Bao vs Dumplings: A Clear Comparison of Two Culinary Delights

Diving into the world of Asian cuisine, one might often find themselves confused between two popular dishes: Bao and Dumplings. While they might look similar on the surface, there are key differences that set them apart. In order to understand the intricate distinctions between these two beloved foods, we must first delve into their respective backgrounds, ingredients, fillings, and cooking methods.

Bao, or Chinese steamed buns, have a long and rich history that dates back thousands of years. These soft, fluffy buns come in various shapes and sizes, and are typically filled with savory or sweet fillings. On the other hand, dumplings are versatile and widespread in many different cultures, usually consisting of thinly rolled dough with various fillings, such as meat, seafood, and vegetables. Dumplings can be boiled, steamed, or fried, depending on regional preference and the specific type of dumpling.

In order to truly appreciate these two dishes, it is crucial to explore their culinary origins and cultural implications, as well as the contexts in which they are consumed. Learning how to make Bao and Dumplings at home is a fun and rewarding experience that allows you to fully grasp the complexities and artistry involved in each dish, while perfecting your own techniques and preferences.

Key Takeaways

  • Bao and Dumplings differ in their dough consistency, shapes, and cooking methods
  • These dishes have distinct cultural origins, resulting in unique flavors and consumption contexts
  • Learning to make Bao and Dumplings can deepen your understanding and appreciation for the culinary artistry involved

Bao: A Brief Overview

Bao, also known as bao buns or baozi, is a popular dish in Chinese cuisine. You’ll often see these fluffy, steamed buns served as a staple in many Chinese meals. The bao dough is made from a mixture of flour, water, sugar, and yeast, which is then steamed to create a soft and pillowy texture.

There are many different types of bao, and they can be sweet or savory depending on the filling. A traditional variety, called mantou, is often plain without any filling. However, several stuffed bao varieties are widely enjoyed throughout China as well.

Tangbaozi is a type of bao filled with soup and usually meat. To eat tangbaozi, you have to be careful not to spill the soup while biting into the bun. When you make tangbaozi, you’ll typically find gelatinized broth mixed with the meat filling, which melts during the steaming process, creating a delicious burst of flavors.

Sweet bao, such as doushabao or cha siu bao, are also quite popular. Doushabao is typically filled with sweet, smooth red bean paste, while cha siu bao (also known as char siu bao) contains savory, barbecued pork. The contrast between the sweet or well-seasoned filling and the neutral taste of the bao dough is what makes these buns so enticing.

In summary, bao is a versatile and well-loved dish in Chinese cuisine with a wide array of variations to enjoy. Whether you prefer savory, sweet, or a combination of flavors, there’s a type of bao waiting to delight your taste buds.

Different Types of Bao

Bao, also known as bao buns or baozi, are a popular Chinese dish that many people enjoy. To better understand bao, let’s explore the different types of bao you might encounter.

Cha Siu Bao (Char Siu Bao) is a popular bao variety filled with tender barbecued pork. The bao dough can be either steamed, creating a soft and fluffy texture, or baked, which results in a golden and slightly crisp exterior. Whether you prefer steamed or baked, the flavorful and succulent pork filling makes this bao a favorite among many.

Tangbaozi are soup-filled bao famous for their delicate thin skin and savory broth. They require care when eating, as the hot soup can easily spill out. When enjoying Tangbaozi, gently lift them with a spoon, allowing some of the steam to release before taking a small bite, followed by sipping the flavorful broth.

Doushabao is a sweet bao filled with red bean paste, often enjoyed as a dessert or snack. The soft bao dough is complemented by the slightly sweet, smooth, and earthy flavor of the red bean filling. This bao is particularly popular during special occasions and festivals.

Mantou is a type of plain bao that doesn’t have any filling, often served as a simple side or used to mop up sauces. Mantou can be steamed, creating a light and fluffy texture, or deep-fried for a crispy and golden outer layer. This versatile bao can be enjoyed with various types of dishes.

The different types of bao mentioned above share a common component: the bao dough. This dough is made with flour, yeast, sugar, and water, creating a soft and slightly sweet foundation perfect for holding an array of fillings. Bao dough can be prepared in different ways, allowing for a variety of textures and flavors to cater to your preferences.

In conclusion, you can find a wide range of bao types to suit your taste buds, all while appreciating the art and craftsmanship that goes into each delicate morsel. Whether you prefer the savory cha siu bao, the soupy tangbaozi, the sweet doushabao, or the simple mantou, there is a bao for everyone.

