These steamed vegan tofu bao buns are filled with slightly spicy marinated hoisin tofu. The wrappers are made with a fluffy yeasted dough. They make an amazing appetizer or main course.
why we love this recipe
I’m not sure where the tradition came from, but my family has been making these steamed hoisin tofu buns for New Year’s day since I can remember. Prior to going vegan, my mom would make these with pork, and she adapted the recipe to be vegan friendly after I cut out meat. This Steamed Vegan Hoisin Tofu Bao recipe is her’s that she’s kindly shared with me!
- fluffy with a crunchy sesame coated bottom
- super savory, slightly spicy, and sweet on the inside
- absolutely addicting- it’s so hard to stop eating these little buns!
why this recipe works
Traditional bao buns are filled with pork (or sometimes tofu) and wrapped in a yeasted bun that often has milk to make them nice and fluffy. This recipe uses tofu and a wrapper that’s made with dairy-free milk and flaxseed to achieve a wonderful texture.
Since this recipe is a vegan adaptation, it’s not necessarily a traditional recipe, but rather inspired by traditional bao recipes. If you’d like to learn more about the origins of bao buns, you can read more here.
how to make steamed tofu bao
Making the Tofu Filling
Similar to my Flavorful Baked Tofu recipe, the key to a super tasty filling is marinating the tofu for at least several hours.
Since the tofu needs to marinate for a few hours, it’s important to do this step first. If it’s easy or more convenient, this filling can be marinated overnight and it will taste even better!
Since we’ll be filling the buns, the tofu is best if it’s cubed into small pieces. In this recipe, it’s best if you use extra firm tofu. This will help the tofu cubes keep their shape and texture.
After the tofu has been marinated, you’ll want to brown it in a non-stick skillet. You’ll sauté the tofu with a bit of oil until golden brown on the edges and a few crusty bits are apparent. Depending on the size of your pan, you may need to do this in batches.
The next step after cooking the tofu is to add the remaining marinade to the skillet. Using cornstarch, we’ll thicken this into a sauce to pour over the cooked tofu.
Making the Dough
The dough for these buns is yeasted. This makes the buns light and fluffy.
To make the yeasted dough, the first step is to mix the active dry yeast in 2 tablespoons of warm water with some agave nectar.
Like with other yeasted doughs, the water should be about 115°F. So not scalding but warm to the touch.
Next, you’ll let this yeast mixture sit for about 10 minutes until frothy.
Some traditional bao dough recipes use milk and egg in them. Today, we’re substituting a flax egg and almond milk. While the yeast mixture is sitting, you’ll beat your flaxseed and the remaining warm water together until it forms an egg-like consistency. Then, you’ll add this to the yeast mixture.
Next, you’ll heat the non-dairy milk (I’m using unsweetened almond milk) to dissolve the sugar, vegan butter (I’m using Earth Balance), and salt.
I like to microwave my almond milk and vegan butter for 1-2 minutes until it’s warm.
A good rule of thumb is that the mixture should feel warm to the touch but not scalding.
Lastly, you’ll add the warm almond milk mixture to the yeast and flax-egg mixture.
kneading the dough
In the bowl of your stand mixer, add the milk and yeast mixture. Then add about 3 cups of flour.
You can also mix the dough by hand. With the dough hook attachment on your stand mixer, knead the mixture for about 4 minutes or so until a soft dough forms.
The dough should not be sticky. If you are kneading by hand, transfer the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 6 minutes. Or until the dough is no longer sticky.
The next step is letting the dough rise. You’ll want to cover it and let it rise in a warm place for about 1 1/2 hours until doubled in size.
Filling & Steaming the Buns
Once the dough has risen, you can punch the dough down and divide it into 20 equally sized pieces to make the baos. To keep the dough moist, you’ll want to cover it with a damp paper towel while you fill them.
To fill the bao, you’ll want to flatten the divided dough into a small disk, about 2-3″ in diameter. Then, fill the disk with about ½ tablespoon of the filling you prepared earlier. To close up the bun, fold the dough together at the top and twist the top to form a cylindrical bun.
After filling them, let the baos rest covered with a damp clean cloth or paper towel for about 10 minutes.
steaming the buns
To cook the buns, I’m using a bamboo steamer basket. You can order this online and it makes cooking these buns a breeze. The basket I have has 2 layers, so I’m able to cook about 12 buns at a time.
