This better-than-takeout 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 and simple savory stir fry sauce. Learn how to make this 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 stir-fry 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
Moo Goo Gai Pan Ingredients
The ingredients, overall, are pretty simple. No need to hunt down unknown crazy Asian spices or make any special orders, and, if you can’t find a vegetable you can easily substitute with something else.
Note: Scroll down to the recipe card at the bottom of the page for the full list and amounts of ingredients needed to make this super delicious Moo Goo Gai Pan Recipe.
Chicken and Stir-Fry Ingredients
- Chicken breast – thinly sliced chicken breast is what is typically used to make moo goo gai pan. Although it is sliced thin and one of the leanest meats available, the cooking method in this recipe ensures that your chicken will be moist and delicious.
- Vegetable oil – I used canola oil both to “marinate” my chicken and when cooking the chicken and the stir fry. I do not recommend using olive oil as it does not have a high enough smoke point to handle the high temperatures.
- Cornstarch – You will need cornstarch to coat the chicken pieces and to thicken your sauce. Unlike regular white flour, cornstarch is gluten-free and is readily available at all supermarkets.
- Garlic – We love garlic in this recipe. Especially since the sauce isn’t one that is packed full of spicy chili peppers or loads of sugar.
- Green onions – When it comes to Chinese cooking (actually most cooking), green onions are your friend. In this case, I didn’t want to add an entire diced onion to the stir fry, but I also didn’t want to miss out on the delicious onion flavor. Green onions are the perfect compromise (plus, they cook super fast).
- White button mushrooms – 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).
- Carrots – I love carrots for their bright color and subtle sweetness. In order to keep cooking time as fast as possible, be sure to slice your carrots nice and thin, otherwise, they will take quite a few more minutes to soften.
- Snow peas – Snow peas are frequently added to moo goo gai pan and many other Chinese stir-frys as they cook quickly and are super healthy. If you can’t find snow peas, sugar snap peas would also work.
- Bamboo shoots + Water chestnuts – These fun stir fry additions are actually found in the canned food section of your supermarket. I especially love water chestnuts as they, even after cooking, maintain a unique, somewhat crunchy texture.
Moo Goo Gai Pan Sauce Ingredients
- Sesame oil – You really only need a drop or two of sesame oil. So if this is something you don’t have or can’t find, simply skip it. I love adding a little just for the flavor but if you add too much the sesame flavor will completely take over.
- Low-sodium chicken broth – The majority of the sauce is made from chicken broth. To prevent accidentally making a sauce that is too salty, I recommend using low-sodium chicken broth or homemade chicken stock.
- Soy sauce – While traditional moo goo gai pan is more on the bland side with less soy sauce and oyster sauce (below), I have chosen to add it to this recipe as I feel it adds a lot without actually compromising the light and simple flavors of the dish.
- 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.
- Cornstarch – As I mentioned above, you’re going to need cornstarch to thicken your stir-fry sauce. Keep in mind (if this is your first time cooking with cornstarch) that your sauce will not thicken until it is added to the pan and heated through.
How to make moo goo gai pan
As with all my recipes, I always encourage you to read through the instructions fully first. This is especially important for a recipe like moo goo gai pan where it’s best to have everything (the chicken, sauce, and vegetables) prepped and ready to go before you start cooking.
Step 1. Marinate your 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. I recommend using your hands to coat the entire surface of the chicken. If you’re having a hard time slicing your chicken pieces nice and thin, transfer your chicken breasts to the freezer to harden for approximately 20 minutes. Remove and slice.
How long should I marinate my chicken?
Try to marinate your chicken for at least 15-30 minutes.
How to Velvet Chicken
If you really want the very best chicken possible, try velveting your chicken. Realistically, it will take about the same amount of time, however, 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.
So what exactly does it mean to “velvet” chicken?
First, 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.
Step 2. Make your Moo Goo Gai Pan 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 and set aside.
Step 3. Sear the chicken
You’re going to very quickly sear the chicken on both sides 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. Note, skip this step if you chose to “velvet” your chicken and give it a quick dip in a pot of boiling water.
Ok, so 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.
Step 4. Cook the aromatics and vegetables
Scrape up any burnt pieces from the bottom of your wok or skillet and return 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.
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.
Step 5. Add the sauce and return the chicken
Give the sauce a final stir to re-dissolve the cornstarch and pour directly into the pan with the vegetables. Add back the chicken. Mix well to combine and continue to cook until the sauce has thickened and the chicken is cooked through (3 minutes or so). Remember, you will not see the sauce thicken until it is heated through.
Is moo goo gai pan healthy?
When compared to other Chinese take-out options, moo goo gai pan is one of the healthier options.
- Loaded with vegetables. Plus, when you make moo goo gai pan at home, you can add as much (or as little) of all your favorites.
- Lots of lean protein!
- No frying required. This will save you from eating LOADS of calories.
- Low in sugar. This is sometimes rare when it comes to American-Chinese take-out. Don’t worry, though, there’s still plenty of delicious flavor in this recipe.
- Low in carbohydrates. Of course, you can add carbs like rice or noodles, but you don’t have to. You can keep it low carb and serve it with cauliflower rice instead.
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.
- Not in a rush? Allow your chicken to marinate for 30 minutes or so. This allows your meat to have the change to get extra tender.
- 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.
- Keep leftovers stored in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
What can you serve with Moo Goo Gai Pan?
There are a number of things that you can serve with this easy Chinese stir-fry. Of course, you can keep it simple and serve as you see it, or you can pair it up with all your other favorites.
To keep it classic, I suggest serving it with white or brown rice. You can even make some ramen or soba noodles and toss it all together for a moo goo gai pan/chow mein fusion.
For a low carb option, serve this with cauliflower rice and extra vegetables.
More 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
If you try making this moo goo gai pan, please leave me a comment and let me know! I always love to hear your thoughts.
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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. 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.
- 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.