vegan pani popo

Vegan Coconut Buns (Pani Popo)

Disclaimer: I am not a chef. And I am definitely not versed in Asian cuisine. HOWEVER, I was requested by a coworker to make Vegan Coconut Buns for her birthday. I agreed because I like a good challenge. The morning of, I had a little mini freak-out because I wanted them to be perfect. As someone who has had many Coconut Buns in her life, she would know a good Panipopo to a bad Panipopo! I did not! Turns out that the Coconut Buns got RAVING reviews.

So what exactly is Pani Popo?

Pani Popo is a Samoan Coconut Bun. ‘Pani’ means bun, and ‘Popo’ means Coconut! These are also known as Chinese Cocktail Buns.

It is essentially a milky bun with a coconut cream filling, topped with sesame seeds and a sweet glaze. Sounds insanely delicious right? Give it a try. You will love it!!

How do you make Vegan Pani Popo?

I feel like I say this in almost every blog post, but you can literally veganize ANYTHING. This recipe was especially easy. I browsed through non-vegan Pani Popo and got the general idea of how to make them. The dough is a simple milky dough, and I knew that condensed coconut milk would be perfect for the sweetness and creaminess.

To make the dough, warm your oat milk and add the yeast/sugar. Let sit until bubbly.

yeast mix

Then mix your ingredients in a stand mixer with the dough attachment. You can either let it mix, or knead by hand. (I chose by hand, since my mixer has been overheating lately!) Let dough rise until it has doubled.

Panipopo dough

What a good egg substitute for baking?

There are SO many. I get asked this all the time. Ultimately, if you’re using wheat in a recipe, you really don’t need egg at all because the wheat gluten binds together. You could use a flax or chia egg. Or you could just add in some apple sauce, but most of the time you can get away without any egg substitute. In this recipe I used one tablespoon of cornstarch.

Consensed COconut milk

Here is the important part. If you haven’t used condensed coconut milk, listen closely. When you open the can, you will see that it has separated. This is what you want!! You will be using the thicker part for the filling. And you will be using the liquid part for the glaze! If you live in a warm climate, or you’re making this in the summer time, just put the can into the refrigerator a few hours before making.

How do you make Pani Popo filling?

In a bowl, simply mix all the filing ingredients together, and set aside!

panipopo filling

How do you fold Pani Popo?

Cut the dough into 12 equal pieces and using a roller, flatten into oval shapes. Spread the filling onto the ovals, and wrap it up as you would a burrito!

Pani popo burrito

Brush with a coconut milk ‘egg’ wash. And top with sesame seeds.

Coconut milk glaze

pani popo piping

Once they are all rolled, using a piping bag or a plastic bag with a small hole cut in the corner, pipe the lines at the top. NOTE: Authentic Chinese Cocktails buns have these lines piped on top, and after baking they will hold their shapes. In this recipe, they melt down as you will see in the photos. I tried different techniques and I debated delaying this post until I figured that part out. But to be honest, I really like these buns as is. I wouldn’t change them at all, so you get the Friendly Cookie version of Chinese Cocktail Buns!

pani popo

And bake!

pani popo glaze

These are seriously, insanely good.

vegan pani popo

These Coconut Buns are:

  • Filling
  • Creamy
  • Sweet
  • Satisfying

Baked Coconut Buns

If you liked this recipe, please rate and review!! And share on Instagram!

Also give these a try:

Vegan Pretzel Buns

Vegan Chinese Cocktail Coconut Buns (Pani Popo)

Veganized version of a Chinese Coconut filled Bun
Prep Time1 hour
Cook Time15 minutes
Course: Appetizer, Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: Chinese Cocktail Buns, Vegan Coconut Buns, Vegan Samoan Buns
Servings: 12


Coconut Bun Dough

  • 1 cup oat milk
  • 1 tbsp yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 3 cups flour +extra for kneading
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk canned, creamy part
  • 1 tbsp corn starch
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1.5 tsp salt

Coconut Filling

  • 6 tbsp condensed coconut milk creamy part
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup coconut flakes
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk


  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp sugar


Coconut Bun Dough

  • Warm the oat milk to slightly higher than room temperature. (Make sure it's not hot or the yeast will not activate). Add yeast and 1 tsp sugar. Let sit until foamy.
  • In a stand mixer, add yeast mixture and remaining ingredients with a dough attachment. If needed, add more flour to make it kneadable. Knead for approximately 10-15 minutes.
  • Cover dough and let sit for approximately 1 hour. It will grow about 1.5 times it's size.


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees C.
  • Meanwhile, prepare filling by mixing all ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.


  • Mix topping ingredients in a small bowl. Transfer topping mixture to a piping bag and set aside.

Coconut Bun Assembly

  • Once dough has risen, cut into 12 equal pieces. Using a roller, flatten the pieces into ovals.
  • Divide coconut filling onto each. Wrap the buns as you would a burrito. And pinch it closed so the filling stays inside during baking!
  • Transfer the buns to a parchment lined baking sheet. Using a baking brush, brush with coconut milk. (This is your egg wash substitute).
  • Using a piping bag, pipe the lines on either side of the buns to replicate traditional Chinese Cocktail Buns. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  • Bake for 15-17 minutes.
  • Using baking brush, glaze with the liquid of the condensed coconut milk.
  • ENJOY!

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