platter of egg foo young and rice and gravy

Egg foo young is a quick Chinese-American dinner option for when you’re craving takeout but want to save money, says food blogger & photographer Ksenia Prints of At the Immigrant’s Table. It’s essentially a Chinese cuisine-influenced version of an omelet that makes smart use of things we all have in our fridge: eggs, vegetables and leftover meat. Top it with savory-salty gravy, and you can’t go wrong with this creative way of using leftovers. Plus, if you’ve always wanted to feel like an expert short order cook, this is your chance.

Egg foo young as we know it was developed by savvy Cantonese immigrant restaurateurs during the American Gold Rush, as they wanted to attract American customers who might have been averse to foreign flavors. However, the dish’s origins are truly, authentically Chinese: It’s based on a dish known as "fu yung egg slices," a complex Shanghai-based creation that combines beaten egg whites and ham slices, which change to chicken in northern China.

For the additional protein in our egg foo young, we suggest using cooked shrimp, but feel free to use whatever cooked protein you have left languishing in your fridge (in a pinch, canned chicken or salmon will also do). Any minced raw meat you have on hand will also work, as it will cook in about the same time as specified in the recipe (though do double check the temperature for extra safety while cooking).

So, for the next time you need to get dinner on the table in a hurry, reach for a skillet and make this delicious egg foo young recipe.

Gather the ingredients for egg foo young

egg foo young ingredients with shrimp and sprouts

At its core, egg foo young is a dish meant to creatively repurpose leftovers, and the basic ingredients are eggs, vegetables and a protein of your choice. For 8 omelets, you’ll need to use 6 eggs. If the omelets are eaten on their own, a person will likely eat two, but if your egg foo young is paired with rice and steamed vegetables, as is customary, a person might only eat one omelet. So, grab your eggs accordingly.

The ratio to keep in mind for the filling is about one to one-and-a-half cups of filling per 3 eggs. The usual vegetables in egg foo young are fresh bean sprouts and green onions. If you want to add more veggies — like cabbage, regular onions, carrots or bok choy — be sure to slice them thinly.

Our favorite protein to use in egg foo young is shrimp, as it cooks quickly and can be prepared while the eggs are coming together. However, you are welcome to use any leftover cooked protein or raw minced meat you have on hand.

For the gravy, you will need either water or chicken broth, cornstarch, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic and Shaoxing cooking wine. If you don’t have any Chinese cooking wine, you can use Japanese mirin or dry sherry.

Finally, you’ll want to gather some vegetable oil and salt and pepper. For serving, you’ll want to have some cooked rice and sesame seeds on hand.

Chop the veggies and shrimp for the egg foo young

diced ingredients for egg foo young with shrimp

To speed through the preparation of egg foo young, it helps to get all the veggies and shrimp diced and ready.

To start, whisk all the eggs together in a large bowl.

Dice shrimp into small, bite-size pieces: About half an inch is best. You want to taste the shrimp as you enjoy your egg foo young, but you don’t want to end up with a massive piece that you can hardly chew through.

Thinly slice the green onions and divide into two portions. Finely mince garlic. Set both aside.

If you’re using any other veggies, slice them thinly and set aside. You will need to increase the amount of eggs, or decrease other ingredients as needed, depending on how many veggies you use (see previous step for suggested quantities).

Make the egg foo young gravy

egg foo young gravy cooking

In a small saucepan, bring the water or chicken broth to a boil. A word on the difference: Chicken broth will undoubtedly add more flavor to your egg foo young and make the gravy closer to traditional American gravy. However, if you don’t have any on hand, don’t fret — using water is perfectly acceptable and tastes good, as well.

As soon as the liquid for the gravy is boiling, whisk soy sauce with cornstarch in a small bowl and set aside.

Add the remaining sauce ingredients to the saucepan: cooking wine, sesame oil, minced garlic clove and black pepper.

Add the cornstarch slurry to the saucepan. Whisk quickly to combine within the sauce.

Once your gravy is ready, lower the heat to the lowest setting possible and keep warm while preparing the egg foo young. The gravy will thicken if allowed to cool.

Whisk eggs with toppings for the egg foo young

whisked eggs with toppings for egg foo young

It’s time to combine our whisked eggs with the toppings.

Make sure your beaten eggs are in a large bowl, and then add diced shrimp, bean sprouts, and about half a cup of diced green onions to the bowl. Stir with a spatula to combine.

This may take a bit of elbow grease: Our toppings are plentiful, but it’s important to try and get them as unified with the whisked egg as possible. This is to ensure an equal distribution of shrimp, veggies and egg in every bite — otherwise, you’ll end up with stir fried veggies and an empty omelet on the side, and that’s a lot less fun.

Cook omelets on both sides for egg foo young

omelets cooking for egg foo young

With our gravy ready and our filling mixed in with the eggs, it’s time to get cooking!

Preheat a large pan to medium heat. When the pan is hot, add 2 tablespoons of vegetable or Canola oil (olive oil will burn too quickly, and its flavors won’t match).

Pour in half a cup of the egg mixture in two corners of the pan, forming patties. Though it might depend on the size of your pan, we do not recommend cooking more than two omelets at a time, as they can stick together.

Let each egg foo young patty cook for 3 to 4 minutes per side, before turning them over and repeating on the other side.

Remove cooked omelets from the pan and repeat until you are all out of batter.

Serve egg foo young topped with gravy and sprinkled with garnishes

serving egg foo young with gravy and rice

As soon as your omelets are ready, it’s time to get eating.

Plate your egg foo young generously doused with gravy and sprinkled with green onions and sesame seeds. Serve alongside rice and steamed vegetables, if desired.

While the egg foo young omelets themselves will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for three days, the gravy will also keep, but it should be stored separately. The gravy will also thicken as it cools, so you will want to reheat it in a saucepan before serving (microwaving it will not get it to the right consistency). However, egg foo young really is best served fresh out of the pan.