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Low Carb Lemon Chicken

Low Carb Lemon Chicken


Skinless boneless chicken breasts -- or thighs, if well-trimmed of fat -- always work very well for a healthy diet, whether you're looking to control your blood glucose level or just trying to stay trim. They're low fat, have zero carbs and are a good source of protein and so they frequently show up in diet regimens or recommendations.

The challenge with boneless breasts is, lets face it: how to make them interesting. Marinated, grilled and cut up to serve cold in a salad is a standard treatment. Or marinated, grilled and served hot, perhaps with a sauce of some sort, and next to, instead of on, the salad. But -- excuse me:yawn -- the meat can be dry and relatively tasteless. And in my experience the marinade or sauce in my view can rarely overcome this flaw.

Of course they can be breaded and sautéed, like a veal cutlet, and served with a mushroom sauce, but then it's not low carb, low fat food anymore.

Chinese steamer basket. Note: This recipe requires a Chinese style steamer rack, but if you don't have one you can still do it. Click here to see how.

The Chinese have a technique, however, called veleting which, with a little planning and a few simple ingredients, turns bland, dry chicken breast meat into a tender, juicy treat with a nice slippery feel in the mouth. I've learned this technique from years of cooking from Irene Kuo's excellent The Key to Chinese Cooking. (There are similar procedures for pork and fish which I'll present in future posts.)

To velvet chicken, it's sliced very thinly and then marinated in a mixture of cornstarch, egg white, salt and a little dry sherry or Chinese cooking wine. It's then plunged in boiling water for about a minute and drained. From that point the chicken needs only the quickest of stirfrying to be ready for the table.

In this recipe, adapted from Irene Kuo, the chicken after marinating is covered with a sauce and steamed gently. The result is a satisfyingly interesting blend of flavors and textures that is certainly a long way from the standard bland broiled chicken breast.   

Low Carb Lemon Chicken

14 oz boneless chicken breast, sliced very thinly
8 thin lemon slices, seeds removed

1 T cornstarch
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 T dry sherry
1 egg white, slightly beaten with a fork
1/2 tsp salt

1 T hoisin sauce
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp dry sherry
1/2 tsp sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest

Mix the marinade ingredients with the chicken and marinate refrigerated for 30 minutes or more.

Mix the sauce ingredients together. Spread the chicken on a plate that will fit in your steamer and spoon the sauce over it. Place the lemon slices on the chicken, around the edge of the plate.

When the water in your steamer pan is boiling, place the plate in the steamer, cover and steam for 25 minutes over medium-high heat. Transfer the chicken to a serving plate or place the cooking plate on a larger plate to serve.

I usually serve this with rice and a side vegetable.

Nutritional Estimate 4 Servings. Per serving: 205 Calories; 2 g Total Carbs; 0 g Dietary Fiber; 1 g Sugars; 7 g Fat; 83 mg Cholesterol; 142 mg Sodium; 30 g Protein. Weight Watchers: 5 points.


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Thanks for sharing. As a type 1 diebetic and nutritionist, this recipe looks amazing. Thank you!

I love that this sounds simple to make.

Glad you're blogging again.


Welcome back! Nice to see you posting again.

Thanks for the recipe. I made it for dinner last night (along with steamed asparagus) and not only was it quick & easy: it is really good.

A few questions:
- did you consider/try adding ginger to the sauce? just a wee bit to balance the lemon.
- have you tried the same sauce with pork? how would pork change the diebetic "profile"?

Again: nice to have you back on the web.

Velveting (spelled correctly) does make a lovely texture. But I don't do it anymore because it simply isn't low-carb. In fact, I don't see how you can possibly call this recipe low-carb. Please relabel it as low-FAT Lemon Chicken, because it's definitely low-fat. If you want to call it low-carb, please post substitutes for the cornstarch, hoisin sauce (very high in sugar), oh and at least substitute artificial sweetener for the sugar.

Hi Rani...thanks for coming by and taking the time to leave your comment.

I label this dish low carb because I defined "low-carb" for this blog as "below 10 grams of carbs per serving" -- see the section called "Nutritional Estimates" on my About page. Also, at 2 grams total carbs per serving I think almost everyone would call it low carb.

Regarding your proposed substitutions and deletions, please feel free to modify the recipe to fit your needs. In my kitchen I try to produce reasonably low-carb food without removing all the taste and pleasure, so I use ingredients like cornstarch, hoisin sauce and sugar in moderation. Another thing to note is that when I calculate the nutritional estimates I don't include the total amount of marinades and sauces -- again, this is discussed in the Nutritional Estimates entry. This lowers the contribution of the hoisin, cornstarch and sugar to the carb total. However, out of curiosity I recalculated the recipe using the assumption that all of the ingredients are consumed in the amount given and found that the total carbs only rises to 5 grams per serving -- still low-carb by my definition.

Thanks again for your input...

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