Dumplings: A Comprehensive Look

When exploring the world of dumplings, you’ll find a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and fillings, depending on the region and culture. Originated in China, dumplings are enjoyed in many countries and have become an essential dish in various cuisines.

Among the numerous types of dumplings, jiaozi and xiaolongbao are two popular Chinese varieties. Jiaozi are crescent-shaped dumplings with a relatively thick wrapper, usually made of wheat flour, and filled with meat and/or vegetables. They can be boiled, steamed, or fried, making them quite versatile. On the other hand, xiaolongbao is a type of soup dumpling with a delicate and thin wrapper, typically filled with a juicy mixture of ground meat and aspic. These delectable morsels are often served in a bamboo steaming basket and are famous for their deliciously hot broth.

Another well-known variant is siu mai, a type of open-faced dumpling commonly found in Cantonese dim sum. Siu mai features a thin round wrapper enclosing a filling of minced pork, shrimp, and various seasonings. Siu Mai is easily recognized by its accordion-like shape topped with a sprinkle of orange roe or diced carrot.

Dumplings can be boiled, fried, or steamed. Boiled dumplings, or shui jiao, are the most common and have a soft and tender texture. To cook, simply place them in boiling water until they rise to the surface and are cooked through. Fried dumplings, known as guo tie or potstickers, are pan-fried, giving them a crispy and golden exterior. Lastly, steamed dumplings result in a firm yet delicate texture and are usually served in a bamboo steamer to maintain their warmth and moisture.

To summarize, dumplings are a diverse and delightful array of culinary creations that span various cultures and traditions. From jiaozi to xiaolongbao, and siu mai, these delicious treats can be enjoyed boiled, fried, or steamed, and offer a myriad of flavors and textures to satisfy any appetite.

Different Kinds of Dumplings

Dumplings come in various forms, and their preparation styles can differ too. Here, you will learn about the different kinds of dumplings and how they’re unique.

Jiaozi are popular in China and are often boiled or steamed. They contain various fillings, such as ground meat and vegetables, wrapped in a thin dough. They have a crescent shape and pleated edges, making them easily distinguishable.

Potstickers, also known as guotie, are a type of Chinese dumpling. They are similar to jiaozi but are pan-fried, giving them a crispy bottom and a soft, chewy top.

Soup dumplings or xiao long bao are a delicacy from the Shanghai region of China. They are steamed bun-like dumplings filled with a savory broth alongside meat or seafood. When you bite into the xiao long bao, the hot soup gushes out, creating a delightful sensation.

The shuijianbao is a pan-fried dumpling filled with ground pork or beef, vegetables, and seasonings with a slightly thicker dough compared to potstickers. They’re crispy on the bottom and soft on the inside.

Mandu is a Korean-style dumpling that can be steamed, boiled, fried, or added to soups. They contain various fillings like ground meat, vegetables, tofu, and kimchi.

Shrimp dumplings or har gow are a Cantonese dim sum favorite. They come with a thin, translucent wrapper and contain a juicy shrimp filling.

Spring rolls are a type of Chinese appetizer made with a thin, crispy pastry wrapper filled with vegetables, meat, or seafood. They are often deep-fried, giving them a golden, crunchy exterior.

Wontons are Chinese dumplings with a thin, delicate wrapper and are filled with minced meat or seafood, typically served in a flavorful soup. They can also be fried to create a crispy and savory appetizer.

As you explore the world of dumplings, you’ll discover even more types and flavors to enjoy. From boiled to fried, and from jiaozi to wontons, there is a dumpling for everyone’s palate.

Understanding Ingredients

When it comes to Bao and Dumplings, the key to their differences lies in the ingredients used. In this section, you will gain a clear understanding of the primary components for both.

Baos are made using wheat flour, yeast, sugar, and water to create the dough. This combination results in a fluffy and soft texture. The filling options are quite diverse, ranging from pork, beef, chicken, seafood, and fish to tofu, egg, vegetables, and mushrooms. A plus point is that baos can also be filled with sweet ingredients like red bean paste, giving you a dessert option.

On the other hand, dumplings generally have a thinner skin made from wheat flour and water, without the addition of yeast or sugar. The dough is rolled out and filled with a mixture of your choice. Similar to baos, dumpling fillings include pork, beef, chicken, seafood, fish, tofu, egg, vegetables, and mushrooms. However, potatoes are occasionally featured in dumplings, particularly in certain regional varieties.

