Sheng Jian Bao (生煎包, Shanghai Pan-Fried Pork Buns)

5 from 18 votes
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Try this recipe for sheng jian bao – super juicy and incredibly flavorful pork stuffed into a fluffy yet crispy pan-fried wrapper that satisfies on every level. 

Sheng Jian Bao shows pleats and crispy side

What is Sheng Jian Bao

Sheng Jian Bao (生煎包), or directly translated as raw fried buns, is one of the signature dishes from Shanghai. By “raw”, it means you pan fry the buns without steaming them first, in which process the dough will rise and the bottom crisp up at the same time. The pan-fried pork bun is different from the steamed stuffed buns (known as ‘baozi’), which is steamed only.

The filling is savory pork and green onion with a soupy texture. Imagine crispy potstickers, soup dumplings, and fluffy bread all combined together! One bite into it, and it awakens your taste buds with all the different textures and a rich umami.

Since the 1900s, the people of Shanghai have enjoyed this tasty bun for breakfast, and now you can enjoy it at any time you like in your own kitchen.

Shanghai pan fried pork buns close up

Why this recipe

No gelatin required yet very juicy

While many recipes for sheng jian bao use pork gelatin to create a soup-dumpling-like texture, it’s a time-consuming process. It requires pork skin or trotters, braised for many hours to get a rich soup, then chilled overnight.

Plus, the yeast buns tend to absorb the soup during and after cooking, so they don’t even come out soupy. 

This version I have for you uses ginger-soaked water to increase the moisture in the filling so you get a juicy texture, yet it simplifies the cooking process. You can make it even juicier than that by using a fattier ground pork, like the type with 30% fat.

Once cooked, the Sheng Jian Bao will have a very juicy and almost soupy filling.

Cut open Sheng Jian Bao close up

Also, you should know there are two ways to fry these sheng jian bao buns. The first method is to fry them pleat-side down. Or you can go with the flat-side down. I prefer using the latter method because it keeps the pleats pretty for a nice presentation and appearance.

Shanghai pan fried pork buns

Ingredients

The best part of making Sheng Jian Bao at home is that it requires very basic ingredients you probably already have in your pantry. 

NOTE: you will need to use instant yeast instead of dry active yeast. Because the yeast dough is a bit finicky when pan frying and steaming. Using instant yeast produces a more consistent result.

I listed the ingredients below just so you can see everything. When you make the dish, you don’t need to lay everything out in small plates.

Ingredients for making Sheng Jian Bao

Cooking process

If you’ve made dumplings in the past, you’ll find the cooking process very straightforward. Even for a beginner, the dough is easy to put together. You don’t even need a stand mixer! 

To prepare the dough and filling

  1. Combine all the dry ingredients
  2. Slowly add warm water and mix until the water is incorporated
  3. Knead by hand for 15 to 20 minutes
  4. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rest for 1 hour
  5. Mix the filling ingredients together and beat until sticky
  6. Add the green onion and sesame oil at the end, mix again. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use
  7. The dough is ready when the size doubles
  8. Gently knead for a minute to press out the air bubbles
Preparing dough for pan fried pork buns

Assemble the buns

I highly recommend working on half a batch of buns at a time, so the dough won’t dry out and the filling won’t get soggy. 

  1. Once you cut the dough in half and reserve the other half, make the half batch of dough into 12 pieces (see the video below for the detailed dough shaping method)
  2. Flatten the dough
  3. Roll it into a round disk
  4. Place 1 tablespoon of the filling onto the disk
  5. Start wrapping by folding the edges
  6. Keep folding until the bun is almost sealed
  7. Pinch together the top
  8. Slightly twist and seal
  9. Let the buns rest for 10 minutes before cooking
  10. Fry the buns to crisp up the bottom
  11. Add water and cover, to steam the buns
  12. Make sure you rest the buns once cooked, before you uncover and serve
How to make Sheng Jian Bao step-by-step

NOTE: I recommend serving the buns immediately after cooking, so the filling will be extra soupy. If you let the buns sit for a while, the juice will gradually be absorbed by the skin and lose its moisture. It will still taste delicious, but it won’t have the soup dumpling effect. 

Afterthoughts

You can store your leftovers in the fridge or freezer. I like making a big batch and freezing them so my husband and I can enjoy them whenever the mood strikes!

As mentioned, in Shanghai, sheng jian bao is served for breakfast. I know the American palate is a bit different, though, so if you’re not keen on trying them for breakfast, make them as an appetizer or side dish for lunch or dinner. They’re so satisfying that you can even serve them as a main dish.

Sheng Jian Bao garnished with sesames and green onion

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Try this recipe for sheng jian bao (Shanghai pan fried buns) - super juicy and incredibly flavorful pork stuffed into a fluffy yet crispy pan-fried wrapper that satisfies on every level.

Sheng Jian Bao (生煎包, Shanghai Pan-Fried Pork Buns)

5 from 18 votes
Try this recipe for sheng jian bao – super juicy and incredibly flavorful pork stuffed into a fluffy yet crispy pan-fried wrapper that satisfies on every level.
Author: Maggie Zhu
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: restaurant-style
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Resting time: 1 hour
Total Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Servings: 24 buns

Ingredients

Ginger water

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ginger , minced
  • 1/4 cup hot water

Dough

  • 250 g (1 2/3 cup) all-purpose flour
  • 50 g (1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon) cornstarch
  • 4 g (3/4 teaspoon) instant yeast
  • 5 g (1 teaspoon) sugar
  • 150 g (2/3 cup) warm water (*Footnote 1)
  • 15 g (1 tablespoon) vegetable oil

Filling

Cooking & Garnish

  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup hot water , separated
  • Chopped green onions , for garnish (Optional)
  • Roasted sesame seeds , for garnish (Optional)

Instructions

Prepare ginger water

  • Combine the minced ginger and hot water in a small bowl. Stir to mix well and set aside.

Prepare the dough

  • In a large tall plate or a big bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, cornstarch, instant yeast and sugar. Stir to mix well.
  • Slowly pour in the warm water, a few tablespoons at a time, and mix with a pair of chopsticks (or a fork). Once all the water has been added, keep mixing and scrape off the dry flour on the side of the bowl, until it forms many small dough flakes.
  • Pour in the vegetable oil. Keep mixing with the chopsticks until the oil is absorbed.
  • Start kneading by hand while further incorporating the dry flour, until there’s no dry flour left in the bowl.
  • Transfer the dough onto a working surface. Knead for 15 to 20 minutes, until the dough is quite smooth and elastic and there’s no dry flour left in the bowl. It’s OK if there’s some unevenness in the dough, which will smooth out after resting. The dough should be quite tough and not sticky to the touch. Cover and seal the bowl with plastic wrap. Let rest until it doubles in size, 1 hour or so.

Prepare the filling

  • Add the ginger water, light and dark soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, salt, sugar, and white pepper to the ground pork in a large bowl. Beat with a pair of chopsticks or a wooden spatula in a circular motion, until all the liquid is absorbed and the meat is sticky. This process might take a few minutes. (*Footnote 4)
  • Add the green onions and sesame oil. Mix until they are incorporated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Store in the fridge until ready to use.

Assemble the buns

  • When the dough has rested, transfer to a work surface and punch it down. Knead for 1 minute to deflate the air out completely, then form it back into a ball.
  • Cut the dough in half. Wrap half of the dough in plastic wrap and store in the fridge while working on the other half.
  • Poke a hole in the center of the dough you’re working with. Stretch the dough into a large oval by running your fingers along the inside of the hole in a circular motion. Once the diameter of the dough is about 1” (2.5 cm), tear apart the ring so it creates a long, thin strip.
  • Cut the dough strip into 12 even pieces by cutting it in half, then further cut each half into 6 pieces. Gently use a circular motion to round up each dough piece then flatten it with your palm. Cover them with plastic wrap to prevent drying out.
  • Work on one piece of dough at a time – take one dough piece and place in front of you. Roll it with a rolling pin in one hand, using the other hand to rotate the dough while rolling, until the diameter reaches 5” (13 cm). You should keep the edges thinner than the center, so the wrapper of the bun will be even once you make the pleats.
  • Place the rolled dough in your palm and add 1 tablespoon of filling in the center.
  • Start wrapping the bun by folding and pinching the edge over itself, in one direction, until it is almost sealed. Then rotate and pinch the top of the pleats to fully seal the bun. (View my video for more details)
  • Repeat with the remaining dough pieces to wrap all the buns. Keep the wrapped buns under a piece of plastic wrap to prevent drying out. Once done wrapping, let rest for 10 minutes. Once rested, you should cook the buns immediately. You can store the wrapped buns in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 1 hour before cooking.
  • Repeat the wrapping steps to wrap the other half of the dough.

