Soft Milk Bread Hamburger Buns (Tangzhong)

Soft Milk Bread Hamburger Buns (Tangzhong)

These hamburger buns are incredibly soft and fluffy, but are still sturdy enough to hold your juiciest burger and all the fixings. They are delicious with a light milky flavor and an amazing aroma. (And they definitely beat store-bought hamburger buns by miles.)

hamburger buns - bitten burger

This recipe uses tangzhong – a cooked roux of flour and water often used in soft, fluffy Asian breads (like Japanese Milk Bread). Tangzhong helps bread dough retain moisture, which will help make your hamburger buns light and pillowy and also keep them soft for days.

For some helpful tips before you begin, click here. (RECOMMENDED)

Makes 12 hamburger buns.



  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) water
  • 1/4 cup (32 g) bread flour


  • 1 cup (240 ml) half & half
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) sugar
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons (14 g or 2 packets) active dry yeast
  • 5 cups (650 g) bread flour
  • 1/3 cup (42 g) milk powder
  • 2 teaspoons (12 g) salt
  • large eggs, room temperature 
  • 1/4 cup (56 g) unsalted butter, softened


  • 1/2 cup fine bread crumbs (See TIPS for other options)


1. Make the tangzhong.

– In a small pan, over medium heat, combine the water and the flour for the tangzhong.
– Whisk until thick like pudding, maybe 3 to 5 minutes.
– Pour into a small bowl and refrigerate to cool while gathering the remaining ingredients.

2. Activate the yeast.

– Warm the half & half to about 110°F (49°C). (Slightly warm tot he touch.)
– Stir together the warm half & half, sugar and yeast.
– Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes, until foamy.

3. Combine the ingredients.

– In a stand mixer bowl, briefly stir together the 5 cups (650 g) flour, milk powder and salt to mix and to remove any large lumps.
– Add the eggs, the foamy yeast mixture and the cooled tangzhong.
– Stir with a wooden spoon until the flour has been incorporated and everything roughly comes together to form a shaggy dough.

4. Knead the dough. (See TIPS)

– Using a stand mixer, knead the dough with the hook attachment on low speed (setting #2) for about 30 seconds to a minute to bring the ingredients together.
– Increase to medium-low speed (setting #3) and knead for up to 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth, elastic and, pulling away from the sides of the bowl.

*Test if the dough has been kneaded enough by pulling on a bit of it and stretching it thin. If you can stretch the dough thin enough that light can shine through it without tearing, it has been kneaded enough. (See TIPS)

5. Knead in the butter.

– Add in the butter two tablespoons at a time and knead on low speed (setting #2), making sure each addition of butter is fully incorporated before adding the next. 
– After all the butter is incorporated, increase speed to medium-low (setting #3) and knead for another 3 to 5 minutes or until the dough is smooth, glossy and elastic.

6. Rest the dough for about an hour. (First Rise):

– Scrape the dough into a large, lightly greased bowl.
– With lightly greased fingers, gather up the dough by pulling up the sides and folding it into the center. Do this a few times to bring the dough together into a ball.
– Flip the dough, so that the top is smooth and greased.
– Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise for about 1 hour or until double in size.

  • You can also place the covered dough in the refrigerator and let rise overnight. You will need to punch it down at least once. After punching down, reshape the dough into a ball by pulling up the sides and folding it into the center. Flip the dough so that the top is smooth and greased.

7. Shape the hamburger buns. (See TIPS)

Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces.
Roll each piece of dough into a smooth ball.
Flatten the ball of dough until about 3-inches wide.
Dip the top of the flattened dough ball in the bread crumbs.
Place on a lightly greased or parchment paper-lined baking sheet at least 2-inches apart.

8. Rest the buns for about an hour. (Second Rise); Preheat the oven to 350°F/176°C.

– Cover the pans loosely with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel. let rise about 1 hour or until puffed. If you poke the bun, the indentation from your finger should slowly bounce back halfway. (See TIPS)

  • If you are not using bread crumbs, lightly grease the plastic wrap.

– Before the hamburger buns have completely risen, start preheating the oven to 350°F (176°C). (Assume the oven will take 20 to 30 minutes to preheat.)

9. Bake the hamburger buns.

– Make sure your oven is preheated to 350°F (176°C).
– Uncover the buns and bake for about 20 minutes, or until deep golden brown with an internal temperature of 190°F (88°C). (If the bread is browning too fast, just tent with foil.)

10. Cool the bread on a wire rack.

– Remove the hamburger buns to a cooling rack to cool.

hamburger buns - burger
hamburger buns - bitten burger

About this recipe

Hamburger buns should be soft and fluffy. They should hold juicy hamburgers without disintegrating or falling apart. And most of all, they should be as delicious as the rest of your burger. These milk bread hamburger buns are exactly that. They are perfect for burgers and are even delicious eaten on their own.

These buns are made with bread flour for great texture, they have milk, eggs and butter for richness and flavor and have tangzhong for extra softness and fluffiness.

  • Tangzhong is a portion of flour and water from a bread recipe that is cooked into a gelatinous roux and then added into the dough. The result is a soft, moist bread with a prolonged shelf life.

I use tangzhong in my other bread recipes as well, such as in my Banh Mi (Vietnamese Baguettes), my Hotdog Buns and even in my Soft and Chewy Pita Bread.


Here are 5 helpful tips:

1) Starting the dough:

– A few points to make sure your dough turns our right every time:

Use a scale. (Or get one!)

