!) then you can fill them with whatever you fancy, vegan or not. In my vegan bao bun recipe I use shiitake mushrooms to create a lovely meaty filling, but you can opt for tofu, jackfruit or any other vegan meat replacement you fancy!
You will also find plenty of vegan bao bun options in restaurants!
If you do happen to be hanging about Asia right now, look out for sweet bean-filled Bao and don’t be put off by the ‘bean’ bit, they are goooood. These are often accidentally vegan but do make sure to double-check.
Why use spelt flour to make bao buns?
Bao Buns are normally bright white due to the use of white flour. However, I have a sensitive tum and white flour is not my friend. Spelt on the other hand, as an ancient grain, leaves me with a rather happy tummy. It causes me no issues and also it tastes good, as it hasn’t been bleached to smithereens.
This also means that spelt flour is a lot more nutritious. So I would definitely recommend giving it a go!
Vegan spelt steamed bao bun with shiitake filling
Bao Bun Dough
- Mix together the dry ingredients (flour, yeast, baking powder and salt)
- Gradually mix in the wet ingredients (plant milk and maple syrup)
- If using a mixer, knead for about 5 minutes. If using your hands, knead for around 10 minutes. Until it takes on a bouncy texture and has a smooth appearance
- Put the ball of dough into a well-oiled bowl, cover with a damp tea towel, and leave to rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size (approx. 1 hour)
- Mix together the syrup, lime juice and vinegar
- Mix in the sliced chilli and the sliced courgette
- Cover and set it aside until you are ready to serve
- Mix together the soy sauce, sesame oil, lime juice, vinegar, almond butter, crushed garlic, and sriracha until fully incorporated
- Heat the Rapeseed oil in a wok
- On a high heat cook the mushrooms with a pinch of salt for about 5 minutes, making sure to stir often
- Turn down the heat and add the sauce into the pan, mix, and add water if needed (nut butter sauces are prone to sticking)
- Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms are soft
- Set aside and allow the mix to cool
Cooking the Bao Buns
- Cut 10 baking paper squares
- Using a rubber spatula or a dough scraper, get the dough out of the bowl on to a well-floured surface and deflate the dough using your finger tips
- Divide the dough into 10 equal sized pieces
- Shape the dough so that they resemble flat discs of about 1cm thickness
- If you prefer your filling to be in the middle of the bao, spoon in the shiitake mix and pickled courgettes to the centre of your dough disc and bring the sides in and squeeze together the dough at the top to fully encase the mix
- If you prefer your bao to be open and to fill them afterwards, fold your discs into half moons
- Place the bao onto the paper discs
- Loosely cover the bao with the damp tea towel and leave to rise for another 30 minutes
- Heat up a small amount of water in a saucepan with a steamer on top. Once the water is boiling add the bao into the steamer. Make sure they aren't touching and that they have space to expand (depending on your steamer size you may have to do quite a few batches). Cook for 8 minutes
- Take the bao out of the steamer. If you've already filled your bao, eat straight away with some soy sauce on the side for dipping.If you've made half-moon bao, open up the bao with a metal knife, or your fingers (if you have asbestos hands). Now fill to your heart's content!
- Serving suggestions: dip in soy sauce