How To Steam Bao Buns in the Microwave (4 Easy Ways)

Categorized as Microwave Cooking
how to microwave bao buns

Bao buns, known as baozi in China or steamed bun in English, are a delicious, fluffy treat consisting of white flour dough and filled with savory or sweet ingredients. The best way to have them is hot and fresh off the steamer.

However, what if you don’t have a steamer or don’t want to deal with the hassle of using one? This is where your microwave comes in!

Can You Steam Bao Buns In the Microwave?

Yes, you can steam bao buns in a microwave. There are several ways to do this. You can steam buns in the microwave using a paper towel, a microwave steamer, or a small cup of water.

Although heating buns using a microwave is the fastest option, it is not necessarily the best as the microwave method usually results in a soggy bun with a gummy texture.

This is why most cooking books or websites will advise you to steam buns in bamboo steamers because this is definitely the best way to steam bao buns.

However, thanks to the clever hacks that some people have come up with, it is now possible to create your perfect bao buns quickly and easily in the microwave!

How to Steam Bao Buns in the Microwave: Step-by-Step Guide

The following are different ways you can use to steam bao buns in the microwave.

1. Using a Microwave Steamer

In my opinion, this is the best way to create a warm, fluffy steamed bun with a lovely texture in the microwave–and all in less than 1 minute from start to finish!

To do this, add two to three glasses of water to your microwave steamer. If you don’t have one yet, consider investing in a GoodCook Microwave Steamer, which is perfect for this task.

Place your bao buns inside the steamer and cover with the lid. Arrange the buns so that they don’t touch each other.

Once the setup is complete, simply microwave for 20 seconds on medium. Add more time when necessary but be careful not to microwave for too long; otherwise, you will end up with a dry bao bun.

2. Using a Damp Paper Towel

If you don’t want your bao buns to be too crispy, you can use a wet paper towel.

To do this, wet a clean paper towel with water but don’t soak it. After that, wrap your bun in the paper towel. Place the paper towel-wrapped buns on a microwave-safe plate and nuke for 20 seconds on medium until piping hot and cooked through. Check the buns after 20 seconds and add more time if necessary.

3. Using a Mug Filled with Water

This is the simplest and yet the most efficient way to heat bao buns in the microwave. What is amazing about this method is that despite its simplicity, you’ll get a perfectly steamed bun comparable to one made using the bamboo steamer.

To do this, fill a microwavable glass mug with about one inch of water. Place your bao bun on top of it and heat it in the microwave for 1 minute. After 1 minute, take it out and check to see if it’s cooked through. If not, microwave for 1 more minute.

4. Using a Small Cup of Water

Aside from using a microwave steamer, this is another way to reheat multiple bao buns in the microwave.

To do this, place your bun on a microwave-safe plate and put it inside the microwave. Next, put a small cup of water next to it and heat on high for 1 minute. After 1 minute, your buns should be ready to eat.

How Do You Know When Bao Buns Are Done?

Now you have learned how to steam bao buns in the microwave using different methods. But how do you know when your buns are done?

The best way to tell if your bun is ready is by touching it slightly and seeing if it is soft and heated through. If you’re still unsure, take a fork, stick it the bun, and pull it out. If the fork is hot, your bun is ready to eat.

How Do You Keep Steamed Bao Buns Warm?

Since the best way for enjoying steamed bao buns is warm, you might be wondering if there is a way to keep the buns warm for a longer time after they have been cooked.

The answer is yes. You can keep your buns warm by placing them in a steamer with the lid closed. This will keep them stay warm for another 10-15 minutes.

If you have them for dinner or a party, what I usually do is cook all the buns ahead of time and then reheat them again in the microwave when my guests arrive.

Can I Make Bao in Advance and Store It?

You can make bao in advance and store them for use later. You can either store them in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or freeze them for up to six weeks. The main caveat here is that you should only freeze baos that have been steamed until they are cooked.

I don’t recommend freezing uncooked baos as there is a great risk of them going wrong with the rise, and you’ll end up with flat and chewy baos that are not edible.

What Can You Serve With Bao?

Since the bao is a little sweeter than the usual bun, I usually tend to use it with savory fillings that will balance out the flavors. Nonetheless, this really depends on your taste preferences.

Some people may opt to serve steamed bao with the most common fillings such as pork belly and bbq pork. Others may like to serve it with beef, fish, or chocolate for a light dessert.


Using a steamer is not the only way to reheat bao buns, as you can use a microwave. With some clever tricks, your microwaved bao buns can taste just as good as those steamed in a bamboo steamer.

In this article, I have laid out four different ways to reheat bao in the microwave, including using a mug filled with water, a small cup of water, a paper towel, and a microwave steamer. Try yourself to find out which method suits you best, and happy eating!

By Rosie Elliott

I’m Rosie. I’m a professional chef with experience in Western, Mediterranean, and Italian cuisine. I’ve been cooking for over 15 years, and I have two daughters that keep me busy!