Baozi vs Jiaozi 🥊 The Duel of the Dumplings

Baozi vs Jiaozi – What Are The Main Differences

Baozi vs Jiaozi – how on earth can I tell them apart?

Baozi vs Jiaozi

If the famous English writer Shakespeare had the chance to walk around Beijing or Shanghai, he definitely would have wondered:

Jiaozi or Baozi, that is the question”.

Sometimes these two typical Chinese foods can mess with you, especially if it’s your new to China.

So, let’s try to make things clear.

Boazi vs Jiaozi – What is a Jiaozi?

Baozi vs Jiaozi – What is Baozi?

Baozi vs Jiaozi – What are the Differences?

Baozi vs Jiaozi – Where Can you Buy Jiaozi and Baozi?

Baozi vs Jiaozi – How Much do Jiaozi and Baozi cost?

Baozi vs Jiaozi FAQ’s

Discover Xiaolongbao with Cam and. Marine

What Are Jiaozi?

Whatever you want to call them jiaozi 饺子 (the Chinese name) or dumplings (the English name) it doesn’t matter, because they are still delicious.

white ceramic plate on brown wooden table

When you think about it Dumplings can be found all over the world. Think of Italian ravioli or tortellini. The concept is the same.

Jiaozi are thinly rolled pieces of dough, sealed by pressing the edges together.

They can be filled either with meat or with vegetable.

The most common filling is pork and cabbage, but there are many other unique variations as lamb and carrot or egg and tomato.

According to the cooking method, they can be divided into four types:

  • Boiled dumplings or shuǐjiǎo 水饺, literally “water dumpling”;
  • Steamed dumplings or zhēngjiǎo 蒸饺;
  • Pan-fried dumplings or guōtiē;  锅贴, literally ”pan stick”. They are also know as jiān jiǎo 煎饺, literally “dry-fried dumplings” or shengjianbao 生煎包
  • Soup dumplings or tāngjiǎo 汤饺.

Be careful!

Try not to confuse jiaozi with wontons (in Chinese húntun 馄饨). Wonton’s are common in Chinese takeaways in western shops. Check out the differences here.

Jiaozi have a thicker skin and are usually eaten with soy or vinegar sauce, while wontons have thinner skin and are usually boiled and served in broth.

The wontons most common filling is pork and shrimp.

The Origin of Jiaozi

The origins of jiaozi can be traced back to the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 A.D.) where a famous physician, named Zhang Zhongjing, lived.

One day in winter, when Zhang was coming back home, he found many poor people had frostbitten ears, because they didn’t have warm clothes and sufficient food.

To help these people, Zhang stewed lamb, black peppers and some medicine in a pot, chopped them into small pieces and used them to fill small dough wrappers. He boiled them every day to feed his patients.

He named these dumplings jiāo’ěr 娇耳, literally meaning “tender ear“.

Gradually, these patients became better and, when Spring Festival came, their ears were healed. As if by magic!

In order to express their gratitude to Zhang, people began to imitate his recipe to make jiao’er, which later became the current jiaozi.

Nowadays jiaozi are consumed during so many Chinese holidays and festivals, in particular during Chinese New Year’s Eve.

A Chinese family making jiaozi

Traditionally, families get together around a table to wrap jiaozi in the evenings and eat them at midnight.

Sicke dell'oro cinese (yuanbao) su bianco | Foto Premium
yuánbǎo 元宝

That’s because, according to ancient timekeeping customs, a day was divided into 12 two-hour periods and the period between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. was called jiāozǐ 交子, which sounds very similar to jiaozi.

Incredibly similar in fact!

Besides, the shape of a jiaozi is just like a gold ingot yuánbǎo 元宝, people decided to eat jiaozi at dinner time with the wish that they will have prosperity in the new year.

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What Are Baozi?

Opposed to jiaozi, we have baozi 包子.

The term contains the character Bāo 包, which means “to wrap“, giving a hint about what they are all about.

