I made palm bao and they’re hella tasty! Normally traditional recipes are made with pork belly and that’s gross! You know I’m a huge fan of using tofu, but I knew this recipe needed a little something extra. So I’m using hearts of palm to get that satisfying meaty texture and lots of seasonings to make your tastebuds dance.
I served these palm bao with pickled cucumber and carrot mix, green onion, cilantro, thinly sliced jalapeños, and crushed peanuts. Don’t forget the vegan hoisin and Sriracha sauce! You’ll want to eat bao all day long! Oh, and not gonna lie… making steamed bao is also kinda fun! Don’t be scared by them taking a lil’ bit longer than your average recipe. These are totally worth the explosion of flavor you get at the end. You can watch how it all comes together in the video below or keep scrolling for all the recipe components!
five spice pulled palm bao
You’re about to sink your teeth into the tastiest plant-based bao ever! The filling is a meaty heart of palm and tofu combo with chinese five-spice and garlic.
- 2 C 00 flour (or sub all-purpose flour)
- 1 tsp quick rise yeast
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 2 tsp + 1 tsp vegetable oil
- 3/4 C warm water (between 120°F – 130°F)
quick pickled cucumber & carrot
- 2 C thinly sliced cucumber
- 2 C ribboned carrots
- 1/2 C warm water
- 1/4 C sugar
- 1 tbsp sea salt
- 1/2 C white vinegar (or substitute rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar)
five spice palm filling
- 1 C crumbled firm tofu
- 1 x 14 oz can whole hearts of palm
- 2 tbsp minced garlic
- 3 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp chinese five spice
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 C pickled cucumber & carrot (recipe above)
- 2 green onions (sliced 2-inches long lengthwise)
- 2 C whole cilantro leaves
- 1 jalapeño, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup crushed peanuts or cashews
- vegan hoisin, to taste
- Sriracha, to taste
To make the dough, use the bowl of your stand mixer and combine flour, yeast, baking powder, sugar, and sea salt with a spatula. Attach the dough hook and place the bowl on the stand. While running on low speed, add the 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil and all the water. Increase the speed to knead the dough until the dough comes together, cleaning the sides of the mixing bowl. You may need to stop the machine and scrape the sides a couple of times to get the dough to come together. You can also do this by hand in a mixing bowl, just ensure you really knead the dough until soft and smooth. Gather the dough and place on a lightly floured surface and knead a couple more times until a smooth and slightly sticky ball forms.
- Oil the mixing bowl with 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil and place the dough in it. Cover with a tea towel and let rise in a warm place for about 40 to 60 minutes until doubled in size.
- While the dough is rising you can prepare the quick pickled cucumber and carrot mixture and combine the palm filling. Both can be made a day in advance and refrigerated as well.
For the pickled cucumber and carrots, add warm water to a mixing bowl and stir in sugar and salt until dissolved. Add vinegar, sliced cucumber, and carrot ribbons and stir to combine. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
For the palm filling, you’ll drain the water from the can of palm then add them to a nut milk bag or fine mesh sieve to squeeze out the excess water. Shred the pieces by hand into a mixing bowl. Do the same for the crumbled tofu, draining out the excess water through a nut milk bag or fine mesh sieve. Place that in the bowl with the shredded palm. Then add minced garlic, low-sodium soy sauce, brown sugar, chili flakes, five spice, and smoked paprika. Toss to combine well and refrigerate while you make the bao buns.
Cut out squares of parchment about 4 x 5-inches each and place on a baking sheet. This is where you'll place the cut out buns to rise before steaming. Also cut out a strip of parchment that is about 4-inches wide.
Turn the proofed dough out on a lightly floured surface and cut the dough in half. Work with one half portion at a time. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough to 1/4-inch thick. Use a 3 1/2-inch round cookie cutter to cut out circles. Place the strip of parchment paper over half of the circle and fold the dough circle in half over the parchment. Trim the parchment so there is just a bit of overhang to prevent the bao bun from sticking. Place this on one of the parchment rectangles on the baking sheet. Each parchment rectangle should fit 2 bao each. Once all the circles are cut and resting on the baking sheet, cover with a tea towel and let rise on the counter for 15 to 20 minutes before steaming.
To steam the bao, boil water on medium-high in a wide deep pan that will fit your bamboo steamer. The water should just come halfway up the sides of your steamer. Once simmering, place a a rectangle with 2 bao in the steam basket, place the lid on and using oven mitts place the entire basket in the simmering water. Steam for 3 minutes. Don’t over steam or the dough will get too tough and hard.
Remove the basket with oven mitts and let it rest with the lid on for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Then carefully remove the lid and place the bao onto a baking sheet or a plate. It’s steamy, so be careful! My steam basket only fit 2 buns, but larger ones will fit 4.
When the steamed buns are ready, you can cook the filling in a cast iron or non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add vegetable oil and the palm filling in an even layer. Allow it to brown and get crispy for about 5 to 7 minutes. If some the spices are browning quickly on the bottom of the pan, scrape and add a little water or lower the heat slightly. Then flip the mixture to brown the other side for another 4 to 5 minutes.
To assemble the bao buns, open the bun carefully. Add pickled cucumber, then the palm filling, pickled carrots, cilantro, jalapeño slices, green onion, and crushed peanuts. Then add hoisin and Sriracha for serving, either drizzled on each bun or on the side for dipping.