Chicken Cabbage Stir Fry
Chicken cabbage stir fry is a Chinese comfort food ideal for the colder months! Perfectly seasoned velvet chicken and napa cabbage are tossed in a hot wok with garlic, ginger, scallions, and umami-rich shitake mushrooms in this gluten-free and low-carb one-pot meal.
I love napa cabbage because it’s sweet, juicy, and tender—but I provide alternatives if you don’t have it on hand. For more dishes using this nutritious winter veggie, try my napa cabbage casserole or this stir fried napa cabbage recipe.
This is one of my favorite chicken and cabbage recipes because it uses simple, nutrient-rich vegetables and flavorful Chinese pantry staples to achieve a rich and balanced flavor. Aromatics, umami-rich mushrooms, and a simple yet flavorful sauce elevate this chicken and cabbage stir fry.
- Chicken breast and the chicken stir fry marinade ingredients, including coconut aminos, baking soda, starch, salt, and pepper.
- Tapioca starch: You can also use arrowroot or potato starch. We use starch in two places: first, to marinate or velvet the chicken, and second to thicken the sauce.
- Garlic, ginger, scallions: The aromatics are the flavor foundation of this dish, adding depth of flavor. Don’t skip them!
- Shiitake mushrooms: These add a really nice umami flavor to this stir fried chicken and cabbage. You can skip these, but I highly recommend using them!
- Napa cabbage: This is the star of the dish! Select a cabbage without bruises and one that feels heavy in your hand. This means it’s fresh and contains a lot of water and juice inside.
- Coconut aminos: This is a slightly sweeter substitute for soy sauce. You can also use light or regular soy sauce, but use half the amount as soy sauce is much saltier.
- Aged balsamic vinegar: Adds a sweet, tangy flavor and has a thicker consistency and sweeter flavor than regular balsamic. A good alternative is Chinese black vinegar.
- Toasted sesame oil: Added at the end of the dish to give the dish a lovely toasted aroma. You can skip this if you’re allergic to or don’t like sesame.
- Chicken broth: We use a small amount of broth to deglaze the pan.
- [Optional] Chinese rice wine or Taiwanese michu: We use a splash in the sauce to give the dish an authentic flavor. The alcohol will evaporate in the cooking process.
Substitutions and variations
- Different protein: Can make this using beef — use my beef stir fry marinade for a tender beef stir fry. Pork also goes well with cabbage.
- Napa cabbage substitutes: Savoy cabbage would be my first choice, followed by Taiwanese cabbage (Korean white cabbage) and then thinly shredded green cabbage.
- Added vegetables: Shredded or julienne carrots would give this dish a nice pop of color and sweetness. Zucchini, broccoli, snow peas, or red peppers would also be yummy.
- Spicy: For a spicy cabbage stir fry, add some red pepper flakes, Korean gochugaru, or my smoky homemade garlic chili sauce to taste.
How to cook Chinese cabbage and chicken stir fry
This chicken with cabbage stir fry comes together really quickly after some simple prep work. Let’s briefly go over how to velvet chicken before prepping your aromatics and cabbage, mixing your sauce, and quickly pan-frying them in a hot wok.
- Velvet chicken: Slice the chicken against the grain into thin ⅛” pieces. In a medium bowl, combine with coconut aminos, baking soda, starch, salt, and pepper. Marinate for 15 minutes.
- Prep aromatics and sauce: Prepare the garlic, ginger, green onions, and shitake. Mix coconut aminos, aged balsamic, sesame oil, tapioca starch, and Chinese rice wine, if using.
- Prepare the cabbage: Dice the Napa cabbage to 2-inch selections and separate stems from the leaves.
- Sear the chicken: Preheat a large frying pan or wok over medium-high heat until it feels pretty hot. Heat the oil and then add the chicken. Turn the heat up to medium-high. Pan-fry the chicken until golden brown, about 2-3 mins. Flip and sear the other side, about 1-2 mins.
