Chicken and Broccoli with brown sauce is a popular Chinese takeout dish. This chicken and broccoli recipe will show you how to make it with a delicious Chinese brown sauce.
Our recipe uses the same technique as Chinese restaurants. The broccoli is blanched, and the chicken is seared separately. The aromatics and sauce are cooked and thickened with cornstarch slurry (2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons water), and everything is tossed together at the end.
After you learn how to make Chinese Chicken and Broccoli at home, you won’t go back to ordering takeout again!
Brown Sauce or White Sauce?
When I worked in Chinese restaurants, including my parents’ own family restaurant, we always doubled-check with customers if they wanted their chicken and broccoli with brown sauce or white sauce.
Brown sauce was the overwhelming favorite, probably due to the deep umami flavors of soy sauce and oyster sauce and its rich, tantalizing amber color.
That said, quite a few patrons did want their chicken with broccoli in white sauce. Similar to our moo goo gai pan, chicken broccoli with white sauce gets its flavor primarily from ginger, garlic, sesame oil, and Chinese rice wine (Shaoxing wine). Without the strong taste of soy sauce, the delicate flavors of the dish were allowed to come through. Of course, then there was the healthy crowd who preferred that the chicken was blanched and less oil was used in the white sauce version.
If you like your Chinese chicken and broccoli with brown sauce, follow this recipe. If you like yours with white sauce, we have a recipe for that too!
Should I Use Dark or White Meat?
Chinese restaurants almost always use chicken breast for chicken and broccoli because most Americans prefer white meat.
However, if you prefer dark meat, you can use chicken thighs to make a delicious homemade dark meat chicken broccoli with brown sauce.
Chicken thighs have a higher fat content and are harder to overcook. They’re also juicier and smell just like fried chicken when seared in a hot wok!
What’s In the Sauce for Chicken and Broccoli?
Basic stir-fry sauce is made up of aromatics like ginger and garlic, dark and regular soy sauces, sesame oil, oyster sauce, sugar, Chinese rice wine (Shaoxing wine) and white pepper.
Cornstarch is used to thicken the sauce enough to coat the chicken and vegetables.
Bored with just broccoli? This method can be applied to many different dishes with whatever proteins or vegetables you like.
After you learn how to make this authentic takeout Chinese chicken and broccoli recipe, check out our recipe for Chinese Stir-fry Sauce to see how you can apply it to whatever dishes you can dream up.
Shortcuts & Tips for Making Chicken & Broccoli At Home
- Get pre-washed, pre-cut broccoli florets, and use them right out of the bag.
- Slice your chicken and marinate it overnight for quick and easy cooking the next day.
- Prepare your own homemade stir-fry sauce ahead of time and keep it in your refrigerator for convenience.
- Don’t overcook your chicken. Cooking chicken breast until it is just done is an art you need to master!
- Cook lots of rice ahead of time (or skip the rice entirely, since chicken and broccoli makes a great low carb meal)!
Chicken and Broccoli Recipe Instructions
Start by marinating your chicken. In a bowl, add the sliced chicken, 3 tablespoons water, 1 tablespoon oyster sauce, 1 teaspoon cornstarch, and 1 ½ teaspoons vegetable oil.
Rub the marinade ingredients into the chicken with your hands until all the liquid has been absorbed by the chicken. Set aside for 10 minutes.
The chicken will absorb the oyster sauce and water, making the chicken, moist, tender and delicious. For more information and preparing chicken for stir fries, see Bill’s post on Chicken velveting 101.
Next, prepare the sauce mixture. In a small bowl or measuring cup, add the warm chicken stock, sugar, soy sauce, dark soy sauce , oyster sauce, sesame oil and white pepper. Stir everything together until well combined and set aside.
Boil water in your wok and blanch the broccoli for 1 minute (or 2 minutes if you like your broccoli softer). Remove with your spider, drain and set aside.
Clean and dry your wok. Place it over high heat until smoking. Add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and sear the chicken until opaque on all sides (this should only take about 3 minutes).
Turn off the heat, remove the chicken, and set aside. The chicken will be about 90% done, but will be cooked again at the end.
Without washing the wok, set the flame to medium heat. Add another tablespoon of oil, along with the garlic and ginger (if using).
Stir the garlic and ginger for 5 seconds and add the Shaoxing wine around the perimeter of the wok. Then pour in the sauce mixture.
Use your wok spatula to stir the sauce around the sides of the wok to deglaze, and let it come to a simmer.
Stir up the cornstarch and water slurry and drizzle the mixture into sauce while stirring constantly. Allow the sauce to simmer for 10 to 15 seconds until thick and gravy-like.
For more detailed information on the many ways to use cornstarch to get authentic results at home with our recipes, see our post on How to Use Cornstarch in Chinese Cooking.
Next, toss in the chicken and its juices and the blanched broccoli. Stir-fry until the chicken and broccoli is coated in the sauce.
At this point, you can make adjustments. If you like your brown sauce darker, add a dash more of dark soy sauce. Add more cornstarch slurry if your sauce is too thin, or more chicken stock or water if the sauce is too thick. Serve with steamed rice.
If you like this recipe, try our restaurant quality Beef and Broccoli dish!