Steamed buns are delicious, fluffy bread rolls that are often served as an appetizer or snack food in East Asia. The dough for the steamed buns may be plain and simple, but options for steamed buns filling are just about endless--from sweet fillings like red bean paste to savory kinds like pork and veggies, you can never know what you're getting into until you take that first scrumptious bite.
Here are 10+ filling ideas for steamed buns that I made for my own reference, as well as for others who are looking for new and fun ways to make them.
Custard is a creamy and sweet pudding-like dessert that is made with milk, sugar and eggs. It tastes amazing on its own, but it's also a very popular add-in for desserts and pastries, including Asian sweet breads and steamed buns. While you can make vanilla custard using custard powder, it's not too difficult to make the custard at home since it's mostly made with milk, eggs and sugar.
- How to Buy: Custard Powder (Amazon)
- How to Make: Here's a shortcut microwave custard recipe I used for my steamed buns, here. For a more traditional custard filling, I recommend the custard recipes from What to Cook Today (here), and Ominvore's Cookbook (here).
[NEW**]Here's a Vegan Custard Recipe made with Almond Milk
2. Sweet Red Bean Paste
One of the most widely used filling in steamed buns is the sweet red bean paste. Red bean paste (also called Koshi An) is a thick and smooth sweet paste made from cooked adzuki red beans that’s been pureed and then cooked down with sugar. The sweetened red bean paste has a sweet almost syrupy flavor with mild earthy notes. It has a creamy and hearty texture that pairs perfectly with East Asian dessert recipes, especially those made with rice flour.
I usually purchase my red bean paste from my local Asian grocery store, but you can also buy them on Amazon, here
- How to Buy: Koshi An (Amazon)
- How to Make: Here's a recipe by Just One Cookbook, as well as a Pressure Cooker Bean Paste Recipe by Chopstick Chronicles
3. Crunchy Peanut Butter
This steamed buns filling recipe uses peanut butter and chopped nuts to create a crunchy and savory filling that you won't be able to get enough of.
- How to Make: Mix creamy peanut butter with equal amounts of chopped nuts until evenly mixed.
4. Sweet White Bean Paste (a.k.a. Shiro An)
Fudgy and sweet, white bean paste is a perfect filling for steamed buns. It’s a hugely popular ingredient in East Asia and widely used in Asian confectionary and desserts like mochi, sweetbreads, cookies as well as steamed buns. Unfortunately, it’s not always stocked in most Asian grocery stores. Here’s one brand you can purchase on Amazon (here).
- How to Buy: Shiro An (Amazon)
- How to Make: Here's a Shortcut White Bean Paste Recipe I make when I’ve run out of Shiro An
5. Coffee Bean Paste
Coffee Bean Paste is a delicious twist on the sweet white bean paste that you can make at home! Sweet, bitter and rich, this smooth coffee-flavored paste is made of sweetened white beans and coffee extract. Coffee lovers are sure to love this versatile recipe — it can be used for spreads, stuffings, and fillings for steamed buns, like my coffee flavored steamed buns below.
- How to Make: Here’s my recipe for the 2-Ingredient Coffee Bean Paste (커피앙금) for Spreads and Mochi Filling
6. Black Sesame Paste
Nutty and sweet, black sesame is a delicious filling that can be used in many different types of desserts and snacks, including mochi, mochi and steamed buns. It’s also a healthy and nutritious ingredient because of its high calcium content and antioxidants and is also an excellent source of protein, calcium, iron, zinc, vitamin E and B6. Try making your own black sesame filling for your next steamed buns filling.
- How to Make: Easy 3-Ingredient Black Sesame Paste
7. Mung Bean Paste
Mung beans have a mildly sweet flavor that can be used in both savory dishes and in desserts, and they pair perfectly with steamed buns.
Unfortunately, mung beans are not commonly sold in stores in paste form, so, you do have to start from the dried beans—but I think it’s worth the extra time and effort. Homemade mung bean paste is easy to make and so much healthier than storebought bean pastes or lotus pastes since the homemade kind uses less sugar and is also free from preservatives and other additives.
- How to Buy: the dried mung beans are sold in Amazon, here
- How to Make: Here’s my recipe for the 2-ingredient sweet mung bean paste (link to recipe)!
8. Chocolate Fillings (3 ways)
Who doesn't love chocolate? Thankfully, there are a couple of chocolate-filling options for steamed buns. We'll cover 4 of them here, below:
- How to Buy: any chocolate hazelnut spread will do. Nutella is the most popular option, but if you're looking for a vegan-friendly chocolate spread, try this Nutiva brand instead!
