Char siu baos are Cantonese buns, bao, filled with a barbecued pork filling, char siu.  They can either be steamed or baked.  I personally prefer the steamed variety either as a snack or as part of dim sum with Chinese tea.  The bao filling can either be savory like char siu pork or it can be sweet like a Lotus seed bun made with sweetened Lotus seed paste.

Siopao is the Filipino char siu bao, which can be filled with pork, chicken, or even salted eggs.  When I was a kid growing up, I always enjoyed tasty siopao with a cold bottle of soda as a tasty snack after school.

How do you make homemade char siu bao?  First make the char siu or barbecue pork filling and then the yeast dough.  Place the filling inside the bun and steam them.  It sounds easy, doesn’t it?  This recipe is adapted from .

Char Siu Bao Recipe
Recipe adapted from Andrea Nguyen’s Asian Dumplings

For the char siu pork filling

1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp oyster sauce
1 Tbsp water
2 tsp canola oil
salt and ground white pepper to taste
2 scallions, chopped white and green parts
1/2 pound char siu, homemade or store-bought, diced (click here to find out where to buy store-bought char siu pork)
1 Tbsp Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry (optional)
1-1/2 Tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 2 Tbsp water

Char Siu Bao

Combine sugar, salt, white, pepper, soy sauce, oyster sauce and water in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the scallions, and cook, stirring constantly, for about a minute. Add the char siu pork and stir well.  Add the soy sauce and oyster sauce mixture and cook, stirring frequently, for about 2 minutes, until the pork is heated through.

Add the Shaoxing rice wine to the dissolved cornstarch. Add the wine and cornstarch mixture to the warm pork and cook, stirring constantly, for another minute until the mixture has come together into a mass that you can mound. Transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool at room temperature before using.

The filling may be prepared up to 2 days in advance, covered with plastic wrap, and refrigerated. Return to room temperature before using.

For the yeast dough

1 1/2 tsp instant dry yeast
3/4 cup lukewarm water
2 Tbsp canola oil
2 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
3 cups (12 1/2 ounces) flour

Put the yeast in a small bowl, add the water and set aside for 1 minute to soften. Whisk in the oil to blend and dissolve the yeast. Set aside.

Combine sugar, baking powder and flour in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the yeast mixture.  Slowly stir with a wooden spoon, moving from the center toward the rim, to work in all the flour.  Keep stirring as a ragged but soft dough forms. Then use your fingers to gather and pat the dough together into a ball. Transfer to a clean work surface and knead for about 5 minutes.  You should not need additional flour if the dough was properly made.  Keep kneading until the dough is smooth and slightly elastic.Press your finger into the dough and it should spring back with a slight indentation remaining.

Place the dough in a large bowl that has been lightly oiled. Cover with plastic wrap and put it in a warm, draft-free place to rise such as an oven and let it sit for around 45 minutes until the dough has nearly doubled.  You can refrigerate the dough if you do not need it right away but make sure that it is covered well with a plastic wrap.

Lightly dust your clean work surface with flour.  Cut the dough in half and roll into a foot-long log.  Cut the log into eight pieces.

Char Siu Bao

Roll each piece into a ball and flatten each piece gently into a small disc using your palm. Using a small rolling pin (either a 1-inch wooden dowel or the end of a wooden spoon like what I used, would do) roll the edges and only the edges. There should be a small bulge at the center of the dough, which the Chinese calls the belly.

Char Siu Bao

Place a generous tablespoon of your char siu pork filling in the center of the dough, right on the belly. Wrap the filling by pressing and pulling the edges of the dough.

Char Siu Bao

Gather and pull the edges up and twist the top to fully cover the filling.

Char Siu Bao

Cut 2-inch square wax paper sheets and use these to line the bottom of each bun before steaming them. Steam up to 4 buns in an 8-inch bamboo steamer. Make sure that there’s around a 1 to 2-inch space in between buns inside the steamer.  A bamboo steamer is definitely not a must; a regular steamer will work, too.

Boil water in your wok or a large pan and place the steamers with the buns in your wok or pan. Steam for around 15 minutes. Make sure that the water does not come in contact with the buns.

Char Siu Bao

Remove the lid before you turn off the heat to avoid condensed water from dripping back to the buns. Continue steaming the rest of the batch.

