Pork Belly Buns Recipe

Pork Belly Buns Recipe

  • Step by step photos – how to make caramelized pork belly
  • How to make Chinese steamed buns – plus a bonus cheater bun recipe using Pillsbury refrigerated dough (a secret ingredient!)
  • Top the pork belly with spicy fresh chilies, kimchi and a slather of sweet, sticky hoisin glaze

Pork Belly Buns is probably one of the biggest Asian food fads to hit American palates, right next to Korean Tacos and Bo-Ba Tea. It’s no surprise, since since pork belly is essentially where the much-loved bacon comes from. Slow-cooked pork belly is sliced and simmered in a sweet-savory Vietnamese caramel sauce and sandwiched between soft, pillowy steamed buns. But it doesn’t stop there – a hit of spice comes from kimchi and flash-fry of fresh chilies and green onions.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe chilies-and-onions

My version of Pork Belly Buns is sort of a mashup between three cultures: Vietnamese caramel braising sauce, Chinese steamed buns and pork belly and Korean kimchi. You won’t find a better combination of flavors or textures.

I’ve adapted the pork belly recipe from my buddy, John, of Food Wishes. Do you know John? If not, you must see his videos! He’s amazing. Plus, we have matching mustaches.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe kimchi

Those who live near a good Chinese market can find pre-made buns (usually frozen), but for the rest of us, I have 2 solutions for you. A flour mixture, specifically for steamed buns, is available in many Asian markets (there’s photos below). And if you can’t find that, a cheater recipe that I learned from my mom is also written for you using….get this…canned Pillsbury Buttermilk Biscuit dough. YES! Really!

Pork Belly Buns Recipe detail

Unfortunately, there’s no cheater recipe for the pork belly. But I swear, it’s all worth the effort.

Full disclosure here – THIS IS NOT A FAST RECIPE. Plan on an afternoon. Or you can slow-roast the pork belly one day and make the buns/finish the pork belly the next day, which is what I did.

How can you resist?!

Pork Belly Buns Recipe closeup

Pork Belly Buns Recipe

Caramel Braised Pork Belly

Ladies, gents, meet pork belly. It looks like bacon. Asian markets with a fresh meat counter will have pork belly. Otherwise you might have to request it from your meat man/woman.

Buy a nice slab of it – this recipe calls for 2 pounds – which will give you enough pork belly left over to enjoy with some ramen.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe pork belly raw

Season with salt and pepper on both sides. Not too much – just a nice sprinkle.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe pork belly seasoned

Wrap it up in 2 layers of tin foil. Wrap it nice and tight. You don’t want any of the juices or fat escaping.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe foil wrapped pork belly

Roast slow ‘n low: 275F for 2 hours. Do not open the package. You’ll lose all that precious liquid.

Then let it rest on the counter until cool enough to refrigerate (but remember, don’t open it yet! no peeking!) Refrigerate for a couple of hours or overnight.

Only after it’s fully chilled, then you can open it. This method will ensure that 1) the pork belly keeps its shape 2) no juices escape, which is important because that’s good flavor!

This is what it looks like after refrigeration:

Pork Belly Buns Recipe pork belly cooked

When you slice it, you’ll see what I mean about keeping its shape.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe pork belly slice

Slice into 1/2″ thick.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe pork belly fully sliced

Heat up a saute pan or wok swirl in a bit of oil and fry each slice on both sides until browned and the edges start to crisp up. Remove from pan.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe pork belly browned

Keep all that fat in the pan and you’ll use the fat to saute garlic, ginger, green onion (and fresh chilies if you want). Take care not to burn these aromatics!

Pork Belly Buns Recipe chili and onion flash fry

Now it’s time to make the caramel braising sauce. Whisk together fish sauce, soy sauce, rice vinegar, green onion, garlic, ginger and fresh chilies.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe caramel braising sauce

 Pour it sauce in.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe sauce in wok

Add the pork belly pieces back into the pan.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe pork belly in sauce

Let it simmer on low for about 20 minutes, covered.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe simmering

Resist the urge to just devour the entire thing.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe pork belly done

After that, you can just turn off the heat and let the pork belly hang out in the sauce until you’re ready to serve.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe set pork belly aside


How to make the steamed buns

I always start with a package of pre-mixed flour*. All you need to do is add sugar, milk and a bit of cooking oil. Easy. If you’re looking to make these buns from scratch, without a four mix, here’s my Mom’s recipe for Chinese Steamed Buns.

