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20 Surprisingly Easy (and Healthy!) Chinese Food Recipes

When the Chinese food craving strikes (and we all know it inevitably will!), skip the takeout and reach for any of these healthier versions of popular Chinese dishes instead.

 

For a lot of us, Chinese food is a guilty pleasure.

We may have the our favorite Chinese greasy spoon on speed dial, but we probably don’t want to talk about it in the gym.

We order takeout so no will see us gorging ourselves on General Tso’s through the restaurant window.

We may even be “good” and save it for our cheat meals but can’t help but putting down so many calories in one sitting.

Well…

What if I told you it’s possible to eat Chinese food on a regular basis without all the guilt?

It is. Just look at these 20 Chinese food recipes for proof.

All the classics are here—spicy Sichuan pork, fried rice, beef and broccoli stir fry, potstickers, fried tofu, chicken with chilies, soba noodle salad, Kung Pao shrimp, and so on.

But in each case, these recipes have been given a healthier twist—from cutting back on fat (and grease) to shave off calories, reducing sugar, and adding in extra nutrient-rich ingredients.

And don’t worry–these recipes are so satisfying, you just might delete that speed dial entry once and for all.

Enjoy!

 

Chinese Potsticker Dumplings

Serves 8

If you love dumplings, skip dim sum at a restaurant and learn how to make your own.

The dough for the potsticker wrappers couldn’t be easier – just flour, water, and a pinch of salt. Roll it into little balls, and flatten so they’re ready to stuff with whatever filling you love.

Or skip that step, and use premade potsticker wrappers so all you have to focus on cooking is the pork and cabbage filling. That’s just some chopping for the cabbage, or quickly shredding it in a food processor, and then browning the meat.

Rather than using ground pork, the filling can have chopped shrimp instead, which will cook through when the dumplings are steamed.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

225

Calories

10 g

Protein

38 g

Carbs

3 g

Fat

Ingredients

Wrappers:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp. salt

2/3 cup boiling water

1/3 cup cold water

 

Filling:

8 oz. finely shredded cabbage

8 oz. 90% lean ground pork

1/2 tsp. soy sauce

Freshly ground white pepper (or black pepper)

1/2 tsp. cornstarch

1/2 tsp. Shaoxing rice wine (optional)

1/2 tsp. sesame oil

2 Tbsp. minced chives

4 oz. diced water chestnuts

4 shiitake mushrooms, finely diced

1/2 tsp. grated fresh ginger

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Spicy Sichuan Eggplant & Pork

Serves 4

This pork stir fry only needs ten ingredients, and yet it has lots of bold flavors to enjoy.

Prepare this quick dinner in steps: brown the pork first, then pan-fry the eggplant for only a few minutes. Lastly, it all comes together in the wok with ginger, garlic, and spicy sauce.

Sichuan peppercorns can be added for another level of heat. If you have some readily available, toss a handful in when sautéing the ginger and garlic.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

379

Calories

22 g

Protein

62 g

Carbs

8 g

Fat

Ingredients

Eggplant Stir Fry:

4 Chinese eggplants, sliced lengthwise

1 lb. 90% lean ground pork

3” fresh ginger, thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 stalks green onions, sliced into 2” lengths

 

Sauce:

2 Tbsp. spicy bean sauce (doubanjiang)

2 Tbsp. soy sauce

2 Tbsp. granulated sugar

1 1/2 Tbsp. black vinegar

1/4 cup water

2 Tbsp. cornstarch + 2 Tbsp. water

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Kung Pao Shrimp with Peanuts

Serves 4

Everyone who loves spicy food should be familiar with kung pao chicken. While best known as popular Chinese takeout, the flavors of kung pao evolved in the Sichuan province of China, known for its red chili peppers and peppercorns.