You can pretty much put anything inside your bao.  You can make your own barbecue pork from pork loin and your favorite barbecue sauce.  You can even make good ol’ Sloppy Joe if you want and make it your bao filling.  But as Dennis cleverly pointed out, it has to be called Un-Sloppy Joe because it isn’t sloppy anymore. The fact that the filling is conveniently contained inside the bun actually makes baos a really cool snack.

Char Siu Bao

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  • Liren

    Jun, these are just perfect! The photos are lovely (as always) – and I could eat a whole tray of these. My favorite siopao growing up required a trip into NYC’s Chinatown, to a little shop that carried the asado version just to Filipino taste buds. I miss those!

  • Ben

    Nice job, on congrats on Top 9! I really like the level of detail and the photos you include with the assembly of the bao. Very helpful!

  • Jun Belen

    Thank you, Ben! Char-siu bao was one of those things that seemed intimidating but was actually easy to make. But I would substitute those store-bought buns in heartbeat. They’re actually not that bad. Thank you again for stopping by!

  • Joy

    Great recipe. I am just used to the adobo and bola bola kind.

  • Cooking Gallery

    Char siu bao is in my list to make…! Your char siu looks so delicious!

  • Julie Sparks

    My husband LOVES steamed pork buns. I’ve been putting off trying to make them, since I only have a little metal steamer basket, but maybe I should give it a try anyway. :)

  • Patrick @ Appetite for Good

    Wow this is awesome! Such great pictures but simple easy recipe. I cant wait to try this.

    I love the baked ones and the pastry ones too! those are amazing.

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  • Heather mcclellan

    We are enjoying them right now! Delicious!! The filling was perfect- just the right sweetness and tang. Finding the “belly” in the dough was a little challenging since I didn’t have the dowel. Found my son’s drum stick and it worked like a charm. Thanks for posting!

  • Zel

    rice flour or regular flour?

  • Jun Belen

    It’s all-purpose flour.

  • Rich

    where did you buy the store bought buns?  who makes them?

  • Jun Belen

    Hi Rich, 

    Any Asian grocery store like Ranch 99 (are you in the West Coast?) would have the ready-made buns.  They’re in the frozen aisle.  Just steam them to soften them a little, add the char-siu, and then steam them a little again.  Microwaving is okay but steaming keeps it moist.

    Let me know if you find them.


  • Gabaldon Veronica

    Hi Jun,

    I found your blog when I was searching for a recipe for cua pao bun. My husband cooked patatim and he wants cua pao buns with it. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to go to the grocery, so I decided to make it from scratch.
    My experiment was a big hit and I have to thank you for that. Can I ask for some tips on how to make the buns pillow soft even if it’s not hot anymore? Mine was a bit heavy already when no longer hot.

    More power to your site and I love your photography too :-)

  • Lau

    Thank you so much for these photographs, they were invaluable for cooking char siu bao for the first time!! :) I have linked you to my recipe post on it too 

  • Paaikwat

    What sort of flour does one use. Mine always come out looking rather grey. Restuarant and bought varieties are very white.

  • Smile4taj

    i read that to add 1 tsp of vinager to water

  • Chef4

    The water measurement is certainly off!! I added 3/4 way to dry then added warm water while mixing until the correct dough formed..

  • Debs @ The Spanish Wok

    Hi Jun, finally got round to making char siu bao.  I used my recipe for the char siu and yours for the dough, thanks turned out amazing Char siu bao buns

  • Anonymous

    I used to buy these at a place called Tessies,,, in Vigan.. They were the best ever… They were giant sized and filled with a sweet ground meat (the consistency of a drier sloppy joe) and a slice of HB egg… They were very moist but they would also give you a small portion of gravy,,, knotted up in the corner of a baggie,,, simot masarap… Wish I knew the recipe for the filling… I also used to get these in Wikiki (manapua) with the red pork,,,, one of the best… Also giant sized but not as much filling as Tessies… I just gotta get back to the Islands…

  • Maria Alandy

    Can the buns be baked instead of steamed? Thank you!

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  • leo445

    Mine come out grey not white. How can I make then so they are white like in restaurants?

  • mdegges

    Came out perfectly for me, but I let the dough rise 3 or 4 times throughout the day. The dough was a bit drier than other bao doughs and harder to work with, but we liked the end result more.

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