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Chinese Steamed Custard Buns

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Bao or baozi is a type of steamed filled bun or bread-like bun (often made with yeast) in Chinese cuisines. There are countless number of variations to the fillings and methods of preparing these buns. These buns are similar to the traditional Chinese mantou, they can be stuffed with meat or vegetables and sweet fillings. Buns are most frequently served in a push cart in Yum Cha restaurants as dim sums and they are often dished up in a bamboo steamer comprising of 3 buns.

Gluten Free Chinese Custard Buns

gf Chinese Custard Buns

There are many different variation of buns available, the fillings can be sweet or savoury. The variety of buns include the all-time favourite dim sum char siu bao, sweet red bean paste buns (doushabao), lotus seed bun, custard buns (naihuangbao), black sesame paste buns (zhimabao), pork buns (bah-pau), large bao (normally filled with pork, eggs and vegetables), tangbaozi (soup-filled buns), shaobao (filled with any fillings of chicken, pork or salted eggs) and Shanghai xiaolongbao. There’s also another variation of bun popular in Malaysia and Singapore called kaya bao (fillings made with kaya jam prepared with coconut, eggs and pandan). Other variety of mantou include shengjian mantou, a small Shanghai fried mantou stuffed with minced meat.  For my gluten free recipe of sweet custard buns, I am using custard powder, agave sugar, gluten free corn (maize) starch, maple syrup and vegan butter for the sweet fillings. My recipes is also vegan, dairy free, soy free, egg free, nut free, refined sugar free and allergy friendly.

Chinese Sweet Custard Buns

According to a legendary folktale, bao were created by a Chinese scholar and military strategist named Zhuge Liang in the Three Kingdoms era during AD220-280, when China was divided and ruled by three-party states of Wei, Wu and Shu, after the Han dynasty and before the Jin dynasty. While in many different parts of contemporary China with different Chinese cultures, buns are an extremely popular food staple and are broadly available. Buns are most commonly eaten for breakfast and as a snack or even as a meal itself.

Chinese Custard Buns

Disclosure Statement: I am NOT paid by Orgran or Nuttelex for this post.

GF Chinese Sweet Custard Buns

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12 Responses

  1. Lisa
    | Reply


    I tried this recipe and LOVED it. This is one thing I dearly miss since developing a wheat allergy. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe! Have you had luck making these with any other GF flours? I have run out of the Orgran and cannot find it in stock :(

    • daphnegoh
      | Reply

      Hi Lisa,

      Thanks for your good feedback. If you can’t find Orgran gf self-raising flour, you can try buying online or use other good brands of gf self-raising flour like Bobs Red Mill, Well & Good and YesYouCan, all availale online. They should all work well. :)

  2. abcdee80
    | Reply

    I am a little confused as the allergen information says yeast, yet there is no yeast in the ingredients that I can see. am I missing something?

    • daphnegoh
      | Reply

      You are correct, there is no yeast in the ingredients list. I have removed yeast and included corn (maize) as an allergen instead. Thanks for pointing this error out. :)

  3. Brytanny
    | Reply


    So I have a few questions:
    Can I use honey instead of Agave sugar? If I should stick with agave sugar should it be liquid or granules? (have a hard time finding granules)

    and last I am planning on using bob red mill’s active dry yeast, would that work?

    Thanks so much!

    • daphnegoh
      | Reply

      Hi Brytanny,

      You can use honey instead of agave sugar. Alternatively 2 1/2 tablespoons agave syrup for 50g agave sugar will be better.

      Any active dry yeast will be ok for this recipe. :)

  4. Jen
    | Reply

    This looks amazing! But wil this work with the same non-gluten-free ingredients? I don’t have any of these ingredients.
    Thanks :)

    • daphnegoh
      | Reply

      This will definitely work with gluten ingredients. It is always easier to work with gluten as it has elasticity and rise easily. The only thing I would do differently is to add the rice milk gradually until you get a smooth dough. You can also substitute for soy milk if you prefer. :)

  5. Nayna Kanabar
    | Reply

    I have never tried steamed buns but these certainly look wonderfully delicious.

    • daphnegoh
      | Reply

      If you have dim sums in a Chinese yum cha restaurant, they normally serve steamed char siu bao, sweet custard buns is another version of baos. Hope you get to try steamed buns soon, as they are really delicious indeed. :)

  6. Kate @ VeggieDesserts
    | Reply

    These steamed custard buns look and sound amazing. It’s so nice that you’ve also told some of the history behind them!

    • daphnegoh
      | Reply

      I love to know and write about history and origin of all kinds of food/cuisines, just make them a little more special in a way. :)

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