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Vegan Chinese Tangerine Steamed Buns

Vegan Chinese Tangerine Steamed Buns

Breakfast, Chinese Food, Sweets

the blog:

These Vegan Chinese Tangerine Steamed Buns require less than 10 ingredients and are super easy to make. They are fluffy and lightly sweetened, making them perfect for breakfast or as a snack! They are a must-make for Lunar New Year!

Vegan Chinese Tangerine Steamed Buns

I opened to a fridge of reds and oranges.

Every Chinese New Year, my mom would buy dozens and dozens of tangerines, mandarins and oranges as they symbolize good luck, prosperity and happiness. The month before, my mom would make sure we start to clear out the fridge to make room for them. She would leave a large white laundry basket in our basement to hold all of the tangerines and mandarin oranges if we could not fit them into our fridge.

My dad would come home from work with a large box and I knew they were oranges as well, not surprised since they are the most common fruits employers would give out for the new year. The night before, I would start to pull out the red dessert plates my mom uses every year for the holiday. There would be at least 2 per plate and I would place them on all our shrines and the large table reserved to honor the holiday at the center of our entryway.

Vegan Chinese Tangerine Steamed Buns

When all the decor is up, the house will be a sea of reds and oranges. For the next couple of months, all we would be eating are tangerines and oranges. We wouldn’t want to buy any other fruits and when I do, my mom would always say we have tons of fruits at home and I should eat those before they turn bad.

I love all fruits but I do have a limit to how many tangerines and oranges I can eat. This thought led me to creating something more fun to have, these Vegan Chinese Tangerine Steamed Buns. They are not difficult to make at all, but if you tell me I get to have these tangerine-shaped buns along with the real fruits, I will be 100% happy and satisfied. If you feel the same, let’s get to making these tangerine buns!

Vegan Chinese Tangerine Steamed Buns

Here is an overview of these Vegan Chinese Tangerine Steamed Buns.


Flour: If you do not have all-purpose flour, you can also use bread flour. I have not tested the recipe with gluten-free flour, but if gluten-free is needed, you can make these Vegan Tangerine Steamed Buns with Bob Red Mill’s 1:1 gluten-free flour, substituting it with the same weight. Note that the bread might not rise as much as regular dough.

Sugar: To make it refined sugar-free you can use coconut sugar. Note that the color of the steamed buns will be darker if you use coconut sugar. I would not recommend using maple syrup as this would change the over amount of weight ingredients to dry ingredients.

Coconut Milk: Make sure you use full-fat coconut milk when you are making these buns. The fat in the coconut oil helps make the dough smooth and elastic.

Vegan Butter: I like to use unsalted, vegan butter to better control the saltness level of the steamed buns. If you do not have unsalted, vegan butter you can just omit the salt in the batter!

Natural Vegan Food Coloring: if you do not have vegan food coloring, you can substitute them with matcha powder, a pinch of turmeric or any other spices/powder for the dough.

Fresh Basil/Mint: These are for decor purposes to make the buns look more like a tangerine. I see some use real tangerine tree leaves and stems, but I didn’t want anything from the stems to get on the buns, making parts of it inedible.

Vegan Chinese Tangerine Steamed Buns
Vegan Chinese Tangerine Steamed Buns


What should I do if my dough is too wet or not baked through?
This might happen if you did not weigh the ingredients correctly. This happens to me sometimes too when I get lazy and do not use a scale. If this happens to you, add 1 tablespoon of flour at a time until the dough is smooth to knead.

How do I store these steamed buns? Can I freeze them?
Store the buns in an airtight container or wrap them individually before freezing them. When you are ready to eat one, you can either microwave it for 2-3 minutes until it is soft and warm, or bring a steamer pot to a boil with water over medium heat and steam the buns for 3-5 minutes.

Why are my steamed buns wrinkly in appearance?
This may be a result of over-proofing the dough. Make sure you work as quickly as you can or cover any unused dough in the process with a damp towel and place it in your fridge while you make the buns. It can also be a result of condensation while you are steaming the buns or if you remove the lid of your steamer too quickly after they are done. Make sure you wait at least 5 minutes before you lift the lid when the buns are done.

