Easter brunch bunny bao (steamed buns)


[From the archives: Easter bunny bao! One of the most successful recipes on JustHungry, these little light savory steamed buns are perfect for Easter. Originally published in April 2007.]

For a planned Easter lunch, I wanted to do something in the brunch realm, but with an Easter theme. Brunch purists may insist on eggs and pancakes and croissants and champagne for brunch, but for me 'brunch' means an early lunch feast after little or no breakfast, and so dim sum is my favorite kind of brunch.

Putting Easter and dim sum together, I devised these bunny shaped bao, or steamed buns. (The inspiration for the shape came from a pair of fluffy white bunny slippers I saw at a flea market last summer.) They are quite simple really: tender steamed bun dough is filled and formed into an oval, and the ears are cut with scissors. The faces are optional - for a minimalist bunny, you could just leave them blank and unadorned. Or, you could go all-out and add whiskers with slivered green onion, or whatever strikes your fancy.

The bunny bao could be stuffed with any kind of steamed bun filling (see my roast pork filled steamed buns), but keeping with the brunch theme, I've filled these with an egg, bacon and chive mixture. It all makes sense - eggs, and ham, and bunnies, plus spring chives. So very Easter.

You could of course omit the bunny-shaping part if you want to avoid the cuteness.


Recipe: Bunny shaped bao (steamed buns) with egg and bacon filling

Makes about 12 bunnies

For the dough:

  • 400g / 14 oz. all-purpose white flour
  • 1 packet (7g) dry yeast
  • 2 Tbs. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • approximately 220ml / a bit less than 1 U.S. cup warm water
  • 2 Tbs. vegetable oil (such as canola, safflower)
  • extra flour for rolling out

For the filling:

  • 150g / about 5 oz (a few slices) bacon, speck or pancetta, cut into small dice
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. mirin
  • 3 Tbs. chives, finely chopped

Equipment: a pair of sharp scissors, a multi-tiered bamboo steamer, kitchen parchment paper

Make the dough. In a large bowl mix the dry ingredients together well. Add the warm water a little at a time, mixing all the time, until it forms a shaggy ball. Important: You may need less water than the total amount, depending on how humid or dry it is and other factors, so add the water a little at a time and stop when the consistency looks right - rather shaggy, not too wet. (That's how doughs work.) Add the oil and knead in the bowl until the dough cleans the sides, sprinkling in a bit of flour of you made the dough too wet. Place on a board (lightly floured if necessary) and knead until smooth. Form into a ball, place back in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Leave until risen to about 2 1/2 times its original size, about 1 hour.

In the meantime, make the filling. In a dry non-stick frying pan, fry the the bacon bits until crispy but not too black. Drain well on a paper towel.

Mix together the egg, soy sauce, sugar and mirin. In the same non-stick frying pan, mix the egg around to make scrambled eggs that are firm but not hard (take of the heat while still soft, and they'll continue to cook to the ideal firmness). Add the chives and the bacon at the end and mix well. Let cool to room temperature.

Punch down the risen dough, roll into a snake and cut into 12 equal pieces. Make each piece into a small, smooth ball. Cover with a dampened kitchen towel and let rest for about 15 minutes.

Cut the parchment paper into 12 10cm / 4 inches or so sized squares.

Make ready the steaming equipment.

Flatten a dough ball to about 12 cm / 5 inches in diameter, making the edges thinner than the middle part.


Place about 1 teaspoon of the filling in the middle of the dough circle. Don't try to overfill or you will have trouble closing up the dough.


Gather up the dough around the filling, pinching to seal well. The dough should be moist enough to form a good seal, but if not brush the edges with the tiny bit of water and pinch closed again.


Flip the bun over, and form into a longish oval shape, rounding out any bumps if needed. Look at the bun and decide which end looks best as the 'face' of the bunny.


Lay a pair of clean, sharp scissors almost flat against the top of the bun lenghwise. The points should aim for about 1/3 from the 'face' end of the bun. Snip two 'ears', taking care not to cut through the dough so the filling is exposes.


Here's how the bunny should look after the ears are snipped. If the ears are too round, flatten them carefully with your fingers.


To make the eyes, poke small holes with a chopstick end and poke in a piece of chive in each hole. Don't go too deep! (If you are in a hurry, just poke the holes and skip the chives.)


Place each bun on a piece of parchment paper, and place in a steamer well apart (they will puff up to about twice the size, and any touching parts will not be smooth). Steam for about 20 minutes. Eat while piping hot.



The dough here is a bit more delicate than the basic one I gave for steamed buns previously. The trick to making the bunnies smooth and cute is to not overhandle the dough, and to keep the surface moist when letting them rest. And, as noted above, do not add more water than you need - the right amount does depend on environmental factors which can't all be uniform!

All-purpose or 'medium strength' flour is recommended over bread flour, for a more tender texture.

To make these ahead: steam them, let them cool a bit and put into plastic bags and freeze. You can steam them from frozen for about 20-25 minutes until hot, or reheat them in a microwave covered in plastic for about 4 minutes per bun. You will need to adjust the times if you're microwaving multiple bao at once - start with 5 minutes, and keep checking them every minute.

