pineapple buns

homemade Chinese pineapple buns (shortcut version!)

Cantonese pineapple buns (known as bo lo bao in Cantonese) are a staple at any Chinese bakery. They don't actually contain any pineapple, but get their names from their golden and cross-hatched cookie-crusted tops. If you're looking for a shortcut recipe for pineapple buns with BBQ pork filling, I have that too!

These buns are known to be labors of love -- they're not always easy to replicate at home, and can take a lot of time to do so. That's why I'm so excited to share this easy, shortcut pineapple bun recipe where you don't need to fuss with making your own dough!

The shortcut for these delicious pineapple buns is to use store-bought sweet rolls. All you have to do is make the cookie topping!

Check out the 4 simple steps below on how to make your own homemade pineapple buns:

How to make homemade pineapple buns in 4 easy steps:

Step 1: Mix together the ingredients for the cookie topping

Mix together your softened butter and sugar first until it's smooth.

Then add your other ingredients, the egg yolk (for flavor and golden color), vanilla extract (for flavor), and sifted flour, baking powder, and baking soda (these will help the cookie rise a bit and give it the light, crumbly texture).

Step 2: Roll it into a log and let it firm up in the fridge

Once the ingredients are well-incorporated, wrap it in plastic wrap and roll it into an even log.

Put it into the fridge for 20-30 minutes to let it firm up. This will make sure that the cookie topping doesn't just completely melt when it's baked!

Step 3: Flatten into 8 equal pieces and place them on store-bought buns

After 20-30 minutes, remove from the plastic wrap and slice into 8 even pieces. I like to use a kitchen scale here to make sure they're all the same weight, but that's optional.

Take one piece, roll it in your hands to make it a ball, then gently press between plastic wrap to flatten into a disc until it's about ¼ inch thick. Repeat with the rest.

Preheat your oven to 375F. Prepare your baking tray by lining it with a wire rack. This will ensure that the bottoms don't burn (I learned this the hard way)!

Step 4: Bake the pineapple buns (on a wire rack to prevent burnt bottoms)

Place each disc on top of a sweet roll, and use a butterknife to gently indent a cross-hatch pattern for that iconic pineapple bun look -- make sure to not cut all the way through. This step is optional, it's also common to bake them as is, without the cross-hatches.

Brush with some egg wash, and bake for 13-15 min or until they're nicely golden. Enjoy when it's warm!

Check out these other popular smellylunchbox recipes:

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pineapple buns

Easy Homemade Pineapple Buns

These delicious homemade pineapple buns are made EXTRA easy with a shortcut: using store-bought fluffy sweet rolls as the "bun." No need to fuss with a dough, and they turn out so good!
5 from 8 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Inactive Time 20 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Course Breakfast, Dessert, Snack
Cuisine Chinese
Servings 8 buns

Ingredients
  

  • 8 Hawaiian sweet rolls (or other soft dinner rolls)

Cookie topping:

  • 50 g butter, softened (~¼ cup for 8 rolls)
  • 50 g sugar (~¼ cup for 8 rolls)
  • 90 g cake or AP flour (½ cup + 2 tablespoon for 8 rolls)
  • 1 egg yolk (for the cookie batter)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • teaspoon baking soda
  • teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 whole egg (for brushing the top)

Instructions
 

Make the cookie topping

  • In a bowl, mix softened butter with sugar until smooth. Add 1 egg yolk and vanilla extract, and mix until incorporated.
    50 g butter, softened, 50 g sugar, ½ teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 egg yolk
  • Sift in flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Mix until all the flour disappears.
    90 g cake or AP flour, ⅛ teaspoon baking soda, ⅛ teaspoon baking powder
  • Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and roll into an even log. Refrigerate for 20-30 min to allow it to firm up.
  • After 20-30 mins, remove the plastic wrap and cut it into 8 even pieces. I used a kitchen scale to make sure each piece was the same weight but that's optional!
  • Roll each piece into a ball, then press it flat in between plastic wrap until it’s ¼ inch thick. Repeat with the rest.

