Go Back
+ servings
Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Vegan Sambal Tofu Bun

This sambal tofu bun is my vegan take on my childhood favorite sambal ikan bilis (anchovies) buns from the Asian bakeries and street stalls. The tofu is air-fried until crispy and once it's added to the sambal mixture, it creates an amazing chewiness similar to biting into the real thing.
Prep Time1 hr
Cook Time40 mins
Resting Time1 hr
Total Time2 hrs 40 mins
Course: Appetizer, Breakfast
Cuisine: Asian, Malaysian
Keyword: Buns
Servings: 8 small buns
Author: woonheng



  • 245 g [~2cups] all-purpose flour
  • cup [150ml] water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • teaspoon yeast
  • ¼ teaspoon salt


  • cup homemade* sambal
  • 7 oz firm tofu
  • 1 large [300g] red onion thinly sliced
  • ¼ teaspoon salt plus more to taste
  • ¾ cup water or vegetable stock
  • oil for cooking

Egg wash and topping

  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened soy or oat milk
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • Toasted white sesame seeds for sprinkling
  • softened vegan butter


Make the dough

  • Combine flour, yeast, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl, then stir to combine. I prefer to mix the salt in first, then sugar and yeast next.
  • Add the water and mix using a rubber spatula or rolling pin until there are no dry spots of flour in the bowl. If the dough is still too wet, add a tablespoon of flour. If the dough is too dry, add a tablespoon of water instead until you can gather the dough together.
  • Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and knead until a smooth top forms.
  • Place the dough back into the bowl and cover with a lid. Then, proof until double its original size, about 40-60 minutes depending on the weather.

Cook the filling

  • Next, prepare the filling by slicing the tofu into thin strips, about 1cmm thick.
  • To air-fry the tofu, grease the air-fryer inner rack. Place the tofu in the greased rack and brush a thin layer of oil at the top.
  • Air-fry at 350F until golden brown, about 8-10 minutes. Empty into a plate and set it aside.
  • Then, heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat and add a tablespoon of oil. Sauté onion until translucent, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the sambal and salt, then stir to combine.
  • Now, add the water or vegetable stock and tofu strips. Give is quick stir and cover the pan with a lid.
  • Simmer the mixture until all water has been absorbed. Taste and season with more salt or sugar accordingly. Set aside and let it cool completely, then divide it into 8 portions.

Assemble the bun

  • Grease a 8X11" baking pan with softened butter.
  • To assemble the bun, transfer proofed dough to a floured surface.
  • Knead a few times to remove large air bubbles, and divide the dough into 8 equal portions (about 50g each)
  • Work with one dough at a time and cover the rest with a damp towel.
  • Take a dough and flatten it with your palm. Dust your rolling pin with flour and roll the dough out to about 4- to 5- inch in diameter.
  • Place a filling portion in the middle and bring the sides to the middle and pinch to seal.
  • Place the buns, seam-side down, on the greased baking pan, slightly apart. Cover with a kitchen towel and proof for 15 minutes while you preheat the oven to 375°F.

Cook the bun

  • To make the vegan egg wash, whisk together milk and maple syrup in a bowl until combined.
  • Brush the proofed buns with the wash and sprinkle the center of the buns with toasted sesame seeds.
  • Bake until golden brown, about 30-35 minutes. To get a shinier look, brush the cooked buns with melted butter right after you remove them from the oven. This step also prevents the buns from drying out.



  • For the homemade sambal recipe, please check out my Nasi Lemak Bungkus post
  • If you are using other sambal or red curry paste, always start with the smallest quantity, such as 1-2 tablespoons. Then, adjust as you go.