Cheater bun recipe is at the bottom of the post – which are just as amazing as these buns.

*Here’s another photo of different brand of mixed flour.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe bun ingredients

In a big bowl (you’ll need a big bowl!) Pour in the ingredients except for the flour. While mixing with a wooden spoon, pour in the flour mixture.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe pouring flour

Stir! Stir! Stir!

Pork Belly Buns Recipe stir stir stir

Keep stirring until it comes together like dough.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe dough coming together

Now use your hands to knead the dough for a few minutes in the bowl. Push with the palm of your hand towards the side of the bowl, lift dough, rotate and push again.

pssst…..yes, I give you permission to use a mixer + dough hook.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe knead dough

Once the dough becomes smooth, cover and let rise for 20 minutes.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe dough resting

It will rise and look like this:

Pork Belly Buns Recipe risen dough

Dust work surface with flour. Sprinkle a bit of flour on the dough.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe sprinkle flour

Cut into 8 pieces.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe dough in 8 pieces

And then cut those pieces in half, so you have 16 total.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe dough in 16 pieces

Roll into balls.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe dough balls

Keep balls covered! <– really important

Pork Belly Buns Recipe keep dough balls covered

Use a rolling pin or (ahem) a muddler. I prefer a smaller 1″ diameter rolling pin, but since I couldn’t find the one my mom gave me, I’m using a muddler. It will do. The giant rolling pin seems overkill on this itty bitty ball of dough.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe muddle the dough

Roll it out into an oval-ish shape.

It’s not completely round. There’s a reason for that. Just slightly oval.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe dough rolled into oval

The reason is because you’re gonna fold it in half into a half circle bun.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe folded into half circle

Place it on a parchment square. This makes sure that the bun doesn’t stick to the steamer.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe dough on parchment

Keep ’em covered until ready to steam! <– important too

Pork Belly Buns Recipe keep dough covered

To steam the buns, get a wok. Fill the wok or large, wide pot with a inch-ish of water. Place a rack on top – or something to prop up a plate in the pot. I’ve been known to use 3 shot glasses or a can of tuna (without the tuna, of course).

Pork Belly Buns Recipe Awesome Wok

Place a plate on top of the rack.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe steaming plate

Put buns on plate (don’t over crowd – they puff up when they cook).

Pork Belly Buns Recipe buns on plate

Cover and steam for 15 minutes.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe buns steaming

They’ll puff up like this!

Pork Belly Buns Recipe hot steamy buns

Let ’em cool.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe buns cooled

Like clouds….

Pork Belly Buns Recipe buns done


How to make the chili/green onion topping

Chopped green onions + fresh chilies of your choice + vinegar + salt in a heat-proof bowl.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe green onions and chilies

In a small saucepan, heat 2 tbl of cooking oil until smoking. Yes – make sure you wait until you start seeing wisps of smoke.

But don’t set off your fire alarm, or start a fire. Keep yer eye on the oil!

Once it starts smoking, immediately pour the oil into the bowl. Carefully.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe adding hot oil

Magic happens! The hot oil sizzles, crackles and POWS! the green onion and chili, releasing its flavors without burning them.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe see it sizzle

You might also want some sweet hoisin sauce so spread on the buns.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe hoisin sauce

Take a bun, open it up and spread just a bit of hoisin sauce. Add a piece of pork belly, top it with the chili/green onion. Sneak in a bite of kimchi.


Pork Belly Buns Recipe enjoy it


Pork Belly Buns Recipe

Servings: Makes 16 buns, serves 8 as appetizer/side dish Prep Time: 1 hour + overnight chill in refrigerator Cook Time: 2 hours

For cheater buns using Pillsbury Buttermilk Biscuits - see note below the recipe.


