Pack flavor into tonight’s dinner with these Pulled Mushroom Bao Buns. The light and fluffy dough buns are made complete with saucy mushrooms and paired with pickled red onion, cucumber, and carrots slices!
When you’re in the mood for a hand-held meal but tacos, burgers, and pizza won’t cut it, it’s time to whip out the bao buns! A staple in Chinese cuisine, these are the perfect choice when you want something filling that’s both satisfying and loaded with veggies.
And today, we’re whipping up pulled mushroom bao buns, a vegan version made with all plant-based ingredients! The result is fluffy bun dough and crunchy, satisfying veggies and mushrooms in every bite.
What is bao bun dough made of?
Bao buns come from Chinese cuisine. These wheat flour-based buns traditionally feature a light and fluffy texture that’s as satisfying as a fresh-out-of-the-oven dinner roll!
Bao buns are often compared to dumplings. The thick buns are stuffed with fillings like tempeh, eggplant, seitan, or in our case, mushrooms!
Ingredients in vegan bao buns
If you’ve never used yeast in a recipe, now is your time to learn, as these buns are created with a from-scratch blend of all things good and doughy. Since many of the ingredients overlap with baking, you’ll likely already have nearly all of the items in your pantry!
- Water: The dough will kick off with 1 cup of warm water. You need some sort of liquid to create a dough, and good old water does the trick!
- Sugar: Most doughs and breads contain at least a smidgen of sugar to “feed” the yeast, and this is no different. Use 2 tablespoons.
- Instant Yeast: Next, 1 ¼-oz packet of instant yeast will help the dough rise perfectly.
- Flour: Follow the yeast with 3 cups of all-purpose flour. This will contribute to about 12 buns. We haven’t tested this recipe with gluten-free flours.
- Baking Soda: 1 teaspoon of baking soda will contribute to the fluffiness of the dough.
- Salt: Round out the flavor with 1 teaspoon of salt.
- Oil: Finally, you’ll need 1 tablespoon of a flavorless oil and a bit extra for brushing onto the dough.
Vegan Bao Bun Filling
- Mushrooms: 4 king oyster mushrooms will make up the bulk of the filling. Find them in the refrigerator section of your local Asian supermarket!
- Oil: Use 1 tablespoon of oil to coat the mushrooms. This will help all of the spices stick while crisping the mushrooms to perfection!
- Spices: To add flavor to the mushrooms, use 1 tablespoon of fresh minced ginger, 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika, ¼ teaspoon of salt, and 2 cloves of minced garlic.
- Hoisin Sauce: Include 2 tablespoons of hoisin sauce. This contributes a flavor similar to soy sauce, but sweeter!
- Sriracha: Last but not least, finish off the mushrooms by adding 1 tablespoon of sriracha for spice!
Bao buns can be filled with so many different ingredients, but a few stand out as personal favorites. These include cilantro, pickled red onion, sliced cucumber, and julienne cut carrots!
Are bao buns healthy?
Pulled mushroom bao buns are like most other foods: perfectly fine in moderation! The buns are made with flour, yeast, sugar, water, and a few other ingredients. Like bread, they shouldn’t necessarily be eaten with every meal, but they’re certainly great here and there!
The fillings can be as healthy or unhealthy as you make them. In our case, we’ll be using an über healthy blend of oyster mushrooms, pickled red onions, hydrating cucumber, and antioxidant-packed carrots. The combo hits the veggie mark and supplies nutrients like Vitamins B5, C, and K, folate, iron, calcium, and magnesium, as well as protein and healthy carbs.
How to make Bao Buns
This recipe is made in two parts: the buns and the filling. The bun recipe is a bit more involved as it involves using yeast and letting the dough rise. However, it’s easy to follow (even for beginners – you got this!)
Step 1: Prep the parchment
To begin, cut out 12 squares of parchment paper, about 4×4 inches each. Fish some cupcake liners out of your pantry and use those.
Step 2: Activate the yeast
In a large bowl, stir together the water, sugar, and yeast. Let sit for 5 minutes until the yeast makes the water frothy.
Step 3: Create the dough
In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the water mixture along with the oil. Stir the ingredients until a loose ball forms, and then knead by hand for 5 minutes on a clean surface. If you have a bread hook for a standing mixer, you can use this to knead the dough for 3 minutes.
The dough will be very smooth and feel like elastic when finished kneading.
Step 4: Let the dough rise
Clean out the bowl. Lightly grease it, then set the ball of dough inside. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set it somewhere warm. Allow the dough to rise until it doubles in size, which should take about 1 hour.
Step 5: Shape the buns
Roll the dough out to be ¼ inch thick.* Using a cookie cutter or cup, cut 3- to 4-inch circles out of the dough. Lightly brush the inside of each circle with oil, and then fold the circle in half (the oil will prevent the bun from gluing itself closed while steaming). Flatten and reshape as needed.
