Chinese Steamed Buns (Mantou)

By: takestwoeggsPosted: 25/02/2022 Updated: 30/11/2023
Prep 15 minutes
Cook 25 minutes
Total 2 hours 25 minutes
Looking for the softest, fluffiest Chinese steamed buns recipe? Your search is officially over. This extensive step-by-step recipe will teach you how to make the best steamed buns ever.
Chinese Steamed Buns (Mantou)

Looking for the softest, fluffiest Chinese steamed buns recipe? Your search is officially over. This extensive step-by-step recipe will teach you how to make the best-steamed buns.

A torn open mantou Chinese steamed bun resting on top of other buns.

This fluffy Chinese steamed buns (aka mantou buns) recipe yields the softest buns you have ever tasted. If you consider yourself a connoisseur of steamed buns like myself (ie. you love eating them every chance you get), then this recipe has your name written all over it. This soft, fluffy mantou buns recipe is the GOAT of all Chinese steamed buns recipes. I have spent hours of research and recipe testing to finally create this cloudlike masterpiece. These steamed buns are so soft and pillowy you may be tempted to rest your head on them and take a nap. These Chinese steamed buns are also incredibly versatile. You can eat these by themselves or add your choice of filling.

Steamed buns are a major food group for me. I love eating them, making them, and experimenting with different fillings for them. If you love these steamed buns recipes, make sure to check out my egg custard steamed buns. Or if you are looking for a more Chinese bakery-type bun, check out my bbq pork-baked buns.

Two Chinese steamed buns resting inside a wooden steamer.
A mantou bun torn open resting on a plate in front of a steamer.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • On my journey to create this mantou bun recipe, I consulted dozens of recipes, YouTube videos, and family tips and tricks. I knew I had to create the PERFECT recipe because this is the base for so many other recipes.
  • This Chinese steamed buns recipe will teach you step-by-step how to make the softest, pillowy steamed buns.
  • This steamed buns recipe takes no shortcuts on time to ensure the most delicious taste and perfect texture.
  • I included photos, tips and tricks, and a FAQs section to make sure that this recipe is 100% foolproof.
A grid of freshly steamed Chinese buns known as mantou.

Kitchen Equipment

  • Stand Mixer with Dough Attachment: you will use an electric stand mixer to knead the dough together. You can alternatively do this by hand but it will take you about 2x-3x as long depending on how strong you are.
  • Kitchen Scale: this recipe is very precise and requires the correct ratio of ingredients for the perfect rise and taste. A kitchen scale will ensure you have the exact measurements for each ingredient. My little pink kitchen scale is both aesthetic and precise.
  • Mixing Bowls: you will need to organize out all of the ingredients for this recipe. I love my Duralex nesting glass bowls for all my recipes. They come in a set of 9 or 10 and are very durable and dishwasher-safe.
  • Parchment Paper: you will need small 3×3 inch squares of parchment paper to place the mantou buns on to steam.
  • Steamer: you will need a steamer to steam the buns. You can either use a bamboo steamer or a stainless steel steamer. I used a 5 quart stainless steel steamer for this recipe.

Ingredients

You can find all of the ingredients for this Chinese steamed bun recipe at your local grocery store and Asian grocery store.

  • Whole-fat milk: Using full-fat whole milk is key to activating the yeast as moisturizing and binding the dough together.
  • Instant or Active dry yeast: I normally use instant yeast but active dry yeast works just as well to leaven the dough. For this recipe, I explained how to activate either instant or active dry yeast in the warmed milk and sugar.
  • All-purpose flour: combining all-purpose flour and wheat starch together forms that beautifully soft, and pillow dough.
  • Wheat starch: wheat starch is NOT the same as wheat flour. Wheat starch is what makes the dough soft. You can find wheat starch online or at any local Asian grocery market.
  • Powdered sugar: flavors the dough by adding a subtle sweetness to the dough.
  • Baking powder: gives the dough its soft rise which creates tiny air bubbles inside the dough.
  • Salt: flavors the dough and balances out the sugar.
  • Vegetable shortening: is another fat agent used to moisturize and tenderize the dough without too much moisture.
  • Large egg white: the egg white binds the dough together aids in the rise of the dough.
  • Vegetable oil: helps liquify the egg and also keeps the dough soft and prevents it from drying.
All the ingredients for Chinese steamed buns organized on a counter top.

How to Make Chinese Steamed Buns

Making these pillowy Chinese mantou buns is very simple. All you need to do is read out all the directions in advance and organize your baking station according to the steps. I’ve also laid out all the tips and tricks for you below.

  1. Prepare the yeast. Warm the milk to 110°F or 43°C degrees. Add active dry yeast. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 10 min. If using instant yeast, let sit for about 2 minutes to double-check if the yeast is active. The yeast will create a frothy, 1/4-inch foam layer at the top if it is active.
Yeast being activated in milk inside a glass measuring cup.
  1. Sift the dry ingredients. Next, sift the flour, wheat starch, powdered sugar, baking powder and salt into the bowl of your stand mixer with a dough attachment. Mix on low.
Sifting the mantou dry ingredients into a stand mixer bowl.
  1. Add in the shortening while mixer is mixing on low. Make sure the shortening is broken up into small pieces by feeling it with your hand.
  1. Liquify the egg in oil. In another bowl, combine the room temperature egg white with vegetable oil. Liquify the egg by pulling up the egg white with a fork a few times until combined.
Liquifying an egg in oil for Chinese steamed bun dough.
  1. Knead all the mixtures together. In the stand mixer on low, mix the yeast milk mixture and then add the egg and oil mix for 30 seconds. Once combined, increase the speed to medium (level 4) and knead for 5 minutes or until it forms into a ball in the mixer and is no longer sticking to the bowl. The dough should be tacky but not overly sticky.
Mantou dough mixed inside a stand mixer with a dough hook.
  1. Knead the dough into a ball with your hands. Knead the dough into a smooth ball with your hands for 1 minute and transfer it into a lightly greased large bowl.
Two hands kneading mantou dough.
  1. Proof the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and place in warm area (100°F or 37°C) for about 1-2 hours or until double in size. This dough has more fat in it so it may take awhile to rise.
  1. Divide and roll out the dough. Divide into 10-12 equal pieces depending on how big you want them and quickly roll them into smooth balls.
  1. Let the buns rest. Place parchment squares or cupcake liners underneath each bun. Cover with a dish towel and let the buns rest for 15 minutes.
Prepping a tray of balls of steam bun dough to proof.
  1. Steam the buns. Wrap the lid of your steamer with a dishcloth to prevent the condensation from falling into your steamer. Add water to your steamer and bring the water to a boil. Place the buns 2 inches apart in your steamer, cover and steam on medium heat for 10-12 minutes. After steaming, leave the buns to sit in the steamer for 1 minute to prevent them from wrinkling from the temperature shock. You will have to steam the buns in 2-3 batches depending on the size of your steamer. Cover the uncooked buns with plastic wrap and place them in the refrigerator to slow down the yeast activity until they are ready to be steamed.
Proofed balls of mantou dough in a metal steamer ready to cook.
  1. Enjoy! Allow the buns to cool slightly before eating then enjoy the pillowy soft texture you just created.
A torn open steamed bun showing the fluffy texture inside.

Storage Instructions

You can individually wrap each mantou bun in plastic wrap and store them in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. To reheat, leave them in the plastic wrap or wrap the buns in a wet paper towel and microwave until warm.

Tips for the Best Chinese Steamed Buns

  • If the dough is too sticky, add 1 tablespoon of flour at a time until it becomes tacky and doesn’t stick to the bowl.
  • If the dough is too dry, add 1 tablespoon of warm water at a time until it reaches the tacky consistency. You don’t want the dough to be too dry, the seam will not properly seal when you pinch if it is and the filling will ooze out during the steaming process.
  • Shape the dough as fast as you can. When you are shaping the dough, work quickly to prevent the dough from rising and creating air bubbles what will yield a wrinkly surface.
  • Make sure to rest the buns for 15 minutes after shaping. This is crucial for that slight rise and fluffiness in the bun. Be careful not to wait too long because the yeast will over-rise and create a gap between the dough and the filling.
  • Wrap the lid of your steamer with a dishcloth. This step is so important to prevent the condensation from dripping down into your bun and making it wrinkly!
  • If your steamed bun is wrinkly after steaming, it probably means that either your steam was too hot or you steamed them for too long.

Frequently Asked Q’s and A’s

What is Mantou?

Mantou (馒头) is a plain steamed bun with no filling and is considered one of the most popular foods in Chinese cuisine. It is traditionally made with wheat flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, yeast, and oil.

How do I know when the dough is done proofing?

Reference the photo above to see how large the proofed dough is in comparison to the original dough. The dough should be double in size and feel really light and airy to the touch. When you gently push on the dough, it will leave an indentation and spring back slowly. If it springs back right away, it needs to be proofed a bit longer. If it never springs back, then you have over-proofed the dough.

Why are my mantou buns wrinkly and/or collapsed?

There are a few reasons why your buns came out like this.

You could have over-proofed the dough. Over-proofing the dough weakens the dough structure and so when you steam it may collapse.

Air bubbles when shaping the dough. When shaping the dough make sure you squeeze out all the air bubbles before you rest the dough for 15 minutes. If you leave the air bubbles in the dough they will yield weird indents in the bun.

Steaming too hot. When you steam the buns over high heat, the steam makes the buns grow too quickly and so when you take them out of the steamer they immediately shrink and become wrinkly.

Did you make these Chinese steamed buns (Mantou)?

