Moo Goo Gai Pan

Moo Goo Gai Pan is healthy, delicious and on your table in less than 30 minutes!

Moo Goo Gai Pan is a quick and easy chicken stir fry boasting tender, juicy chicken and mushrooms smothered in a Chinese white sauce.  I’ve included classic water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, carrots and snow peas but you can add whatever veggies your heart desires – or simply whatever is in your fridge.  This Moo Goo Gai Pan recipe utilizes the easy restaurant velveting technique to produce smooth, tender, melt-in-your-mouth chicken you will have to taste to believe!  Now prepare to enjoy this wonderfully healthy, satisfying, versatile chicken stir fry!

top view of stir frying authentic Moo Goo Gai Pan recipe

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What is Moo Goo Gai Pan?

If you’re familiar with my chicken stir fry recipe, you know we can’t get enough chicken stir fry recipes around here.   They are healthy, simple, quick, easy, fresh and delicious and I can always make them with whatever veggies I have on hand – and when I have mushrooms on hand, it’s always time for Moo Goo Gai Pan.

Moo Goo Gai Pan or 蘑菇鸡板is a popular American-Chinese chicken stir fry dish made with chicken and mushrooms in a savory, delicate, subtle white sauce.  In fact, Moo Goo Gai Pan, or “mo gu ji pian”, means “fresh mushrooms with sliced chicken” in Cantonese. It was adapted from a Cantonese favorite called mah gu gai pin, to become the westernized favorite we all know and love.

In addition to chicken and mushrooms, Moo Goo Gai Pan also often includes bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, and snow peas, as well as either carrots or broccoli.  The textures are sublime together.  But of course, I love even more texture, so I’ve added cashews as well.  You can take them or leave them, but their buttery flavor and crunchy texture are a huge win.

Moo Goo Gai Pan sauce is a “white sauce” meaning it is silky chicken broth based sauce verses a soy based sauce.  Instead, the chicken broth is seasoned with small amounts of soy sauce, oyster sauce, vinegar, sugar, sesame oil, ginger, garlic and green onions.  It reminds me of the sauce for Cashew Chicken – gentle, mostly savory, with hints of sweet and nutty. 

WHAT DOES MOO GOO GAI PAN MEAN?

As previously mentioned, Moo Goo Gai Pan is literally named after it’s two main ingredients– chicken and mushrooms. The literal translation for mòh-gū gāi-pin is sliced chicken with button mushrooms. 

This Moo Goo Gai Pan recipe definitely boasts tender thinly sliced chicken, but I’ve opted for cremini mushrooms instead of button mushrooms for more flavor.  You can certainly use button mushrooms if you prefer.

REASONS TO LOVE MOO GOO GAI PAN RECIPE:

This healthy Moo Goo Gai Pan is one for the weekly meal plan.  You will fall in love with the medley of vibrant, fresh crisp-tender veggies enveloped in the intoxicating light, fresh, savory sauce AND you will love how easy it is! 

  • FLAVOR!  Traditional Moo Goo Gai Pan, as in most Cantonese dishes, tends to be a milder, more subtle stir fry, and if I’m completely honest, a little too bland for my palate.  I’ve amped up the flavor of the this Moo Goo Gai Pan recipe with plenty of aromatic ginger, garlic and green onions as well as chili paste, salt and pepper.  The last three ingredients are not authentic to Moo Goo Gai Pan, so take them or leave them, but you won’t be sorry for their subtle influence. Serve your Moo Goo Gai Pan with steamed rice and you have better than takeout right at home!
  • JUICY and so TENDER:  The chicken is unbelievably tender due to an easy velveting technique that will change your culinary life!  We’re talking SO tender and juicy, you’ll think your chicken breasts are the juiciest thighs ever – and it only take minutes!
  • QUICK and easy:  Chop your veggies which the chicken is “marinating,” whisk your stir fry sauce together and cook! 
  • Simple ingredients:  the chicken stir fry sauce uses pantry staples so it’s always ready when you don’t know “what’s for dinner?” 
  • Customizable:  You know your family best so you can customize this Moo Goo Gai Pan recipe just how they like it – use whatever veggies you have on hand; add more or less heat, any variety of CRUNCH such as peanuts or cashews and serve it over rice, ramen, noodles, zoodles, spaghetti squash, etc.
  • Healthy:  This Moo Goo Gai Pan recipe is bursting with lean chicken and nutritious veggies and contains very little oil for a guilt free dinner any night of the week.

