Making steamed pork buns can seem challenging when you don’t have a dedicated steamer.
Fortunately, you can steam pork buns without a steamer by simply using a round cooling rack and a large pot.
In this article I’ll show you how to do this and share my recipe for steamed pork buns made from scratch.
How to steam pork buns without using a steamer?
Getting a bamboo steamer to make Chinese pork buns is truly unnecessary when your kitchen is stocked with crockpots, rice cookers and all other sorts of appliances.
After all, most of these devices are capable of serving the same purpose when they’re equipped with the proper accessories.
And to make matters even more trivial, you can also steam foods by simply using a large pot.
With that said, the key to steaming pork buns without a steamer is to fill a cooking vessel with water and place a round cooling rack on top. This allows the steam to pass through and cook the buns thoroughly, without making them soggy.
You can also use a sieve, strainer or colander, but in my experience it’s easier to work with a cooling rack.
Keep in mind that the water shouldn’t make any contact with the pork buns when it starts boiling.
Ingredients for steamed pork buns
In order to make steamed pork buns at home, you’ll need a variety of different ingredients for the dough and filling.
Here’s a list of everything you’ll need:
For the dough
- Flour – the dough for the buns is made with all purpose flour. Avoid using bread flour as it has a higher protein content which makes pastries more chewier.
- Granulated sugar – the sugar will weaken the gluten strands and make the dough more light while helping it proof.
- Instant dry yeast – this recipe is made with instant dry yeast, but you can use fresh yeast as well. If you’re using fresh yeast, then simply multiply the amount of dry yeast by 3.
For the filling
- Pork shoulder – will give the buns a unique texture and flavor. You can use both fresh and frozen pork shoulder. Ground pork is also an option here but the texture of the filling won’t be the same, and in my opinion it’s best to use non-ground meat.
- Canola oil – is used to saute the meat and vegetables. If you don’t have it, you can substitute canola oil for any neutral tasting vegetable oil.
- Apple cider vinegar – deodorizes the meat and acts as a replacement for Shaoxing wine. If you can get your hands on some Chinese rice wine you can use it instead of vinegar.
- Dark soy sauce – lends this dish with a deep umami flavor and adds richness.
- Shiitake mushrooms – the meaty texture of shiitake mushrooms pairs exceptionally with the pork.
- Cornstarch – is used to create a slurry that will thicken the sauce.
- Seasonings – the meat is seasoned with a blend of dried savory, sesame oil, white pepper and some sugar. If you can’t find savory, you can substitute it with dried marjoram.
- Spices – leeks, garlic and ginger are used to elevate the flavor of the meat and mushrooms.
How to make steamed pork buns?
Check out the recipe card at the end of this article for detailed, step-by-step instructions.
To make the dough:
Start by mixing the flour, sugar and yeast into a dough using a wooden spatula or a stand mixer. Keep mixing the dough until it comes together, then transfer it onto a clean surface and start kneading.
When the dough is ready, place it in a bowl and cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel. Let the dough proof until it doubles its size.
To make the filling:
Let the mushrooms soak for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, cut the meat into small chunks and mix it with some water in a small bowl.
Continue by sauteing the chopped vegetables in canola oil, then stir in the meat and cook until the meat becomes opaque.
Add the rest of the ingredients and stir until they’re well combined. Keep cooking until all liquids evaporate, then add the cornstarch slurry and cook for about 30 seconds.
Assembling the pork buns:
Knead the dough on a clean surface for 2 to 3 minutes. After that, roll the dough into two halves, shaping them as logs. Then go ahead and divide each log into eight pieces and try to keep them equal in size and shape.
Now roll each piece from the edge towards the center but don’t roll the center.
You can do the following manually by grabbing a bun with one hand and putting a reasonable amount of the filling at its center.
You should then pick a corner of the bun and pinch it to close that side. Proceed by pinching more dough using just your pinching-hand index finger and don’t move your thumb. By pinching with one hand and rotating the dough with your holding hand you slowly close the opening.
After the buns are sealed, place them on non-stick parchment paper and throw a damp kitchen towel over them. After this you should give them 15 minutes time to proof.
Steaming the buns
The steaming process is fairly simple. I place some sort of heat-resistant bowl at the bottom of my cast iron pot but any large pot will do. I then fill both the bowl and the pot with enough water not to evaporate during the steaming process.
After that I add half a teaspoon of rice vinegar to the water in the bowl and another half to the water in the pot.
Following this, I put a cooling rack inside the pot and bring the water to a boil and then lower the heat.
I then place the pork buns along with the pieces of parchment paper on top of the rack.
I put the lid on and steam the buns for about 15 minutes.
I repeat this process for the remaining pork buns.
The buns should rest for 5 more minutes under the lid and after that you can take them out of the improvised steamer and serve them.
