Perfectly tender-crisp Chinese Broccoli (Gai Lan) is made with simple ingredients including fresh garlic and soy sauce. Ready in under 15 minutes, enjoy this flavorful vegan side dish with all your favorite chicken, beef, or pork recipes.
What is Chinese Broccoli?
Chinese broccoli (芥兰, Gai Lan) is a leafy green vegetable with thick stems and broad, flat leaves. Part of the same family as regular broccoli, Chinese broccoli has no florets and tastes slightly more bitter with similar flowering heads that are much smaller.
If you can’t find Chinese broccoli, broccolini makes a terrific substitute as it is a crossbreed between Chinese and regular broccoli.
How to Buy
For the best-tasting stir-fry, it’s important to purchase the freshest possible Chinese broccoli. Old Chinese broccoli is extra bitter and stringy – two qualities we want to avoid.
When shopping, look at the ends of the stems. If they’re dry or shriveled, keep looking, as that bunch was most likely picked a while back. If it has flowers, the flower buds should be tight and compact. There should be no open flowers as this is an indication that the stalk is older and will likely be chewier and more bitter.
- Chinese broccoli (Gai Lan)
- Fresh garlic
- Thai chilies (optional)
- Soy sauce
- Sesame oil
- Sesame seeds (optional)
If you prefer a mild, less spicy side dish, I recommend skipping the Thai chilies. In my experience, the heat level can be somewhat unpredictable, so unless you love a little extra heat, leave them out.
Other fantastic additions include fresh ginger or shallots, 2-3 tablespoons of Oyster sauce, Shaoxing (Chinese cooking wine) or dry sherry, a splash of fish sauce, or a drizzle of sweet chili dipping sauce.
Looking for the total amount of each ingredient? Simply scroll down to the recipe card at the bottom of the page.
How to Cook Chinese Broccoli (Gai Lan)
- Prepare the Chinese broccoli: Trim 1-inch from the ends of each stalk and discard. Slice any thick stalks in half. This helps ensure that your broccoli cooks at approximately the time. Rinse under cold running water and gently shake out excess water. Set aside to dry.
- Sauté the chiles and garlic: Heat the vegetable oil in a large wok or skillet set over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the Thai chilies (whole, chopped, or seeded – if using). Cook in the oil for 5-10 seconds before adding the minced garlic. Stirring continuously, cook the garlic for 30 seconds, or until fragrant (reduce heat if necessary to prevent the garlic from burning).
- Stir-fry the Chinese broccoli: Add the soy sauce and the Chinese broccoli to your wok or skillet. Stir-fry in the oil and soy sauce, mixing continuously and thoroughly to coat. Continue to mix, coat, and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until the stalks are tender. Drizzle with sesame oil, if using, and mix thoroughly to combine.
For extra soft stems, blanch the Chinese broccoli in a pot of salted boiling water for 2-3 minutes (or until the stems are fork-tender) before draining and rinsing with cold water to stop the cooking. Pat dry and continue with the recipe as written.
This delicious recipe is vegan/vegetarian, gluten-free (substitute the soy sauce with tamari), dairy-free, and delicious when paired with other Asian-inspired dishes including Coconut Rice, Thai Basil Chicken, fried rice, or Pad See Ew.
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Chinese Broccoli Recipe (Gai Lan)
- Prepare the Chinese broccoli for cooking. Trim 1-inch from the ends of each stalk and discard. Slice any especially thick stalks in half. Rinse under cold running water and gently shake out excess water. Set aside to dry.
- Heat the olive oil in a large wok or skillet set over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the Thai chilis (whole, chopped, or none at all depending on your own personal heat preference). Allow the chilis to cook in the oil for 5-10 seconds before adding the minced garlic. Stirring continuously, cook the garlic for 30 seconds, or until fragrant (reduce heat if necessary to prevent the garlic from burning).
- Add the soy sauce and the Chinese broccoli to your wok or skillet. Stir-fry the Chinese broccoli in the oil and soy sauce, mixing continuously and thoroughly to coat. Continue to mix, coat, and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until stalks are tender (cover with a lid if you have one). Drizzle with sesame oil, if using, and mix thoroughly to combine.
- Remove to a clean plate. Garnish with sesame seeds, if desired.
- Season with additional soy sauce, to taste.
- If your Chinese broccoli tastes a little bitter, add 1-2 teaspoons of brown sugar or honey to the sauce.
- If you can’t find Chinese broccoli, substitute it with broccolini.
- Replace the soy sauce with tamari or coconut aminos to make this recipe gluten-free.
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.)