In this post, we're focusing on 10+ vegan filling options for steamed buns (bao buns) that are packed with flavor and perfect for those following a plant-based lifestyle. Whether you're a committed vegan or simply looking to explore more plant-powered options, we've got you covered.
**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 Asian grocery store. 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 🙂
Vegan Filings for Steamed Buns
1. Chickpea Curry
If you’re looking for a quick and easy filling meat-free filling recipe that doesn’t compromise on flavor, you can’t go wrong with this easy 3 ingredient chickpea curry filling. I’d highly recommend you pair it with my chickpea steamed buns dough recipe for the best flavor!
For 3-4 buns, mix: 1 can chickpeas, drained, and 1 ½ Tbsp Korean curry powder (or Japanese curry roux paste), and chopped onions. Cook over medium heat until the onions are soft and tender. Add 2-3 Tbsp of water, or as needed, to keep the onions from burning.
For a milder taste, adjust the amount of curry powder. Consider substituting other legumes like lentils or kidney beans for variation.
2. TVP in Korean "Spicy Fried Chicken" Sauce
TVP in Korean Spicy "Fried Chicken" Sauce is a fantastic vegan-friendly filling idea for Chinese steamed buns. This flavorful filling combines textured vegetable protein (TVP) with a deliciously spicy Korean chili paste-based sauce. The sauce, made with gochujang (Korean chili paste), soy sauce, brown sugar, ketchup, garlic, and olive oil, lends a tangy and slightly sweet taste to the TVP. Surprisingly, the combination of these ingredients creates a remarkable flavor reminiscent of Korean fried chicken, even though it's entirely plant-based!
To make the filling, rehydrate 1 cup of TVP with 1 cup of hot water. In a pan, sauté the rehydrated TVP and ¼ cup of the Korean "spicy fried chicken" sauce mixture (which you can buy here on Amazon. Here's the RECIPE for the sauce). Stir and cook until the TVP absorbs the flavors and becomes tender. The result is a mouthwatering filling that offers the irresistible taste of Korean fried chicken in a vegan-friendly way.
3. Konjac in Sweet Soy Sauce
Looking for something unique? Konjac braised in sweet soy sauce is a tasty idea for Chinese steamed buns that just happens to be also vegan-friendly. Konjac is a plant-based ingredient that has a chewy, firm texture that is fun to eat.
For the filling, the konjac is cubed and then cooked in a simple sauce made with sweet soy sauce. You can find the detailed recipe instructions HERE. The recipe is for konjac "steaks," so be sure to dice the konjacs instead and replace the peppers in the recipe with finely chopped scallions.
4. Baked Tofu
Sweet, sticky and umami, this sweet soy sauce baked tofu is a high-protein filling idea that can make each steamed bun fill you up like a whole meal. This filling goes really well with my 100% whole wheat steamed buns dough – check it out, here!
Filling Recipe, for about 6 buns: Cut firm tofu (1 package = 14 oz) into cubes and marinate it in a mixture of 2 Tbsp soy sauce, ½ tsp of grated ginger, 1 tsp of minced garlic, and 2 Tbsp of sweeteners like brown rice syrup or coconut sugar. Allow the tofu to soak up the flavors for at least 30 minutes. Cook the marinated tofu in a skillet until it becomes golden brown. Consider substituting tempeh or seitan for a different protein source.
Koreans love pairing kimchi with everything, even with their steamed bread! Instead of the usual kimchi + pork variation, however, I’ve tried it with mushrooms to keep it vegan.
Filling Recipe, for about 6 steamed buns: ½ cup chopped kimchi, 1 cup chopped oyster mushrooms, ½ cup chopped onions. Heat over medium heat until onions are softened. Add 2-3 Tbsp of water, or as needed, to keep the ingredients from burning.
TIP: Pair this filling with my tofu steamed buns dough. The kimchi and tofu taste great together, and you’ll love the textural contrast of the fluffy dough with the crunchy kimchi pieces.
6. BBQ Jackfruit
If you're looking for a delicious and savory vegan filling with a meaty flavor, why not try a jackfruit BBQ? Jackfruit is the perfect substitute for meat in any recipe, offering a deliciously sweet and smoky experience. With the right combination of sauces and spices, this vegan-friendly recipe can be just as flavorful as traditional meat-based fillings.
To make: Drain and rinse canned young jackfruit, removing any seeds or tough parts. Sauté the jackfruit in a pan and add your favorite barbecue sauce, allowing it to coat the fruit. Cook until the jackfruit becomes tender and easily shreddable. Adjust the sweetness or spiciness of the barbecue sauce according to your taste.
