A collection of recipes featuring some of the most popular, delicious and comforting Chinese breakfasts. Make-ahead tips are included.
What do Chinese eat for breakfast? This is a question that I’m often asked. There is no short answer as the choices are diverse and regional. Here are some characteristics of Chinese breakfast that may help you to get an idea:
- Most of the breakfast foods are savoury with many heavily seasoned/spiced. But sweet dishes exists too.
- Starch-based dishes are the most popular type, such as noodles, congee, dumplings, plain or stuffed buns and bing/饼 (oven or pan-baked flatbread), etc.
- Deep-fried items are popular with Chinese doughnut stick being the most typical example.
- Eggs are cooked and seasoned in many different ways.
- Soybean-based food, such as soy milk, tofu pudding, etc. are widely enjoyed.
- Meat appears in many dishes, in dumpling fillings or as a noodle topping, but it’s rarely eaten on its own for breakfast.
In China, buying breakfasts at street stalls or small restaurants is very common. If like me, you don’t have easy access to ready-to-eat choices, make some yourself! I’ve curated the following 15 classic breakfast recipes with make-ahead tips to speed up the cooking time on busy mornings.
A popular breakfast nationwide, Chinese doughnut sticks are deep-fried, leavened dough that has a slightly salty, alkaline flavour and an airy, fluffy texture.
⭐️ Tip: Keep cooked ones in the fridge or freezer and reheat them in the morning by pan-frying, oven-baking or air-frying.
Tasty, juicy filling with soft, fluffy wrappers, steamed bao buns (Baozi) are a very popular breakfast across China. They can be stuffed with either savoury (e.g. Char Siu Bao) or sweet fillings (e.g. Red Bean Buns).
⭐️ Tip: Store cooked bao buns in the fridge or freezer. Steam to reheat in the morning (No need to defrost if frozen).
Known as Sheng Jian Bao in Chinese, these pan-fried pork buns are a signature breakfast from Shanghai famous for their crispy bottom and juicy filling.
⭐️ Tip: For pan-fried pork buns, you may freeze uncooked ones and fry them in the morning without defrosting.
Super fluffy and mildly seasoned, scallion flower rolls are a fancier version of Plain Steamed Buns (Mantou). They taste great when pan-fried too.
⭐️ Tip: Store cooked flower rolls in the fridge or freezer. Reheat them by steaming or pan-frying with a little water (No need to defrost if frozen).
A well-loved street food for breakfast, Jian Bing consists of wheat and grain-based crepe, an egg, deep-fried crackers , savoury/spicy sauces and herbs. A wonderful combination of flavour and texture!
⭐️ Tip: Make the deep-fried crackers and mix the batter for the crepe the night before you plan to serve this dish.
Making egg & scallion crepe requires minimum effort: 5 basic ingredients and 15 mins cooking. But the taste and texture are so enjoyable!
⭐️ Tip: Please feel free to improvise with other ingredients. For example: add some veggies to the batter (e.g. grated courgette/zucchini, carrot or briefly blanched and chopped spinach).
Known as Cong You Bing in Chinese, scallion pancakes are beautifully seasoned and pan-fried to a flaky, crispy texture. Other variations include Oven-baked Scallion Bread and Pan-baked Scallion flatbread.
⭐️ Tip: Keep assembled, uncooked scallion pancakes in the freezer. Pan-fry them without defrosting in a little oil over medium heat.
Known as Guo Kui/锅盔 in Chinese, crispy stuffed flatbread features flaky, layered dough stuffed with a meat filling that is generously seasoned with scallions and Sichuan pepper, a mouth-numbing spice unique to Chinese cuisine.
⭐️ Tip: Resting the dough properly increases its elasticity, making assembly much easier.
A delicious mixture of taste and flavour, stuffed sticky rice rolls (Fan tuan) are sticky rice filled with Chinese doughnut sticks (Youtiao), pork floss, preserved vegetable, etc. and formed into an oblong shape.
⭐️ Tip: The essential filling, doughnut sticks, can be either made at home or purchased in Chinese/Asian stores (frozen).
Dumplings are a great dish to have in the morning as it contains all the nutrients required to boost your energy for the day: protein, vegetable and starch all in one parcel.
⭐️ Tip: Dumplings freeze very well so make a large batch and store them. You can take them out in the morning and cook without defrosting (steam, pan-fry or boil).
Tasty filling wrapped with slippery skin and served in chicken stock, wonton soup is such a warming and comforting dish to have in the morning.
⭐️ Tip: Like dumplings, wontons can be stored in the freezer and cooked in the morning without defrosting. Also, don’t forget to have chicken stock at hand as well.
Fiercely spicy, mouth-numbing and super aromatic, Chongqing noodles won’t fail to wake up your taste buds in the morning! A similar dish, Dan Dan Noodles, is a great choice too.
⭐️ Tip: Make the meat topping in batches and store in the freezer. Defrost a portion the night before you plan to cook this dish for breakfast.