Sourdough Chocolate Marzipan Mantou

This Sourdough Chocolate Marzipan Mantou recipe requires a total rise time of about 5 hours and cooks within 15 minutes. Everything is made from scratch and vegan– including the marzipan, though you can definitely buy your own. The recipe for the vegan marzipan is just 4 ingredients and you can find it below the mantou recipe.

I recently bought and devoured Vanessa Kimbell’s The Sourdough School book. In one chapters, she talked about the different kinds of sourdough starters, I was familiar or have read about all of them (ex. white, rye, whole wheat ) but one: a cacao starter. So I decided to experimenting with it. Although I don’t ever think I would keep a continuous cacao starter on my kitchen counter, I found that branching my mother starter to make the cacao one, and then using it to make a levain for sweet bakes adds a noticeable complexity of the dough.

For a chocolate base doughs like this one, it’s not as necessary to build a cacao starter since we are going to add cacao in for the dough. But I found that it is a good way to add cacao earlier and help incorporate cacao evenly into the final dough. It is also a good way to learn about the cacao starter, how it behaves and how to work with it without compromising the flavor of the bake or err… in this case “the steam”? That doesn’t have as much of a ring to it XD. I’m not going to include the cacao starter in the actual recipe, but if you are interested in experimenting with it, this is what I used:

5g regular starter
12g bread flour
4g cacao powder
26g water
2g sugar

Make sure you make this starter ahead of time and it is active at the time of use. You can perform the “float” test to make sure. To perform the float test, drop a small bit of starter in water. If it floats, it is active enough to use!

For more Mantou/Bao recipes, check below:

Happy Steaming!

Sourdough Chocolate Marzipan Mantou

Naturally leavened mantou (steamed buns). Chocolatey, nutty, sweet & vegan friendly.
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Rest time5 hrs
Course: Appetizer, Snack
Keyword: bread, sourdough
Servings: 8 buns



  • 120 g sourdough starter or discard
  • 80 g milk or water or milk of choice
  • 15 g vegetable oil
  • 30 g granulated sugar
  • 10 g cacao powder
  • 175 g all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder*

Add ins

  • 150 g marzipan see below on how to make your own marzipan


  • Add milk and sugar to a saucepan until the sugar is just dissolved. Transfer to a bowl and add in oil. The mixture should be warm but not too hot for the touch. If it is, let it sit for a few minutes to cool down. Add the sourdough starter to the mixture until evenly dispersed.
  • Mix flour, cacao powder and baking soda in another bowl. Add it to the milk mixture until everything is well incorporated. A semi sticky dough should form. Let rest for 30 minutes.
  • After resting, knead the dough until smooth. If the dough is too sticky and wet, mix in flour 1 tbsp at a time until it is manageable. Cover and let rise for 2-4 hours. The time depends on how active your starter is and the environment. Using discard from the fridge, with a room temp of around 75F, mine is typically ready to go in about 3 hours.
    Sourdough Chocolate Marzipan Steamed Bun
  • It is now time to shape the dough. 
    Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces, working one at a time while leaving the others covered to prevent drying.
    Slice marzipan into 8 equal pieces, roughly 1/3 the size of the dough balls.
    Roll out the dough into a long strip about 8 inches tall and 4 inches wide. Take a piece of marzipan and flatten it between your fingers and place it on half of the dough. It is okay if it is not even. Fold the plain side of the dough over, like an omelette, and seal the edges. Rotate the dough (so it looks like aD or backwards D) and using a rolling pin, roll the dough out again to a long strip.
    Black Sesame Steamed Buns
  • Cut strips in the dough, leaving the top and bottom connected. Brush with oil (optional). Holding the top and bottom edges, stretch and twist the dough into a rope. Hold one end between your thumb and pointer finger and twist the rope around your pointer finger, creating a gap in the middle. Tuck the end into the gap. Please on parchment in a steaming basket, cover and repeat with the rest of the dough. Let the dough prove for 1-2 hours in a warm place.
  • Add water to a pot and turn your stove on high. Place the steam basket on top and steam for about 10-12 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the buns sit for about 5 minutes before serving.
    Sourdough Chocolate Marzipan Steamed Bun
  • Storage: You can freeze the buns once they have cooled. To reheat, just pop it back into the steam basket and repeat the steaming step.


* baking powder: not necessary but it helps creates a more tender crumb and gives the dough a fluffiness and lightness that you don’t get with just yeast. 

Almond Paste


  • 120 g almond flour
  • 50 g granulated sugar
  • 10 g honey or agave nectar
  • 30 g water


  • Combine sugar, honey and water together in a pan and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and mix in almond flour– the mixture will appear dry at first but keep mixing until a evenly moist dough forms.
  • Transfer the paste on to a plastic wrap and shape it into a tube. Let cool on the countertop before transferring to the fridge.

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