Moo Goo Gai Pan is made with tender slices of chicken, white button mushrooms, and other classic stir-fry vegetables all bathed in a delicious stir fry sauce. Learn how to make this better-than-takeout Moo Goo Gai Pan Recipe right at home and have dinner ready and on the table in 40 minutes or less!
What is Moo Goo Gai Pan?
Moo goo gai pan (or móh-gū gāi-pin in Cantonese) is the American version of a simple Cantonese stir-fry typically made with sliced or cubed chicken and white button mushrooms in a light white sauce. In the popular American version found in Chinese restaurants across the states, you will typically find more vegetables (carrots, bok choy, snow peas, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, cabbage, etc) and more sauce.
Compared to many Asian stir-fry options made with battered and fried meats and sugar-packed sauces, moo goo gai pan is a much healthier alternative.
What does Moo Goo Gai Pan mean?
The literal meaning of moo goo gai pan is “mushroom chicken slices” and comes from the Cantonese names of the primary ingredients in this dish.
- moo goo (mòhgū) – mushroom
- gai (gāi) – chicken
- pan (pín) – slices
There are two parts to this recipe, the ingredients for the stir fry and then the ingredients for the sauce. It’s easy to make and I’d bet that you probably have many of the ingredients in your pantry already.
You can slice your chicken breasts into thin strips or chop them into 1-inch chunks. Remember that chicken breast meat is lean and overcooks quickly if you’re not careful.
- Chicken Breasts
- Vegetable Oil
- Green Onions
- White Button Mushrooms
- Snow Peas
- Bamboo shoots + Water chestnuts
Moo Goo Gai Pan Sauce
The sauce is the most important part of this recipe. It’s a light and savory sauce requiring only a small bowl and a whisk to combine.
How to Make Moo Goo Gai Pan
For best results, try to have everything (the chicken, sauce, and vegetables) prepped and ready to go before you start cooking.
1. Marinate the chicken
Slice your chicken against the grain into pieces approximately 1/4-inch thick. Transfer to a medium-sized mixing bowl and combine with the oil, cornstarch, and salt. Coat the entire surface of the chicken. Marinate the chicken for at least 15-30 minutes.
2. Make your Sauce
In a medium bowl whisk together all ingredients for the sauce.
3. Sear the chicken
You’re going to very quickly sear the chicken on for approximately 30 seconds on each side before cooking any of the vegetables or the sauce. The chicken will still be raw on the inside after this quick sear – that’s ok. It will be going back into the pan to finish cooking in approximately 10 minutes.
4. Cook the aromatics and vegetables
Scrape off any burnt pieces stuck to the bottom of your wok or skillet and return to medium heat. Saute the garlic and green onions for approximately 30 seconds, then add the carrots and mushrooms to the skillet, mixing well to combine. Cook, stirring often until the vegetables start to turn soft, approximately 3 minutes. Add the snow peas, bamboo shoots, and water chestnuts, mixing well to combine. Continue to cook for an additional 2 minutes or so.
5. Add the sauce and return the chicken
Give the sauce a final stir and pour directly into the pan with the vegetables. Return the chicken to the pan and mix well. Continue to cook until the sauce has thickened and the chicken is cooked through (3 minutes or so).
Tips & Tricks
Add your favorite vegetables.
If you’re not loving what I added here, feel free to add what works best for you and your family. Other delicious veggie examples include baby bok choy, Chinese cabbage, celery, or bell peppers.
Marinate your chicken.
Not in a rush? Allow your chicken to marinate for 30 minutes or so. This allows your meat to have the chance to get extra tender.
Thinly slice your chicken.
Struggling to get your chicken thinly sliced? Pop your chicken breasts in the freezer for 15-20 minutes, or just long enough to solidify slightly. Remove and slice!
Make it vegetarian.
Add a vegetarian oyster sauce (made from mushrooms so you still get that umami flavor), swap chicken for tofu (or leave out altogether), and skip the chicken broth.
Try “velveting” your chicken
Instead of marinating and quickly pan-frying, you’ll be marinating and quickly boiling.
“Velveting” is a Chinese cooking method often used in stir-fry recipes to help tenderize meat and lock in the juices, keeping the meat moist. Although this cooking technique could be used with all types of meat, it is most commonly used with chicken breast due to its low-fat content.
