Does moo shu chicken have sugar?

Quick Answer

Moo shu chicken can contain added sugars from ingredients like hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, and plum sauce. However, it’s possible to make moo shu chicken at home and control the amount of sugar by using low-sugar substitutes. When dining out, ask for moo shu chicken to be prepared without sugary sauces to reduce the amount of added sugar.

What is Moo Shu Chicken?

Moo shu chicken is a classic Chinese dish that originated in the Shandong province of China. It consists of shredded cabbage, mushrooms, egg, and chicken stir-fried together and served with thin pancakes called mu shu wrappers or moo shu pancakes.

The chicken and vegetable mixture is typically seasoned with soy sauce, rice wine, and hoisin sauce, giving it a sweet and savory flavor. Additional sauces like oyster sauce and plum sauce are often provided for dipping the pancakes.

Common Ingredients

Here are some of the most common ingredients found in moo shu chicken:

  • Chicken – Sliced or shredded chicken thigh or breast meat
  • Cabbage – Thinly sliced napa cabbage
  • Mushrooms – Shiitake or button mushrooms, sliced
  • Eggs – Scrambled eggs are often added
  • Scallions – Chopped scallions
  • Garlic – Minced garlic
  • Ginger – Grated fresh ginger
  • Soy sauce – For seasoning
  • Rice wine – Adds flavor
  • Hoisin sauce – Sweet and savory sauce
  • Oyster sauce – Savory sauce made with oyster extract
  • Plum sauce – Sweet sauce made from plums

The stir-fried chicken and veggie mixture is served with small, thin pancakes known as mu shu or moo shu wrappers. Diners wrap the filling into the pancakes to eat them.

Does Moo Shu Chicken Contain Added Sugars?

Moo shu chicken can contain high amounts of added sugar, depending on the ingredients and sauces used to prepare it. Here are some of the sources of added sugar commonly found in moo shu chicken:

Hoisin Sauce

Hoisin sauce is considered a key ingredient in moo shu chicken. It provides the signature sweet, salty, and umami flavor. On average, hoisin sauce contains about 7 grams of sugar per tablespoon.[1] That means just 2-3 tablespoons of hoisin can add 14-21 grams of sugar to a moo shu chicken dish.

Oyster Sauce

Oyster sauce is another common ingredient and dipping sauce for moo shu chicken. It’s used for its savory, briny flavor. While oyster sauce has less sugar than hoisin, it can still have around 3 grams per tablespoon.[2] A few tablespoons can add up to 9-12 grams of sugar.

Plum Sauce

Plum sauce is a popular dipping sauce served alongside moo shu chicken. It has a sweet and tangy flavor because it’s made from plums, vinegar, sugar, and spices. Plum sauce typically contains about 10 grams of sugar per tablespoon.[3] Just 2-3 tablespoons would provide 20-30 grams of added sugar.

Rice Wine

Some amount of rice wine or Shaoxing wine is used to season moo shu chicken. While rice wine contributes minimal sugars compared to sauces, it can still have around 0.5 grams per tablespoon.[4] In moderation, its impact on sugar content is small.

Soy Sauce

Soy sauce is another classic seasoning used in moo shu chicken. Regular soy sauce only has about 1 gram of sugar per tablespoon.[5] Low-sodium soy sauce has a bit more at around 4 grams per tablespoon. In typical amounts, soy sauce doesn’t add significant sugars.

How Much Sugar is in Restaurant Moo Shu Chicken?

It’s difficult to estimate total sugar content in moo shu chicken from restaurants and takeout joints, since ingredients and preparation can vary widely.

In general, a plate of moo shu chicken containing a few tablespoons each of hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, and plum sauce could easily supply 50-70 grams of added sugar or more.

However, restaurants may also use low-sugar substitutes or reduce the amount of sugary sauces added. The only way to know for sure is to inquire about the ingredients and preparation methods.

For comparison, here are the sugar amounts in 3/4 cup (177g) of some common moo shu chicken sauces:[6]

Sauce Total Sugars
Hoisin sauce 21 g
Oyster sauce 12 g
Plum sauce 30 g

As you can see, sauces contribute significant amounts of added sugar to moo shu chicken dishes.

How to Reduce Sugar in Moo Shu Chicken

Here are some tips for reducing sugar when making or ordering moo shu chicken:

Make It at Home

Making moo shu chicken at home allows you to control ingredients and add less sugar:

– Use reduced-sugar hoisin sauce or make your own with honey or maple syrup instead of sugar.
– Opt for low-sugar plum sauce. Some brands have just 1-2 g per tablespoon.
– Skip adding oyster sauce or use just a small amount.
– Use unsweetened rice wine. Or skip rice wine and use chicken broth.
– Choose low-sodium soy sauce, which is less sweet than regular.

Order It Without Sugary Sauces

When dining out, request for moo shu chicken to be prepared without hoisin sauce, plum sauce, and oyster sauce. Ask for it to be seasoned with soy sauce, rice wine, garlic, and ginger instead. Then add your own sauces on the side to control sweetness.

Avoid Sweet Side Sauces

Skip the side sauces like plum sauce and sweet and sour sauce, or ask for low-sugar substitutes like hot mustard or chili garlic sauce.

Fill Up On Veggies

Bulk up your moo shu chicken with extra vegetables instead of pancakes. Load your wraps with mushrooms, cabbage, bell peppers, bean sprouts, and other quick-cooked veggies to dilute the sweetness.

Healthier Moo Shu Chicken Recipes

Here are some healthier moo shu chicken recipes with less added sugar:

Clean Moo Shu Chicken

This recipe skips sugary sauces entirely. It’s seasoned with garlic, ginger, rice wine, and soy sauce for full flavor with no added sugar.[7]

Light Moo Shu Chicken

This version uses just 1 tablespoon of hoisin sauce for the whole recipe. It gets sweetness from dates instead of sugar.[8]

Vegetable Moo Shu

For a vegetarian take, this moo shu swaps chicken for extra mushrooms and tofu. It uses hoisin and plum sauce sparingly.[9]

Is Moo Shu Chicken Healthy?

Despite its high potential sugar content, moo shu chicken can be a relatively healthy dish when prepared with care.

Some benefits of moo shu chicken include:

  • High in protein from the chicken and eggs.
  • Packed with vegetables like cabbage, mushrooms, and scallions.
  • Contains beneficial spices like garlic, ginger, and chilies.
  • Uses lean chicken breast or thigh meat.
  • Served with fiber-rich mu shu pancakes.
  • Can be modified to reduce added sugars.

As long as you watch your portion of sugary sauces, moo shu chicken can be an excellent source of protein, vegetables, fiber, and flavor. Make it even healthier by loading up your pancakes with extra veggies instead of sauce.

The Bottom Line

Moo shu chicken has the potential to contain high amounts of added sugar from typical ingredients like hoisin sauce, plum sauce, and oyster sauce. However, the sugar content can be controlled by making it at home with reduced-sugar substitutes or ordering it without sugary sauces in restaurants. With some modifications and extra vegetables, moo shu chicken can be a nutritious meal. Keep an eye on sweet sauces and enjoy this Chinese favorite in moderation as part of a balanced diet.

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