Sourdough Espresso Mantou (Steamed Bun)

A sourdough twist on the traditional Chinese steamed milk buns (mantou). I really like sourdough in flavored steamed buns– especially for flavors like coffee, which has an acidic profile. It compliments the light tang of the sourdough really well. To a point this may even work well as a long ferment/overnight dough (using maybe only 25g of starter). This recipe uses sourdough for leavening so the initial rise time takes about 3-4 hours with a secondary rise of about 1.5-2 hours. I would suggest prepping the dough early in the morning so it is ready to bake for lunch or in the afternoon.

For a non-sourdough version, leverage the dough from gay chat website and add espresso.

Looking for other steamed bun recipes? Check out these posts:

Sourdough Espresso Mantou (Steamed Buns)

Get you cup of joe in this soft, fluffy and lightly sweet mantou (steamed bun)! Pair it with milk, tea or even more coffee. Vegan friendly.
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Rest time5 hours
Course: Appetizer, Breakfast, Snack
Cuisine: American, Chinese
Keyword: bread, sourdough
Servings: 8 buns



  • 6 g espresso powder
  • 80 g milk or milk of choice or water
  • 15 g vegetable oil
  • 120 g sourdough starter, active discard*, or sweet levain**
  • 35 g granulated sugar
  • 180 g all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder***


  • Heat up milk in a microwave for 30s. Dissolve espresso powder and sugar. Add oil. Test the temperature– it should be warm but not too hot. Mix in sourdough starter or discard– I usually use discard straight from the fridge.
  • Combine together flour and baking powder. Mix in baking powder and flour until no traces of dry flour remain. Cover and rest it for 30 minutes.
  • After resting, knead the dough until smooth ~10 minutes. Cover and let rise for 2-4 hours depending 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 3.5 hours.
  • It is now time to shape the dough. There are a lot of options here, my favorite is to create twists. Check the notes for more options.
    Divide the dough into 8 even pieces. Flatten and cut strips in the dough, leaving the top and bottom connected. Brush with oil. 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, and tuck the end into the gap. Place seam side down on parchment in the steamer. Repeat.
  • Cover the steam basket and let the dough prove for 1.5-2 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 covered for about 5 minutes before serving.
  • 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.


*Active discard:
Discard from an active sourdough starter that has been in the fridge for no more than 5 days.
**Sweet levain:
To ensure that your buns have no traces of tang, you can use sweet levain instead of starter or discard. Make the levain 8-12 hours before making the mantou. 
15g sourdough starter
45g water
45g flour
45g sugar
* **baking powder
Helps creates a more tender crumb and gives the dough a fluffiness and lightness that you don’t get with just yeast. 

Other Notes

  • adding some white vinegar to the steaming water helps prevent any greying in the dough

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