Does Keto-Friendly Chinese Food Exist? Try These Recipes!
Protein fried to golden brown, soft and fluffy rice, all covered in decadent sauces. What’s not to love about Chinese food? Oh, right. The carbs. Does keto-friendly Chinese food exist?
Before you assume you have to say goodbye to your favorite Chinese dishes, take a moment to browse through the following keto-friendly Chinese food recipes. With a few alterations and a little creativity, you can still curb your cravings while still heading to or remaining in ketosis.
What’s the Problem with Chinese Food?
There are plenty of keto books and resources out there that tell us the typical American diet is full of not so friendly items. While authentic Chinese food is often keto-friendly, the American versions we love definitely aren’t. Here’s why.
Though not all, many of the proteins used in Chinese dishes are breaded and/or fried. Fried chicken, pork, shrimp, and beef can be found in some of the most common menu options, like Sweet and Sour Chicken, crispy Mongolian Beef, and spicy sauced shrimp.
Even if the meat in a dish isn’t battered and fried, they can be sautéed in not so friendly keto ingredients, like fruit juices or soy sauce. Finally, the portions can throw off your macros. Protein shouldn’t make up a large portion of your daily diet in keto and some dishes serve up oversized amounts of chicken or beef. The fewer ingredients in a dish, the more protein it tends to have.
Rice and Noodles
What would Chinese food be without sticky white rice, fried rice, or Chow Mein noodles? Unfortunately, all of these options are carb-heavy. For example, a cup of sticky fried rice commonly served with a menu dish serves up 44 total carbs. A cup of fried rice can have up to 50 grams of carbs and a similar amount of Chow Mein noodles can have over 60 grams of carbs, depending on how they’ve been prepped.
Many Chinese sauces you’ll come across contain sugar or a sugar substitute. A few to avoid include plum sauce, sweet and sour sauce, duck sauce and hoisin sauce. Sauces can also have different names but include these culprits so make sure you understand all the listed ingredients. There are some sauces that can be keto-friendly, which we’ll soon explore.
Homemade Keto-friendly Chinese Food
When on a ketogenic diet, the best route to take is always homemade. You’ll have complete control over the ingredients in your dish and be able to customize it so it fits within your macros and pleases the taste buds. We’ve rounded up several of our favorite keto-friendly Chinese food recipes for you to try. Hopefully, your favorite is on the list. But if it’s not, we hope these recipes give you the knowledge and power to create your own keto-approved Chinese recipes.
Keto-Friendly Sesame Chicken
To recreate this Chinese favorite, you’ll need to invest in toasted sesame oil. This is what gives it the unique flavor you’re looking for. Inspired by Tasteaholics, this entire dish has about 8 grams of net carbs and is more than enough for two hungry people.
1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
1 pound chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seed oil
2 tablespoons keto-friendly soy sauce
2 tablespoons Sukrin Gold (brown sugar alternative)
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 small cube of ginger
1 garlic clove
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
¼ teaspoon xanthan gum
- Start by making a batter. To do this, mix egg with arrowroot powder. Whisk well and add chicken thigh pieces, stirring to coat.
- Heat up 1 tablespoon of toasted sesame seed oil in a large pan or wok. Add battered chicken thigh pieces. Don’t overload pan. You may need to cook chicken in two batches. Gently move and flip chicken as it cooks, being careful to not disrupt breading. 3. Cook until golden, or about 10 minutes.
- While the chicken is cooking, start to make the sauce. Combine remaining ingredients and whisk well.
- After the chicken has been cooked, add sauce. Continue cooking for about 5 minutes. Allow sauce to thicken. Season with salt and pepper if desired.
- Serve as desired. We suggest over a bed of steamed broccoli. Sprinkle with more sesame seeds to get the traditional look. Enjoy!
Keto-Friendly General Tso’s Chicken
Thanks to ruled.me, we have a great recipe for keto-friendly General Tso’s chicken that has just the right amount of heat. You’ll have to skip the traditional rice or noodle side, but once you taste this dish redesigned for keto, you won’t miss them. This entire dish has just over 13 net grams of carbohydrates and is enough for about three servings. You’ll notice it includes hoisin sauce. Skipping it will alter the taste a bit but you’ll save 2 grams of carbs doing so.
6 small chicken breasts
¾ cup crushed pork rinds
1/3 cup almond flour
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon coconut oil
¼ cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons reduced sugar ketchup
2 tablespoons erythritol
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon red chili paste
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon minced ginger
¼ teaspoon xanthan gum
- Preheat oven to 325F.
- Process pork rinds in a food processor until finely crushed.
- Place ground pork rinds in a bowl and mix in almond flour.
- In a separate bowl, whisk eggs.
- Prepare chicken breasts. Remove fat and cut into bite sized cubes.
- Dip chicken cubes first into whisked eggs and then into pork rinds mixture. Place to the side, coating all chicken pieces.
- In a large pan or wok, heat up 1 tablespoon of olive oil and of coconut oil. Once hot, add chicken. Flip as needed, creating a nice crust on all the pieces. Chicken does not need to be thoroughly cooked at this point.
- When done frying transfer chicken cubes to a baking tray.
- Add remaining ingredients to a bowl and mix well. Pour over chicken pieces. Carefully stir to coat.