1 slab pork belly (about 2 pounds)
1 tablespoon cooking oil
2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
1 fresh chili pepper, minced (optional)
1 green onion, chopped
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 cup water

14 ounce package of steamed bun flour (banh bao)
+ ingredients as per package instructions (I used milk, sugar, oil)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour for dusting work surface
16 squares of parchment paper (about 4"x4")

1 stalk green onion, minced
1 fresh chili, minced or sliced very thinly
1 teaspoon rice vinegar (or white vinegar)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cooking oil
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
Kimchi (optional)


1. Preheat oven to 275F. Wrap the pork belly in heavy tin foil (or use 2 layers). Place on baking sheet and roast for 2 hours. Remove from oven and let cool before refrigerating at least 2 hour or up to 2 days.

2. Unwrap the pork belly, and slice into 1/2" pieces

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, rice vinegar, fish sauce, soy sauce and water.

4. Heat a wok or large saute pan over high heat. When hot, swirl in cooking oil and add several slices to the wok, but do not overlap. Fry each side until browned. Remove to plate. Repeat with remaining.

5. Turn the heat to medium-low. Add in the garlic, ginger, chiles (if using) and green onion. Saute for 30 seconds until fragrant. Pour in the remaining caramel sauce into the pan.Return the pork belly slices back into the wok and let simmer for 10 minutes.

1. Follow the directions on the package to make the dough, cover and let rise for 20 minutes.

2. Sprinkle clean work surface with the all-purpose flour. Place the dough on work surface and cut into 16 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and keep all balls loosely covered with plastic wrap or towel. You'll work with 1 ball at a time, keeping the rest covered.

3. Use a rolling pin to roll out each ball into an oval, about 4"x3". Fold the oval in half to create bun shaped. Place on parchment square. Keep covered loosely with plastic wrap or towel to prevent drying out. Repeat with remaining dough.

4. Prepare steamer (see photos above). Steam the buns for 15 minutes. You'll have to steam in 2 or 3 batches (avoid overcrowding the buns).

Place the green onion, chili, vinegar and salt in a small heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the cooking oil until smoking, remove from heat and immediately pour on top of the green onion mixture. Please be careful, the oil will bubble and crackle.

To serve, carefully open each bun, spread a bit of hoisin sauce in the bun. Add a slice of pork belly and top with the chili sauce. Add a bit of kimchi if desired.

How to make steamed buns with Pillsbury Buttermilk Biscuit Dough

My friend, Isabelle, came over for dinner and she arrived the same time I was popping open this can of Pillsbury Biscuit dough. Even though my mom told me to use this dough 9 years ago, I had never experimented with this.

So Isabelle’s sitting at the counter, enjoying her wine and watching me roll these balls and I’m like, “This is SO NOT GOING TO WORK” — “I bet you $10 that this canned dough will fail miserably.”

Lesson learned: never doubt my Mom. They were just as tasty as the dough mixture – and they looked better with smooth, pillowy texture.

This will make 20 buns, however, they will be just a bit smaller than the buns I’ve made above – just make sure you cut the pork belly into thinner slices.

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour for dusting work surface
2 cans Pillsbury Buttermilk Biscuit dough (7.5 ounces each)
20 parchment squares (about 4″x4″)

1. Dust work surface with the flour. Open the can of dough. Separate out the biscuits – there should be 10 in each can.  Keep the dough covered loosely with plastic wrap or towel. Roll each biscuit into an oval and fold in half. Place on parchment square. Keep covered until ready to steam.

2. Prepare steamer as shown above in photos. Steam the buns for 12 minutes. You’ll steam the buns in batches, avoid overcrowding the plate while steaming otherwise the buns will stick to each other.

Use Pillsbury Buttermilk Biscuits:

Pork Belly Buns Recipe quick buns

Roll each biscuit out to oval-ish shape

Pork Belly Buns Recipe oval biscuit

Fold in half and place on parchment square:

Pork Belly Buns Recipe folded biscuits on parchment


Pork Belly Buns Recipe steamy biscuit buns


Pork Belly Buns Recipe puffy quick buns

Gorgeous. Brilliant trick, Mom!

Pork Belly Buns Recipe quick buns done

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Comments 106

  1. iJules

    Mmmmm love me some pork belly! Looks amazing too Jaden, love the new red steamy kitchen wok! I think I need one! 😉

  2. keropokman

    A nice variation of what we get here in Singapore. The next time I pack some home, I will add some kimchi on top of the bun! The chili with hot oil is a good idea too!

  3. JulieD

    First of all, this looks so darn good. It’s enough to make me want to eat pork again!! Love your mom’s trick for steamed buns!! I can’t wait to get your wok to make the buns and even actual banh bao!

