Vegan friendly 5 spice mushroom steamed buns

steamed buns filled with mushroom 5 spice and hoisin laying on a dark background


Although you can buy ready made steamed buns, it is even more delicious if you make them yourself. You have total control of all the ingredients you put in the steamed buns, another great advantage of home cooking! Unintentional this recipe is totally vegan friendly, the mushrooms tend to give it a nice bite and the Chinese 5 spice blend lift the flavors up to another level. In this recipe I used a mix of oyster mushroom, shimeji and chanterelles. But you can use any kind of mushrooms you prefer or that is in season. 


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steamed bun, a guilty pleasure

Can you relate if I say something like: ‘When I was a teenager I could eat everything without gaining a single pound?’ Ha, well, me neither. Still envy those people. But I could eat a whole lot of sugar and fat infused food, because I danced 24/7. Instant noodles, heaps of white bread buns with avocado and goat cheese, chocolate, popcorn, alcoholic beverages (doorstreept) and off course bakpaos or bao if it may please you (a Indonesian steamed bun). I love these sticky, semi sweet, white, hearty filled white buns. But it’s hard to find ones with tasty and vegetarian fillings.

I think Wouter (read: the husband) recently asked Jora (read: our son from almost 3) if he’d like to eat a bao for lunch/snack/dinner. A little common knowledge of toddlers and you know there could only be one answer; YES! Ok, you’re right, no is a more common answer for a toddler, but not if it is about unknown food that his mommy cooks. I’ve overheard the conversation and therefore I took the challenge: make them some animal friendly steamed bun(s).


snapseedGetting the kids into the kitchen

This steamed bun recipe is a bit time consuming but a nice weekend activity, where you can involve the kids.  His eyes start glow when I ask him to ‘help’ me in the kitchen with this little project -insert proud mommy melting from the inside-. I love that Jora is getting a bit bigger and that we can give him all sort of chores.

  • It grows his self confidence
  • He learns about responsibility
  • He becomes a part of the common good.

All in all, a win-win! A fun activity while learning some basics of life. How fun is learning and educating now ha!

So, after the first proof of the dough he could help me knead the air out. As a result of some left over dough, we could make a ladybug bao. While I molded the dough into a sort of ladybug form , Jora got busy with the chopstick poking some holes into the back of the ‘ladybug’.  He got really excited when I told him the ladybug would grow in the steaming basket.

little boy kneading dough in the kitchen

I made a whole bunch of pictures where Jora proudly holds the plate with the ladybug steamed bun. But because of a thing I call privacy for my kids, I won’t put them all online. Therefore you have to do with these pics ;-). 

ladybug steamed bun on a plate hold by kid


Some tips before making the buns

  • Too accomplish the best tasting steamed bun you have to eat them immediately after preparation, otherwise they will end up stale.

I speak from experience, the family gets a little frustrated from time to time when I want to photograph the food I made before it all ends up in their stomachs. So after steaming, I promised I would be ready in 10 minutes. Iid some quick quick quick styling

  • Knead, knead, knead. You can use a machine, but I’m not in the possession of something like a fancy Kitchen Aid so I used my bare hands. I kneaded for a good 15 maybe 20 minutes before I reached the right elasticity of the dough.
  • You can find hoisin sauce and 5 spice mix in Asian supermarkets. Hoisin sauce is a Chinese reddish-brown sauce that is sweet and salty. It’s based on soy beans, red chilies, garlic and various spices. It is not as spicy as it may seem with the red chilies as main ingredient.The Chinese 5 spice mix consist of star anise, cloves, Chinese cinnamon, Sichuan pepper and fennel seeds.


I love to work with rising dough, do you? If so, maybe you would like this cinnamon bread roll. Totally different flavors than this steamed bun but so tasty. Or looking for a quick and easy recipe? Try making these peanut butter chocolate pretzel cookies.

 steamed buns mushroom 5 spices hoisin in a steaming basket

Vegan friendly 5 spice mushroom steamed buns

These vegan steamed buns are rich flavored with hoisin and 5 spices, stuffed with a mix of mushrooms and sweet potato. The flavor is sweet and salty at the same time, with a little sour hint of the vinegar. A perfect weekend recipe to make with the kids, and let me tell you: kids will love the fluffy bread with the surprise inside. 

Course Main Course
Keyword 5 spice, bao, bapao, buns, hoisin, mushroom, steamed buns, vegan, vegetarian
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
resting time 2 hours 15 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings 10 buns


For the bao’s

  • 200 ml warm water
  • 4 g active dry yeast
  • 285 g flour
  • 150 g cornstarch
  • 60 g granulated sugar
  • 45 g olive oil
  • 2 ½ tsp baking powder

For the filling:

  • 200 g mushroom mix finely chopped
  • 1 handful chives finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • ¼ sweet potato coarsely grated
  • 1 tbsp vinegar rice vinegar recommended
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tsp 5 spice mix
  • 2 tbsp hoisin


To make the dough

  1. In a big bowl dissolve the yeast in the warm water.

  2. Sift together the flour and cornstarch, and add it to the yeast mixture along with the sugar and oil. Kneed with your hands or the mixture until an elastic ball is formed, takes about 15 minutes.

  3. Spread a small amount of oil on the dough ball, and cover the bowl with a damp cloth. Let rest for 2 hours, in the meantime prepare the filling.

Preparation of the filling

  1. Mix chives and sesame oil in a small bowl, set aside.
  2. In a separate bowl mix the vinegar, maple syrup, 5 spice, and hoisin until homogeneous, set aside
  3. In a large skillet add olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
  4. Add mushrooms and saute until tender. Stir in the 5 spice mixture and heat 2 more minutes.
  5. Let the mushrooms cool in a separate bowl and stir in the chives. Let cool until needed.

Making the buns

  1. After your dough has rested for 2 hours, add the baking powder. Mix it in, if the dough feels dry add 1-2 tbsp water and knead until it becomes smooth again. Cover bowl with a damp cloth and rest for another 15 minutes.
  2. Spread out 10 cupcake liners or cut out 10 pieces of 10cm x 10cm parchment paper.
  3. Roll out the dough into a big log and cut into 10 equal pieces. Press each disk into a circle of 10 cm diameter, it should be thicker in the center and thinner around the edges. Adn place the piece of dough onto the cupcake liner or parchment paper.
  4. Add about 1 ½ tbsp of filling and pleat the buns until they’re closed on top.
  5. Bring water to a boil in wok, and reduce heat to medium; the water should still be boiling. Put the buns in a steaming basket leaving 1 to 2 inches between the buns and place the basket into the wok. Cover wok with lid. Steam buns over boiling water for 12 minutes.

Recipe Notes

  • Too accomplish the best taste you have to eat them immediately after preparation, otherwise they will end up stale.
    You can use any kind of mushroom mix. I used a mixture oyster mushroom, shimeji and chanterelles. But please use whatever you like, or what's in season.
  • Need to knead the dough for the given 15 minutes, not less. When you kneed the gluten in the flour will start to work and give the dough the elasticity that you are searching for, giving the bun the preferred fluffiness after steaming.
  • Hoisin sauce, also called Peking sauce, is a thick, reddish-brown sauce that is sweet and spicy, and widely used in Chinese cooking. It's a mixture of soybeans, garlic, chile peppers and various spices. It can be found in Asian markets and many large supermarkets.
  • You can find the Chinese 5 spices mix in Asian markets

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