Chinese Broccoli Stir Fry with Garlic Sauce (炒芥籣)
Chinese Broccoli stir fry (gai lan or kai lan) with garlicky sauce tastes light, fresh, and garlicky delicious! And you know it’s super healthy for you because it’s dark leafy greens. My simple stir-fried Chinese broccoli recipe is vegan, gluten-free, paleo, and low carb! You can substitute broccolini for Chinese kai lan, using the same recipe! I’ve simplified the traditional kai lan stir-fry recipe so let me show you how to make it at home easily!
Easy Chinese Broccoli Stir Fry Recipe
Gai Lan (or Kai Lan) 芥蘭 is probably one of my favorite vegetables out of many Asian greens. Growing up in a Chinese/Taiwanese household, whenever mom prepares gai lan, it is always the first dish that everyone fights to have the first bite and it always gone in minutes!
This dish tastes garlicky, light, fresh, and savory and it pairs well with any savory main dishes. If you are sensitive to gluten, wheat, or soy, this recipe is particularly written for you! If, however, you are okay with regular soy sauce and a bit of sugar, I’ve included notes in my recipe so everyone can enjoy this delicious vegetable.
New to gai lan and not quite sure what to do? In this post, I’ll share my simple and easy tips to help you prepare this vegetable fast and that tastes amazingly tender. So let’s get started!
What Is Chinese Broccoli
Also known as Gai Lan or Kai Lan, Chinese broccoli is a member of Brassica oleracea plant, hence it’s rich in antioxidants and vitamin K, which provides many health benefits against chronic and Alzheimer disease. (source).
It’s a leafy vegetable with thick and round shape stems and flat, wide, and deep emerald green leaves.
If there are flower bulbs, the colors are in white-yellow blossoms. Typically you will want to avoid selecting Chinese broccoli with flower blossoms as it indicates the vegetables are more mature and less tender.
The flavor tastes similar to broccolini but slightly more bitter. It’s often cooked 2 ways in Chinese cooking – hot water blanch or quick stir-fry.
How to choose and prepare kai lan
- Look at the vegetable. There should be no bruises and mushy spots and the color should be in deep emerald green color.
- Look at the bottom of the stems. They should feel firm and crisp. If the bottom looks dry, it’s okay to trim them away. Occasionally, you’ll see super fresh ones that look tender and crispy, and they don’t require trimming.
To trim and prepare
- If the stems require trimming, slice away 1/2 to 1-inch from the bottom. Make another cut to separate the stems from the leaves. This is because the stems take longer time to cook then leafy parts.
Hot water blanch or Quick saute
- You can hot water blanch and drizzle with vegetarian oyster sauce like my Chinese broccoli in oyster sauce recipe or stir-fry with a light garlic soy sauce. Today’s recipe focuses on the second method – sauteing.
How to stir fry Chinese Broccoli
There are 2 methods to make this dish:
1. Hot water blanch and shock in cold water or
2. Sauté directly without blanching
The blanch method (before stir-frying) helps remove bitter taste. Sauté directly without blanching, which is the method I used in the recipe below, is faster but if this is your first time trying gai lan and not used to the bitter flavor, I recommend blanching the vegetable first.
Simple garlicky sauce – 2 ways (gluten-free)
There are 2 ways to make a simple garlicky sauce for stir fry vegetables. You can use the same method for almost all Asian greens. How amazing, right?
Thin slice the garlic cloves and sauté them with oil to make a fragrant garlicky oil first then add the vegetable.
If using crushed or grated garlic cloves, which is the method I use below, you will add the garlic after sauteing the broccoli stems and before adding the leafy parts.
The first method requires a bit extra care with your stove top temperature so that your garlic won’t get burnt. The second method gives stronger garlic flavor because the garlic cloves are finely grated or minced.
Gluten-free, Easy, No MSG
To people who are sensitive to gluten, wheat, or soy, you’ll notice that my recipes are tailored to your needs. I use coconut aminos to replace soy sauce. Coconut aminos (Product link in my recipe card) is made with sea salt and coconut blossom. It tastes salty, naturally sweet, and umami-rich. It’s a wonderful bottle of seasoning if you love Asian food as much as I do and want to cut back on added sugar in your diet. Please note that Coconut aminos is different from Bragg’s Liquid Aminos. Although the names sound similar, the ingredient components are very different. They also taste different. Check out my Youtube video to learn more about coconut aminos. And my Asian-Inspired Paleo Pantry Guide
Want more of my simple and super delicious Asian-inspired Paleo, Whole30 and Keto recipes? Be sure to subscribe to my blog to make 10 healthy meals in under 10 minutes each.
