20 minute is all it takes to make this delicious moo goo gai pan recipe! Chicken and vegetables tossed in a gooey, sour and savory sauce so tasty you’ll want to drizzle it all over your rice!
Making a delicious stir fry of chicken with Chinese vegetables is one of my favorite go-to dishes when I want something nutritious and quick. According to Wikipedia, with 78.9% retention, stir frying preserved significantly more vitamin C than boiling. This makes me very happy since I stir fry regularly!
Homemade moo goo gai pan (or mugu gai pan) is a dish both Ben and I like to make because it takes literally 20 minutes to make and tastes way better than the takeout version!
It’s a dish commonly found in Chinese restaurants but the name can be a little intimidating if you are not too familiar with the menu. Here is a quick explanation on this famous Chinese dish – from what’s in a moo goo gai pan, the meaning of the word and a super easy recipe for you to make at home tonight.
What is Moo Goo Gai Pan?
Moo goo gai pan is a simple American-Chinese stir fry made with chicken (gai pin in Cantonese), mushrooms (mohgu in Cantonese) and vegetables such as carrots, snow peas, bamboo shoots and water chestnuts. The ingredients are tossed in a classic Chinese white sauce and served with rice on the side.
Cantonese dishes are usually milder in flavor because they use less spices and chilies. Having lived in both Hong Kong (Cantonese) and Taiwan (Szechuan), I can tell you there is a big difference in flavor between those two places. Chinese food is complex and what makes the food so great is the many different flavor combinations you get as you travel through those territories.
Traveling across Asian is an adventure for the palate!
What Does Moo Goo Gai Pan Mean?
As I mentioned above, the name is pretty much taken from two ingredients – chicken and mushrooms. The literal translation for mòh-gū gāi-pin is sliced chicken with button mushrooms.
Ingredients for Moo Goo Gai Pan
- Oil: peanut oil is what’s most often used in Asian cooking but you can use vegetable oil as well since it’s neutral in flavor.
- Chicken: I’m using boneless skinless chicken breasts but feel free to use other parts of a chicken, if you have a preference. You can also keep the skin on if you enjoy the texture, and bones if you like sucking on them.
- Garlic: garlic is essential to Chinese cooking and is used in most stir fry to flavor the oil.
- Mushrooms: Again, you can use other types of mushrooms such as shiitake or wood ear. I’m using white button mushrooms because they are easy to find.
- Snow Peas: I prefer snow peas over sugar snap peas because of their softer texture, but you can swap one for the other.
- Canned bamboo Shoots: salty and savory, canned bamboo shoots are also a little crunchy and meaty in texture.
- Water Chestnuts: if bamboo shoots and snow peas are crunchy, water chestnuts are super duper crunchy! They are also high in water content which makes taking a bite from a piece, quite refreshing!
- Cornstarch: Cornstarch is essential to thickening the sauce and give it that gooey texture we’ve come to associate with Chinese food.
- Ground White Pepper: this adds a fruity and floral kick that tickles the nose.
- Marinade Sauce: whisk the soy sauce, rice vinegar and cornstarch to infuse extra flavor to your chicken.
- Moo Goo Gai Pan Sauce: whisk the chicken broth, soy sauce, rice vinegar, oyster sauce, and sesame oil for a quick stir fry sauce.
A lot of readers have asked if they can use other vegetables to make this easy stir fry. The answer is – absolutely, yes!
Here is a short list of vegetables that can be used instead of the ones included in the recipe:
- Bok choy
- Baby bok choy
- Green onion
- Shiitake mushrooms
How To Make Moo Goo Gai Pan
- Marinate the chicken: Whisk all the ingredients for the chicken marinade in a bowl and set aside.
- Cook the chicken: Place the chicken in a large skillet over medium-high heat and saute until it’s cooked through and tender. Transfer the chicken on a plate.
- Add the vegetables: Add the garlic, mushrooms and snow peas, and cook for 5 minutes. Add bamboo shoots, chestnuts and chicken and cook for 2 minutes.
- Combine the flavor: Stir in the sauce and add the cornstarch and water mixture. Keep stirring until the sauce thickens.
- Serve: Serve with white rice and season with a little salt and white ground pepper if needed.
How To Store Moo Goo Gai Pan
Got leftovers? Store them in an airtight container and keep it in the refrigerator. This simple stir fry will keep for 3 to 4 days.
Moo Goo Gai Pan Sauce
In order to make a watery sauce gooey, mix a little corn starch with cold water. Stir and pour into the sauce as it is bubbling and that’s it! The sauce will thicken immediately and be ready to serve.
It’s the same concept for all sauces. Chinese white sauce, mapo tofu, general Tso and moo goo gai pan sauce all have one ingredient in common – corn starch.
The only downside to gooey sauce is that the consistency doesn’t last. I’m sure you’ve experienced ordering Chinese food and finding breaded chicken pieces sadly sitting in a watery sweet sauce the next day. That’s because corn starch can only retain its consistency for about an hour at most.
