Chinese bao buns (pronounced ‘bow’) are slightly sweet, steamed fluffy dough pockets filled with a savory treat. Traditionally the buns are made using yeast in the dough, which requires kneading and rising before steaming. Since most of us are time poor, this version is a quicker ‘cheats’ version. As the dough has a sweetness to it, the filling benefits from a powerful punch of flavor provided by the sticky hoisin eggplant.

Simple Bao Buns with Hoisin Eggplant and Quick Pickled Carrot [Vegan]

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Cooking Time



For the Pickled Carrots:

  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon caster (superfine) sugar
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks

For the Buns:

  • 7 oz self-raising (self-rising) flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 tablespoon agave syrup
  • 1 teaspoon flaked sea salt
  • sunflower or rapeseed (canola) oil, for brushing

For the Filling:

  • 1 tablespoon sunflower or rapeseed (canola) oil
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 large eggplant, cut into 1 cm/ 1/2 inch dice
  • 5 spring onions (scallions), thickly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds, to serve


For the Pickled Carrots:

  1. First of all, pickle the carrot. Put the vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring so the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and pour over the carrot. Mix well and set aside for the carrot to ‘pickle’.

For the Buns:

  1. To make the bao buns, mix the fl our, honey or agave syrup, salt and 100ml/3½ fl oz/scant ½ cup cold water until it forms a soft pliable dough. Dust the worktop with a little flour and knead the dough for a few minutes until it becomes smooth. Divide equally into 8 pieces and roll each one out to form an oval shape about 10 x 5cm/4½ x 2 inches. Brush the surface lightly with oil and fold in half. Continue with the remaining dough.
  2. Set up a steamer to cook the buns. If you have a bamboo one, that is great as the excess moisture gets absorbed into the wood. If you
  3. are using a metal steamer on top of a pan, put a piece of baking parchment in the base of the steamer and wrap the lid in a clean tea towel to absorb excess moisture and prevent the buns becoming soggy. Sit the buns slightly apart from one another in the steamer. Cover with a lid and steam for 10 minutes until puffed up and bouncy when lightly pressed.
  4. Meanwhile, make the filling. Heat the oils in a frying pan. Add the eggplant and toss around until golden and tender, adding a splash of water if it starts to burn. Add the spring onions and fry for a minute or so before adding the hoisin sauce and 2 tablespoons water. Cook for a couple of minutes until the sauce becomes thick and gives a sticky coating to the eggplant.
  5. Once the bao buns are cooked, remove from the steamer, gently open up and fill with the sticky aubergine mixture and some pickled carrot. Scatter with sesame seeds and serve hot.

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