Super light and fluffy tempeh katsu bao buns filled with ultra crispy panko-crusted tempeh, chopped peanuts, and drizzled with a sweet and spicy curried mayo! Plant-based, loaded with flavors and texture, and definitely better than takeout!
📘 What is a Bao Bun
Bao bun, also known as “baozi” in Chinese (包子) or “bánh bao” in Vietnamese, is a type of steamed bread made of wheat flour, salt, sugar, and sometimes milk.
It comes in a variety of shapes and can be filled with all sorts of meats and/or vegetables or simply served as a side dish.
⭐️ Why You Should Try This Recipe
- It’s packed with flavor and textures: from the crispy tempeh to the soft and fluffy steamed bun and the creamy curried sauce, these buns are anything but boring.
- It’s rich in protein: the tempeh itself brings 10g of plant-based protein per serving!
- It’s quick and easy to make: assuming that you are using pre-made buns, it’s just a matter of coating the tempeh with panko, frying until golden brown, and assembling!
🥣 How to Make Tempeh Katsu Bao Buns
You will need:
- Bao buns – To save time, I went with store-bought bao buns here. If you can’t find it in the store or want to make your own, feel free to check out the recipe from these Sate Tofu Bao with Kale Pesto!
- Tempeh – Basically, any type of tempeh will work. You can use soybean tempeh, chickpea tempeh, or even black bean tempeh for a soy-free version!
- Panko – This type of breadcrumbs is often used in Japanese cuisine. Panko is crispier and airier than regular breadcrumbs and tends to absorb less oil, resulting in a lighter coating.
- Mayo – It makes the base of the sauce. Want to make your own? Check out this 5-minute Vegan mayo recipe!
- Chili sauce – For color and some spiciness. I went with sweet chili sauce, but feel free to use sriracha!
- Curry powder – For a subtle curry flavor, use your favorite curry powder mix.
- Roasted peanuts – To add nuttiness and some crunch.
- Fresh greens – Lettuce, Batavia, or iceberg. For freshness and a vibrant green color.
- Black sesame seeds – Optional, mostly for decoration.
It starts with the tempeh that we cut into rectangles about the width of the buns.
Next, dip each piece of tempeh into the flour batter, slightly shake to remove excess, and dip into the panko breadcrumbs.
To fry, heat some neutral oil over medium heat. Once hot, add the panko-coated tempeh and fry for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown. Our tempeh is now ready to use!
To prepare the sauce, simply combine vegan mayo, chili sauce, and curry powder in a small bowl. Taste and adjust the spiciness to your taste by adding more mayo or chili sauce.
To assemble the bao buns:
- Steam the bao buns for 12-15 minutes in a steamer.
- Open the buns and arrange a layer of chopped lettuce and some cilantro leaves.
- Top with the katsu tempeh.
- Drizzle a generous amount of the curried mayo on top of the katsu tempeh.
- Sprinkle with chopped roasted peanuts and garnish with red cabbage. Enjoy!
Note: Be generous with the mayo sauce. It brings not only creaminess and richness but also a lot of flavors!
Tofu, vegan chicken, or your favorite plant-based meat will make great substitutes!
Yes, you can. However, the texture won’t be as light and crispy.
These are definitely best served immediately for the best texture and flavor. After a couple of hours, the tempeh tends to lose its crispiness, and the bao bun will dry out a bit.
I hope you are going to love these tempeh bao buns! It’s meaty, crispy, filling, and super flavorful!
- 2 tbsp vegan mayo
- 1 tbsp chili sauce or sriracha
- 1/2 tsp curry powder
- 2 bao buns
- 1/2 cup chopped lettuce
- 1/4 cup finely chopped peanuts*
- fresh cilantro, shredded red cabbage
- In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, water, sugar, black pepper, and salt. Add the panko breadcrumbs to another bowl.
- Dip each piece of tempeh into the flour batter and slightly shake it to remove the excess batter. Transfer immediately to the bowl of panko and flip the tempeh to coat it evenly on all sides. Transfer to a plate.
- Heat about 1 cup of neutral oil over medium heat in a deep saucepan or skillet. Once the oil is hot, add the panko-coated tempeh and fry for 2-3 minutes. Flip once halfway through frying or until golden brown.
- Remove from the oil by using a fork or a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper towels.
- In a small bowl, combine the mayo, chili sauce, and curry powder. Stir until fully combined. At this point, you can taste and adjust the spiciness to your liking by playing with the ratio of mayo to chili sauce.
- Steam your buns according to the package instructions (usually 12-15 minutes).
- Open the buns and arrange about 1/4 cup of lettuce and a few leaves of cilantro inside each bun. Top with the katsu tempeh and generously drizzle with the curried mayo.
- Top with the finely chopped peanuts and shredded red cabbage if using. Serve immediately!