Keto Chinese Food: 6 Simple Steps to Order Low Carb + Keto Menu Items

Ordering keto at a Chinese restaurant can be difficult due to carb-heavy rice and noddle-based meals, and hidden ingredients like sugar and cornstarch. Your best bet is to order a meat and vegetable-based dish, avoid thick sauces and soups, ask your server questions about the ingredients, order sauces on the side, and swap rice for steamed veggies. To help you stay keto at any Chinese restaurant, we’ve created this step-by-step guide along with a list of the most common keto-friendly Chinese foods!

In this guide you will learn:

how to order keto chinese food infographic

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4 Chinese Food Ingredients to Avoid on the Keto Diet 

Though many Chinese dishes may appear keto, looks can be deceiving. High carb ingredients are hidden in these foods to enhance flavor and texture, but the result is a meal that could quickly kick you out of ketosis.

Here are four of the most common high-carb ingredients to avoid:

1. Sugar

  • One tablespoon of sugar contains 15 grams of net carbs.
  • Used to add flavor to sauces and glazes.
  • Found in: brown sauce, sweet and sour sauce, duck sauce, hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, soups, and glazed meats.

2. Cornstarch

  • One tablespoon of cornstarch contains 7.2 grams of net carbs.
  • Used to thicken and add texture to sauces and coat small pieces of meat.
  • Found in: thick sauces, thick soups, thick sauces, small pieces of meat.

3. White and Brown Rice

  • One cup of white rice contains 45 grams of net carbs, while one cup of brown rice contains 42 grams of net carbs.
  • Used as a side or a base for many Chinese foods.
  • Found in: white rice, brown rice, fried rice, rice noodles, rice paper wrappers.

4. Wantons, Noodles, Doughs

  • Flour is a key ingredient in many of these menu items, and one tablespoon packs 6 grams of net carbs per serving.
  • Found in: wantons, egg rolls, egg noodles, dumpling, breaded and fried meats, etc.

6 Simple Steps to Order Keto-friendly Chinese Food

Ordering a keto-friendly meal at a Chinese food restaurant is challenging, but with these six steps, you can simplify the process and give yourself the best chance of ordering a meal that will keep you in ketosis and support your fat-burning and brain-boosting goals! 

Here's what to do:

Step 1 - Opt for an Authentic Chinese Restaurant, Avoid Americanized Chinese Fast-Food 

Setting yourself up for keto success starts with the type of Chinese restaurant you choose.

Authentic Chinese "mom and pop" restaurants typically use recipes that have been passed down for generations, which rely more on quality seasonings and spices, versus sugar and cornstarch.

Americanized Chinese fast food, on the other hand, is more likely to cut corners and rely on hidden ingredients like sugar and cornstarch to add flavor and texture to their dishes.

    Step 2 - Look for the Meat and Vegetable-Based Dishes on the Menu

    Meat and veggies are an easy go-to for a low carb meal when eating out, and Chinese food is no exception.

    Though the Chinese names of some of the meals can make it challenging to know exactly what the food is, there are more obvious options like steamed chicken and vegetables, steamed shrimp and vegetables, and spare ribs. 

    Start by identifying the meat and veggie-heavy foods on the menu and then move on to the next step.

    Step 3 - Avoid Hidden Ingredients like Cornstarch and Sugar

    As we shared above, many Chinese foods contain hidden ingredients like cornstarch and sugar for the purpose of adding flavor and texture, but too much of these ingredients will kick you out of ketosis!

    Here are a few places cornstarch and sugar might be hiding:

    • Thick sauces: that's a red flag that it may contain cornstarch and/or sugar, which could kick you out of ketosis. Look out for brown sauce, sweet and sour sauce, duck sauce, hoisin sauce, and oyster sauce.
    • Thick soups: also a red flag that the dish could contain cornstarch and/or sugar. Avoid soups like hot and sour, opt for egg drop soup instead.

    Step 4 - Ask Your Server for Nutritional Info

    Your server is there to help, so don't be afraid to kindly let your server know that you're on a low carb diet.

    Ask questions like:

      • Is the nutrition information available for your menu?
      • Is this dish low carb?
      • I'm considering this menu item, does it contain sugar or cornstarch?
      • Is it possible to make this stirfry without cornstarch?
      • Does this sauce contain sugar?

    Pro tip: If you don't like to be "that person," call the restaurant ahead of time and ask questions so you can walk into the Chinese restaurant knowing exactly what you're going to order.

    Step 5 - Get the Sauce on the Side

      The sauces at Chinese restaurants are one of the most common hidden sources of sugar and cornstarch, which will quickly kick you out of ketosis.

      For perspective, just one tablespoon of brown sauce, a Chinese food staple, contains 5 grams of net carbs.

      Your best bet is to skip the sauce entirely, but if you can't live without it, at least order it on the side so you can control how much is on your dish.

      Step 6 - Substitute Steamed Veggies for Rice (or skip it!)

      At 45 grams of net carbs for each cup of rice, this is one side that's a total no-no on the keto diet.

      If you're looking for the perfect keto Chinese food side to compliment your meal, look no further than steamed veggies!

      Though they may not appear on the menu, your server may be able to hook you up if you ask. Just double-check that those veggies don't come with a surprise sauce! 

      6 Keto-Friendly Chinese Menu Items

      Every Chinese restaurant has its own unique recipes so there's no guarantee that a meal that is keto-friendly at one Chinese food restaurant will keep you in ketosis at another.

      With that said, here are the menu items that are most commonly keto-friendly and their general macros (which will be different at every restaurant), as well as the questions you can ask your server to give you the best chance of getting a low carb meal at a Chinese Food restaurant.

      a plate of keto friendly chinese steamed chicken and vegetables

      Steamed Chicken & Vegetables

      This dish is typically as straightforward as it sounds! With steamed chicken and mixed vegetables, it's one of your best bets for a keto-friendly meal.

      Ask your server:

      • Is this low carb?
      • Are there any sauces on this that aren't listed?
      • Is there cornstarch in this?
      • What vegetables are in this?

      General Macros: Calories 320, 6g Fat, 10g Net Carbs, 50g Protein

      a wok with keto friendly chinese steamed shrimp and vegetables

      Steamed Shrimp & Vegetables

      This is the other generally keto-safe meal on most Chinese food menus. Though it doesn't pack much fat, its protein and vegetable content should keep the net carbs low.

      Ask your server:

      • Is this low carb?
      • Are there any sauces on this that aren't listed?
      • Is there cornstarch in this?
      • What vegetables are in this?

      General Macros: Calories 225, 3g Fat, 2g Net Carbs, 38g Protein

      a wooden bowl of keto friendly egg drop soup beside chopsticks

        Egg Drop Soup

        This popular Chinese soup is typically a chicken broth base with egg whisked in to create a wispy texture. Scallions, tofu, and seasonings are also added, making this soup fairly keto-friendly.

        Ask your server:

        • Is this low carb?
        • Is there cornstarch in this?

        General Macros: Calories 40, 1g Fat, 6g Net Carbs, 1g Protein

        a plate of keto friendly chinese spare ribs with a small bowl of yellow sauce

          Northern Style Spare Ribs (4 Ribs)

          When they're not slathered in barbeque sauce (which, even in American barbeque, is loaded with sugar), spare ribs can be a great option for a low carb meal.

          Ask your server:

          • Is this low carb?
          • Can these ribs be ordered dry (without sauce)?
          • Is it possible to get the sauce on the side?

          General Macros: Calories 480, 14g Fat, 9g Net Carbs, 25g Protein

          a white plate of keto friendly chinese egg foo young with rice

          Egg Foo Young 

          This Chinese food staple resembles an omelet. Commonly made with egg, meat, bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, cabbage, onions, mushrooms, and water chestnuts, this is another keto-friendly Chinese dish! Do beware that it's usually served with a sauce or gravy so be sure to get that on the side.

          Ask your server:

          • Is this low carb?
          • What vegetables are in this dish?
          • Is it possible to get the sauce on the side?

          General Macros: Calories 371, 27g Fat, 7g Net Carbs, 24g Protein

          two pot of keto friendly chinese hot pot soup with a spread of ingredients

          Hot Pot

          A hot pot is typically a customizable soup made with chicken broth, vegetables, protein, and sometimes, rice noodles.

          Ask your server:

          • Is this low carb?
          • Are there rice noodles in it? (If yes, order without)
          • What vegetables are in this dish?
          General Macros: Calories 395, 12g Fat, 11g Net Carbs, 56g Protein

             

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