I also ordered a special parchment paper for my bamboo steamer. It comes in a precut circle the same diameter as the steamer, with air holes cut out in it. You can also cut out individual parchment squares for each of the buns to sit on.
I fill a large pot with a few inches of water and then bring the water to a simmer. After placing the parchment in the bottom of the bamboo steamer, place the filled buns in the steamer. You can then place the steamer basket onto the large pot with the simmering water. Then, steam the baos for 18 minutes.
Serving the steamed Vegan Tofu Bao
These Vegan Hoisin Tofu Baos are best served warm.
If you’d like to finish them off by pan-frying, you can totally do that also! I dip the bottom of the bun in water for one second and then dip the bun into sesame seeds.
Then, I pan-fry the buns with a tablespoon or two of neutral oil on medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Just enough for the bottoms to get golden!
Of course, this step is totally optional and the buns taste amazing without pan-frying!
I also like to sprinkle some chopped green onion and cilantro on top and dip them into soy sauce.
Looking for more tasty vegan main dishes?
Did you make these steamed tofu buns? I’d love to know! Leave a comment and rating below!
- 1 lbs firm tofu, drained, pressed, and cut into 1/8" cubes
- 1/3 cup tamari, soy sauce
- 1 1/2 tbsp vegan hoisin
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1 -2 tsp Sambal Oelek (Red chili paste)
- 1 1/2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
- 2 tbsp garlic, minced
- 2/3 tbsp ginger, minced
- 2/3 cup water
- 2 1/2 tbsp sweetened black vinegar, or sub white rice vinegar
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- 1 ½ tsp active dry yeast
- 1 tsp agave nectar
- ¼ cup warm water, divided
- 1 tbsp ground flax seed
- 1 cup non-dairy milk unsweetened almond milk
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 tbsp vegan butter Earth Balance
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 3 - 3 1/2 cups flour
- 1 tbsp canola oil
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced
- white & black sesame seeds, optional
To make the tofu filling:
- Mix the marinade ingredients together. Use 1/2 to marinate the cubed tofu overnight or for several hours.
- In non-stick skillet heat oil, add the marinated tofu (setting the remaining marinade aside), and sauté until golden brown on the edges and a few crusty bits are apparent. Depending on your pan size, you may need to do this in batches.
- After browning, remove all the tofu to a bowl. Add the remaining sauce/marinade to the skillet. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the sauce and mix it with corn starch to form a 'slurry'.
- When the sauce is gently simmering, add the cornstarch slurry, and heat gently until thickened. About 1-2 more minutes. Then pour over tofu in the bowl.
To make the dough:
- Mix the yeast in 2 tablespoons of warm water with the agave nectar (the water should be about 115°F). Let sit for 10 minutes until frothy.
- While the yeast mixture is sitting, beat flaxseed and remaining warm water together until it is an egg-like consistency. Add this to the yeast mixture.
- Heat the non-dairy milk to dissolve the sugar, vegan butter, and salt. Then let it cool to about 120°F . ( A good rule of thumb is that the mixture should feel warm to the touch but not scalding.)
- Add the milk mixture to the yeast and flax mixture.
- In the bowl of your stand mixer, add the milk and yeast mixture. Then add about 3 cups of flour. If the dough appears too sticky, add the remaining 1/2 cup of flour (1/4 cup at a time).
- With the dough hook, knead for about 4 minutes or so until a soft dough forms. The dough should not be sticky. Cover and let rise in a warm place 1 1/2 hours until doubled in size.
- Once risen, punch the dough down and divide it into 20 pieces to make the baos.
To make the buns:
- Combine the cooked tofu, green onions, and cilantro in a bowl. Mix until well combined.
- Flatten the divided dough into a small disk. Fill the disk with about ½ tablespoon of filling. Fold the dough together at the top and twist the top to form a cylindrical bun.
- Let the filled Baos rest covered with a damp clean cloth or paper towel for about 10 minutes.
- Place parchment in a bamboo steamer, and place the filled buns in the steamer.
- Steam for about 18 minutes.
- (optional) If you'd like to pan-fry your buns after steaming, dip the bottoms into the water and then into a small bowl with sesame seeds. Heat a non-stick pan on medium with a tsp or 2 of oil. Fry the bottoms of the buns for 2-3 minutes until golden.
This recipe requires a bamboo steamer basket.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 20 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 250Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCarbohydrates: 55gFiber: 2gProtein: 13g
Nutritional info is an estimate.
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