How many calories are in a typical Chinese meal?

Chinese cuisine is known for its variety of flavors, aromas, and cooking techniques. While the taste is hard to resist, many wonder just how many calories are packed into a typical Chinese takeout meal. With savory meats, fried rice, noodles, and flavorful sauces, the calorie count can quickly add up. Let’s take a closer look at popular Chinese dishes and estimate the calories per serving.

Appetizers and Soups

Chinese appetizers and soups often have lower calorie counts compared to entrees but can still pack in the calories through fats, oils, and carbs. Here are some common items and their estimated calorie counts:

  • Egg rolls (1 piece) – 200 calories
  • Crab rangoon (3 pieces) – 300 calories
  • Potstickers (4 pieces) – 220 calories
  • Hot and sour soup (1 cup) – 100 calories
  • Egg drop soup (1 cup) – 60 calories
  • Wonton soup (1 cup) – 80 calories

While appetizers seem small, the high amount of frying and carbohydrates can quickly add up. For example, a typical order of 4 crab rangoons would equal 300 calories before even touching the main course.

Main Dishes

Chinese main dishes vary greatly in their calorie content due to differences in portion sizes, cooking methods, sauces, and ingredients. Here are some estimates for popular entrees:

  • Sesame chicken (6 oz) – 520 calories
  • General Tso’s Chicken (6 oz) – 760 calories
  • Beef with broccoli (6 oz) – 360 calories
  • Moo goo gai pan (6 oz chicken) – 370 calories
  • Shrimp with lobster sauce (6 oz) – 260 calories
  • Kung pao shrimp (6 oz) – 390 calories
  • Sweet and sour pork (6 oz) – 450 calories
  • Mapo tofu (1 cup) – 205 calories

The sauces and oils used in Chinese cooking can vary greatly between restaurants and dishes. For example, General Tso’s chicken and sesame chicken can have over 200 more calories than the same amount of a stir fried shrimp or chicken and vegetables.

Fried Rice and Noodles

From lo mein to fried rice, noodles and rice provide the carb-heavy base for many Chinese dishes. On their own these carb-dense sides seem small, but they can quickly drive up calorie counts. Estimates include:

  • White rice (1 cup) – 205 calories
  • Fried rice (1 cup) – 250 calories
  • Chow mein noodles (1 cup) – 260 calories
  • Lo mein noodles (1 cup) 350 calories
  • Singapore noodles (1 cup) – 480 calories

The ingredients and oils used to flavor the rice or noodles can cause the calories to range widely between 200-500 per cup. Choosing steamed rice or asking for lightly fried rice is a good way to cut back on calories.

Full Meal Estimates

When combining portions of the various dishes, a full Chinese takeout meal can quickly add up in calories:

  • Sesame chicken, fried rice, egg roll – Total: 970 calories
  • General Tso’s chicken, white rice, crab rangoon (x3) – Total: 1260 calories
  • Beef with broccoli, chow mein noodles – Total: 610 calories

With just one dish, a side, and an appetizer, the total calories can range from 600 to over 1200 calories for a single meal.

Lower Calorie Options

If you want to enjoy Chinese takeout while maintaining your health and waistline, there are some lower calorie options to keep in mind:

  • Steamed vegetable dumplings instead of fried dumplings
  • Steamed or lightly fried rice instead of heavily oiled fried rice
  • Dishes with veggies like mixed veggies, broccoli, or eggplant
  • Soy sauce or garlic sauce instead of heavy gravies
  • Skip the appetizers and extra sauces

Watching your portion sizes, and asking for modifications like dressing and sauces on the side can also lower the calories significantly while still letting you enjoy the flavors.

Nutrition Tips

In addition to calories, Chinese food can also be high in saturated fat, sodium, and simple carbs from white rice and noodles. Here are some tips for balanced Chinese meals:

  • Load up on vegetable dishes to increase fiber, vitamins, and minerals
  • Choose brown rice or quinoa instead of white rice whenever possible
  • Include a lean protein like chicken, shrimp, or tofu
  • Use salt-free seasonings at home to control sodium content
  • Enjoy a homemade soup for lower sodium options
  • Share dishes family-style instead of heavy individual portions

With some creative ordering and do-it-yourself tweaks, it’s possible to enjoy all the flavors of Chinese cuisine while still maintaining balanced nutrition.


Chinese food can certainly be high in calories with estimates of 600 to over 1200 calories for a typical full meal. However, there are many ways to reduce the calorie count by being mindful of portions, cooking methods, ingredient choices, and sauce options. Choosing vegetable-based dishes, carb alternatives like cauliflower rice, and limiting oil, sodium and sugary sauces can go a long way to enjoying traditional Chinese cuisine while maintaining your health goals.

Dish Calories
Egg roll (1 piece) 200
Crab rangoon (3 pieces) 300
Potstickers (4 pieces) 220
Sesame chicken (6 oz) 520
Fried rice (1 cup) 250

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