In both bao and dumplings, a variety of sauces are used to enhance flavors. Typical sauces include soy sauce, dipping sauce, and other specialty sauces that pair well with the fillings. The use of these sauces often varies based on regional preferences and personal tastes.

To summarize, the main difference in ingredients between bao and dumplings lies in the dough. Bao dough is fluffy and soft, containing yeast and sugar, while dumpling dough is thinner and does not contain these ingredients. Filling options are similar for both but can vary slightly, with baos even offering sweet options. Sauces are used in both cases to complement the flavors of the fillings.

Examining the Cooking Methods

When comparing bao and dumplings, one significant aspect to consider is the difference in their cooking methods. As you explore these techniques, you’ll deepen your understanding of these delicious Asian delicacies.

Bao, in most cases, are steamed using a bamboo steamer. This traditional cooking method is effective as it preserves the soft and fluffy texture of the bao dough. The bamboo steamer allows for an even distribution of heat and retains the moisture necessary to achieve the immaculate texture of the bao. Steaming ensures that the fillings inside the bao stay tender and succulent.

On the other hand, dumplings offer a more versatile range of cooking options. Typical methods include:

  • Boiling: A common and quick cooking method, boiling provides a delicate and smooth texture to dumplings. You’ll often find boiled dumplings in soups or served with dipping sauce.
  • Steaming: Similar to bao, steamed dumplings maintain their moisture and tender texture that showcases the flavors of the ingredients.
  • Pan-frying: This style of cooking, also known as potstickers, produces a crispy exterior with a soft, juicy interior. You would heat a wok or pan with some oil and place the dumplings inside, cooking until one side is golden brown. Afterward, add a little water and cover the pan to finish the cooking process by steaming.
  • Fried: Deep-fried dumplings offer a crispy and golden texture on the outside, with a piping hot, savory filling on the inside. Frying typically takes place in a wok or deep-frying pan with enough oil to submerge the dumplings.

Each cooking style imparts a unique texture and flavor, allowing you to choose the method that best suits your preference or culinary needs. Both bao and dumplings provide the opportunity to experiment with various cooking techniques, ensuring an enjoyable gastronomical experience.

Understanding the Fillings

When it comes to fillings, both bao and dumplings offer a variety of options that can cater to your taste preferences. The most common fillings include meats like pork, beef, chicken, and seafood, as well as vegetables and other ingredients such as tofu, rice, and fish. These fillings can be mixed and matched in endless combinations, allowing you to personalize your dining experience.

In bao, you’ll often find that the fillings are more tender and juicy, thanks to the steaming process which helps retain moisture. Savory fillings such as ground pork, beef, and chicken are popular, often mixed with vegetables like cabbage or scallions. You can also find succulent versions filled with broth, which burst with flavor as you take a bite.

Dumplings, on the other hand, may contain a wider range of flavors and textures, due to their different cooking methods. Chinese dumplings, or jiaozi, typically have a meat filling like ground pork, mixed with vegetables such as scallions, ginger, and garlic. However, there are also many variations that include seafood, tofu, mushrooms, or even black fungus.

In addition to savory options, both bao and dumplings can be found with sweet fillings too. Popular sweet options in bao include lotus seed paste and red bean paste, which provide a satisfying contrast to the fluffy bun. For dumplings, fruit fillings such as cherries, apples, and figs can be delicious when paired with a delicate dough.

As you can see, the fillings in both bao and dumplings offer a wide variety to suit any palate. Whether you’re in the mood for something hearty and savory or light and sweet, you’ll surely find a filling that will delight your taste buds.

In-depth Comparison: Bao vs Dumplings

In your exploration of bao and dumplings, you may find that they appear to be quite similar at first glance. However, upon closer examination, you will discover some key differences that set them apart.

Bao dough is made using a mixture of flour, water, sugar, and yeast, which creates a leavened dough. This means that during the process of steaming, the dough becomes fluffy and expands. On the other hand, dumpling dough is typically made with just flour and water, resulting in an unleavened dough that maintains a more consistent shape and texture during cooking.

When it comes to cooking methods, both bao and dumplings can be steamed. However, dumplings also offer more versatility in preparation, as they can be boiled, pan-fried, or even deep-fried. This variety of cooking techniques results in differing textures and flavors that cater to individual preferences.

The filling is another area where differences can be found. Bao fillings tend to be more diverse, ranging from savory options such as barbecued pork, vegetables, or mushrooms to sweet choices like red bean paste or custard. Dumplings, on the other hand, mostly contain a mixture of ground meat and/or vegetables with flavors rooted in various culinary traditions.

