These Jackfruit Bao are pillowy soft steamed buns filled with delicious Five Spice Jackfruit that’s crispy around the edges and meaty inside. You may have heard of guà bāo [割包 / 刈包], a Taiwanese street food that was the hot trendy food thing a while back. They’re cute little puffy steamed buns enveloping braised meat, with cilantro, pickled mustard greens and sprinkled with sweet ground peanuts. The perfect thing to veganize and make a bit healthier, in my opinion. Click here to skip the ramble and find the printable recipe.
Jackfruit Bao | Vegan Guà Bāo Video Tutorial
How to Make Bao Dough Easily
You may remember my steamed bun recipe from a couple years ago. The recipe for these bao is the same; still just flour, water, yeast and sugar. Same simple techniques but this time I’m using my Ninja Mega Kitchen System’s food processor with dough attachment to make things easier on my hands. Making bread with the help of this machine is so easy and quick! I wish I had made the switch sooner!
While fresh and homemade is best, my tendinitis has taught me that it is totally okay, fine and good to take store-bought short cuts. If you have a well-stocked Asian market near you, you can probably find plain steamed buns in the frozen section. You may want to check the ingredients; sometimes they contain lard.
While I simply folded the dough before steaming in these photos, placing a little square of parchment between the folds will make it easier to fill your bao.
Jackfruit Bao Filling
I’ve mentioned before that I’m not the biggest green jackfruit fan. That is, I’ve had it in Chinese vegetarian savoury dishes as a kid and hated it. Also tried a few vegan pulled pork recipes with it and also didn’t like it. I could taste the jackfruit’s slight fruity flavour underneath and I didn’t feel that BBQ sauce was enough to cover it. For my own jackfruit recipes, I broke it down and rinsed it several times to get rid of the flavour. But for this recipe, there isn’t thorough rinsing, squeezing and re-rinsing.
I was actually trying to see if I could make pork floss out of jackfruit when I sliced it thin and tested it with several marinade blends. I wasn’t able to achieve the texture that I was aiming for but I was blown away be the flavour of one of the batches. And so these vegan guà bāo were born.
The last recipe I posted with Chinese Five Spice was Pan-Fried Chinese Five Spice Tofu. I love the flavour of Chinese Five Spice. The mix varies slightly based on the region of China it comes from but the one I have includes cinnamon, cloves, star anise, ginger, and fennel. If you’ve ever had Peking Duck or Chinese BBQ Pork, you’ve tasted Five Spice. Along with maple syrup, dark soy sauce and tangy Chinese black vinegar, the slightly fruity flavour of green jackfruit isn’t covered up. Instead, the flavours complement each other in a mouthwatering combination.
Recipes using Chinese Five Spice:
Baking jackfuit produces a meatiness that is tender and succulent with crispy toasty bits around the edges and thinner pieces. And because the slices are so thin, the marinade is able to sink in all the way through. I “tested” this recipe a few more times than usual just because I wanted to snack on them right off the tray!
Regular guà bāo is made with braised pork belly; very fatty. This vegan guà bāo is much lower in fat with a texture more like lean meat than a fatty cut. But really, this jackfruit isn’t trying to be meat. It’s its own delicious thing.
The only downside to jackfruit is that it doesn’t have very much protein. So these jackfruit bao make a really good appetizer but aren’t substantial enough for a meal. At least for me. If you’re looking for that, try using firm or extra firm tofu instead. It won’t have the same meaty texture as jackfruit but it will still be good. Tofu is even blander than green jackfruit so add a splash more soy sauce or an extra dash of salt.
I recently tried this recipe using thawed frozen tofu. The tiny pockets left by freezing tofu allows you to squeeze even more water out to make a drier tofu. Then the marinade can get deep inside the tofu. After baking, the texture and flavour was unbelievable. It was a “stand in front of the oven and nom all the food, trying not to burn fingers or tongue” moment. I couldn’t help myself!
