These crispy vegetable buns with tofu are crunchy, flavorful and fun to make from scratch! A vegan alternative to Sheng Jian Bao, they are guaranteed to impress served with a sauce of your choice. They feature a fluffy and chewy dough, a tofu filling with veggies for crunch, and are panfried to crispy perfection!

Vegetable buns with tofu

Crispy vegetable buns with tofu

I absolutely love making dumplings from scratch. It’s so much fun, and even though it’s not always the quickest process, it always makes for a fun weekend project! And these crispy vegetable buns just happen to be a new favorite of mine.

Crispy tofu buns with scallions on a plate

These are inspired by Sheng Jian Bao, a Chinese steamed dumpling variety which is typically filled with pork. I made a tofu and vegetable filling that has a lot of flavor and a ‘meaty’ texture that makes for a great plant based alternative to pork without having to use store bough meat substitutes.

Crispy buns with vegetables and tofu

The dough is light and fluffy, but still has a bit of chewiness to it. They are panfried and steamed to create the most amazing texture. The dough remains light, but also crunchy on the outside. I’m sure you’ll love these vegan buns if you try them out!

How to make vegetable buns from scratch

Make the dough

Start by making the yeast mixture. Mix together plant based milk, yeast and sugar. Whisk together, and set aside for 10 minutes to allow the yeast to activate. Meanwhile, add baking powder and salt to plain flour in a large bowl.

When the yeast mixture is ready, add water and rice vinegar. Mix together, then add the wet ingredients to the dry. Mix together using a spatula until the dough starts to clump together, then add the olive oil and continue mixing and kneading using your hands for a further 5 minutes.

Cover the dough with a towel and set aside for an hour, or until the dough has roughly doubled in size.

Make the tofu ‘pork’ filling

While the dough is rising, use this time to make the filling. Crumble up the extra firm tofu using your hands. Then, add rice vinegar, soy sauce and coconut sugar, and mix together thoroughly.

Now heat sesame oil in a large, non-stick skillet over a medium-high heat. Add the garlic, scallions and carrots. Season generously with salt and pepper, and cook for 5 minutes, until the vegetables start to soften.

Now add the tofu and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the tofu starts to become crispy and browned. At this stage, lower the heat to a low-medium and add the water and cornstarch. Continue stirring until the filling thickens and starts to stick together.

Shape the vegan buns

Add a dusting of flour to a large, flat surface. Transfer the dough to the surface and divide it into 4 equal sections to make the rolling process easier.

Roll each section of the dough into a large, thin circle around 1/4 cm in thickness. Then, use either a glass or a cookie cutter to divide the dough into equally-sized circles. You can set aside the leftover dough and roll it out once more afterwards until you’ve ran out.

Work on one bun at a time and cover the rest of the dough with a kitchen towel so that it doesn’t dry out. Add a light layer of flour to the circle, roll it out wider, then flip, dust once more and continue rolling out until it’s around 12cm in diameter.

Place around 2-2 1/2 tbsp of the filling in the centre of the circle, and press it into a neat dome using your fingers. Make sure to wash your hands after doing so in order to make the wrapping process easier.

Now it’s time to seal together the edges. This may be a little bit tricky at first, but practice a few times to get the hang of it. Refer to the images in this blog post, as well as the recipe video to see how my mum and I did it with relative ease. You can work either on a flat surface, or by holding the dough in the palm of your hand.

Set the finished vegetable buns aside, covered, on a lightly dusted surface while you work on the rest.

Cook the buns

Place the vegetable buns into a large frying pan or skillet and add either olive oil or vegetable oil until around 1/8 of each bun is submerged in the oil. Bring the heat to a medium-high and allow them to cook for around 7-8 minutes.

Crispy buns in a frying pan

Now flip the buns – they should be crispy and golden brown when you do so. Now add water to the frying pan until around 1/4 of each bun is submerged. Place the lid on the skillet/frying pan and allow to steam for a further 6-7 minutes, until all of the dough is cooked all the way through.

Transfer carefully to a plate of your choice, and serve!

Recipe tips for amazing crispy vegan buns

You can also use instant yeast for this recipe. If you do so, skip the activation stage and move straight onto combining the wet and dry ingredients.

Vegetable buns with tofu recipe

Make sure to knead the dough thoroughly for a solid 5-10 minutes. This will allow it to become smooth and get rid of any lumps, which is necessary for the best texture.

If you want vegetable buns that are less fluffy and don’t have as much of a ‘bready’ texture, shorten the proofing time to around 40 minutes. But in general, you don’t want to go much shorter than this because otherwise, the dough will be too elastic and complicate the process of rolling it out.

Crispy vegan bun with a tofu filling

The dough should be smooth and easy to work with. If it looks too dry, add water 1-2 tbsp at a time until it’s stretchy and easy to roll out. If it looks too wet, add extra flour when rolling it out and dusting.

Crispy buns with scallions on a plate

Make sure that the tofu filling is sticky enough to form a ball in the centre of each dumpling to make the wrapping process easier. If the tofu and vegetables look like they have too much moisture or visible liquid in the frying pan, turn up the heat and cook for a while longer.

Instructions for storage and freezing

These panfried vegetable buns make an amazing freezer-friendly recipe! When done assembling them, transfer them to a lightly-dusted baking tray in a single layer and leave in the freezer for 1-2 hours. Then, transfer to freezer-friendly bags or containers and leave in the freezer for up to 2 months.

Crispy vegan buns on a plate

You can cook the tofu Bao directly from frozen following the same method, but give them around a minute longer on each side.

Try out my other dumpling recipes!

