These gluten free steamed Chinese meat buns have a simple savory meat mixture wrapped in pillow-soft steamed dough. Cook in a steamer basket or in soup!
These gluten free steamed Chinese meat buns are soft and fluffy, with the most gorgeous savory filling. I adapted the recipe from someone who knows, since I certainly did not know.
The filling is largely the same as the recipe from which I adapted it. The dough is the real star, and that required some more work to recreate as gluten free.
I prefer the recipe to be made with my gluten free bread flour blend from (don’t worry it’s all explained in the Recipe Notes below), but I also tested it with my gluten free pastry flour (also all explained in the Recipe Notes below) and it does, in fact, work.
Light and fluffy steamed buns filled with a delightfully gingery, salty beef mixture, whether you’re missing these buns because you know, or you’ve never had them, you’re in for a treat. As my kids said when they first tried them, “Oh, these are like potstickers! Except better.”
How to steam the buns
I only steam these buns for 8 minutes, and then allow them to rest for about 2 minutes after steaming. You can’t peek during steaming (!) or you’ll let out the steam.
I’ve tried steaming the buns for as long as instructed in the original recipe, and found that they turned out tough. The purpose of steaming these buns rather than baking them is to maintain moisture and provide indirect heat.
If you’re at all concerned that your buns might not be completely cooked in 8 minutes, I recommend allowing them to sit, still covered, off the heat for longer. You won’t overcook them that way, and it should put your concerns to rest.
I do have a bamboo steamer basket, but I have also made these with a metal steamer. If you don’t have either a bamboo or metal steamer, you can try making these buns in an oiled cast iron skillet.
Fill the skillet at least half way up the sides of the buns, cover, and simmer until cooked through. It might be messy, but it should work—and create a bonus browning on the bottom of the buns.
You can also boil these buns in simmering chicken stock or beef stock, depending upon the meat you’ve chosen for your filling. I would make them smaller (about half the size called for in the recipe) if you’re planning to serve them in soup.
How to shape the dough
To shape the dough, the best way to imagine it is by watching the how-to video in this post. If you are sighted but don’t see the video, it can only be because you’re using an ad blocker. Please turn it off both to see the video and because that’s the only way I get paid at all for my work.
If you aren’t sighted or you’re less of a visual learner, I recommend you read the recipe instructions all the way through at least once before beginning. That’s the best way to understand the mechanics.
Tips for shaping
As a general concept, first pull of a small piece of dough and roll it into a tight ball. Then, flatten the ball of dough into a round about 4-inches in diameter using first the heel of your hand, and then a rolling pin (the smaller the better).
For best results, thin about a 1-inch border all around the shaped dough until it’s no more than 1/8-inch thick. The rest of the round of dough will remain a bit thicker so that the filling doesn’t leak. This ensures that the pleats you’re about to create aren’t too thick.
Then, place the shaped dough in the palm of one hand, fill, and begin to gather the ends of the dough together up and over the filling like an accordion, making your way around until the bun is sealed. Gently twist the raised center gently.
Can I use the dough to make gluten free bao buns?
Yes, I have, indeed, tried using this dough to make bao buns. It was really exciting and I’m going to make it a permanent part of my life. They’re like little fluffy dough tacos.
I can’t give you actual instructions yet, because I’m still learning and perfecting my technique. If you already know what you’re doing making Chinese meat buns and you just needed me for the gluten free dough recipe, then don’t wait for me! I’ll catch up eventually and I will share if there’s interest.
Ingredients and substitutions
If you make this recipe using my gluten free bread flour blend, dairy is essential. If you use a gluten free pastry flour blend (see Recipes Notes for details), you can use coconut milk powder in place of dairy milk powder. And in place of the dairy milk in the dough, use your favorite unsweetened nondairy milk.
This recipe calls for instant yeast, which is also called breadmaker or rapid-rise yeast. There is no substitute for yeast in a yeasted bread recipe.
In place of instant yeast, you can use active dry yeast, though. Simply multiply the amount (by weight) of the instant yeast (here, 5 grams) by 1.25 or 125% to get 6 1/4 grams of yeast. My scale isn’t sensitive to less than a whole gram, but just add a bit more after you reach 6 grams.
Active dry yeast has a thicker coating around the yeast. You should soak it in some of the milk in the recipe until it foams before adding it to the dough with the rest of the milk.