The name might throw you off, but Sichuan peppercorns are not related to black pepper and instead have a mild heat similar to chilies. What really sets them apart as an ingredient is the mouth-numbing property, which is thought to help enjoy spiciness without sacrificing flavor.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

281

Calories

33 g

Protein

22 g

Carbs

10 g

Fat

Ingredients

Shrimp Stir Fry:

17.5 oz. shrimp, boiled and peeled

1 stalk leek

1 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger

3 cloves garlic, minced

Handful of roasted unsalted peanuts

1 Tbsp. Sichuan peppercorns

2 dried chili peppers

1 Tbsp. oil

 

Kung Pao Sauce:

2 Tbsp. light soy sauce

1 Tbsp. oyster sauce

1 Tbsp. granulated sugar

1 Tbsp. vinegar

1 Tbsp. Shaoxing rice wine

1 1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch

3 Tbsp. water

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Chinese Walnut Chicken

Serves 4

If you’ve got a habit of picking up cashew chicken from the local Chinese restaurant, try this stir fry at home. Walnuts are used instead for flavor and crunch, coated lightly with sugar and then toasted.

The stir fry is rounded out with red peppers and peas. Aside from that, all you need to prepare is a simple stir fry sauce, combining hoisin and soy sauce. And whenever you don’t have Chinese rice wine on hand, substitute dry sherry.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

381

Calories

31 g

Protein

32 g

Carbs

15 g

Fat

Ingredients

1/2 cup raw walnuts

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts (or thighs), cut into 1” cubes

1 Tbsp. soy sauce

1 Tbsp. Shaoxing rice wine

1 tsp. cornstarch

1 Tbsp. peanut oil (or vegetable oil)

2 scallions, chopped

1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips

1/4 cup frozen peas

2 tsp. hoisin sauce

1 tsp. sesame oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

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Crispy Lemon Chicken

Serves 4

Instead of ordering orange chicken, make this crispy lemon chicken at home. You don’t need any special ingredients to make this Asian dinner – unless you want to add a garnish of toasted sesame seeds.

Thinly slice chicken breast, and dredge in flour to fry it. Then it’s finished with a delicious lemon glaze. If you don’t have time to make the lemon syrup yourself, which is simple but requires a few days’ planning ahead, you can add more chicken stock with some fresh lemon zest and juice; check the original recipe for exact measurements.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

277

Calories

28 g

Protein

25 g

Carbs

7 g

Fat

Ingredients

Chicken:

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced

1 egg white

1 1/2 Tbsp. soy sauce

1 tsp. grated fresh ginger

1 tsp. sesame oil

Oil for frying

1 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds

4 Tbsp. cornstarch

1/2 tsp. baking powder

 

Lemon Sauce:

2/3 cup chicken stock

4 Tbsp. lemon syrup

8–10 lemon slices from syrup

1 Tbsp. pure honey

2 Tbsp. cornstarch

1 Tbsp. oil

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Chinese Noodle Soup with Pork & Pickled Greens

Serves 2

This is no harder to make than a chicken noodle soup, and yet it packs in way more flavor. And you can use any kind of Chinese noodles for this, whether you prefer wheat like rice noodles, buckwheat, or fresh wonton noodles.

For convenience’s sake, though, you can always use ramen. That style of soup was popularized in Japan, but ramen is made with Chinese-style wheat noodles.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

651

Calories

25 g

Protein

60 g

Carbs

33 g

Fat

Ingredients

Marinated Pork:

1/2 cup (about 4 oz.) shredded pork

1/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. cornstarch

1/2 tsp. sesame oil

1/2 tsp. Shaoxing rice wine

1/8 tsp. white pepper

 

Noodle Soup:

4 cups chicken stock

1 Tbsp. oil

3–5 dried chilies, deseeded and roughly chopped (optional)

1 can (200 g) pickled mustard greens

1/4 tsp. sugar

2 packages (3 oz. each) ramen noodles

1 tsp. sesame oil

1 scallion, chopped

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Chicken Meatball Noodle Soup

Serves 4

If you love Italian wedding soup, try its Chinese twin which features chicken meatballs, watercress, and egg noodles.

