Tender, moist white cut chicken breast served with ginger scallion sauce – this is a quick and healthy meal for one or the family. With minimal prep and active cook time, it’s a great emergency dinner to have in your back pocket!
I’ll be honest, this steamed chicken breast isn’t really exciting. Not by itself anyway. The only thing really going for it is the moist tender texture because it’s pretty neutral in flavour. Pair it with ginger scallion sauce though, then TA-DA it’s like Serena transforming into Sailor Moon (side note: huge fan! LOVED watching Sailor Moon after school). This chicken NEEDS to be eaten with ginger scallion sauce because it’s a pure blank canvas for it. I wouldn’t recommend eating this chicken on its own. Check out my ginger scallion sauce you can pull together in 5 minutes or less.
Chinese White Cut Chicken (a.k.a Bai Qie Ji)
This is steamed chicken breast recipe is my quick hack to traditional Cantonese white cut chicken (a.k.a. bai qie ji) which I had as a kid every Sunday night for dinner. My mom would gently poach a whole chicken in water which always took over an hour to complete. The resulting meat was always sooo tender and my mom would transform the poaching water into a wonderful broth served with dinner. It’s such a staple Chinese dish to enjoy on any regular dinner night and on special occasions like Chinese New Year.
For me, the simplicity and healthy qualities of white cut chicken is what I love about it, on the flip side poaching it and taking an hour to complete…mmm don’t love so much. I usually reserve doing that when I have my Cantonese family over and I want to flex my improved traditional cooking chops! Otherwise, I will choose to do my steam hack version any day of the week.
Made with 5 Simple Ingredients
Chicken breast is simply salted overnight, seasoned with sesame oil and white pepper and then steamed to perfection. It’s so simple to make that it’s a great homemade meal when you’re in a rush!
White cut chicken usually involves the whole bird (head, feet and all) but I personally always loved the breast the most. It’s the most tender, no bones and since it’s the leanest part, it serves to highlight the ginger scallion sauce the best. I also never found poached chicken very appetizing as a left over, so this way I can choose my favorite cut and make just enough for the meal.
Because we’re steaming the chicken pretty much on its own, salting it the day before will allow you to salt from within and produce a juicer piece of meat. Because of the simplicity of this chicken, the salt plays a very important role. I highly recommend it! However, if you’re pressed for time, salting it right before steaming isn’t a deal breaker. The saltiness will stay on the surface but the act of steaming will ensure the meat is still tender. The ginger scallion sauce will more than make up for it!
Because we’re using boneless and skinless chicken breast, a little oil will coat the chicken while steaming. If you decide to steam chicken breast with skin on, then the oil isn’t needed.
Sesame Oil and White Pepper
For a bit of flavour and aromatics!
What if I Don’t Have a Steamer?
No problem! You can use a pot with a trivet placed at the bottom. My family never had a steamer either and we steamed all our food this way. Fill the bottom of the pot with water until just below the trivet. Put the dish in making sure the water line doesn’t touch the bottom of your dish. Turn the heat on high and wait for the water to come to a boil. Once it boils, turn the heat down to medium and cook for 13-15 minutes. Check half way through cooking that there is still water in the pot and it hasn’t all evaporated. Lift the dish gently out of the pot using a dish towel.
Steamed White Cut Chicken Breast with Ginger Scallion Sauce
- 1 lb chicken breast boneless and skinless
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp white pepper
- 1/2 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp grapeseed oil (or other neutral oil)
- Sprinkle salt evenly on chicken breasts. Cover and refrigerate overnight
- (Optional) On day of cooking, remove chicken breasts 30 minutes before cooking to warm up a bit. This is ideal but not a deal breaker if you're not able to
- Put chicken breasts on a heat proof shallow dish. Sprinkle white pepper, coat with sesame oil and grapeseed oil evenly
- Place chicken breasts in steamer and steam for 15 minutes (please see steamer hack in post above)
- Check internal temperature is 165 F and remove from steamer. Pour out any liquid accumulated on plate. Let rest for 5 minutes
- Slice chicken breasts (against the grain) and serve with ginger scallion sauce
- Salting 24 hours before steaming will produce more flavourful and tender chicken breasts. However, if you’re short on time, adding the salt with the seasonings right before cooking won’t be a deal breaker. The ginger scallion sauce will more than make up for it!
- If you don’t have a steamer, you can use a deep pot with a trivet placed at the bottom. Add water till the level hits right below the trivet. Add the chicken on top of the trivet. Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat to medium. Make sure the pot doesn’t boil dry without water before cooking is finished
The chicken breast was really juicy and moist and best of all, it’s so quick to make this dish!
Thanks so much Betty for the great feedback! I definitely do think this is a little hack to the traditional version of this dish with the best parts of the chicken 🙂
Would you suggest to buy the jarred ginger scallion sauce?
Hi Jenny! No I wouldn’t suggest buying the jarred stuff because a) It’s so easy to make it yourself and b) You really don’t know what else might be in the jarred stuff and how long it’s been sitting on the shelf. I would suggest making a bigger batch and storing the unused portions in the fridge to be used for the rest of the week. It’s THAT good 🙂
I definitely like this better than the idea of poaching a whole chicken!
Hi Tim – I know right? The whole chicken definitely has more symbolic meaning especially for Chinese traditions so I still love the poached version. But for purely weeknight efficiency purposes – this saves a TON of time and work but tastes just as good!
This was delicious and easy to prepare 🙂 Thanks for your recipe! I have a question though: What’s the difference between white cut chicken vs hainanese chicken?
They both have very similar origins from China so they are both “white chicken” recipes. Cantonese white cut chicken uses a different poaching liquid which is salt water, scallions and ginger. Both traditionally submerge the chicken in cold water to stop the cooking process. Hainanese chicken uses different dipping sauces and is usually served with rice. White cut chicken is usually a standalone dish. Both tasty recipes and are very similar. The differences are subtle 🙂