Mushroom Bao Buns
What do you think about fluffy homemade bao buns for lunch? These tasty steamed buns with mushrooms and vegetables are super flavourful and tender, easy to make and naturally vegan.
This mushroom bao buns recipe includes detailed instructions for the softest and fluffiest homemade spelt flour dough for steamed buns. The exact same steps will work with standard wheat bread flour, so I got you covered for that case too.
My favourite filling for steamed buns is definitely one with mushrooms and vegetables. In this bao recipe, I used oyster mushrooms, soy sauce, fresh vegetables and homemade kimchi. It was an absolutely delightful combination!
Of course, you can improvise with some other ingredients too.
Ingredients mushroom bao buns
To make these easy homemade bao buns with mushrooms, you will need the following ingredients:
- White spelt flour (I used T 630) – spelt is one of the best substitutes for wheat flour in classic dough recipes. It binds and stretches well because it does contain its own kind of gluten, but it is not bad for health like most of today’s wheat.
- Tapioca starch – it will make the buns extra smooth and fluffy. If you don’t have any, replace it with cornstarch or more spelt flour (or even just regular wheat flour if that is what you normally use).
- Dried baker’s yeast – we need it to rise and proof the dough. You can use fresh yeast instead but dried one is the easiest and quickest, especially for beginners.
- Himalayan salt or sea salt
- Coconut blossom sugar – I like to add some simple sugar to the dough to make it more bubbly and fluffy. Yeasts will feed on that sugar too, and produce more carbon dioxide which will make the dough rise faster.
- Water or soy milk
- Oyster mushrooms or another type of mushrooms (shiitake work really well too!).
- Soy sauce – I normally use tamari or shoyu.
- Fresh ginger, chilli and/or garlic – optional ingredients that will give your stir-fried mushrooms more flavour. I often skip them though and use only soy sauce. If you want to use them, but cannot get them fresh, you can use dried ones too.
- Fresh greens – mizuna, lamb’s lettuce and baby spinach are some of my top choices. I also like to use foraged wild greens such as chickweed, young sow thistle leaves and watercress.
- Naturally fermented kimchi or some other ferments (such as this homemade pink sauerkraut).
- Spring onions.
In this bao buns recipe, I decided to use a combination of spelt flour and tapioca for the best result. If you are interested in my reasons for not using modern wheat in cooking, I recommend this post about why I avoid modern wheat in my diet and what to use instead.
That said, there is nothing wrong with having any food in moderation. If you are in for a more classic steamed buns recipe, feel free to substitute all the flour amount in this recipe, including tapioca, with typical wheat flour.
As for the rest of the ingredients, feel free to adjust the list and choose your favourite combination of mushrooms, vegetables and ferments or pickles. The one in this recipe is one of my favourites and it is more or less how I make bao bun filling most of the time.
Making the dough for bao buns
1. Kneading and leavening the dough
To make the dough, you will need to mix spelt flour, tapioca (or other flour you are using), yeast, salt, coconut sugar and water or soy milk. Working with warm water will speed up the dough’s rising and proofing process.
Just make sure your water is not hot, as too high a temperature could destroy the yeast. Lukewarm is ok! Now you just need to mix everything and knead it into a smooth dough.
In case you are using fresh yeast, dissolve it in lukewarm water with a tablespoon of flour first, cover with a kitchen cloth and leave it for 15 minutes to activate. Then add the rest of the ingredients and knead the dough.
Leave the dough in a bowl or a pot covered with a kitchen cloth to rise for about two hours at room temperature. You can check on it occasionally – when it has doubled in size, it means it is ready for the next step.
2. Proofing the bao dough
When working with any kind of leavened dough (including sourdough and slow/cold-fermented dough), I like to let it rise several times to get the softest and fluffiest result.
In this bao bun recipe, I let it rise three times. You don’t have to do all three, but at least two are recommended.
After your dough has doubled in size, knead it once again, or, even better, stretch and fold it a couple of times. Cut the dough into six to eight equal pieces and form small balls. If you like thicker and bigger bao buns, six pieces will be enough.
Let these dough balls proof for half an hour covered with a cloth. If you are short on time, this is the step you can skip.
Roll out each of the dough balls into a thin, oval shape. I like to roll them out really thin, three millimetres or even thinner. However, I know that many people actually like thick and fluffy steamed buns – in that case, 4-5 mm will be okay.
The final proofing is recommended if you’d like to make your steamed buns extra fluffy and tender. It can be done in one of these two parts of the process:
- You can either cover the flattened dough pieces with a cloth and let them proof for another thirty minutes, then fold them in half and separate them with a piece of baking paper in the middle, or
- Fold the flattened dough pieces in half with a piece of baking paper in the middle, put them on another piece of baking paper and cover them with a cloth to let them proof.
