Sri Lankan Fish Buns

Try my easy fool-proof recipe to make delicious Sri Lankan Fish Buns. A soft fluffy bun filled with a spicy potato and mackerel filling. Best for a savory breakfast or as a snack or to serve with tea.
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Try my easy fool-proof recipe to make delicious Sri Lankan Fish Buns. A soft fluffy bun filled with a spicy potato and mackerel filling. Best for a savory breakfast or as a snack or to serve with tea.

If you ask any Sri Lankan what the most famous Sri Lankan bakery bun is, I promise you, you’re going to get the same answer from everyone. I lived 25 years of my life in Sri Lanka and I’ve never found a bakery that doesn’t sell fish buns. They’re like donuts in the USA, available everywhere, loved by everyone. 

I used to have these fish buns for breakfast so very often when I was a school kid. And even as an adult. When I moved to the USA I really missed the bakery buns I used to have back in Sri Lanka. This is one of the very first bakery items I attempted to make. I’ve been perfecting my recipe since 2015. And I can proudly say that now I have the perfect recipe to make Sri Lankan fish buns. They taste just like the buns you get in Sri Lankan bakeries, or better I would say. 

Sri Lankan Fish Buns recipe

The dough

The dough I’m using here is the same dough I use to make my most visited sausage buns recipe but I do add a little bit more liquid in this one. So it’s a little easier to shape. If you don’t want to use milk in the recipe, do substitute milk with water. I use instant dry yeast/rapid-rise yeast/fast-acting yeast in the recipe. You can definitely use active dry yeast instead but make sure to activate your yeast first with lukewarm milk and a little bit of sugar.

Hand kneading instructions:

  • Mix lukewarm milk with yeast in a bowl ( and a touch of sugar if you’re using active dry yeast or if you’re not sure your yeast is good).
  • Add sugar, softened butter, and the egg and mix with a spoon or a fork.
  • Then add salt, and flour (reserve about ¼ cup of flour to add later as you mix) and mix with your hands. The flour should make big lumps. Keep mixing until there isn’t any loose flour left and all the flour is in clumps. 
  • Now dump everything onto a lightly floured bench and press all the flour lumps together and make it into a rough ball.
  • Knead the dough ball for about 20 mins or until it’s smooth like a baby’s butt, lump-free, and stretchy. Add flour a little by little only if the dough is sticking to your hand while kneading.

Important info:

  • Use instant dry yeast or fast-acting yeast. This type of yeast doesn’t need to be activated. You can use active dry yeast too but then make sure you add that to warm milk first with a little bit of sugar and wait until it’s foamy and all the yeast is activated.
  • Always use a newly bought, unopened yeast packet. They’re living organisms and they too die.
  • When you proof the dough, focus on the size and feel of the dough rather than the time. The time it takes to double the dough in size varies depending on room temperature.
  • Do not over-proof. If you wait too long, you can damage the gluten structure which holds the air in. And as soon as you put them into the oven the dough will collapse and you’d end up with dense bread. When the dough is proofed right, when you poke it gently it should slowly bounce back up.
  • By resting the dough before shaping you’re going to let the gluten relax. So when you stretch the dough it will stay as you stretched without pulling back into its original shape.
Sri Lankan fish buns recipe

The Filling

The filling is very easy and you only need a handful of ingredients. The main ingredients are canned mackerel, potatoes, and onions. If you want to make the mixture with fresh fish use Boiled, mashed tuna instead. You can also use canned tuna instead of canned mackerel too. Be careful not to make the mixture too watery as it would make the buns soggy. Also, be generous with black pepper and green chilies for more flavor and heat. Some people use Sri Lankan curry powder in their filling too. You can totally customize the filling to your liking. 

If you love bakery buns, check out easy egg buns, Spicy potato buns, and sausage buns recipes too. If you try my Sri Lankan fish buns recipe, please leave me a comment and give me your feedback. Really appreciate it

Affiliate Links to the products I use:

KitchenAid Mixer

All-purpose flour

Instant yeast

Fresh Curry leaves

Turmeric powder

Chili flakes

Black Peppercorns

Difficulty: Beginner Prep Time 20 mins Cook Time 20 mins Rest Time 110 mins Total Time 2 hrs 30 mins
Servings: 12


Try my easy fool-proof recipe to make delicious Sri Lankan Fish Buns. A soft fluffy bun filled with a spicy potato and mackerel filling. Best for a savory breakfast or as a snack or to serve with tea.


For the Filling

For the dough

For the egg wash


Make the Filling

  1. Peel and cut the potatoes into quarters. Boil with salted water. Drain completely and let it cool down. Mash them using a fork. Make sure it's chunky, not fully mashed into a paste.

  2. Heat coconut oil in a large saute pan. Add curry leaves. Then add finely chopped garlic and chopped/sliced green chilies. Fry for a few seconds. Do not wait until garlic becomes brown.

