Keto Friendly Chinese Food

Keto Friendly Chinese Food
Daniel Thompson

on May 02, 2019

Most Chinese food in America is, well, Americanized, which can present a big challenge for those following a keto lifestyle.

Traditional Chinese food is varied and nutritionally dense — with an emphasis on native Chinese vegetables, fresh seafood, and intricately prepared meats — while Americanized Chinese food has evolved into a separate concept entirely.

The widely-available and much-craved Americanized Chinese food can be a difficult target for those following a keto lifestyle. Here’s a short guide to help you get your Chinese take-out fix without falling out of ketosis.

Eating Chinese Food on the Keto Diet

Is Chinese food keto friendly? The answer depends on your definition of Chinese food.

Authentic Chinese Cuisine

Authentic Chinese cuisine uses traditional methods and ingredients native to China. You won’t find any crab rangoon or moo shu pork on these menus.

Traditional Chinese meals offer a balance of macronutrients in one delicious and nutritionally-dense package. Take mapo tofu for example: the dish combines pork and tofu in a spicy Sichuan pepper sauce. It’s low carb, packs a punch of heat, and balances meaty pork with creamy tofu, all in one humble dish.

There are many other keto-friendly dishes to be found in the world of traditional Chinese cooking. One style of cooking, Chinese Hot Pot, is said to have originated in Mongolia in the year 900 AD and is not making its way to the United States as the next big Chinese food trend.

Chinese Hot Pot is a keto-friendly option that allows diners to cook their meal to order right at their own table. Customers order meats, vegetables, and seafood to cook in a large pot full of broth situated in the middle of a table. With keto-friendly options like pork belly, lean cuts of meat, and green vegetables, it’s easy to hit the right balance without being afraid of falling out of ketosis.

Americanized Chinese Cuisine

Americanized Chinese restaurants are the restaurants that offer popular “chinese food” favorites like fried rice, stirfry, egg rolls, and various kinds of heavily-sauced proteins atop a bed of white rice.  

Anytime you dine out on keto, you run the risk of accidentally eating something you shouldn’t. This is especially true for Americanized Chinese restaurants. Your go-to takeout may be sneaking sugar and carbs into food in ways you may not expect.

Dishes like kung pao chicken, beef and broccoli, and egg rolls have all strayed from their traditional Chinese roots — if they had any at all. These dishes have been altered to fit the American palate, which translates to being sweetened with sugar and thickened with cornstarch.

So, what’s a Chinese takeout-craving keto lover to do? If you’re going to order Chinese food from the typical neighborhood place, read on for tips on how to keep it keto.

What Chinese Food To Avoid While On Keto

It is possible to stay on track with keto while eating at your favorite Chinese restaurant. Avoid the following pitfalls, which make it all too easy to mess up your macros.

Most Sauces

At all restaurants across the board, sauce is a synonym for sugar. Many of your favorite Chinese sauces, including duck sauce, hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, and plum sauce all contain too many added sugars to be keto-safe.

Your best bet? Good old-fashioned soy sauce. Soy sauce only contains 0.8g of carbs per tablespoon, making it a good flavor enhancer for keto Chinese.

It’s always a good idea to ask for sauce served on the side. That way, you can check out the consistency, to see if it looks suspect before dousing your entire meal.

In addition to sugar, many of your favorite Chinese restaurant sauces use cornstarch as a thickener. At 6g of carbs per tablespoon, these sauces can quickly knock you out of ketosis.

Breaded Meats

Breaded meats are often the star of the stir-fry in many Chinese dishes. Coated in carbs and stir-fried with sauce, this category of keto-unfriendly foods contains popular dishes like sweet and sour pork, orange beef, General Tso's chicken, and more.

Tips to Eating Low Carb in Chinese Restaurants

Keto dieters need not fear the Chinese restaurant, no matter if it’s authentic or Americanized. For the optimal keto dining experience at a Chinese restaurant, follow these tips to stay on track and in ketosis.

