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  • Writer's pictureMoy's Gluten Free Kitchen

Gluten Free and Vegan Chinese Steamed Buns (BAO) Recipe

This is my recipe for soft and fluffy gluten free, vegan Chinese Steamed Buns (BAO)

BAO, Chinese steamed buns
Gluten Free and Vegan Chinese Steamed Buns (BAO)

These buns were a regular feature of my childhood. On treat days, my Mom would bring them home with her after work in a box also filled with pastry and cake! In Trinidad and Tobago we call them POWs and the filling would usually be chicken or pork. There was a time when we could buy these from a street vendor. Now we have Chinese Food Restaurants at almost every corner (seriously, there are about 5 restaurants within 2 minutes from my home)!

The ones I grew up with are smooth all around, not pinched or styled as with other variations. I also used a veggie filling in my buns but you can use whatever you like. Taking inspiration from the movie Kung Fu Panda, you could even make a red bean paste filling.

I can't guarantee that this is the best Chinese steamed buns ever. However, if you've been missing out on this for sometime or just craving a taste, this is way, way more than just satisfactory...when you try it remember I told you so

GF, Vegan Chinese Steamed Buns (BAO)
Gluten Free Chinese Steamed Buns (BAO)

How to make Gluten Free and Vegan Chinese Steamed Buns (BAO)

(Recipe makes about 8 buns 2½” – 3” diameter)

Equipment you will need

Parchment paper cut into 3 1/2” squares or just bigger than whatever will be the final diameter of your buns

Bamboo steamer (If you do not have a bamboo steamer you can use a metal steamer or a wire rack. Whatever you use ensure that the steam cannot condense and drip onto the buns. You may have to wrap a towel to cover the lid of your improvised steamer)

Large pot (large enough for the steamer to sit comfortably on top)


¾ cup oat flour*

½ cup brown rice flour*

2 tbsp tapioca starch*

2 tbsp potato starch*

1 tsp xanthan gum*

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp yeast

½ tsp salt

1½ tsp white sugar

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 tsp vinegar

2/3 cup warm water (105-115°F, more if needed)

Tapioca starch for shaping dough

Filling of choice**


*A bread flour blend can replace the oat flour, rice flour and starches. Substitute 1½ cups of your flour blend for the ingredients listed here. If your flour blend has xanthan gum do not add more.

**The filing should not be watery or runny as this will weaken the dough once it’s filled

Traditional steamed buns are white in color. These buns will be slightly yellow because of the flour and the ingredient that are used


Place all of the dry ingredients into a bowl, mix to combine

Make a well in center of the dry ingredients. Add all of the wet ingredients. Stir or mix to form a smooth dough. The dough should be soft, sticky, holding together and fairly easy to work by hand. Add more water a little at a time if needed to achieve the right consistency

Clover the bowl tightly and set the dough aside to rest for at least 30 minutes

A few minutes before the end of your rest period, bring a large pot of water to boil. The water should never touch the bottom of the steamer

To form the buns, dust your work surface with some of the tapioca starch, have your filling ready. The dough should have risen a bit, re-knead it just enough to form a somewhat smooth ball again

Pinch off a piece of the dough, enough to make a round ball about 2½” - 3” in diameter. Roll around on your work surface or in your hands until it is as smooth as possible (if your dough is not smooth at this point you will not get a smooth bun). Lightly oiled hands will help. Once smooth, flatten the dough into a round disc. Peace some filling in the center of the disc, pinch the dough together to seal the bun. Place the bun, sealed side down, on a piece of the parchment paper (you may have to moisten the paper with a very small drop of water to keep the bun in place). Put the bun into the steamer (leave room between the buns). Repeat the process to make the rest of the buns

Because this is gluten free dough, you do not want the filled buns to sit and rise for too long. I often find that by the time I am finished filling about 4 - 5 buns, that the first batch is ready (you only need a small increase in size, the buns will puff further while they cook). It takes abut 8 minutes to steam and cook the buns so I setup the first batch to cook while I am filling the second set. When the buns are done remove for the heat and plate immediately. They are best served warm

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