  3. Then add chopped onion. Mix well. And let it cook until onions become sweaty. 

  4. Add chili flakes, turmeric powder, and a bit of salt. Saute. Adjust the chili flakes for your taste

  5. Move the onions to a side of the pan. Add your mackerel (make sure the liquid is completely drained) mash the mackerel pieces using the spatula/spoon.

  6. Mix well with the onions and saute well. 

  7. Add your freshly crushed black pepper and salt if needed. Mix well.

  8. Finally, add your mashed potatoes and saute for another couple of minutes until everything combines. 

  9. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if needed. Let the mixture cool down.

Make the dough

  1. Add lukewarm milk to your mixer bowl. And then add yeast (and a little bit of sugar if you're using active dry yeast or not sure if your yeast is good). Let it sit for a few seconds. It should start to make foam on the edges immediately. If not, your yeast could be expired. Throw it out and start again with new yeast. 

  2. Now add very softened butter, sugar, egg, and mix with a spoon. Lastly, add salt and flour.

  3. Knead the dough for 8-10mins in the mixer until the dough becomes soft and pliable. (hand kneading instructions are included in the recipe description)

  4. Make the dough into a ball using your hands. Apply some oil to the bowl. Put the dough in. Apply a few drops of oil on the surface of the dough. Cover with plastic wrap.

  5. Let it doubled in size. It may take around 45mins to 1 hour depending on the temperature of your house. 

  6. Degas the dough by punching it down. Transfer the dough to your benchtop.

Shaping and Baking

  1. Cut the dough into 12 equal pieces using a bench scraper or a knife. 

  2. Make them into balls. Roughly about 65g -70 g each. Arrange them on the bench. Cover with a plastic wrap nicely and let them rest for 15mins.

  3. After 15 mins, you'd notice that they've puffed up a little and easy to work with. Take one ball out. Keep the rest of them covered all the time. Flatten it out with your hands until it's about 5 - 6 inches in diameter. Make sure the middle is slightly thicker than the edges. So buns nicely dome up in the middle when they bake.

  4. Now flip your dough so the smooth side goes down. This means you get the smoother side on the outside of the bun when they’re baked. Put roughly about ⅓ cup of filling in the middle.

  5. Now fold two upper corners to the middle as you make a triangular shape. (please refer to the attached photo) And pinch the edges together to seal.

  6. Then fold up the lower ⅓ edge to the middle to completely cover the filling. Pinch the edges again to seal the filling inside.

  7. Flip it upside-down so the sealed edges go under. Now using your hands you can reshape it to make it look perfect. Reshaping is completely optional.

  8. Arrange on a large baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap so it wouldn't dry out. Always keep all the dough pieces covered so they don't dry out and harden the surface. Repeat the process to all the dough balls and arrange the triangles on the baking sheet. Make sure to leave plenty of space between each triangle so they have enough space to rise up and wouldn't stick together in the oven as they puff up in the oven. Let them rise again until they become double in size. This time it would take relatively less time to rise up. (around 30 - 45mins) Do not overproof/wait too long, they'd collapse in the oven.

  9. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 425F or 215 C.

  10. Mix egg yolk and milk together to make the egg wash. When the triangles are doubled in size, apply the egg wash using a pastry brush or a silicone brush.

  11. Bake for 12 - 15 mins in 425F preheated oven until they're golden on the top. Let them rest and cool down for at least 20 mins for the crumbs to set before you serve them.

Keywords: Sri Lankan fish buns, Soft buns, Easy buns recipe, Fish Buns, Potato and mackerel buns, Tuna buns, Sri Lankan buns recipe, Malu pan, Maalu Pang, Sri Lankan Malu pan


      1. Make sure you add sugar to the milk and yeast mixture. Yeast needs sugar to grow. Made these today and they came out great. I just noticed that my yeast and milk mixture wasn’t bubbling up (as they do when it activates) and then figured I needed to add sugar to it.

        1. Hi Roshen, That’s why I recommend using a newly bought instant dry yeast/fast-acting yeast (not active dry yeast) because they do not need to be activated. You can simply mix everything and make the dough. I only add yeast to the milk mix first, just to make sure that my yeast is not expired. But adding a little bit of sugar can definitely help to speed up the process. It’s a different story when I use active dry yeast which needs to be activated with some warm liquid and a little bit of sugar. Adding too much sugar can also affect the metabolism of yeast so just a little bit is enough.

          1. I’m always using dry yeast. Just mix straight with the flour and sugar. Then on a separate bowl I mix well the warm sweet milk (we have sweet, less sweet and no sugar milk here)melted butter, eggs and salt. Then mix together everything.
            This is the best recipe i have done. Thank u.

  1. I am going to try this tomorrow.
    Have you tried freezing fish buns? Either baked or ready to bake fish buns?
    Thank you

    1. Yes, You can freeze baked fish buns without any problem. I haven’t tried it with ready to bake fish buns.

      1. Such a great recipe. The dough is so fluffy and light. I used sockeye salmon and felt using Irish butter made it even more soft. Thank you for your amazing recipe.

