6 Low-Carb Options in Chinese Cuisine

by Ella

Chinese cuisine is renowned for its rich flavors, diverse ingredients, and varied cooking techniques. While many Chinese dishes feature rice, noodles, and sauces that are high in carbohydrates, there are plenty of low-carb options available that cater to those following a low-carb or ketogenic diet. This article explores the principles of low-carb eating, identifies low-carb Chinese dishes, and provides tips for enjoying Chinese cuisine while maintaining your dietary goals.

Low-Carb Eating

Low-carb diets focus on reducing the intake of carbohydrates and increasing the consumption of proteins and fats. The goal is to limit foods that raise blood sugar levels, such as grains, sugary foods, and starchy vegetables. Instead, these diets emphasize foods that are rich in protein and healthy fats, such as meat, fish, eggs, and non-starchy vegetables.


Benefits of Low-Carb Diets

Weight Loss: By reducing carbohydrate intake, the body enters a state of ketosis, burning fat for energy instead of glucose.


Blood Sugar Control: Low-carb diets can help manage blood sugar levels, making them beneficial for individuals with diabetes.


Improved Metabolic Health: These diets can improve various metabolic markers, such as triglycerides, HDL cholesterol, and blood pressure.


Low-Carb Ingredients in Chinese Cuisine

Chinese cuisine includes a variety of ingredients that can fit into a low-carb diet. Here are some common low-carb ingredients and their uses in Chinese cooking:

Protein Sources

Meat: Chicken, beef, pork, and duck are commonly used in Chinese dishes. These meats are typically low in carbs, especially when prepared without sugary sauces.

Seafood: Fish, shrimp, scallops, and squid are popular and low in carbohydrates.

Eggs: Used in various dishes, including egg drop soup and stir-fries.


Leafy Greens: Bok choy, spinach, and Chinese broccoli (gai lan) are low in carbs and rich in nutrients.

Cruciferous Vegetables: Broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage are excellent low-carb options.

Mushrooms: Shiitake, enoki, and wood ear mushrooms are often used in soups and stir-fries.

Other Vegetables: Bell peppers, zucchini, and bean sprouts add flavor and texture without many carbs.

Fats and Oils

Cooking Oils: Sesame oil, peanut oil, and coconut oil are used in cooking and add healthy fats to dishes.

Nuts and Seeds: Peanuts, almonds, and sesame seeds are used in sauces and as toppings.

Flavorings and Sauces

Soy Sauce: While low in carbs, it should be used in moderation due to its sodium content.

Ginger and Garlic: These add flavor without adding carbs.

Vinegar: Black vinegar and rice vinegar are used for tangy flavors with minimal carbs.

Herbs and Spices: Cilantro, star anise, and Sichuan peppercorns add depth to dishes without carbohydrates.

Low-Carb Chinese Dishes

1. Steamed Dishes

Steaming is a healthy cooking method that preserves nutrients and flavor without adding carbs.

Steamed Fish

Description: Fresh fish steamed with ginger, scallions, and soy sauce.

Nutritional Benefits: High in protein and healthy fats, low in carbs.

Tips: Opt for light soy sauce and avoid sugary marinades.

Steamed Vegetables

Description: A variety of vegetables like bok choy, broccoli, and cauliflower steamed and lightly seasoned.

Nutritional Benefits: High in fiber, vitamins, and minerals with minimal carbs.

Tips: Drizzle with sesame oil for added flavor and healthy fats.

2. Stir-Fries

Stir-frying is a quick cooking method that uses high heat and minimal oil, making it a good option for low-carb meals.

Chicken and Broccoli Stir-Fry

Description: Chicken breast stir-fried with broccoli, garlic, and ginger.

Nutritional Benefits: High in protein and fiber, low in carbs.

Tips: Use a low-carb soy sauce alternative and avoid cornstarch for thickening.

Beef and Snow Peas

Description: Sliced beef stir-fried with snow peas, garlic, and sesame oil.

Nutritional Benefits: Protein-rich with low-carb vegetables.

Tips: Choose lean cuts of beef and avoid sugary sauces.

3. Soups

Chinese soups are often broth-based and can be very low in carbs, making them a great choice for a low-carb diet.

Egg Drop Soup

Description: A simple soup made with beaten eggs, chicken broth, and green onions.

Nutritional Benefits: Low in carbs, high in protein.

Tips: Add mushrooms or spinach for extra nutrients without adding carbs.

Hot and Sour Soup

Description: A tangy soup made with a variety of ingredients, including tofu, mushrooms, and bamboo shoots.

Nutritional Benefits: Low in carbs, high in protein and fiber.

Tips: Ensure the soup does not contain added sugars or cornstarch.

4. Lettuce Wraps

Lettuce wraps are a versatile and low-carb way to enjoy flavorful fillings without the carbs from buns or tortillas.

