Iva Carter
Published by Iva Carter
Last Updated On: September 10, 2023

A few years ago, a friend introduced me to Asian dishes. I liked Asian cuisine so much that I tried to recreate my own recipes. One dish I got addicted to quickly was pork belly bao buns (also called gua bao).

I spent months perfecting the recipe and visiting Asian markets and kitchens to get the best possible ingredients.

Today, I’ll let you know how to combine the tender succulence of marinated pork belly with fluffy bao buns for the best gua bao recipe.

Recipe Overview

Pork belly Gua Bao
  • Prep Time: 2 hours
  • Cook Time: 3 hours
  • Total Time: 5 hours
  • Number of Servings: 12


For the Pork Belly:

  • 2 lbs skinless pork belly
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, minced
  • 1/4 cup light soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup dark soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons Shaoxing wine
  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the Bao Buns:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 packet of active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup warm milk
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

For the Garnish:

  • Fresh cilantro leaves
  • Sliced scallions
  • Sliced cucumber


Pork belly Gua Bao

Marinating the Pork Belly:

  1. In a bowl, combine minced garlic, minced ginger, light soy sauce and dark soy sauce, hoisin sauce, Shaoxing wine, oyster sauce, brown sugar, Chinese five-spice powder, sesame oil, salt, and pepper.
  2. Place the pork belly in a large resealable plastic bag and pour the marinade over it. Seal the bag and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight for best results.

Cooking the Pork Belly:

  1. Preheat the Dutch oven to 325°F (165°C).
  2. Remove the pork belly from the marinade and place it in a frying pan.
  3. Roast the pork belly in the preheated oven for 2.5 to 3 hours until tender and golden brown.
  4. Once cooked, let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing it into thin pieces.

Read More: How to Cook Sliced Pork Belly

Preparing the Bao Buns:

  1. In a small bowl, combine warm water and yeast. Let it sit for 5 minutes until frothy.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center and pour in the yeast mixture, warm milk, and vegetable oil.
  3. Mix until a dough forms, then knead on a floured surface for about five minutes until smooth.
  4. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover it with a damp cloth, and let it rise for one hour or until doubled in size.
  5. Punch down the dough and divide it into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and let them rest for 15 minutes.
  6. Flatten each ball into an oval shape and fold it in half. Place on a parchment-lined baking tray and let them rise for another 30 minutes.
  7. Steam the buns in a bamboo or metal steamer for 10-12 minutes until puffed and cooked through.

Assembling the Pork Belly Bao Buns:

  1. Take a steamed bun and open it gently.
  2. Place a slice of the cooked pork belly inside. Garnish with fresh cilantro, sliced scallions, and cucumber.

Recipe Notes

Pork belly Gua Bao

Here’s what to keep in mind when making steamed buns with pork belly:

  • If you want an extra crispy texture, sear the sliced pork belly in a hot pan after roasting. You can also broil the meat for a couple of minutes after roasting. This will provide a caramelized texture. Make sure to keep an eye on the meat so it doesn’t burn.
  • Carefully choose the pork belly. Opt for a pork belly with an even pork fat distribution and a nice layer of meat. This will ensure that your pork belly becomes tender during cooking while the fat renders, which results in a richer flavor.
  • You can marinate pork belly for at least two hours. However, if you have more time, marinate overnight in the fridge. This intensifies the flavors, and you have even more succulent pork belly buns.
  • Experiment with the marinade by adding a hint of star anise, cinnamon, or grated orange zest for an exciting layer of complexity.
  • Experiment with different flour types, such as a combination of all-purpose and cake flour, for slightly varied textures in your bao buns. You can also add a touch of turmeric or matcha powder for a colorful twist.
  • When steaming the buns, make sure not to overcrowd the steamer. Allow enough space between each bun to ensure even and thorough cooking.
  • Get creative with your fillings. Add pickled veggies like radishes, kimchi, or even a touch of sriracha mayo to elevate the flavors.
  • To achieve an appealing, crispy texture, sear the pork belly slices in a hot pan with a touch of oil after roasting. This additional step will add a good contrast to the tender meat.
  • If the bao ban dough feels too sticky while kneading, gradually add small amounts of flour until it becomes smooth and elastic.
  • Use fresh herbs, such as Thai basil or mint leaves, for a refreshing and aromatic twist to your bao buns.
  • When slicing the pork belly, aim for thin, even pieces. This ensures that every bite has a blend of flavors.
  • Serve pork belly bao buns with a side of steamed jasmine rice or a light cucumber salad for a well-rounded meal.
  • If you can’t find bao buns, you can use this pork filling with tortillas or lettuce wraps.
  • Cook the pork until it reaches 145 degrees [1].

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

  • Calories: 360
  • Total Carbs: 30g
  • Protein: 15g
  • Fat: 20g
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Net Carbs: 29g

How to Store, Freeze, and Reheat Gua Bao

Pork belly Gua Bao in a plastic

Store leftover gua bao buns in the fridge. Make sure they are cooled down to room temperature to prevent moisture build-up, which will make tender pork belly and buns soggy.

Wrap each bao bun in plastic wrap or parchment paper so they don’t stick together.

Put them in an airtight container or a plastic bag and store them in the fridge for up to three days.

Reheat gua bao from the fridge by steaming the buns for three minutes. You can also reheat in the microwave for 30 seconds or one-minute intervals until warm through.

“Authentic Taiwanese pork belly buns consist of a few different components: the tender braised pork and the fluffy steamed bun are the foundation. Based on that, we elevate the flavor with different ingredients.”

- Souped Up Recipes, YouTube Channel

You can also freeze braised pork belly and bao buns. Arrange the gua bao on a baking sheet, making sure the buns don’t touch each other. Put the baking sheets in the freezer until they are partially frozen.

Then, wrap the buns individually and place them in a resealable plastic bag or an airtight container. Label with name and date and store in the freezer for up to three months.

Reheat gua bao from the freezer by steaming the frozen buns for five minutes. You can also let the buns thaw in the fridge overnight before steaming or heating in the microwave.

Related Articles:


Are Bao Buns the Same as Pork Buns?

Bao buns aren’t the same as pork buns. They are made from soft and slightly sweet dough and can be filled with chicken thighs, pork, beef, or vegetables. Pork buns are only filled with diced or shredded pork and sauces such as hoisin, soy, and a little honey.

Why Aren’t My Bao Buns Fluffy?

Your bao buns aren’t fluffy because you’ve let the dough proof for too long. This results in a weak dough that wrinkles and collapses when steamed.

Are Bao Buns Chinese or Korean?

Bao buns are Chinese. They originate from 3rd century China, when they were invented by Zhuge Liang, a military strategist.

Master the Art of Asian Dishes

It may seem like gua bao requires a lot of intricate steps, but I promise it’s worth it.

You’ll have a delicious combination of tender, sticky pork and steamed buns.

The process of crafting these delectable Taiwanese delicacies is a journey that leads to a destination of pure culinary delight.


  1. https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2022/10/03/cooking-meat-it-done-yet
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