They are thick and fluffy buns, mainly made of yeast and flour.

Compared to jiaozi, the they coating is much more bread/dough like.

The dough is first stuffed with delicious fillings, (pork, egg and leek etc…) and then steamed, as the English translation “steamed stuffed bun” suggests.

They can be eaten on their own but are best savoured with a bit of soy sauce and/or chilli.

There are almost 15 varieties of baozi, in China. Here they are in an easy to understand table.

English NameChinese NameDescription
Cha siu bao叉燒包
chāshāobāo
Location: Guangdong and Hong Kong,
Filling: barbecue-flavoured char siu pork.
Goubuli狗不理 gǒubùlǐLocation: Northern China
This type of baozi takes its name from the famous Chinese restaurant called Gǒubùlǐ, founded in Tianjin.
Xiaolongbao小笼包xiǎolóngbāoLocation: Jiangsu, especially Wuxi and Shanghai
Filling: broth with meat. A variation is shuijianbao 水煎包, pan-fried instead of steamed.
Shengjian mantou生煎馒头shēngjiān mántouLocation: Shanghai.
Filling: pork and gelatine that melts into liquid when cooked.
Tangbaozi湯包 tāngbāoLocation: Yangzhou
Filling: soup
Doushaobao豆沙包 dòushābāoLocation: all over East Asia
Filling: sweet bean paste
Lotus seed bun莲蓉包liánróngbāoLocation: all over China
Filling: lotus seed paste
Tandoori baozi or Samas烤包子
Kǎobāozi
Location: Xinjiang
Filling: meat (traditionally lamb) and vegetables
Crisp stuffed bun破酥包 PòsūbāoLocation: Yunnan
Filling: meat, bamboo shoots and soy sauce or also ham and sugar.
Guabao割包 guàbāoLocation: Fujian
Filling: meat, mustard, coriander, peanuts
Dabao大包 dàbāoLocation: all over China
Filling: meat, mushrooms, green onions
Yacaibao芽菜包 YácàibāoLocation: Sichuan
Filling: meat, vegetables, pickle, spices
Naiwongbao奶黄包 nǎihuángbāoLocation: all over China
Filling: custard
Zhimabao芝麻包 zhīmabāoLocation: all over China
Filling: black sesame paste

Baozi are very common also in various regions in East China, but ultimately you can find them absolutely everywhere in China, even the convenience stores like 7/11.

The Malays eat a particular form of baozi filled with potato curry, chicken curry or beef.

Baozi vs Jiaozi - Japanese Nikuman
Japanese nikuman

In Indonesia, people eat the bakpau, traditionally filled with meat while in the Philippines they like to eat siopao, containing meat and/or shrimp.

Something similar can be also seen in Thailand, called salapao.

The Japanese also eat baozi, know as nikuman.

Different versions of baozi can be also found in Cambodia, Vietnam and Myanmar.

A truly quintessential Asian treat!

The origin of Baozi

There are two different stories explaining the origins of baozi.

Both stories date back baozi almost 1,800 years, during the Three Kingdom period (220–280 AD).

The protagonist is Zhuge Liang, a famous military strategist of that time.

Story #1

Zhuge Liang was on his way back home after having won a battle to suppress the Southern barbarians.

Since he and his army had to cross the Lu River, which had big and stormy waves, the locals told them that using human heads was the only way to cross the river.

Zhuge Liang couldn’t bear to kill innocent people.

He ordered his soldiers to kill some animals and put beef and lamb into flour dough in the shape of a head and steam them, and then throw them into the river as fake heads.

After a successful crossing, he decided to name the bun barbarian’s head, so mantou 馒头.

Story #2
Baozi vs Jiaozi - Mantou
Mantou 馒头

It is said that Zhuge Liang was on an expedition to far South China when his army caught a plague.

To cure his soldiers, he invented a savoury treat as a symbolic offering to the gods. It was shaped as a bun and made of flour, pork and beef.

