Make homemade BBQ Pork Buns (Baked Char Siu Bao) from scratch with flavor-packed grilled pork tenderloin inside a light and airy roll for a full dim sum experience at home.
The first time I had Char Siu Bao was in San Francisco. My husband and I were on vacation and had dim sum at a little place in Chinatown. When I first tried these delightful pork-stuffed buns, it was love at first bite.
Now, we love to make them at home! It’s easier than you think, and always so satisfying to pull a tray of beautiful pork buns out of the oven.
Update: This is a special and fun recipe to make for friends and family. We’ve updated the post with trouble-shooting tips and cooking tricks to ensure that making char siu bao at home is as seamless as it is delicious.
You can find most of the ingredients for Char Siu Bao in the international section of your grocery store. Of course, Asian specialty stores are another fun place to discover these ingredients and others.
Two of the ingredients might be new to you:
- Shaoxing cooking wine is a rice wine used often in Chinese and Cantonese recipes. Shaoxing is specific to the region in which it is made, just like Champagne is from Champagne, France. If you can’t find Shaoxing, any rice wine or even dry sherry will work.
- Chinese five-spice powder is a fragrant spice blend that includes cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and anise.
How to Make Cantonese Char Siu Bao
There are two components to this recipe. First, the filling made with grilled diced pork that’s been marinated in a flavorful Cantonese marinade. The second component is a fluffy yeasted dough you’ll turn into a pillowy wrapper for your char siu.
Grilled Char Siu Filling
While there are plenty of different ways you can cook the meat filling for these buns, I love to grill the pork. The barbecue gives the meat a delightful charring on the edges that adds flavor and texture to the bao filling.
You can also cook the marinated pork tenderloin in the oven if you prefer it roasted.
Whether you grill or roast the pork, be sure to baste it several times with reserved marinade as it cooks. On the grill, turn the meat every 5 minutes to ensure that all sides have a nice char to them.
It’s helpful to use a meat thermometer to know when the meat is done cooking. One end of the tenderloin will probably be thinner and will cook faster. Insert your thermometer into the thickest part of the tenderloin. When it registers 145°F, remove the meat from the grill.
I hope you’ll give this one a try. It’s well worth the effort.
Making Char Siu Filling
Once the meat is cooked, finely dice it to make the bao filling. When cooking the filling, be sure to stir it frequently to avoid burning. Then transfer the filling to a bowl to cool fully to room temperature before you fill the buns.
How to Make Dough for Char Siu Bao
The first step to making the dough is to activate the yeast. This recipe uses active dry yeast. If you add it to warm water and sugar as directed in the recipe and the mixture doesn’t get foamy within 10 to 15 minutes, the yeast might be too old. Dough made with old yeast will not rise properly.
After you mix the dough, which will be very sticky, knead it until the dough is smooth and stretchy. Flour your hands as necessary to keep the dough from sticking too much as you work.
The dough should then rise until it’s doubled in bulk. This can take up to two hours on a cooler day, but check it after an hour. Then deflate the dough and you’re ready to assemble and bake the buns.
Filling and Shaping Bao Buns
This recipe makes 12 bao buns, so divide the dough into 12 roughly equal-sized pieces. You can use a kitchen scale if you want to be exact.
Flatten each portion of dough into a 2-inch circle. Working with one piece at a time, take hold of the edges and gently stretch the dough so the circle becomes another inch larger. This will leave a small hump in the center of each round. This thicker part helps prevent the buns from cracking in the oven.
Fill each dough round with a heaping tablespoon of pork filling. Then bring the outer edges of the dough up and over the filling. Pinch the edges together on top to seal the bun closed.
Even though you made a yeasted dough, there is no second rise before baking the buns.
Simply place the buns seam side down on a baking sheet and brush with egg wash. The more egg you add, the darker your buns will turn in the oven. For a subtle golden shine, use a light, even hand for the egg wash.
These are best served hot out of the oven. Just let them cool for about 10 minutes before taking a bite.
This recipe makes extra filling, so If you have meat lovers in your crowd, why not serve it on the side?
For dipping, I like to pair it with Panda Express Orange Sauce, which is now available at most grocery stores. You can make a copycat Orange Chicken Sauce at home, or a simple dish of Hoisin sauce is a nice accompaniment too.
Storing Char Siu Bao Buns
Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to three days.