This soup doesn’t need much time to simmer on the stove, so most of the work is prepping the meatballs. From start to finish, you can have this comforting bowl of soup on the table in about an hour.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

434

Calories

36 g

Protein

28 g

Carbs

19 g

Fat

Ingredients

Noodle Soup:

4 cups chicken broth

4 cups water

1–2 cups chopped watercress

2 cups wide egg noodles

2 large eggs

1 Tbsp. salt

 

Meatballs:

1/2 cup yellow onion, grated

1/2 cup chopped watercress

1 large egg

1 Tbsp. minced garlic

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp. ground white pepper

1 lb. ground chicken

1/2 cup bread crumbs

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Chinese Sponge Cake

Serves 12

Although these simple Chinese cakes are traditionally steamed, now it’s common to find baked versions.

So once you make the batter, it’s your choice whether you want to prepare your cakes in a cupcake pan or pour the batter into a parchment paper-lined bamboo steamer basket.

Either way, it’ll take about 15 minutes for them to finish. But first you need to whip up the eggs and milk light and fluffy, which requires patience even with an electric mixer. Then, one by one, fold in the flour and oil for this four-ingredient cake.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

44

Calories

2 g

Protein

7 g

Carbs

1 g

Fat

Ingredients

2 medium eggs, room temp.

3 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. superfine sugar

1/2 cup cake flour

3/4 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil

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Beef Brisket in Clear Broth

Serves 6

This simple soup doesn’t need any fancy ingredients to come together. It’s easy to make in a few steps. Boil the beef brisket first, and then focus on the broth. Fresh ginger and garlic are cooked in the bottom of a big wok or stock pot.

Then the beef is added with a sprinkle of rice wine, seasonings, and liquid to boil for a half hour, or until the brisket is tender. Meanwhile sauté radishes to stir in at the end.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

400

Calories

27 g

Protein

7 g

Carbs

29 g

Fat

Ingredients

1 3/4 lb. beef brisket

4 slices fresh ginger

5 cloves garlic, crushed

1 Tbsp. white rice wine

3 cups reduced-sodium chicken stock

1 cup water

1 star anise

3 dried bay leaves

20 white peppercorns

1 small piece rock sugar (or 2 1/2 tsp. granulated sugar)

2 bunches (about 4 cups) radishes, peeled and roughly chopped

Salt to taste

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Cantonese Boiled Shrimp

Serves 6

This chili-ginger shrimp makes a great feast for seafood lovers, so it’s perfect to prepare for a backyard cookout. The sauce can be made ahead of time, and the stock can be ready to go in a big pot on the stove.

When it’s time to eat, just add shrimp to the boiling liquid, and as soon as it’s cooked, move it to an ice bath. Serve with hot chili oil, a sprinkle of chives, and thinly sliced peppers.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

178

Calories

23 g

Protein

9 g

Carbs

4 g

Fat

Ingredients

Dipping Sauce:

3 Tbsp. light soy sauce

1 Tbsp. dark soy sauce

Spring onions, cut at diagonal thin strips

1 hot chili pepper, sliced into rings

1 tsp. minced garlic

1 tsp. minced ginger

1 Tbsp. granulated sugar

1/2 tsp. sesame oil

1 Tbsp. hot chili oil

 

Blanched Shrimp:

3 knobs fresh ginger

Few sprigs of spring onions

1 cup Shaoxing rice wine

6 1/2 cups water

3 Tbsp. salt

1 Tbsp. granulated sugar

Cooking oil

1 1/4 lb. fresh shrimp

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Hong Kong-Style Mango Pudding

Serves 24

When you have an abundance of ripe mangoes, this is the perfect dessert to highlight their flavor.

It’s indulgent with a touch of cream and sugar, yet the portions are small, the size of a cup of Jello, which is perfect for an afternoon snack. If you’re in the mood for a filling dessert, serve with extra diced mango as a garnish.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

60

Calories

2 g

Protein

12 g

Carbs

1 g

Fat

Ingredients

1 large mango (about 1 1/4 cups diced)

7 Tbsp. mango puree

1 1/4 cups boiling water

2 Tbsp. unflavored gelatin powder

3/4 cup granulated sugar

6 1/2 Tbsp. milk

6 3/4 Tbsp. cream

2/3 cup + 3 Tbsp. iced water

1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk

1/8 cup distilled water

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Chinese Fried Rice

Serves 4

The best time to make fried rice is when you have leftovers from enjoying stir fry the day before. You’ll want to use a medium- or long-grain rice to avoid clumps. Don’t skimp on the oil, but it doesn’t take as much as you think to keep the rice from sticking.

