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Tingmo! Delicious Tibetan Steamed Bread's the staff of life. Today, it's tough to buy fiber-rich, microbiome-friendly 100% whole grain loaves containing health-promoting bran and germ. Most commercial breads use refined white flour in whole or in part, adding sugars, dairy, oils, salt, and preservatives.

In the East there's a beautiful tradition of folding and twisting dough in intricate ways to create eye-catching rolls that are then steamed, not baked. Steaming bread cooks it at far lower temperatures than baking, creating super healthy, tender, moist rolls you eat by tearing off layers to sop up sauces, stews or dunk into soup.

"Tingmo", as they're known in Tibet, are traditionally made with white flour and starch, oil, salt and sugar, however. We can do better!

Here's my new recipe for tender nutty steamed tingmo, made only with red whole wheat flour, wheat germ, water and yeast. That's it. You can eat 'em plain or have fun dusting them with your favorite herbs and spices. Tingmo have become a staple on my plant-based table. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!


1 cup non-chlorinated water, body temperature

1 teaspoon dry active yeast

2 tablespoons wheat germ

2-3 cups organic whole wheat flour

For dough variations: For multicolored tingmo, add 1/2 cup mashed/riced Korean purple sweet potato or steamed/squeezed spinach or steamed/puréed beets. Use less water and/or add more flour to compensate for the moisture in the vegetables.

Garnish options: Chili powder, turmeric or other dehydrated veggie powders, finely minced cilantro, chive and Thai chili.


Add water to a mixing bowl and sprinkle the yeast across the surface. Wait 10 minutes for yeast to dissolve and appear creamy. Add wheat germ and 1 ½ cups flour, mixing with a spoon or spatula and using your hand as the mixture begins to come together into a shaggy dough. Knead in the bowl, adding just enough flour to prevent dough from building up on your hand or the bowl but not so much as to become stiff. Knead in the bowl for 10 minutes. Dough should be soft, pliable and slightly sticky. Shape into a ball by tucking the edges underneath in all directions. Dust lightly with flour and cover with plastic wrap.

Set in a warm space or a oven set to 100°F/38°C for 2 hours or until doubled in size.

Transfer dough to a very lightly floured board. Flatten, stretch and fold dough a few times. Depending on the size tingmo you prefer, divide dough into 2 balls for larger tingmo or 4 for smaller canapes. Keep covered with plastic wrap to prevent drying.

There are infinite methods to shape and fold tingmo decoratively. The technique shown here will create the tingmo shown in the photos above and below. Roll the first ball out into a rectangle about 1/8” thick, flipping and dusting as you go to prevent sticking. A picture's worth a thousand words, so I'll demonstrate below with a piece of paper towel below to help you visualize:

Lengthwise, fold ¼ in from the left, ¼ in from the right, so both edges meet in the middle.

Then, fold right over left, creating a narrow piece 4 layers thick.

Turn 90° and slice into 6 equal pieces.

Place 1 piece over a 2nd, creating 3 tingmo, each with 8 layers.

Using a chopstick or a small dowel, press firmly into the center of each tingmo, opening up its layers to the sides.

Remove chopstick, pick up a tingmo by its ends, stretch gently to to lengthen by 1/3, then twist 2 times.

Fold the ends under each other, pressing the junction to seal. Repeat with the other tingmo.

Place all tingmo in a steamer basket within a pot or in a steamer, filled with 1-2” of water and lined with small rectangles of parchment for each tingmo. Cover and move to a warm (but not hot) place to proof for 30 minutes, such as an oven set to 100°F/38°C.

Set steamer on a burner over medium flame. Simmer tingmo for 20-25 minutes or until firm to the touch.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly. Remove parchment. Garnish, if desired, with your favorite finely minced herbs and/or spices, such as a dusting of Aleppo pepper or paprika, turmeric or other veggie powders for color and/or a mix a finely minced chive, cilantro and possibly Thai chili for a little heat for those who like it.

Serve warm. Reheat in a steamer or a low oven for 5 minutes.


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