- Sauté aromatics: Saute the garlic, ginger, and white parts of scallions over medium heat until fragrant. Turn heat up to medium-high, and Stir fry napa cabbage stems until crisp-tender (not mushy, 2 minutes).
- Add cabbage leaves and shitake. Add a dash of broth to lightly deglaze the skillet. Lower the heat to medium and cover to simmer, about 3 mins.
- Add the sauce. Uncover and turn the heat up to medium-high, add chicken and the sauce, and toss everything together for 1 minute.
- Garnish and serve. Transfer to a large serving plate. Garnish your chicken cabbage stir fry with green scallion parts and drizzle with sesame oil.
How to cut napa cabbage for stir fry
When preparing Napa cabbage for a stir fry, you’ll want to start by removing any damaged outer leaves. Cut the cabbage in half lengthwise, then into quarters. Remove the tough core from each quarter.
For stir fry, make a cut to separate the white stems from the yellow leafy parts. Because the stems are thicker (denser) than the leaves, dice the stems a little smaller than the leaves.
Cut the stems into about 1.5 to a little less than 2-inch sections; cut the leaves into 2-inch sections. This way, when you stir fry the cabbage it will cook evenly in a shorter amount of time. You can apply the same method to Savoy cabbage.
Tip: If you use green cabbage to substitute napa cabbage, slice it crosswise into thin strips, about 1/4-inch wide. The strips should be bite-sized.
How to make ahead, store, and reheat
Chicken napa cabbage stirfry is one of my favorite healthy chicken and cabbage recipes because it comes together quickly yet tastes flavorful and nourishing. If you want to make things even easier, you can do a bit of prep work ahead of time.
- Make-ahead: Slice and marinate the chicken overnight in the fridge. You can also prep the cabbage ahead. Dice, rinse, pat it dry, and store in the vegetable crisp drawer overnight.
- Storage: Once cooked, store leftovers of this keto Asian cabbage stir fry in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
- Reheat: Microwave on high for 1 minute. Stir and heat for another 30 seconds to 1 minute.
What to serve it with
This chicken breast and cabbage coleslaw stir fry makes a hearty and nutritious meal on its own. Serve with the grain of your choice or pair with a vegetable side to make a bigger family-style chicken and cabbage dinner. Here are some of my favorite pairings for this dish:
- Rice or noodles: Keep things easy with this air fryer rice or spruce things up with air fryer fried rice. These 10-minute chili oil ramen noodles are another easy but flavorful option.
- Veggie sides: Keeping in theme with this dish, you can pair it with a cold Asian chicken cabbage salad side dish. Or switch things up with this garlicky Korean zucchini side dish.
- Added protein: This salt and pepper tofu air fryer recipe would make a great appetizer and add some healthy protein to the meal.
- Slicing the chicken breasts: Hold the knife at a 45-degree angle for wider, flatter slices. Cut against the grain into thin pieces (about ⅛ inch).
- Marinate: marinate the chicken breast with a small amount of baking soda, starch, and oil for 10-15 minutes. The chicken will be tender and flavorful when stir-frying.
- Make sure to pat dry the napa cabbage thoroughly after rinsing it. Any moisture left on the leaves will cause splattering when stir-frying.
- Get the wok or pan hot before adding the oil. Use high heat to sear the chicken and vegetables. This seals in flavor.
- Add aromatics like garlic, ginger, and scallions to create a rich flavor foundation. Shiitake mushrooms add extra umami flavor to the dish.
- Don’t overcook the napa cabbage. stir fry the napa cabbage just until it wilts slightly to retain its crunch. Overcooking will cause it to be limp and soggy.
- Preparation is the key. Slice and marinate the chicken, and prepare the vegetables, sauce, and aromatics before you start cooking.
To cut napa cabbage for stir fry, first remove any damaged outer leaves. Cut the cabbage lengthwise into quarters, remove the tough core from each quarter, then slice crosswise to separate stems from leaves. Dice stems into 1.5-inch pieces, and leaves into 2-inch pieces for even cooking when stir-fried. For green cabbage, slice into 1/4 inch strips.