WHAT CHICKEN IS BEST FOR MOO GOO GAI PAN RECIPE?

Restaurant versions of Moo goo Gai Pan recipe traditionally use chicken breasts but you are welcome to  use chicken thighs as well.  Both will emerge tender due to the velveting technique (more on velveting below).

  • Boneless skinless chicken breasts:  are leaner than chicken thighs but still emerge buttery tender from the velveting.  I always use chicken breasts + velveting and I am never disappointed.
  • Boneless skinless chicken thighs: are dark meat and therefore inherently juicier and hard to overcook or dry out or overcook. Thighs are the best option if you want to skip the velveting but the velveting also adds flavor as well so I don’t recommend skipping.
  • Can I use different Protein?  Looking beyond poultry, try out cubed tofu, pork or shrimp.  If using shrimp, add it at the end of cooking because shrimp will get rubbery if overcooked.

HOW DO YOU MAKE the CHICKEN TENDER?

If you have wondered how Chinese restaurants attain such smooth, tender chicken, it is through a simple process called velveting.  There are a few different techniques, but I opt for the easiest one in all of chicken stir fries, including this Moo Goo Gai Pan recipe. 

Essentially, the chicken is coated in baking soda, along with splashes of soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil and cornstarch which protect it from the high heat of stir frying.  The baking soda tenderizes the chicken by breaking down the chicken fibers so the chicken emerges softer on the inside like “velvet” – hence the name.  You can taste the textural difference but not the baking soda!

The emerging velveted chicken lives up to its name – you will be AMAZED at how velvety tender the chicken is – just like your favorite takeout!  The best part is this restaurant worthy chicken takes just a couple minutes to toss the ingredients together and then you let them rest while you chop up your veggies.

This easy velveting technique can be used in all your favorite Chinese Chicken recipes – even the ones with breading; instead, skip the breading and add whatever seasonings were in the breading to the velveting mixture. This allows you to enjoy the intoxicating sauces without the hassle of breading.  Try it on my General Tso’s ChickenCashew Chicken Stir Fry, Hoisin Ginger Chicken, Honey Lemon Chicken and Honey Coconut Chicken.   

showing how to make authentic Moo Goo Gai Pan recipe by stir frying thinly sliced chicken, mushrooms, carrots, snow peas, water chestnuts and bamboo shoots together

MOO GOO GAI PAN SAUCE

This Moo goo Gai Pan sauce can be whisked together in minutes, stored for weeks, then just thrown into the skillet when you’re ready to cook!  It’s made with chicken broth, soy sauce, oyster sauce, Japanese rice wine, brown sugar, Asian chili sauce, sesame oil, pepper and cornstarch.  It delivers a light, savory, delicate white sauce that lets the veggies shine.  

MOO GOO GAI PAN SAUCE BREAKDOWN:

  • QUICK. This Moo goo Gai Pan sauce probably takes 3 minutes to whisk together – that’s it.   
  • Make ahead.  After you whisk the sauce together, you can store it in an airtight container in the fridge for weeks.  When ready to use, just shake again and throw into your sizzling hot skillet.
  • Adaptable.  While this Moo goo Gai Pan sauce is just right for us, you can adjust it to make it just right for YOU and your family’s personal tastes. Just keep a note of your adjustments then whip out the perfect stir fry sauce every time.  
    • sweeten it up with additional brown sugar or swap the sugar for honey
    • spice it up with additional chili sauce
    • add herbs such as Thai basil, coriander or cilantro
    • amp up the garlic and/or ginger for a stronger punch of flavor

What goes in Moo goo Gai Pan Sauce?

Moo Goo Gai Pan Sauce is made of pantry staples you probably have right now!  This white sauce is made with the same ingredients as traditional stir fry sauce but in different proportions.  You will need:

