Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door – Koopa Buns

Cover photo of the finished recipe of Koopa Buns from the Super Mario Bros Paper Mario Thousand Year Door game series.

As if I needed an excuse to create more food from the Paper Mario series, April is #MarioMonth for us Fandom Foodies and I just happen to be hosting! These Koopa Buns have been on the back burner (steamer?) for a lonnnggg time. I attempted them a few times last year to abysmal results that still manage to haunt me. Back then I was trying to make a basil dumpling dough with a way too sweet mango chutney filling… needless to say it was one of the worst things I’ve ever made. That being said I stepped back up to the plate this month to give them another try from a different angle and I’m actually pretty happy this time.

Filled Paper Mario Koopa Buns resting before steaming.
Shhh, these buns are resting…

Koopa Buns actually appear in both Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door and well as Super Paper Mario. However, in SPM their name was tweaked to be Koopa Dumplings instead of buns. This of course made me go crazy as I had to weigh the pros and cons of steamed buns vs dumplings. In the end I found more success with the steamed bun recipe in flavor as well as appearance.

To be honest I didn’t have much experience with buns like these before working on this recipe so there was a bit of a learning curve. One thing that helped was finding special steamed bun flour at my local Asian market. it’s certainly not necessary to have (you can substitute in AP flour instead if you’d prefer) but from what I’ve read, the special flour helps get those iconic pleats you see on dumplings and steam buns alike. Getting that classic look for the Koopa shells was definitely one of my goals for this recipe post and I hope I did a decent job explaining the folding process down below. I know I watched more than a few YouTube videos on how to do it before I felt confident.

Applying the black sesame seed eyes to the Paper Mario Koopa Bun with tweezers, before steaming.
Would I be dating myself if I put an Operation joke here? *BZZZT!*

The end results were not only super cute, but also really delicious. The way the filling cooks inside the dough reminds me a lot of a soup dumpling actually. The spinach and parsley in the dough gives a great color and really compliments the flavor of the pork. Including mango in the filling was a holdover from my previous failed attempts, but the moisture and sweetness it provides is actually a really nice addition to the dish, luckily!

Now let’s make some Koopas!


+ Koopa Bun Dough +

Ingredient Amount
Spinach 1 qt packed tight
Parsley 1 cup
Water 1/2 cup
Enriched Dumpling Flour* 300 g
Sugar 20 g
Salt 1/2 tsp
Baking Powder 1 tsp
Instant Yeast 1 tsp
Canola Oil 1 TBSP
Spinach Puree 180 g
Water as needed

*found at my local Asian market, feel free to use AP flour instead.

  • Medium Sauce Pot
  • Colander
  • Electric Blender
  • Large Mixing Bowls

1) Fill your pot halfway with water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Once there, add the spinach to the hot water and stir for about 30 seconds. This is the technique known as blanching, and in this case we’re mainly doing it to bring out the green color of the spinach. After the time is up, pour the contents of the pot through a colander over the sink and let the spinach drain. Set up the blender, add in the spinach and the parsley, and buzz for 10 seconds or so (remember to be careful whenever blending hot  ingredients as steam can build up). Add the 1/2 cup of water to the contents of the blender and run it for another minute or until you can no longer see any large chunks of leaf.

2) In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and instant yeast. Mix thoroughly, then remove 1/2 cup of the mixture and set it aside. To the remaining flour mixture add the 1 TBSP of canola oil and about 3/4 of the spinach puree. Mix this together until a dough is formed. If more moisture is needed, add more of the puree until you get a smooth consistency.

3) Lightly flour your work space and knead the dough for about 5 minutes or until everything is incorporated and the dough is springy. Form the dough into a ball and place it in a large, greased mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Leave it somewhere warm so the dough can rise until it’s doubled in size.

4) Now that we’ve made a big green dough for the shells, we need to make a small amount for the Koopas’ head and arms. Place the 1/2 cup of dry mix you set aside into a small mixing bowl and add 2 TBSP of water. Mix it as you did for the spinach dough and let it rise along side its big brother.

+ Pork and Mango Filling +

While the dough is rising, we have time to put together the filling.