To cook the buns:

  • Add 2 tablespoons of oil and carefully place 12 wrapped buns into a 9” or 10” skillet. Heat over medium-high heat until hot. Turn to medium heat. Cook, uncovered, for 3 minutes, until the bottoms are lightly browned.
  • Pour about 1/4 cup hot water into the pan, just enough to cover the buns halfway up. Cover the pan and cook over medium heat for about 8 minutes, until the water is completely evaporated.
  • Turn the heat to medium-low and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the heat off and remove the pan from the stove. Let the buns rest with the lid on for an additional 2 minutes. Remove the lid and transfer to a plate. Repeat the steps to cook the rest of the buns.
  • Serve hot immediately. (*Footnote 5) Or you can store the cooked buns in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Notes

  1. The water should be slightly warmer than your body temperature.
  2. Although you can use any type of ground pork, a fattier one (e.g. 30% fat) will produce a juicier result.
  3. Dark soy sauce adds color to the filling, giving it the darker and more appetizing look once cooked. You can use soy sauce to replace dark soy sauce as well, but the color of the filling will come out lighter.
  4. It’s important to beat the filling really well, so the meat will absorb all the liquid and bind together. Once done, the meat will be easily formed into balls for the wrapping process. And once cooked, the liquid will release and create a juicy filling.
  5. The buns will be VERY juicy right after cooking. However, because the dough is very fluffy and it absorbs the juice fast, the buns will have less juice if you do not serve them immediately. The buns will still taste very delicious this way.

Video

Nutrition

Serving: 1bun, Calories: 74kcal, Carbohydrates: 10.8g, Protein: 3.7g, Fat: 1.7g, Saturated Fat: 0.3g, Cholesterol: 7mg, Sodium: 85mg, Potassium: 67mg, Fiber: 0.5g, Sugar: 0.4g, Calcium: 5mg, Iron: 1mg
Did You Make This Recipe?Don’t forget the last step! Leave a comment below, and tag me @OmnivoresCookbook and #OmnivoresCookbook on Instagram!

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.

Other dumplings and buns recipes

Lilja Walter is a part of the Omnivore’s Cookbook team and worked closely with Maggie to develop and test this recipe.

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Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. James in NZ says:

    These are easily my favourite Chinese dumpling, and something I would look forward to visiting Shanghai just for the opportunity to get them from the source, as it were. But my understanding of the name was that the ‘sheng’ didn’t mean “raw” but rather “fresh” (as in they are “freshly” pan-fried. All dumplings are made with a raw filling, after all (with very few exceptions).

    • Maggie says:

      I remember someone told me the story, but seems like it was wrong!
      After a quick research I realized the “sheng” is talking about the cooking method. Just updated the post accordingly.

  2. Marisa says:

    Hi Maggie! I’m planning to make a big batch of this and will freeze some for next time 🙂 Do I freeze after cooking then steam to reheat or freeze raw then cook as usual? Love your recipes btw, they really remind me of home. So glad that to be learning how to make delicious authentic dishes at home from you, keep up the fabulous work! xx

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Marisa, I recommend cooking them first then freeze. Because it’s a yeast bun, if you freeze it raw, the wrapper won’t properly rise when you cook it.

      • Dave says:

        I’m excited to try this out! What’s your recommend for reheating the frozen cooked buns?

      • Maggie says:

        I would heat them up in a pan with a bit oil to crisp up the bottom again. You might need to pour in a bit water and cover the pan at the beginning for a few minutes, just to heat through the inside.
        I’ve tried microwave them too when I’m super lazy. It’s fine that way but the buns won’t be crispy.

  3. Maria says:

    5 stars
    Totally amazing and worth the effort!!I cooked them more time though because of my cooker . I will definitely try it again!

  4. Eon Bettencourt says:

    5 stars
    I usually do the steam buns but I loved your pan fried.
    I would like to try some of your other recipes this weekend.
    I love authentic Chinese food and it’s hard to find good restaurants in the US that make authentic Chinese food.
    I would move to China just for the food.
    Thanks

  5. Jennifer from Colorado says:

    5 stars
    Thank you VERY MUCH for this recipe and the thoughtful instructions. I made these for lunch with great success today – my teenage boys loved them. One quick question/comment – the recipe called for 8 oz of ground pork, but I found that I needed 1 pound for exactly enough quantity to make 24 buns. I also sometimes get frustrated with rolling out perfect circles when I try to make dumplings so I cheated — this dough was so forgiving and nice to work with that I was able to roll out a very thin layer of dough, paper thin, and then I used my biscuit round cutter to make a perfect 5″ circle. I think this saved much frustration and helped me make the buns faster. Thanks very much – I love your website and reference it often.

