Crispy Pork Belly Bao Buns (Gua Bao)

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These Crispy Steamed Pork Belly Bao Buns are made with marinated pork belly, herbs and spices, and freshly chopped vegetables, enveloped in a soft and fluffy bao bun for an exquisite Asian-inspired meal.

pork belly bao buns

We love making pork belly in any form, like slow cooker pork belly, pork belly tacos, and BBQ pork belly slices. It’s not a stretch that we’re also making Gua Bao (Taiwanese Pork Belly Buns, 割包). They are amazing in every way. Soft pillowy buns, rich and tender pork belly, crispy veggies. Yum.

Don’t let the prospect of making pork belly intimidate you from this recipe. it’s actually quite simple and you don’t even have to make the Bao yourself. Give this recipe a try and enjoy Asian cuisine without leaving the house.

Sonya says: 5 stars super delicious! easy to make. I have never even cooked pork belly before and it turned out amazing

» Try pairing these bao with Honey Sriracha Brussels Sprouts.

pork belly bao buns

Ingredients You Need

For the pork

  • Pork Belly – You can use a pork belly roast or pork belly slices for this recipe. In any case, you will be slicing it before you cook it, so it doesn’t matter what form it starts in.
  • Shaoxing wine – You can find this at a Chinese or Asian store. If you can’t find it, you can leave it out or replace with cooking sherry.
  • Light soy sauce and dark soy sauceHere is a set of both from Lee Kum Kee.
  • Brown sugar – Light or dark brown sugar.
  • Olive Oil – Gives the marinade and pork a bit of fat. Other oils can be used.
  • Chinese 5-spice Powder – It’s a mix of spices commonly used in Chinese cooking, and adds a ton of flavor to the meat. It’s best to not substitute this spice.
  • Garlic Adds aroma and flavor to the pork. 
  • Ginger – Adds aroma and flavor to the pork.
  • Onion – This will add a lot of flavor to the cooking broth.  
  • Beef Broth – Use broth or use a mix of water and a bouillon cube. Feel free to experiment with other broths (i.e. chicken broth).

For the bao buns

  • Fresh Bao – You can easily find bao at an Asian supermarket or specialty grocery store. If you want to make your own, try this recipe.
  • Carrot, Cucumber & Daikon – Gives a nice crunch, freshness, and sweetness to the buns.
  • Cilantro: used as a garnish, so it can be skipped if you don’t like cilantro.
  • Hoisin Sauce – This is my preferred sauce to spread on the buns to give a sweet flavor.

What Steamed Buns to Use

It can be difficult to find plain Bao buns, unfortunately. You can get them on Amazon, but they’re expensive. I look at the Asian store near me. They also have it at my local Chinese and Korean specialty stores. This is a good way to go if you don’t have time to make your own dough for gua bao.

You can also make your own steamed buns using this recipe. All you need is flour, sugar, yeast, milk, oil, rice vinegar and baking powder to make the dough. Here’s a video to follow. These buns get really good reviews.

How to Make Pork Belly Bao Bun (Gua Bao)

Step One: Marinate the Pork

Mix together the Shaoxing wine, light and dark soy sauces, brown sugar, olive oil, 5-spice, garlic and ginger in a medium bowl. Place the pork in the bowl and marinate the pork in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes or up to 5 hours if you have the time.

Step Two: Cook

Heat beef broth in a pot large enough to fit the pork. Add the onion, pork, and the marinade to the pot. Cover and simmer for 1 hour, until the pork is tender.

Be sure to watch the pot as the pork cooks to make sure the water doesn’t evaporate. If it looks to be getting low, add 1/4 a cup of water.

Remove the pork from the pot. Strain the braising liquid to remove any chunks. Then pour about 3 tablespoons of the liquid into a frying pan over medium high heat. Let it reduce slightly.

Add the pork to the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes per side, until the sauce has caramalized slightly onto the pork. Remove it from the pan and set aside.

Steam the buns according to the package instructions. This will just take a few minutes to do.

Fill each bun with pork belly. Top with carrot, cucumber, daikon, and cilantro. 

pork belly buns

Substitutions & Variations

  • Protein – This bao recipe can be used with a variety of proteins. Instead of pork, use chicken or tofu. Note that depending on the protein you use the marinating time may vary.
  • Vegetables – Any fresh vegetables work well in this recipe. Some other veggies you can add to the bao are radish, cabbage, and quick pickles.
  • Bao Bun – If you cannot find the bao buns, no worries. You can use this pork filling with almost anything else. Instead of bao buns use roti, tortillas, or lettuce for a low-carb option.
pork belly bao buns

How to Assemble and Serve Gua Bao

  • Warm the Buns: If your gua bao buns are not warm, you can quickly steam them for a minute or reheat them using a microwave wrapped in a damp paper towel.
  • Spread the Flavor: Open a gua bao bun, and spread a thin layer of hoisin sauce on the inside. This adds a rich and slightly sweet flavor to the dish.
  • Layer the Ingredients: Place a couple of slices of cooked pork belly inside the bun. Arrange them so that they fit comfortably within the bun.
  • Add Freshness: Place a few slices of cucumber on top of the pork belly. The crispness of the cucumber provides a nice contrast to the tender pork.
  • Sprinkle Scallions: Add a sprinkle of sliced scallions on top of the cucumbers. The scallions bring a mild onion flavor and a touch of color.
  • Crunchy Nuts: Sprinkle some crushed roasted peanuts over the scallions. This adds a delightful crunch and a nutty flavor.
  • Fresh Herbs: Finish off with a few fresh cilantro leaves. Cilantro adds brightness and a burst of herbal aroma.
  • Close It Up: Gently fold the bun to close it. The ingredients should be neatly tucked inside the bun, creating a little flavor-packed package.

