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.
Chinese Doughnut Stick (Youtiao, 油条)
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.
Congee (Jook, 粥)
A comforting and filling dish, congee (Chinese rice porridge) can be enjoyed plain or with various savoury or sweet ingredients.
⭐️ Tip: Using frozen raw rice to make this dish, you can reduce the cooking process to just 15 minutes.
Steamed Bao Bun (蒸包子)
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).
Pan-fried Pork Bun (生煎包)
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.
Scallion Flower Roll (花卷)
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).
Jian Bing, Chinese Crepe (煎饼)
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.
Egg & Scallion Crepe (鸡蛋饼)
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).
Scallion Pancake (葱油饼)
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.
Stuffed Sticky Rice Roll (饭团)
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).
Steamed Eggs (蒸蛋羹)
Smooth, slippery and heavenly soft, Chinese steamed eggs requires minimum ingredients yet delivers a delicate look and great flavour.
⭐️ Tip: Add shrimp and/or some veggies if you want it to be more nutritious.
Marbled Tea Eggs (茶叶蛋)
Probably the best way to enjoy hard boiled eggs! Chinese tea eggs are packed with great flavour and have a beautiful marble look.
⭐️ Tip: Tea eggs can be kept in the fridge for several days. So it makes an instant dish to serve in the morning.
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).
Wonton Soup (馄饨/云吞)
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.
Scallion Oil Noodles (葱油面)
A Shanghainese speciality, scallion oil noodles are a great example to prove “Less is more”. So simple yet so delicious!
⭐️ Tip: Having a jar of homemade scallion oil at hand, you can make this dish in less than 10 mins.
Chongqing Noodles (重庆小面)
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.
Nellie Haddad says
I love chinese food and chinese breakfast so much. I don’t live in a place where either is accessible, so I especially appreciate your site! I do my best, but I still have so much to learn.
Wei Guo says
Good luck and happy cooking Nellie!
MARY schroeder says
I am allergic to Szechuan peppercorns! Is there substitutions or leave it out.
Wei Guo says
Hi Mary! As I explained in my Sichuan Pepper Guide, there isn’t any substitute. You’ll have to skip it.