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Jennifer, thanks for leaving a comment and I’m glad to hear you like the recipe!
      Re your question on the quantity of the ground pork – I think you needed more pork due to the thin wrapper? Did you use more than 1 tablespoon filling for each bun?
      When we tested the recipe, we tried different thickness of the wrapper and decided to leave it a bit thicker to create the fluffy texture, and it’s also a bit easy to work with. But I’m glad to hear that you can roll the dough out and cut it. It sounds so much easier and I’d love to try that out next time 🙂

      • Jennifer from Colorado says:

        Hi Maggie, I used exactly 1 Tablespoon of filling for each bun. It turned out to be the exact quantity that I needed. I will have to try making the dough a little thicker to achieve a more fluffy thick bun the next time. Loved it though, thanks so much!

  6. Betty says:

    5 stars
    I made this today. They taste so yummy. Thanks for the recipe. Will definitely make more but need some practise on handling and shaping the dough. Mine turned out a bit too much dough on the pleats. I roll them too thin.
    Otherwise, not bad for first try. Thanks again.

  7. Shirley says:

    Hi I really want to try this, is it possible to make ahead and freeze? If so how doI cook frozen ones?

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      I haven’t tried freezing the raw buns and I do not recommend it since it might affect the buns to rise during the cooking.
      I would cook them first and freeze the cooked ones instead (if you buy packaged buns, they are usually come cooked because it’s tricky to freeze yeasted dough)

  8. Monika says:

    Hi Maggie, how much ginger water should I use? Somehow I can’t find the information in the recipe .

    Many regards

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      You will need to use 1 1/2 tablespoons ginger with 1/4 cup hot water to make a ginger water, then you use the ginger water in the buns.

  9. Joanne C says:

    5 stars
    This was perfect and what I have been missing from our favorite dumpling+bao restaurant during the pandemic: fluffy bun, hot juicy filling (glad I was able to find 80/20 ground pork at the market!), and a crispy bottom (I used cast iron to cook). I’m also really glad I didn’t have to make a gelatin, and it still was juicy!

  10. Jeff says:

    5 stars
    Made these last week. Delicious! 很好吃!

  11. Rosalyn says:

    5 stars
    I made these for dinner, and they were amazing—simple to make and utterly delicious. Thank you for sharing this recipe!

  12. Ruthanne says:

    5 stars
    So delicious, fun to make with family! Will add a bit of spice to pork mix next time.
    Made Tiger Salad to have with this as a wonderful dinner.

  13. Julianna says:

    5 stars
    These are incredibly delicious! This was my first time anything like this. The instructions were incredibly clear and detailed and so foolproof. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe!

  14. Enith says:

    Can I freeze them uncooked?

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      You can’t freeze the uncooked buns. It affects the yeast and the buns won’t rise properly later.
      For freezing, you need to cook the buns first then freeze the cooked ones.

  15. wooliqun says:

    5 stars
    merci! finally a easy recipe without needing a broth! Home made and as good as in Taiwan!

  16. LS says:

    5 stars
    This recipe worked great. Thank you

  17. Karen says:

    I have only whole wheat flour. Can I substitute the AP flour 1:1 for whole wheat?

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      I’m afraid not. Whole wheat flour react to yeast and water very differently due to the higher protein content and coarse texture. If you use the same ratio, it probably won’t rise properly and the texture very dense. Usually you kinda can get away with 50% AP 50% whole wheat. But if using 100% whole wheat, you will need to at least tweak the water ratio. Without testing the recipe I’m not sure about the correct water quantity.

  18. Nino says:

    5 stars
    Amazing recipe with simple ingredients. Everyone in the family loves it.

    I used a mix of baking soda and regular dry yeast instead of “instant yeast” since we don’t have that in Sweden. I also switched out the the regular wheat flour with finely ground pasta flour.

  19. Adam says:

    5 stars
    This recipe is amazing! I’d been missing the taste of 生煎包 as it’s been a few years since I’ve been able to travel to Shanghai. This recipe took me back!