  2. I tried this last Friday and this came out so well. Shared the story on IG too, but I guess you missed it. Keep up your good work!

    1. Hi Ayeshini,

      Thank you, glad they turned out great. Sorry, I didn’t see the story, please DM if possible. I’d love to see how they turned out.

  3. Perfect fish bun recipe!! Love your recipes. They give the perfect expected results. Made them twice already 😇

  4. Thank you very much it’s a genuine recipe tried out today followed step by step it perfectly came out very soft and tasty was done to perfection

  5. I am making them for the second time tonight. They were perfect the first time and they look perfect again.
    Thank you for the step by step makes it so easy.

  6. Love your recipe but I can’t get the bread to fluff up – love how breast the ones in Lanka are. Do you have any tips?

    1. Hi Natasha, Thank you. I’m sorry I’m having trouble understanding the question. Are you referring to the dome shape and that it’s fluffy in the middle part? When you flatten out the dough balls always leave the middle a little thicker (please refer to the photos in the instruction section). So when the bun rises you can get that dome shape and fluffy middle. If the buns are not fluffy overall there are a few reasons this could happen. But mainly due to yeast not being active. Use a new packet of yeast every time and let the dough rise properly both the first and second times. The time may vary depending on the room temp so always focus on the look and feel.

  7. Love the step by step instructions with pics, makes it easier to compare. Definitely will try it tonight. Can I substitute yeast with something else?

    1. Hi Geraldine,

      Thank you for your feedback. Unfortunately yeast is a must, you can use something like a sourdough starter instead but the recipe would be different.

  8. Thank you Roshani for this excellent recipe, tried it yesterday and the end product was absolutely delicious 😋. I substituted milk with lukewarm water and it was divine. I can’t say the same for my past attempts in making malu paan. So my hats off to your recipe and will definitely make it more often as it went like hot cakes at home. I grew up on this too and never grown tired of eating it. Thank you once again for sharing this sumptuous recipe.

  9. The fish buns came out beautifully! Wish I could post a picture here.
    Thank you so much for your precise easy to follow recipe!

    1. I’m so happy to hear that and would absolutely love to see a photo Chammi!! Can you please send it to my Instagram or Facebook if you get a chance? I badly need a photo-uploading feature here

  10. Thanks for this recipe! I made it last week and it turned out beautifully. I was wondering if you’ve tried a version without eggs or if you have any tips for making the bread egg free?

  11. Can you make the dough with any flour like whole grain wheat flour?
    I like your recipe, it’s very simple and easy to follow.

    1. Hi Saroja,

      Accessible gluten is very low in whole grain flour. You can use it but make sure you add at least 50% of Bread flour or All-Purpose flour. Otherwise they will end up dense.

  12. Please be kind to send me a good recipe for normal bread, which I’m longing to try out, but have not got a good recipe as yet. Tried a few but not very happy.

    1. Hi Nadiya, I haven’t tried flaxseed as an egg substitute so I’m not sure how it works. If you’re looking for an eggless dough please check this buns recipe which has no eggs in it. This dough works perfectly for fish buns. As for the eggwash you can brush with some milk. Or bake without an egg wash and about 5 mins before you take the buns out, brush them with some butter to add some color to them. Hope this helps!

  13. Hi love all you recipes. Can I keep the risen dough overnight in the fridge and bake it in the morning? Or what would you suggest to have it for breakfast as I don’t have time to knead in the morning. TIA

    1. Hi Nush, The dough will continue to rise in the fridge. You can knead the dough, cover it and put it in the fridge. It will rise in the fridge and then in the morning you can shape them, do the second rise (will take much longer to rise since the dough is cold) and bake.
      Or what I do is, I make a huge batch of fish buns whenever I have time, freeze them, and then reheat them (in microwave or in oven) when I need.

      1. I tried this recepie today and the buns came out perfectly . I have tried many recepies but this one is a game changer ! Thank you very much ! 😍❤️

  14. Today I tried this recepie and the buns came out perfectly . I have tried many recepies but this one was a game changer ! Thank you very much ! ❤️😍

    1. Technically you should be able to freeze before the final rise and then thaw, allow them to rise and bake. But I honestly haven’t tried that before so I’m not sure how they turn out. I always freeze them after I bake them and then thaw and reheat in the oven or microwave.

  15. Excellent recipe. I used self-raising flour and left out flour, sugar and yeast, and my fish buns came out looking so professional and tasted great according to samplers! Thanks so much.
    This was a therapeutic experience for me, as it brought back memories of my past life in Sri Lanka and the bakery at the top of the road.

    1. Hi Chris.
      Thank you for the lovely feedback. Glad to hear that it brought back memories of Sri Lanka for you. The bakery at the top of the hill sounds a like a lovely place.


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