Crushing the keto lifestyle? It doesn’t mean you need to give up your fave foods. While you can’t chow down on chow mein, there are still tons of tasty keto-friendly Chinese food options.
Here’s how you can slay the Chinese buffet while you stay keto.
Keto-friendly chinese food
If you’re following a ketogenic diet, you’ll typically eat 20 to 50 grams of carbs each day. While that involves cutting your carbs, you can still have plenty of fats and proteins, as well as some nonstarchy veggies.
This iconic dish is made with stir-fried beef, broccoli, and brown sauce. The sauce tends to have less sugar than its thicker counterparts, but you can still ask for light sauce or get the sauce on the side.
FYI: Some restaurants marinate the beef in a cornstarch slurry. This makes the meat more tender but can also add more carbs to the mix.
You can also rock a semi-homemade vibe by pouring the stir-fry over zucchini noodles or cauliflower rice. You won’t even miss the noods.
Baked salmon packs a powerful punch of protein and is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins. It’s usually seasoned with traditional Chinese spices. Sprinkle some sesame seeds on top and you’re in for a real treat.
Pro tip: Before ordering, double-check that the restaurant doesn’t glaze the fish with a sugary sauce.
Kung pao shrimp is the bomb 💣. It’s a sassy mix of shrimp, bell peppers, chiles, and peanuts. All these ingredients are hella flavorful and keto-friendly. Just ask for a light, less gravy-ish sauce to curb the carbs.
Pro tip: You can ask for chicken, beef, or pork if shrimp isn’t your thing.
Pro tip: You can ask the restaurant to fry the tofu for you — it’ll add calories, but it won’t add any extra carbs and scores a 10/10 in taste.
Egg drop soup is the perfect starter. It’s simple, delicious, and low carb. The soup is made with eggs, broth, and a thickener. Add some chopped scallions and cracked black pepper for some extra flavor.
Pro tip: Ask if the restaurant uses a keto-friendly thickener like xanthan gum. Some use cornstarch, which is higher in carbs.
Pro tip: Before ordering, make sure the restaurant uses a keto-friendly thickener.
This meaty meal is made with thinly sliced flank steak, mixed vegetables, scallions, and a brown sauce. You’ll get a well-rounded keto dish filled with protein and fats. To play it safe, you might want to ask for the sauce on the side.
Pro tip: Make sure the sauce is soy-based and not a sweet alternative like hoisin.
This cut of pork is high in fat and super low in carbs. When roasted, it gets super crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Just beware of glazes — some restaurants coat the meat with a sugar glaze, which can crank up the carb count.
Moo shu pork is a delish dish made with sliced pork, eggs, and veggies. It’s all tossed together in a light sauce and served with brown or white rice. Since rice is on the Keto’s Most Wanted List, replace it with riced cauliflower or extra veggies.
Pro tip: If you’re counting your carbs strictly, ask for the sauce on the side.
Lots of Chinese buffets have a crustacean station. We’re talking crab legs, crawfish, shrimp, and prawns 😋 . When steamed, these options are free from carbs and rich in protein. Fill your plate with extra veggies and you have yourself a keto-tastic feast.
Broccoli is a nonstarchy vegetable. With just 4.76 grams of carbs per cup, it’s a great addition to the keto diet. But be careful with the sauce. Stick to lighter options like lobster sauce and brown sauce. Thicker, sugary sauces can be really high in carbs.
Think of this as a Chinese omelet. It typically consists of eggs, bean sprouts, onions, and cabbage. You can also fill it with proteins like pork, chicken, beef, or shrimp. All these ingredients are jam-packed with protein and have very few carbs.
If you’re craving a DIY moment, look no further. Chinese-inspired lettuce cups are keto-friendly, tasty, and easy to make. Just fill lettuce leaves with sautéed chicken and veggies. Then finish them off with chopped scallions and a splash of soy sauce. Yum!
Vegetarian keto options can be hard to find, but this savory dish will leave you feeling satisfied. Most restaurants use white mushrooms and a light sauce, but you can ask if they have other fungi friends to pick from.
A 1-cup serving has only about 4.36 grams of carbs, depending on the sauce.
This dish is a Chinese American restaurant staple. The aromatic duck has a crispy skin and a strong, meaty flavor. Ask for a quarter (or half if you’re really hungry) served with steamed veggies. (Sorry, Donald Duck, but you’re delicious.)
A classic. This dish is a lighter alternative to beef with broccoli but just as satisfying. Just make sure to ask for it without carrots or to eat around the carrots — they’re pretty high in carbs.
Pro tip: This dish is super easy to make at home! Just slice up some chicken and throw it into a skillet. Add steamed broccoli and a low carb brown sauce. Voila!
Before you place your order, here are some tips to ensure your Chinese takeout is keto-friendly:
- Avoid sugary sauces. A 2-tablespoon serving of soy sauce has just 1.57 grams of carbs. But other typical Chinese restaurant sauces are sweet AF. Avoid General Tso’s, hoisin, duck, oyster, plum, and sweet and sour sauces.
- Beware of breaded meats. Lots of Chinese meats are breaded and then fried. This can add a lot of carbs to your daily tally. So stick to steamed, sautéed, or grilled meats when possible.
- Say no to rice. Many Chinese meals come with a side of steamed white rice. Ask for your main dish without this starchy side.
- Build your own. You don’t always have to stick to a set menu. Many restaurants will let you pick your own ingredients for a stir-fry. This can help you eliminate any unwanted carbs from your plate.
What if Chinese isn’t your only go-to takeout? No worries. Here’s how you can make other takeout meals more #KetoLife.
Sorry, fam, but California rolls don’t make the keto cut. There are still lots of delicious menu items you can order at your local sushi shop, though.
- Start with soup. Miso soup is a flavorful soup made of clear broth, soybean paste, seaweed, and tofu. It’s nourishing, and a 1-cup serving has just 5.93 grams of carbs.
- Stick to sashimi. You’ll get a serving of sushi-grade fish without the rice and sugary sauces.
- Go nuts with negimaki. This thinly sliced beef is wrapped around a green vegetable like asparagus or scallions. It’s low carb and uber-tasty.
- Nosh on some edamame. These little green gems can be found at most Japanese restaurants. A 1-cup portion has 13.8 grams of carbs, so while it’s not the best choice, it’s the perfect snack to share.
Some pizza parlors offer low carb crusts. But if that’s not the case, here’s what you can do:
- Ask for crustless. Imagine a fully loaded pizza in a bowl. You’ll satisfy your mambo Italiano cravings without messing up your macros.
- Bring your own crust. Not every pizzeria will accommodate this, but some spots will let you bring in a keto-friendly crust.
- Think outside the pizza box. Italian cuisine has some great non-pizza keto options like antipasto salad, seafood soup (zuppa di pesce), caprese salad, braised meats, and grilled seasonal vegetables.
Keto fast food
Keeping it keto on the go can get a bit tricky. Here’s how you can keep things in check when you hit up the drive-thru:
- Ditch the bun. Let that burger patty shine and eat it without the bun. Side note: Some joints offer lettuce wraps in place of buns.
- Go full-fat. Fatty condiments and salad dressings tend to have less added sugar. But check the nutrition info to make sure.
- Forget the fries. A medium serving of McDonald’s fries has a whopping 49.8 grams of carbs. Try a side salad with a full-fat dressing instead.