Vegan Bao Buns with Tempeh, Peanuts and Zingy Red Cabbage Slaw

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Vegan Bao Buns with Tempeh, Peanuts and Zingy Red Cabbage Slaw

These fluffy vegan bao buns with tempeh are a recipe to try at the weekend when you have a little more time, or if you’re cooking for a crowd. They are surprisingly easy (and fun!) to make at home.

Here we have paired them with peanut tempeh and a fresh citrus slaw, but you can try them with so many different fillings.

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To make this tempeh bao recipe, you will need a bamboo steamer which you can find online or in most Asian supermarkets. They’re also great for when you’re making vegan duck pancakes too.

So what are bao buns? They’re steamed buns made from a white dough that are traditionally filled with pork, but which can be filled with anything you like!

Made with a mix of flour, yeast, sugar, baking powder, milk and oil, it’s easy to make vegan bao buns by swapping the milk to your favourite plant milk.

Making these vegan bao buns is simple. First you’ll combine all of the dry ingredients for the bao in a bowl before slowing stirring in the milk.

However, because the buns are made from yeast, you will need to make sure that the milk is not hot otherwise you won’t achieve fluffy vegan bao buns.

Then you’ll use your hands to form the bao dough into a ball before kneading until a smooth dough has formed.

The vegan bao bun dough needs to rise, so leave it somewhere warm until it had doubled in size and give it a quick knead once it has.

You can then roll the dough into 10 small balls and roll them out into oval shapes. Then, fold the ovals of dough in half and place a piece of baking paper in the middle to stop them sticking together.

Leave the dough for another 30 minutes to ensure you have light, fluffy vegan bao buns that hold their shape when steamed. You can prepared the tempeh for your vegan bao while you wait.

Total Time: 1 hour 40 minutes

Prep Time: 30 minutes + proving time

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Servings: 10


Total Time: 1 hour 40 minutes

Servings: 10




(Servings: 10)

  • For the vegan bao:
  • 40 40 g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 2 2 g caster sugar
  • 0.5 0.5 g salt
  • 0.7 0.7 g fast action yeast
  • 0.8 0.8 g baking powder
  • 23 23 ml unsweetened soya milk (or oat milk)
  • Neutral tasting oil, such as rapeseed or vegetable oil
  • For the red cabbage slaw:
  • 0.1 0.1 lime, juice (and zest of ½)
  • 0.1 0.1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 0.1 0.1 tsp tamari
  • 0.2 0.2 garlic cloves, grated or crushed
  • 0.025 0.025 red cabbage (approx. 150g), finely sliced or grated
  • 0.2 0.2 carrots, grated
  • ½ bunch of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
  • For the filling:
  • 0.1 0.1 lime, juice
  • 0.4 0.4 tsp sesame oil
  • 0.2 0.2 tsp maple syrup
  • 0.3 0.3 tsp tamari
  • 0.1 0.1 Tbsp cold water
  • 0.2 0.2 Tbsp peanut butter, unsweetened and runny
  • 0.1 0.1 small clove of garlic, grated or crushed
  • 0.1 0.1 tsp freshly grated ginger
  • 20 20 g tempeh
  • 3 3 g toasted peanuts, crushed
  • To serve:
  • 0.2 0.2 spring onions, finely sliced into long, thin pieces
  • ½ cucumber, sliced into matchsticks
  • Fresh red chilli
  • Sesame seeds


  1. To make the dough: combine all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. In a small pan, heat the milk until it is lukewarm. Careful not to overheat it as if it is too hot it will kill the yeast. 
  3. Add the warm milk to the dry ingredients bowl and bring everything together using your hands to form a ball. If the mixture is too dry add a splash more milk. Dust a clean, flat surface with flour and knead your dough until it is smooth – this should take around 5 minutes. 
  4. Lightly oil a large bowl, place your dough inside, cover with a tea towel and leave somewhere warm to rise. 
  5. When your dough has doubled in size, remove from the bowl onto a floured surface and knead again for around 30 seconds. You just want to knock the air out of it. 
  6. Prepare a large tray with a piece of baking paper on it. 
  7. Divide your dough into 10 pieces (approx. 65g each). With a rolling pin, roll out each piece into an oval shape (approx. 3×4 inches). Fold in half (into a semi circle). Place a small square of baking paper in the middle of each bao and place onto the lined tray. Repeat with all of the pieces, cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm spot for 30 minutes. Make sure there is space between each bao on the tray. 
  8. While you wait for the vegan bao buns to rise, prepare your filling! For the slaw dressing: whisk together juice of 1 lime and the zest of 1/2, sesame oil, tamari, and garlic. Pour the dressing over your shredded cabbage, carrot and coriander and mix together. 
  9. Finely slice the spring onions and cucumber and set aside
  10. Prepare the peanut sauce by whisking together the lime juice, sesame oil, tamari, maple syrup and cold water, then add the peanut butter, garlic and ginger and combine. Depending on the peanut butter you use you may need to loosen the sauce with a little more water. 
  11. Once the bao have risen, place a wok or large pan of boiling water on a medium-high heat and once simmering place your bamboo steamer on top. Remove the small squares of baking paper from the middle of each bao. Pop the baking paper squares inside the steamer and place the bao on top of its square. Cover and steam for 8 minutes. Don’t open the steamer lid while they are cooking. You may have to cook these in batches in order not to overcrowd the steamer.
  12. Whilst the bao cook, prepare the tempeh filling. Heat 1 tablespoon of sesame oil on a low-medium heat and once warm crumble in the tempeh with a pinch of salt. Cook until the tempeh starts to brown. If it gets too dry add a little water so it steams in the pan. Once the tempeh is cooked, remove from the heat and stir in the peanut sauce and crushed peanuts.  
  13. Assemble your bao immediately – they are best when they are hot and fresh out the steamer. Fill with the tempeh, slaw, spring onion and cucumber. For an extra kick add some fresh red chilli, and finish with a sprinkle of sesame seeds.

Looking for more ways to use tempeh?

You have to try these smoky tempeh burgers!

Written by

Sadie Albuquerque

Sadie is a plant-based chef who loves to create innovative dishes using mostly whole foods and celebrate ingredients in a natural way. She recently graduated from Le Cordon Bleu with a Diploma in plant-based cooking, and is so excited to share recipes that encourage people to eat more plants.

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