Ingredient Amount
Ground Pork 1 lb
Mango 1 small, diced
Lime 1 zested and juiced
Garlic 3 cloves minced
Ginger 2 tsp
Salt 1 TBSP
Black Pepper 1/4 tsp
Cornstarch 1 1/2 tsp
Soy Sauce 1 tsp
Parsley 3 TBSP


  • Sharp Knife and Cutting Board
  • Zester or Microplane
  • Food Processor

1) Place all ingredients together in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until everything is incorporated. This might be the shortest walkthrough I’ve ever written!

+ Assembling the Koopa Buns +

Time to fold up some shells!

Ingredient Amount
Green Bun Dough above recipe
White Bun Dough
Pork & Mango Filling
Black Sesame Seeds as needed
  • Small Rolling Pin
  • Large Cook Pot
  • Bamboo Steamer with Lid
  • Parchment Paper (or Napa Cabbage leaves)

1) Once the dough has risen, punch it down in the bowl and turn it out on to a lightly floured work space. Divide the spinach dough into 3 equal portions and then further divide those portions into 5 pieces each. Roll the 15 pieces into balls and place them under a damp cloth so they don’t dry out. Let these rise once agin for about 10 minutes before rolling them out.

2) Now it’s the fun part, but it also takes some practice to get the hang of, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t get it the first try! Take one of the dough pieces out and place it on a floured surface. Pat it down into a small pancake with your palm trying to keep it as round as possible (remember, the best way to roll out a round dough is to START with a round dough.) Use your rolling pin to flatten the dough from the middle to the outside, then rotate the dough slightly and repeat. Keep rotating and rolling until you have gone all the way around. Try to leave the dough a little thicker in the middle than on the sides if you can.

Rolling out the portioned dough for the Paper Mario Koopa buns before filling.

3) Next, spoon about 1 TBSP of the pork filling into the center of the dough. From this point, we can begin folding up the bun. To start, use your right index finger and thumb to pinch a small amount of dough as shown below. Using your left index and thumb, rotate the bun clockwise and form another small fold. Pinch this new fold into the first fold using your right index finger to seal them together (your right thumb should stay stationary.) Continue rotating clockwise and pleating the dough until you’ve gone all the way around. Ideally you’re going to want to shoot for about 10 to 12  folds total.

Scooping the filling into the flattened Paper Mario Koopa Bun dough, before pinching it closed.

Pinching the ends of the Paper Mario Koopa Bun dough to form a pouch around the filling.

4) Once you’ve got your pleats, pinch and twist the top gently to form a complete seal on the bun. Place the filled bun back under the damp cloth from before and take out a new piece of dough to repeat the process.

Pinching and twisting the top of the Paper Mario Koopa Bun dough to seal the pouch before steaming.

5) In order to add the Koopa head and arms, pinch off a small amount of plain dough and form it into a small ball.  Cut the ball in half and press the cut side of one of the halves up against the bun. The moisture of the dough should be enough to stick them together.  Next you can cut the other half in half again and attach those pieces on either side of the head in much the same manner.

Assembling the hands, head and face of the Paper Mario Koopa Buns prior to steaming.

6) To attach the eyes, fill a small cup with water and sprinkle a few sesame seeds into it. Using a pair of tweezers or a very steady hand, transfer the sesame on to the koopa faces. The wet seeds should adhere to the dough easily.

7) With the koopas looking cute it’s time to finally cook ’em up! Set up your steamer over a pot of simmering water. Use either parchment paper or a few nappa cabbage leaves to prevent sticking and steam the buns for 8 to 10 minutes. These guys will increase in size as they cook so I’d recommend only steaming 4 or 5 at a time.

Finished Paper Mario Koopa Buns ready to be steamed in bamboo steamer.

These Koopa Buns are best enjoyed fresh and delicious right out of the steamer. I will say that the filling can become very hot so consider poking a tiny hole in the “shell” to release some of that steam. Try them with a dipping sauce of your choice if you’d like, but I think they taste pretty great on their own as well!

Hey! Thanks for reading all the the way to the end! You’re awesome :D! If you haven’t already and are looking for more nerdy food stuff, consider following me on TwitterFacebooktumblr and Instagram. I post a lot of work in progress pictures for the blog as well as some stuff from my real job as a pastry chef. If that sounds like something you’d be into, please check out those links above! Anyway, take care everyone and I’ll see you soon with an all-new recipe!

– Bryan