Both ways work well, so you can choose what works better for you. Proofing the dough before folding will ensure a more equally proofed dough, but will also make it a bit more difficult to handle when folding.
Folding and then proofing will make the dough grow with its downer side slightly flatter (it is not a bad thing, it makes them stable) and transferring the proofed buns to a steamer will be easier.
Whichever order you choose, I recommend putting each bao bun on its own piece of baking paper so as to make it easy to handle them without ruining their soft and fluffy consistency.
3. Steaming the bao buns
Add water to the bottom of your steamer and bring it to a boil. Transfer the proofed and folded bao buns into the steamer, cover them with a lid and steam for eight to ten minutes over medium heat.
I like to make super thin bao buns, so mine are usually perfectly cooked in eight minutes. For thicker ones, ten minutes should be enough. Overcooking can make them a bit chewier, so I like to remove them from heat as soon as they are done. If you are not sure how it will work on your stovetop, you can first make one as a test.
Making the mushroom filling for bao buns
To prepare the mushrooms, simply chop them and stir-fry in some coconut oil (or water) for a minute. Add soy sauce and finely chopped fresh ginger, chilli and garlic, continue stir-frying for another minute or two and remove from the heat.
Slice all the fresh vegetables and pickles. Fill each bao bun with mushrooms and chopped fresh vegetables. Sprinkle with some roasted sesame seeds or some crispy toppings.
Mushroom Bao Buns
These tasty bao buns with mushrooms and vegetables are easy to make, naturally vegan, and super tender and fluffy. The recipe includes detailed instructions for the best homemade steamed buns with spelt flour (works with regular bread flour too!)
- 1 cup white spelt flour
- 1/3 cup tapioca starch
- 1 tsp dried live yeast
- 1 pinch Himalayan salt
- 2 tsp coconut blossom sugar
- 1/2 cup warm water or soy milk
- 400 g oyster mushrooms
- 2 spring onions
- 4 medium red radishes
- 1/2 cup naturally fermented kimchi
- 1 big handful of fresh greens (mizuna, lamb’s lettuce, baby spinach or any greens of your choice)
- 3 tbsp soy sauce
- sliced fresh ginger, garlic and chilli (optional)
- Put the spelt flour, tapioca starch, yeast, salt and coconut blossom sugar in a bowl and stir.
- Add water or plant milk, mix and knead the dough. If you want it to be really nice and soft, knead it for at least 10 minutes.
- Let it rise in a bowl covered with kitchen cloth in a warm place for about 2 hours, or until it doubles in size.
- Knead it again (or just stretch and fold it a few times if you have more experience with dough-making) and divide it into six to eight balls. I like the steamed buns to be thinner and smaller, so I usually make 8 with this amount; if you prefer normal-sized bao, 6 will be perfect.
- Let the dough balls rise for 30-60 minutes covered with a cloth.
- Roll out each ball into an approximately three-millimetres thick oval shape.
- For the best result, let them proof for another 30 minutes covered with a cloth (if you are short on time, it will work without proofing too).
- During that time, you can prepare the filling. Chop the kimchi and cut all the fresh vegetables into very thin slices.
- Heat up a pan with just a little bit of coconut oil or water over medium heat.
- Slice the mushrooms and put them in the pan. Stir-fry for a minute.
- Add soy sauce, ginger, garlic and chilli. If it gets too dry while you stir-fry, you can add a few tablespoons of water.
- Stir-fry for another minute or two and remove from the heat.
- Pour water at the bottom of your steamer and bring it to a boil. If you are using a bamboo steamer, pour water into a pan and put the steamer on top.
- Fold each part of the flattened (and proofed) dough in half, separating two surfaces with a piece of baking paper to keep them from sticking.
- Put the folded dough shapes into the steamer and steam for 8-10 minutes, depending on their size. To prevent sticking to the steamer, you can put a piece of baking paper under each bun before steaming.
- Fill the steamed buns with the fillings that you prepared.
- Sprinkle with some roasted sesame seeds.
- If you prefer working with regular wheat flour, it is totally possible to make perfectly fluffy buns following the exact same steps as described. Just replace the spelt flour in the recipe with wheat flour.
- Tapioca can be replaced with the same amount of cornstarch, or with wheat flour, if you don't have any starch.
- When preparing the dough for steaming, you can fold the flattened dough in half (separated with a piece of baking paper) before or after proofing, both options will work. I like to do it before because it will proof more equally. The other option (proofing folded dough) makes the buns easier to transfer into the steamer. You can choose the way that works best for you. Or no proofing if you want the rebel way, but have in mind that proofing makes the steamed buns extra fluffy!