For all the lovers of Chinese Steamed buns who need a healthy excuse to eat more steamed buns, here’s a simple and perfect Whole Wheat Steamed Buns Recipe that is made with 100% whole wheat flour. The key step in this recipe is preparing the tangzhong, a simple mixture of flour and hot water that softens and hydrates the whole wheat flour before it's added to the rest of the flour and dry ingredients. It's an extra step that does take time and patience, but my ultimate secret to making whole wheat steamed buns soft and tender.
This recipe was loosely adapted from one of my favorite whole-wheat bread recipes that I've been making for many many years. I originally found this recipe here on Food.com, but I believe the original recipe is credited to Jean Sutherland and her recipe on this site The New Homemaker. Like this recipe, Jean uses a pre-ferment (sponge) method to ensure a soft and tender whole wheat bread texture.
Why I love this Recipe
- A soft and tender steamed buns recipe that's made with 100% whole wheat flour
- Easy to make if you have a stand mixer
- No eggs, no milk, no dairy needed!
- Whole wheat flour is higher in fiber, so it keeps you fuller longer
Ingredients Used to Make 100% Whole Wheat Steamed Buns
**I've linked some of these ingredients to amazon.com to give you an idea of what they are, but you should also be able to find them in your local grocery store (usually, the natural & organic food section). They are also affiliate links, which means that I earn a commission as an Amazon Associate if you decide to purchase the items. The price will be the same for you, link or no link 🙂
- Whole Wheat Flour - is made of ground-up wheat, just like white (all purpose or white bread) flour, except that the whole wheat flour includes the whole kernel of wheat (bran, germ and the endosperm), and not just the endosperm which is what makes up white flour. Because whole wheat flour keeps all the fiber and other components of wheat containing many of its key vitamins and minerals, whole wheat flour has more nutrients, more protein and health benefits - but also less tender when used in baked goods and breads.
- To get around this, we'll make a "sponge" from whole wheat flour and water. It allows some of the whole wheat flour to soften and hydrate before it is kneaded into the rest of the flour and dry ingredients, which results in a much softer and tender bread texture.
- Instant Yeast - you can find instant yeast in the baking section near the flours. My favorite is SAF Instant Premium Yeast, which works quickly and consistently produces great results. I recommend using instant yeast over active yeast for this recipe since active yeast (unlike instant yeast) needs to be activated in water, which we don't add until the very end.
- Honey or Maple Syrup - The deep caramel notes of honey and maple syrup pair really well with whole wheat breads in general, but I also find that these liquid sweeteners (especially the more viscous honey) makes the steamed buns more moist and tender than ones made with sugar.
- Salt - Pink Himalayan salt is what I have at home, so it’s what I use, but you can use any kind for this recipe.
- Baking Powder - helps to puff up the dough during the steaming process.
- Vital Wheat Gluten - is often used in low-gluten or whole grain recipes to help improve texture and structure of baked goods. We'll be using a whole ½ cup of vital wheat gluten in this recipe which seems like a lot but will help make these steamed buns fluffy and chewy like those made with white flour. I have not tried omitting this ingredient so substitute at your own risk!
- Olive Oil - I like using light olive oil since it has a neutral flavor, but you can also any cooking oil of your choice like coconut oil, or avocado oil instead
- I used a KitchenAid Stand Mixer with a dough hook to knead the dough. You're also welcome to use a bread machine, or knead the dough by hand.
More Whole Wheat & Oat Recipes
Step by Step Guide
How to Make 100% Whole Wheat Steamed Buns
Prepare the simple tangzhong: in a medium glass mixing bowl, mix 1 cup of whole wheat flour with 2 cups of hot (almost boiling) water and honey/maple syrup using a whisk. Let the mixture sit at room temperature for 1 hour. Set aside.
Mix all the dry ingredients (bread flour, instant yeast, sugar, salt, baking powder)
Add the prepared tangzhong mixture, and start to knead the dough by hand, or if using a stand mixer --> at a low setting (speed 2) for about a minute until the ingredients are just barely combined.
Add the olive oil next, and continue to knead for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until the dough pulls away from the bowl and forms a smooth, supple ball.
