Is Moo Shu chicken healthy for you?

Quick Answers

Moo Shu chicken can be a healthy meal option when prepared properly. The vegetables and protein can provide important nutrients. However, the sauce used in Moo Shu chicken often contains high amounts of sodium, fat, and sugar which should be limited. Enjoying Moo Shu chicken occasionally as part of an overall balanced diet is likely fine for most people. Those with certain medical conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes may need to be more careful about limiting intake.

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 vegetables like cabbage, mushrooms, carrots and bamboo shoots sauteed with slices of chicken breast meat and eggs. The mixture is seasoned with soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil and thickened with a starch like cornstarch. The ingredients are wrapped up into small pancakes or stuffed into warm flour tortillas and eaten by hand. The rich savory sauce is a defining feature of Moo Shu chicken.

Nutritional Profile

The nutritional value of Moo Shu chicken can vary considerably based on the specific ingredients used in preparation. In general, a serving of Moo Shu chicken contains:

  • Protein from the chicken and egg
  • Vitamins and minerals from the vegetables
  • Carbohydrates from the wrapping/tortilla
  • Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats from vegetable oil and sesame oil
  • Sodium from soy sauce
  • Sugar from hoisin or other sauces

The protein, vitamins, minerals and healthy fats can make positive contributions to a balanced diet. However, Moo Shu chicken often contains high amounts of sodium from soy sauce. The sauces used like hoisin, plum or oyster sauce can also be high in sugar.


A typical serving of Moo Shu chicken contains around 300-500 calories depending on portion size and specific ingredients. Using lean chicken breast rather than chicken thigh meat can help reduce the calorie count. Going easy on any thick sauce or limiting high carb tortillas can also help keep calories in check.


If prepared using primarily vegetable oil, a serving of Moo Shu chicken will contain around 15-25 grams of fat. This comes mostly from the oil used for cooking. Choosing healthier unsaturated fats like canola, peanut or sesame oil over saturated fats like lard or butter can help maximize heart health. Trimming any visible fat off the chicken prior to cooking can also reduce the total fat content.


Carbs in Moo Shu chicken come from the wrap or tortilla used to enclose the filling. A medium flour tortilla may contain around 15-20 grams of carbohydrate while Chinese pancakes or lettuce wraps will be lower. Controlling portion sizes of the starch components can help manage overall carb content.


The biggest nutritional concern with Moo Shu chicken is often the high sodium content from soy sauce. A single serving made with regular soy sauce may contain over 1000 mg of sodium accounting for nearly half of the daily recommendation. Using reduced sodium soy sauce, cooking wine instead of rice wine (which is salty), and going light on other salty seasonings can help reduce this number.


While Moo Shu chicken does not contain large amounts of sugar on its own, the sauces commonly used like hoisin, plum and sweet & sour contain added sugar increasing the total amount. Opting for lower sugar sauces, using them sparingly, or avoiding them altogether can help control added sugars.

Benefits of Moo Shu Chicken

When prepared properly, Moo Shu chicken can provide some beneficial nutrients:

Lean Protein

Chicken breast is an excellent source of lean protein which helps build muscle, repairs tissue and supports a healthy metabolism. Compared to red meat, chicken breast is lower in saturated fat as well.

Vitamins & Minerals

The cabbage, mushrooms, bamboo shoots and other vegetables used provide a variety of vitamins like Vitamin C, Vitamin K, folate and minerals like potassium and manganese.


The vegetables in Moo Shu chicken offer a good amount of filling fiber. Cabbage, in particular, provides insoluble fiber that promotes regularity and gut health.

Healthy Fats

Cooking Moo Shu chicken in vegetable, peanut or sesame oil provides mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats which can help lower LDL cholesterol levels.

Flavor & Variety

The complex salty, sweet and savory flavors of Moo Shu chicken sauces along with the varied textures make this dish appealing as an occasional meal. When dining out, it can offer an alternative to fried or cheese-laden options.

Potential Downsides of Moo Shu Chicken

There are also some potential downsides of Moo Shu chicken to keep in mind:

High in Sodium

The soy sauce used to flavor Moo Shu chicken contributes a large amount of sodium, which may need to be limited by those with high blood pressure or certain medical conditions.

High in Sugar

Many Moo Shu chicken sauce recipes include ingredients like hoisin sauce, plum sauce or sweet & sour sauce that can add unnecessary added sugar.

Refined Carbs

Flour tortillas and pancakes used to wrap the chicken add refined carbs with less nutritional value. Using lettuce wraps instead can reduce carb load.

Fat from Frying

Some recipes call for deep frying the meat and vegetables rather than a healthier sautéing technique, which significantly increases the fat and calorie content.

Large Portions

Restaurant servings of Moo Shu chicken tend to be very large providing 2-3 servings worth of food, making it easy to accidentally overeat.

Is Moo Shu Chicken Healthy Overall?

Moo Shu chicken can be a nutritious meal when prepared properly at home. The combination of lean protein, fiber-rich vegetables and healthy fats provides balanced nutrition. However, dining out poses some risks due to potentially large portion sizes and preparation methods that increase salt, sugar and saturated fats. Those with dietary restrictions or food sensitivities should also use caution.

Here are some tips for making healthier Moo Shu chicken at home:

  • Use skinless, boneless chicken breast and minimal added oil when stir-frying
  • Load up on lots of fresh vegetables like cabbage, carrots, bean sprouts
  • Choose whole grain or lettuce wraps instead of refined flour tortillas
  • Use reduced sodium soy sauce or dilute regular soy sauce with water
  • Avoid sugary sauces or use sparingly
  • Watch portion sizes and refrain from going back for seconds

Overall, an occasional home-cooked Moo Shu chicken meal can be a tasty way to get vegetables, lean protein and fiber into your diet as part of an overall balanced approach to eating.

Healthier Moo Shu Chicken Recipe

Here is a recipe for a healthier version of Moo Shu Chicken:


  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced into thin strips
  • 1 tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 2 cups thinly sliced cabbage
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 4 whole wheat tortillas


  1. In a bowl, combine chicken strips with soy sauce and toss to coat. Let marinate 15 minutes.
  2. Heat sesame oil in a large skillet or wok over medium high heat. Add garlic, ginger, mushrooms, cabbage, carrots and scallions. Cook 5 minutes.
  3. Add chicken and marinade mixture to the skillet. Cook 5 minutes until chicken is cooked through.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together chicken broth, rice wine vinegar and cornstarch. Pour into chicken mixture and cook 2 minutes until thickened.
  5. Wrap chicken mixture into whole wheat tortillas and serve warm.

This version uses more vegetables bulk up fiber content. Whole wheat tortillas add more filling fiber than refined flour versions. Low sodium broth and soy sauce help reduce total sodium substantially. Enjoy this healthier moo shu chicken with a side of brown rice and steamed broccoli for a well-rounded nutritious meal.


Moo Shu chicken can be part of a healthy diet when prepared properly at home using lean ingredients, lots of vegetables, and smart substitutions to reduce sodium, sugar and refined carbs. Limiting frequency of high-calorie restaurant versions and watching portion sizes is important too. Overall, this classic Chinese chicken dish can provide protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber as part of an balanced nutritious eating pattern. Just be mindful of preparation methods and accompanying sauces. When in doubt, opt for healthier whole food-based ingredients to maximize the nutritional value of your Moo Shu chicken.

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