  4. Cheri @ The Watering Mouth

    You’re right, Jaden, this is a massive recipe and an all day project but I’m so glad you posted this (and were so descriptive) because I’ve been wondering what pork belly was like for so long. Perfect!

    Does it taste fatty at all? Or does it just taste like a bit hunk of amazing bacon?



  5. Kristin

    This looks like a fun recie to try. Could chicken or beef be used instead? If beef, is there a cut you’d recommend? Thank you.

  6. David

    Great post! I didn’t know they had pre-made flour mixes or that you could use refrigerated biscuits, though the latter just doesn’t sound right to me. I do know you can by pre-made buns, you just need to steam them.

    I’ve made the buns from scratch before and let me tell you, I don’t think they are worth the effort/time. I cook often and am pretty patient but for the amount of effort and the end product, I will definitely concentrate on the pork belly and just use store bought buns. In fact, David Chang talks about how he tried to get the bun recipe from his favorite Chinese restaurant in NY and after many years, the owner relented and gave him a piece of paper. The paper led him to a factory where they make buns for many Chinese/Dim Sum restaurants.

  7. Simon @ SoyRiceFire

    Really nice recipe!

    David Chang does offer a steamed bun recipe in his Momofuku Cookbook, which I tried twice. Although it produces nice result, the process is way too laborious.

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  9. Javelin Warrior

    Wow – now I MUST find me some pork belly and try this! I’m featuring this in today’s Food Fetish Friday (with a link-back and attribution). I hope you have no objections and it’s always fun to be following along with your creations…

  10. Elizabeth @Mango_Queen

    I love, love steamed buns and pork belly inside them are just out of this world! I’ve made steamed buns before with different fillings but I like your recipe! You make it seem so much easier than mine. And so much more delish! Love that red wok, too! Hmmm, definitely putting that on my “wish list”. Thanks for sharing this great recipe, Jaden!

  11. Joy

    I have been trying forever to make the buns. I wouldn’t think of using biscuit dough. That is SO SO COOL!

  12. lucybird

    being vegetarian i am going to alter this recipe by using fried tofu i may be able to get similar results.

  13. Chris

    This looks [bad words censored] good, Jaden! I have to see this right before I make chicken legs for dinner? Seriously? Aren’t you supposed to post some kind of a warning before posting something like this?

  14. Vince

    I’ve found your blog today and … I’m getting more and more anxious to taste all of those things that you explain how to make, but I have a suggestion for you. Did you consider masking videos on how to make dishes using your recipes. I’m totally sure that they’ll be positively accepted by your target audience. Now, I’m one of them. 🙂

    Thanks for all the fun I’m having with your site.

  15. Kellie

    Don’t fear the pork belly!!! Thank you so much it was my first time making (not eating) pork belly. So easy and wonderful. I used the canned dough. I had so much fun making this, and everyone loved it. THANK YOU JADEN!

  16. S.L.

    We made this the other day… my husband loved it. Yum! Of course I was lazy and ate it with rice and didn’t have any peppers on hand… so we ate it Korean style in lettuce wraps. Delicious.

    Of course I had no fish sauce or brown sugar, so instead I used more soy sauce, some noodle base sauce or something-or-another I had picked up one day, some honey, and, in deference for our need for spice, added a ton of jalapeno juice from a jar of pickled jalapenos. And it was still good!

    The worst part was taking the pork belly out of the oven and having grease drip EVERYWHERE. That was fun. Need to wrap it differently next time, haha.

  17. Darlene Chan

    I live by many Asian markets — which brand of pre-mdae frozen buns do you like? Can you post a picture of the bag please? Thanks!

    1. SteamyKitchen

      Hi Darlene – I haven’t bought frozen buns in a long time. So I don’t have a package photo for you. But generally, all the frozen buns you’ll find at an Asian market are pretty good. I haven’t run across a bad brand.

  18. Becky

    lucybird. How did the fried tofu work out? I only eat meat on rare occasion and would love to make these veggie also. I checked out Whole Foods to see if there might be some other ideas. Still working on it. I do eat seafood once in awhile and thought shrimp might be good also.

