If you like buns, you need to try this Pan-fried Steamed Bun or Sheng Jian Bao today! The buns are fluffy and soft with an amazingly crunchy bottom that’ll have you wanting more after your first bite.
What is Pan-fried Steamed Bun (Sheng Jian Bao)?
Pan-fried Steamed bun or 生煎包 (Shēng jiān bāo) is popular street food from Shanghai but it’s now well-known around the world. ‘生煎包’ translates to Raw (生), Pan-fried (煎) and Bao/bun (包). The name comes from how it is cooked and the method is very similar to potstickers.
There are two parts to cook the buns; First, pan-fry the buns until golden with the pleated side down on a shallow oiled cooking pan. Then, add enough water to steam the buns until they are fully cooked through.
They are normally served with sesame seeds and chopped scallions. Because they have a hard crispy side, they are not as fragile which makes them a perfect portable snack or meal.
Although they are normally not vegan/vegetarian friendly you can now enjoy them with this simple recipe here. I filled them with crunchy zucchini, carrots, and flavorful mushrooms. So, let’s see how to make these buns with the steps below.
How to make Pan-fried Steamed (Sheng Jian) Buns
The filling ingredient is quite flexible (I used shredded zucchini). To retain the crunch and color, rub zucchini with salt to draw the water. I also added carrot, sautéed mushrooms, and chopped scallions for flavor and texture.
I’m using a stand mixer to knead the bun dough which can be done by hand as well. Place flour in a mixing bowl with a pinch of salt and stir to combine. Mix together active dry yeast in warm water with sugar until well incorporated.
Then, add the mixture into the flour along with a drizzle of oil and knead into a soft dough. Cover the dough and let it proof until double its size.
Remove the dough and divide it into 14 equal portions and roll them into a ball. Roll out the dough into a circular wrapper and place a spoonful of filling in the middle (please see below for rolling tips).
Then, bring all the sides together or pleat to seal.
To cook the buns, add a drizzle of oil in a heated 10″ non-stick pan. Place the bun’s pleated side down in one layer, slightly apart.
Cook until the bottom turns golden brown and add in enough water to cover 1-2cm of the buns.
Cover with a lid and let it cook until all water has evaporated.
Remove the lid and garnish with chopped scallions and toasted sesame seeds. Serve warm as-is or place a plate in the pan, and flip to remove so the crispy bottom layer is shown upright.
Pan-fried Steamed Buns Variations
Filling – There are a variety of vegetables that you can use to make the filling. Some great options include; bok choy, cabbage, kale, and protein of choice. They can be sautéed or use the salt method to remove moisture. One quick note is to drain the filling well so the extra moisture will not make the bun soggy.
Bun – I am using plain or all-purpose flour here and some readers have made it with gluten-free raising flour blend with great results.
Unsweetened plant-based milk vs water – I find no major difference in either ingredient other than plant-based milk may create a denser dough with a ‘milky’ aroma. Opt for a lighter version such as almond or hemp.
Active dry vs Instant yeast – Both yielded great fluffy buns but the former will need to be activated with warm water before use.
Pan-fried Steamed Buns FAQ
Here are some that I found when testing the recipe along with comments from the readers. I hope these are helpful:
Can I sauté the vegetables instead? Yes, simply sauté your veggies of choice with protein or mushrooms, then season it accordingly. Be sure to drain them well before use.
Yeast – As mentioned above, both active dry and instant work great in this recipe. The active dry version needs to be activated in sugared water. If there are no foams at the top after 10 minutes, then, your active dry yeast has expired. When working with yeast, be sure to not add them directly in salt as it will kill the yeast.
I can’t have yeast – Yeast helps make the bao fluffy but I understand that some may have allergy concerns. A great option is to use baking powder and I have tested this on my steamed bun which worked really well albeit with the less fluffy texture. Use about 1 teaspoon of baking powder for every cup of flour. Or you can try my No Yeast Crispy Bottom buns recipe.
Can I knead the dough by hand? Yes, place the flour on a cleaned surface like a mound. Create a space in the middle using your palm or the bottom of a bowl so you can add the yeast mixture. Slowly combine the flour with the yeast mixture and knead it into a soft dough.
Can I just steam the buns? Sure, if you want to skip the pan-fried, you can steam these buns using a bamboo steamer and turn them into steamed bao.
My buns collapsed as soon as I remove the lid – This usually happens when you roll out the dough too thin or didn’t remove as much air bubbles when you roll it into a wrapper. A little shrink at the top is completely normal though.
How to store these buns? Once you’ve filled up the buns, lay them in on layer on a baking sheet, then freeze until hardened. Remove and store them in a bag. To cook the buns, do not thaw the buns and simply follow the same cooking step in this recipe with just a tad more water.
