Serves a Crowd

Southern Pulled Pork Buns (Bao)

April  1, 2011
2 Ratings
  • Makes 12 large buns
Author Notes

(photo courtesy of

I've always been a huge fan of char siu bao (roast pork buns) from Chinese food restaurants, but bringing the frozen version home just doesn't do it for me, and using the bottled char siu sauce is overwhelmingly sweet. So instead, I make the dough at home, slowly braised some pork Southern-style in my Dutch oven, steam the dumplings in my rice cooker, and get an even better product. I could eat twenty of these in one sitting... —jessfscarbone

What You'll Need
  • Dough
  • 3/4 cup water (room temperature)
  • 1/2 packet instant dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons neutral vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (approximate)
  • Pulled Pork Filling
  • 3-4 pounds boneless pork butt or shoulder
  • 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  1. Dough
  2. Combine the yeast and the water in a small bowl and set it aside to grow. After a few minutes, blend in the oil.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the baking powder, flour, and sugar. Make a deep well in the center and pour in the yeast mixture. Slowly stir it all together until all the flour has been incorporated, and it gains the consistency of soft playdough. (Add a little more water if it needs to be stickier.) Use your hands to shape the dough into a ball. Turn the dough onto a very lightly floured surface and knead for a few minutes, until the dough is slightly springy to the touch and stops sticking to your fingers.
  4. Place the ball of dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover it with plastic. Put it in a warm dry place to rise until it has doubled, about 30 minutes.
  1. Pulled Pork Filling
  2. Preheat your oven to 425°F.
  3. Place the pork in a deep casserole pan, and cover it with the Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar, turning it to thoroughly coat with your hands. Place the pork in a large Dutch oven, and pour the apple juice down the sides of the pot (NOT on the meat). Cover the pot tightly.
  4. Place the pot in the oven, and turn the heat down to 225°F. (Make sure you do this right away--the oven needs to be warmed up, but this is a slow cooking recipe.) Roast the pork without opening the oven door for about 4 1/2 hours. No need to check on it at any point--you'll know it's ready when the meat pulls apart easily.
  5. Remove the meat to a deep platter and thoroughly shred it. Add the salt into the juices left in the Dutch oven, stirring well to blend the sweet and savory flavors. Return the shredded meat to the juices and let cool thoroughly. (This can--and should--be done the day before making the buns, so that you don't have to wait too long once your dough has thoroughly risen.)
  6. Make the buns: Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. Shape each one into a cup in your hands (imagine you're making an individually-sized pie.)
  7. Place a few spoonfuls of the pork into the middle of the dough round, making sure none dribbles on the outsides of the dough (or else it will not stay sealed while steaming.) Fold up the edges of the dough around the filling and squeeze slightly to seal. Place each finished bun on a small square of parchment paper. Once all the buns are assembled, set aside in a warm place and let rise for a half hour. (If you have too much pork filling for your allotted dough...nope, this has never been a problem for me. Extra pulled pork!)
  8. Preheat a steamer basket with water beneath it (I like using the attachment that came with my rice cooker) and lightly oil it. Place as many buns as you can fit in the steamer, then cover and let cook for 10-12 minutes each, until they are plump and moist.
  9. Enjoy!
Contest Entries

See what other Food52ers are saying.

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  • fiveandspice

17 Reviews

From A. September 15, 2014
I have made this twice now. Before my first attempt I had never had Bao before. We could not stop eating them. I made the mistake the first time out removing my pork from the oven at 4 1/2 hours but it really needed more time, if you are going to attempt this just make sure the pork is really falling apart it makes a difference. This is one of the best recipes I have attempted in a while. If you are considering making it go for it!
Hotdog! January 30, 2014
Making this tonight, we're empty nesters an thus will have leftovers. So my question before making this is: how do you deal with leftovers. Cook everything and freeze left overs? Freeze before cooking? We're going for cooking then freezing.
Lexi1288 April 19, 2020
Years later the question arises: How did this work out for you?
helen26 February 14, 2013
Any tips for using a slow cooker to make the pork portion of the recipe?
Table9 April 5, 2011
Nice creative usage of pulled pork! I am from Alabama and you just cannot beat great pulled pork.
Midge April 4, 2011
Kitchen B. April 2, 2011
I'm a BIG steamed bun fan - love pulled pork too. Wonderful texture - hard to believe its just steaming and not baking. Yum
fiveandspice April 2, 2011
Wow! These look phenomenal. We've been talking a lot around here about trying to make our own steamed pork buns, and I'm so excited to have your recipe to try!
gingerroot April 2, 2011
Oh yum! I loved steamed bao. Here in Hawaii, we call them manapua. A while back I posted a recipe for baked manapua but will definitely try steaming them.
boulangere April 2, 2011
I've long wanted to try making steamed buns, and there is an excellent chance you've inspired me! Thank you!
kmartinelli April 2, 2011
All I can say is - YUM. I recently purchased a bamboo steamer so was excited to see this challenge, and am super excited to try this recipe!
mrslarkin April 1, 2011
yumm. i made momofuku pork belly buns recently, in the rice cooker steamer basket. crazy good. these sound just as awesome. thanks for the recipe!
hardlikearmour April 1, 2011
This looks amazing! Love steamed pork buns, though haven't made them myself. Thanks for providing a recipe. This is on my cooking project list.
testkitchenette April 1, 2011
This is a keeper. I love the application of a southern styled pork re-fashioned into a delicious treat.
AntoniaJames April 1, 2011
Brilliant! (I'd probably use apple cider vinegar instead of apple juice, though, because I'm somewhat addicted to East Carolina style pulled pork, which is practically defined by its strong vinegar element.) This is inspired, though. I especially appreciate the dough recipe and instructions for making steamed dumplings. I've never made them before. That's going to change!! ;o)
jessfscarbone April 1, 2011
Thanks Antonia, I'd love to know how yours come out! (I think I tend to stay away from the vinegary parts of the pork recipe b/c I don't want to stray too far from the char siu flavor that I love so much--this recipe gives the right Southern flavor, but also pays a pretty big tribute to the original version.)
AntoniaJames April 1, 2011
After posting that comment, I noticed the rather significant amount of Worcestershire called for in the recipe, which could provide ample vinegar notes. Either way, I'm delighted that you posted this recipe! I'm 100% with you that the typical char siu flavor is too sweet. ;o)