Cook fried rice on the highest heat possible. This is one time where you definitely want to preheat the pan. That’ll help brown the rice for a slightly smoky flavor.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

366

Calories

16 g

Protein

57 g

Carbs

8 g

Fat

Ingredients

4 cups cooked rice

1 Tbsp. canola oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 medium onion, coarsely chopped (about 1/2 cup)

1 cup carrots, chopped

3 large eggs

1 cup chopped cooked chicken breast (or tofu)

1/2 cup frozen peas, defrosted

2 Tbsp. oyster sauce (or sweet soy sauce)

2 Tbsp. soy sauce (or fish sauce)

Salt and ground white pepper to taste

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Five-Spice Edamame

Serves 4

For a healthy snack, boil whole edamame for a few hours, and keep it chilled in the refrigerator. It takes hardly anything to make, just a pot of water and a kitchen timer. You don’t even have to know how to cook.

The only work involved, should you choose to infuse the edamame with Chinese flavors, is to round up the five traditional spices rather than relying on a pre-made blend. In this version, that’s cinnamon, star anise, bay leaves, Sichuan peppercorn, and fennel seed.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

169

Calories

8 g

Protein

17 g

Carbs

5 g

Fat

Ingredients

1 lb. fresh edamame

3 star anise

1 cinnamon stick

2 bay leaves

10 Sichuan peppercorns

10 fennel seeds

5 slices fresh ginger

Salt to taste

5 dried red chile peppers (optional)

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Chinese Chicken with Chilies

Serves 4

Your usual Chinese takeout can’t hold a candle to this homemade dish: chicken with chilies like it’s enjoyed in China with ginger, garlic, and rice wine.

How spicy this is will depend on which kind of chilies you use, and if you aren’t worried about the heat level, feel free to throw an extra cup of peppers into the pan.

Both the marinade and the stir fry have five-spice powder to add complex flavor in one quick step. Most grocery stores will carry some version of the Chinese spice blend, or you can make your own by grinding together cinnamon, cloves, fennel seed, star anise, and Sichuan peppercorns.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

314

Calories

55 g

Protein

15 g

Carbs

4 g

Fat

Ingredients

Chicken Stir Fry:

2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into pieces

2 cups dried chili peppers

1 Tbsp. Sichuan peppercorn

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger

1 Tbsp. Shaoxing wine

1/2 tsp. five-spice powder

Salt to taste

1 scallion, white parts only minced

 

Marinade:

1 tsp. salt

1 Tbsp. Shaoxing wine

2 slices fresh ginger

1 scallion, sliced

1/2 tsp. five-spice powder

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Chinese Pickled Cabbage

Serves 8

Can’t get enough kimchi? Try this Chinese pickled cabbage with vegetables called suan cai. It’s easy to make at home and requires just three days – compared to three weeks for kimchi.

You’ll find similar ingredients, including cabbage of course and radishes, but the key difference is this is prepared in vinegar rather than fermented with salt. The Chinese pickled veggies are spicy thanks to red chilies and can be served as a side dish to complement stir fries and other entrées.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

72

Calories

1 g

Protein

16 g

Carbs

0 g

Fat

Ingredients

3 cups chopped Chinese cabbage

5 red radishes, sliced

2 medium carrots, thinly sliced

1 cucumber, thinly sliced

1 heaping Tbsp. salt

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup + 4 tsp. rice vinegar

1 red chili pepper

2 bird’s eye chilies

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Beef, Mushroom & Broccoli Stir Fry

Serves 4

You won’t need much to make this broccoli and beef stir fry – not even in terms of oil. This entrée has three times more protein than fat.

And you’ll also get a serving of veggies whether you use standard broccoli or the Chinese version, which is a vegetable that resembles both broccoli and kale. Or you could use broccolini, a hybrid of both kinds of broccoli.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

282

Calories

35 g

Protein

8 g

Carbs

12 g

Fat

Ingredients

1 lb. flank steak, thinly sliced on the bias

1 Tbsp. minced ginger

1 Tbsp. minced garlic

1/2 cup chopped scallions

1/4 cup oyster sauce

1 large head hen-of-the-woods mushroom, diced

1 large head broccoli, stemmed, sliced, and blanched

1/3 cup chicken stock

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 tsp. oil

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Slow Cooker Honey Sesame Pulled Pork

Serves 6

Enjoying Chinese food for dinner doesn’t have to be much harder than ordering delivery. Get out your Crock Pot, and add in everything you need for this honey sesame pork.

Then when you’re hungry, all you have to cook is a pot of rice. This easy dinner can also be enjoyed as Asian pulled pork sandwiches, or served as a filling for steamed buns.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

509

Calories

47 g

Protein

16 g

Carbs

28 g

Fat

Ingredients

2 1/2 lbs. pork roast, cut into 6 pieces

1/2 white onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, smashed

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

2 Tbsp. pure honey

1 Tbsp. sesame seeds

1 Tbsp. cornstarch

3 Thai chili peppers, sliced

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Turkey Stir Fry

Serves 2

Too much leftover turkey? Make it into an entirely new dish – no gravy included – with this delicious stir fry for two. It doesn’t take much to make this dish, but your taste buds will appreciate the new twist on holiday turkey.

The recipe uses bell pepper, carrot, and celery, although any veggies you have can be cut and stir-fried too. And there’s no elaborate sauce. All it needs for maximum flavor is a little Shaoxing rice wine, ginger, and garlic.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

388

Calories

33 g

Protein

25 g

Carbs

17 g

Fat

Ingredients

3/4 lb. cooked turkey breast (or dark meat)

2 cups Chinese celery

1 bunch garlic chives, sliced into 3” pieces

2/3 cup sliced bell pepper

1 large carrot, grated

1 Tbsp. minced garlic

1 Tbsp. minced ginger

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

2 Tbsp. Shaoxing cooking wine

1 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. ground white pepper

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Chinese Stuffed Tofu

Serves 4

Want to have dim sum without leaving the comforts of home? You’ll need something to go along with those dumplings, and this stuffed tofu is it.

The filling is made with savory ground pork. Just cut the tofu into thick squares, scoop out the middle, and filling. Then they’re lightly coated in an egg wash and flour before being pan-fried for a couple minutes per side. Serve with homemade or store-bought mushroom sauce.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

287

Calories

24 g

Protein

24 g

Carbs

11 g

Fat

Ingredients

Stuffed Tofu:

1 lb. medium firm tofu

1/2 lb. 90% lean ground pork

1 scallion, diced

1 1/2 Tbsp. soy sauce

2 tsp. cornstarch

1 tsp. granulated sugar

1 Tbsp. Shaoxing cooking wine

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

 

Sauce:

3 scallions, cut into 1” pieces

3 large, thin pieces of ginger

3 cloves garlic, minced

Handful of shiitake mushrooms

2/3 cup frozen mixed veggies, thawed

2 1/2 Tbsp. soy sauce

1 cup water

2 1/2 tsp. granulated sugar

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Asian Buckwheat Noodle Salad

Serves 8

This soba noodle salad is great to serve in the summer. It’s loaded with nutritious cabbage, bell peppers, zucchini, and carrots. Yet most of the prep, except boiling the noodles, can be done with a knife and a whisk in the comfort of your air-conditioned kitchen.

You can even get everything but the noodles ready the day before. For more protein, mix in some shredded chicken or baked tofu.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

243

Calories

6 g

Protein

37 g

Carbs

9 g

Fat

Ingredients

Salad:

12 oz. buckwheat noodles

1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced

1 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced

1 cup shredded purple cabbage

1/2 cup shredded carrots

1/2 cup shredded zucchini

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

3 green onions, sliced

 

Dressing:

1/4 cup rice vinegar

3 Tbsp. soy sauce

1 Tbsp. pure honey

2 tsp. toasted sesame oil

2 tsp Sriracha

1 tsp. granulated sugar

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

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