If you’re on the ketogenic diet or another low-carb diet, making the right food choices is important for staying on track. Some types of cuisines are easier to modify than others when you want to stay in ketosis. Chinese food is usually centered around savory carbs like noodles and rice. Just because you’re on the keto diet doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your favorite Chinese dishes.
You can still enjoy Chinese food by making a few changes to the staple ingredients. Here, we’ll show you how to order keto Chinese food when you feel like eating out. We’ll also give you a few ideas for Chinese keto recipes you can whip up at home.
The Best Keto Chinese Food Substitutions
Whether you’re cooking up your favorite Chinese meal at home or looking for ways to make modifications when you eat out, there are ways to make Chinese cuisine low carb and keto friendly. It’s easy to avoid the main carbs, but it’s also important to think about carbs that are disguised in sauces and soups. Even meals that may seem healthy at first glance turn out to be a problem if you’re on a low-carb diet.
Take a plate of roast duck for instance. At first, this Chinese dish seems OK since it’s mainly protein and some cooked vegetables. In reality, roast duck is often covered in a sauce packed with sugar, meaning it has tons of carbs.
Some of the main foods to avoid include:
- General Tso’s chicken and other breaded meats
- Fried noodle dishes like chow mein
- Sweet sauces like duck sauce, plum sauce, and sweet and sour sauce
- Egg rolls
While you can’t indulge in the traditional noodles, rice, and sauces that make these dishes stand out, here are some alternatives so you can still dig into a hearty Chinese meal.
Fried rice and white rice are key ingredients in many beloved Chinese dishes. They will also kick you out of ketosis. Skip the rice and ask for sauteed veggies instead. Some Chinese restaurants also make cauliflower rice, which is a great alternative to carb-loaded fried rice. The texture and flavor of cauliflower rice is similar to normal rice and it holds up well in soups and saucy dishes.
Noodles are normally made with flour and other carb-heavy grains. Fortunately, there are many keto noodle alternatives you can use. Among the most popular are zucchini noodles or zoodles. These noodles are made by spiralizing zucchini into thin strips. If you’re preparing food at home, cook the zucchini noodles to make them soft and chewy for a bowl of ramen or leave them raw for a crispy noodle dish. You can also add these noodles to a lo mein or mu shu pork dish.
Another noodle choice is shirataki noodles, which are made from konjac yams. These noodles offer a texture that’s similar to normal noodles, but they have zero net carbs and are low calorie.
These low-carb noodles are high in protein and fiber, keeping you full and satiated for longer.
Other veggies you can spiralize to make keto-friendly noodles include cucumber, eggplant, spaghetti squash, and kelp. Each one adds a slightly different flavor and texture to meals, so play around with your options and see which noodle makes you forget you’re on a diet at all.
Like salad dressings, sauces need to be tweaked for a keto diet. Chinese sauces like hoisin sauce and sweet and sour sauce are often full of hidden carbs and sugars that can kick you out of ketosis. In fact, sweet and sour sauce can have anywhere from 7-30 grams of carbs per serving.
That doesn’t mean you can’t stay saucy. Try making your own homemade sauces to avoid hidden carbs. Peanut sauce is easy to make using coconut milk, peanut butter, and curry paste — plus the silky-smooth texture makes it feel indulgent. It’s pure perfection on top of chicken and beef satay or drizzled over keto-friendly noodles. You can also liven up most meals with sugar-free Thai chili sauce or small amounts of soy sauce.
If you’re eating out, ask for all sauces to be served on the side. That way you can add just a little bit for flavor while staying in ketosis.
The Best Keto Chinese Dishes
What makes choosing keto-friendly Chinese food a bit difficult is that many dishes have regional variations. Each area adds its own spin to staple meals, meaning some regional specialties have more sugar or carbs in their Chinese food recipes than others.
Fortunately for keto-lovers, the Sichuan region of China tends to craft dishes that are lower in sugar and carbs than other areas. Looking for Sichuan specialties is a good place to start on your keto Chinese food search. Love to bring the heat? Sichuan dishes typically include a tantalizing amount of spices and Sichuan peppers. It’s a great way to add a kick of fiery flavor to your meal without adding sugar or carbs.
While there isn’t one main Chinese meal that is totally keto-approved, there are some choices that tend to be better than others. Here are some of the Chinese dishes that are the most keto-friendly:
- Low-carb, high-protein instant ramen
- Egg drop soup
- Steamed fish and vegetables
- Broccoli beef
- Egg foo young
- Clear soups
- Mu shu pork
- Kung pao chicken
- Crispy pork belly
- Lettuce wraps
- Mongolian barbecue
- Veggie and protein stir fry
- Limited amounts of soy sauce
- Hot and sour soup with xanthan gum as a thickener instead of starch
- Lean meats and veggies in sauces made with vinegar, garlic, or soy
Things to Keep In Mind When Eating Out
Whether you’re too tired to cook after a long day at the office or you’re dying to have a night on the town, there are a few tips and tricks to use when ordering keto Chinese food at a restaurant.
Start by looking at the ingredient list on the menu. Avoid dishes that have carbs or ask your server if it’s possible to switch out some of the ingredients for low-carb options. Avoid anything that’s fried. Most fried foods are made by coating the ingredients in a batter made of flour or another starch.
Trade carbs for keto-friendly veggies like broccoli, green beans, bok choy, scallions, and bell peppers. Root vegetables like radishes, ginger, onions, and carrots are all healthy choices.
It’s also a good idea to ask the server at the Chinese restaurant about the ingredients used in preparing your dish. For example, some egg drop soup recipes contain hidden carbs like cornstarch, which has 7 grams of carbs for every 1 tablespoon serving. Some soup recipes use other carb-laden flours to thicken the broth. Ask about the sauces too. Many sauces contain added sugars or starches as thickening agents, which adds extra carbs to your daily count.
Whip Up Tasty Chinese Food
Wondering if keto Chinese food is in the cards? You’re in luck. Crack open that fortune cookie (maybe skip the actual cookie) and dive into Chinese food with these easy modifications.
It’s possible to make low-carb Chinese food, though it does take some effort to make the right choices. With this guide, you’ll be able to make low-carb or keto-friendly choices when it comes to Chinese food options. Skip the starches and opt for keto-friendly veggies and lean protein whenever possible. Limit the amount of sauce you use and try to avoid sweet sauces whenever possible.
If you’re looking to tuck into a savory bowl of ramen, you can enjoy every bite while staying on the keto diet. Just look for high-protein and low-carb ramen and add in your favorite vegetables. Want some tasty keto-approved ramen recipes? Check out our ramen recipes featuring low-carb ingredients that you can easily whip up at home!