  • chicken broth:  use low sodium chicken broth so you can control the salt level.  You can also use vegetable broth but chicken broth is more flavorful. Please DO NOT use water or your sauce will be missing part of its flavor profile and leave you with sad, lackluster results.
  • soy sauce:  use low sodium soy sauce so we can control the salt.
  • oyster sauce:  is a necessity in stir fry recipes, including this Moo Goo Gai Pan recipe.  It adds that extra punch of flavor that takeout sauces have and will elevate your chicken stir fry to new heights.  Oyster sauce is a thick, brown sauce with a balance between sweet and salty with an earthy undertone, due to the oyster extracts.  You can find oyster sauce in the Asian aisle of any supermarket for only a few dollars.  Please use QUALITY hoisin sauce such as Lee Kum Kee or Kikkoman.  You truly can taste the difference and will be sorely disappointed with less quality brands.
  • brown sugar:  adds just a little adds sweetness to balance the soy and vinegar.  You may need more or less depending on personal taste. 
  • rice wine:  should become a pantry staple if you do much Asian cooking.  I use it in almost all of my Asian Recipes from my Beef Bulgogi and Beef and Broccoli to my Mongolian Chicken and Sesame Noodles.  Rice wine is NOT rice vinegar- DO NOT switch them out.  Rice wine adds a sweetness and depth of flavor; rice vinegar, on the other hand, will add an acidic flavor.
  • Where do I Buy Rice Wine? I use “Kikkoman Aji-Mirin: Sweet Cooking Rice Seasoning” which is commonly found in the Asian section of most grocery stores or you can Amazon it.  I highly suggest you google image before you head off to the grocery store so you know exactly what you are looking for.  The best substitute for rice wine is pale dry sherry.
  • Asian chili sauce: use your favorite chili sauce like Sambal Oelek or sriracha. Use as much or as little as you like.  Although this Moo Goo Gai Pan Sauce recipe isn’t meant to be spicy, we personally love heat and add much more than called for in the recipe.
  • sesame oil:  a “secret ingredient” that adds an irresistible, subtle nutty flavor.
  • salt and pepper: every recipe benefits from salt and pepper – they enhance the rest of the flavors.  You will probably want to add additional freshly cracked salt and pepper after cooking – but taste first!
  • cornstarch:  helps thicken the sauce to a glossy, luscious consistency without a raw flour taste.

HOW DO I THICKEN THE SAUCE?

The cornstarch in the Moo Goo Gai Pan Sauce will thicken the it as it simmers with the vegetables.  If you still would like a thicker sauce, then just keep simmering until it reaches desired consistency.  For an even thicker sauce, make a slurry by whisking 1 teaspoon cornstarch in 2 tablespoons chicken broth then adding to the simmering sauce.  Repeat this as step as desired.

HOW DO I THIN THE SAUCE?

Your Moo Goo Gai Pan Sauce will become thicker the longer it is simmers. If it simmers to the point of too thick, don’t worry! It is easy to thin by whisking in additional chicken broth. 

HOW DO I STORE Moo Goo Gai Pan Sauce?

Moo Goo Gai Pan Sauce can be made ahead of time and stored in an airtight container or mason jar in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.  Shake it up or whisk it to recombine before using.

WHAT VEGETABLES DO YOU PUT IN MOO GOO GAI PAN?

Traditional Moo Goo Gai Pan contains mushrooms as well as snow peas, carrots, bamboo shoots and water chestnuts.  Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Snow Peas: trim the very ends of your snow peas to eliminate the woody texture.  Take care to only simmer snow peas for 1-2 minutes – they take hardly any time to cook.  It is better for them to be on the crunchy side vs. the mushy side.
  • Carrots:  slice your carrots thinly (about 1/8-inch) so they will be crisp-tender and not crunchy in the allotted cooking time.
  • Mushrooms:  button mushrooms are often used in Moo Goo Gai Pan but I recommend cremini/baby bella mushrooms because they have more flavor.  You can also use shiitake or wood ear.  Take care not to slice your mushrooms too thin or they will loose their texture.
  • Canned bamboo Shoots: should be easy to find at every grocery store.  They add a crunchy, meaty texture.  Use more or less to taste.
  • Water Chestnuts:  should also be easy to find at any grocery store – just make sure you purchase sliced water chestnuts.  They are so delightfully crunchy you will want them in every bite!
showing  how to serve Moo Goo Gai Pan by adding stir fry to rice in a bowl

Can I use different VEGETABLES?

Absolutely! Traditional Moo Goo Gai Pan has specific vegetables which I’ve included in this recipe – but that doesn’t mean you have to use them!  You can mix and match the stir fry vegetables based on what’s in your fridge, your favorites, what’s in season or what’s on sale.  You will want to equally swap the veggies for something else or be prepared for a very saucy stir fry.  I recommend at least three different vegetables, because after all, stir fries are meant to be a stunning symphony of textures and colors thanks to the variety of vegetables. 