Check out my other recipes
These Pan-fried Steamed Buns are
- Filled with delicious and juicy vegetables
- Easily customizable
- Delicious with a crispy bottom
- and SCRUMPTIOUS!
If you try this recipe, I would love to hear your feedback and see your beautiful re-creation. Leave me a comment, rate it, and tag @woon.heng and #woonheng to your photos on Instagram or Facebook. Happy cooking, friends!
Pan-fried Steamed Buns ‘生煎包’ (Sheng Jian Bao)
- Nut milk bag
- 240 g all-purpose flour or plain flour
- 3 teaspoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon instant yeast
- ⅔ cup warm unsweetened plant-based milk or water think of bathwater temperature
- a pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon oil
- 1 lb [450g] zucchini
- 1 small carrot
- ¼ cup sliced mushrooms
- 2 stalks of scallions/green onions chopped
- oil for cooking
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon white pepper
- ½ teaspoon salt
- chopped green onions
- black and white sesame seeds
Option 1: Knead the dough with a mixer
- Mix sugar and yeast in warm water/unsweetened plant-based milk until well-combined. If this is the first time using your yeast, let the mixture sit for about 10 minutes. If you see a foamy top, then, your yeast is good, if not, then it’s expired.
- Mix flour and salt until well-combined in a large mixing bowl. Then, add in the yeast mixture and oil.
- Using a dough hook, knead the mixture into a soft dough. Transfer dough onto a cleaned surface until knead until you get a smooth top.
- Place the dough back in the bowl, cover with a lid, and proof until double its size.
Option 2: Knead the dough with hand
- Mix sugar and yeast in warm water/unsweetened plant-based milk until well-combined.
- Place flour and salt on a cleaned surface like a mound.
- Using your palm or a bottom of a bowl, make a hole in the middle. Slowly pour in the yeast mixture while bringing the flour from the side to the middle.
- Knead into a soft and smooth dough then place it in a bowl. Cover and let it proof until double its size.
How to make the filling
- First, shred zucchini into a bowl and massage it with 1 teaspoon of salt. Cover and let it rest for 30 minutes to draw out the moisture.
- Meanwhile, in a heated non-stick pan with a drizzle oil, sauté mushrooms until aromatic. Set aside.
- Shred carrot into a small bowl.
- After 30 minutes, place zucchini in a nutmilk bag and squeeze out all the liquid. Transfer the drained zucchini into a large bowl.
- Add the carrot, mushrooms, and chopped onions. Season accordingly.
How to make the buns
- Transfer proofed dough onto a cleaned surface, roll it into a log and divide into 14 equal portions. Then, roll each dough into a ball and set aside, covered.
- Work with one dough at a time. Roll out the dough into about 5" oblong shape, then fold the dough into half. Roll it out again and fold for the second time. This step is to remove as many air bubbles as possible. (See Notes)
- Then, roll the folded dough into a circular wrapper.
- Fill the middle of the wrapper with a spoonful of filling, then pleat to seal. Set aside, covered and continue with the rest of the dough.
How to cook the buns
- Heat a 10" non-stick pan and add about ½ tablespoon oil.
- Place the buns pleated side down in one layer and cook until the bottom turns slightly golden over low med heat.
- Add about 1 cup of water, place a lid over and cook until all water has evaporated. Then, turn off the heat.
How to serve
- Once the buns are done cooking, place a plate in the pan, and flip to remove or remove the buns with a spatula. Serve warm with your favorite sauces.
- If you prefer not to roll out the dough and fold, once you cut them into 14 portions, knead each ball again to remove as many air bubbles as possible.
- I am using a 10″ pan which is just the right fit for all the buns. If you have a smaller pan, try to fit as many buns in it as possible, leaving only a small gap in between (check my video for visual picture). On the other hand, if you have a larger pan, place buns closer to the middle of the pan.
- I used 1 cup of water which when added cover about 1cm of the buns’ height.
Hi, I absolutely love your blog! I have tried maybe a dozen recipes, out of these Curry Laksa is my favourite so far. I made it when I had Covid, when I was lovesick and on my birthday!
My goal is to cook one of your recipes every Sunday. These buns look perfect, because my flatmate brings home dozens of Zucchinis the size of healthy newborns from his mom’s garden.
Since you don’t have a ton of spices in the fillings seasoning, I was wondering what sauce you could recommend to serve them with? I am quite overwhelmed by the amount of different sauces in the store and can’t tell what would be the best combination with these buns.
Thanks a lot for sharing your recipes in such a well-explained and pretty way!