In essence, here are the differences between bao and dumplings:

  • Bao dough is leavened due to the presence of yeast, while dumpling dough is unleavened.
  • Bao is typically only steamed, whereas dumplings can be steamed, boiled, pan-fried, or deep-fried.
  • Bao fillings are more varied and can be sweet or savory, whereas dumpling fillings are primarily savory.

Understanding these distinctions can help enhance your appreciation for the unique qualities of each dish and guide your choices when it comes to enjoying these delicious culinary creations.

Culinary Origins and Cultural Implications

In Chinese cuisine, both bao and dumplings are popular dishes that can be found in various regions. They both have rich histories and unique cultural implications, but there are key differences in their origins.

Bao, also known as baozi, traces its roots back to the Northern Chinese city of Xi’an. This dish arose during the Han Dynasty and is characterized by its steamed, stuffed bread-like exterior. The fillings within bao can vary, ranging from savory meat-based options to sweet bean paste. Bao is often enjoyed at breakfast or lunch, and it has become a beloved staple in Chinese households, local eateries, and upscale Chinese restaurants alike.

On the other hand, dumplings, or jiaozi, originated in Northern China over 1,800 years ago during the Eastern Han Dynasty. Dumplings are made with a thin wrapper of wheat flour dough, filled with a variety of ingredients such as vegetables, meat, or seafood. They are commonly boiled, pan-fried, or steamed and are typically served with dipping sauces. Dumplings are widely enjoyed across China, particularly during important festivities and celebrations like the Lunar New Year.

As you explore these dishes, it’s clear that their cultural implications extend beyond mere culinary differences. Bao and dumplings can be seen as representations of diverse regional cooking styles, showcasing the nuanced flavors and techniques that have evolved over time within Chinese cuisine. Moreover, they both hold sentimental value for the people who prepare and share them, serving as a means of expressing love and hospitality in their communities.

Consumption Context: When and How to Eat

Bao and dumplings have distinct consumption contexts, even though they share similarities in terms of fillings and dough. Knowing when and how to eat them is essential to fully appreciate their unique characteristics.

For bao, typically enjoyed during breakfast or brunch, it serves as an impressive replacement for your regular bread. Due to its filling nature, it can also be eaten as a snack throughout the day. When it comes to consuming bao, it’s standard to use your hands, as they hold their fillings well and are less likely to spill.

Dumplings, on the other hand, are more versatile and can be eaten during various meals. They can be a delightful appetizer, a light lunch or snack, or even a tasty side dish during dinner. While you can eat dumplings with a fork, using chopsticks is the traditional and more authentic way to enjoy them. This method best captures the essence of sharing food with family and friends, which is an integral part of their cultural significance.

Both bao and dumplings can be served with condiments such as soy sauce, vinegar, or chili paste, allowing you to adjust the flavor according to your preferences. It is customary to pair them with a hot cup of tea, as it helps cleanse your palate and prepare it for digesting these delicious treats.

Remember to savor your bao and dumplings while they are warm, as their flavors and textures are best experienced when fresh. The next time you find yourself in a situation where these delightful bites are on the menu, remember these consumption contexts to enhance your experience.

Tips and Techniques for Making Bao and Dumplings

When making bao and dumplings, it’s essential to have the right techniques and tips in mind for the best results. In this section, you’ll discover the key aspects to consider when preparing these delicious treats.

First, focus on the dough. For bao, you’ll want a soft and slightly sticky dough that will rise during the steaming process. You can achieve this by using all-purpose flour, a touch of sugar, and baking powder for leavening. In contrast, dumpling dough is typically less sweet and doesn’t require leavening agents. Additionally, you may want to experiment with different bao recipes to find one that suits your taste.

When it comes to fillings, the possibilities are endless. Both bao and dumplings can be filled with a variety of ingredients, from savory meat mixtures to sweet fruit compotes. However, make sure not to overfill your dough, as this may cause it to tear during cooking.

Regarding the cooking method, the main difference between bao and dumplings is that bao are typically steamed, while dumplings can be steamed, boiled, or pan-fried. When steaming either bao or dumplings, it’s helpful to use bamboo steamer baskets. These allow the steam to circulate evenly around the food, resulting in soft, tender bites.