Here are some vegetables you can swap for the carrots, snow peas, bamboo shoots or water chestnuts in this Moo Goo Gai Pan recipe:

  • Broccoli
  • Bell Peppers
  • Snap Peas
  • Zucchini
  • Celery
  • Asparagus
  • Baby corn
  • Edamame
  • Bean sprouts
  • Cabbage (Chinese, green or red)
  • Spinach
  • Bok choy

If you choose to use different vegetables, keep in mind some vegetables require different cooking times.   For example, broccoli and carrots take more time to cook than zucchini and bell peppers. In order to cook all of the vegetables at the same time, take care to chop the longer cooking vegetables smaller, and the shorter cooking vegetables larger/thicker.  For example, THINLY slice the carrots, and chop the bell peppers into larger 1” chunks so they cook in the same amount of time.   

This technique will take care of most veggies, but there are some that cook in extremely short time such as snow peas, cabbage and spinach, which should always be added at the very end of cooking. 

WHAT AROMATICS for MOO GOO GAI PAN recipe?

Moo Goo Gai Pan relies heavily on the aromatics (garlic, ginger and green onion) for flavor.  So, while the veggies might be flexible, the aromatics are not.  They are the quintessential ingredients to flavor the entire stir fry.     

  • Garlic pro tip: purchase the pre-bagged, already peeled garlic to save time.  They are actually less expensive than whole garlic cloves (at least when I did the math).
  • Ginger pro tip:  I like to freeze ginger so it’s always at my fingertips.  To freeze ginger: grate it, spread it by the teaspoon or tablespoon on parchment paper and flash freeze until solid, about 1 hour.  Transfer to an airtight container or plastic bag for up to 6 months.   You can add frozen ginger directly to your stir fry.
  • Green onion pro tip:  chop the white part of a bunch of green onions up until you reach the green and this should give you roughly ¼ which is what you need for this recipe.  Set the white part aside and continue to chop the rest of the green onions to use for garnish.  

IS Moo Goo Gai Pan GLUTEN FREE?

As written, this Moo Goo Gai Pan recipe is not gluten free – but almost!  To make gluten free stir fry, use gluten free soy sauce or tamari.  You will also want to double check that your oyster sauce and chili sauce are gluten free.  The rest of the chicken stir fry ingredients are gluten free.

MOO GOO GAI PAN Chicken VARIATIONS

In addition to swapping out different vegetables and even using a different protein, you can also customize this Moo Goo Gai Pan recipe by adding:

  • Nuts:  peanuts or cashews add a deeply satisfying crunch that you will CRAVE in every bite!  To elevate your cashews or peanuts, dry roast them in a nonstick skillet until toasted- YUM
  • Sesame seeds:  adds a nutty sesame flavor.  Take care to use toasted sesame seeds or toast them yourself.
  • Fruit:  pineapple, Mandarin oranges or mangos add a juicy, fresh, sweet dimension. If you’re intimidated by choosing or cutting mangos, check out this post here.  For the oranges, fresh oranges hold together better but canned or super convenient.
  • Ramen:  use less veggies so your stir fry is saucier and add some cooked ramen instead of serving over rice.

HOW TO MAKE MOO GOO GAI PAN:

This Moo Goo Gai Pan is super simple with just 5 easy steps:  stir chicken with velveting ingredients, whisk sauce ingredients together, stir fry chicken, stir fry veggies, add sauce and simmer.  Here’s the breakdown:

STEP 1:  Marinate the chicken

  • Velveting is highly recommend whether you use chicken breasts or chicken thighs.  Velveting the chicken not only adds flavor but creates the silkiest chicken you ever tasted.
  • The velveting process is simple – add cornstarch, baking soda, sesame oil, soy sauce and rice wine to a large freezer bag or bowl; whisk to combine.
  • Add chicken and turn until evenly coated.  Let sit at room temperature while you prep your veggies; preferable 30 minutes, but whatever you have time for is fine.  

