Blue Apron recipe/rating: turkey steam buns

My parents have given Blue Apron a shot, and they let me try one of the meals.

If you aren’t already aware, companies like Blue Apron and Plated deliver refrigerated boxed meals along with the recipe straight to your home. All of the ingredients in the exact proportions you need.

This is turkey steam buns with quick cucumber-radish kimchi, recipe here.


  • 10 oz ground turkey
  • 6 Chinese steam buns
  • 6 oz radishes
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 3 scallions
  • 1 English cucumber
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp ground bean sauce
  • 1 1-inch piece ginger
  • 1 1/4 tbsp gochugaru

You will also need a little bit of olive oil, and salt and black pepper.

Keep in mind, these ingredients were delivered on a Wednesday, and I received them Saturday – they still look insanely fresh.

I do like the step-by-step instructions:

Step 1: Wash and dry the produce. Heat a large pot of water to boiling on high.* Cut off ends of radishes and slice into thin rounds; same with cucumber. Peel and mince the garlic and ginger. Cut off roots of the scallions; thinly slice on an angle, separating the green and white.

*They don’t tell you right away, but keep the water level low because you’ll be placing a colander or strainer over it. 

Step 2: In a large bowl, combine radishes, cucumber, vinegar, half the garlic, half the ginger, half the sugar, half the green parts of scallion, a drizzle of olive oil, and half the gochugaru. Toss thoroughly to combine and season with salt and black pepper. Set aside to marinate for at least 10 minutes, tossing occasionally.

Step 3: In a medium skillet heat 2 tsp olive oil on medium-high heat. When hot, add the ground turkey, seasoning with salt and black pepper. Cook frequently, breaking the meat apart with a spoon, 6 to 8 minutes, or until lightly browned and cooked through. Transfer to a bowl.

Step 4: In that same pan, add 2 tsp more oil. When hot, add the white parts of the scallions and remaining garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring frequently, for 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until softened. Add ground bean sauce, cooked turkey, remaining sugar, 1/2 cup water, and remaining gochugaru. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 to 6 minutes or until thickened; season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.

Step 5: Place a colander or strainer over the pot of boiling water, making sure that the water doesn’t reach the colander. Working in 2 batches, place buns in colander; cover with lid of pot. Steam 3 to 5 minutes, or until buns are softened and puffy. Carefully transfer to clean work surface.

I did not have the best luck with the buns. Even though the colander wasn’t touching the water, water still managed to splash in and get them a tiny bit wet. Also, the buns stuck to the colander a little.

All in all a pretty minor obstacle.

Step 6: Fill each steamed bun with some of the filling, topped with the kimchi. You will have extra kimchi.* Divide finished buns between 2 dishes and serve with remaining kimchi on the side. Garnish with remaining green parts of scallions.

*Although they note this, there was a *lot* of extra kimchi. You couldn’t exactly chow down on this like a salad – it had a particular taste, and while I enjoyed it, it was only in a small to medium amount. Again, there was a lot left over. You could take this as a pro or a con, I suppose.

Makes 2 servings.

Things I liked:

  • The ingredients were really fresh, and packaged and labeled well.
  • The instructions were very easy to follow, with step-by-step pictures.
  • My end result did look remarkably like the picture.
  • Most importantly, it tasted good.
  • I got to try cool, exotic ingredients. (Husband: What is that red stuff? Me: Gochugaru, obviously.)

Things I didn’t like:

  • I read in Will Write for Food that ingredients should be listed in the order you will be first using them; here, they’re divided first into “ingredients” then “knick knacks.”
  • I didn’t love the the Chinese steam buns. They’re cute, but completely flavorless, and were not great at holding the food in.
  • The price (not that I paid for it). According to the pricing page on their website, for the 2-person plan, it’s $10 per person, 3 meals a week, $59.94 per week. If I do the math and think about how much I spend on groceries, it’s not really a huge money-saver. And you still have to cook it, so it’s not really saving on time.

Basically, I enjoyed this, but I couldn’t see making it a part of my weekly dinner routine.

The big appeal to me for these sort of services is that you can get weird ingredients in small proportions – this is instead of shelling out big dough for a large bottle of something you’ve never heard of before and will never use again in another recipe.

So, I wanted to see if we could substitute the bizarre ingredients in this one for something we can actually pick up at the local grocery store, namely, ground bean sauce and gochugaru.

I’m not counting the Chinese steam buns because they weren’t that great, and you could easily use a pita pocket or tortilla.

According to The  Food Substitutions Bible, bean sauce, made from fermented soybeans, ranges from thin to thick, smooth to chunky, salty to sweet. You can substitute it with hoisin sauce, Thai bean sauce, black bean sauce, or chile bean sauce.

And you know what? My local grocery store actually does have a black bean sauce.

Gochugaru was not in The Food Substitutions Bible. But it is a Korean red chili pepper ground into a pine powder, not unlike, say, cayenne pepper.

2 thoughts on “Blue Apron recipe/rating: turkey steam buns

    1. Erin, glad you gave this a try. I’ve done it five or six weeks (3 meals each time) and agree, it definitely has positives and negatives. With my travel and work schedule, I just can’t keep up with the cooking some weeks. By the way, this particular recipe was probably my least favorite. I had the exact same experience with the buns. Wish you had gotten one of the really good ones.

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