- How to Make: Here’s my recipe for these chocolate steamed buns (link to recipe)!
Chocolate Pastry Cream, or Chocolate Pudding
Creamy and soft, this Chocolate Pastry Cream is a mouthwatering filling option for steamed buns, and less guilt-inducing than the plain Nutella filling. Here's a vegan chocolate pastry cream I used to fill these Chocolate Steamed Buns recipe.
We all know that red bean paste and mochi go well together, but inside a steamed bun? It's absolutely amazing. These Japanese-styled tofu steamed buns are soft and fluffy on the outside, and sweet and chewy on the inside– all thanks to the sweet red bean paste filling and a pre-cooked mochi filling that is so easy to prepare in the microwave.
- How to Make: Full recipe for the mochi filling here
11. Mashed Sweet Potato (Purple or Orange)
The thick creamy texture of the baked sweet potatoes is a wonderful filling for steamed buns.While the orange sweet potatoes work as well, purple sweet potatoes are a great alternative to the classic orange variety. They have a similar texture and taste, but with more nutrients and antioxidants.
- How to Make: Purple Sweet Potato Filling Recipe for Mochi, Mooncakes and Steamed Buns --> recipe here
12. Pumpkin Spice Bean Paste Filling
This spicy and sweet pumpkin spice mochi filling is so easy to make and bursting with all the best flavors of fall! It only requires 3 ingredients: pumpkin puree, sweet white bean paste, and pumpkin spice.
- How to Make: Here’s my recipe for the Easy Pumpkin Spice Filling
13. Lotus Paste
Lotus seed paste is a signature filling for mooncakes, but they also work for steamed buns, too!
I usually purchase my lotus seed paste from my local Asian grocery store, but you can also buy them on Amazon, here
- How to Buy: Lotus Seed Paste (Amazon)
- How to Make: Here's an authentic lotus seed paste recipe by Huang's Kitchen that I like!
14. Pistachio Cream Filling
This decadent custard filling is infused with the sweet, nutty flavor of pistachio butter! The velvety texture is perfectly suited for dessert bao buns and can be served just as is with fresh fruit. You'll love it just fine as a standalone dessert but you can also pair it with your favorite fresh fruit for a delightful explosion of flavors!
- How to Make: Here's my recipe for the Vegan Pistachio Butter Custard Filling
15. Apple Pie Filling
Apple pie with steamed buns? Why not? This flavorful, fall-inspired steamed bun filling uses diced granny smith apples, brown sugar and cinnamon to create a sweet and soft apple filling that is one of my favorite ways to enjoy steamed buns during apple picking season.
- How to Make: 10 MINUTE CINNAMON SUGAR COOKED APPLE PIE TOPPING --> Follow this recipe, but dice the apples instead
16. Taro Paste
Sweet taro paste is a delicious and healthier choice for filling Chinese steamed buns. To make, taro is steamed and blended into a smooth and luscious paste. Taro tea powder is added to get the signature pale purple-pink color of taro, but for those seeking a more natural alternative, a bit of mashed ube (purple yam) can also be used to achieve a similar hue.
- How to Make: Here's an easy Sweet Taro Paste Recipe that I used
Looking for Savory Fillings? --> GO TO PART 2
For Vegan Fillings, go to PART 3
10+ Sweet Fillings for Steamed Buns - Ideas & Recipes
- 1 CUSTARD FILLING click on the link to go to the recipe
- 1 SWEET RED BEAN PASTE FILLING*
- 1 SWEET WHITE BEAN PASTE FILLING** click on the link to go to the recipe
- 1 CRUNCHY PEANUT BUTTER FILLING click on the link to go to the recipe
- 1 BLACK SESAME FILLING click on the link to go to the recipe
- 1 COFFEE BEAN PASTE click on the link to go to the recipe
- 1 MUNG BEAN PASTE FILLING click on the link to go to the recipe
- 1 MATCHA MUNG BEAN PASTE FILLING click on the link to go to the recipe
- 1 MASHED SWEET POTATO FILLING click on the link to go to the recipe
- 1 MOCHI FILLING click on the link to go to the recipe
- 1 CHOCOLATE PB POWDER FILLING click on the link to go to the recipe
- 1 PUMPKIN SPICE PASTE FILLING click on the link to go to the recipe
- The list of fillings above in the ingredients list is actually the recipe link to the fillings! Click to get to the recipe pages.