But the Five Spice Jackfruit/Tofu is even better once in fresh steamed buns with all the fixings. Guà bāo usually has pickled mustard greens or other Taiwanese pickled vegetables. In Chinese, it’s called 酸菜 (suān cài); literally sour vegetable. It’s made in a similar way to kimchi but even easier! Also, like kimchi, there are lots of regional varieties. This one is super salty and I love it on rice. Also good on hot dogs. But I’m trying not to have so many hot dogs these days. Since the flavour is so strong, you only need a little bit.
Garnishes for Jackfruit Bao
Cilantro adds a fresh herbaceous touch. But if you don’t like cilantro, you can use any fresh green you like. Parsley would be nice; scallion greens too.
Mayonnaise isn’t really a normal ingredient for guà bāo but I love my aquafaba mayo. Use it if you like; I think it makes everything better.
To finish off the jackfruit bao, sprinkle on sweet ground peanuts. It adds the perfect finishing touch of crunchy texture against the tender jackfruit and soft steamed bun.
Do you like Asian recipes like this? I’m planning on posting lots of vegan Asian recipes this so if you’re not subscribed, please do! Sign up for email updates (form in sidebar) or subscribe on YouTube.
If you are serving these for later, like say you’re taking them to a potluck or something, store the jackfruit and condiments separately and let the steamed buns cool completely at room temperature before placing them in a container lined with paper towel or a clean cloth; otherwise, they will get soggy. And definitely serve the buns on the same day. The jackfruit will be good up to a week in the fridge but steamed buns not so much. They might still be passable the next day, but I wouldn’t push it.
Printable recipe for Vegan Guà Bāo [割包] | Five Spice Jackfruit Buns – US
For steamed bao (buns)
- 1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons warm water (105-110°F)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour (5.29oz)
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon instant yeast*
For five spice jackfruit
- 1 20oz can of green jackfruit
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons Chinese black vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon dark soy sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 1/4 cup roasted peanuts
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- chopped cilantro
- pickled mustard
- vegan mayonnaise
Start the steamed bun dough
In a food processor with dough attachment or mixer, combine flour, water, sugar, and instant yeast and mix until a dough ball forms and knead a few minutes. If you're making this manually, mix the ingredients in a large bowl. It will be sticky but do your best to knead it a few times, using the least amount of flour on your hands and work surface to keep it manageable.
Cover the dough and let rise for an hour or until doubled in size. The dough will be sticky so make sure the cover you use won't stick to it. For example, use well-floured plastic wrap, a damp cloth, or let it stay in the food processor. Meanwhile, start on the jackfruit.
Marinate the jackfruit
Drain and rinse the jackfruit, then pat dry. Slice into thin pieces 1/8" thick or less. In a large bowl combine the marinade ingredients except for the oil. Add the jackfruit to the bowl and mix well. Add the oil last and mix well. Set aside and let marinate for at least 30 minutes. You can refrigerate it for food safety.
Shape the buns
After the dough has doubled in size, knock the air out by giving it another spin in the food processor/mixer. Or press the air out with clean, lightly floured hands. Turn the dough out on to a clean, lightly floured work surface. Knead a few times, then roll into a evenly sized log shape so you can divide the dough into eight pieces. Place the pieces on the parchment paper cut-outs for easy handling. Also cut out 8 small squares of parchment paper for later.
Shape each piece by gathering the edges into the middle and pinching. Then turn the puckered side down and with your palm on top, roll in a circular motion to created a smooth ball shape. Then flatten with a rolling pin to create flat rounds about 4" in diameter.
Pull on one edge of a round to create an oblong shape. Place a piece of parchment on one side and fold the dough over in half to create a taco-like shape with the parchment in between. Repeat with all pieces. Then cover and let rise for an hour or until at least doubled or tripled in size. After you have shaped the buns, it is likely time to bake the jackfruit.