Napa cabbage is the best type of cabbage for stir fry. Its tender, ruffled leaves cook quickly and add mild flavor and crunch. Other good options are bok choy, baby bok choy, Chinese broccoli, and regular green cabbage sliced thinly. Avoid tougher cabbage like red cabbage in this stir fry, as it takes longer to cook.
Velveting chicken is key for juicy stir fry. Marinate thin slices in salt, baking soda, starch, and oil for 15 minutes. Stir fry in a hot pan (or wok) just until cooked through. The velveting seals in moisture and flavor. Avoid overcooking. Then add your sauce and veggies towards the end to finish cooking.
Chinese cabbage, also called Napa cabbage, has tender, pale green leaves with frilly edges and a mild, almost sweet flavor. Regular green cabbage has thicker, darker green leaves with a more dense, crunchy texture and stronger cabbage taste. Napa cabbage is better for stir-fries as it cooks quicker and offers a more delicate flavor.
More Asian cabbage recipes you might like
If you enjoyed this Asian sauteed cabbage and chicken dish, be sure to check out these recipes as well. Cabbage is a versatile and nourishing winter vegetable! If you’ve been wondering what to do with Chinese cabbage, Taiwanese cabbage, or bok choy, these recipes are for you!
- Lion’s head meatballs (savory meatballs simmered with sweet napa cabbage and bok choy)
- Chinese cabbage stir fry (shredded green, savoy cabbage, or napa stir-fried with carrots)
- Instant pot chicken napa cabbage soup (a delightful Asian chicken cabbage soup with shiitake)
- Taiwanese cabbage stir fry (2-ingredient Taiwan flat cabbage recipe is so juicy and sweet).
Chicken cabbage stir fry recipe
For the chicken:
Vegetables and aromatics:
- 0.8 oz garlic cloves, finely minced, about 6 lage cloves
- 0.3 oz ginger, julienned, about 1.5 tbsp
- 3 bulb scallions, sliced and separate white and green parts
- 6 oz fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
- 1.5 lbs. Napa cabbage, diced to 2-inch sections and separate stems from the leaves
- 2 -2.5 tbsp avocado oil
- 0.5 tbsp chicken broth
- Drizzlle Toasted sesame oil
- Hold your knife at a 45-degree angle and slice the chicken against the grain into thin pieces (about ⅛”). In a medium bowl, combine the chicken with ingredients from coconut aminos to pepper, if using. Set it aside in the fridge to marinate for 15 minutes.
- Prepare the garlic, ginger, and white scallion parts in one small plate. Slice the shiitake and set aside green scallion parts for garnish. Combine the sauce ingredients from coconut aminos to Chinese rice wine, if using.
- Preheat a large saute pan or wok over medium heat until it feels pretty hot, add 1 tbsp oil and swirl it around the skillet. Add the chicken, turn heat up to medium-high, and quickly spread out the chicken into a single layer. Pan fry them without disturbing until they are golden brown color, about 2-3 mins. Then use a spatula with a firm tip to flip and sear the flip side, about 1-2 mins. The chicken should be cooked through and golden brown on the outside. Transfer them out and set aside.
- Use the same pan, add 1 tbsp oil. Saute the garlic, ginger, and white parts of scallions with a pinch of salt over medium-heat until fragrant, 15 seconds.
- Turn heat up to medium-high, add cabbage stems. Season with 2 pinches of salt and keep stir-frying until the stems turn slightly softer, about 2 minutes. If it feels dry, add another half tablespoon of oil.
- Add leafy parts of the cabbage, shiitake, and a dash of broth to lightly deglaze the skillet. Lightly toss the veggies then lower the heat to medium and cover with a lid. Cook until the cabbage turns softer but not mushy, about 3 mins.
- Uncover and turn heat up to medium-high, add chicken and give the stir-fry sauce another mix before adding it to the skillet. Toss everything together for 1 minute and turn off the heat.
- Transfer to a large serving plate. Garnish with green scallion parts and drizzle with sesame oil. Serve hot or at room temperature.
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