What I usually do when something like this happens is throw the leftovers in a pan and stir in a little corn starch (once the ingredients are hot) to bring back the consistency. It works most of the time but there have been dishes that I wasn’t able to save that way. 80% success, 20% fail I would say.
How to Velvet Chicken
One of the great cooking techniques China has brought over to America is velveting.
Velveting is basically coating or marinating chicken or meat in a mixture of corn starch, sauce and/or egg white. What velveting does is create a barrier from the heat when the chicken cooks, leaving it super moist and silky.
For this recipe I’m marinating the chicken in a mixture of rice vinegar, soy sauce and corn starch. I’m letting the chicken marinate for 20 minutes but I recommend leaving it for longer if you have the time. 30-40 minutes yields super moist chicken pieces.
Moo Goo Shrimp
To make moo goo shrimp, simply swap the chicken for large shrimp that have been thawed and deveined. The cooking time will vary slightly since it takes shrimp less time to cook. You can velvet shrimp as well, it will give them a much nicer texture!
What to Serve with Moo Goo Gai Pan
Stir fries are so easy to make that I usually have extra time to cook additional dishes to serve along with this main dish. Some of my favorites are:
- Chinese eggplant with garlic sauce
- Simple green salad with restaurant style Japanese ginger dressing
- Japanese fried rice (yakimeshi)
- Korean cucumber salad
- Japanese cabbage salad
Did you try this moo goo gai pan recipe? Are there changes you made that you would like to share? Share your tips and recommendations in the comments section below!Print
Moo Goo Gai Pan
Better than takeout moo goo gai pan recipe that’s savory and a little sour. Ready in less than 25 minutes!
- Prep Time: 7 minutes
- Cook Time: 13 minutes
- Total Time: 40 minutes
- Yield: 2 people 1x
- Category: Main
- Method: Stir frying
- Cuisine: Chinese
Moo Goo Gai Pan Ingredients
- 1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil
- 1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast (chopped into thin bite size piece)
- 2 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 1/2 cup button mushrooms (sliced in half)
- 1 1/2 cup snow peas
- 1/2 cup canned bamboo shoots (drained)
- 1/4 cup canned water chestnuts (drained)
- 1 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons water
- ground white pepper
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- Put all the ingredients for the marinade in a bowl, add chicken, mix well and let sit for 20 minutes.
- In a pan over medium high heat, add oil and chicken and cook for 5 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Transfer chicken on a plate and set aside.
- In the same pan, add garlic, mushrooms and snow peas and cook on medium high heat for 5 minutes.
- Add bamboo shoots, chestnuts and chicken and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add ingredients for the sauce and stir. Add cornstarch and water mix and stir until sauce thickens.
- Turn the heat off, season with ground white pepper and serve immediately.
This Moo Goo Gai Pan Recipe will keep refrigerated for up to 3-4 days.
Using a wok for with a handle for stir fries makes the process of tossing the ingredients easier and helps to evenly coat and spread the sauce.
- Serving Size:
- Calories: 326
- Sugar: 6.5 g
- Sodium: 611 mg
- Fat: 13.5 g
- Saturated Fat: 1.8 g
- Carbohydrates: 19.9 g
- Fiber: 4 g
- Protein: 32.1 g
- Cholesterol: 84.5 mg
Keywords: recipe, Asian, easy
Can’t wait to try it!
Nice, easy, adaptable recipe. Fast and full of flavour. Served with coconut Jasmine rice. A real hit in our house.
Seems as though this sauce and marinade would be GREAT with beef, kind of like Pepper Steak. Just sub green peppers and onions for the other vegies.
I liked this a lot.
Sub’d chili oil for sesame & fish sauce for oyster because those were on hand.
Used all mushrooms instead of any chicken & added baby corn (also on hand).
Would’ve liked more sauce but made a tasty meal!
Will make again.
Thank you so much Shannon! 🙂
I made this and it turned out great! I left out water chestnuts and added broccoli and bok choy. Thanks for the recipe!
Thank you so much Heather! 🙂
I’m excited to try this.
I’ve watched the cooks in my local Chinese restaurant, and this is what they do, and the consistency of your sauce will hold up much better if you do too.
After you stir fry the veggies and chicken, drain all the veggies and chicken in a colander while you heat the ingredients for the sauce. Then add the corn starch and water (a 1:1 mixture with 1Tbsp each per 1- 1 1/4 cups of sauce) and thicken the sauce. Once it’s come to a thick, shiny consistency, add your veggies and meats back. This will allow the moisture in the meat and veg to drain away and stop it mixing with your nice thick sauce.
Thank you David for the tip!
If I leave out the oyster sauce, how will this omission affect the taste?
Hi Janel! You can use 2 tablespoons soy sauce instead and add a pinch of sugar. The taste should be pretty close to the original recipe 🙂
Yummy! I added broccoli, shallots, and celery because I had them on hand. I’ll Marbella this again.