To reheat, microwave each pork bun for 15 to 20 seconds at a time until just heated through.
If you love wrapping dumplings and buns, try these recipes next:
- Baked Southwestern Egg Rolls are an American spin on this favorite Chinese take out item.
- Strawberry Cheesecake Wontons turn wonton wrappers into a pillowy and creamy dessert.
- Pressure Cooker Asian Steamed Dumplings from Pressure Cooking Today make a moist and delicious appetizer using an Instant Pot.
- Homemade Pork Wontons from Two Sleevers is another flavorful Chinese recipe to try ASAP.
This recipe was originally created as part of a Daring Cooks challenge from Sara of Belly Rumbles!
CHAR SIU (CANTONESE BBQ PORK)
- 2 pork fillet/tenderloin (mine weighed 1.8 pounds)*
- 4 large cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 teaspoon ginger, grated
- 1 tablespoon peanut oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons maltose (or substitute honey)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce (or substitute dark soy sauce)
- 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon oyster sauce (omit for shellfish allergies)
- 1 tablespoon shaoxing cooking wine
- 1/2 teaspoon ground white or black pepper
- pinch of salt
- ½ teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
- ½ teaspoon sesame oil
- ½ teaspoon pillar box red food colouring (I used about 1/8 teaspoon gel food coloring)
BAKED CHAR SIU BAO (Chinese BBQ PORK BUN) FILLING
- 12 ounces char siu, finely diced
- 2 green onions, finely sliced
- 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
- 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon corn flour
- 1/4 cup chicken stock
- 1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 1/4 teaspoons (1 package) active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 egg, slightly beaten
- 3 tablespoons oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Egg wash: 1 egg beaten with a dash of water
- If necessary, trim the pork loin to remove fat and tendon. Slice lengthwise so you have four long pieces, then cut in half. By cutting the pork into smaller pieces to marinate, you will end up with more flavorsome char siu. If you want to leave the pork in one piece you can do this as well.
- Place the meat in a container for marinating. Combine all of the remaining ingredients in a separate bowl and mix well to combine. Microwave the maltose in for a few seconds to make it easier to work with. Cover the pork well with 3/4 of the marinade mixture. Marinate for a minimum of 4 hours, or up to overnight. Turn the pork several times for even marinating
- Place the reserved 1/4 of the marinade, covered, in the fridge. You will use this as a baste when cooking the pork.
- Preheat a girl to medium. Place the marinated pork loin on the grill and cook for approximately 15 minutes, until cooked through (145ºF), turning frequently and basting occasionally with the reserved marinade. Watch it closely to avoid burning.
- Dice the char siu to make the bao filling.
- BAKED CHAR SIU BAO (CANTONESE BBQ PORK BUN)
- Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or large skillet. Add the diced char siu and stir, then add the spring onions and cook for 1 minute.
- Add the hoisin sauce, soy sauce and sesame oil and stir fry for one minute.
- In a small bowl, combine the corn flour and stock together and then add to the pork mixture. Stir well and cook until the mixture thickens, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Transfer the mixture to a bowl to cool.
- BUN DIRECTIONS:
- Lightly grease a large mixing bowl for rising the dough.
- Place the sugar and warm water in a small bowl and mix until the sugar has dissolved. Sprinkle the yeast on top and leave it for 10 to 15 minutes until it becomes all frothy.
- Sift the flour into a large bowl. Add the yeast mixture, egg, oil, and salt and stir. Bring the flour mixture together with your hands. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for approximately 10 minutes. The dough should be smooth and slightly elastic.
- Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Leave to rise until it is double in size. This will take 1 to 2 hours, depending on weather conditions.
- Preheat the oven to 400º F.
- Once the dough has doubled in size, knock it back with your fist and divide into 12 portions. Shape them into round balls. Use a rolling pin to roll the balls flat, about 2 inches in diameter. Then pick each piece of dough up and gently pull the edges to enlarge to about 3 inches in diameter. This keeps the dough slightly thicker in the center, which prevents them from splitting on top as they cook.
- Place a heaping tablespoon of filling in the center of each dough circle. Then gather the edges and seal your bun closed on top. Place the bun seal side down on a baking tray.
- Continue with the remaining dough. Once all buns are complete, brush them with egg wash.
- Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
*Made twice as much Char Siu as called for in the bun recipe, so I doubled the filling ingredients and froze half to make another day.
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