How to Store Assembled Gua Bao

Remember that gua bao are at their best when they are freshly assembled. If you’re serving them at a later time, assembling them closer to serving will ensure the best taste and texture.

  1. Short-Term Storage: If you’ve already assembled the gua bao with fillings, it’s best to consume them shortly after assembly. The moisture from the fillings can make the buns soggy over time.
  2. Prepping in Advance: If you want to prep in advance, you can partially assemble the gua bao by placing the pork belly and other fillings in a container, and then store the buns separately. Assemble the buns just before serving to maintain their texture.
  3. Separate Ingredients: Another option is to store the pork belly, vegetables, and sauces in separate containers in the refrigerator. This way, you can quickly assemble the gua bao when you’re ready to eat, keeping the buns fresh.

Questions About the Recipe

Can I make these ahead of time?

Yes! The best way to make Pork Belly Bao Buns ahead is to make just the pork belly ahead of time. Let it cool completely, then store it in the fridge or freezer until you’re ready to use them. The buns will taste best fresh, so we recommend making those when you’re about to eat the bao.

Can I use an Instant Pot?

Yes. You can cook the pork belly in a slow cooker, air fryer, or in the Instant Pot if you like. The pressure cooker will help cut down on the time it takes to get tender pork belly.

Can I make my own bao buns?

If you want to try making your own bao buns, you definitely can. Here is a recipe we use. The dough uses warm water, milk, yeast, oil, flour and baking powder. We love these for pork belly bao buns, but you can also use them for tons of other types of bao.

What to Serve With Pork Belly Bao Buns

When serving pork belly bao buns, you’ll want to complement their rich and savory flavors with side dishes that balance the meal and offer a variety of tastes and textures. Here are some delicious options:

  1. Asian Slaw: A refreshing slaw made with cabbage, carrots, and a tangy dressing adds crunch and brightness to the meal.
  2. Steamed or Grilled Vegetables: Serve a platter of steamed or grilled vegetables such as broccoli, asparagus, or bok choy. These provide a healthy and flavorful contrast to the indulgent pork belly.
  3. Pickled Vegetables: Pickled cucumbers, daikon radish, or other vegetables add a tangy and slightly acidic element that cuts through the richness of the pork.
  4. Edamame: Lightly salted and steamed edamame beans are a great protein-rich snack that pairs well with the bao buns.

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pork belly bao

Pork Belly Bao Buns

These Pork Belly Bao Buns have tender pork belly and veggies inside a fluffy steamed bun.
4.87 from 66 votes
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 25 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 936kcal
Author: Laura Lynch

Ingredients

  • 1.5 pounds pork belly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons Shaoxing wine
  • 2 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 onion sliced
  • 2 cups beef broth or water and a cube of bouillon

For the buns

  • 8 fresh bao buns
  • 1 carrot julienned
  • 1/2 cup daikon julienned
  • 1/2 cup cucumber julienned
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro chopped
  • 1/2 cup Hoisin sauce optional

Instructions

  • Mix together the Shaoxing wine, soy sauces, brown sugar, olive oil, 5-spice, garlic pwoder and ginger in a medium bowl. Place the pork in the bowl and marinate for 15 minutes to up to 5 hours in the refrigerator.
  • Heat beef broth in a pot large enough to fit the pork. Add the onion, pork, and the marinade to the pot. Cover and simmer for 2-3 hours, until the pork is tender. Add water if necessary.
  • Remove the pork from the pot. Strain the braising liquid to remove any chunks. Then pour about 3 tablespoons of the liquid into a frying pan over medium high heat. Let it reduce slightly. Add the pork to the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes per side, until the sauce has caramelized slightly onto the pork. Remove pork from the pan and set aside.
  • Steam the buns according to the package instructions.
  • Fill each bun with shredded pork. Top with carrot, daikon, cucumber, and cilantro. Serve with hoisin sauce, if desired.

Nutrition

Calories: 936kcal | Carbohydrates: 57g | Protein: 20g | Fat: 68g | Saturated Fat: 23g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g | Monounsaturated Fat: 31g | Cholesterol: 83mg | Sodium: 1810mg | Potassium: 506mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 19g | Vitamin A: 2590IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 101mg | Iron: 4mg

Other Pork Belly Recipes to Try

» See all our delicious pork belly recipes.

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5 thoughts on “Crispy Pork Belly Bao Buns (Gua Bao)

  1. June says:

    5 stars
    The boa buns came out perfectly! Made 1/2 the recipe, it tastes amazing with the pork filling, pickled carrots and cilantro! Thank you for sharing, definitely worth the effort.

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