Bring authentic dim sum to your home with baked BBQ pork buns just like your favorite Chinese restaurant!
I love homemade baked BBQ pork buns. These are called char siu bao at Chinese bakeries. And they are often served as dim sum at Cantonese restaurants. If you’ve ever tried them, they are surely already a favorite of yours!
In fact, my char siu and my steamed char siu bao recipes have been quite popular. Many readers requested a baked version of the buns, so I created a baked BBQ pork bun recipe that allows you to use your oven to get these yummy flavors packed into heavenly soft milk bread. Talk about combining the best of both worlds!
The bun is a variation on my milk bread recipe. For the baked BBQ pork buns, it’s a more simplified version that skips the condensed milk without compromising the result. The buns are super soft and fluffy – the perfect vessel to contain that tender pork.
PS. If you’re feeling extra fancy, you can use my pineapple bun recipe to fill the BBQ pork. It takes a LOT of work to make but the result is divine.
Ingredients & equipment
If you have a stand mixer, the dough is really easy to put together.
It’s a perfect recipe for using up leftover char siu. And if you don’t want to go to the trouble of making char siu, you can still make baked BBQ pork buns at home by grabbing takeout char siu from your local Chinese restaurant. You can just have the dough ready to go and it will be much quicker.
If you can’t find char siu anywhere nearby and don’t have time to make it, use regular roasted or barbecued pork. The seasoning for the filling is really flavorful and creates delicious baked BBQ pork buns everyone will love.
Make the dough & 1st rise
- Activate the yeast in warm milk
- Add the dry ingredients
- Form and knead the dough using a stand mixer, until you can stretch it into a very thin and translucent sheet
- Pull the dough into a tight ball
- Cover and let rest
- The dough is ready when the size doubles
Make the char siu filing
Making the char siu filling is super simple.
- Cook the sauce mixture until it thickens
- Let the sauce cool, then mix in the chopped char siu
Form the dough balls
Now that your dough is rested and ready, it’s time to divide it into small dough balls for the buns.
- Punch down the dough and knead a few times
- Divide the dough into 12 even pieces. I prefer to use a scale to weigh each dough ball so the buns will be evenly sized
- To form each dough ball, pull and pinch the edges of the dough to the top
- Repeat until it forms a round ball
- Pinch together the top to seal it
- Use your hand to press and roll the dough ball until it’s round
NOTE: It’s very important to always cover the dough you’re not working on with plastic wrap. Otherwise it will dry out.
Wrap and bake the BBQ pork buns
- Press the dough ball into a flat, round shape (keep the center thicker than the edges, so the dough of the wrapped bun will be even)
- Add the filling
- Pull the dough into the center
- Pinch and seal the top
- Roll the formed bun again but more gently this time, so the filling won’t fall out
- Brush the buns with the milk wash
- Garnish with sesame seeds
- Bake until golden brown
NOTE: I like to brush the buns with the milk wash for a muted golden brown look. If you prefer the glossy look, you can also brush the buns with an egg yolk wash.
That’s it! These baked BBQ pork buns are super soft and fluffy, with a delicious sweet savory filling!
I’ve taken you through the cooking step-by-step with pictures. If you want to see the cooking in action, check out my YouTube video. You can (and should!) make extra because they freeze well and you can have them ready to go for dim sum, any time the mood strikes!
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Baked BBQ Pork Buns (Char Siu Bao)
- 250 ml (1 cup + 2 teaspoons) milk , warm (~110°F) (plus 1 tablespoon to wash the buns)
- 7 g (1 packet, 2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
- 40 g (3 tablespoons) sugar
- 5 g (1 teaspoon) salt
- 400 g (3 cups) bread flour
- 60 g (3 tablespoons) butter , melted & cooled
- 1 egg
- Sesame seeds (optional)
Make the dough
- Pour the milk into a small bowl and warm it to approximately 100 to 110°F (38°C), about 30 seconds in the microwave. The milk should be warm, just a bit above body temperature.
- Add the yeast and a pinch of the sugar to the warm milk. Let the yeast activate for 5 to 10 minutes, until the mixture is bubbling and frothy.
