Dou Sha Bao (豆沙包)

Dou Sha Bao (豆沙包)

These steamed sweet red bean buns are a popular dim sum item and a tasty breakfast treat. They’re also surprisingly easy to make at home. If you like, you can tweak this basic recipe a bit to make these buns even more flavorful. A dash of vanilla extract makes a nice addition to the red bean paste, and for sweeter buns you can substitute 1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk in place of the sugar for the dough. If you can find it, Chinese pao flour imparts a very light, fluffy texture (you could also try substituting a little cake flour in for a similar texture).

To reheat any leftover buns the next day, wrap in a dampened paper towel and pop in the microwave for 30-45 seconds, depending on your microwave’s power.  Let the reheated buns cool off for a minute or two (that filling is like lava straight out of the microwave), and enjoy with coffee, milk, or tea.

This recipe makes about 10 large steamed sweet red bean buns.

For the Red Bean Paste:

  • 8 oz. dried red beans (adzuki beans)
  • Water as needed for boiling (around 3 cups)
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 2 tablespoon butter or shortening (traditionally, lard is used)
  • a tiny pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

Make the Red Bean Paste:

  1. Wash dried red beans and soak for at least 8 hours or overnight.
  2. Remove any beans that have floated to the surface, drain, and rinse. Place soaked beans in pot or pressure cooker, and add water to cover the beans (about 4-5 inches of water).
  3. If cooking on the stove top, bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Simmer uncovered for about an hour, or until the red beans have become soft enough for you to easily crush one with a spoon. If using a pressure cooker, seal and cook on high for about 40 minutes or so.
  4. When beans are cooked through, drain off cooking liquid and process beans into a smooth consistency using a food processor. For a smoother texture, you can remove the skins from the red beans by pressing them through a fine mesh strainer using the back of a spoon.
  5. Transfer the bean paste to a pan along with the sugar, salt, and butter. On low heat, bring to a simmer and cook to remove excess moisture, stirring often to prevent bean paste from scorching on the bottom of the pan.
  6. Once the bean paste has reached the desired thickness, remove from heat and cool.

Note: Sweet red bean paste can be kept in the refrigerator for about two weeks in a sealed container.


For Dough:

  • 300 g all-purpose flour or Chinese pao flour (plus extra for adjustment)
  • 1 packet instant yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (or 1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk)
  • about 160-180 ml warm water (plus extra for adjustment, as needed
  • a little vegetable oil (to prevent the buns from sticking to the steamer)

Recommended equipment: a covered bamboo steamer basket


Make the Dough:

  1. Warm the water to around 105-110F (40.5-43C), and stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the yeast to the water, mix well and let rest for about 5 minutes. The mixture should be frothy and bubbly when ready- if you don’t have any bubbles, your yeast is dead. Start over with fresh yeast, and adjust your water temperature (too hot, and your yeast will die; too cold, and the yeast won’t activate).
  2. Prepare the flour in a large bowl. Pour the water with yeast slowly into the flour and stir with a chop stick or wooden spoon to mix. The dough should be a little bit sticky, but not too sticky for you to knead. If the mixture is too dry, add in a little more warm water. If the mixture is too sticky, add a little more flour.
  3. With clean hands, knead into a smooth, soft dough. You may want to lightly dust your hands with a little flour first to prevent the dough from sticking to your fingers.
  4. Cover the bowl and let the dough rest in a warm place for around 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in size. If you’re making this during the winter or your house is a bit chilly, you may need to take out a little extra insurance by using a warm stove top or oven on a very low setting (too high of a heat setting and you’ll kill the yeast, so be careful). To help my dough rise in the winter, I use the warmer setting on my range top, and rest the bowl over it on top of an inverted cake pan.
  5. When the dough has doubled in size, turn the dough ball out and punch down to get the air out.


Make the Buns:

  1. On a lightly floured surface, gently roll the dough into a long log around 1 inch in diameter, and cut the log to small sections around 1 inch long.
  2. Gently roll out or press the segments of dough into round, thick wrappers. Place 1 rounded tablespoon of the sweet red bean paste in the center of each wrapper and then pinch the dough over top the filling to seal the buns together. You should have a nice, gently rounded little filled bun when you’re done.
  3. Turn the buns over so that the sealed surface is underneath. Brush the bottoms lightly with a little vegetable oil (to prevent sticking) and place in the steamer basket. Cover with lid and let rest for around 10 to 20 minutes until the buns raise a bit and become fluffy again.
  4. In a wok or large pot, bring water to a boil and place the covered steamer basket on top. Steam the buns for 20 to 25 minutes (depending on size).
  5. Turn off heat and let buns rest in the steamer for about 5 minutes before lifting the cover.
  6. Transfer the buns to plate or serve hot out right out of the steamer.