STEP 2:  MAKE the MAKE MOO GOO GAI PAN SAUCE

  • While the chicken is resting, whisk chicken broth, soy sauce, oyster sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, cornstarch, Asian chili sauce ingredients together in a medium bowl; set aside.
showing how to make Moo Goo Gai Pan sauce by whisking chicken broth, soy sauce, oyster sauce, rice wine and toasted sesame oil together

STEP 3: COOK CHICKEN

  • It is important to cook the chicken first because as it browns in the skillet, it creates a layer of flavor that will be scooped up by the veggies.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large pan or wok over medium-high heat.  Peanut oil is most often used in Chines stir fries, but you may also use another neutral oil such as vegetable or canola oil.
  • Once very hot, add chicken in a single layer and cook until golden, then flip chicken over and sear the other side. 
  • The chicken does not need to be cooked all the way through because it will finish cooking in the stir fry sauce.  Remove chicken to a plate.
showing how to make Moo Goo Gai Pan by searing thinly sliced chicken on both sides in a skillet

STEP 3:  STIR FRY VEGGIES

  • After you remove the chicken, don’t wipe out the skillet, we want all those brown bits to flavor the veggies.
  • Heat one tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. 
  • Once hot, add carrots, mushrooms and green onions; stir fry until vegetables are crisp tender, 2-3 minutes.  Don’t over-cook because they will continue to cook in sauce – and no one likes mushy veggies!
  • Add bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, garlic and ginger to the veggies and sauté for one minute.

STEP 4:  ADD SAUCE

  • Add chicken back to pan. 
  • Whisk sauce (to recombine) and add to pan.
  • Bring the sauce to a boil then reduce to a simmer until sauce has thickened; 1-2 minutes.
  • Stir in snow peas, and cashews and cook one additional minute.
showing how to make Moo Goo Gai Pan by adding seared chicken back to pan
showing how to make Moo Goo Gai Pan by adding snow peas to the sauce and simmering for one minute

STEP 5:  GARNISH

  • Garnish with green onions and additional chili sauce if desired.  Serve with rice and freshly cracked salt and pepper to taste.
showing how to make Moo Goo Gai Pan by garnishing with green onions, cashews and chili sauce

TIPS AND TRICKS FOR THE BEST MOO GOO GAI PAN recipe

  • Freeze chicken.  Chicken is much easier to thinly slice if partially frozen. Place the chicken breasts in the freezer for about 20 minutes.  This firms up the chicken just enough so it doesn’t move under your knife when slicing.  It will defrost completely with the velveting ingredients.    
  • Prep veggies and sauce first.  While your chicken is marinating, chop all your veggies and prep your sauce.  You want everything ready before you start your stir frying because the actually cooking just takes a few minutes. If you have to stop to make your sauce while your veggies are still in the pan, they can end up soft and even worse – mushy.
  • How to chop ingredients.  The most important key to making a good stir-fry is cutting each ingredient to a uniform size as specified in the recipe. As detailed in this Moo Goo Gai Pan recipe, slice the mushrooms on the thicker side so they don’t disappear and slice the carrots thinly so they will be crisp-tender by the time we’re done stir frying.
  • Dry vegetables.  It is important that the vegetables are very dry or they will steam and not get the characteristic stir-fry texture. To dry vegetables, pat them thoroughly with a kitchen towel or use a salad spinner. Also, do NOT wash your mushrooms or they will absorb water like a sponge.  Instead, wipe them clean.
  • Cook chicken first.  Don’t cook the chicken and veggies together because we want to brown the chicken (color + flavor) which can’t happen with all the veggies in the pan.  The chicken will also leave behind yummy brown bits which will give the chicken flavor.
  • Hot but not too hot skillet. Your pan should be hot enough so that the chicken and veggies sizzle when they touch the pan and continue to sizzle but the pan shouldn’t be so hot that it smokes excessively once you add the oil.  If the pan is smoking hot, remove it from heat, let it cool slightly then return to heat. To determine if the wok is hot enough, flick a few droplets of water onto the skillet or wok.  The beads of water should evaporate within 2 seconds. 
  • Don’t overcook chicken.  For the juiciest chicken, don’t overcook!  Brown it in the skillet but let it finish cooking in the sauce.
  • Don’t overcook veggies.  I suggest setting the timer for 2 minutes for the initial stir frying of your veggies – it can go fast and you don’t want to overcook them initially.  It is better to under-cook them when stir frying then allow them to reach desired-crisp tenderness once you add the stir fry sauce.
  • Add sauce to the sides of the pan.  Pour the stir fry sauce around and down the sides of the pan instead of directly into the center.  This will prevent the pan from cooling down too much.  

What skillet is best?

You don’t need a wok to make fabulous tasting Moo Goo Gai Pan or any stir fry, you just need a large (12 to 14-inch), well-seasoned pan with high edges.  Using a large pan is crucial so all the ingredients have room to move around and can actually stir “fry” and not just steam.

