Chinese BBQ Pork Buns (Baked Char Siu Bao Recipe)

Receta de Chinese BBQ Pork Buns Baked Char Siu Bao Recipe para enamorar

Baked char siu bao (also sometimes spelled cha siu bao), or Chinese BBQ Pork Buns, consist of soft milk bread and a savory filling of Chinese BBQ Pork.

They’re a favorite among kids and adults alike, and also happen to be one Chinese bakery bun that we really prefer homemade!

Note: This recipe was originally published in February 2014. We have since re-tested and re-photographed it. This new and improved version also contains more detailed instructions, a video showing how to assemble the buns, and an FAQ section. I’ve also included the old version of the recipe at the bottom of this post. Enjoy!

A Childhood Favorite Treat

Ah, childhood.

When choices were easy (Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network?) and you saw the entire world from two feet lower to the ground. When your biggest concerns were in the vein of running home fast enough from school to catch the ice cream truck.

My particular version of childhood involved a lot of sinking Titanic reenactments in my friend Reema’s above-ground pool (we were very melodramatic children), reading at recess, strong lobbying for a family puppy acquisition, the collected cinematic works of John Hughes, and my see-through purple Gameboy Color.

It also involved Saturday morning car rides into Manhattan and Flushing Chinatowns, when we would visit my grandparents or cousins, grab dim sum, and inevitably stop by a Chinese bakery for some warm bread.

There were always the usual suspects…

  • pillowy soft butter buns arranged in round pans
  • sweet, crumbly pineapple buns
  • the hot dog buns (another one we prefer to make at home with our Chinese hot dog bun recipe)
  • and of course, the “char siu bao,” or baked BBQ pork buns, which are filled with a savory, slightly sweet filling of Cantonese roast pork.

You can find baked versions of these buns at such bakeries, as well as steamed versions at dim sum restaurants.

(If you would rather have a steamed bun, head to our recipe for Steamed Char Siu Bao pork buns. It’s the real deal!)

Steamed BBQ Pork Buns (Char Siu Bao), by thewoksoflife.com

Also try our mash-up of char siu bao and bolo bao, or pineapple buns. It’s roast pork filling, with a crackly pineapple bun top!

An Easy Recipe, Especially If You Have Char Siu Ready Made

These take some time, but they’re easy to put together—especially if you can get char siu from your local Cantonese restaurant or Chinese grocery store’s hot bar.

If not, you can also easily make your own roast pork. Use our popular Chinese BBQ Pork (cha siu) recipe.

Sliced Char Siu, thewoksoflife.com

It only takes about an hour to roast the pork (after marinating overnight). You won’t believe how restaurant-quality it tastes! Just be sure to use pork shoulder or pork butt for the juiciest, tastiest results.

Make a double batch and freeze any leftovers, so you have it ready for char siu bao anytime!

An Updated Version, No Tangzhong Needed

When we originally posted this recipe back in 2014, we used a traditional tangzhong method. It involves cooking flour in liquid to make a paste before adding it to the dough.

However, we have since developed our trusty milk bread recipe, which yields deliciously soft, fluffy results that I think are better. All without having to go to the trouble of making tangzhong!

Our milk bread has since become the base for almost all of our Chinese bakery recipes. It’s that good. Plus, it’s an all-in-one method, so you don’t even have to activate the yeast beforehand. Just add it along with the rest of the dough ingredients! Trust us. It works.

Baked Cha Siu Bao on baking sheet

We’ve also made some updates to the filling to make it more balanced, so you can better taste the flavors of the filling. I’ve included more detailed instructions on how to shape and fill the buns as well.

I’d like to think we’ve learned a thing or two since 2014, and I think this re-tested recipe is better than ever!

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have to activate the active dry yeast with lukewarm water and sugar first? 

No! The dough recipe specifies simply adding the yeast to the rest of the ingredients and mixing into a dough. Make sure your yeast is within date, and that the wet ingredients are at room temperature. Also be sure to add the ingredients to the bowl in the correct order.

