Gluten and Dairy-Free Chinese Beef Buns

Whenever I walk past a Chinese restaurant, I tend to get a little sad because of all the lovely food I can no longer eat. I particularly miss the lovely steamed buns which are springy and glutinous and soft inside. So in desperation, I checked online to see if there were any recipes that were able to show me how to make a gluten, dairy and yeast free Chinese bun. Nada. (Of course I was hungry, so it’s possible there’s one out there somewhere.) Thinking about how my bread mix doesn’t have yeast in it but does rise, I decided to experiment, and it worked!

These buns are so close to my memory of what Chinese buns should be it’s scary. There were a few hiccups along the way, as I misjudged the length of time they would need to steam and had to do some bun-surgery. I also created some wonderful carbon when the steam-water ran out and charcoaled in the steamer. Very lucky escape that one – and the buns weren’t hurt either!

This is so worth giving a try – you may need to fiddle around with the quantities for making the buns till you get them just right. I will be doing these ones again as they were a hit, so I’ll be able to let you know if they continue to work.


Bun mix
1 cup GF bread mix
1 cup potato starch
1 cup tapioca starch
1.5 tsp GF baking powder
1/3 cup oil
2/3 – 1 1/3 cup warmish water.
sprinkle of GF corn starch.
1 tsp no-egg
2-3 drops sesame oil
rice flour, for dusting

Beef filling
400g Beef mince
2 small carrots, finely chopped
1/4 yellow capsicum, finely chopped
2 large dollops GF oyster sauce (~ 2 dessert spoons)
1 tsp GF soy sauce
2 tsp (ish) GF chinese rice wine (check the ingredients and watch out for the unspecified sugar)
2-3 drops chilli oil
2 tbs olive oil

Add for Beef filling as a side:
splash of sesame oil
splash of lime juice

Dipping sauce
white wine vinegar
soy sauce (equal parts vinegar and soy)
chilli oil (to taste – it’s hot!)
chilli flakes. (to taste)

Chinese Broccoli, roughly chopped ( 2-3cm sized pieces).
Oyster sauce

1. Mix all dry ingredients for the bun together. Add oils and water gradually, and mix until smooth and slightly sticky (which may or my not use all the water). Let it sit in a warm place for 20-30 mins at least. It will go slightly hard on the surface and should rise a little.

2. If using frozen mince, boil the mince first. Just before the mince is completely cooked, add the finely diced carrots. Cook for a few minutes, then drain. Return to heat and add olive and chilli oil. Add finely chopped capsicum and stir. Add rice wine and cook for a few minutes. Then add oyster and soy sauce. Make sure the meat is broken up into small pieces. Cook till meat is cooked and carrots are soft. Take off the heat and let it cool.

3. Dust hands with rice flour, and scoop out (with a fork or spoon) a large handful of dough. It should not stick to your hands, but you should be able to flatten it out to a disc that covers most of your hand and is about 1cm thick. Scoop a 1-1.5 tsp of beef mince into the centre, and shape sides up and over. (I did this with ┬áhot mince, but I think it might be better if it’s a little cool – the mince tended to melt the dough and make it very sticky. But even the disasters tasted good – I just added more dough to sides to catch the escaping mince).

Charcoal with extra water added in
a desperate attempt to lift it!

4. I made these in batches of 4 – then steamed them. They took longer to steam than I thought. I used a normal steamer, and lined it with grease-proof baking paper, which worked well. They will need a good 15 – 20 mins to steam. I didn’t do it right the first time, and so ‘baked’ the already done ones in a low oven for about 10-15 mins. Be careful with the steamer! I left the water boiling too long and now have some very fine charcoal.

You can tell when they’re done when they are kind of stretchy when you tear them – there should be no wet dough. (Steaming them for the full time was the tastier option, but the baking worked too. If you plan to steam them all, use the oven with a ramekin of water in it on an extremely low setting to keep them warm while the others cook.)

5. While the buns steam, steam the brocolli for a few minutes – don’t overdo it, it should be slightly crispy! Then remove it from the heat and added oyster sauce on top. Cover it to keep it warm till the buns are ready, or fixed.

Baked buns.

6. For the huge amount of left-over mince (seriously, halving it would have been fine), add a splash of sesame oil and lime juice and serve it as a side.

7. Put dipping sauce ingredients in a small bowl.

8. Serve buns with broccoli and beef sides, and if you want, sprinkle buns with dipping sauce for a more authentic Chinese restaurant taste.

This recipe, with the sides was easily enough for two adults and two kids, with enough leftovers for at least 2 more adult meals. The bun dough made 12 buns.

Beef filling as a side dish


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