Bread Basics 201 – Tangzhong Starter

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Last Updated on June 19, 2020 by Chef Mireille

Pumpkin, Sage & Cheddar Pull Apart Rolls

It’s time for another bread basics lesson. In Lesson 101 here, you learned about flour and yeast. In Lesson 102 here, you learned about the right size bowls and pans as well as other tips for getting your bread to rise in standard 2 rise bread recipes.

Now, we are ready to get to some advanced lessons. Working with a starter yields a more flavorful bread and a better consistency. European/American bread traditions use a sourdough starter which yields a crusty exterior bread with a soft interior that has a little sour tang to it, hence the name sourdough. However, this is not the only type of starter.

Tangzhong is a Japanese bread tradition of starting your dough with a water roux. This yields an incredibly soft textured bread that will stay fresher longer. This bread takes much longer to grow stale.

I had always been reluctant to work with a starter. The few times I tried a sourdough starter, it never worked. The starter never fermented. I am yet to master the sourdough starter, but the Tangzhong method is easy to conquer.

You start with a water roux by dissolving 1/4 cup all purpose flour in 1 cup water. Heat it for a few minutes on the stove until it is thickened and coats the back of a spoon. Transfer to a glass container, cover with plastic wrap and leave it to cool to room temperature. Use immediately or refrigerate for up to 3 days. Bring back to room temperature before using.

Water Roux

You can find many recipes across the net for Hokkaido Milk Bread, which uses this method. However, this method can be adapted to any bread recipe.
Here are two examples where I’ve already utilized the water roux starter method:

Pumpkin, Sage & Cheddar Pull Apart Rolls

It’s especially good to use this method for wheat breads, to yield a softer result.


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Reader Interactions


  1. I made Hokkaido bread with tangzhong starter and loved how good the bread turned out. Will definitely try one of the other breads using this starter some time.

      • If I was to try it as well, would I use the starter as a part of the flour weight or the water? How much starter would you recommend to try?

        • Hi Daniel, Sorry for the delay in getting back to you but I needed to consult some sources who are more knowledgeable than I am and this is the response: You can use Tangzhong starter in pretty much any bread recipe, but I find some of the more naturally moist recipes such as no-knead don’t really benefit from the method as much – better for applications such as whole grain and white sandwich bread, parker house rolls etc. If you did want to convert the recipe, I would use the 1:5 flour: water ratio, and sub in 5% of the total flour weight in the roux. Because no-knead recipes sit for such a long time, you have some autolysing happening which makes for a naturally moister crumb to begin with – the tangzhong starters are also naturally moist as the cooked starch molecules are fully hydrated

  2. This is the first time I heard of this. I am really looking for more ways to make a softer fluffier breads. I am so glad to learn about this as starter. I will try this with my next bake tonight. Thank you.

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