You can also make plain unstuffed bunnies. Plain bao make a great accompaniment to Chinese meals, instead of the usual rice or noodles. You can tear the buns and dip them into sauces.

Update: If you have any problems, please check out the Keys to bunny baua success for some troubleshooting tips.

Filed under:  bread breakfast party food easter chinese holidays bunny steamed

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Those are so adorable! I think I'll whip up a batch for my student aides tomorrow morning. Wow! You come up with such cool recipes, Maki!

At least your buns are not filled with Chinese paper!

Check the article how a tourist in China was served fake buns filled with paper. http://en.epochtimes.com/news/7-7-30/58208.html

I really like them cute Bunny Buns!

Those are quite possibly the cutest things I've ever seen. Of course I can't have the bun- but I am now envisioning mochi bunnies... Hmmm...


So cute!

Funny, just today I came across another example of cross-cultural celebratory foods also involving the bunny rabbit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/84273513@N00/427085204/

I am the owner of a real live bunny rabbit myself so am glad that you are not recommending that the bunny bao be filled with the eponymous substance...

It's so cute I think my teeth hurt. Seriously though, although I've sort of forced myself to have rabbit a couple of times, for the experience, it's one of those meats I really don't care for...because of, you know, it's bunnyyyyyyyyyy.

plastered by cuteness.

I can't get over it. I must make these since I looove bao.

I love these. I make Char Sui bao fairly often and never thought to do something that brilliant with it. This is absolutely adorable.

They're brilliant! What a fun way to celebrate Easter. Makes my roast lamb look a little sad!

These things are just so cute. I tried making some this weekend, but mine didn't come out nearly so well. But hey, they're tasty. :D

Aww cute.
Adding a ball to make a tale would look sooo cute too

Your photos are really cute too. Thank you for the visuals, I'll try these. Your blog is wonderful.

love these >.<
and thanks for the pictures on how to fill them. I've read the basic steam bun recipie but was at a bit of a loss as to how to fill them! thanks very much!!

Oh they are so cute, and remind me of the fact that I haven't had steamed buns in such a long time!
I have a traditional bamboo steaming equipment at home (really similar if not the same one as yours in the pictures), but I have never used it. Do you know how I could prepare the steaming equipment?????????
Thanks a bunch!

My college roommate freshman year -- well, actually her mom -- used to keep our fridge stocked with pork buns and pop tarts. Never cared for the latter, but the bao.... well, yum. So I was bound to like these. But if this isn't the best lunchbox food EVER, I don't know what is. Maki, you are a true genius. I have a bunny bun-making party planned for next weekend.

hmm, I never thought of bunny bao for lunch boxes, but I guess they'd work pretty well. They are just so delicious piping hot that they sort of get inhaled quickly and there are no leftovers! :)

I've been looking for a few things to take to a multi-day 'Feaster' bash and this may just fit the bill perfectly. Is there a reason for the different dough or did it just work out that way?

Those are too cute! I've been looking for a good steamed bun dough recipe for char siu bao, and now I've finally found it! The buns look great btw ;) So light and fluffy. Thanks for the recipe, O great one :D

Oops, forgot to ask: can I add in 1 tablespoon of baking powder when mixing the dry ingredients? Because baking powder is (supposedly) crucial in cha siu bao, to help make it light and fluffy.

adding baking powder may change the texture a bit, so the bunnies end up looking rather like bunny sponges. You might try a teaspoonful to see how it works, instead of a tablespoon.

I tried the recipe a few days ago, the baos turned out great! They weren't as light and fluffy or cute as yours :) But they tasted great! The regular bao-shaped buns turned out fluffier and lighter than the bunny-shapped ones, weird. But next time I won't add the baking powder, maybe it did something to the dough? I don't know, but whatever =P

Hi I'm trying out your recipe. How many cups of flour is that?


Hmm, according to the conversion page silverkeys pasted it should be 1.678 cups (1 5/8 cups)

i forgot to indicate: you have to select the ingredient before you hit "convert" or the conversion supposedly will not work correctly. the amount i posted was what came up when i selected "flour" as the ingredient in the dropdown menu (maybe it's still not right though; i'll have to measure and see)

I'd love to make this recipe - it's adorable (!) and we have some frozen ube that I want to make into a tasty filling.

However, I was curious - can this dough be baked instead of steamed, or is it too delicate for the oven? (Although I'm familiar with the two kinds of char siu bao - steamed and baked - I'm not sure if it's the same dough). I'm worried that my tiny little steamer is too small for the task.

This dough may be a bit too lacking in fat content for baking - the buns will turn rather hard, which would defeat the goal of light, fluffy buns. What you can try is to pan-steam them - put a little oil in a large frying pan, put the buns in there and cook until the bottom is crisp, then turn the heat down to low, put on a tight fitting lid that is domed enough so the tops of the buns don't touch, and let them steam-cook for about 12 minutes. You will get buns that are crispy on top and fluffy on the bottom!

thanks - this sounds like a good idea! ^_^

will try.

