Friday, June 22, 2018

Gluten Free Paleo Moo Goo Gai Pan Recipe and How to Velvet Chicken without Egg

Last week I was totally uninspired when it came to cooking, but I was having guests and I needed to come up with an idea. I thought about Chinese food (or American style Chinese food), but stuff that wasn't sweet or spicy, and eventually settled on moo goo gai pan. Moo goo gai pan, in this form, is an Americanized version of the traditional Cantonese dish, and literally means button mushrooms (moo goo) gai (chicken) pan (slices), so obviously it's a mushroom chicken stir fry. Americans like to add more vegetables to their moo goo gai pan besides for just the mushrooms, such as bamboo shoots and water chestnuts, and snow peas, as well as carrots and Chinese cabbage (such as bok choy), even though it is less traditional.

In my recipe, I used a mix of white button, baby bella, and enoki mushrooms, but you really can use any mushrooms you have available. Because bamboo shoots and water chestnuts are hard to get here, and snow peas a fortune, I left them out and added some swiss chard instead; the stem of the chard stayed slightly crunchy because I made sure to not overcook them, and that gave it a similar texture to water chestnuts, so I didn't feel anything was missing. You can use whatever veggies you have available for your moo goo gai pan, just make sure you use mushrooms, otherwise you've just got "gai pan". For example, other veggies you can use in this recipe are cabbage, regular, nappa, or bok choy, baby corn, peppers, broccoli, zucchini, etc. Feel free to play around with what you have available and/or is in season and/or cheap where you live.

Often when making moo goo gai pan and other stir fries using chicken breast, a technique called "velveting the chicken" is often used, where the chicken is coated and precooked so it maintains moist even after used in the stir fry. Typically this is done using egg whites, but since I don't eat eggs, I've figured out a technique of preparing the chicken so that it retains its moisture and stays delicious in stir fries, without using egg. The reason why I do this first before adding the chicken to the recipe is I personally find that chicken breast that is boiled or otherwise cooked in liquid gets a rubbery or dried out texture, and since I am adding sauce to the moo goo gai pan, I don't want the chicken boiling in the sauce, but to just be coated in it once its already cooked. Can I promise that this is velveting chicken exactly as restaurants do it? No, but it is pretty awesome and the texture is terrific this way.

This recipe makes quite a large amount; it was enough to completely fill my large dutch oven. So obviously feel free to use far less of everything and make a smaller amount, halving this recipe is totally fine.

Another great thing about this recipe is that it is completely gluten free and Paleo as written, and can even be made auto immune paleo. I served it to my family over rice, but I enjoyed it plain, as well as served on top of potato "rice" (potatoes that I grated and then baked). It would also be terrific on zoodles, spaghetti squash, cauliflower rice, etc...

My family really enjoyed this, and I did too. It felt like I was at a restaurant eating moo goo gai pan, only I knew it was definitely healthier than what I could get in a restaurant.

Paleo Moo Goo Gai Pan Recipe and How to Velvet Chicken without Egg

Velveted Chicken Ingredients:
4 cups chopped chicken breast, approximately 1 kilogram or 2 pounds (this was 1 package for me)
3 tablespoons starch, either potato, tapioca, or corn starch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup oil or more as needed (I used untoasted sesame oil but any non too strongly flavored oil would work)
Sauce Ingredients: (I used 1 1/2 times this amount of sauce to use with the amount of veggies listed below, but if using a more "reasonable" amount of veggies this is a good amount to make, or maybe even half this.)
2 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons coconut aminos (paleo) or soy sauce (make sure to use gluten free if making this dish gluten free)
1 tablespoon honey or equivalent amount of alternative sweeteners of choice
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4-1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (or more if you really, really like ginger)
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/8 teaspoon black pepper (or leave out to keep this AIP)
1/4 cup starch, either tapioca, potato, or corn
Stir Fry Ingredients: (feel free to significantly reduce the quantity)
1/4 cup oil of choice or as needed
1 onion
2 cups thinly sliced carrots, 1 to 2 large carrots
4 packages mushrooms (I used 1 button, one baby bella, and 2 enoki)
1 bunch swiss chard or bok choi

Instructions to velvet chicken:
1. Cut the chicken into small cubes, or bite sized chunks. I find kitchen scissors to be most useful for this.

2. Mix the chicken with the starch, salt, and garlic powder, making sure it's evenly distributed.

3. Heat up oil in a frying pan on a medium/high heat, and add the chicken, half or one third at a time to the pan, mixing frequently, and removing from the pan when slightly golden and fully cooked. Taste them. They should be delicious, fully cooked, and quite moist.

4. Strain the chicken in a colander, and then cook the rest of the chicken, adding more oil if necessary. Set the chicken aside.

Moo Goo Gai Pan Instructions:

1. Dice or slice the onions, however you prefer, and then saute them in oil until translucent.

2. Thinly slice your carrots and add them to the onions, sauteing them until they start to soften a bit.

3. Slice or chop the mushrooms as needed, and add them to the onions and carrots until starting to soften.

4. Roughly chop the swiss chard or bok choy, then add them to the pan. Cook until starting to soften a bit.

5. Mix the ingredients for the sauce very well, and add the velveted chicken and the sauce to the pan and mix well, cooking until the sauce starts to thicken.

6. Serve either as is, or over rice, zoodles, grated baked potatoes, spiralized sweet potato noodles, or cauliflower rice. Serve hot.


Are you a fan of moo goo gai pan? Is it something you generally get in restaurants? Does this look like a recipe you'd try? What veggies do you think you'd use for yours?


  1. Wow! This looks and sounds amazing! I was searching around for inspiration this morning for a meal that I could take to a friend who has a broken ankle. I plan to package the cooked veggies and chicken and rice separately so that she can combine them later for a hot meal.

  2. Was looking for a recipe using bok choi and this was great. Worked well using chicken thigh meat instead of breasts (because that's what I had on hand). Down-sized it to feed two. Will definitely make it again.


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