Here are a few additional tips for successful bao and dumpling making:

  • To prevent sticking, ensure your work surface and rolling pin are dusted with flour.
  • Seal your bao and dumplings tightly to avoid filling leakage during cooking.
  • Place a small piece of parchment paper under each bao or dumpling in the steamer. This helps prevent sticking and makes removal easier.
  • Steam your bao and dumplings in batches if your steamer cannot accommodate all at once. Overcrowding can lead to uneven cooking.

By following these tips and techniques, you’re well on your way to creating appetizing and delectable bao and dumplings in your kitchen. Enjoy the process and savor the delicious results!

Closing Remarks

When comparing bao and dumplings, it’s clear that they are distinct in more than just their names. While both originate from Chinese culinary traditions, you’ll find that their respective textures, fillings, and cooking methods differ.

If you’re new to these delicious bites, remember that bao typically refers to steamed buns made with leavened dough, often filled with savory or sweet ingredients. On the other hand, dumplings encompass a considerable variety of small, stuffed pockets made from unleavened dough and can be boiled, steamed, or even pan-fried.

Next time you visit your favorite Chinese restaurant or try your hand at making these delights at home, you’ll have a better understanding of what sets bao and dumplings apart. By appreciating the nuances between these two tasty treats, your dining experience will be all the more enjoyable. So go ahead, explore the fascinating world of these culinary treasures in all their nuanced glory.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main ingredients of bao and dumplings?

The main ingredients for both bao and dumplings are wheat flour for the dough and various fillings. Bao dough contains yeast, which gives it a light, fluffy texture, whereas dumplings have a denser and more elastic dough, made with just flour and water. Fillings for bao and dumplings can include meat, vegetables, or a combination of both, depending on individual preference and regional styles.

How do the cooking methods differ between bao and dumplings?

Bao, also known as steamed buns, are typically cooked by steaming. This method is responsible for their soft, tender texture. Dumplings, on the other hand, can be cooked using various methods like boiling, pan-frying, or steaming. Depending on the cooking method, dumplings can have a chewy or crispy texture.

Are there any regional variations in bao and dumplings?

Yes, there are regional variations in both bao and dumplings. Bao, which originated in China, has different styles across regions, such as the Cantonese-style char siu bao filled with barbecued pork, or the Shanghainese-style xiaolongbao, a soup-filled bao. Dumplings also have regional variations, including Chinese jiaozi, Japanese gyoza, and Korean mandu, each with their unique shapes, fillings, and cooking methods.

What are the differences between bao and momo?

Bao is a type of Chinese steamed bun, while momo is a type of dumpling that originates from Nepal and Tibet. While both are made with dough and filling, bao has a soft, fluffy texture due to the presence of yeast, and is steamed. Momo, on the other hand, has a denser dough, and it can be steamed or pan-fried. The fillings for bao and momo can be similar, but momo usually contains more fragrant spices like coriander and cumin.

How is the texture of bao different from dumplings?

The texture of bao is soft, light, and fluffy due to the yeast in the dough, which creates air bubbles and causes the dough to rise during steaming. In contrast, dumplings have a denser, more elastic dough made from just flour and water. Their texture may vary from being chewy to crispy, depending on the cooking method used.

Is there a difference in the fillings of bao and dumplings?

Although there may be similarities in the ingredients used for fillings, there can be differences in the combinations and flavors. Bao fillings are often more varied and creative, ranging from savory to sweet options such as BBQ pork, custard, or red bean paste. Dumplings typically have more traditional fillings like ground meat, vegetables, or seafood, mixed with seasonings like soy sauce, ginger, and scallions. However, the choice of fillings is largely up to personal preference and regional influences.

Bao vs Dumplings

Here is a simple recipe for making bao:
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 23 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Chinese
Servings 4
Calories 277 kcal


  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon of active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup of warm water
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 1/4 cup of vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
  • Pinch of salt


  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt. Mix well.
  • In a separate bowl, combine the warm water and vegetable oil. Add this mixture to the flour mixture and mix until a dough forms.
  • Knead the dough on a floured surface for about 5-10 minutes until it becomes smooth and elastic.
  • Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with a clean cloth, and let it rise in a warm place for about an hour or until it doubles in size.
  • After the dough has risen, punch it down and knead it for another 5 minutes.
  • Roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thickness. Cut the dough into small circles using a cookie cutter or a cup.
  • Place each circle of dough on a small piece of parchment paper and let them rest for another 10 minutes.
  • In a steamer, steam the bao for about 10-15 minutes until they are puffy and cooked through.
  • Serve the bao with your favorite fillings, such as pork, chicken, or vegetables.


Calories: 277kcal
Keyword bao vs dumpling
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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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