Steam Buns Without a Steamer: 7 EASY Methods TO TRY NOW!


You want to steam some frozen buns but you don’t own a steamer. It makes you ask Is there a way on how to steam buns without a steamer?

Short answer:

Yes! You don’t need a steamer all the time to steam buns. The alternative involves the instant pot method, rice cooker method, oven method, pan method, microwave method, electric steamer method, and metal steamer.

In this post, let’s discuss the following points:

Read on!

What Are Buns?

A bun is a bread roll that is normally filled with savory fillings.

They are typically not sweet but in certain parts of the world, a bun is referred to as a sweet cake.

They can come in several shapes and different sizes; however, a bun is typically round and hand-sized.

Bao buns (alternative name: steam buns) are a warm, fluffy, and delicious treat that contains a savory filling found inside a sweet, white dough.

The ingredients of bao buns include a mix of yeast, flour, baking powder, milk, sugar, and oil.

And yes, you’ll basically need to use a steamer before consumption.

  • Fun fact: Somehow, bao buns are like a relative to dumplings, being only a tad sweeter. Just think of it as a bread-like dumpling that contains a filling.

What Are the Different Types of Buns?

For each type of buns, you have several varieties of fillings to choose from!

However, when it comes to Bao buns (steamed buns), they normally contain savory meat fillings and they come in different kinds!

On the other hand, there are bao buns for vegetarians as well.

Meat bao

image of Meat bao
  • Cha Siu bao – A bao bun that is with barbecue pork filling. 
  • Xiaolongbao – A bao bun with juicy broth and various meats fillings.
  • Shengjian mantou – A bao bun with meat filling but they are fried instead of being steamed.
  • Shaobao – A bao bun with chicken or shrimp filling.
  • Bah-pau – A bao bun with pork filling

Non-meat bao

image of Non-meat bao
  • Tangbaozi – A bao bun with a savory broth filling and come in bigger sizes than the average. Interestingly, you will need to sip the broth through a straw before you can eat the bun. 
  • Doushabao – A bao bun with a sweet bean paste filling. The bean paste consists of soybean, azuki, mung, or navy bean. 
  • Lianrongbao – A bao bun with a lotus seed paste filling. It is normally more expensive than the sweet bean paste. After all, lotus seeds are expensive1 
  • Kaya baozi – A bao bun with coconut and egg jam filling. It is the sweetest of all the bao buns. 
  • Nai Huang – A bao bun that is filled with a sweet custard. It is made up of custard powder, corn flour, sugar, butter, and vanilla.
  • Cai bao – A bao that is filled with various vegetables.
  • Zhimabao – A bao that is filled with black sesame paste. Because the roasted sesame seeds are roasted, the bao has a nutty flavor.

How To Steam Buns Without a Steamer?

image of Without a Steamer

When people think about steaming buns (Bao), they normally opt to use a steamer.

But what if you don’t have one?

Fortunately, bao buns you can cook buns without a steamer!

Just as how you have many roads leading to one destination, there are several methods available that lead to the same steamed bun.

The following are a few methods on how to steam buns without using a steamer.

1. Instant Pot Method

What is an instant pot? It is a version of an electric cooker.

What’s the principle behind a pressure cooker?

While placed over the fire, it creates heat while the instant pot is tightly sealed.

As a result, it makes the temperature higher than that of the boiling point.

Here’s what you need to do for the instant pot method:

  1. First, add 1 cup of water to the inner part of the Instant Pot. Place a metal trivet (tripod-like structure) in the bottom of the pot.
  2. Next, add the Bao buns to a plate, a steamer basket, or a pan. Place it onto the trivet.
  3. Then, close the lid and let it steam for about 3 minutes. Follow up with a quick release of pressure.
  4. Enjoy!

2. In Rice Cooker Method

A rice cooker works by using the water to rice ratio.

When the cooking starts, it heats the water and converts it to steam.

The steam itself is what cooks the rice.

Here’s how to do the rice cooker method if you wish you cook your buns:

  1. First, add 1½ cups of water to the rice cooker.
  2. Then, add the buns and place them 1-inch from each other.
  3. Next, let the bao steam for about 8 minutes.
  4. After that, simmer the heat and let them sit for another 8 minutes. (Gives enough time for the steam to cook them)
  5. Lastly, release pressure and enjoy.

3. In Oven Method

To use the oven to steam bao buns, you will need a perf pan, 2 hotel pans, and parchment paper. The procedure is as follows:

  1. Firstly, cut the parchment paper into small squares to match your bao buns.
  2. Secondly, add a small quantity of water to the bottom pan (hotel pan).
  3. Then, position the perforated pan on top of the water.
  4. Next, place each bao bun, on the square piece of paper, on the perforated pan insert
  5. After that, cover the bao buns with the other hotel pan.
  6. Lastly, close the oven and heat for about 10-12 minutes.

