Japanese Matcha Melon Pan

Welp. I did it. I channeled my inner Asian girl and honed in on any recipe that would greatly benefit with the addition of Matcha. et voilà! Matcha Melon Pan heaven. Out of the oven, these buns are the best afternoon snack.

Last weekend, while walking through Berkeley’s college town, we stumbled into an Asian bakery. Obviously, when there’s any bakery of any sorts, a slight detour is to be made. Even if I had just gorged myself on delicious, satisfying, tongue-numbing Indian food at Vik’s Chaat, I couldn’t help but imagine taking a bite out of those those crunchy, yet fluffy buns.

Freshly baked Japanese melon pan half eaten 

First things first, what exactly are melon pans? Melon Pans = fluffy sweet bun + crispy cookie topping. The bun is an enriched dough, made with yeast. The origin of “Melon Pan” can be broken down into two parts. “Pan” in Japanese means bread, adapted from the Portuguese. As for “Melon” part, I’ve always assumed it was named because the top looked like a melon. Just One Cookbook is my go-to blog for all things Japanese. Nami clearly does her research and laid out some really interesting theories for the etymology of “Melon” , some rooted in Japan’s rich cultural history.

These babies were to be my weekend project. The only problem: I HAD NO MILK.

Alas, after sifting through the internet looking for a dairy-free melon pan recipe, none was to be found. (Granted, what Asian pastry dough doesn’t have milk?)

I am horribly lactose-intolerant and have accepted that fact as such. Will I ever outgrow it? Most probably not. Will I ever stop hoping? Never! Friends have suggested outlandish theories to overcome my biology. “You just have to have a little diary every day! One milk tea a day keeps the doctor away!” or “Just fight through the pain and embrace the bloat!” Well, I’m all for any excuse to drink milk tea, but not so sure about embracing the pain. I digress.

Luckily, I happened to have a can of evaporated milk lying around. That’s fate right there. I was meant to bake Matcha Melon Pans this week, and nothing can stop me! Why did I have evaporated milk in my pantry? Who knows! (Yay for hoarding! Take that Marie Kondo!) I subbed whole milk with 1 part evaporated milk : 1 part water. Worked beautifully.

The Perfect Melon Pan has…

  1. Contrasting textures: A crunchy, crispy sugary top draped over a pillowy soft bun
  2. Uniformly golden brown buns: Gotta love that Maillard reaction
  3. Uniformly sized buns: Buns the size of your face to promote ultimate satisfaction

I narrowed down my search to two recipes. Obviously, I am not the first to think of adding matcha. Ever stumbled upon turtle shaped melon pans? Adorable. The Little Epicurean’s recipes are always spot on, so this was my base recipe. Fix Feast Flair’s recipe inspired me to also add that extra c r u n c h for the cookie topping, by upping the butter and sugar, of course!

Another thing I should mention: I don’t own a stand mixer. I know, I know, I really should invest in one. For the longest time, I yearned for a Kitchenaid stand mixer (in Pistachio, more specifically) but have made due without it. In time, I have grown to enjoy the extra effort (and therefore love, no?). Now, I don’t own a stand mixer out of principle more than anything. Why use a stand mixer when my hands are perfectly capable to knead and my biceps strong enough to whisk? Why be separated from the way dough was made by our great ancestors. I say, unplug your stand mixers and become one with the dough!

Lactose & Hedgehogs,

Overhead shot of cooling matcha melon buns

Matcha Melon Pan

Adapted from The Little Epicurean and Feast Fix Flair


Prep Time: 3 Hours | Cook time: 20-25 minutes


Combine yeast, warmed milk, and one teaspoon of sugar. Let sit until mixture is bubbly (around 6-8 minutes).

In a large bowl, combine flour, 1/3 cup sugar, milk powder, matcha, salt, and eggs. Mix with spatula (or hands) until dough comes together. Continue to knead with hands for 10 minutes until dough is smooth, adding softened butter in small increments. Knead for around 10 minutes, adding more flour if dough looks wet. Form the dough into a ball.

Transfer dough back into the same bowl, lightly greased. Covered with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until it doubles in size, about 1.5 – 2 hours, depending on room temperature.

While dough is proofing, make the cookie topping. In a medium sized bowl, cream sugar and butter. Add in flour, matcha powder, and salt. Add egg and vanilla and mix until cookie dough forms. Transfer cookie dough onto plastic wrap and roll it into a log. Chill until ready to use.

When dough has doubled in size, divide it into 8 pieces. Shape into balls and place on a lined baking sheet.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for another 30-45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375° F.

As the dough proofs, divide and roll the chilled cookie topping into 8 small balls. Smoosh the balls between two sheets of parchment paper (or between your hands if you’re being lazy =P ) and flatten until it is large enough to cover the dough. Gently drape the cookie topping on top of each dough ball. Use a knife to gently score cookie dough with criss-cross or horizontal lines.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until tops are evenly golden brown. Enjoy!

Storage Notes: Buns are best fresh out of the oven. Keeps up to 2 days in airtight container. 



2 1/4 tsp (7 g) active dry yeast
70 g evaporated milk*, heated to 110 F
70 g water
2 1/4 cup (300 g) bread flour
1 cup (120 g) AP flour
1/3 cup (60 g) + 1 tsp granulated sugar
2 Tbsp non-fat dry milk powder
2 Tbsp Matcha powder
1 tsp salt
2 large eggs, whisked
4 Tbsp (60 g) unsalted butter, room temperature

Cookie Topping

6 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup (130 g) granulated sugar
1 cup AP flour
1 tsp Matcha powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 large egg white
3/4 tsp vanilla extract

*140 g of whole milk works too  

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