Can I use instant yeast? 

Yes. You can use the equivalent amount of instant yeast—1 tablespoon.

What if I don’t have cake flour?

To make a cake flour substitute, measure out ½ cup of all purpose flour and remove 1 tablespoon of it. Replace with 1 tablespoon of cornstarch, and sift together.

What if I don’t have bread flour?

You can substitute all-purpose flour in a pinch, but bread flour will yield the best results.

Can I replace heavy cream with half and half or regular milk?

It’s best if you don’t. The fat in the heavy cream is what gives this enriched dough its soft, fluffy texture.

Can I make these ahead?

You can make the dough in advance, and then proof it in the refrigerator overnight. The filling can also be made in advance. The next morning, let the dough and filling come back up to room temperature. Knead the dough for 5 minutes, shape the buns, proof for another hour, and bake.

Can these be frozen?

These are really best eaten fresh, but you can freeze the buns after they’ve been baked. Store them in an airtight container for up to 2 months. To enjoy again, thaw them and then reheat in the microwave for 30 seconds.

How do I double the recipe/cut it in half?

We make scaling the recipe easy! In the recipe card, click on the servings number, and use the slider to adjust. The ingredient amounts will scale up or down as needed. This recipe makes 16 buns, so scale up to 32 to double it, or down to 8 to halve it.

Is there a vegan/vegetarian or dairy-free version of this recipe?

Yes, we have a vegan char siu bao recipe! You can also make the meat filling from this recipe and just use the vegan dough recipe if you’re looking to make these dairy-free.

Can I access the old version of the recipe with the tangzhong method?

Yes! I’ve included it at the very end of this post.

Chinese BBQ Pork Buns, thewoksoflife.com

Ok, let’s get started.

Baked Char Siu Bao Recipe Instructions

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, add the dough ingredients in the following order. Start with the room temperature heavy cream, milk, and egg. Then add the sugar, cake flour, bread flour, yeast, and salt, in that order.

Turn the mixer on to the lowest setting to bring the dough together. When a scraggly dough has formed, knead on low speed for 15 minutes. If needed, turn off the mixer to bring the dough together with a rubber spatula. Alternatively, you can stir all the dough ingredients together with a wooden spoon in a large mixing bowl, and then knead by hand for 20 minutes.

The dough should stick to the bottom of the bowl, but should not stick to the sides. If you’re in a humid climate, and the dough is sticking to the sides of the mixing bowl, add more flour 1 tablespoon at a time until it comes together.

Milk Bread Dough in mixer

Shape the dough into a ball.

Milk Bread Dough Ball

Cover with an overturned plate or damp towel. Place in a warm spot to proof for 75-90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size. (A good proofing environment is a closed microwave, with a mug of hot boiled water next to the bowl.)

While that’s happening, make the meat filling. Be sure to dice the pork finely rather than in large chunks, so the buns are easier to fill.

Diced char siu and shallots

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a wok over medium heat. Add the shallot/onion and stir-fry for 2 minutes.

Cooking shallots in wok

Add the sugar, light soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, and dark soy sauce.

Making sauce for char siu bao filling

Stir and cook until it begins to bubble. Add the chicken stock and flour.

Adding chicken stock to char siu bao sauce

Reduce the heat to medium low and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes, until thickened.

Stirring flour into char siu bao filling sauce to thicken

Stir in the char siu roast pork.

Stirring diced roast pork into Chinese BBQ Pork Bun filling
Char siu bao filling in wok

Turn off the heat, and remove the filling from the wok onto a large plate. Separate the filling into 16 roughly equal piles, to ensure you get an even amount in each bun. Set aside to cool.

Char siu bao filling in small piles

After the first proof, knead the dough for another 5 minutes to punch the air out. Dump it onto a lightly floured surface, and shape it into a ball.

Cut it into 16 equal pieces (in half, then quarters, then in quarters again). The best way to ensure you get evenly sized buns is to weigh the entire dough ball, divide the weight by 16, and then weigh out each individual piece to match that weight. Ours were about 70g each.