Bake the jackfruit
Preheat oven to 350°F. Place the marinated jackfruit pieces on a parchment lined baking sheet. Spread the jackfruit out so it can bake evenly. Bake in preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, flipping half way through. While they are baking, you can prepare your condiments.
This is a good time to prepare your jackfruit gua bao fixings. Chop your cilantro, chop pickled mustard greens if yours are not pre-chopped, and prepare the ground peanuts. Blend the peanuts with 1 teaspoon of sugar until it turns into a gritty powder. Do not over process or it will turn into peanut butter.
Steam the buns
When the buns have puffed up to at least double or triple in size, prepare the next step. If you are freezing the buns for later, check the notes at the bottom of this recipe. If not, prepare your steaming apparatus and heat water to boiling. Meanwhile, transfer the dough into steaming baskets while taking care not to deflate them. Make sure to leave enough room for them to expand further.
When the water has come to a rolling boil, turn the heat down slightly (mark 8, high heat), and place the steamer basket(s). Steam for 15 minutes, then remove the steamer baskets form the heat. Do not take off the lid. Let rest for at least five minutes before removing the lid and assembling the Jackfruit Bao.
Assemble the vegan guàbao (jackfruit bao)
Remove the parchment paper from the fold and fill each with warm jackfruit, a small amount of pickled mustard, cilantro, and top with sweet ground peanuts. Vegan mayonnaise is optional.
- Yeast: I use instant yeast in this recipe. If you want to use traditional dry active yeast (not-instant), dissolve 1 teaspoon in the warm water along with the sugar. Let it bloom before adding to the flour. Then proceed as normal.
- Jackfruit Alternatives: For a higher protein bao, you can substitute with tofu. Extra firm or firm tofu works best. Slice it thin and lay flat on a dry clean cloth to remove excess moisture. You can also press it. Add an extra splash of soy sauce or salt to the marinade. Otherwise proceed as normal.
- Dark soy sauce: Dark soy sauce is less salty and thicker than regular soy sauce. It has a much deeper flavour and colour.
- Chinese black vinegar: Chinese black vinegar has a distinct tangy flavour. Though nothing else tastes quite like it, the closest alternative I can find is balsamic vinegar. You may substitute it 1:1.
- Steaming Apparatus: You can steam buns without a steamer; just use a bit of creativity. Use a large pan with a lid and fill it with an inch of water. Then use something to place the buns in so that the water won't touch it and place it in the middle of the pan. A wire rack, colander, or heavy bowl may work. Always be careful!
- Freezing Instructions: Steamed buns can be frozen two ways: before and after steaming. Freezing after cooking gives more consistent results. Cooked Steamed buns should be cooled completely before placing in the freezer.
- To cook frozen steamed buns, steam on med-high 10-15 minutes. Or, thaw at room temperature for 15 - 30 minutes. If not completely unthawed after this, zap in the microwave for 10 seconds.
- Frozen dough doesn't rise as much during steaming compared to fresh dough. Also, dough that is a bit more stiff (less sticky, more flour) does better for this method. After you've shaped the buns, let them rise until tripled in size. This may take one hour in a warm environment or more if in a cooler environment. Carefully place the puffed up raw buns in the freezer without knocking into them. They will be delicate. Freeze for two hours; until solid. Then store in an air tight container.
- To cook raw buns from frozen, steam over medium heat for 15 minutes. Rest at least 5 minutes before uncovering and serving.
- Potluck tips: If you are serving these for later, store the jackfruit and condiments separately and let the steamed buns cool completely at room temperature before placing them in a container lined with paper towel or a clean cloth; otherwise they will get soggy. Serve the buns on the same day. The jackfruit will be good up to a week in the fridge but steamed buns not so much. They might still be passable the next day, but not as good. It's better to freeze the buns and cook them as needed.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 211Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 120mgCarbohydrates: 35gFiber: 2gSugar: 18gProtein: 4g
Nutritional Information automatically calculated by a plugin and may not be correct.