Steamed Chicken with Lemon Sauce

5 from 6 votes

Steamed chicken with lemon sauce is easy to make and loaded with authentic Chinese flavor. A marinade made with ingredients like ginger, lemon, cilantro, and oyster sauce infuses the chicken with layers of flavor, while the steaming process keeps each bite tender and juicy. Serve with rice for a healthy and delicious meal!

overhead: lemon ginger steamed chicken on white plate with rice and broccoli

You are going to love this Chinese steamed chicken! It is definitely one of my all-time favorites when it comes to healthy Asian cooking. There is no stir-frying or sauteing required. Instead, the chicken and lemon sauce are gently steamed over water. The steam keeps the chicken moist and succulent while allowing the fresh flavors in the sauce to really shine. 

Plus, this steamed chicken recipe is incredibly easy to make. All you need to do is mix up the sauce, let the chicken soak in it for about 20 minutes, then steam everything together in a heat-proof dish. Forget about takeout! This is your ticket to authentic Asian cuisine in no time!

detailed map of china and surrounding countries

For more Chinese recipe ideas, check out my Beef with Black Bean Sauce, Chinese Five Spice Ribs, and Moo Shu Pork.

overhead: chinese steamed chicken

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

  • Chicken – Choose boneless, skinless chicken — breasts, thighs, or tenders will all work. 
  • Lemon Juice – Brightens up the entire dish with a dose of citrus sunshine. Real, fresh  lemon juice and zest are essential for this one! 
  • Oyster Sauce – Adds salty, sweet, and savory flavor. Look for it in the international aisle or at your local Asian market. 
  • Soy Sauce – I usually use a low-sodium soy sauce. Feel free to use regular, but you might want to reduce the amount of salt you add. 
  • Sugar – Gives a tiny touch of sweetness. Feel free to omit if desired. 
  • Rice Wine Vinegar Adds a dash of brightening acidity. Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar make decent substitutes. 
  • Ginger – Adds zesty flavor and earthy warmth. Look for ginger paste in the produce section or use ground ginger instead. 
  • Sesame Oil Gives the dish a deeply earthy and nutty flavor. 
  • Cornstarch – Tenderizes the chicken and thickens the sauce.
  • Cilantro – Adds a pop of clean, peppery freshness.

Tip From Kevin

What is Oyster Sauce?

Oyster sauce (háo yóu, 蚝油) is a savory Chinese condiment. It’s a viscous dark brown condiment made from oyster extracts, sugar, salt and water, thickened with corn starch. Today, some commercial versions are darkened with caramel. A beautiful flavor touch I add to so many Asian marinades and dishes. Some say fish sauce or hoisin sauce are acceptable substitutes, but I do not agree. They are really different in taste and viscosity. It can be found in most markets, Asian stores and online, please seek it out!

overhead: a bowl of steamed chicken, another bowl of white rice, and a third bowl of broccoli

How to Make Steamed Chicken with Lemon Sauce

  1. Chop the Chicken. Cut the chicken up into bite-sized pieces and set aside. Begin to steam the rice, which should take around 20 minutes. 
  2. Prepare the Lemon. Use a potato peeler to carefully remove the lemon peel in thin strips, taking care to leave behind the bitter, white rind. Set the strips aside and juice the lemons. Chop the fresh cilantro, setting aside ¼ cup for garnish.
  3. Make the Sauce. Combine the lemon juice, oyster sauce, soy sauce, sugar, vegetable oil, vinegar, ginger, sesame oil, salt, white pepper, and cornstarch in a medium bowl. Whisk together to mix, then add in the strips of lemon peel. 
  4. Marinate the Chicken. Now toss the chopped cilantro into the bowl, followed by the cubes of chicken. Toss to thoroughly coat, cover, and allow 20 minutes for the chicken to marinate. 
  5. Steam the Chicken. Transfer the chicken and sauce mixture to a heat-proof dish and position it in the steamer. I prefer to use my stackable bamboo steamer, but feel free to use what you have available. Stirring occasionally, steam until the sauce begins to thicken and the chicken turns white. This should take around 15 minutes. 
  6. Serve. Remove and discard the lemon peels from the sauce. Serve the chicken and lemon sauce over steamed rice with any of your favorite vegetables, then garnish with the remaining cilantro.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you know when steamed chicken is done?