  19. John

    I recently made Vietnamese caramel sauce and it’s base was actual caramel (sugar/water). Have you tried cooking the belly in that? Thanks so much for sharing your recipes and tips !

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  21. Tom

    I can’t stop laughing at the photos of these, the steamed buns look like pac man or a pair of lips eating the filling. 😀 Thanks for sharing!

  22. Graeme

    These were so good! Thank you! Made them today – lot’s of bun’s (unsteamed) left over, do you think they will freeze?

    1. SteamyKitchen

      Hi Graeme – Yes, they’ll freeze beautifully. Freeze in single layer (otherwise they’ll stick together). When you are ready to eat, re-steam (while frozen) for a few minutes. OR you can microwave – put frozen buns on plate, put a damp towel on top of the frozen buns. Microwave for a couple of minutes. The damp towel will prevent them from drying out.

  23. Mardi Wetmore

    What a great recipe. Yum. One hint about cooking the pork belly. Make sure you have a splatter shield handy and even put a lid over it because the pork belly really spits and pops as it cooks. I actually got a pretty bad burn trying to turn them before the pan had cooled down.

    I didn’t have any Pillsbury buttermilk biscuits so I made mine out of Bisquick. Then I followed the same directions for the Pillsbury biscuits. Worked great and they were really tasty. Nice and fluffy.

  24. Mardi Wetmore

    If you can’t find pork belly at your local market, find a Safeway and ask them to order some for you. I lucked out, when I asked I found out the Manager had ordered some pork belly by mistake. He sold me 3 pounds at $4.00 a pound – what a deal!

  25. Steve Santacroce

    Tried this over the weekend. Results were amazing, big hit! We have several asian markets nearby so finding the pork belly was not a problem. Roasted the belly the day before which made serving day prep a snap. The combination of roasting, browning and then simmering the meat resulted in melt-in-your-mouth results.

    I also used the Pillsbury biscuit shortcut with incredible results. This is a great trick, my guests were shocked when they learned how the buns were made. Definitely a keeper. Was thinking for a party of cutting the biscuits in half and making bite size finger food portions.

  26. Emily

    Silly question – If I double the amount of meat (4 lbs vs 2 lbs), do I need to increase the cooking time or temperature?

    1. SteamyKitchen

      You don’t need to increase the temperature or time. When you roast pork belly, the timing has more to do with the thickness of the meat vs. actual pounds. Since pork belly is relatively flat, it should be fine.

  27. esther

    I’m making pork belly buns tonight and bought the frozen buns to use. Now I’m reading this and kicking myself because I happen to have a lot of pillsbury dough on hand! DARN.

    Thanks for the delicious recipe!

  28. Inger

    Tried them. Lot of work. Had to ask for the porkbelly because here they cut them up to make “chicharrones” so i whole piece is hard to find. In the end it was absolutely worth it. They were yummy!! Next time I think I serve them with noodles or rice though.

  29. Diana

    I just made the buns using the pre-mixed flour. They tasted really good but came out a little more dense than I would have liked. Do you think I kneaded it too long? I did end up using a stand mixer. . .

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  34. Mary

    Do you leave the pork belly skin on or do you remove it? I can’t seem to tell from the pictures. Thanks! Love your site!

  35. mommyrock

    we’re big bao fans since finding chairman bao in san francisco while on vacation earlier this year. i made them once using the frozen buns from the asian market. and followed a different recipe for the pork belly. meh, they were ok… the pork belly was pretty good (seared first, then long braise… recipe ended there but they came out bland, so i seared again and tossed in a sauce i whipped up), but the buns were kinda yuk. i tried doing the canned biscuits tonight (using store brand buttermilk biscuits, no less) and they were delish! i also used your technique of roasting the pork belly in foil first and then searing and braising. much easier! a little quick-pickle shredded carrots and some fresh baby spinach made for a fantastic dinner! thanks!

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  37. Ivy

    I just made these this evening for my fiancé and me, I had a huge craving to fill after finding out a food truck in iur area makes them. This is a great and simple recipe. I actually was impatient and let the pork sit for 20 min after being in the oven before sautéing the meat. Turned out fine and very tasty! Ethnic f

    1. Ivy

      Ethnic food, cheap ethnic food, is hard to come by in my town, charleston, SC. So I am happy to make these and share them with my friends.

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