Bake the pineapple buns

  • Preheat your oven to 375F (convection off). Separate the Hawaiian sweet rolls, and place on a wire rack on a baking tray (this ensures the bottoms don't burn). Lay a cookie topping on each roll. Using a butterknife, gently indent a crosshatch pattern (optional) but don’t cut all the way through.
    8 Hawaiian sweet rolls
  • Whisk or beat an egg in a bowl, and lightly brush the cookie tops with this egg wash.
    1 whole egg
  • If your oven uses convection heat (it distributes heat with a fan), you may want to use aluminum foil to create a protective wall around your baking tray to prevent your rolls from getting too toasty.
  • Bake for 13-15 min or until cookie tops are golden. They’re best enjoyed slightly warm!
Keyword chinese bakery, chinese bun, pineapple bun
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

22 Comments

  1. Tiffany Lin

    5 stars
    Let me just preface by saying I’m an AWFUL baker. I cook like a typical Asian mom using taste and a sprinkle of this and that, so I’m bad at following recipes- but this recipe was SO easy to follow and turned out amazing!! Bolo bao was my favorite bread growing up and I’ve always wanted to make it. With a recipe this simple, I made it within hours of discovering it. All the ingredients are simple pantry items so you just need to pick up Hawaiian rolls! They brought me back to my childhood and tasted authentic!!! Thank you so much for this recipe! I can’t wait to impress everyone else at the potlucks with my new go to recipe!

    • smellylunchbox

      So happy to hear that Tiffany!! Really glad you enjoyed the recipe and appreciate you taking the time to leave a review 🙂

  2. Thanks for sharing this! Do you think this would work in an air fryer?

    • smellylunchbox

      You're welcome Steph! I think an airfryer might make the bread too hard unfortunately. But I haven't tried to know for sure!

  3. 5 stars
    Tried this today and I had to add more flour than the recipe. I adjusted as needed until I was able to get the dough like consistency I was looking for. I also made These in the air fryer instead of the oven because I was impatient and lazy lol. Turned out great!! Going to make more fresh ones this week.

    • smellylunchbox

      Thank you, Jenny! I've actually just increased the amount of flour in the recipe (from 75g to 90g) based on feedback from several folks (75g worked for most people, but a few had an issue of the cookie melting off the buns during baking). The increased flour holds the cookie together better.

      Thank you for taking the time to let me know how it turned out!! 🙂

  4. Can I leave the log overnight in the fridge if I don’t have time to complete the baking steps same day?

  5. 5 stars
    Really impressed with how these turned out, and so easy! told all my friends to try this

  6. 5 stars
    Great, easy hack! Thank you! What is the best way to reheat these?

    • smellylunchbox

      I like to reheat these like how I reheat most bakery buns, wrapped in a wet paper towel + 30 seconds in the microwave 🙂

  7. 5 stars
    Just excellent! I have made this 4 times in a month lol. It's genius to use ready-made buns and saves so much time. I was worried the bun may get dry, but it just toasts the outside while the inside is still soft! Love your recipes!!

  8. 5 stars
    Yummy, fuss free and straight forward. It tastes just like the ones you get in Hong Kong cafes. We don’t have an Hawaiian buns here to I substituted it with Brioche buns. It can’t get any easier!

  9. 5 stars
    LOVE this recipe! I made this three separate times for three different crowds all in one week. It was such a huge crowd pleaser every time! I made triple batches the first two times but by the end of the week, I decided to make a 6x batch so people wouldn't fight for the leftovers. I'm not even kidding.

    I love that you can make the dough ahead of time and have it in the fridge for when you are ready to use it. Makes it easier to prepare when you are busy or tight on time. This is definitely one of those low effort / high impressiveness recipes and something I will make again and again!

    • smellylunchbox

      Low effort, high reward is exactly how I like to describe this recipe! Thanks for the wonderful review and I'm so happy to hear that your friends and family liked this one so much! 🙂

  10. 5 stars
    This recipe is THE BEST!!! Love how easy it was to make and it was a hit with everyone! My mom from Hong Kong asked me where I bought them cuz they were soo good and my husband is asking when I came make more! I've already got some butter softening for the next batch, probably will need to triple it! Thank you so much for this recipe!

  11. Hi, is it okay to make the cookie topping ahead of time and leave it in the fridge for the following day?

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