From hidden carbohydrates in sauces and seasonings to grains and noodles, there are many reasons for those adhering to a keto diet to be wary when dining at a Chinese restaurant.
Whether you love Chinese food for its wide range of flavors or its affordability, the good news is that you can eat Chinese and still stay on track with your diet. The key is to learn beforehand which options contain the fewest carbs and customize your order.
Here’s a guide we prepared on ordering keto Chinese food.
Can Chinese Food Be Keto-Friendly?
Most traditional Chinese-American dishes are loaded with carbs, although you can always request modifications from restaurants to lower their net carbs. So, yes—Chinese food can be made keto-compliant. One example is to ask for white rice to be replaced with cauliflower, broccoli, or mushrooms—or ask for it to be left off entirely.
Simple Tips on How to Order Keto Chinese Food
Before you head to a Chinese restaurant, it helps to check out their menu in advance. Look for dishes that are inherently low-carb—such as pork belly and steamed green vegetables—or those that you can quickly modify.
Here are some ways to stay within your carb limit when ordering from a Chinese dine-in or takeout menu:
1. Choose a Dish Centered Around Meat
Stir-fry noodles are probably the first menu item you’ll think of when it comes to Chinese food. But you might be surprised that many Chinese meals make good options for keto dieters since they’re low in carbs and high in fats and protein.
Animal-based dishes often found in Chinese restaurants are:
Beef stir-fried with broccoli
Fried or boiled eggs
Note that some of these dishes may contain added sugars and syrups that will increase their net carbs. You can remove the sauces yourself, ask for them on the side, or avoid meats with sauces to begin with. This leads us to the next tip…
2. Opt for Steamed Dishes
Steamed foods can be a good alternative when ordering at a Chinese restaurant unless the restaurant uses healthy cooking oils like butter, ghee, coconut oil, olive oil, or avocado oil.
Take note that many dishes from Asian restaurants (and restaurants in general) use oils with high amounts of omega-6, which promote inflammation and contribute to an increased risk of heart disease.  Examples of these oils to avoid include canola oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, safflower oil, corn oil, and peanut oil.
Besides avoiding these inflammatory vegetable oils, steamed dishes are better because they’re unlikely to include breading (made from wheat flour).
3. Swap Starchy Carbohydrates for Non-Starchy Options
Your food might be served with rice, corn, taro, noodles, or steamed buns (bao). Have them swapped for non-starchy vegetables, such as:
Bok choy: 1g net carbs in a 100-gram serving
Green beans: 3g net carbs in a 100-gram serving
Cauliflower: 3g net carbs in a 100-gram serving
Broccoli: 5.6g net carbs in a 100-gram serving
Mushrooms: 2.28g net carbs in a 100-gram serving
Cabbage: 4.5g net carbs in a 100-gram serving
Snow peas: 5g net carbs in a 100-gram serving
Not only are these veggies low in carbs, but they lend a satisfying crunch to your meal and boost satiety due to their fiber content.
4. Stick to Plain Water or Unsweetened Beverages
Another way to stay on course is by being mindful of the drinks you order. Stay away from traditional bubble teas (also called pearl milk tea or boba milk tea), iced tea sweetened with syrup, and fruit juices.
Plain water or sparking water, if available, is always the best choice to hydrate without interfering with ketosis. For those who love drinking tea, most Chinese restaurants offer green tea or black tea, which have zero carbs.
Some Chinese restaurants offer diet soda, which is sugar-free and sweetened using artificial sweeteners. They may be keto-friendly—and some keto dieters consume them to satisfy their sweet tooth—however, note that artificial sweeteners may increase your appetite and cause you to crave more sugar in the long run. 
A recent review also noted that using artificial sweeteners is linked to “unfavorable cardiovascular conditions and mortality.” This may be caused by the disruption of the gut microbiota and increased oxidative stress in heart tissue. 
5. Practice Portion Control
While not specific to Chinese restaurants, one helpful piece of advice when eating out is to be mindful of how much you eat. This is especially true when you’re also eating with friends and family.
Portion control can reduce the amount of carbs you consume in a meal, which for keto dieters can be helpful if you’re unsure of the ingredients or suspect hidden carbs. Moreover, it helps to lower the number calories you consume.
Try These Keto Chinese Food Recipes
Low-carb restaurant meals and takeout meals may provide convenience, but cooking at home beats them in many aspects. It’s not just a surefire way to maintain ketosis—because you have full control over the ingredients—but it also allows you to save money.
Need inspiration to make delicious and easy keto Chinese food at home? Here are six recipes from Ketogenic.com:
Keto Tofu: 224 calories, 1.9g net carbs, 17g fat, 14.1g protein
Tiffany is a health writer and registered nurse who believes in low-carb nutrition, exercise, and living simply. She has carefully followed the ketogenic diet (mostly clean keto) since 2019, which helped her lose 44 pounds, heal PCOS, and gain more energy. She hopes to educate and inspire others through her content here at Ketogenic.com and on her personal blog Ketogenic Buddies.
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