Here we are with less than a few weeks to go until Thanksgiving and I’m giving you a recipe that isn’t remotely related to the holiday. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got seasonal recipes on the brain and lots of good things ready to share with you but listen, we’ve still got to eat the rest of the month and of course we aren’t always going to be having a roast bird with a plethora of side dishes. In the interest of not having a one-track mind and in the interest of insanely delicious meals, let’s talk about these shrimp steam buns.

I’ve been making these little guys for over a year now (I even photographed them once before) so it is high time I shared them with you! There is sooo much to love about them, it’s hard to know where to begin. For starters, these fall into the category of project cookery, i.e. a dish that will require some time and effort, with multiple components. Though they are a bit involved up front, they are well worth it. Here’s the other super rad thing you must understand about steam buns – the recipe makes a huge number and they freeze perfectly. What this means is that yes, you’ll invest a few hours on a single weekend, but then end up with a super quick, insanely delicious meal for many more future nights.

On tired busy weeknights when I am likely to resort to takeout, I can hardly tell you what a relief it is to have these to fall back on. Considering how quick and simple they are when the buns are already made, it’s a pretty fantastic dinner to have in your back pocket. I can’t think of many other clutch dinners have this awesome interplay of flavors and textures, and such lovely vibrant colors.

  • Prep 30 minutes (plus 2.5 hours inactive)
  • Cook 30-40 minutes
  • Yield about 50 buns


For the buns:

  • 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp. instant (rapid rise) yeast
  • 1½ cups (355 ml) water, at room temperature
  • 4¼ cups (510 grams) bread flour
  • 6 tbsp. (74 grams) sugar
  • 3 tbsp. (16 grams) nonfat dry milk powder
  • 1 tbsp. (18 grams) kosher salt
  • Rounded ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1/3 cup rendered pork fat or vegetable shortening, at room temperature (see Notes)

For the pickled veggies:

  • ¾ cup (178 ml) rice wine vingegar
  • ¾ cup (178 ml) water
  • ½ cup plus 1 tbsp. (111 grams) sugar
  • 2¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • 3 cups total thinly sliced carrot, cucumber, and radish (see Notes)

For the shrimp:

  • 1 lb. medium-small shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 small red hot chili, such as Thai bird
  • 2 tbsp. canola or vegetable oil, divided

To finish:

  • 4 tbsp. mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp. Sriracha
  • 1 tsp. lime juice
  • Shredded red cabbage
  • Sliced green onion


  • 01

    To make the buns, combine the yeast, water, bread flour, sugar, milk powder, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and fat in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix on low speed for 8-10 minutes. The dough will pull together into cohesive, barely tacky ball. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled mixing bowl, cover with a kitchen towel, and let rise in a warm spot until the dough doubles in bulk, about 75 minutes.

  • 02

    Gently punch the dough down and turn it onto a clean work surface. Divide the dough in half, then divide each half into 5 equal pieces (I use a kitchen scale to do this because I am neurotic.) Gently roll each piece into a log, then cut that log into 5 pieces (again, I use the kitchen scale.) Roll each piece into a ball, then cover the dough balls loosely with plastic wrap and let rise 30 minutes. While they are rising, cut out 50 4-inch squares of parchment paper.

  • 03

    Flatten a ball with the palm of your hand slightly, then use a rolling pin to roll it into a 4-inch long oval. Fold the oval in half and lay onto a parchment square. Repeat with the remaining dough balls, keeping the unused and shaped dough underneath plastic wrap or kitchen towels. Let the shaped buns rise 30-45 minutes more.

  • 04

    When you are ready to cook the buns, set up a steamer on the stove. Work in batches so you don’t crowd the steamer. Add the buns and cook 10 minutes. Remove the parchment. Use the buns immediately or allow to cool completely, then freeze in freezer bags. Reheat frozen buns in a stovetop steamer for 2-3 minutes until puffy, soft, and warmed through.

  • 05

    To make the pickled vegetables, combine the vinegar, water, sugar, and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, combine the veggies in a medium bowl. Once the vinegar mixture has come to a boil, remove from the heat and pour over the veggies. Let stand 10 minutes, stirring once or twice. Drain the majority of the liquid and store, covered, with some of the liquid.

  • 06

    To make the shrimp, combine the shrimp in a bowl with the salt, pepper, garlic, chili, and 1 tablespoon of the oil. Mix well to combine. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp to the pan in a single layer, cooking about 1 minute per side and flipping over halfway through cooking, until they are pink outside and opaque all the way through. Remove to a dish and set aside.

  • 07

    To finish, combine the mayo, Sriracha, and lime juice in a small bowl. Whisk to blend. Assemble the finished buns using the pickled veggies, warm shrimp, shredded cabbage, green onions, and a drizzle of the spicy mayo. Serve immediately.

  • 08


    • I’m sure these are fabulous with rendered pork fat but that’s not something I ever have on hand. I don’t typically have shortening either. I used room temperature butter and they turned out fine so…you do you.
    • I haven’t tried these yet but I’m intrigued by the presized parchment liners for the steamer basket. It seems like these might be an alternative to cutting 50 parchment squares. I’ll report back when I try it out.
    • For the pickled veggies, use whatever proportion of the various veggies you like. I kept it simple and used 1 cup each of carrot, cucumber, and radish. I like to use a mandoline to get the slices even and the exact thickness I prefer.
    • One pound of shrimp plus toppings will fill about 12 buns, meaning that a full batch of steamed buns will last about four meals for our family overall.