The “correct” pan can look like a lot of different pans – the important thing is to use a pan that works for you.  Well-seasoned stainless is a great choice because it conducts heat evenly.  If your stainless-steel pan is well seasoned, it will create a naturally non-stick patina. 

The stainless-steel pan I used in the final photos is new so I didn’t cook my stir fry in it – instead I cooked it in my non-stick pan.  It is better to go non-stick than use a pan you’re not sure your chicken won’t stick to.

WHAT DO YOU EAT WITH Moo Goo Gai Pan chicken?

Moo Goo Gai Pan is traditionally served with white rice because it soaks up the sauce and offers a neutral textural component.  That being said, you still have a few options:

  • Rice. I like jasmine rice or brown rice but any rice will work.  Just pop the rice in your rice cooker for a hands’ off, easy side. You can also use microwave rice pouches if you’re making a serving for one or meal prep.  
  • Low carb.  Cauliflower rice, quinoa, broccoli rice or a blend of brown rice and any of the aforementioned options.   You can also use low carb noodles such as zoodles or spaghetti squash.
  • Noodles.  Ramen, soba noodles, rice noodles or even linguine are a fun way to mix things up! 
stir frying Moo Goo Gai Pan together in a large skilletv

WHAT SIDES DO YOU SERVE WITH Moo Goo Gai Pan?

In addition to rice, you can serve Moo Goo Gai Pan with:

HOW TO STORE Moo Goo Gai Pan

This easy Moo Goo Gai Pan recipe reheats well for anticipatory lunches or dinners, just take care to not overcook the chicken and veggies initially.  

  • How to store:  Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • How to reheat in microwave: transfer small portions to a microwave safe dish, heat for one minute, stir then continue to heat at 30 second intervals. 
  • How to reheat on the stove: For larger portions, rewarm gently in a large skillet, stirring often.  You may need to add a splash of water (better yet chicken broth if you have it) to thin the sauce as needed.

CAN I FREEZE Moo Goo Gai Pan?

I do not recommend freezing Moo Goo Gai Pan once assembled because the veggies can become a mushy texture, but you can freeze the chicken and stir fry sauce separately.

  • Stir Fry Sauce: Whisk together, add to a freezer bag or freezer safe airtight container, label and freeze for up to 3 months.
  • Chicken: After you have cooked the chicken, let it cool completely then transfer it to an airtight container or plastic freezer bag and squeeze out any excess air. Freeze for 2 to 3 months.  Defrost in the refrigerator before using.

CAN I PREPARE Moo Goo Gai Pan AHEAD OF TIME?

Yes!  You can prep all of the ingredients ahead of time so this Moo Goo Gai Pan can come together in minutes:

  • Whisk the Moo Goo Gai Pan sauce ingredients together and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  Let the sauce sit at room temperature while preparing the stir-fry; whisk again before using.
  • Add the velveting ingredients to a large Ziploc bag.
  • Slice chicken and store in a separate container in the refrigerator (not with velveting ingredients).
  • Chop the veggies, green onions, garlic and ginger and store in separate baggies/containers in the refrigerator.
  • Within the next 48 hours, proceed with the recipe without any of the prep!

IS Moo Goo Gai Pan HEALTHY?

Moo Goo Gai Pan is one of the healthiest dishes you’ll find on a Chinese restaurant menu.  It is packed with lean protein and veggies and uses a relatively small amount of oil because it’s stir fried and nots deep fried.

The chicken is a lean protein which means it doesn’t have very much fat which can help you maintain a healthy lifestyle and even lose weight all while helping to sustain your muscles.  Chicken is also full of calcium and phosphorous which helps strengthen your bones and reduce the risk of arthritis.

This Moo Goo Gai Pan recipe also boasts an abundance of veggies which are free of cholesterol and provide many of vitamins and minerals.  The veggies also retain more nutrients when sautéed verses being boiled.  Just some of the nutrients in fresh veggies include vitamins A & C, potassium, folate and dietary fiber.  Diets rich in potassium may help to maintain healthy blood pressure and dietary fiber helps reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower risk of heart disease.  

To make your chicken stir fry even healthier:

  • Add more veggies or substitute some chicken for vegetables.  The more vegetables, the better!
  • Use chicken breasts instead of chicken thighs.
  • Reduce the number of cashews.
  • Serve chicken stir fry cauliflower rice, quinoa, or zucchini noodles instead of rice.