The food was called mántóu 馒头, “flour head”.

Today, mantou refers to the same steamed bun, but one that has no filling.

Fun Fact

Are you still curious about baozi?! Good!

You can watch Bao is a 2018 animated short film, written and directed by the Chinese-born Canadian Domee Shi.

Bao – The Film (guess where Bao comes from)!

It is about an aging and lonely Chinese-Canadian mother, suffering from empty nest syndrome. She receives an unexpected second chance at motherhood when she makes a baozi that comes to life

The film won the Oscar for the Best Animated Short Film at the 91st Academy Awards.

Differences between Jiaozi and Baozi

Even if there are many types or versions, the main differences between jiaozi and baozi relate to their ingredients, size and cooking method.

Here are the main differences between baozi vs jiaozi.

TypeIngredientsSizeCooking method
JiaoziFlour and waterSmallBoiled, fried or steamed
BaoziYeast, flour and sugarMedium-big Generally only steamed

Where Can I Buy Jiaozi and Baozi?

You can buy jiaozi and baozi almost in every corner of China and that is no exaggeration.

This is not a treat you have to hunt down. You will see baozi and jiaozi everywhere.

Even people walking down the street nibbling away on a baozi on their morning commute for example!

Besides the restaurants, in the streets of all cities, there are many small shops, called bāozidiàn 包子店 or bāozipù 包子铺 specialized in selling baozi.

Big chains use packaged baozi, which are cooked and frozen in factories, while small shops make their own baozi every early morning.

Steamed Dumpling basket
Baozi in a wooden steaming basket

They are usually served in their own individual steaming basket, with a straw used to drink the soup while the rest of the bun is eaten later.

There are roadside shops and street vendors which specialize in jiaozi too since they are now eaten all year-around.

Typically, they are served in small steamers containing ten pieces each and small restaurants keep them hot on steamers and ready to eat all day.

Jiaozi are always served with a dipping sauce that may include vinegar, soy sauce or with soup.

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Baozi vs Jiaozi – The Cost?

Both jiaozi and baozi are very cheap and affordable.

Even in bigger cities, it’s rare to come across a shop selling a baozi or a bunch of jiaozi for more than 1.5 RMB (US$0.25).

This applies to both baozi and jiaozi so not only are they delicious, they are one of the cheapest things you can buy in China when we talk about food!

Win win!

Watch our team teach two of our students how to eat Xiaolongbao

Have you ever had baozi or jiaozi? Which is your favourite? Tell us in the comments below!


Baozi vs Jiaozo – FAQs

What is a jiaozi?

A rolled piece of dough, filled either with meat or with vegetable, which can be boiled, fried, pan-fried or served with soup.

What is a baozi?

They are thick and fluffy buns, mainly made of yeast and flavour.

Compared to jiaozi, the they coating is much more bread/dough like.

They are stuffed with meat providing a lovely savoury treat which can also be eaten on the move.

What is the difference between a baozi and a jiaozi?

Baozi and jiaozi differ in ingredients, cooking method and size.

Where can you buy baozi and jiaozi?

Almost in every corner of China. Whether it be a restaurant or a convenience store, these are incredibly popular all over China.

How much do jiaozi and baozi cost?

Only few yuan for a baozi or for a bunch of jiaozi. One of the cheapest things you can eat in China!

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5 comments

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  1. Carol
    Reply

    Team Baozi here 🙋‍♀️

    1. Max Hobbs
      Reply

      We’re with you Carol, but both are so good!

  2. XIAOLONGBAO!!!

    1. Max Hobbs
      Reply

      Ah yes, Xiaolongbao are always relevant.

  3. Chinese New Year Vocab - 63 Must Know Words and Phrases
    Reply

    […] or more specifically 饺子 jiǎozi are a classic lucky New Year food that are traditionally eaten on Chinese New Year’s Eve […]

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    Alexander Krasnov , Student Advisor

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