  • While I sometimes find using volume measures more convenient, weight measures will give more accurate and consistent results. So if you bake regularly, you really should get a scale. (Preferably one that reads ounces and grams.)

Make sure to cool the tangzhong.

  • Be sure to give your tangzhong enough time to cool. If your tangzhong is still too hot when used, it may kill the yeast.

Don’t forget to soften the butter.

  • Butter will incorporate into the dough best when softened. Allow cold butter to sit out for at least 30 minutes to soften, or until you can press it with your finger and it will give beneath light pressure.
  • To speed up softening butter, I usually cut my cold butter into thin pats or small cubes. Then after a few minutes, I mash the butter with the flat side of a knife or the back of a spoon until it becomes smooth and spreadable.
softened butter

Make sure your yeast is active.

  • Yeast must be active for bread to rise. You know your yeast is alive and active if it becomes foamy when dissolved in warm milk or water with a little sugar mixed in.
  • Use warm milk between 100°F (38°C) and 110°F (49°C). If the yeast doesn’t become foamy within 5 to 10 minutes, throw it out and try again.
  • Do not leave your yeast for too long after it has been activated. If left too long, the yeast will not be as effective.

2) Kneading the dough.

Knead your dough until it is smooth and elastic.

– Proper kneading is necessary for bread dough to bake into the lightest, fluffiest, well-shaped hamburger buns. Proper kneading also helps give your hamburger buns structure so your burger won’t fall apart or disintegrate in your hands.

  • The dough has been properly kneaded when it is smooth and elastic enough to be stretched until light can shine through without tearing (the windowpane test).
windowpane test

If your dough didn’t pass the windowpane test:

– If you have kneaded for the allotted time but your dough is not passing the windowpane test, don’t stress:

  • Rest your dough for 10 minutes (and up to 30 minutes) then test again. (A little rest does amazing things for a dough’s smoothness and elasticity!)
  • If the dough is still not smooth and elastic, knead for 2 or 3 minutes and then re-test.
  • Repeat if needed. But if you start to feel the dough becoming firm and less stretchy, stop kneading or else you risk over-kneading your dough.
Kneading by hand:

– I think kneading dough for Japanese Milk Bread by hand can be tricky. It is soft, sticky and messy and takes more time and effort than kneading by machine. Especially when kneading in the butter. But if you don’t have access to a mixer or choose not to use one, here are some tips that may help:

  • Before kneading, cover your shaggy dough with plastic wrap and let sit for 20 to 30 minutes. This will give your kneading a really good kick-start!
  • Don’t use any extra flour. This will just weigh down your dough and make your bread heavy. Instead, lightly oil your counter and your hands.
  • Knead with a light, quick touch. Pressing and mashing just makes the dough stickier.
  • Use your pastry scraper often to keep your surface clean and smooth.

Feel free to take breaks.

– Bread dough continues to build structure (gluten) even while resting. Feel free to take short breaks while kneading. Be sure to cover your dough with plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out.

Kneading in the butter:

I am sure there are many ways to this. This is the way that works for me:
– Mash/poke about a third of the butter into the dough with your fingertips.
– Pull up the sides of the dough and fold over the butter, pressing firmly into the center with your fingertips or knuckles.
– Continue going round the dough pulling up the sides and folding/pressing into the center until the butter is fully incorporated before adding in the next bit of butter. Use a pastry scrape to bring back any butter oozing out onto the counter.
– After all the butter has been incorporated into the dough, knead for 5 to 8 minutes, until the dough is completely smooth.

  • This may take some time and will be messy at first. But be patient and continue to knead in the butter until the dough is smooth, homogeneous and glossy.
  • Incorporate the butter a bit at a time. This will not only be easier, it will actually take less time to get the job done than trying to knead in all the butter at once.

3) Shaping your hamburger buns:

– Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. (Each piece will be a little over 100g.)

  • For sliders, divide into 36 equal pieces.

Roll each piece of dough into a smooth ball.

  • Make a smooth ball by tucking everything under, stretching the surface of the dough ball, and pinching it sealed. Then briefly roll the ball on the counter until nice and round.

– Flatten the ball of dough until about 3-inches wide.
– Dip the top of the flattened dough ball in the bread crumbs*. (See options below.)
– Place on a lightly greased or parchment paper-lined baking sheet at least 2-inches apart.


– Topping the hamburger buns with bread crumbs adds a toasty flavor and a crispy texture. But there other options, too.

  • Brush the hamburger buns with egg wash (1 egg beaten with 15 ml/1 tablespoon water) before baking for a shiny, deeply browned glaze.
  • Sprinkle sesame seeds over egg washed hamburger buns before baking.
  • Keep the buns plain before baking and then brush baked buns with melted butter for a softer crust with a soft shine.

4) When is the dough ready for baking?

– The dough is ready for baking when you poke the dough, the indentation from your finger bounces back only half-way.

  • This may take an hour or so. It may take longer if your dough was refrigerated or if your kitchen is cold.

5) Baking times vary. (Get an instant-read thermometer!)

– Ovens vary, so the baking times given are just estimates. It may take more or less time for your bread to finish baking.

instant-read thermometer

Instant-read thermometers are the most reliable way to check for doneness. Bread is done baking when the internal temperature reaches 190°F (88°C).

– When hamburger buns are done, the crust will look nice and evenly browned. The buns will also sound slightly hollow when tapped.

hamburger buns - bitten burger

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