LOOKING FOR MORE CHINESE RECIPES?

If you love Chinese fakeout takeout, be sure to check out my:

up close of serving Moo Goo Gai Pan in a bowl with rice garnished by green onions with chopsticks

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Moo Goo Gai Pan

Moo Goo Gai Pan is healthy, delicious and on your table in less than 30 minutes! Moo Goo Gai Pan is a quick and easy chicken stir fry boasting tender, juicy chicken and mushrooms smothered in a Chinese white sauce. I’ve included classic water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, carrots and snow peas but you can add whatever veggies your heart desires – or simply whatever your fridge has on hand. This Moo Goo Gai Pan recipe utilizes the easy restaurant velveting technique to produce smooth, tender, melt-in-your-mouth chicken you will have to taste to believe! Now prepare to enjoy this wonderfully healthy, satisfying, versatile chicken stir fry!
Servings: 6 -8 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 pound chicken breasts sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • peanut, vegetable or canola oil

VELVETING

STIR FRY SAUCE

Veggies

  • 4-6 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 8 oz. cremini mushrooms sliced 1/4-1/2” thick
  • 1 cup THINLY sliced carrots
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions white parts only
  • 1 8 oz. can bamboo shoots well drained
  • 1 8 oz. can sliced water chestnuts well drained
  • 4 oz. (1 heaping cup) snow peas ends trimmed
  • 1/2 cup roasted salted peanuts or cashews

Instructions

  • Add the velveting ingredients to a large freezer bag or bowl; whisk to combine. Add chicken and turn until evenly coated. Let sit at room temperature while you prep your veggies; preferable 30 minutes (no more).
  • Meanwhile, whisk Sauce ingredients together in a medium bowl; set aside.
  • Optional: add cashews to empty skillet and dry roast over medium heat until golden in spots, remove to a plate.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Once very hot, add chicken in a single layer and cook until golden, about 30 seconds; flip chicken over and sear the other side. Remove chicken to a plate (chicken will not be cooked through yet).
  • To the now empty pan (don’t wipe out), heat one tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add carrots, mushrooms and green onions; stir fry until vegetables are crisp tender, 2-3 minutes (don’t over-cook because they will continue to cook in sauce). Add bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, garlic and ginger to the veggies and stir fry one additional minute.
  • Add chicken back to pan. Whisk sauce (to recombine) and add to pan. Bring the sauce to a boil then reduce to a simmer until sauce has thickened;1-2 minutes. Stir in snow peas, and cashews and cook one additional minute.
  • Garnish with additional chili sauce and additional green onions. Serve with rice and freshly cracked, salt and pepper to taste.

Notes

TIPS AND TRICKS 

  • Use the correct skillet.  You don’t need a wok to make fabulous tasting Moo Goo Gai Pan or any stir fry, you just need a large (12 to 14-inch), well-seasoned pan with high edges.  Using a large pan is crucial so all the ingredients have room to move around and can actually stir “fry” and not just steam.
  • Freeze chicken.  Chicken is much easier to thinly slice if partially frozen. Place the chicken breasts in the freezer for about 20 minutes.  This firms up the chicken just enough so it doesn’t move under your knife when slicing.  It will defrost completely with the velveting ingredients.    
  • Prep veggies and sauce first.  While your chicken is marinating, chop all your veggies and prep your sauce.  You want everything ready before you start your stir frying because the actually cooking just takes a few minutes. If you have to stop to make your sauce while your veggies are still in the pan, they can end up soft and even worse – mushy.
  • How to chop ingredients.  The most important key to making a good stir-fry is cutting each ingredient to a uniform size as specified in the recipe. As detailed in this Moo Goo Gai Pan recipe, slice the mushrooms on the thicker side so they don’t disappear and slice the carrots thinly so they will be crisp-tender by the time we’re done stir frying.
  • Dry vegetables.  It is important that the vegetables are very dry or they will steam and not get the characteristic stir-fry texture. To dry vegetables, pat them thoroughly with a kitchen towel or use a salad spinner. Also, do NOT wash your mushrooms or they will absorb water like a sponge.  Instead, wipe them clean.
  • Cook chicken first.  Don’t cook the chicken and veggies together because we want to brown the chicken (color + flavor) which can’t happen with all the veggies in the pan.  The chicken will also leave behind yummy brown bits which will give the chicken flavor.
  • Hot but not too hot skillet. Your pan should be hot enough so that the chicken and veggies sizzle when they touch the pan and continue to sizzle but the pan shouldn’t be so hot that it smokes excessively once you add the oil.  If the pan is smoking hot, remove it from heat, let it cool slightly then return to heat. To determine if the wok is hot enough, flick a few droplets of water onto the skillet or wok.  The beads of water should evaporate within 2 seconds. 
  • Don’t overcook chicken.  For the juiciest chicken, don’t overcook!  Brown it in the skillet but let it finish cooking in the sauce.
  • Don’t overcook veggies.  I suggest setting the timer for 2 minutes for the initial stir frying of your veggies – it can go fast and you don’t want to overcook them initially.  It is better to under-cook them when stir frying then allow them to reach desired-crisp tenderness once you add the stir fry sauce.
  • Add sauce to the sides of the pan.  Pour the stir fry sauce around and down the sides of the pan instead of directly into the center.  This will prevent the pan from cooling down too much.  

