This dish is one of my favorite options for a healthy, balanced, weeknight meal! Chicken breast pieces are tenderized through a simple process using baking soda, which helps them from overcooking. The chicken is stir-fried with broccoli and water chestnuts, then coated in a light Chinese brown sauce. Best when served with a side of white rice.
What is Velvet Chicken?
“Velvet” Chicken is chicken that has gone through a process to tenderize the meat, known as “velveting”. This process is very common for stir-fry, especially in American-Chinese restaurants, because it prevents the chicken from becoming dry and overcooked.
There are a few different methods for velveting chicken, the most common method uses a mixture of corn starch and oil, but the method I prefer uses baking soda. Both options will tenderize the chicken, but I’ve found the baking soda method to be the most consistent. All you have to do is dust the chicken with some baking soda and let it sit for about 15 minutes. Once that’s complete, just thoroughly rinse off the baking soda (I do this in a mesh strainer) and pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Then it’s ready to be seasoned and used in your stir-fry! You can start this process before you prep the rest of the ingredients, and it shouldn’t add too much time to the prep.
Key Tips – Healthy Takeout-Style Velvet Chicken
Don’t skip the tenderizing process.
- There are a few ways to “velvet” chicken, but this one is quite simple. All you do is lightly dust the chicken in baking soda, let it sit, then rinse it off. This step can be omitted, but it helps keep the chicken tender and will make sure the meat isn’t overcooked, so I highly recommend it.
Buy pre-cut broccoli florets for easy prep.
- Picking up a bag of pre-washed, trimmed broccoli florets will help save some time as opposed to buying a whole head of broccoli. I don’t, however, recommend using frozen broccoli florets.
The sauce can be mixed ahead of time.
- If you’re looking to prep portions of the meal in advance, mixing the sauce ahead of time is an easy way to speed up the process when you go to make the meal. The chicken can also go through its baking soda process and then be returned to the fridge and cooked later in the day.
Variations – Healthy Takeout-Style Velvet Chicken
Substitute snow peas.
- You can substitute snow peas in for the broccoli, about 2 cups of snow peas is an appropriate amount.
Make this as a veggie-only side dish.
- Sometimes I utilize this recipe as a side dish by omitting the chicken and cutting the sauce quantity in half. It’s one of my favorite ways to serve broccoli!
Dietary Restrictions – Healthy Takeout-Style Velvet Chicken
This dish is naturally Dairy-Free.
Make it Gluten-Free.
- Most oyster sauce contains gluten. Use gluten-free oyster sauce to make this dish gluten-free. (Both Kikkoman and Lee Kum Kee brands offer a GF oyster sauce)
- Make sure you’re using gluten-free soy sauce, such as tamari, if you’re preparing this for someone who is highly sensitive to gluten.
A Note On Serving Sizes
Serving sizes are a very personal thing, making it very difficult for me to select a serving size that suits everyone. While this is listed as 4 servings, most people would prefer to have more than one serving. I typically serve this dish as 2-3 large dinner servings or 4 small lunch servings.
Healthy Takeout-Style Velvet Chicken
- Slice the chicken breast into ~¼” thick slices. Arrange the sliced chicken on a cutting board or plate so it’s laying flat. Dust with 1 tsp of baking soda, then flip all the pieces and dust with the other 1 tsp of baking soda. Let sit for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, rinse the baking soda off of the chicken with water then thoroughly pat dry (This is what tenderizes the chicken and gives it the unique texture). Season the chicken all over with salt and pepper.
- While waiting on the chicken, mix together the chicken stock and cornstarch in small bowl, then add in the other sauce ingredients and mix well. The oyster sauce may not fully incorporate, that’s okay it will in the pan.
- Once the chicken is prepared, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken and try to arrange it such that the pieces lay flat in the pan. Cook until golden on one side (2-3 minutes), then mix the chicken around in the pan and cook until cooked through (another ~90 seconds).
- Push the chicken to the sides of the pan and add the broccoli to the center. Cook for about one minute, then add the water chestnuts and cook for another minute. Add more oil to the pan if needed.
- Next, lower the heat slightly and add the sauce. Cook everything together for another ~2 minutes until the sauce has reduced and evenly coated everything. Remove from heat and add in the chopped green onion, serve immediately over a bed of white rice.
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