Weighing dough into equal pieces

To shape the buns, knead each individual dough ball to punch out any air bubbles and smooth it out.

Kneading dough ball to smooth it out

Roll it into a 4-inch circle, with the center slightly thicker than the outer edges.

Rolling dough into individual

While assembling the buns, be sure to keep your hands clean. Any grease from the filling on your fingers will make it very difficult to seal them.

Add 1 portion of filling to the bun.

Adding filling to bun

You can use the spoon to gently press the filling down into the dough.

Using a spoon to press filling into dough

Crimp it closed, making sure it’s tightly sealed.

Closing dough around filling
Pinching dough closed on Chinese BBQ pork bun

Lay the bun seam side down. Place on two baking sheets lined with parchment paper, about 3 inches apart.

Laying bun seam-side down

Cover with a clean towel and allow to rise at room temperature for another hour.

Shaped char siu bao on baking sheet

Arrange two racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven, and preheat to 400°F/200°C.

Brush the buns with egg wash…

Brushing bun with egg wash

And sprinkle them with sesame seeds, if using.

Bun sprinkled with sesame seeds

Transfer the buns to the oven, and immediately turn down the temperature to 350°F/175°C. Bake for 22-25 minutes, or until golden brown.

Baked char siu bao

Remove from the oven and immediately brush the buns with the sugar syrup while they’re still hot.

Brushing baked buns with sugar syrup

Cool, and enjoy!

Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. To enjoy, microwave for 30 seconds.

Cha siu bao baked chinese pork buns

These Baked Chinese BBQ pork buns (cha siu bao) are a joy to make and to eat.

Whether they bring you back to your childhood, or are an entirely new experience, we hope you enjoy them. Post any questions or comments down below!

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Char Siu Bao, thewoksoflife.com
serves: 16

Prep: 4 hours
Cook: 25 minutes
Total: 4 hours 25 minutes

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Ingredients

For the dough:

  • ▢ 2/3 cup heavy cream (at room temperature)
  • ▢ 1 cup milk (whole milk preferred, but you can use 2%, at room temperature)
  • ▢ 1 large egg (at room temperature)
  • ▢ 1/3 cup sugar
  • ▢ 1/2 cup cake flour (can substitute 1/2 cup all purpose flour sifted with 1 tbsp cornstarch)
  • ▢ 3 1/2 cups bread flour (tap measuring cup to avoid air pockets)
  • ▢ 1 tablespoon active dry yeast (or instant yeast)
  • ▢ 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

For the filling:

  • ▢ 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ▢ 1/2 cup shallots (or onion, finely chopped)
  • ▢ 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ▢ 2 teaspoons light soy sauce
  • ▢ 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • ▢ 1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • ▢ 2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
  • ▢ ¾ cup chicken stock
  • ▢ 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • ▢ 2 cups Chinese roast pork (char siu, finely diced)

To finish the buns:

  • ▢ egg wash (1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water)
  • ▢ 1 tablespoon sesame seeds (optional)
  • ▢ 1 tablespoon granulated sugar (dissolved in 1 tablespoon boiling water)

