Sri Lankan Banis (Sweet buns)

The French have croissants, the Filipinos have pandesal. Sri Lankans have banis (bah-niss). It’s a slightly sweet, and super soft bun often eaten at breakfast time. I remember my travels to Sri Lanka – there would always be fresh banis from nearby bakeries ready for breakfast. There are different varieties, and they’re all equally good! Except for the ones with raisins… I only like raisins in oatmeal cookies, and Sri Lankan rice.

Anyway, my mom has never made these, so I feel like I’ve one upped her 😀

The reason? The really soft texture is hard to achieve. Now, I’m not certain of the traditional recipe for this, but the technique commonly used particularly among Chinese pastries is to make a roux (also known as tangzhong). It really does make the bread super soft!

Unfortunately, this recipe can’t be fully vegan, but I have subbed some of the ingredients for dairy-free ingredients with same results!

Adapted from here

  • 3.5 scant cups of flour (traditionally white, but I have used a combination of flours before)
  • 1 cup of milk, divided (I’ve used almond milk)
  • 1/2 scant cup of sugar, divided
  • 2 1/4 tsp active yeast
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
  • 5 tbsp butter, softened (can use vegan butter)
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • optional add-ins: raisins, coarse/crystallized sugar


In a small saucepan, take 3 tbsp of the measured flour and combine with half of the milk. Whisk and heat on medium until it becomes a thick paste. Set aside to cool.

Add the remaining milk, half of the sugar, and the yeast, and let activate. In another mixing bowl, mix the rest of the sugar, flour, salt, and butter. Add one egg PLUS one yolk, reserving the egg white for later.

Once combined, add the roux and the yeast mixture, and use your dough hook to knead the dough until it comes together (about 10 minutes). If it seems too dry, you can add a little bit of milk, or if it seems too wet, you can add a bit more flour. The dough should be slightly sticky, but should not stick to your hands.

IMG_0933 IMG_0934

Cover loosely with a damp tea towel and let the dough rise in a warm place (such as the oven with the light on) for an hour. After an hour, punch down dough, and divide into equal sized buns and place on a parchment lined paper. Cover again, and let rise for another hour in a warm place.


Take out buns and preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Brush the tops of the bun with a bit of melted butter or egg white. You can add sugar crystals to the top for added texture and sweetness, or leave as is. Bake until the tops become golden. Enjoy fresh! These can keep if you seal them in a bag.

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