- Chop your chicken into small cubes or slices and transfer to a medium mixing bowl. For every 1 pound of chicken, mix with 1 (well-whisked) egg white, 1 tablespoon of cornstarch, and rice vinegar. Keep the chicken stored in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add approximately 1 tablespoon of oil to the boiling water.
- When you’re ready to cook your chicken, reduce the boiling water to a simmer and add the chicken. Cook for just 1 minute– the chicken will turn completely opaque on the outside but remain uncooked in the middle. Remove the chicken from the boiling water and drain well before adding to any stir-fry.
Check Out These Other Stir-Fry Recipes,
- 10 Minute Garlic Bok Choy Recipe
- Low Carb Chicken Cabbage Stir Fry Recipe
- Korean Glass Noodle Veggie Stir Fry
- Shrimp and Asparagus Stir Fry
- Marmalade Tofu Stir Fry with Cashews
- Kung Pao Chicken Recipe
Have you tried making this Moo Goo Gai Pan Recipe?
Tell me about it in the comments below! I always love to hear your thoughts. And tag me #theforkedspoon on Instagram if you’ve made any of my recipes, I always love to see what you’re cooking in the kitchen.
Moo Goo Gai Pan Recipe
For the Chicken
- 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast
- 2 tsp oil
- 2 tsp cornstarch
- 1/2 tsp salt
For the Sauce
- Prepare the chicken- Slice the chicken against the grain into pieces approximately 1/4-inch thick. Transfer to a medium-sized mixing bowl and combine with the oil, cornstarch, and salt. Use your hands to coat the entire surface of the chicken with a thin layer of cornstarch.
- Mix the sauce- Add all ingredients for the sauce (sesame oil, low-sodium chicken broth, soy sauce, oyster sauce, Shaoxing wine, and cornstarch) to a small mixing bowl. Whisk well to combine. Set aside.
- Cook the chicken- heat a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil. Once the oil is hot, add the chicken pieces in a single layer and cook for approximately 30 seconds, or until the bottom is golden. Carefully flip each piece of chicken over and cook the other side for an additional 20-30 seconds. Immediately remove to a clean plate (the chicken will still be raw in the middle- that’s ok).
- Sauté the aromatics- return the skillet to medium heat. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil. Once hot, add the minced garlic and half of the green onions to the pan. Mix to combine and sauté for 30 seconds, or until fragrant.
- Cook the remaining vegetables- Add the carrots and mushrooms to the skillet, mixing well to combine. Cook, stirring often until the vegetables start to turn soft, approximately 3 minutes. Add the snow peas, bamboo shoots, and water chestnuts, mixing well to combine. Continue to cook for an additional 2 minutes or so.
- Add the sauce and return the chicken. Give the sauce a final stir to dissolve the cornstarch and pour directly into the skillet with the vegetables. Add back the chicken and the remaining half of the green onions. Mix well to combine and continue to cook until the sauce has thickened and the chicken is cooked through.
- Serve immediately with a side of rice and a sprinkle of sesame seeds, if desired.
- White button mushrooms are the classic, traditional mushroom used in moo goo gai pan recipes. If you can’t find this particular mushroom variety, that’s ok. Feel free to substitute with whatever you can get your hands on (cremini mushrooms are a popular, easy-to-find, variety).
- Bamboo shoots + Water chestnuts – These fun stir fry additions are actually found in the canned food section of your supermarket.
- Oyster sauce – Dark brown, thick, and not exactly delicious on its own, oyster sauce is one of those condiments that really helps tie a dish together. With a strong umami flavor, oyster sauce gives moo goo gai pan an extra layer of flavor.
- Shaoxing cooking wine – A wine frequently used in Asian and Chinese cooking, this is probably the only ingredient that can be somewhat difficult to get your hands on. Substitutes include dry sherry or additional chicken broth.
- Feel free to add your favorite vegetables. Other delicious veggie examples include baby bok choy, Chinese cabbage, celery, or bell peppers.
- Allow your chicken to marinate for 30 minutes or so (time allowing). This allows your meat to tenderize.
- Struggling to get your chicken thinly sliced? Pop your chicken breasts in the freezer for 15-20 minutes, or just long enough to solidify slightly. Remove from the freezer and slice!
- Make it vegetarian! Add a vegetarian oyster sauce (made from mushrooms so you still get that umami flavor), swap chicken for tofu (or leave out altogether), and swap the chicken broth for veggie broth or water.
- Leftovers store well in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.)