Fully cooked chicken will be white in appearance. When you cut into a piece, it should be fully opaque with no pink left showing. Any juices should run clear. 
To be certain your steamed chicken is fully cooked and safe to eat, you can use a meat thermometer to take the internal temperature of a few pieces. Once it has reached 165 degrees F, you are good to go.

Do I need a bamboo steamer to make Chinese steamed chicken?

A bamboo steamer is the most traditional way of preparing this dish, but it is not the only way. Using whatever steamer you have available is perfectly fine as long as it is large enough to handle this recipe. 

I like my bamboo steamer because it is stackable and I can cook my vegetables at the same time I am steaming the chicken. It cooks everything evenly and adds an added touch of authenticity to the recipe. If you are interested, they are relatively inexpensive and can be found in most Asian markets or online.

What pairs well with steamed chicken?

Serve Chinese steamed chicken over a steaming pile of Jasmine Rice with any of your favorite vegetables on the side. Asian Green Beans or Bok Choy Stir Fry are both great options. 

For a more filling meal, start with a bowl of Egg Drop Soup, a fresh Cucumber Salad, and a Crispy Chinese Egg Roll.

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overhead: lemon ginger steamed chicken on white plate with broccoli and white rice

This post, first published on Silk Road Recipes Dec. 24, 2020, has been updated with new content, photos and/or video in November, 2023.

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Steamed Chicken with Lemon Sauce

5 from 6 votes
This recipe for steamed chicken makes a classic Chinese dish featuring tender pieces of chicken in a bright and tangy lemon sauce.
Servings: 4
Prep: 25 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Total: 40 minutes



  • Cut the chicken into bite size pieces. Set aside. Start the steamed rice, this should take 20 minutes.
  • With a potato peeler, remove the lemon peels in strips, making sure not to take the white, bitter rind and set aside. Juice the lemons. Chop the rinsed cilantro (reserve a 1/4 cup for garnish)
  • In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the lemon juice, oyster sauce, soy sauce, sugar, vegetable oil, vinegar, ginger, sesame oil, salt, white pepper and cornstarch. Mix well, then add lemon peel strips.
  • Add the cilantro to the bowl along with the chopped chicken. Toss to coat and let marinate for 20 minutes, covered.
  • Place the chicken mixture in a heat-proof dish and place in steamer. I use a bamboo steamer that can be stacked and the vegetables (optional) placed in the other (See Note 3). Steam the chicken for 15 minutes, or until the chicken turns white and sauce thickens, stir occasionally.
  • Remove the lemon peel strips. Serve chicken and sauce over steamed rice with vegetables of your choice and sprinkle the remaining chopped cilantro over chicken.



  1. Feel free to use thigh meat, 10 chicken tenders or 4 boneless chicken breasts.
  2. Freshly squeezed, about 2 medium lemons.
  3. Wooden steamers can be purchased from an Asian market or online.


Calories: 314kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 82mg | Sodium: 868mg | Potassium: 311mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 422IU | Vitamin C: 31mg | Calcium: 32mg | Iron: 1mg

The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

Course: main dishes
Cuisine: Asian, Chinese
Author: Kevin
Have You Made This Recipe? Let Me Know on InstagramTag @keviniscooking or tag me #keviniscooking!
titled image (and shown): steamed lemon chicken


I was bitten by the cooking bug as a kid cooking and baking along side my mom. After an ROP restaurant course in high school, I went to work in restaurants and catering. My love of travel and food has led me across the world and I love to share those foods with family and friends.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    Very lovely and healthy recipe. I have tried many different lemon-based recipes but this is my favorite. Thank you so much.

  2. 5 stars
    Although I replaced the lemon with an orange and the oyster sauce with more black soy sauce it was yum.. I am waiting for the end of confinement to try the recipe as is.