US Customary – Metric

Instructions

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, add the dough ingredients in the following order. Start with the room temperature heavy cream, milk, and egg. Then add the sugar, cake flour, bread flour, yeast, and salt, in that order.
  • Turn the mixer on to the lowest setting to bring the dough together. When a scraggly dough has formed, knead on low speed for 15 minutes. If needed, turn off the mixer to bring the dough together with a rubber spatula. Alternatively, you can stir all the dough ingredients together with a wooden spoon in a large mixing bowl, and then knead by hand for 20 minutes.
  • The dough should stick to the bottom of the bowl, but should not stick to the sides. If you’re in a humid climate, and the dough is sticking to the sides of the mixing bowl, add more flour 1 tablespoon at a time until it comes together.
  • Shape the dough into a ball, and cover with an overturned plate or damp towel. Place in a warm spot to proof for 75-90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size. (A good proofing environment is a closed microwave, with a mug of hot boiled water next to the bowl.)
  • While that’s happening, make the meat filling. Be sure to dice the pork finely rather than in large chunks, so the buns are easier to fill. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a wok over medium heat. Add the shallot/onion and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add the sugar, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, and dark soy. Stir and cook until it begins to bubble. Add the chicken stock and flour. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes, until thickened. Stir in the roast pork.
  • Turn off the heat, and remove the filling from the wok onto a large plate. Separate the filling into 16 roughly equal piles, to ensure you get an even amount in each bun. Set aside to cool.
  • After the first proof, knead the dough for another 5 minutes to punch the air out. Dump it onto a lightly floured surface, and shape it into a ball.
  • Cut it into 16 equal pieces (in half, then quarters, then in quarters again). The best way to ensure you get evenly sized buns is to weigh the entire dough ball, divide the weight by 16, and then weigh out each individual piece to match that weight.
  • To shape the buns, knead each individual dough ball to punch out any air bubbles and smooth it out. Roll it into a 4-inch circle, with the center slightly thicker than the outer edges.
  • While assembling the buns, be sure to keep your hands clean. Any grease from the filling on your fingers will make it very difficult to seal them.
  • Add 1 portion of filling to the bun, and crimp it closed, making sure it’s tightly sealed. Lay them seam side down on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, about 3 inches apart.
  • Cover with a clean towel and allow to rise at room temperature for another hour.
  • Arrange two racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven, and preheat to 400°F/200°C. Brush the buns with egg wash, and sprinkle them with sesame seeds, if using.
  • Transfer the buns to the oven, and immediately turn down the temperature to 350°F/175°C. Bake for 22-25 minutes, or until golden brown.
  • Remove from the oven and immediately brush the buns with the sugar syrup while they’re still hot. Cool, and enjoy!

Old Version of the Recipe

Our family’s updated, preferred char siu bao recipe is in the recipe card ABOVE. However, if you’ve tried the OLD version of the recipe with the tangzhong method and want to stick to it, or just want to give it a try for comparison, I’ve included it here below!

[OLD VERSION OF RECIPE:]

For the dough:

  • 5 1/3 cups bread flour (or all purpose flour, divided)
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 1/3 cup milk (divided)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons butter (melted)
  • eggwash (1 egg, beaten with a tablespoon of milk)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds (optional)

For the filling:

  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1/2 cup shallots (or onion, finely chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
  • ¾ cup chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups Chinese roast pork (char siu, diced)

In a medium saucepan, mix 1/3 cup flour (45g) with 2/3 cup water and 1/3 cup milk until the flour is dissolved. Put the pan over medium heat and stir constantly until the mixture resembles a thick paste, about 3-5 minutes. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine 5 cups of flour (650g), sugar, salt, and yeast. Add the flour paste (tangzhong), 1 cup milk, 2 eggs, and melted butter. Stir together to form a soft dough, and knead (by hand or with the dough hook attachment of your mixer) for 15-20 minutes. Form the dough into a ball and place into a lightly greased bowl. Cover with a damp cloth, and let rise for 1 hour.

While that’s happening, make the meat filling. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a wok over medium high heat. Add the onion and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add the sugar, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, and dark soy. Stir and cook until it starts to bubble up. Add the chicken stock and flour.

Reduce the heat to medium low and cook, stirring, for a couple minutes until thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the roast pork. Set aside to cool.

After it has risen, separate the dough into 16 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a small circle, where the center is slightly thicker than the edges. Fill each with meat filling, and crimp them closed, making sure they’re tightly sealed. Lay them out seam side down on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, and let rise for another hour. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (200 degrees C).

Brush with egg wash, sprinkle with sesame seeds (if using). Put them in the oven and immediately turn the oven down from 400 degrees (about 200 degrees C) to 350 degrees (about 175 degrees). Bake for about 25 minutes, or until golden brown.

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