Chinese Velvet Chicken for Stir-Fry Dishes

Velvet Chicken
The Spruce
Prep: 3 mins
Cook: 1 mins
Marinade: 30 mins
Total: 34 mins
Servings: 6 to 8 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
588 Calories
57g Fat
1g Carbs
18g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6 to 8
Amount per serving
Calories 588
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 57g 73%
Saturated Fat 5g 24%
Cholesterol 71mg 24%
Sodium 51mg 2%
Total Carbohydrate 1g 0%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 18g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 12mg 1%
Iron 1mg 4%
Potassium 154mg 3%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Velveting is a Chinese cooking technique often used in stir-fry recipes to retain the most flavor and moisture in chicken breasts, beef, and seafood. The technique locks in juices and keeps the meat moist once it hits the very hot wok. So if you are wondering why the chicken in your homemade stir-fry seems dry and tough and the one from take-out is always juicy and delicious, it's because restaurants do this and you don't, until now. Velveting actually means to "pass through oil," which is literally what you'd be doing when briefly cooking the chicken in a hot pan with oil. But fear not, velveting chicken is easy and totally worth your time.

The most common velveting techniques involve coating or marinating poultry or meat for stir-fries with egg white and cornflour or cornstarch. Some add baking soda and some add soy sauce, while many others marinate the meat or poultry with potato starch or sweet potato starch before stir-frying. The velveting technique is usually used with chicken breast because these contain less fat than other kinds of meat. Some cooks blanch the chicken in salted water to avoid additional calories from the oil, but most are inclined to use oil to pre-cook it as it yields the most flavor and doesn't wash out the marinade.

Use the pre-cooked chicken in popular dishes like kung pao chicken, broccoli chickenGeneral Tso’s chicken, and in chicken noodle soup, stews, or other chicken preparations. Be mindful that velveting doesn't cook the chicken all the way through and an additional cooking time is needed to ensure the recommended inner temperature for safe chicken consumption—165 F. Additionally, this recipe contains egg so be mindful of such allergies when having guests over.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast

  • 1 large egg

  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch, or cornflour

  • 2 cups vegetable oil, or peanut oil; for frying

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients. 

     Chicken velveting ingredients
    The Spruce
  2. Slice the chicken against the grain into 3/4- to 1-inch cubes. In a bowl, stir together the egg white and cornflour.

    Chopped chicken, egg, and corn flour
    The Spruce
  3. Add the egg white mixture to the chicken cubes, tossing or using your fingers to thoroughly coat the chicken in the marinade.

     Egg white mixture added to chopped chicken
    The Spruce
  4. Place the chicken in a sealed container, and marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

    Chicken marinating in mixture
    The Spruce
  5. Lay paper towels out or get a colander ready to drain the chicken after cooking. Heat 2 cups of oil in a preheated wok until the oil reaches 180 F. You can test the heat by placing a piece of chicken in the wok; the oil is ready when the piece floats immediately.

    Oil in wok
    The Spruce
  6. Add the chicken cubes, and let cook until they just turn white; this will take about 30 seconds. Use a wooden spoon or chopsticks to gently separate them.

    Chicken cubes in wok with tongs
    The Spruce
  7. Quickly remove the chicken cubes from the wok as soon as they turn white and drain in a colander or on paper towels.

    Chicken draining on paper towels
    The Spruce
  8. Finish cooking the velveted chicken by stir-frying with your preferred vegetables and sauces, tossing and stirring to make sure the chicken is cooked through.

    Velveted chicken with cooked vegetables
    The Spruce
  9. Serve and enjoy!

Marinate the Day Before

Marinate the meat or chicken a day before you want to cook it. After preparing the egg white mixture and coating the chicken cubes, store the chicken in a sealed container in the refrigerator until ready to use. Alternatively, add the marinating chicken to freezer bags and store them in the freezer, but only if the chicken you are using is fresh and wasn't frozen before. Thaw the chicken in the fridge before you want to cook it.