Try pairing it with this coconut cream steamed buns dough (recipe here)
7. Buffalo Cauliflower
Spice things up with a zesty and flavorful filling featuring cauliflower tossed in tangy buffalo sauce. The cauliflower is roasted or air-fried until it becomes tender and slightly crispy. Then, it's coated in a spicy and tangy buffalo sauce, adding a kick of heat and tanginess to the steamed buns.
To Make Cauliflower in Buffalo Sauce: Toss cauliflower florets (from 1 small cauliflower) with oil, salt, and pepper, then roast them in the oven or air fryer until they're golden and crispy. In a separate bowl, mix ⅓ cup hot sauce, 1 Tbsp coconut sugar, and a splash of vinegar to create a buffalo sauce. Toss the roasted cauliflower in the buffalo sauce until well coated. You can also substitute the cauliflower with other veggies like broccoli or Brussels sprouts.
8. Stir-Fried Eggplant
Stir-fried eggplant is a fantastic meat-free filling option for Chinese steamed buns. This flavorful filling of sliced eggplants is quickly stir-fried with minced garlic, soy sauce, and sesame oil. The natural texture of eggplant becomes tender and succulent when cooked, and the rich and savory flavor of this power veggie is surprisingly filling and meaty.
To make the filling, start by slicing 1 medium eggplant into bite-sized pieces and sautée them with 1 Tbsp of minced garlic and 1 Tbsp of sesame oil until golden brown. Drizzle 2 Tbsp of soy sauce over the cooked eggplant, stirring to coat evenly. Spoon this flavorful filling into your Chinese steamed buns for a delightful fusion of textures and flavors.
9. Fried Potatoes with Saffron
This filling showcases the comforting simplicity of fried potatoes infused with the aromatic touch of saffron.
To Make: Add a pinch of saffron threads in 1 Tbsp of warm water for 10 minutes. Set aside. Peel and dice 2 medium golden potatoes into small cubes. Heat oil in a skillet and fry the diced potatoes with 2 Tbsp of coconut oil until they turn golden and crispy on all sides. Season with salt, pepper, and the saffron water. Feel free to experiment with different herbs or spices (like curry powder) to enhance the flavor.
10. Impossible Meat
Curious about plant-based "meat" alternatives? Try the Impossible Meat Filling: Crafted from innovative plant-based ingredients, this filling mimics the taste and texture of traditional meat. Sautéed with onions, garlic, and savory soy sauce, it brings a deliciously satisfying and cruelty-free option to your steamed buns.
To make: Cook plant-based meat (I used 1 package of Ground Impossible Meat) in a skillet with 1 Tbsp oil, 1 small chopped onion, 1 Tbsp of minced garlic, and 1 Tbsp soy sauce or liquid aminos for an umami boost. Add ¼ cup of chopped scallions at the very end. Cook until the "meat" is browned and well seasoned. Substitute with other vegan meat alternatives if preferred. Full Recipe for Impossible Meat Filling is HERE
11. Sautéed Greens (Spinach)
This vegan Chinese steamed bun filling is a delicious and nutritious combination of sautéed spinach, onion, and shitake mushrooms. It's a great way to add a flavorful and healthy twist to your steamed buns.
To make this filling, start by sautéing 1 medium onion and diced shiitake mushrooms in a pan with a bit of olive oil. Once lightly browned, add 4 cups of washed and roughly chopped spinach and cook until it is wilted. Finally, season with salt and pepper to taste and you're ready to fill your steamed buns!
12. Shiitake Mushroom
Sliced shiitake mushrooms soak up the flavors of a sweet soy sauce marinade, creating a savory and slightly sweet filling. Sautéed to perfection, these marinated mushrooms add a delicious umami element to your steamed buns.
Slice shiitake mushrooms and marinate about 3 cups of sliced mushrooms in a mixture of 2 Tbsp soy sauce, 1 tsp of minced garlic, 2 Tbsp mirin, 3 Tbsp brown sugar, and a splash of rice vinegar. Allow the mushrooms to marinate for at least 30 minutes to enhance the flavors. Sauté the mushrooms until they become tender and juicy. You can also use other mushroom varieties like cremini or portobello.
For Sweet Bao Filling ideas --> GO TO PART 1
For Savory (non-vegan) Fillings --> PART 2
Ultimate Savory Steamed Bun Filling Ideas (Part 3: Vegan Fillings)
- 1 Chickpea Curry
- 2 TVP In Korean "Spicy Fried Chicken" Sauce
- 3 Konjac In Sweet Soy Sauce
- 4 Baked Tofu
- 5 Kimchi
- 6 BBQ Jackfruit
- 7 Buffalo Cauliflower
- 8 Stir-Fried Eggplant
- 9 Fried Potatoes with Saffron
- 10 Impossible Meat Filling , click on link to go to recipe
- 11 Sautéed Greens
- 12 Shiitake Mushroom
- The list of fillings above in the ingredients list is actually the recipe link to the fillings! Click to get to the recipe pages.