If you made this dish and loved it, please leave a review and comment below. We would greatly appreciate it!

Share your dish with us on Instagram, and tag us @takestwoeggs—we’d love to see and share your delicious creation!

Hungry for more? Follow us on Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, Pinterest, and Facebook for more tasty creations and updates 🍜

Recipe

A torn open mantou Chinese steamed bun resting on more steamed buns.

Chinese Steamed Buns (Mantou)

5 from 4 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Proof Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 25 minutes
Looking for the softest, fluffiest Chinese steamed buns recipe? Your search is officially over. This extensive step-by-step recipe will teach you how to make the best steamed buns ever.
Servings: 12 buns
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup 180 ml whole milk 110°F or 43°C
  • 1 ½ teaspoon (6 g) active dry yeast or instant yeast
  • 2 cups (300 g) all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup (100 g) wheat starch
  • ½ cup (70 g) powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoon (10 g) baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon (15 g) vegetable shortening
  • 1 large egg white room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon (15 g) vegetable oil

Instructions

  • Prepare the yeast. Warm the milk to 110°F or 43°C. Add active dry yeast. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 10 min. If using instant yeast, let sit for 2-3 minutes to double check if the yeast is active. The yeast will create a frothy, 1/4 inch foam layer at the top if it is active.
  • Sift the dry ingredients. Sift flour, wheat starch, powdered sugar, baking powder and salt into the bowl of your stand mixer with a dough attachment. Mix together on low.
  • Add in the shortening while mixer is mixing on low. Make sure the shortening is broken up into small pieces by feeling it with your hand.
  • Liquify the egg in oil. In another separate bowl, combine the room temperature egg white with vegetable oil. Liquify the egg by pulling up the egg white with a fork a few times until combined.
  • Knead all the mixtures together. While the stand mixer is on low, mix the yeast milk mixture and then add the egg and oil mix for 30 seconds. Once combined, increase the speed to medium (level 4) and knead for 5 minutes or until it forms into a ball in the mixer and is no longer sticking to the bowl. The dough should be tacky but not overly sticky. If it is too dry, add 1 tablespoon of water and combine. If the dough is too sticky, add 1 tablespoon of flour and combine.
  • Knead the dough into a ball with your hands. Knead the dough into a smooth ball with your hands for 1 minute and transfer it into a lightly greased large bowl.
  • Proof the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm area (100°F or 37°C) for about 1-2 hours or until double in size. This dough has more moisture from the fat in it so it may take awhile to rise.
  • Divide and roll out the dough. Divide into 10-12 equal pieces depending on how big you want them and quickly roll them into smooth balls. Make sure to not over handle them, they may turn out tougher if you do.
  • Let the buns rest. Place parchment squares or cupcake liners underneath each bun. Cover with a dish towel and let the buns rest for 15 minutes.
  • Steam the buns. Wrap the lid of your steamer with a dish cloth to prevent the condensation from falling into your steamer. Add water to your steamer and bring the water to a boil. Place the buns 2 inches apart in your steamer, cover and steam on medium heat for 10-12 minutes. After steaming, leave the buns to sit in the steamer for 1 minute to prevent them from wrinkling from the temperature shock. You will have to steam the buns in 2-3 batches depending on the size of your steamer. Cover the uncooked buns with plastic wrap and place them in the refrigerator to slow down the yeast activity until they are ready to be steamed.
  • Serve immediately when hot.

Notes

  • If the dough is too sticky, add 1 tablespoon of flour at a time until it becomes tacky and doesn’t stick to the bowl.
  • If the dough is too dry, add 1 tablespoon of warm water at a time until it reaches the tacky consistency. You don’t want the dough to be too dry, the seam will not properly seal when you pinch if it is and the filling will ooze out during the steaming process.
  • Shape the dough as fast as you can. When you are shaping the dough, work quickly to prevent the dough from rising and creating air bubbles that will yield a wrinkly surface.
  • Make sure to rest the buns for 15 minutes after shaping. This is crucial for that slight rise and fluffiness in the bun. Careful not to wait too long because the yeast will overrise and create unwanted air pockets.
  • Wrap the lid of your steamer with a dishcloth. This step is so important to prevent the condensation from dripping down into your bun and making them wrinkly!
  • If your steamed bun is wrinkly after steaming, it probably means that either your steam was too hot or you steamed them for too long.

Nutrition:

Serving: 5g | Calories: 328kcal | Carbohydrates: 57g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 4mg | Sodium: 320mg | Potassium: 153mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 15g | Vitamin A: 63IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 149mg | Iron: 3mg

Rate & Review What did you think of this recipe?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




  1. Is this a dough that can be rolled out, and shaped (cutting, braiding etc) before resting and steaming?

    • I have not tried to shape this dough into anything other than mantou or steamed baos. It may not have the same fluffy and soft result if you work the dough too much with your hands.