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Korean Chicken Bao

Korean chicken bao

We had something similar to this dish a few years ago at one of our favorite restaurants, JuJu, in Durham. The kids asked me to try making Korean chicken bao at home and so this recipe came to be.

Bao are a Chinese steamed bun made from flour and water and a few other ingredients. They can be either round and stuffed, or made in a taco like shape and filled that way (which is what this recipe is). They are surprisingly easy to make, and their light, fluffy texture is the perfect accompaniment to savory and sweet fillings.

I have a bamboo steamer I picked up at the Asian market, similar to this one. You can also use any kind of steamer with a lid though. You do need to let this dough rise about an hour before using, so plan ahead a little for that. It also really helps the flavor of the chicken to marinate it overnight first, so I try to do that if I have time.

My recipe uses some Korean ingredients for the sauce, but you could also just use your favorite bbq sauce or jarred sauce and they would still taste great. If you are interested in using the Korean ingredients, I use this gochujang and red chili powder. Korean chicken bao are soooooo yummy! This is a super fun recipe to try and I know you will love it.


Korean Chicken Bao

Sweet and spicy Korean fried chicken on soft fluffy bao with veggie slaw
Course Main Course
Cuisine Chinese, Korean
Keyword Asian, Chicken, Main Dish
Prep Time 1 day 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings 12 buns


  • 1 steamer
  • parchment paper cut into 4×4 squares


For the chicken + marinade:

  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 or 3 tsp salt depending on how much chicken you use
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp Korean red chili powder
  • 1 or 2 packages chicken tenders depending on how much chicken you want
  • oil for frying

For the chicken breading:

  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp Korean red chili powder

For the sauce:

  • 3 tbsp gochujang paste
  • 4 tbsp honey
  • 8 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 3 inch piece of ginger minced
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil

For the slaw:

  • 1 small red onion thinly sliced
  • 1-2 mini cucumbers thinly sliced
  • 4 scallions thinly sliced
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro leaves picked
  • white and or black sesame seeds
  • 1-2 tbsp rice vinegar

For the bao dough:

  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp oil
  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda


Marinate the chicken tenders:

  • 24 hours before cooking, combine the buttermilk, salt and spices and place the tenders in to marinate. Place in the fridge. Remove from fridge about an hour before you going to cook them.

Make the bao dough:

  • In a stand mixer, combine all the ingredients except the tsp of oil and knead with the dough hook. Keep kneading until the dough is soft and pliable and smooth, but not sticky. Add a bit more flour or water if dough seems too wet or dry. Once the dough is ready, grease the bowl with a tsp of oil, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 1 hour. While the dough is rising, make the sauce, slaw, and get the chicken coating ready to go.
  • Set up your steamer over a pot of water with about 2 inches of water in the pot. Make sure you have 24 4×4 parchment squares ready and some oil spray or oil and a brush as you will need them when you shape the bao.
  • Punch the dough down and knead it a little to get it smooth. Cut the dough into 12 equal pieces and shape into a ball. Allow to rest 5 minutes to let the dough relax a bit, then roll into a 4×7 oval. Brush one square of parchment lightly with oil and place half the oval on it. Grease another square and fold the oval in half with the greased square in the middle (like filling). This will allow you to open the bun enough later to fill it with filling. As you finish each bun, place it in the steamer, not touching the others.
  • Once all are done, close the steamer and allow the buns to rise for another 20 minutes. While you are waiting, start cooking the chicken.
  • Turn on the heat under the pot and set it to high. Once the steam starts coming out, reduce to medium and steam for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat but do not open the steamer for at least 5 more minutes. This allows the buns to set so they don't deflate when you open the top.

Make the sauce:

  • Combine all the sauce ingredients in a pan and let simmer for about 5-10 minutes.

Make the coating:

  • Mix all the coating ingredients well in a large bowl.

Make the slaw:

  • Combine the slaw ingredients and sprinkle with a bit of salt and a few splashes of rice vinegar to season.

Cook the chicken:

  • Heat oil in a deep pot to 350. Line a sheet pan with foil to place your dredged chicken. Line another with paper towels to drain your fried chicken. Remove one tender at a time from the marinade and let the excess run off. Dip into the coating and place on the foil tray. Complete with all the tenders. Cook 4-6 tenders at a time (depending on the size of your pot, you don't want to add too many or it will lower the oil too much and they won't be crispy). Cook for around 5-6 minutes until the chicken is golden, crispy and fully cooked. Drain on paper towels.
  • Once all your tenders are fried, place them in bowl and pour over the sauce. Mix gently until they are coated.

To serve:

  • Gently open each bao bun and place a piece of chicken inside. Top it with the slaw and place on a platter or plate. Serve!

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