August 25, 2023

Pork Belly Bao Buns

Crispy pork belly stuffed bao buns topped with a Vietnamese daikon pickle, fresh cilantro, jalapeños, and a spicy vibrant mayo.

These Chinese pork belly bao buns are inspired by Vietnamese flavors (the ones you would find in a bánh mì) with a fresh sweet daikon radish and carrot pickle (Đồ Chua), a little kick of spice with jalapeños, and a bright note with fresh cilantro. Finished with a spicy sriracha mayo, these bao buns are unbelievably quick and easy to make.

pork belly bao bun


These ‘open bao buns’ are a traditional Chinese bread-like bun made from flour, yeast, baking powder, sugar, milk, and oil. Steamed until cooked through, they are fluffy and light in texture, and slightly sweet. Not to be confused with the closed bao, this sandwich-like bun can be stuffed with a variety of different ingredients, the most common being pork belly.


When you search pork belly bao chances are you came across a decent number of recipes with a thick slab of pork belly. Don’t get me wrong these recipes look amazing, but thick cut pork belly needs a lot of love to get soft and tender. Love that you might not have time to give some days. Some of these recipes call for the pork belly to be marinated for 24 hours prior to cooking them for 2 1/2 – 3 hours. I don’t doubt they are absolutely delicious, but damn, who has time for this. This recipe is designed for convenience while still delivering on flavor. Cue in the thin cut pork belly.

A common cut in Asian supermarkets, thin cut pork belly is primarily sold for BBQ. This cut cooks fast while still delivering on the pork belly flavor. Don’t expect to find this in your local ShopRite or Whole Foods. If you have access to a specialty Asian market check there. I got mine from H Mart which is my favorite Korean grocery store to stock up on ingredients anytime I have an Asian inspired shoot. You can also buy this online at Umami Cart which is a great resource (if they ship to your zipcode).

raw thin cut pork belly


I understand some of the below ingredients can not be found in your standard supermarket. I added in links where applicable. Always check your local area for an Asian specialty market.


If you’ve eaten a Bahn Mi, you have had this pickle before. Also called Đồ Chua, this easy and quick pickled daikon and carrots is acidic and a little sweet making it the perfect pickle to cut into the fatty pork belly.

  • Daikon Radish – I LOVE daikon radish. I need to warn you though, if you have never handled daikon before don’t be alarmed if it smells post pickling. This is a thing and it is absolutely normal. Make sure you use an air tight container such as a maison jar to store the pickle. Can’t find daikon? I found out recently that Whole Foods sells chunks of daikon near the loose beets in the produce section.
  • Carrots – I typically buy one or two of those super large carrots.
  • Vinegar – White vinegar.
  • Sugar -Granulated white sugar.


  • Mayo –Kewpie is recommended, but any mayo works.
  • Sriracha – I know the shortage is killing a lot of people. The brand doesn’t matter, buuuuut Huy Fong is always my recommendation.
  • Lime Juice – Fresh only.


  • Bao Buns – While absolutely worth it if you can, I don’t make my own buns. Not when they are conveniently located frozen in many Asian specialty supermarkets. I get mine from H Mart but you can also order them online HERE. Just a heads up they are also called lotus leaf buns.
  • Pork Belly – Thin cut pork belly. The thick slab of pork belly takes a while to marinate and cook down. See above for more info.
  • Cilantro – To add a layer of freshness.
  • Jalapeño


  • Bamboo Steamer – My husband swore I would never use this if I bought it. WELL LOOK AT ME NOW! Bamboo steamers are relatively inexpensive and can be bought at Asian supermarkets, mainstream stores like Williams Sonoma, and even Amazon. HERE is one you can order online. I find that the ones I bought have this initial wood smell when steaming, that does go away after a few uses.
  • Parchment Paper – Used under the bao buns so they don’t stick to the steamer.
  • Mason Jar
plate of bao buns next to a Vietmanese diakon radish pickle, spicy mayo and cilantro


Make the Pickle – Peel and julienne the daikon and carrots, and place in a large bowl. Add a heavy pinch of salt and mix thoroughly. Let this sit for 10 minutes, the salt is going to pull out the excess moisture. After 10 minutes strain the daikon and carrots, and place in a mason jar. On the stove bring the water to a simmer and add the sugar. Heat until the sugar has completely dissolved. Pour the warm mixture over the daikon and carrots and add the vinegar. Let this sit for 30 minutes to an hour before eating.

Steam the Bao Buns – Always refer to the packaging instructions for exact cook time however place square pieces of parchment in the bamboo steamer. Add the bao buns and steam over a saucepan (one that is the same size as the steamer) until cooked through (mine was approx. 15 minutes).

Cook the Meat – Place a skillet over medium heat. Generously salt the pork belly. Once heated up add the pork belly to the pan and sear for 1-2 minutes on each side. Make sure the pan is hot when you sear the meat, not only will this allow you to not use any additional oil to cook the pork belly in but it will allow the meat to brown in the short amount of cook time.

Additional Add Ins + Assembly – In a bowl add and mix together the mayo ingredients. Pick off pieces of cilantro (stems included is fine), and slice the jalapeño. To each bao add 2 pieces of pork belly, a generous amount of pickle, 2-3 slices of jalapeño, some spicy mayo, and cilantro. Serve immediately.

3 pork belly bao buns on a cutting board


Once you assemble to pork belly bao buns there is no saving them. The spicy mayo can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to a week. The daikon radish pickle can be stored for 2-3 weeks.

Looking for other dishes to serve with this one? Check out the below!

Spicy Garlic Green Beans

August 25, 2023

Pork Belly Bao Buns

Print Recipe Pin Recipe
These Chinese pork belly bao are inspired by Vietnamese flavors (pickled daikon radish, fresh cilantro, jalapeño, and topped with a spicy mayo)
Course Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine Asian, Chinese
Keyword Bao Buns, Pork Belly
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 3 people


Pickled Daikon Radish

  • 1/2 lb daikon radish peeled + julienned
  • 1/2 lb carrot peeled + julienned
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt

Spicy Mayo

  • 1/2 cup mayo
  • 2 tbsp sriracha
  • 1/2 lime juiced

Buns + Assembly

  • 9 bao buns or also known as lotus buns
  • 18 pieces thin cut pork belly
  • 1 jalepeno sliced thin
  • cilantro


Pickled Daikon Radish (Đồ Chua)

  • Place the cut daikon radish and carrots in a bowl with a heavy pinch of salt (approx. 1/4 tsp). Let this sit for 10 minutes before draining. Place drained radish and carrots in a mason jar.
  • Heat the water in a saucepan to a simmer, add the sugar and simmer until dissolved. Add the water/sugar mixture over the daikon and carrots. Add the vinegar. Let this sit for 30 minutes before eating.

Spicy Mayo

  • Combine the mayo, sriracha, lime juice, and a small pinch of salt to a bowl. If you want it to be spicier add an additional tbsp of sriracha. Let this sit in the fridge for 10 minutes for the flavors to come together.

Other Prep

  • Place the steam buns on parchment paper in a bamboo steamer over a simmering pot of water (one that fits the steamer), and cook as per package instructions.
  • Place a skillet over medium heat. Generously salt the pork belly. Once heated up add the pork belly to the pan and sear for 1-2 minutes on each side.


  • To each bao add 2 pieces of pork belly, a generous amount of pickle, 2-3 pieces of jalapeño, some spicy mayo, and cilantro. Serve immediately.


this recipe makes 9 bao buns (3 per person) feel free to scale this up or down.

RATE + REVIEW What did you think of this recipe?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating