Bread and Dough/ Dumplings and Bao

Bao (Steamed Gua Bao)

gua bao

Learn how to make Gua Bao – a traditional steamed bun originating from East Asia. More specifically, originating from Taiwan, but steamed buns exist all over the region with variants such as mantou and baozi, from China. These bao are folded over to allow you to sandwich your filling within. Genius, right?

My Experience:

My first experience with bao was at University, I lived next to a small Chinese supermarket that used to sell steamed bao and fresh tofu. The first bao I tried was their mixed mushroom – which was great. The second one was their red bean baozi, which was completely different to anything I had ever tried. Beany in texture as the name would suggest, and strikingly sweet.
The shop-owner had described it as a ‘steamed milk bun’ and considering my love for all things dough, I felt this would be a straightforward recipe to figure out.

I tried 3 variations initially, 100% milk, 100% water, and 50:50. The milk dough tasted great and smelt incredible, almost like the smell of a doughnut. But I found the dough more tender which wasn’t quite what I was aiming for. I then tried 100% water, and texturally it was great but there was a wheatiness that I kept tasting and it just lacked slightly in the flavour department. The 50:50 gave me the right balance of flavour and texture (and still smells like doughnuts).

The Bao:

This recipe will teach you how to make steamed gua bao which are perfectly soft and fluffy. I have plenty of filling ideas that would go well with these. A few recommendations would be my chilli paneer bao or even my salt and pepper tofu bao. In all honesty, my crispy chilli panko mushrooms go really well with these too. But be creative and use anything you like!

How to steam:

These buns need to be steamed, otherwise it won’t work. You can use a traditional bamboo steamer lined with greaseproof paper – my method of choice. If using a bamboo steamer, make sure the steamer size matches the size of your pan/wok where the water will be placed.
But, any steamer set-up will work. Here’s a link to School of Wok that explains the process perfectly, plus he has a video to show you how to do this:

I picked up my bamboo steamer from my local East Asian Supermarket, and it cost me roughly £5. It’s an inexpensive piece of kit and handy to have on hand. Furthermore, I would definitely recommend popping in to your closest supermarket and familiarising yourself with the incredible goods.

I do hope you all enjoy these! And check out my Instagram feed for more bao ideas!

Gua Bao

5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Proving time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 55 minutes
Course Appetizer, Main Course, Snack
Servings 11 bao


  • Any kind of steamer set up



  • 350 g plain flour
  • 30 g sugar
  • 5 g instant dry yeast 7g active dry yeast, 10g fresh yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil
  • 100 ml cold milk/plant milk of choice
  • 100 ml boiling water



  • Mix boiling water with cold milk and sugar, allow to dissolve and then add your yeast. Mixing the refrigerator cold milk and boiling water gets you the perfect temperature for the yeast. Bloom for 5 minutes. This is only necessary for active dry and fresh yeast, instant can be added directly into your flour
  • Mix flour, salt and sieve in baking powder
  • Combine together and add oil. The dough should have a slight stick and should not be dry.
  • Knead for 8 minutes by hand or standing mixer on medium-low speed
  • Cover your dough and rest for 3 minutes
  • After resting, form into a dough ball and cover with a damp towel – allow to rise for 2 hours (or cold rise in a fridge overnight if you want breakfast bao)
  • After rising, roll out the dough until it’s about 5mm thickness. If you go thinner, you’ll get more bao, thicker and you’ll get fewer
  • Cut into circles, I used a 4″ cutter and got 11 buns out of this recipe
  • Lightly grease the surface of each circle and gently bend half way to form a semi circle
  • Cover your folded bao buns and allow them to prove for another 20-30 minutes. This makes them puff up and I highly recommend this step
  • Steam for 10 minutes, I had my steamer over a pan of boiling water on high heat. You can use a normal steamer, just place some grease proof paper at the base and allow an inch between each bao bun for them to rise


The image shown is my chilli paneer gua bao, please see my chilli paneer recipe to see how that’s made.
Keyword bao, bun, dough, gua bao, steamed

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  • Reply
    June 5, 2021 at 8:40 pm

    5 stars
    We as a family love these baos. My husband is a massive fan as well as mu 4 year old boy! Such an easy recipe to follow and tastes great everytime!
    A #homecook favourite. Thank you for another awesome recipe!

    • Reply
      June 14, 2021 at 8:25 pm

      Thank you so much Nipa for the review and comment! Glad you all enjoyed them!

  • Reply
    Sharan Mehroke
    June 9, 2021 at 6:43 pm

    5 stars
    I’ve made these bao buns several times and it’s the perfect recipe! So easy to follow and results in a soft, pillowy bao bun. This has definitely become a family favorite. Definitely give these a try, they are amazing!!!!!

    • Reply
      June 21, 2021 at 6:34 pm

      Many thanks for the lovely review Sharan, I’m chuffed to hear you and your family loved the bao recipe!

  • Reply
    Aneka S
    April 28, 2022 at 1:26 pm

    Looking to make these but wondering if I would be able to substitute plain flour for spelt or khorasan (kamut) flour? Thanks!

    • Reply
      May 1, 2022 at 8:30 pm

      I haven’t tried myself, and I don’t personally have experience with khorasan flour so I wouldn’t be able to tell you definitively. As with any test batch, I’d advise perhaps testing it with half of the recipe to see whether it works or not!

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