How to Steam Buns in the Microwave?


Steamed buns, also known as bao buns or baozi, are warm and fluffy yeast-leavened buns with delicious fillings inside. Most commonly prepared in a steamer, these Chinese treats can also be steamed in a microwave. Let’s find out how!

So, how to steam buns in a microwave? The easiest way to steam buns in a microwave is to sprinkle each side of the buns with a few drops of water, cover them with damp paper towels, and microwave them at 20-second intervals until they become piping hot.

Alternatively, you can use a microwave steamer, or a mug or cup of water to create the required steam to make the buns soft, warm, and fluffy.

Read on for step-by-step instructions on how to steam buns in the microwave along with some key points to remember to ensure your buns always come out super fresh and soft.

Why Should You Steam Buns in the Microwave?

The best way to have steamed buns is fresh off the steamer. However, since not everyone owns a steamer or knows how to use it properly, microwaving them is a great option, especially when making them at home. 

Using a microwave is not only super convenient but is also incredibly quick. While using a traditional steamer may take you around 15 minutes to steam your buns, a microwave can give you the same results in less than 2 minutes.

Steaming buns in the microwave is also very easy and doesn’t require any unique equipment or special techniques that you would need when using traditional steamers.

How to Steam Buns in the Microwave?

The key to steaming buns in the microwave is to replicate the traditional steaming method used to make bao buns. There are several ways to create the required steam but the point is to make it super easy and accessible for everyone.

Here are step-by-step instructions on how to steam buns in the microwave:

  1. Start the process by preparing the fillings for the bao buns before you steam them in the microwave. You can go with the most common fillings that include pork belly, chives, and eggs or get creative with the ingredients of your choice.
  2. Now we move on to actually steaming the buns. Since the buns tend to dry out in the microwave, sprinkle both sides of the buns with a little water. You can use a spray bottle or even your fingers to do so. Make sure to not make them soaking wet; you only want to moisturize them.
  3. Next, place the buns carefully on a microwave-safe plate and cover them with damp paper towels. 
  4. Warm the buns on high heat for about 20 seconds. Check if the buns are ready and add time if required.

Other Ways to Steam Buns in the Microwave

The method mentioned above is one of the easiest methods for steaming buns in the microwave but it isn’t the only one. Here are alternative ways to do so:

Using a Microwave Steamer

Using a microwave steamer is probably the best way to achieve the most similar results as using a traditional steamer. The only issue with it is that it requires an additional microwave accessory.

If you wish to use this method, there are several great microwave steamers available in the market that you can easily get your hands on. You can consider investing in the Sistema Microwave Steamer or the GoodCook Microwave Steamer, both of which are highly rated on Amazon and perfect for steaming buns.

All you have to do is add 2 to 3 glasses of water to the microwave steamer, place your buns inside the steamer, and cover them with the lid. Microwave them on medium for 20 seconds, adding extra time if necessary, and you should end up with the best warm and fluffy steamed buns with an incredible texture.

Using a Mug of Water

Another simple yet super effective way of steaming buns in the microwave is to use a microwave-safe mug with about 1 inch of water in it. The result is perfectly steamed buns that, if done correctly, you won’t be able to tell apart from traditionally steamed ones.

What’s great about this method is that it is super easy and simple yet gives you great results in the end similar to using a bamboo steamer. The only drawback of using this method is that you can steam only one bun at a time.

All you have to do is fill a microwave-safe mug with 1 inch of water and place the bun on top of it. Make sure the mug is the right size so that the bun doesn’t fall into it.

Heat the bun sitting atop the mug in the microwave for about 1 minute. Take it out after a minute to check if it is done. If it is, take it out and enjoy. If not, heat it for an additional minute.

Using a Small Cup of Water

If you have a big batch of buns to steam and can’t rely on the mug method to do them one by one, you can use this method that allows you to steam multiple buns at once, similar to using a microwave steamer and the damp towel method.

All you have to do is place the buns on a microwave-safe plate and put it inside the microwave. Place a small cup of water next to the plate of buns and microwave on high for about 1 minute.

Tips, Tricks, and Factors to Consider When Steaming Buns in the Microwave

When looking for ways to steam buns the right way, you’ll notice that the most popular method of choice would be to use bamboo steamers. This is because it is the traditional way to do so and also one of the best ways to steam bao buns.

Steaming buns in the microwave, although an easy, fast, and convenient way, isn’t always fool-proof and can often result in soggy buns with a gritty texture. If you’ve had good steamed buns, you would know that they should be anything but soggy or dry.

Thankfully, there are a few tips and tricks to follow to make sure your buns are steamed perfectly in the microwave, regardless of whether you decide to use a microwave steamer, some damp paper towels, or a mug or glass of water to do so.

Here are a few tips, tricks, and factors to keep in mind when steaming buns in the microwave:

  • Avoid overcrowding the microwave and piling too many buns on a single plate. Make sure to always space out the buns properly to promote sufficient airflow between each bun. Overcrowding messes with the airflow and results in longer cooking times.
  • Be sure to moisten the buns before steaming them in the microwave, especially if you are reheating frozen pre-cooked buns. It prevents them from hardening and helps give them a light and fluffy texture.
  • Keep in mind the wattage of your microwave and adjust the heating time accordingly. Monitor the buns closely to avoid overcooking. The higher the wattage of your microwave, the quicker the steamed buns will be ready.
  • Steamed buns come in different sizes depending on what they are used for. They can vary in size and can be as small as a dumpling or as big as a burger bun. When steaming them, make sure to keep in mind their size as large-sized buns will need longer to cook compared to small ones.
  • Frozen or refrigerated buns take longer to cook than freshly made ones. You will need to adjust the steaming time for each depending on their starting temperature.
  • To avoid the buns from shrinking, which is a common issue when steaming buns due to moisture evaporation, cover the steamed buns with a damp cloth or some cling film.
  • The best way to tell when your steamed buns are ready is to touch them lightly and check their softness. Use your finger to poke the buns ever so lightly. If they feel bouncy and spring back, they are done. If they are soft and leave a mark, they need to be steamed for longer.

Related Questions

Now that you know all about steaming buns in the microwave and the best ways to do so, here are a few additional questions we thought you might have.

How to Steam Filled Buns in the Microwave?

Steamed buns can be made with a variety of fillings. If you need to steam filled buns in the microwave, you can use the same methods you would to steam buns without any filling. If the filled buns are frozen, adjust the cooking time accordingly to make sure it is heated all the way through.

Can You Steam Buns in the Oven?

Yes, you can steam buns in the oven, and while it may not be the traditional steaming method that uses water vapor to create steam, it can create a similar moist environment and prevent the buns from drying out.

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