Why are my steamed buns not proofing? Why are they not fluffy?
This can be a result of expired yeast or the environment. If you find that the yeast is not activated after you combine it with the warmed coconut milk, the yeast may have expired. If your room is too cold, the dough will take a longer time to rise. Place the dough in a warm area in your home to help with the process.

If you like these Vegan Chinese Tangerine Steamed Buns, you might also like to try:
Vegan Snowman Steamed Buns
Vegan Chinese Bunny Steamed Buns
Vegan Chinese Rose Steamed Buns

I cannot wait for you to try these Vegan Chinese Tangerine Steamed Buns! If you do, please tag me on Instagram @_withhelen or leave a comment below letting me know you like it! Happy Baking!

Vegan Chinese Tangerine Steamed Buns

Vegan Chinese Tangerine Steamed Buns

These Vegan Chinese Tangerine Steamed Buns require less than 10 ingredients and are super easy to make. They are fluffy and lightly sweetened, making them perfect for breakfast or as a snack! They are a must make for Lunar New Year!

  • Author: Helen Au
  • Prep Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 8 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 38 minutes
  • Yield: 5 1x
  • Category: Sweets
  • Method: Steaming
  • Cuisine: Chinese
  • Diet: Vegan



85g full-fat coconut milk, warm
3g (1 tsp) active dry yeast
150g (~1 cup +1 tbsp) all-purpose flour, plus more if needed
25g (¼ cup) cane sugar
Pinch of fine sea salt
3g unsalted, vegan butter, room temperature
Orange vegan natural food coloring
Basil/mint leaves for decor


  1. Add the warmed coconut milk and yeast together and combine well. Allow the yeast mixture to sit for 5-10 minutes or until it foams (activates).
  2. To a mixing bowl, add in the flour, sugar and salt. Mix well. Slowly add in the yeast mixture and combine the ingredients together until a dough forms. Knead the dough until it is slightly soft. If you find that the dough is too sticky, add in about 1 tablespoon of flour and continue to knead again. Add in the vegan butter and knead until the dough is completely smooth and elastic.
  3. Take out about 50g of the dough and place the remaining dough back into the bowl and cover it with a damp kitchen towel. To the 50g of dough, add about 4-5 small drops of the orange vegan food coloring and knead until all the color comes together and the dough is smooth. If you want a darker color, add 1 drop at a time and knead again. Place the orange dough into a bowl and cover the dough with a damp kitchen towel. Place both bowls in a warm area in your home and allow it to proof for 15 minutes. 
  4. After 15 minutes, divide the orange dough into 5 pieces, about 10g each. Divide the white dough into 5 pieces, about 35g each. If some of the dough is slightly bigger than the others, it is okay. Make sure you cover the dough at all times.
  5. Roll each of the white dough into a smooth ball. Roll each of the orange dough into a ball as well. Using a rolling pin, roll the orange dough out into a thin circular shape. Place one of the rolled white dough into the center of the rolled out orange dough. Wrap the orange dough into the white dough, pressing all the sides together until the white dough is adhered to the white dough. Repeat the step with the remaining dough.
  6. Once they are ready, cover the dough again with a damp kitchen towel and allow it to proof for another 30 minutes or until it doubles slightly in size.
  7. Meanwhile, fill a steamer basket with water and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium. Place the buns onto the steamer basket, allowing 2 inches of space between them. Cover the pot and allow the buns to steam for 8 minutes. ***It is important to not remove the cover once the 8 minutes is over. Turn off the heat and allow the buns to rest for 5 minutes before removing the cover. If you remove it too early, the buns will wrinkle in appearance.
  8. Allow the buns to cool completely before topping each of them with a basil or mint stem. Enjoy!

Keywords: steamed buns, mantou, Chinese breakfast, Chinese cuisine, vegan bread, Christmas, tangerines

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