Common Questions About Gai Lan
What is broccoli in Chinese called?
Broccoli in Chinese is called Gai Lan or Kai Lan. The traditional Mandarin character is 芥蘭 [Jiè lán].
Where to find or buy Chinese Broccoli?
You can find them in most local Asian grocery stores. H-mart, a Korean chain grocery stores, Japanese or Chinese grocery stores. If you live in NYC, NJ, or Long Island, Asian Veggies, an online wholesale vegetable shop, can deliver Asian vegetables, seasonings, and many specialty ingredients to your door steps.
Is Chinese broccoli the same as broccolini?
No they are not the same. However, they are from the same vegetable family – Brassica oleracea. Broccolini is a hybrid between broccoli and gai lan so it’s a great substitute if you can’t find kai lan.
What part of Chinese broccoli do you eat?
All parts of Chinese broccoli are edible. Before cooking, trim off the bottom end roughly half to one-inch. For thicker stems, you can dice them or slice on diagonal. The stems require longer cook time than the leafy parts so saute the stems first.
Can you eat gai lan raw?
You can but it’s rare to see people eat them raw in Asia. This vegetable tastes more tender and the color turns into deep glossy green after cooked.
Can you eat gai lan flower bulbs?
Yes you can. Gai lan with flower bulbs often indicates that the vegetable is more mature and tastes less tender and crisp however it doesn’t mean that the vegetable is un-edible. It simply means you will want to consume it soon.
Is Bok Choy Chinese broccoli?
No. Bok Choy is different from Chinese broccoli. Although both vegetables are considered Chinese vegetables, they have different texture and taste. Bok choy can be served raw and chopped in salads whereas Gai Lan is often serve cooked.
More ways to use Chinese Broccoli and Asian vegetables in recipes
- Chinese broccoli in oyster sauce (vegetarian oyster sauce)
- Beef with Chinese Broccoli Gai Lan
- Thai chicken fried rice with gai lan
- Chinese mustard greens in ginger sauce
- Snow pea leaves stir-fry in garlic sauce
- Daikon radish stew recipe with chicken
- Daikon dumplings
On a mobile? Check out my recipe web stories on how to make this dish!
Recipes to pair with Chinese Broccoli
Check out my Crispy lemon thyme chicken thighs, Chinese Zucchini and Olive Stir-Fry, Paleo Sweet and Sour Chicken, Paleo Beef With Broccoli, Instant Pot Taiwanese Meat Sauce with crispy shallots, Whole30 Mongolian Beef, Chicken and Broccoli Shrimp and Broccoli, Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce, Vietnamese garlic shrimp, Chinese shrimp tomato stir-fry, and Thai Basil Beef Steak Stir Fry.
Chinese Broccoli Stir-Fry Recipe with Garlic Sauce (炒芥籣, gluten-free)
- Cut off the bottom of Chinese broccoli bottom stems (about 1-inch) and discard. Make another cut to separate stems from leafy parts. Slice the stems on diagonal to roughly 2 to 2-½ inch length. Cut the leafy parts in half. Wash and rinse the stems and leafy parts separately. Set them aside to drain in separate bowls.
- In a well heated large skillet (or wok), add 2 tbsp cooking oil. Statue the stems over medium-high heat until they turn bright green color (about 2 minutes). Season with ¼ tsp coarse salt. Add grated garlic and use a wooden spoon to break and coat the garlic over the vegetables.
- Add leafy parts. Quickly toss and scoop the stems and garlic over the leaves. Cover with a lid. Lower the heat to medium. Cook for about 3 minutes until the leaves turn dark green color. Season with ¼ tsp coarse salt. Give a quick toss. Off heat, transfer to a large plate.
- Season with toasted sesame oil and coconut aminos. Serve hot or cold.
- You can substitute broccolini for Chinese broccoli.
- Hot water blanch method to remove bitter taste: Chinese broccoli has more bitter flavor than broccolini. If desired, after dice and rinse the vegetable, quickly blanch the stems in hot boiling water for 1 minute and leafy parts for 10-15 seconds then shock the vegetable in cold water to stop cooking. Drain well before sauteing.
- Coconut aminos tastes naturally sweeter and less salty than tamari and soy sauce so it’s a great way to not having to use added sugar. If, however, you use soy sauce (or Tamari), start with 1/2 tbsp soy sauce + 1/4 tsp sugar. Combine well and drizzle it on top of the vegetable.
- You can add a small splash of rice wine (michu) or Chinese Shaoxing wine when stir-frying, if you are okay with a bit alcohol. The dish will taste even more authentic.