    Maggie, do you have any recommendations for a vegetarian filling I could use in place of ground pork while still maintaining the juicy consistency? I am hoping to make these again for a potluck soon, and I want to make sure I’m able to accommodate vegetarian guests.

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      Hi Adam, I’m glad to hear you like the recipe.
      You can definitely make this one into a vegetarian dish, but it’s very hard to maintain the juicy texture unfortunately. One way you might able to make it juicy is to use a vegetable that can release juice during cooking, such as zucchini or napa cabbage. I use the method in meat filling to increase the juiciness. But I would be very careful with this method for a vegetarian dish, because the wrapper can get soggy if there’s too much liquid in the filling (if you use a meat filling, the meat can hold more juice).
      The other route is to use the technique of making vegetarian soup dumpling, where you use a very condensed vegetable broth and agar to make gelatin. The gelatin will melt during cooking and create the soup texture.
      For a more easy vegetarian filling, you can check out my carrot and egg dumplings: https://omnivorescookbook.com/carrot-dumplings
      I also have a vegan dumpling recipe here: https://omnivorescookbook.com/vegan-dumplings/
      Happy cooking!

  20. Linda says:

    Hi Maggie,

    I’m a little confused about the frying part. Do we place the dumplings and 2 tbsp of oil in a cold pan and heat both until hot? Or do we preheat the pan with oil until hot then add the dumplings after?

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      You start the buns in a cold pan and oil (no need to heat up the pan before adding the buns).

      • Linda says:

        Awesome, thanks! I’ll be giving these a go in the coming days.

  21. Gladmama says:

    5 stars
    These were excellent, we made them last night. I think next time I will roll the dough to be thicker, I like biting into a thicker bao dough. I doubled both the meat and dough recipe to accomodate 1 lb of pork.

  22. Karen says:

    This looks amazing. I am going to try it! Would store made pizza dough work instead of making the dough from scratch? Thank you.

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      That is an interesting question. I’ve never tested it so I’m not 100% sure, but I think pizza dough might work.
      The buns will probably come out chewier than it should be, becauase pizza dough has a higher gluten ratio. But it should rise during the cooking and create a crispy surface.
      If you decided to try it out, I’d love to hear your result. But if you have the time, I would recommend to make the dough from scratch for the best texture.

  23. Val says:

    This looks awesome! Would ground beef or dark meat ground chicken work?

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      Yes! I think ground beef works slightly better but dark meat ground chicken should work as well.

  24. Anna says:

    5 stars
    Loved this recipe! I made the dough in my stand mixer on stir and let it go for a few minutes until it was a cohesive ball. The dough was so easy to work with after proofing.

    I used ground turkey to accommodate my in-laws, and they came out delicious!

    Thank you for all the wonderful and reliable recipes. They’ve been a comfort during the pandemic, especially when I’m nostalgic for my childhood foods.

  25. Yung says:

    Hubby and I love Zheng jian baos! Do you think it would be possible to make the dough, meat mixture, assemble them, and fry them the next day?

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      I definitely do not recommend assemble them ahead of time. The filling will release liquid (because of the salt), which makes the dough soggy and can easily break apart during cooking. If you pre-made the dough, it might be possible to store it in the fridge to slow the rising process, then work on the assemble the next day. Although I have not tested it. But once you assemble them, it’s the best to cook them as soon as possible. You can always assemble and cook the buns, then reheat them later. The buns will be less juicy (since the dough will absorb them), but the texture and the taste of the buns will still be good the next day.

  26. wooliqun says:

    5 stars
    was super juicy and yummy! Thanks for the tipp!

  27. Jeanne S says:

    I haven’t tried this recipe yet because I’m gluten intolerant. Can a gluten-free flour such as King Arthur’s or Einkorn create the same bun? My concern is the “fluffiness” of the buns and that gluten-free flour might not work.

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      I’ve never tried to use a gluten-free flour but I’m afraid it won’t work. This is a bread recipe and it requires to work with gluten to create the texture. For gluten free flour, you probably need to use baking soda and / or baking powder, which is a totally different formula.

  28. Kristella says:

    5 stars
    This was an awesome recipe to try! Great seasoning for the filing. However, as a beginner (and doubling the recipe for 1 lbs of ground pork), this did take me about 4-5 hours from start to finish. Just a heads up to anyone trying this for the first time! Plan your day accordingly!

  29. Sigrid says:

    5 stars
    I’ve missed pork buns since moving to Finland. These are amazing, and not to hard either!

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