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Chicken bao buns combine crispy, spicy, and tender chicken with fluffy steamed buns. If you’re constantly ordering these when you’re at Asian restaurants or getting them from food trucks, you can now make these fluffy delights right at home!

chicken bao buns on brown parchment paper next to a steamer and cucumbers
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It seems like bao buns and their unique filling options are everywhere these days! There are so many Asian fusion restaurants and even food trucks dedicated to serving these delectable, fluffy buns. Personally, I have grown up with bao buns and the traditional stuffings; they are everywhere in Taiwan. These aren’t anything new to me, per say, but it is interesting watching the popularity of them skyrocket in the United States. It makes me really proud to see Americans embrace traditional Taiwanese cuisine and use their creativity to make it something unique.

What are bao buns?

Bao buns are fluffy, airy buns made from a simple yeasted dough that has been formed into half-moon shapes and steamed. They are a common side dish served at Chinese restaurants. Bao buns are commonly stuffed with protein, like this chicken bao bun recipe!

Why You’ll Love This

  • Unique and cultural appreciation. The combination of succulent chicken and soft steamed buns creates a unique experience for your tastebuds and also lends appreciation for the Asian culture and their food! The tender and flavorful chicken, coated in a spicy, sticky sauce, pairs perfectly with the pillowy texture of the buns.
  • Versatile and very customizable. One of the great advantages of making chicken bao buns is the versatility they offer. You can customize the recipe to suit your preferences and experiment with various fillings, marinades, and toppings. Whether you prefer a spicy kick or a milder flavor profile, you have the freedom to create a bao bun that perfectly suits your taste!
  • Perfect for sharing and entertaining. These little bao buns are the perfect little snacks to share and entertain with. They are handheld, making them the perfect appetizer, and they serve as a great icebreaker if you create a build-you-own bao bun bar!
chicken bao bun being held by hands with bright pink nail polish

Ingredients You’ll Need

Ready to make these chicken bao buns? Here is a list of ingredients you will need. Make sure to scroll down to view the full recipe for exact measurements.

  • Bao buns
  • Packet of Korean fried chicken

For the Yangnyeom sauce:

  • Ketchup
  • Gochujang
  • Corn syrup
  • Water
  • Soy sauce
  • Sugar
  • Rice vinegar
  • Gochugaru
  • Garlic

How To Make Chicken Bao Buns

Here is a general overview of the steps involved to make bao buns with chicken. Be sure to scroll to the bottom of this post for the full recipe.

Make the bao buns. If you already have the dough ready and shaped, finish the bao buns by using your steamer to cook the bao buns.

Make the yangnyeom sauce. In a small sauce pot over medium-low heat, add all the ingredients of the sauce and stir to combine. Let the sauce come up to a low simmer then allow to simmer for 20 minutes while you prepare the rest of the dish. Keep an eye on it!

Make the chicken. Add the chicken in a single, even layer to your air fryer basket. Cook at 400 degrees for 13-14 minutes, or until exterior is very crispy. You may have to do this in batches. Place the cooked chicken into a large bowl then pour the yangnyeom sauce all over. Toss to coat the chicken.

Prepare the toppings. If you’re serving your bao buns with a variety of toppings, prepare those now.

Assemble. To assemble, add about two pieces of chicken to the bao bun then add your favorite toppings!

chicken bao buns laying on brown parchment paper

Recipe Tips, Substitutions, and Variations

  • Using fresh chicken. With this recipe, I used frozen fried chicken and made my own sauce to toss it in. You can certainly use cubed fresh chicken and pan or air fry it and then toss it in the sauce. The frozen fried chicken I got was the best alternative to giving me that fried chicken texture without actually frying in my own home.
  • Make your own Korean fried chicken. I actually have a recipe for homemade Korean fried chicken if you want to make all of this from scratch.
  • Variations. The opportunity to change up the flavors and ingredients in this recipe is endless! Here are some ideas:
    • Asian fusion: For a fusion twist, experiment with different marinades and fillings inspired by other Asian cuisines. Perhaps orange chicken for a Chinese-inspired bao bun. Consider a Thai-inspired peanut sauce for a tangy and nutty flavor profile. Incorporate ingredients like kimchi, Thai basil, or lemongrass to add an exciting twist to your chicken bao buns.
    • Vegetarian delight: If you prefer a vegetarian version, substitute the chicken with marinated and pan-fried tofu. You can also incorporate a medley of sautéed vegetables such as mushrooms, bell peppers, and carrots.
    • Protein swaps: If you prefer a different protein, you can substitute the chicken with shredded or diced cooked pork, beef, or even shrimp.
  • Have a mise en place during assembly. Keeping ingredients and toppings in a mise en place allows you to easily see the toppings so you can pick and choose what you want to load your bao up with and it keeps it a lot more organized!
  • Use store-bought sauce. If you don’t have the time to make the yangnyeom sauce from scratch, you can buy Korean fried chicken sauce from the store too.
chicken bao bun garnished with an orange sauce, sesame seeds, and fresh cucumbers

Storage and Reheating Instructions

If you have leftovers, make sure to store the bao buns and the chicken separately (aka un-assembled) so the saucy chicken doesn’t turn the bao bun soggy.

What to Serve with Chicken Bao Buns

Chicken bao buns are great on their own as a meal but they’re also a great accompaniment to various other dishes so they can be like an appetizer to the main meal. Here are some recipe ideas to serve with chicken bao buns:

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4.50 from 2 votes

Chicken Bao Buns

Chicken bao buns combine crispy, spicy, and tender chicken with fluffy steamed buns for a delicious meal or appetizer!
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 12

Ingredients 

For the yangnyeom sauce:

  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • ¼ cup gochujang sauce, I used spicy
  • ¼ cup corn syrup
  • ¼ cup water
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon gochugaru
  • 1 tablespoon neutral oil
  • 3 garlic cloves minced

Toppings:

  • Kimchi
  • Cucumbers
  • Cabbage slaw

Instructions 

  • If you already have the dough ready and shaped, finish the bao buns by using your steamer to cook the bao buns.
  • In a small sauce pot over medium-low heat, add all the ingredients of the sauce and stir to combine. Let the sauce come up to a low simmer then allow to simmer for 20 minutes while you prepare the rest of the dish. Keep an eye on it!
  • Add the chicken in a single, even layer to your air fryer basket. Cook at 400 °F (204 °C) for 13-14 minutes, or until exterior is very crispy. You may have to do this in batches. Place the cooked chicken into a large bowl then pour the yangnyeom sauce all over. Toss to coat the chicken.
  • If you're serving your bao buns with a variety of toppings, prepare those now.
  • To assemble, add about two pieces of chicken to the bao bun then add your favorite toppings!

Nutrition

Serving: 1bun, Calories: 211kcal, Carbohydrates: 25g, Protein: 9g, Fat: 9g, Saturated Fat: 2.3g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g, Monounsaturated Fat: 3.3g, Trans Fat: 0.04g, Cholesterol: 38mg, Sodium: 384mg, Potassium: 154mg, Fiber: 0.2g, Sugar: 11g

This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition information can vary for a variety of reasons. For the most precise nutritional data use your preferred nutrition calculator based on the actual ingredients you used in the recipe.

The default measuring system for this website is US Customary. Unit conversions are provided for convenience and as a courtesy only. While we strive to provide accurate unit conversions, please be aware that there may be some discrepancies.

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