  • My vegan wonton soup features amazing wontons made from scratch.
  • Khinkali are a Georgian soup dumpling variety that are fun and easy to make.
  • You can’t go wrong with homemade vegan ravioli!
Vegetable buns with tofu and scallions

If you give these vegetable dumplings with tofu a go, be sure to tag me on Instagram (@earthofmariaa) and leave your feedback in the comments below together with a star rating! I’d love to hear from you.

Vegetable buns with tofu

Get the Recipe: Vegetable Buns With Tofu (Sheng Jian Bao)

These crispy vegetable buns with tofu are are crunchy, flavorful and fun to make from scratch! A vegan alternative to Sheng Jian Bao, they are guaranteed to impress served with a sauce of your choice. They feature a fluffy and chewy dough, a tofu filling with veggies for crunch, and are panfried to crispy perfection!

Ingredients

For the dough

  • 1/2 cup plant based milk
  • 3 tsp dry inactive yeast
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

For the filling

  • 20 oz extra firm tofu
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp coconut sugar
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup scallions, chopped
  • 1 cup carrot, diced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch

Equipment

  • Small mixing bowl x 2
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Frying pan or skillet
  • Rolling pin

Instructions 

Make the dough

  • Make the yeast mixture. Mix together plant based milk, yeast and sugar. Whisk together, and set aside for 10 minutes to allow the yeast to activate. Meanwhile, add baking powder and salt to plain flour in a large bowl.
    1/2 cup plant based milk, 3 tsp dry inactive yeast, 1 tbsp sugar, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp salt, 3 cups flour
  • When the yeast mixture is ready, add water and rice vinegar. Mix together, then add the wet ingredients to the dry. Mix together using a spatula until the dough starts to clump together, then add olive oil and continue mixing and kneading using your hands for a further 5-10 minutes.
    1/2 cup water, 1 tbsp rice vinegar, 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Cover the dough with a towel and set aside for an hour, or until the dough has roughly doubled in size.

Make the filling

  • Crumble up the extra firm tofu using your hands. Then, add soy sauce and coconut sugar, and mix together thoroughly.
    20 oz extra firm tofu, 2 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp coconut sugar, 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • Heat the sesame oil in a large, non-stick skillet over a medium-high heat. Add the garlic, scallions and carrots. Season generously with salt and pepper, and cook for 5 minutes, until the vegetables start to soften.
    1 tbsp sesame oil, 2 cloves garlic, 1 cup scallions, 1 cup carrot, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • Add the tofu and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the tofu starts to become crispy and browned. At this stage, lower the heat to a low-medium and add the water and cornstarch. Continue stirring until the filling thickens and starts to stick together.
    3 tbsp water, 1 tbsp cornstarch

Shape the buns

  • Add a dusting of flour to a large, flat surface. Transfer the dough to the surface and divide it into 4 equal sections to make the rolling process easier.
  • Roll each section of the dough into a large, thin circle around 1/4 cm in thickness. Then, use either a glass or a cookie cutter to divide the dough into equally-sized circles. You can set aside the leftover dough and roll it out once more afterwards until you've ran out.
  • Work on one bun at a time and cover the rest of the dough with a kitchen towel so that it doesn't dry out. Add a light layer of flour to the circle, roll it out wider, then flip, dust once more and continue rolling out until it’s around 12cm in diameter.
  • Place around 2-2 1/2 tbsp of the filling in the centre of the circle, and press it into a neat dome using your fingers. Make sure to wash your hands after doing so in order to make the wrapping process easier.
  • Seal together the edges. This may be a little bit tricky at first, but practice a few times to get the hang of it. Refer to the images in the blog post, as well as the recipe video to see how to make it easier. You can work either on a flat surface, or by holding the dough in the palm of your hand. Set the finished vegetable buns aside, covered, on a lightly dusted surface while you work on the rest.

Cook the buns

  • Place the vegetable buns into a large frying pan or skillet and add either olive oil or vegetable oil until around 1/8 of each bun is submerged in the oil. Bring the heat to a medium-high and allow them to cook for around 7-8 minutes. 
  • Flip the buns. They should be crispy and golden brown when you do so. Now add water to the frying pan until around 1/4 of each bun is submerged. Place the lid on the skillet/frying pan and allow to steam for a further 6-7 minutes, until all of the dough is cooked all the way through. Transfer carefully to a plate of your choice, and serve!

Video

Notes

Yeast: You can also use instant yeast for this recipe. If you do so, skip the activation stage and move straight onto combining the wet and dry ingredients.
Dough texture: Make sure to knead the dough thoroughly for a solid 5-10 minutes. This will allow it to become smooth and get rid of any lumps, which is necessary for the best texture. The dough should be smooth and easy to work with. If it looks too dry, add water 1-2 tbsp at a time until it’s stretchy and easy to roll out. If it looks too wet, add extra flour when rolling it out and dusting.
Filling: Make sure that the tofu filling is sticky enough to form a ball in the centre of each dumpling to make the wrapping process easier. If the tofu and vegetables look like they have too much moisture or visible liquid in the frying pan, turn up the heat and cook for a while longer.
Gluten-free: I haven’t tried making these vegetable buns gluten-free, but you can try replacing the plain flour with a gluten-free flour mix. 
To freeze: When done assembling the buns, transfer them to a lightly-dusted baking tray in a single layer and leave in the freezer for 1-2 hours. Then, transfer to freezer-friendly bags or containers and leave in the freezer for up to 2 months. You can cook the tofu Bao directly from frozen following the same method, but give them around a minute longer on each side.
Calories: 115kcal, Carbohydrates: 18g, Protein: 5g, Fat: 2g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 309mg, Potassium: 141mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 1119IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 36mg, Iron: 1mg