Opt for Steamed

Chinese cooking includes a variety of ways to cook different foods, with one of the most popular being the simple method of steaming. Many Chinese restaurants offer this method of cooking as a healthy alternative to other popular dishes that are saucy and fried.

Look for meat-centric dishes

Often times meals that center around one cut or type of meat are the lowest carbohydrate options. Dishes like roast duck, spare ribs, and braised beef focus on quality meat cuts that don’t require the flavor-boost of a carb-dense sauce.

The best advice is to keep your proteins simple. Avoid sauces, avoid anything deep fried, and you’ll steer clear of unfriendly dishes.

Split your meal with a carb-lover

Like many cuisines around the world, Chinese food has an inherent social element — it’s practically designed for sharing. One of the best tips for keto followers is to divvy up a mixed dish with your non-keto friends. You take the keto-friendly fats, they take the carb-heavy rice or noodles on the side, everybody wins.

Make Your Own Keto-Friendly Chinese Food

Cooking your own takeout favorites at home means you can swap out non-keto ingredients for the ones that will help you hit your macros. Additionally, you can keep better control over sauces and avoid those sneaky carbs that find their way into meals prepared at restaurants. Conquer your Chinese-food cravings with these keto-friendly recipes from top keto recipe blogs.

Low-Carb Orange Beef (by Simply So Healthy)

This keto-friendly orange beef recipe satisfies that signature combination of salty, citrusy and sweet, thanks to low-carb stevia and orange zest.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb beef top sirloin, cut into thin slices against the grain
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 tbsp granulated stevia
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp butter, separated
  • 2 green onions
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp orange zest
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • ½ tsp xanthan gum
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar

Directions:

  1. Using paper towels, pat the strips of beef dry. Next, whisk together soy sauce, water, stevia, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl.
  2. Over medium-high heat, melt 1 tbsp of the butter. Working in batches, add the beef slices to the pan, searing each side until brown, then remove and drain on paper towels.
  3. In the now empty pan, add the second tablespoon of butter and saute green onions, ginger, and orange zest until fragrant, about 1 min. Stir in garlic and xanthan gum and cook for an additional 30 seconds.
  4. Deglaze the hot pan with the rice vinegar, scraping up the browned bits of meat from the pan. Stir in the soy sauce mixture and simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes.
  5. Return beef to the pan with the sauce, and continue cooking until the meat is heated through. Enjoy!

Cauliflower Fried Rice (By Skinny Taste)

By simply swapping cauliflower rice for regular white rice, you can get the texture and taste of this signature Chines side dish at home.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium cauliflower
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 large egg
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • ½ small yellow onion, diced
  • ½ cup frozen peas
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 5 green onions, white and green parts separated
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce

Directions:

  1. Break down cauliflower into florets using a knife. Next, place florets into a food processor and pulse until roughly rice-sized. Do not overprocess.
  2. Whisk together egg and egg whites in a small bowl. Season with the salt.
  3. Heat a large pan or wok over medium heat. Cook egg and set aside.
  4. Add sesame oil to pan, then yellow onion, garlic, and whites of green onion. Saute for 2-3 minutes. Add frozen peas, cook for an additional minute.
  5. Add cauliflower and soy sauce to pan. Cook until tender, 5-6 minutes, stirring frequently.
  6. Remove from heat and stir in the green portion of green onion.

Asian Chopped Chicken Salad (By Tasty Thin)

For a lighter meal, this salad captures the delicious taste of sesame oil and comes together quickly for a fast keto lunch or dinner when you need it.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups coleslaw mix
  • 1 cup shredded red cabbage
  • ½ red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup shredded chicken breast
  • ¼ cup slivered almonds
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds

For the dressing:

  • ¼ cup coconut aminos
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger
  • ½ tsp granulated stevia

Directions:

  1. Combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl and toss to combine.
  2. Combine all dressing ingredients in a blender and process until creamy and smooth.
  3. Just before serving, toss the salad with dressing and sprinkle with extra sesame seeds for garnish.
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