- Place in oven. Bake for 60 minutes, removing to stir and coat every 15 minutes.
- Serve and enjoy! This chicken is great on its own because of the rich flavor but you can also serve it with broccoli or another keto-friendly vegetable.
Keto-Friendly Orange Beef
We couldn’t put together a list of keto-friendly Chinese recipes without including one with orange sauce, a favorite amongst Chinese take-out enthusiasts. This version, brought to us by Simply So Healthy, features beef for a change to our lineup. The recipe makes four servings, each with only 3 net carbs.
1 pound beef top sirloin, cut into thin strips
¼ cup keto-friendly soy sauce
¼ cup water
1 tablespoon granulated stevia
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons butter
2 medium green onions, thinly sliced and separated between white and green portions
1 tablespoon fresh ginger root, minced
1 tablespoon fresh orange zest, cut into thin strips
2 cloves garlic, crushed
½ teaspoon xanthan gum
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- Start by patting beef strips dry with a paper towel. Whisk together soy sauce, water, stevia, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl.
- Heat one tablespoon of butter in a large pan or wok. Add beef in one layer to pan. You may need to cook in more than one batch. Brown beef on one side, flip, and cook through. Remove and place on a plate.
- Melt remaining butter and stir in the white part of the green onions, ginger root, and orange zest. Cook until fragrant. Add garlic and xanthan gum and cook for another 30 seconds.
- Add rice vinegar and stir, scraping pan as needed. Cook until almost evaporated. Add soy sauce mixture and stir well. Simmer until thickened
- Stir in beef and heat through.
- Mix in green portion of green onions and serve.
Keto-Friendly Egg Rolls
Did you think egg rolls were completely off limits in keto? Thanks to ketogasm, we have a great recipe for egg rolls that give you the taste you’re craving without the carbs. This easy to make recipe can be split into six servings with 6 net carbs each.
1 pound ground pork
1 head cabbage, thinly sliced
½ medium onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon sesame oil
¼ cup keto-friendly soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons chicken broth
2 stalks green onion
- In a large pan or wok, brown ground pork over medium heat.
- Add sesame oil and sliced onion to pan with fully cooked pork. Mix and continue cooking.
- In a small bowl, stir soy sauce, garlic, and ground ginger together. Add sauce to pan once onions have started to brown.
- Immediately add cabbage to the pan. Toss to fully coat. Add chicken broth to pan and stir. Cook for about three minutes, allowing cabbage to wilt and absorb flavors. Stir frequently.
- Serve in bowls. Garnish with sliced green onion if desired. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
How to Eat Chinese Food in a Restaurant for Keto
Maybe you’re going out with friends or you just want to eat something on the go. The good news is that there are ways to eat Chinese in a restaurant without throwing your body out of ketosis. Here’s how to order like a keto pro.
Look for dishes that are steamed or stir-fried. A great example is Chicken and Broccoli. This is a staple Chinese dish that you should find in just about every restaurant. The chicken isn’t breaded and is seasoned perfectly. The broccoli is a great source of fiber and is low in carbs. The only concern with a dish like this is the sauce. Ask if it has sugar or a sugar substitute.
Look for dishes packed with veggies. You’ll find plenty of dishes with fruit that are way too carb heavy, like Pineapple Chicken or Sweet and Sour Pork. Chances are, a veggie dish will be lower on the carb scale. A great option is Egg Foo Young, which includes cabbage, mushrooms, bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, and onions. You can add chicken to make the meal more filling and complete. When looking for veggie dense Chinese dishes, again, look out for sauces with sugar or a sugar substitute.
There are foods you should always avoid when dining out at a Chinese restaurant. These include:
- Wontons, pot stickers, crab Rangoon and similar appetizers
- Rice, including fried rice, and any type of noodle
- Anything breaded or fried
- Egg rolls
- Sweet sauces
Here are some final tips for you when enjoying Chinese.
Look out for a hidden carb common in many Chinese dishes. Cornstarch can add about 7 grams of carbohydrates to a dish for every tablespoon used. Cornstarch is often added to sauces or soups. Meat can also be dusted with cornstarch before being stir-fried, even though it’s hard to visually notice. Always ask about what cornstarch has been added to. In some cases, the restaurant may be able to prepare your dish without it.
Make sure you know which vegetables to enjoy and which to avoid. High-carb vegetables commonly found in Chinese dishes include baby corn, snow peas, and carrots. Low carb vegetables that are safe to enjoy include celery, asparagus, bok choy, and spinach.
When it comes to sauces, look for thin and savory. Check the ingredients if you’re not sure. You can also ask for sauce on the side so you’re not over indulging. There are keto-friendly soy sauces available. Look for one that’s low in sodium and gluten-free.
Ready to bring out the wok and whip up your favorite Chinese dish, keto style? It’s easier than you think. Don’t let sugar, sauces, and hidden carbs keep you from enjoying your favorite foods.
Once you think outside the box, it’s easier to understand that just about anything has a keto-friendly version for you to enjoy. The benefits of ketosis are worth the effort, like improved mental clarity. So, whether you make your own or have it delivered, we hope you’re enjoying your favorite Chinese takeout on your couch soon.