I'm looking to make some buns filled with bean paste this weekend, but since I don't think I'll be able to experiment on my own, I wasn't sure which recipe I should use - this one or your other one with the pork filling. Do you have a preference between the two recipes or do you think one would be better suited for red bean buns? Thank you so much, I'm excited to try out either one!

Either one should be ok, but I may use this one (the bunny bao one) myself since it's a bit lighter. Good luck!

My daughters and I made these for our Easter treat and we all loved it. Thank you for a great idea! They loved making the bunnies :)

I just posted the recipe on my blog with links back to yours.

These buns are really cute! I would love to make it next time I make steamed buns. Thank you for sharing how to shape the bun into a bunny because that was what I wondered it is the most difficult part for me. I have added the picture and the link to your blog to keep for the collection of steamed buns ideas that I have on my blog. :P I hope you don't mind.

Anyway, I love steamed buns! :)

They're almost too cute to eat!

Thank you for the idea and the very easy to follow recipe.

Though admonished to consume (all of*) them immediately, I'm making these, filled with turkey-in-barbecue sauce left over from tonight's dinner, for my children's lunch tomorrow. I've seen bao-in-bento pictures, and will see how this batch turns out for us.

*One was deformed and had to be thinned from the herd. It was delicious.

I had these in Thailand, but they were filled with a cream filling. Do you know right off hand what kind of cream filling it was and the recipe? I was thinking about getting the green jelly packets..I can not recall what the 'green jelly' was actually called but everyone in Thailand just called it green jelly.
can I just put whatever filling I want into it?


I lived in Thailand and at 7-11 they had the bunny creams...just green jelly was in the middle of the bunny. How would you go around getting the green jelly into the middle of the bunny?


This looks absolutely yummy!! I really want to try this! :)

Oh, I just have one question... Is it possible to have cheese in steamed buns? I've always wondered if the steam would be too much for the cheese... :(

I haven't tried it with cheese..it may leak a little from the bottom, but maybe worth a try!

I'm currently making these and they look awesome, but when I was handling the dough in the beginning was it supposed to be as sticky as it was, or did I add too much water?

You probably added too much water, or the weather was rather humid. Try adding the water a little at a time until you have the right consistency, or adding a bit more flour. Making bread (and the buns are bread after all) is not an exact science!

Thanks, they turned out pretty good as it was, though the next lot of dough was better. I just made plain ones at the moment, and am making filled ones in the morning for Easter Lunch. Thanks for the recipe.

thanks for the great recipe!! Its surprisingly easy to follow, considering I'm a lousy baker.. I filled mine with red bean paste I made prior and they taste super! Some came out a bit mutant-ish but i still love them :)

this looks fun to do. i'll surprise my nieces with this cute bao. thanks a lot.

ultimate cuteness... thanks Maki for the beautiful bunnies! Happy Easter! hugs and continue to have faith and strength!

I have had a couple of attempts at making these and they have been very popular! Can't find bleached flour sadly but they still taste great.
Just wondering how you would vary to cooking times if you increased the bun size to 4X the amount, My boyfriend has always joked he would like to have one of the anime sized buns they seem to commonly have.

Thanks for thinking this up, amazing stuff

Do you have any other filling ideas/recommendations? Preferably sweet fillings :)

Thank you

河合!Your bunny baos brighten would brighten Easter day for kids big and small. Thank you for sharing the how-to.

Hi Maki,

I can't wait to make these. I was wondering though, can we substitute whole wheat all purpose flour instead of white? Or is white flour the only flour that will work?


If you use whole wheat flour you will probably have to adjust the amounts of water and the kneading time. You'll also end up with beige bunnies of course!


I love your page. I finally made these and they are SO delicious!!! I made a double batch and while I normally sell food to people who work with me, I am going to keep ALL these tasty bunnies for me and my fiance...muahaha. And close friends. They are just sooooo scrumptious! Thank you for the recipe!


Hi Maki! Can you please make a video for this recipe? I made these today and everything came out right except for the ears: (

Im also not the best at molding dough : (

Thanks for this wonderful recipe, Maki! My family is very into cute as well as dim sum. I substituted shiitake, grated carrot and green onion for the meat. The ears were a little short and pointy (like cats) but it was Easter-y all the same!

Maki, these bunny steamed buns are just adorable!!! I love steamed buns but I never thought they could look so cute. I also saw online this picture and I think it was originally from a Japanese website. Do you know how they made it/have a recipe for it?


They look like baked buns or cookies. I have no idea how they are made though.

The picture looks like the Usagi Manju from Minamoto Kitchoan:

I believe they are a baked manju/wagashi filled with a yuzu flavored white bean filling (though I don't know how they're made). I have bought them from the San Francisco store, but they are seasonally available at any of their locations: http://www.kitchoan.com/?page_id=7

Omit the bunny shaping part? Noooo! Cuteness is a necessary ingredient for some foodstuffs and happily, this is one of them.
Love your writing Maki, hope your health is well.