Let rise for 60-90 minutes until doubled in size. When the dough is ready, punch down the dough then remove from bowl. Place on a generously floured surface and divide into 10-12 pieces.
Stuff with filling of choice. Pinch together the ends to seal
Cover and let rise for 20-30 minutes. Transfer the buns to the steaming pan, and steam for 15 minutes
Remove from pan and serve warm.
What I Used for Filling
For the whole wheat steamed buns, I used a simple marinated tofu filling made with diced pre-baked tofu and teriyaki sauce.
Different Filling Options
If you want to enjoy these steamed buns with a variety of fillings, there are many fun and delicious filling options to choose from. Here are some ideas!
- Stir Fry Meat or ground meat filling
- Mushroom and veggie filling
- Pizza Filling - Shredded cheese or mozarella cheese with tomato sauce
- Shiro-an (sweetened white bean paste) – on Amazon, here, or here's a Shortcut White Bean Paste Recipe I make when I’ve run out of Shiro An
- Koshi-an (sweetened red bean paste) - on Amazon, here
- Mung Bean paste - sweet and delightfully yellow, homemade mung bean paste is a perfect mochi filling for those who are looking for a healthier bean paste alternative. Here's my 2-Ingredient mung bean paste recipe here
How to Store 100% Whole Wheat Steamed Buns
- These Whole Wheat Steamed Buns can be kept covered at room temperature for up to 24 hours, or in the fridge inside an airtight container for 3-5 days.
- For longer storage, place in an airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months.
- To reheat, re-steam buns in a steamer for about 10 minutes.
NOTE ON SUBSTITUTIONS
- Unfortunately, gluten-free flours cannot be substituted for bread flour in this recipe.
- Weigh your flour for the best results. 1 cup of bread flour = 120 grams / 4.23 oz. This is recommended since scooping the flour directly from the bag can can pack the flour into the measuring cup, and this means you’ll end up with more flour than what’s called for in the recipe. If you don’t have a kitchen scale, you can measure the flour by spooning pre-sifted flour into the measuring cup, then using the straight end of the spoon to level the flour across the top to sweep off the excess.
- To make this recipe in the bread machine: add all the dry ingredients into the machine, stir briefly before adding the wet ingredients. The machine can be set for basic. Check the dough for consistency and adjust by adding additional water (or flour) before the end of the first kneading cycle. If you want to add additional nuts or dried fruits, leave them aside, and only them 3 minutes before the end of the second kneading cycle.
100% Whole Wheat Steamed Buns (Healthier Chinese Tangzhong Baozi Dough)
- 1 cup white whole wheat flour (120 g)
- 2 cups hot water , almost boiling
- ¼ cup honey or maple syrup (84 g)
- Prepare the tangzhong: in a medium glass mixing bowl, mix 1 cup of whole wheat flour with 2 cups of hot (almost boiling) water and honey/maple syrup using a whisk. Let the mixture sit at room temperature for 1 hour. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the other dry ingredients (bread flour, instant yeast, sugar, salt, vital wheat gluten and baking powder).
- Add the prepared tangzhong mixture, and start to knead the dough at a low setting (speed 2) for about a minute.
- Add water one tablespoon at a time*, until all the ingredients are just barely combined, with no dry ingredients remaining.*I used ¼ cup of water, but more may be needed depending on the protein content of the flour, as well as the humidity and temperature of the kitchen. Be sure to add one tablespoon at a time, so you don’t overhydrate the dough.
- Add the olive oil, and continue to knead for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until the dough pulls away from the bowl and forms a smooth, supple ball.
- Remove the finished dough from the mixer bowl and place in a lightly greased bowl.
- Cover and let rise until doubled, about 90-120 minutes***
- When the dough is ready, punch down the dough then remove from bowl. Place on a generously floured surface
- Divide the dough into 12-16 equal sized portions
- Wrap the dough pieces around prepared filling (meat and veggie filling, shredded cheese, etc) and place on a piece of parchment square, or a sheet of steamer paper.
- Let rise for 40-60 minutes.
- Meanwhile, boil water and prepare the steamer
- Transfer the buns to the steaming pan and steam the buns for 15 minutes