Place each piece of folded dough on one of the parchment paper squares or cupcake liners. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for an additional 20 minutes.
*Alternatively, divide the dough into 12 balls and roll each ball into a 4 inch round. This method takes more time but gives you more buns because you’re not wasting the dough left after cutting out the circles.
Step 6: Prep the steaming station
Next, bring a pot of water to a simmer with a steamer basket set over it. Wrap a towel around the underside of the lid to catch excess steam.
Step 7: Steam the buns
Working in batches, transfer the buns (and their parchment paper) into a single layer in the steam basket. Cover with the towel-wrapped lid and let steam undisturbed for 10 minutes or until puffy and cooked through.
Vegan Bao Bun Filling
Step 1: Shred the mushrooms
First, preheat the oven to 400°F (204°C). Clean the mushrooms with a damp paper towel. Using two forks, shred the stems and caps roughly into pieces and set the pieces on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
Step 2: Flavor and bake the mushrooms
Drizzle the mushroom pieces with the oil, ginger, paprika, salt, and garlic, and toss everything around to evenly coat. Bake for 20 minutes or until the mushrooms are a bit crispy and brown on the edges. Finally, stir in the hoisin sauce and sriracha.
Bao Bun Recipe Tips
The great thing about this recipe is that it can be filled with whatever you’d like. Some people enjoy them with seitan or tempeh, and others love to pack in veggies like onions, carrots, cucumbers, water chestnuts, peppers, or other veggies. You can even add eggs!
For a make-ahead meal, prep the mushroom filling ahead of time. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator, and reheat on the stove when ready to enjoy!
Before storing, allow leftover buns to sit at room temperature until cool. Transfer them to an airtight container and refrigerate. To reheat, wrap each bun in a damp paper towel and microwave for 20 seconds until warm.
What to pair with bao buns
Whether you’re looking for something light and refreshing or want a heartier side, these options should check all of the boxes! Each option is filled with healthy ingredients that pair well with the mushroom-filled buns.
- Avocado Soup: This thick and creamy soup with a hint of lime flavor is perfect with the buns!
- Radish Salad: Load up on veggies, herbs, and even some pomegranate seeds with this light and fruity salad.
- Tomato Gazpacho: For something hearty, gazpacho makes a great pairing option!
- Roasted Chickpea Stuffed Avocados: Choose from three types of stuffed avocados (bean, chickpea “tuna,” or grain) for a side filled with healthy fats and nutrients.
- 1 cup warm water 236 mL
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- 1 ¼-oz packet instant yeast 7 g
- 3 cups all-purpose flour 360 g
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp flavorless oil plus more for brushing, 15 mL
Vegan Bao Bun Filling
- 4 king oyster mushrooms
- 1 Tbsp oil 15 mL
- 1 Tbsp fresh minced ginger
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 Tbsp hoisin sauce 30 g
- 1 Tbsp sriracha 15 g
- Additional filling ideas: cilantro, pickled red onion, sliced cucumber, julienne cut carrots
- Prep: Cut out 12 squares of parchment paper, about 4×4 inches each. (Alternatively, use cupcake liners.)
- Activate Yeast: In a large bowl, stir together water, sugar, and yeast. Let sit for 5 minutes, until yeast makes the water frothy.
- Combine: In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and salt. Add flour mixture to water mixture, along with oil. Stir until a loose ball forms, then turn onto a clean surface and knead by hand for 5 minutes (or 3 minutes with the bread hook of a standing mixer). Dough will be very smooth and elastic when finished kneading.
- Rise: Clean out the bowl and lightly grease it, then set the ball of dough inside. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set somewhere warm. Allow dough to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- Shape: Roll dough out to be ¼ inch thick*. Cut 3 to 4 inch circles out (using a cookie cutter or a cup). Lightly brush the inside of each circle with oil, then fold the circle half (the oil will prevent the bun from glueing itself closed while steaming). Flatten and reshape as needed. Place each folded dough on a parchment paper square (or cupcake liner). Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 20 minutes.
- Prep Steaming Station: Bring a pot of water to a simmer with a steamer basket set over it. Wrap a towel around the underside of the lid to catch excess steam.
- Steam: Working in batches, transfer buns (and their parchment paper) in a single layer into the steaming basket. Cover with the towel-wrapped lid and let steam, undisturbed, for 10 minutes, or until puffy and cooked through.
Vegan Bao Bun Filling
- Shred Mushrooms: Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C). Clean mushrooms with a damp paper towel. Using two forks, shred the stems and caps roughly into pieces. Set on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
- Bake: Drizzle with the oil, ginger, paprika, salt, and garlic. Toss around to evenly coat the mushrooms, then bake for 20 minutes, or until mushrooms are a bit crispy and brown on the edges. Stir in hoisin and sriracha.