Hi Julia, hope you are doing well. Happy New Year to you. Thank you so much for your love on the curry laksa and so glad to hear you are feeling better. The zucchini pockets or zucchini buns are flavorful by itself but if you like to pair it with condiment for a spicy kick, you can use sambal oelek with a little lime juice or Thai sweet chili sauce with cilantro and lime juice as well. Hope this helps. Best of luck.
HI, I just wanted to say that your recipe looks good and very yummy. I’m going to have to try to make it. I was wondering, do you consider this recipe easy to make for those who have never made pan-fried steam buns? Also, what is nut milk bag use for?
Hello. These look great. I’d love to try them. Can leftovers keep in the fridge for the next day? How long can they keep in the fridge? Thanks!
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Sooooo delicious!! I’ve made your other pan fried buns (green bean filling) and these were just as good. Perfect fluffy dough and yummy filling. Love your recipes!!
yay, thanks so much El. I’m so happy you liked this recipe and the no yeast version. Thank YOU! Hope you get to try some other recipes soon. Best, WoonHeng
I cooked last night they were amazing but I have some more, how I can frozen it?
Yay, thanks so much Maria. You can freeze them after they’ve been cooked. You can resteam when ready to eat. If you prefer the microwave method, please wrap the bun with a moist towel then heat for about 1 minute until the inside is warm. Please don’t microwave for too long. Hope this helps.
Thank you for the recipe and the detailed demo.
I saw in some recipes using both yeast and baking powder.
Can you explain the reason for using both?
Hi Esther, thanks for reaching out. The baking powder is to increase the fluff.
The recipe and photos are drool worthy! Just tried them today, I loved it, thank you. Most of my buns were great but a couple of them just shrank no fluff like stuffed dumplings , I don’t know why.
I used a filling of soya meat, carrots and mushroom & I’ve bookmarked the recipe to try again, thanks!
Thanks a lot, Vanya. I’m so happy you liked the recipe. When you roll out the dough too thin or the filling has too much moisture, it will shrink. To have a fluffy bun, you’ll want to have more dough. Hope that helps and thanks for bookmarking. 🙂 Best, WoonHeng
Hello. These look great. I’d love to try them. Can leftovers keep in the fridge for the next day? How long can they keep in the fridge? Thanks!
I am so glad I found this website! I have recently moved to a plant-based diet and was looking for some new ideas to add so fun and flavor to my food and this looks amazing. I cannot wait to try some of these recipes! Thanks for sharing these and look forward to more.
Thanks so much Meridith, I can’t wait to see your amazing creations too. Let me know if you have any questions at all. Best, WoonHeng
Would these work if I fried both sides, rather than steaming? I was in Hefei in 2004 and ate loads of what we called Baozi, and they were fried on both sides in what I think was chilli oil. They were delicious but I have never found a recipe for them. They didn’t seem steamed at all, but perhaps they were steamed first, then fried? There was no crimping on them – they looked like doughnuts really.
Hey Kate, yes, it will. Please use low heat and make sure the dough is properly cooked. Some recipes really use minimal steaming to cook the dough and then use pan fry to crisp them up. Sounds like your baozi are pan-fried buns. Hope you give this a try and let me know how it goes or you can try the no yeast buns as well. Thank you. Let know if you have any other questions at all. Best, WoonHeng
Super tasty!! Worked out really nice. Will make these again, for sure!
Many thanks Louisa. So glad you these worked out well for you. yay! Have a beautiful day. Best, WoonHeng
Asian cuisine is my favorite, but I’ve never been able to make it at home. Woonheng makes it easy with her delicious recipes that are better than takeout. This is one of my favorite recipes. I’ve made them twice and they are delicious and easy to make.
Aww, thanks so much, Heather! I’m so so happy to hear that you’ve made this recipe twice and turned out well. Many thanks for sharing your feedback with us. Hope you get to try other recipes soon. Have a beautiful day! Best, WoonHeng
I absolutely loved this recipe!! It was challenging but so much fun to make! I used zucchini, carrots and peppers in mine, and it was delicious! I definitely will add some tofu next time, because I want to work on my technique. Thank you for this awesome recipe!
Thanks so much, Audree. So glad this recipe worked out for you and happy to hear that you enjoyed making it. It’s definitely the recipe that I get to use lots of zucchini. 🙂 Hope you get to try other recipes soon. Much appreciated. Best, WoonHeng
How long and at what temp would you bake these
You wouldn’t bake them. They are pan fried steamed dumplings. Not baked dumplings.
Love it! I have attempted this twice but with sourdough instead of yeast and baked them once. Both the times turned out delicious!! Thank you for your wonderful recipes and detailed and easy instructions.