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Description: Ground chicken stir-fried with vegetables and wrapped in crisp lettuce leaves.

Nutritional Benefits: High in protein and fiber, low in carbs.

Tips: Use iceberg or butter lettuce for the wraps and avoid sugary sauces.

5. Salads

Chinese salads often feature fresh, crunchy vegetables and light dressings, making them ideal for low-carb diets.

Chinese Cucumber Salad

Description: Sliced cucumbers tossed with garlic, vinegar, and sesame oil.

Nutritional Benefits: Low in carbs, refreshing, and hydrating.

Tips: Add chili flakes for a spicy kick without adding carbs.

Seaweed Salad

Description: A salad made with marinated seaweed, often seasoned with sesame oil and vinegar.

Nutritional Benefits: Low in carbs, high in minerals.

Tips: Check for added sugars in the dressing and opt for simple, natural ingredients.

6. Traditional Dishes with Modifications

Some traditional Chinese dishes can be modified to fit a low-carb diet by making a few adjustments.

Kung Pao Chicken

Description: A spicy stir-fry dish made with chicken, peanuts, and vegetables.

Nutritional Benefits: High in protein and healthy fats.

Modifications: Use a low-carb soy sauce alternative and avoid sugar. Serve over cauliflower rice instead of white rice.

Moo Shu Pork

Description: Shredded pork stir-fried with vegetables and often served with thin pancakes.

Nutritional Benefits: High in protein and fiber.

Modifications: Skip the pancakes and serve with lettuce wraps or eat as a stir-fry.

Tips for Eating Low-Carb at Chinese Restaurants

1. Communicate with Your Server

Don’t hesitate to ask your server about how dishes are prepared and request modifications to reduce carbs. For example, you can ask for sauces on the side or request that dishes be prepared without sugar or cornstarch.

2. Choose the Right Dishes

Opt for dishes that are naturally low in carbs, such as steamed or grilled proteins, stir-fried vegetables, and broth-based soups. Avoid dishes that are breaded, deep-fried, or served with thick, sugary sauces.

3. Be Mindful of Hidden Carbs

Some ingredients, like cornstarch and certain sauces, can add hidden carbs to your meal. Ask for dishes to be prepared without these ingredients or request substitutions.

4. Portion Control

Chinese restaurant portions can be large. Consider sharing dishes with others or taking half of your meal home to avoid overeating.

5. Skip the Rice and Noodles

Rice and noodles are high in carbs. Instead, ask for extra vegetables or a side of steamed vegetables to replace these starches.

Low-Carb Chinese Cooking at Home

Cooking Chinese food at home gives you complete control over the ingredients and preparation methods, making it easier to stick to a low-carb diet.

Stocking Your Pantry

Keep your pantry stocked with low-carb staples commonly used in Chinese cooking:

Soy Sauce Alternatives: Coconut aminos or low-sodium soy sauce.

Sesame Oil: Adds flavor to stir-fries and salads.

Rice Vinegar: A tangy, low-carb vinegar for dressings and marinades.

Fresh Vegetables: Bok choy, broccoli, bell peppers, mushrooms, and spinach.

Protein Sources: Chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, and tofu.

Spices and Aromatics: Garlic, ginger, green onions, and chili flakes.

Low-Carb Chinese Recipes

Here are a few simple recipes to get you started on your low-carb Chinese cooking journey.

Low-Carb Stir-Fried Chicken and Broccoli


  • 1 lb chicken breast, sliced thin
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce alternative (like coconut aminos)
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Heat sesame oil in a large pan or wok over medium-high heat.

Add garlic and ginger, stir-frying until fragrant.

Add chicken slices, cooking until browned and cooked through.

Add broccoli florets and continue to stir-fry until tender-crisp.

Drizzle with soy sauce alternative and season with salt and pepper.

Serve hot, garnished with green onions or sesame seeds if desired.

Keto Egg Drop Soup


  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp soy sauce alternative
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Bring chicken broth to a boil in a pot.

Add grated ginger and soy sauce alternative.

Slowly pour in beaten eggs while stirring the broth in a circular motion.

Continue to stir until the eggs are cooked and form ribbons.

Season with salt and pepper, and garnish with sliced green onions.

Serve hot.

See Also: Chinese-style Eggplant with Minced Pork


Enjoying Chinese cuisine while adhering to a low-carb diet is entirely feasible with a little knowledge and some strategic choices. By focusing on protein-rich dishes, fresh vegetables, and avoiding sugary sauces and high-carb ingredients, you can indulge in the rich flavors of Chinese food without compromising your dietary goals. Whether dining out or cooking at home, there are plenty of delicious and satisfying low-carb Chinese dishes to explore. By following the tips and recipes provided, you can maintain your low-carb lifestyle and still savor the diverse and delectable offerings of Chinese cuisine.



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