Whether you're following a low-carb or keto lifestyle, it takes time to adjust your eating habits so you can keep your carbs low and your spirits high. After all, many of us were raised on carb-heavy foods and it can be tough to curb those cravings. Fortunately, it's not an impossible task — and that goes for Asian favorites like Chinese food.
While Chinese food basics like animal protein and veggies are naturally low-carb, the plethora of noodles, rice, and sauces can make it a bit of a challenge for a ketogenic diet. You also have to watch out for restaurants offering dishes that add breading, thickeners like cornstarch, or sweet sauces that can send your carb count soaring.
So, what can you do when those tempting cravings for Chinese takeout strike? Glad you asked. In this handy guide, we'll show you how to enjoy low-carb Chinese food — including a handful of tasty recipes — while staying on the keto-friendly track.
Low-Carb Hacks and Top Tips to Avoid Hidden Carbs
The health benefits of a low-carb diet are well-documented. From boosting your energy, decreasing inflammation, helping with weight loss, and increasing longevity, there's a long list of advantages that'll have you saying bye-bye to high-carb eating.
But just because you're watching your carb intake doesn't mean you have to give up all your Chinese cuisine favorites. When ordering takeout, dining out, or making a meal at home, be mindful that there are hidden carbs in some key ingredients. Here's what you need to know.
- Be smart about sauces: From hoisin sauce and plum sauce to brown sauce and sweet and sour sauce, there's no doubt that Chinese food is one saucy cuisine. But using these condiments to marinate meats, mix into stir fry, or pair as a dipping sauce can leave you consuming more added sugars than you bargained for. Ask the restaurant what they use to make their sauces, or if you're buying bottled sauces, be sure to read the ingredient labels as well as the nutrition facts.
- Go cuckoo for coconut aminos: Speaking of sauces, the most popular one of all is arguably soy sauce. While this tasty condiment won't throw you out of ketosis if you enjoy it in moderation, many low-carb enthusiasts swear by coconut aminos (also called liquid aminos). This keto-friendly liquid offers nutrients as well as the same salty, savory flavor you love in soy sauce. You can even try whisking it with garlic powder, onion powder, pepper, and other spices for added flavor.
- Use your noodle to rethink noodles: Since old-school noodles are a no-no on keto, consider low-carb noodle alternatives. For example, instead of lo mein made with flour and egg, try zoodles (zucchini noodles), konjac (shirataki) noodles, kelp noodles, or spiralized spaghetti squash noodles.
- Give keto-friendly rice a chance: We admit it's not exactly the same as the starchy grains that you grew up loving, but you might surprise yourself at how tasty low-carb rice alternatives can be. Try cauliflower rice, broccoli rice, or konjac rice in your keto Chinese food for added taste and texture.
- Stay clear: When ordering at a restaurant, opt for clear soups which are generally made with stock from veggies, chicken, pork, or beef bones. Since these types of soups are mostly water, they won't negatively impact your macros.
5 Chinese Food Recipes Low in Carbs, High in Flavor
When you've got a serious craving for Chinese food, these low-carb recipes will do the trick. Not only do they taste great but they're also good for your health. Better yet, when you do it yourself, you can control which ingredients are used and keep your carbs in check. It's time to get cooking!
1. Ginger Scallion Ramen With Chashu Braised Pork Belly
This fast and easy keto recipe calls for ginger, garlic, scallions, pork belly, poached egg, chili oil, low-carb ramen noodles, and just a handful of other seasonings and sauces you probably already have in your kitchen. All you have to do is some slicing, dicing, and chopping, let the pork simmer for a while, and then mix a few key ingredients to make the ginger scallion oil. Once you add all the fixings to the noodles and garnish with the egg, watch out. Get ready for a delicious party in your mouth that will fill you up at any time of day or night.
2. Moo Shu Chicken Lettuce Wraps
A staple of Chinese cuisine, you can't go wrong with mu shu (or in this case, moo shu) chicken or pork. But instead of serving it with those cute (and carb-loaded) pancakes, use lettuce instead. You'll get added crunch and none of the carbs. This 30-minute recipe calls for plenty of veggies like cabbage, mushrooms, and onions along with coconut aminos and avocado oil.
3. Spicy Almond Tan Tan Ramen With Chili Bean Ground Pork
OK, so tantanmen (aka tan tan) is technically Japanese. But since this spicy tan tan dish is really a Japanese twist on classic Chinese dan dan noodles, we figured it qualifies as a Chinese recipe. Either way, this tasty keto-friendly winner uses an almond butter base, low-carb noodles, chili bean sauce, bok choy, and ground pork along with a few other ingredients. It's ridiculously delicious, low-carb, and easy to make.
4. Keto Sesame Chicken
Photo: Life Made Sweeter
When you're short on time and feel like having a classic Chinese dish, this one-pan meal is just the ticket. With some basic ingredients (chicken, veggies, green onions, seasonings, broth, etc.) and 30 minutes, you can have this keto-friendly version on the table and in your belly. It’s like having your own at-home version of your favorite Chinese takeout.
5. Chinese Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry
Ditch the carbs with this Chinese beef and broccoli stir fry that you can whip up with sirloin or skirt steak, broccoli, ginger, sesame oil, liquid aminos, and a few other everyday ingredients. You can adjust the DIY sauce to your preference and still stay within your macros. Serve with cauliflower rice (or any of the low-carb rice or noodle options we mentioned earlier) and you can indulge in a delicious Asian classic without ever worrying about the carbs.
Get Your Fill With Low-Carb Chinese Food
Cutting out carbs takes serious commitment but it's far from an impossible task. As more people learn about the advantages of keto and low-carb living, there's even greater demand for ways to make it work. And as you can see, there are plenty of delicious low-carb Chinese food options just waiting for you to devour.
One such low-carb option we're especially excited about: immi — the world's first nutritious, low-carb, high-protein, keto-friendly, fully plant-based, instant ramen. (Yes, that's a mouthful and we hope you'll soon treat yourself to a mouthful of these delicious noodles!)
For more fun ideas on how to make the most of your low-carb lifestyle, check out our immi blog that's brimming with helpful information, recipe ideas, and other useful tips.