- Add the remaining dough ingredients into your stand mixer bowl. Pour the activated yeast and milk over everything. Stir a few times with a spatula to make a rough dough. Knead with the hook attachment on setting 6 for 15 to 17 minutes, until the dough is smooth and stretchable. Test the dough by pulling a piece of it using both hands. It should stretch into a very thin and translucent sheet. (This dough can be kneaded by hand, but it is a wet dough, so having a dough scraper for the process will be very helpful. Knead it for 20 to 30 minutes in this case.)
- While kneading the dough, grease the inside of a large bowl with a thin layer of butter or oil.
- Pull the dough into a tight ball using your hands and place it into the greased bowl. Flip the dough ball a couple of times so that it is fully coated in the butter. Cover with plastic wrap. Let it proof until the size has doubled, about 1 hour in the winter, or 30 to 45 minutes in summer. (*Footnote 1)
Make the filling
- While the dough is resting, combine all the filling ingredients in a small pot except for the diced char siu. Mix until the cornstarch is dissolved fully.
- Bring the mixture to a boil and cook until thickened, so you can draw a line on the bottom of the pot with a spatula, about 1 minute. Take the pot off the heat and let the mixture cool off. Once cooled, add the diced char siu and mix until it is evenly distributed.
Shape the buns
- Once the dough has doubled, punch it down using your hand and form it into a tight ball. Cut the ball into 12 even pieces (approximately 62 g per piece). Cover the pieces you aren’t working on with plastic wrap to prevent them from drying out.
- One piece at a time, pull and pinch the edges of the dough to the top until the dough is round. Flip the piece so that the pinched part of the dough is on the work surface. Place your palm and fingers over the ball forming a domed cage, move the dough in small circular motions while applying light pressure to seal it.
- Once all the pieces are formed, you can begin filling them. One at a time, use your palm to flatten the ball, then gently spread the edges until the dough has a 4 to 5” (10 to 13 cm) diameter. You should keep the center a bit thicker than the edges so the buns will be shaped evenly once wrapped.
- Place a tablespoon of filling in the center. Gather the edges over the filling and pinch them together to seal it on top. Flip over the bun and roll it in the same circular motion as before to seal, but be gentle so the filling doesn’t tear through the dough. (If a piece of pork starts to poke out or looks like it’s about to you can pinch the dough over the trouble area and smooth it out with your finger.)
- Place the buns on a parchment-lined baking tray, at least 1” (2.5 cm) apart, and cover them with plastic wrap. Let the buns rise until they grow 1.5 to 2x in size, about 30 to 45 minutes in winter, or 15 to 20 minutes in summer.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (176°C). (*Footnote 2)
- Gently brush a thin layer of milk onto the top of each bun. Sprinkle with some sesame seeds to garnish, if using.
- Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the buns are golden brown.
- Let the buns rest until slightly cooled. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Store and reheat
- Once the buns have fully cooled, you can place them in a large ziplock bag. It’s OK to leave the buns at room temperature for a day. Store them in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- To reheat the refrigerated buns, heat them in a microwave or a 350°F (176°C) oven until warmed throughout. For frozen buns, reheat them in a 350°F (176°C) oven without thawing until warmed throughout, 10 minutes or so.
- The dough proofing time can vary a lot depending on your room temperature and the freshness of your yeast. When I made the recipe I used a pack of very fresh yeast and our kitchen doesn’t have AC, so the proofing was done in 30 minutes. If your room is cool, it can take up to 1 hour for the dough to double in size.
- If you’re making the buns in the summer, preheat the oven when you start wrapping the first buns. The buns might rise quite quickly if your room is hot. In this case, consider baking half of the batch once they have risen while you work on the rest. It’s OK if some of the buns have not risen fully.
If you give this recipe a try, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it (once you’ve tried it), and take a picture and tag it @omnivorescookbook on Instagram! I’d love to see what you come up with.
More delicious dim sum recipes
- Chinese Scallion Pancakes (葱油饼)
- Pork Zongzi (Cantonese Savory Sticky Rice Dumplings)
- Pineapple Buns (Bolo Bao)
- Steamed Custard Buns (nai wong bao, 奶黄包)
- Chinese Chive Pockets (韭菜盒子, Chinese Chive Dumplings)
- Chinese Turnip Cake (Lo Bak Go, 萝卜糕)
Lilja Walter is a part of the Omnivore’s Cookbook team and worked closely with Maggie to develop and test this recipe.