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cocktail buns

shortcut cantonese cocktail buns (gai mei bao)

Cantonese cocktail buns, also known as 鸡尾包 (gai1 mei5 baau1), are one of my most nostalgic snacks from my childhood! They’re filled with a sweet, buttery coconut filling, and were always such a treat in addition to other popular Hong Kong-style buns like pineapple buns, which I have another shortcut recipe for!

The shortcut method that I share below can get you these “semi-homemade” cocktail buns in less than one hour from start to finish.

There’s no need to fuss with making your own bread dough, because the shortcut is to use store-bought, pre-made sweet rolls. My preference is Kings Hawaiian Original Sweet Rolls, but any pre-made dinner rolls would work!

Check out these other popular smellylunchbox recipes:

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cocktail buns

Shortcut Cantonese Cocktail Buns (Gai Mei Bao)

Using pre-made bread rolls, you can make these shortcut Cantonese cocktail buns in less than an hour, start to finish. They're sweet, coconut-y, and such a treat!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 35 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Course Breakfast, Dessert, Snack
Cuisine Chinese
Servings 12 buns



  • 1 pack (12 rolls) Kings Hawaiian Original Sweet Rolls or another pre-made roll of your choice


  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter softened
  • 1/3 cup (75g) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract optional
  • 3 tbsp (15g) milk powder (sometimes labeled as dry milk)
  • small pinch of salt
  • 1 cup (100g) desiccated unsweetened coconut aka finely shredded coconut


  • 1/3 cup of the butter, sugar, egg, milk powder mixture (reserved from filling)
  • 3 tbsp (24g) all purpose flour
  • sesame seeds


Prepare the filling and topping

  • Before starting, make sure the butter is softened and the egg is room temperature. To soften the butter quickly, microwave the butter for 12-15 seconds. To bring the egg to room temperature quickly, place the whole egg into a bowl of hot water from the tap for a few minutes.
    1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, 1 large egg
  • In a bowl, mix together the softened butter and sugar with a spatula until thoroughly combined.
    1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, 1/3 cup (75g) granulated sugar
  • In a separate bowl, beat the egg, then add it to the butter and sugar mixture. Add the vanilla extract if using. Mix until fully incorporated; using a whisk will make this easier!
    1 large egg, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Add the milk powder and salt, and mix until thoroughly combined.
    3 tbsp (15g) milk powder, small pinch of salt
  • For the topping, take 1/3 cup of this mixture and place it into a separate bowl. Add flour to this and mix until it becomes a smooth paste.
    1/3 cup of the butter, sugar, egg, milk powder mixture, 3 tbsp (24g) all purpose flour
  • To the remaining filling mixture, add desiccated coconut. Do one final mix, and your filling and topping are ready!
    1 cup (100g) desiccated unsweetened coconut

Prepare and bake the buns

  • Preheat your oven to 350F.
  • Take the Kings Hawaiian Original Sweet Rolls (or your rolls of choice) out of the package, and remove the paper tray. Don’t separate them into individual rolls — keeping them in tact will keep each bun softer while it bakes, and make prep easier.
    1 pack (12 rolls) Kings Hawaiian Original Sweet Rolls
  • Slice off the top 1/3 of the buns in a single layer. A long bread knife will make this very easy!
  • Carve out a hole in each bun about 1-1.5 inches wide. You can save these extra pieces of bread to eat as a snack or for breadcrumbs.
  • Add a heaping tablespoon of filling (the mixture with the coconut) to each bun (a small ice cream scooper works great here). Smooth the filling down so that the tops sit flat and snug. Place the tops back onto the buns.
  • Create a foil tray that wraps around the sides and bottoms of the buns (see video for reference). This will prevent them from browning too much while baking.
  • Brush the top of the buns with water, then sprinkle sesame seeds over the tops.
    sesame seeds
  • To make the stripes on the top, place the topping mixture (the smooth paste) into a piping bag or a parchment cone, then pipe two stripes per roll. See the video for reference!
  • Lastly, place the foil tray-lined buns into a wire rack stacked on a baking sheet tray, then bake for 8 minutes or until the stripes on top have solidified and become very lightly golden. Try not to bake too much longer than that to prevent browning. Enjoy!

Storage and reheating instructions

  • Store these in a resealable bag or airtight container at room temperature for 1-2 days or refrigerator for up to 3 days. I prefer reheating these in the microwave by wrapping the bun in a moist paper towel, and microwaving for 30 seconds.
Keyword cocktail buns, gai mei bao, hong kong bakery buns
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!


  1. 5 stars
    My first attempt at making this recipe, it was easy to follow,tasted good, but my stripes didn’t look as good as yours! But I’ll keep practicing!

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