What Kind Of Meat Do Chinese Restaurants Use?

Timothy Woods
Published by Timothy Woods
Last Updated On: June 19, 2024

If you're thinking about going out for Chinese food, then it's likely that your first question is "What type of meat do they use?"

After all, China's culture differs greatly from ours, and they find some animals to be delicacies that are never on our menu.

So, let's look at the types of meat used in Chinese food and what you can expect.

Quick Summary

  • Chinese restaurants use real meats like pork, chicken, beef, duck, seafood, and lamb.
  • Pork is the most common meat in Chinese cuisine, used in dishes like Sweet and Sour Pork and Kung Pao Pork.
  • According to a 2019 Statista report, Chinese cuisine was the most popular ethnic food in the United States in 2019, scoring 64 out of 100 on a popularity scale based on Google Trends, followed by Mexican cuisine with 59 points [1].
  • Other meats like chicken and beef are also popular, while duck and seafood are considered delicacies, and lamb is more common in northern China.

Real Meat - No Substitutes

Chinese restaurant outside view

Everyone has heard the rumor that the meat in Chinese restaurants comes from animals that Americans do not regularly eat - such as dogs, cats, horses, etc.

This is false; the meat used in Chinese cuisine is what the menu says it is.

For example, if you order beef fried rice from a Chinese restaurant, you will get nothing but beef in your fried rice.

It is true for several reasons:

  1. Chinese restaurant owners are hard-working individuals who want to run a successful business and do not want to cheat the customers.
  2. They also do not want trouble with the government, which has strict regulations about truth in advertising.
  3. Additionally, there are certain meats that are illegal to sell in the U.S., and no business owner is going to put their restaurant at risk by trading in black market meat.

So never fear; when you order something at your favorite Chinese restaurant, they will serve you exactly what was written on the menu.

Meat Used In Chinese Restaurants

Different meat Chinese restaurants use

Chinese cuisine features many different types of meats, and they use each in a wide variety of dishes.

Below are the main forms of meat found at Chinese restaurants, along with some examples of famous dishes that use them.

1. Pork


Many people believe pork to be the most common meat used in Chinese cuisine, and it certainly holds an important place in the Chinese diet [2].

A 2016 review in the National Library of Medicine, examined meat and dairy consumption in China, and found an increase in pork intake from 37.1 g/d in 1992 to 64.3 g/d in 2012 [3].

The Chinese cultivate pigs in great quantities because they do well in the Southern part of the country and are easier to farm than cows or sheep.

"Anything that walks, swims, crawls, or flies with its back to heaven is edible."
- Cantonese saying

The Chinese also use pork in their food because it is so versatile. It may be cooked in many different ways, leading to a wide range of menu options.

Pork is used in dishes such as Sweet and Sour Pork, Kung Pao Pork, Yang Zhou Fried Rice, and Twice Cooked Pork. It is also found in Char Siu Pork, Hong Shao Rou, and more.

2. Chicken

Chicken breast on wooden chopping board

Next to pork, chicken may be the most popular meat in the Chinese restaurant menu - although this is often debated.

Chicken can also be found in almost any dish imaginable; examples include Cashew Chicken, General Tso's Chicken, Orange Chicken, and Kung Pao Chicken.

3. Beef

An average Chinese restaurant will often have a huge variety of beef dishes.

It is not surprising given that cattle were domesticated in China more than 10,000 years ago [4].

However, beef is pricier than pork and so is less of a staple in the Chinese diet.

Some popular beef dishes include Beijing Beef, Honey Beef with Sesame Seeds, Pepper Steak, Beef Chow Fun, and Spicy Flank Steak.

Other tasty Chinese beef meals are Sichuan Beef, Mongolian Beef, and Beef with Broccoli.

4. Duck

Raw duck

One of the more famous types of meat used in China, duck meat has an incomparable flavor and is delicious in a number of dishes.

In fact, duck meat has a long history of use in China and can be found served in many different forms at Chinese restaurants.

Per traditional Chinese medicine, duck improves the stomach and kidneys, will reduce phlegm, and get rid of cough and edema.

“Chinese food tries to engage the mind, not just the palate. To provoke the intellect.”
– Nicole Mones

You may see duck being served as Gaoyou Fried Crispy Duck, Old Duck Soup, Sweet and Sour Duck, and of course, Peking Duck.

5. Seafood

Shrimp in a bowl full of vegetables

Although not seen as frequently in Americanized Chinese restaurants, the Chinese people enjoy seafood greatly.

Fish, crab, and lobster are all on the Chinese diet, particularly in coastal areas of the country.

Some great menu items to try are Drunken Prawn, Fish Balls, Kung Pao Shrimp, Chinese Crab with Scallion and Ginger, Ginger Soy Fish, and Lobster Yee Mein.

6. Lamb

Lamb meat top view on wooden cutting board

Mutton and lamb are less common in China, though popular in the north, where there is plenty of land for pasture.

Traditional Chinese medicine states that lamb nourishes the 'qi' and blood, stimulates hunger, and enhances the spleen.

At Chinese restaurants, you will find this meat served in dishes such as Mutton Hot Pot, Hong Kong Style Chinese Braised Lamb Casserole, and Xinjiang Roast Lamb.

Post You May Like: Is Lamb Considered to Be Red Meat?

Related Articles:


  1. https://www.statista.com/statistics/728287/popularity-international-food-united-states/
  2. https://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/chinese-food/chinese-food-type.htm
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27334652/
  4. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131108091027.htm
Was this article helpful?

About the author

Timothy Woods
CEO / Co-Founder
Timothy Woods holds a Kinesiology and Exercise Science degree from Jacksonville University and is CCC & GMU Certified. He's also the main man behind Carnivore Style. This food aficionado combines science and experience to spread the word about the carnivore lifestyle.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *