Is Moo Goo Gai Pan Keto-Friendly?


This dish is a favorite among Keto dieters because it provides a well-balanced meal with low carb ingredients.  

The lean chicken, mushrooms, and other mixed veggies are all classic, Keto-friendly fair. Even better, the sauce is nice and light, containing less sugar and fat than sauces in other Chinese dishes.

Moo goo gai pan is usually served alongside a bed of rice or a nest of noodles.  Pass on these high-carb sides to make this dish reasonably low carb.   Keep it Keto-friendly by asking your waiter or waitress for the stir-fry to be served on its own, without the starchy side dishes on your plate to tempt you.

Not only is this dish low carb, there are 18 grams of satiating fat in a 1 cup serving of moo goo gai pan and 15 grams of protein to keep you feeling fuller for longer.  What a great option for Keto dieters!

Origin

Moo Goo Gai Pan, or “mo gu ji pian”, means mushrooms and sliced chicken. Originally a Cantonese dish, it transformed slightly when it became one of the most popular American-Chinese dishes.

What is Moo Goo Gai Pan?

Moo goo gai pan is a simple Americanized version of the popular Chinese stir fry dish.  Traditionally Moo Goo Gai Pan consists of stir-fried chicken with mushrooms.  The phonetic translation, “Moo goo” means mushrooms in the Cantonese language, and “gai pan” translates to sliced chicken.  The correct spelling of this dish in Cantonese and Mandarin languages is “mógu jī piàn”.

Mushrooms aren’t the only vegetable typically added to the dish.  Other stir-fried veggies are used as well, which may include: bok choy, snow peas, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, thinly sliced carrot, celery, and Chinese cabbage.

Although this stir-fry dish traditionally uses chicken, it can also be prepared with other meats, like beef, shrimp or pork.  

Carbs in Moo Goo Gai Pan 

There are 11 grams of carbs in a 1 cup serving of Moo Goo Gai Pan.     

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs contain 0 grams of carbs!       

View the following chart for the carb content of popular veggies used in stir-fry dishes, like Moo Goo Gai Pan.                                                                                                                        

Vegetable Carbs (per ¼ Cup)
Mushrooms 0.75 grams
Carrots 3 grams
Bok Choy 0.3 grams
Chinese Cabbage 0.3 grams
Water Chestnuts 7.5 grams
Bamboo Shoots 2 grams
Broccoli 1.5 grams
Celery 1.2 grams
Snow Peas 3 grams

If you are attempting to make this dish at home, go easy on higher carb vegetables.  As you can see from the chart above, carrots and snow peas are higher in carbs and water chestnuts are even higher.  These veggies should be limited or omitted from the dish.

If you’re dining out at your favorite Chinese restaurant, ask your waiter or waitress to have the chef “go easy” on these ingredients or hold these items when making your moo goo gai pan.  Or have the cook substitute them for more of the other low carb veggies, like bok choy, onions, celery, or cabbage.

Calories in Moo Goo Gai Pan

There are only 272 calories in a 1 cup serving of Moo Goo Gai Pan.

Fiber in Moo Goo Gai Pan

A 1 cup serving of Moo Goo Gai Pan contains 2 grams of dietary fiber.

Is Moo Goo Gai Pan Healthy?

Yes, moo goo gai pan is a very healthy dish!  Let’s take a closer look at the ingredients that make up Moo Goo Gai Pan:

Chicken is rich in protein, selenium, niacin and phosphorus.  It is a heart healthy poultry meat that is low in fat, boosts metabolism, promotes healthy tissue, and prevents bone loss.  Unbreaded chicken contains 0 grams of carbs. It’s virtually carb-free! 

Mushrooms are packed with nutritional benefits. Not only are they low in calories and carbs, mushrooms are a good source of fiber and protein. A half cup of mushrooms contains only 1 gram of carbs.  They also provide many important nutrients; including, B vitamins, selenium, vitamin D, potassium, and copper.

Another health advantage of this dish lies in the cooking method. Stir-frying involves quickly cooking small, uniform pieces of food in a small amount of hot oil in a wok over high heat.  In other cooking methods, like boiling, many of the nutrients are cooked away.  Stir frying helps vegetables retain all their nutrients.  A nutritional bonus!

How to Make it Low Carb

A 100 gram serving of water chestnuts contains 24 grams of carbs!  Ask your server if their version of Moo Goo Gai Pan contains water chestnuts.  It’s best to request this ingredient to be omitted from your dish to keep it Keto-friendly. 

There are 11 grams of carbs in 100 grams of Oyster sauce, so ask if this is used in the dish.  You may wish to have oyster sauce omitted as well or ask them to “go easy” on it, only using a little.  Corn starch or flour may also be added to the sauce as a thickener, so ask to have this left out too. 

The process of “velveting” the chicken should be avoided too.  (Velveting is a Chinese cooking technique popular in stir-frying, in which meats are marinated in a mixture of egg, corn starch, and rice wine before frying.)   Request special preparation instructions to be sent to the kitchen.  Corn starch is the high-carb culprit to be avoided on Keto.  So ask for it to be omitted from the marinade.

Stir-Frying Tips for Moo Goo Gai Pan

  • If you do a lot of stir-frying, you might want to invest in a wok, the traditional pan used in Asian cooking.
  • In a wok or skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over high heat until it begins to sizzle.
  • Add the garlic. In other dishes, you may want to add ginger at this point. Cook and stir for 10 seconds until fragrant, being careful not to burn.
  • Add the marinated meat of your choice.  Traditional Moo Goo Gai Pan uses chicken, but you can use any protein, shrimp, beef, pork, etc.   Fry while stirring over high heat, cook meat until nearly done.
  • Add the mushrooms and other vegetables of choice.  The veggies should be sliced thinly in uniform sized pieces so they cook quickly and evenly.  Veggies don’t take long to cook, only about 3 minutes.  (By this time, the meat should also be fully done.) 
  • Keep stirring constantly with a spatula until the vegetables are tender-crisp and sliced chicken (or meat of choice) is cooked through.  (The veggies in a good stir-fry should be slightly crisp with a bit of a bite to them and their color should remain vibrant.)
  • Remove from the pan and plate your dish.
  • Do not overfill your skillet or wok.  If cooking large quantities for meal prep, cook the meat in batches to prevent overcrowding. If the pan is too full, the juices from the meat will run out and steam veggies instead of frying them.
  • Push the cooked meat from the center of the wok to the edges and add the sauce to the middle of the wok, stirring until bubbly.
  • Return all vegetables to the wok and stir for another minute until everything is evenly incorporated with the sauce and heated through.
  • Sprinkle plated dish with chopped nuts for added flavor and crunch. A few crushed cashews or peanuts work best.

Best Ingredients to Use for Stir-Fry

Oil:  You can use just about any type of cooking oil with a high smoke point to stir-fry. Since high cooking temperature is the key to keeping the vegetables crisp and flavorful, peanut oil is ideal. It also has adds a nice, nutty flavor.  Sesame oil also works great in stir-fry dishes.  Canola oil, which has a high smoke point but a neutral flavor, is another good choice as it’s healthier than vegetable oil.

Avoid using olive oil in your stir-fry, as it has a low smoke point and loses its health properties once it reaches high temperatures. At a heat above its smoking point, olive oil’s monounsaturated fatty acids break down. When olive oil gets too hot, its health benefits degrade.  It could even leave an “off” taste in your stir fry if this oil reaches too high of a temperature.

You’ll need to use approximately 2 tablespoons of oil for a large stir-fry.  You may need to add a little more oil during the cooking process as well. 

Vegetables: The best veggies to stir-fry are bell peppers, zucchini, carrots, broccoli, yellow or white onions, green onions, pea pods, cabbage, spinach, asparagus, mushrooms, and bok choy. Chop the vegetables into uniform bite-size pieces to evenly cook. Most of these are low in carbs, too!

Meats: For stir-frying meats, choose tender, quick-cooking meats and seafood, chicken breasts, shrimp, scallops, lean boneless pork, or tender cuts of sirloin. You can also use extra-firm tofu.

Keto Moo Goo Gai Pan Recipe

Ingredients:
Evenly chop all ingredients into uniform sized pieces before you turn your stove on and heat up your wok. 

  • 2 tablespoons Sesame Oil
  • 2 Skinless Chicken Breast, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup Bamboo Shoots, drained
  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1 Button Mushrooms, sliced in half
  • 1 /2 cup Snow Peas
  • 1/2 tablespoon Coconut Flour
  • 1 pinch White Pepper

Marinate:
Prepare ahead of time in small bowl.  Add meat to marinate while preparing veggies.

  • 1 tablespoon Soy Sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Rice Wine Vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Coconut Flour

Sauce:
Prepare ahead of time so it’s ready to add to stir-fry when needed.

  • 1/2 cup Chicken or Vegetable Stock
  • 1 tablespoon Soy Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Rice Vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Sugar-free sweetener of choice
  • 1 teaspoon Sesame Oil

Instructions:

  1. Add marinade ingredients in a bowl, mix well and add chicken.  Let sit for 10 Minutes.
  2. In a pan over high heat, heat peanut oil and add chicken.  Cook for about 5 minutes, or until chicken is almost cooked through.
  3. In the same pan, add garlic, mushrooms and snow peas and cook on medium high heat for another 4 minutes.
  4. Add bamboo shoots, chestnuts and chicken and cook for another 2 minutes.
  5. Add ingredients for the sauce in a separate bowl and mix thoroughly.  Stir sauce in to stir fry. Add flour and 2 spoonfuls of water, stirring well until sauce thickens.
  6. Turn the heat off, season with white pepper and serve!

Melissa Marshall

A litigation paralegal and writer. Her first novel debuts this fall. She lives with her kitten, Zoey overlooking the waterfront in beautiful Dartmouth, Nova Scotia - also known as the “City of Lakes”.

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