Furthermore, you can prepare about 25-30 bao buns with this setup!

4. In a Pan method

It is also possible to prepare bao buns using a pan.

However, if not careful, a few problems might arise when using a pan.

The inside of a pan can retain condensation, which might drip down and make the Bao bun soggy.

To prevent this, the procedure is as follows:

  1. Use a small amount of water and fill the pan to a few inches.
  2. Place a sieve in the pan. Ensure it is not submerged in the water.
  3. Place bao buns on cooking/parchment paper and place them in the sieve.
  4. Cover with the lid. Tea towels can be used to make it airtight.
  5. Turn on the stove to the highest heat and let it stay about 10 minutes.

5. In Microwave Method

Yes, it is possible to use a microwave to prepare bao buns.

However, you will need to get yourself a container for steaming (a bowl with a lid and steamer basket).

The procedure is as follows:

  1. Use about 2-3 glasses of water to fill the steaming container.
  2. Place the bao buns into the steaming basket and then cover the steaming container.
  3. Place the container into the microwave and cook for a few minutes until ready.

6. Bao Buns in Electric Steamer

Another alternative method to the bamboo steamer is using an electric steamer.

This method resembles the bamboo steaming method, but it has a few differences. The procedure is as follows:

  1. Prepare the dough and let it rise. (Or get pre-prepaid buns)
  2. Switch on the steamer and allow water to boil.
  3. Cut parchment paper into small squares to match your bao buns.
  4. Using a non-stick spray, spray the cut paper before placing bao buns on them.
  5. Place the bao buns into the steamer and close the lid.
  6. Wrap the lid with a towel and a rubber band to keep it airtight.
  7. Steam buns for about 8-12 minutes.

7. Steam Bao Buns in a Metal Steamer

If you do not have a bamboo steamer, you can also use a metal steamer as an alternative.

If you can’t get obtain a metal steamer for whatever reasons, you can even make a make-shift version.

It is relatively simple. All you need is a large, deep skillet, and aluminum foil.

  1. Place your deep skillet on the stove.
  2. Add water and bring to boiling.
  3. Tear small pieces of aluminum foil, crush them into balls and add them to the skillet as you heat the water. (Act as non-flammable support)
  4. Place a heatproof plate into the skillet on top of the aluminum balls.
  5. Cut parchment paper into small squares to match your bao buns.
  6. Place the bao buns unto the plate and close the lid.
  7. Wrap the lid with a towel and a rubber band to keep it airtight.
  8. Steam for a few minutes until ready.

How To Know When Steamed Buns Are Done?

Not sure if your bao buns are ready? Well, here are a few simple steps that can help you. 

1. Visual

After steaming, bao buns will increase a little in size as the dough rises. It will also look a little smooth on the surface.

2. Feel

The bao will feel airy and light when picked up. It will no longer be heavy and dense like before they went in. 

3. Finger test 

When you use your finger to gently push on the bao bun, an indentation will be seen but will slowly vanish as the dough springs back.

If it snaps back too quickly, then it needs a little more time. If it doesn’t spring back, then it is overcooked. 

Note: You should steam bao buns until they have risen and are fluffy and light. They should be smooth on the surface and firm to the touch. 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How are buns made?

Buns typically consist of a mix of yeast, flour, baking powder, milk, sugar, and oil. Here’s how to basically make buns:

  • Mix the yeast with two-three cups of flour.
  • Add enough water and other ingredients to make a soft dough.
  • Shape the dough into slightly flat balls.
  • Place balls on a greased baking sheet.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 °F (200 °C) and add the dough.
  • Bake for about 12-15 minutes.

2. Can you cook steam buns in an air fryer?

Yes, you can use the air fryer to steam buns! Just follow this simple procedure.

  • Add the bao buns to the air fryer.
  • Ensure they have enough space between them to cook properly.
  • Air fry at 360 °F (180 °C) for 8 minutes.
  • Enjoy!

4. Can I freeze steamed buns?

Yes, you can freeze steamed buns.

Just use the microwave method to reheat cold or frozen bao buns.

That way, it will prevent your buns from becoming too crispy.

5. Can I steam bao buns in advance?

Yes, you can steam Bao buns in advance.

You can prepare the buns one week before eating them.

Plus, you can store them in a freezer and re-steamed them for 3 minutes before serving.

Take Away

Bao buns is a delicacy for several years in certain cultures.

They are readily available online and in certain cookshops and supermarkets.

However, you might not have the time to visit a cook shop or maybe you just don’t like eating out.

Well, if you own an oven, microwave, stovetop, or rice cooker, chances are you can make it yourself with the kitchenware you have at home. It’s as simple as that.

Good luck and happy feasting!

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