Excellent recipe! I left out the water chestnuts and used half of the cornstarch, because that made it Keto-friendly!
Also dusted the whole thing with sesame seeds just before serving.
This recipe made a stir fry that was better than anything I could buy around here! Thanks very much!
Thank you! 🙂
I am sure the first time I ordered this dish was because the name sounded cool. Its now one of my favorites.
Have you recently updated this recipe? I believe I definitely made this from this site before and it didn’t have oyster sauce? I could also be wrong lol!!
Hi Kim, I didn’t update the recipe lol! You should try mine though, it’s really good hehe! 😉
How many calories?
This moo goo looks fab!! Gonna make it at home first then make it in my cooking class at work. I teach @ a workshop for adults with developmental disabilities. We decided that this month we wanted to to an Asian cooking class. This looks great! Do you have a recipe for lo mein? I love lo mein and would to be able to make it fairly easily. Thanks.
Hi Kelli! I don’t have a lo mein recipe but I do have an easy vegetable chow mein – https://pickledplum.com/recipe/vegetable-chow-mein-recipe/ Very tasty, I think your class would love it 🙂
Dear Carolina! What a beautiful photos!!! Beautiful as you!I am from Israel,and the Israelis loooove assian food,but,it is so far from the original !I was brought up in Canada and in the u.s and I miss soooo much the real othentic assian food and restorants we used to go to. There is no China town here and I find the food here just to sweet and to garlicky to my last.after surching and trying soooo many recipes,yours seems to be the closest ones to what I miss so much,I will try your recipes exactly like you pass it to us. It is not easy for me because I am sick with cancer that takes all my strength but I will try every time I can one of your recipes. My cancer is in the intestine and my liver and assian food seems to be the best for my body ( lucky me!) so I hope! I really hope this time it will worth my efforts.I love cooking, especially assian food,my family said I was an assian in my other life! Ha! Ha! If you tips for me how to get the best reasolts cooking assian food at homeI will be more than happy to hear and so thankful!!! Thank you so very much,and I wish you a beautiful sunny day,yours,ili vital.
Have you hear about sea cucumber? There’s been a lot of research recently showing that this Asian vegetable can help cure cancer -> https://breastcancerconqueror.com/how-does-sea-cucumber-affect-breast-cancer/
The taste takes is quite sour but there are easy ways to cook with it, such as adding it to stir fries.
I’m so sorry to hear about your illness, I hope you are getting better day by day and that the power of food can help with your recovery.
We had this for dinner tonight and it was amazing!! The only thing was that there wasn’t enough sauce. How can we change recipe to ensure there is plenty of sauce next time?
Many, many, too many years ago there was a chinese restaurant that served brown moo goo gai pan and it was my favorite! I haven’t found it in a restaurant since. This looks just like it! Gonna give this a go this week!
I hope it tastes the same or at least similar to it! 🙂
Made this last night and even though all the ingredients make you think it will be very flavorful, it was quite bland.. Not a keeper.
This is absolutely one of the best stir fry recipes I’ve ever tried! I tasted something similar in flavour at a restaurant about 15 years ago and I’ve been trying for years to get the same balance of flavours – like yourself, I love bolder, umami flavours and this dish nails it! Two tweaks for my personal tastes – I added a chopped medium brown onion and a handful of cashews. The marinade and sauce was exactly as stated in the recipe. This will be a regular staple in my weekly meals – thank you so much for sharing!
Thank you Christine!
I made this tonight and it was DELICIOUS. I didn’t change a thing except to grate a little bit of fresh ginger in with the garlic. Because I can’t NOT use ginger. Thanks for a superbly yummy and EASY dish.
Thank you so much Teri!
Any ideas for a sesame oil substitute? My son has a sesame allergy, but I still want to expose him to different international flavors.
Hi Ilana! You can just remove the sesame oil from the recipe. It will still taste really good 🙂
Is this receipe gluten free? I would love to try it if it is.
The recipe isn’t gluten free but you can easily substitute soy for tamari, which will make it gluten free :). Enjoy!
Loved this! The sauce was way tastier than what I’m used to whenever I order moo goo gai pan and I love how easy this is to make. Great recipe, I’ll be making this again soon!
Thanks Hannah! 🙂
Caroline, I always order this out, but your home version sounds so doable and delicious! Easy to find ingredients. Question…what is difference between white pepper and black pepper in a recipe? P. S. I am still making your vegetable ricotta quiche and introducing it to others. I make notes on the recipe of he people I have shared it with…don’t ant to leave anyone out. Still Five Stars.
Hi Janel! You are the sweetest! Thank you so much for introducing my recipes to other, I really appreciate it 🙂
The difference between white and black pepper is in taste and texture. White pepper is ground to a powder and also tastes hotter therefore, a little goes a long way!