How to store leftover pork buns?
If you have any leftover pork buns, you can safely store them in the refrigerator.
Simply put the pork buns in an airtight container such as a ziploc bag and stash them in your fridge.
If you want to prevent the buns from becoming soggy, you should let them cool off before putting them in the fridge.
Refrigerated pork buns can be stored in the fridge for 3 days before their quality degrades and they start to spoil.
When you’re ready to consume them, reheat the pork buns in the microwave for 2 minutes.
You can also reheat them by steaming them for 5 minutes, but in my opinion using the microwave is much faster and simpler.
In case you wish to store your pork buns for more than just 3 days, you’ll have to freeze them.
To do this, put the pork buns in a freezer-safe container and store them in your freezer for up to 3 months.
When you’re ready to eat them, simply re-steam your pork buns for 8 minutes without thawing them.
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How To Steam Pork Buns Without a Steamer (Recipe)
For the dough
- 2 tsp instant dry yeast
- 1/2 Tbsp granulated sugar
- 250 ml lukewarm water
- 500 g all purpose flour
- oil for coating the bowl
For the filling
- 500 g pork shoulder or boston butt
- 2 Tbsp water
- 2 1/2 tsp canola oil
- 1 1/2 cup chopped leek
- 1 Tbsp ginger minced
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 1/2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar interchangeable with Shaoxing rice wine
- 2 Tbsp dark soy sauce
- 3/4 tsp granulated sugar
- 8 g dried shiitake mushrooms
- 1 tsp white pepper
- 1 Tbsp dried savory
- 1 1/2 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp cornstarch mixed with 1 tsp water
For the dough:
- Add half of the flour along with the sugar and yeast into a glass bowl and pour a glass of lukewarm water.
- Start mixing all of the ingredients with a wooden spatula and then by hand while adding flour until the dough comes together.
- Transfer the dough onto a clean surface dusted with flour and keep kneading until the dough is no longer sticky. When the dough is ready it should be as smooth as a baby's butt.
- Put the dough in a bowl that's brushed with cooking oil and cover it with a damp kitchen towel.
- Let the dough proof at room temperature for about an hour or until it doubles its size.
For the filling:
- Soak the shiitake mushrooms in water for 15 minutes.
- Cut the meat into strips then chop each strip into small chunks.
- Place the meat into a bowl and mix it with two tablespoons of water.
- Finely chop the leeks, and mushrooms and mince the garlic and ginger. Remember to squeeze out the water from the mushrooms before chopping.
- Saute all the vegetables except the mushrooms in the canola oil on medium heat.
- Add the meat and the mushrooms to the pan and stir while turning on the heat to high. Keep stirring until the meat becomes pale and opaque.
- Add the apple cider vinegar, dark soy sauce, granulated sugar, white pepper, dried savory and sesame oil.
- Stir until all of the ingredients are well combined and let the mixture cook until all of the liquids have evaporated.
- Pour in the cornstarch slurry and cook for another half a minute but never more than 1 minute. After that leave the filling to cool off.
For assembling the buns:
- Take out the dough and knead it on a clean dusted surface for 2 - 3 minutes to remove the air pockets. You should hear the air pockets popping while you're kneading the dough.
- Split the dough in two halves and roll each halve into a log.
- Divide each log into eight equally sized pieces.
- Start rolling each piece from the edge towards the center without actually rolling the center. The center should be twice as thick as the edges. Make sure that your hands are completely dry or the dough won't stick when you start pleating.
- Grab a bun with one hand and put a tablespoon of the filling at its center.
- Pick a corner of the bun and pinch it between your other hand's index finger and thumb.
- Pick up more dough with your index finger without moving your thumb and pinch it while rotating the dough with your holding hand.
- Repeat until you seal the bun by pinching the last piece of the dough tightly. This should take you roughly 10 - 15 folds.
- Place the buns on a piece of non-stick parchment paper and cover them with a damp kitchen towel.
- Let the buns proof for 15 minutes.
Steaming without a steamer:
- Place a heat-resistant bowl at the bottom of a large pot and fill them both with enough water not to evaporate completely. Obviously, make sure to leave some space between the water's surface and the cooling rack.
- Add half a teaspoon of rice vinegar to the water of both the pot and the bowl. The rice vinegar will give the pork buns their trademark milky white color
- Put a cooling rack on top of the bowl.
- Bring the water to a boil then lower the temperature on your stove.
- Place the pork buns on the rack along with the pieces of parchment paper.
- Steam the pork buns for 15 minutes under a lid.
- Turn the heat off and let the buns rest for 5 minutes without removing the lid.
- Repeat for the remaining pork buns.
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I do my best to provide you with the nutritional information for recipes but I'm not a certified nutritionist. The nutritional information provided should only be treated as an estimate since it will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.