Storage

This easy Moo Goo Gai Pan recipe reheats well for anticipatory lunches or dinners, just take care to not overcook the chicken and veggies initially.  
  • How to store:  Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • How to reheat in microwave: transfer small portions to a microwave safe dish, heat for one minute, stir then continue to heat at 30 second intervals. 
  • How to reheat on the stove: For larger portions, rewarm gently in a large skillet, stirring often.  You may need to add a splash of water (better yet chicken broth if you have it) to thin the sauce as needed.

Prep ahead

You can prep all of the ingredients ahead of time so this Moo Goo Gai Pan can come together in minutes:
  • Whisk the Moo Goo Gai Pan sauce ingredients together and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  Let the sauce sit at room temperature while preparing the stir-fry; whisk again before using.
  • Add the velveting ingredients to a large Ziploc bag.
  • Slice chicken and store in a separate container in the refrigerator (not with velveting ingredients).
  • Chop the veggies, green onions, garlic and ginger and store in separate baggies/containers in the refrigerator.
  • Within the next 48 hours, proceed with the recipe without any of the prep!

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14 Comments

  1. Anne-Louise Hill says

    Absolutely delicious. Wouldn’t change a thing .
    Definitely 5*****
    Better than any restaurant!
    Thanks again

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment Anne-Louise! I am thrilled you loved this recipe so much, thanks for the 5* review!

  2. Julie says

    My husband’s new favorite meal!

    • Jen says

      YAY! That is awesome, thanks Julie!

  3. Jennifer Fulk says

    I made this over the weekend and it was fabulous. I used zucchini instead of the carrots. I love all the veggies in this one and the chicken was so tender and delicious, it melts in your mouth! I used some white pepper along with black and I love the touch of heat the sambal oelek gave it. I am trying to make recipes that are healthier this year and this fits the bill. Thank you!

    • Jen says

      You’re so welcome Jennifer! I’m so happy it fits the healthier bill AND that you loved it!

  4. Heather says

    Husband loved it so did the rest of the family. Thank you for all the delicious receipes. They make cooking dinner fun.

    • Jen says

      I love hearing that, thanks so much Heather!

  5. Jake says

    Omg…..Took the forever to scroll to the end to get to the recipe!!
    I absolutely hated when they have to go into a story before we get to the recipe!

    • Jen says

      Hi Jake, that is why there is a “Jump to recipe” button at the top of the page under the title.

  6. Amanda says

    I have a carbon steel wok that I seasoned myself and i tried to cookbook this twice in it and both time the chicken burned to the bottom of the wok so bad. It’s not my wok it’s well seasoned and I used generous oil. But the wok was crusty and burned so bad that I had to finish in a non stick wok. Maybe the baking soda in the marinade is causing it to burn like that? It’s also not that’ I didn’t stir enough cuz I stirred constantly. Do u have any suggestions?

    • Jen says

      I’m sorry about that Amanda! I would have suggested more oil and but it sounds like you did that so a non-stick pan might be what you need for this recipe. My apologies as every pan is slightly different.

  7. Bern Barth says

    Om goodness! I made this today. It is amazing. My partner said he would have paid top London prices for this. Definitely is a favourite in our house. The chicken was so tender and the textures and flavours fantastic. Thank you so much for this recipe.

    • Jen says

      Thank you for your amazing comment Bern! I’m thrilled you both loved it so much!