These Chinese steamed buns are light, fluffy, and so easy to make. They only use 5 ingredients, and they’re perfect on their own or as a side dish.
Mantou, or Chinese steamed buns, are a very common food in Taiwan. Wherever you go in Taiwan, you’ll find fresh, hot, Chinese steamed buns for sale. Unfortunately, in America you’ll usually only find them in the frozen foods aisle, and they’re nothing like the fresh version.
That’s why this is one of my favorite recipes. It only takes 5 ingredients to make, but you can create a warm, fluffy, rich bun that’s unlike anything you can buy. You can eat these steamed buns by themselves, or next to your favorite Chinese dish. Either way, it’s a fun, unique, and mouth-watering treat.
Why You’ll Love These Chinese Steamed Buns
These mantou have just the right amount of sweetness. They’re not nearly as sweet as a pastry, but they’re sweeter than a standard dinner roll. When you combine that simple sugary flavor with the airy, pillowy consistency of the fluffy bread, you’re left with an authentic Chinese steamed bun that’s a delight to eat.
They’re not too hearty or heavy, so they’re very easy to eat … and very easy to eat a lot of. Plus, they’re easy to make!
Here’s everything you need for making Chinese steamed buns. Check out the recipe card at the bottom of the page for the exact quantities of each ingredient.
- All-purpose flour
- Water – You can use milk if you want a creamier, richer mantou.
- Vegetable oil – Any type of neutral oil will work for this recipe.
- Granulated sugar
How to Make Mantou
Here’s how to make these moist and fluffy Chinese Steamed buns.
- Combine the dry ingredients. Add the flour, sugar, and yeast to a mixing bowl, and whisk together.
- Add the wet ingredients. Pour in the oil, and mix together. Then form a well in the middle of the dough and add the water. Mix until the dough forms a ball.
- Knead. Knead the dough for 15-20 minutes.
- Rise. After kneading, place the dough in a large bowl, and cover it with a kitchen towel. Leave it in a warm place, and let the dough rise for about 3 hours.
- Shape. Form the dough into balls, and set each dough ball on an individual square of parchment paper.
- Rest. Let the dough balls rest for at least 20 more minutes, and ideally 40.
- Steam. Place the Chinese steamed buns in a steamer, and cook until puffy and cooked through. It will take about 20 minutes.
Tips for Success
Here are some tricks and tips for making the best mantou.
- Use a damp towel. Since the Chinese steamed buns have to rise for so long, I recommend covering them with a damp kitchen towel, which will keep them from drying out. You don’t want to use a wet towel, just a slightly damp one. Get a kitchen towel wet, and then wring it out fully, and use that to cover your rising dough.
- Oil the bowl. To keep the dough from sticking to the bowl while it rises, coat the bowl with a small layer of oil before adding the dough.
- Be rough with the dough. Many bread doughs require a gentle hand, but this is not one of them. When you’re kneading the Chinese steamed buns dough, you can get rough with it. In fact, the dough performs best when you do. Smacking and throwing around the dough is a great way to get out energy, but it also makes the best dough.
Here are the answers to a few common questions about Chinese steamed buns.
Can you make them without a steamer?
No, unfortunately you cannot. Steaming these buns is what gives them their signature airy texture and moistness. Baking the buns will completely change the texture for the worst.
How do you eat Chinese steamed buns?
There’s no wrong way to eat a steamed bun. They make a wonderful snack if eaten all by themselves. You can also put butter, jam, or nut butter on them, and eat them like a breakfast roll. And they’re really great as a side dish next to your favorite Chinese entree.
What’s the difference between mantou and bao?
Mantou and bao use the same dough, and the same steaming technique for cooking. The only difference between the two is that bao is stuffed, whereas mantou is unfilled.
How to Store and Reheat Chinese Steamed Buns
You can store these buns at room temperature for up to 2 days, or in the fridge for up to 4 days. Just be sure to store them in an airtight container or bag. To reheat, cook in the steamer for 2-3 minutes.
You can also freeze these buns in an airtight container for up to 4 months. Reheat in the steamer for 5-6 minutes.
More Chinese Food to Make
Here are some of my other favorite Chinese recipes for you to try.
- Instant Pot Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup
- Taiwanese Braised Minced Pork
- Scallion Pancakes
- Taiwanese Tea Eggs
- Three Cup Chicken
Mantou 饅頭 (Chinese Steamed Buns)
- 3 cups (375 g) all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ teaspoon yeast, (if using envelope yeast, use 1 envelope & follow instructions on envelope)
- ¾ cup (177 ml) warm water or milk
- ¼ cup (59 ml) vegetable oil
- ⅓ cup (67 g) granulated sugar
- In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, and yeast. Then mix in the vegetable oil.
- Make a well in the middle and slowly pour in the warm water and mix until dough forms into a ball. If using a stand mixer, use the dough hook attachment to do all these steps (you won’t have to make a well, just pour everything in).
- Once the dough forms into a ball, begin kneading the dough for 15-20 minutes. If you have some anger you need to let out, this is the perfect thing to make. You can punch the dough and throw it around :)
- After you’re done kneading the dough, put it in a clean large bowl and cover it with a cloth towel. Set in a warm place to rise. About 3 hours.
- After the dough has risen, form into medium sized balls and set each ball on a square baking paper (each ball has its own).
- If you have the time, let the balls sit for 40 minutes to rise more, if not, 20 minutes is good enough.
- Put the buns in a steamer and steam for about 20 minutes until they’re puffy and cooked.
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.