How To Steam Buns In Your Rice Cooker: A Step By Step Guide

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Rice cooker and hot buns in red plate with a text "how to steam buns in rice cooker"

We all know rice cookers are excellent at making high-quality rice. Did you know that these little appliances are helpful for making so much more? It may come as a surprise, but one of my favorite things to make with my rice cooker is steamed buns!

Aroma rice cooker and a box of pork bao buns with a logo of Fooducopia on the lower right side of the image.

Can You Make Steamed Buns In Your Rice Cooker?

Yes, you can make steamed buns in your rice cooker. Your rice cooker doubles as a steamer: you can steam dumplings, meat, veggies, fruit, or buns. 

You can steam at the same time you cook rice or steam without cooking rice. Either way, it’s easy to steam buns and other food in your rice cooker.

Should I Steam Frozen Or Fresh Buns In My Rice Cooker?

Steam frozen or fresh buns easily–your rice cooker can do both! If you steam frozen buns, add them straight from the freezer without thawing. They’ll take 15-30 minutes to cook, depending on what’s inside. 

If you steam fresh buns, add them straight from the fridge or when you finish making them. Steam the type of buns you enjoy. Prepare your favorite sauce while your buns steam so your meal is ready to go when they are done.

Can I Make Bao Buns In My Rice Cooker?

Yes, you can make bao buns in your rice cooker. Bao (pronounced “bow”) buns are made from a sweet, white dough. They are sweeter than dumplings and are usually filled with pork. Other fillings such as fish or vegetables have become popular as bao buns have spread to different cultures.  

How To Make Steamed Buns Without A Steamer Basket

Even without a steamer basket, you can still make steamed buns in your rice cooker. You’ll need: 

  • A heatproof bowl or plate that fits inside your rice cooker. 
  • A few balls of foil to elevate your dish off the bottom of your rice cooker.

Fill your rice cooker with about 2 cups of water, or the amount the manufacturer directs. Place the foil balls in the water, then set the plate or bowl on top. This method keeps the buns out of the water so they do not get soggy before they are steamed.

You can also make a plate or bowl out of foil. Place a sheet of foil in your rice cooker and mold it to fit. Poke a few holes in the bottom and set it on top of the foil balls, as suggested above.

How To Steam Buns In Your Rice Cooker

Make or buy your favorite buns. Then, get out your rice cooker and steamer basket. 

Step 1: Prepare your rice cooker

Pour about 2 cups of water into the inner pot of your rice cooker. Or, add the amount recommended by the manufacturer. Place the steamer basket on top and plug in your rice cooker.

Step 2: Prepare your buns for steaming

If you’re using frozen buns, take them out of the freezer and remove the packaging. If you make your own, prepare the dough and filling as directed. Then, divide the dough into portions and add a spoonful of filling. Be sure not to overfill your buns so you can seal them tightly.

Step 3: Place the buns in your steamer basket

Carefully place each bun into the steamer basket. Make sure each bun has space around it so the steam can circulate on each side. 

You may not be able to steam all of your buns at the same time. Buns expand when they steam. My rice cooker holds five buns comfortably. If I need to cook more than that, I work in batches until all my buns are cooked. 

Pork bao buns steamed in the rice cooker with a logo of Fooducopia on the lower right side of the image.

Step 4: Steam the Buns

Close the lid and turn on your rice cooker.  Press the “steam” button. If your rice cooker doesn’t have a steam setting, simply press the regular cooking button. After a few minutes, you should hear the water start to boil. You may also see steam coming from the vent in the lid. 

Rice cooker turned on with closed lid with a logo of Fooducopia on the lower right side of the image.

Use this time to prepare your favorite sauce or the rest of your meal. My favorite sauce is soy sauce with chili flakes and a quick drizzle of honey. I add a little garlic, some sesame oil, and a squeeze or two of lime juice. 

Step 5: Check for doneness

The exact cooking time depends on your rice cooker and your buns. My favorite bao buns take about 20 minutes to cook. Yours may take more or less time. 

Rice cooker with opened lid, pork bao buns steamed with a logo of Fooducopia on the lower right side of the image.

Check for doneness with a wooden skewer or toothpick. Insert your toothpick into the middle of one bun. If the toothpick comes out clean, your buns are cooked. If the toothpick has dough clinging to it, your buns need more time.

Step 6: Serve 

Let your buns sit for about five minutes in your rice cooker. Then, use tongs to remove them from your rice cooker. Set them on a plate and add toppings as desired. A few of my favorite toppings are:

  • Sesame seeds
  • Green onions
  • Chopped scallions
  • Chili flakes
  • Sauces

Serve with rice, veggies, or your favorite side dishes. Store leftover buns in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Reheat them in your rice cooker or microwave until they are warmed through and ready to serve.

Pork bao buns cut in half inside a clear bowl with a logo of Fooducopia on the lower right side of the image.

Final Thoughts

Whether you use frozen or steamed buns, or create your own, it’s easy to make steamed buns in your rice cooker. Add water, place your buns in the steamer basket, and push the start button. Once they’re done, serve with sauces and your favorite sides.  

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