Yay! Thanks so much for your sharing your great experience. I love sourdough and I need to give it a try too. yay! Many thanks for your lovely support. Stay safe and have a beautiful day. Best, WoonHeng
How much sourdough starter did you use? I regularly bake sourdough bread so I’m keen to try that too!
We recently finished renovating our kitchen (during Covid lockdown/don’t recommend) but am thrilled to have a better space to expand our dinner options. This is definitely on the “short-list”! Thanks for such clear instruction. We will attempt this tonight💜
That’s awesome, I bet your kitchen is so functional and pretty now. 🙂 Many thanks for your feedback and let me know if you have any questions at all. best, WoonHeng
Wow that recipe is great and will make more soon for sure!!😄 Thanks so much for sharing it with us🙏🏼
Yay, thanks so much for letting me know. Really grateful to hear you’ll make some soon. Best, WoonHeng
I absolutely love this recipe!!!! You are a magician!
One question: is the 1c of water more of an estimate depending on your pan? My buns were swimming in water….
Many many thanks. I’m sure yours were amazing. Yes, I was using 12″ pan so for 1 cup, it just enough to cook the buns. In the future, once you see the buns are fully cooked through (fluffed up), then you can remove the lid and let the water evaporate to crisp up the bottom layer. 🙂 Hope that helps. Let me know if you have any other questions at all. Best, WoonHeng
Hello Ashely, apologies, it was a 10″ inch pan. Thank you.
Made these tonight and it was so fun! Do you have any recommendations on sauces to try? Thank you!
Thanks so much Olivia! So excited to hear you like it. You can use a chili oil with sediment in soy sauce or black vinegar with ginger slices. Let me know if you need anything else. 🙂
Could these buns possibly be baked in an oven?
Hello there, yes you can, you’ll get a crispy crust. Before baking, please brush the buns with oil. Hope you like it. Happy cooking. Best, WoonHeng
I see in your comment above that you used a 12″ pan. Perhaps you could edit your recipe where it says 10″? I was wondering why I didn’t have enough space in my 10″ pan.
Thanks for pointing out my pan’s measurement, really appreciate it. It was indeed a 10″ pan (Ozeri) and you want them to be close so they don’t collapse easily. Thanks a lot.
Is it possible that sourdough would work with this recipe?
Hi there, that’s a great question, I don’t see why not. Let me know how it turns out and happy cooking! Best, WoonHeng
We made these as a small celebration meal. Oh my gosh….what a joy! The instructions were very easy to follow. At the end, we both squealed with delight when we flipped them onto a plate and saw how beautiful they looked. The crispy outside combined with the soft, fluffy inside of the bun was perfect. So delicious! Yes, we are definitely food nerds 🙂 And you, WoonHeng, made us feel like rock stars. Thank You!!
woohoo, thanks so much dear. I am so glad to hear this recipe turned out so well for you. You are a rock star already (I didn’t help at all :-)) I hope you get to try more recipes soon. Wishing you and family a wonderful year ahead. Stay safe. Best regards, WoonHeng
I made these to celebrate New Year’s Eve. They were a little more time consuming than I thought but they were worth it! I don’t have a food scale, but ended up using just under 2 cups of flour to make the soft dough consistency. When I flipped them over they looked just as good as the photos. Thank you WoonHeng, I’m loving your recipes 🙂
That’s so awesome Elizabeth! thank you for your wonderful feedback. I’m so happy you loved it. Thanks so much and wishing you and family a wonderful year ahead. Best, WoonHeng
I made these and was so proud of myself! They were delicious. The filling was delightfully savory. A definite winner!
That’s wonderful! Many thanks for giving this recipe a try. It’s a regular dish I love to make for my family too. Hope you’ll make it again soon. Best, WoonHeng
After watching the video, the instructions were so clear these weren’t too hard to make. I think I got them pretty close to right and they were a real treat. This is such a great recipe, thank you so much!
I tried this last night, so fluffy and crispy at the same time. Perfect recipe to eat a lot of veggies. Thanks for an amazing recipe again!
thanks so much! I hope you’ll make them again. 🙂
I made these tonight and they were amazing! I couldn’t get the dough perfectly circular but the fry-then-steam method was so forgiving it didn’t matter.
A Chinese friend of mine used to bring me loads of homecooked food to try and it was always affordable and packed with flavour and vegetables. I’ve made so many dishes trying (unsuccessfully) to recreate that homecooked flavour and this is easily the closest I’ve come! Definitely making them again to improve my dough rolling and experiment with more fillings.
woohoo Caitlin! Thanks so much and I’m really happy to hear that you liked them and was your successful one. YAY! this makes me so happy. Thanks again and hope you get to try other recipes soon. Happy cooking and have a beautiful day! Best, WoonHeng
Thank you very much Nina!