Chinese steamed chicken is a healthy dinner made with wholesome ingredients. Make this lemon ginger chicken recipe in less than 30 minutes!
This is one of my all-time favorite Asian healthy chicken recipes. It is easy to prepare, and the lemon and cilantro add a ton of fresh flavor.
There is no sauteing or frying involved either. Rather, the chicken is steamed in a bowl over boiling water. The fresh lemon flavor shines brightly in this meal!
It is delicious with a serving of rice and vegetables for a healthy and flavorful meal.
Ingredients + substitutes for Chinese steamed chicken
Don't let this long ingredient list mislead you. Other than some fresh poultry and a few spices, there really isn't much you'll need to make this steamed chicken breast dinner. It is a recipe that proves "less is more"!
- boneless chicken- Feel free to use 2 pounds of boneless chicken thighs, chicken breasts, or 10 chicken tenders
- freshly squeezed lemon juice- Don't use lemon concentrate; it just doesn't provide the fresh flavor that this dish depends on!
- oyster sauce- You can find this in most grocery stores, or any Asian market. If you need a substitute, Bon Appetit's recommendation is to combine equal parts of soy sauce and hoisin. It provides the sweet and salty flavor and thick consistency of oyster sauce.
- soy sauce- I like to use a low-sodium variety. If you're not going to use that, it's best to reduce or omit the amount of salt you add to this dish.
- sugar- It's just a small amount of sugar, but you can omit it or use a granular sugar-free substitute if you need or want to
- cooking oil- vegetable, canola, avocado, or any other neutral flavor oil will be fine
- rice wine vinegar- If you need a substitute, champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar are your best options
- fresh ground ginger- you can get ginger paste in a tube in the vegetable department
- sesame oil- This oil is an Asian pantry staple, and it provides a unique that you won't replicate with anything else. That being said, you can definitely substitute olive or walnut oil, or even tahini
- salt and white pepper- white pepper has the same flavor as black pepper. It's just nice to use in dishes where you don't want to see the black specks.
- cornstarch- If you need a gluten-free option, arrowroot is a perfect substitute
- chopped cilantro- Oddly enough, to 10 percent of the world's population, cilantro tastes like soap! If you are one of those unfortunate souls, flat leaf (Italian) parsley will work
How to make Steamed Lemon Ginger Chicken
One note to mention... If you have a bamboo steamer basket, use it. Not only is it the perfect vessel for steaming food, but the baskets are stackable. This means you can steam more than one food at a time.
You can find wooden steamers at most Asian markets, or they're available everywhere online, too.
- Steam the rice. It only takes about 20 minutes to cook the rice, so I like to start it right away, and then prep the rest of the dish while the rice is cooking. That way, the steamer is available to use for the chicken when I'm ready for it.
- Prep the chicken. Cut the chicken into bite size pieces. So they cook evenly, try to keep them as similar in size as possible.
- Peel the lemons. It's not difficult to do this; a potato peeler works well. The important thing is to remove JUST the yellow peel, leaving as much of the bitter white pith behind as possible.
TIP: If you have a lot of pith on your lemon peel, use the blade of a small paring knife to scrape it off of the peel.
- Make the marinade and marinate the chicken. Just whisk the ingredients together in a bowl and add the diced chicken pieces to it. You'll want the chicken marinate for at least 20 minutes, but no longer than an hour. After that, the fibers in the chicken start to break down.
- Steam the chicken. Place the chicken mixture in a baking dish and place it inside of the steamer basket with the lemon peels. It usually takes 15 minutes or so for the chicken to cook. To check for doneness, just use a knife and cut into a piece to be sure that it's white all the way through.
- Serve! Remove the lemon peels and garnish the Chinese steamed chicken with chopped cilantro. Then plate it with white rice and steamed vegetables of your choice!
Chinese Steamed Lemon Chicken
- 2 lbs chicken (breast or thigh meat, See Note 1)
- ¼ cup lemon juice (See Note 2)
- 2 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 3 tsp vegetable oil
- 2 tsp rice wine vinegar
- 2 tsp fresh ginger paste (or 1 tsp ground ginger)
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- ½ tsp salt
- ⅛ tsp white pepper
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 cup cilantro chopped
- 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 ¼ 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.
- Feel free to use thigh meat, 10 chicken tenders or 4 boneless chicken breasts.
- Freshly squeezed, about 2 medium lemons.
- Wooden steamers can be purchased from an Asian market or online.
*The information shown below is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.