What the Heck are Chinese Eating for Breakfast? (Food Options and Prices)

Every time someone asks me what Chinese eat on a regular basis I simply answer:

The Chinese eat everything with four legs except tables, and everything that flies except airplanes.

little chicken fried in China
Poor chicks!
Pig's noses in china
Enjoy your meal :)

They eat dog’s meat, chicken’a feet, pig’s nose, bees, cockroaches and more (you probably don’t want to know).

Chinese New Year's food - spicy chicken's legs, mushrooms, all edible parts of pig and chicken with fried veggies
Chinese New Year’s food – spicy chicken’s legs, mushrooms, all edible parts of pig and chicken with fried veggies

Typical Chinese Breakfast

But let’s focus on Chinese breakfast today.

If you come to China and hope to get a nice sandwich, a bowl of cereal, a chocolate pancake or a piece toast for your breakfast, you will either go hungry and angry or you try one of Chinese morning treats, which differ a lot from the Western food.

So what do Chinese people eat for breakfast?

For example, Chinese people eat dumplings for breakfast. What!? Dumplings for breakfast? Are you kidding? Ok, if you don’t like them you can have a beef noodle soup. What!? A soup for breakfast!? Is it a kind of joke?

A girl is holding a sticky rice leaf and jiaozi in china

Welcome to China!

Boiled eggs in the street, China
You can get some boiled eggs on the run every morning

Let’s face it, these eggs don’t look very appealing to us…

Chinese eggs dipped in tea

Although Chinese dishes are incredibly popular around the world, traditional Chinese breakfast rituals and treats are relatively unknown. Most people wouldn’t be probably able to name 3 basic Chinese meals served in the morning. So here I come to help you out!

First of all, it must be pointed out that there is a completely different approach to breakfast in China than in Europe:

  • Chinese don’t eat scrambled eggs, bread or even cereal with milk in the morning.
  • They don’t read the newspaper with a breakfast.
  • They rarely cook it at home.
  • Breakfast must be always hot and quick to prepare, ready to grab on the run.
  • They don’t drink tea or coffee in the morning as people think.
  • They never skip breakfast.
Local food vendors where you can buy your breakfast at in China
Local food vendors where you can buy your breakfast in China

Instead, they:

  • Prefer to eat their breakfast in the street, buy it at food vendors or take the food away and have it at work.
  • Go either for heavy and stodgy meals such as dumplings or sweet and savory items such as doughnuts or buns.
  • Always have a cup of soy milk with their meals.
  • Often eat in rush loudly smacking (well, they always smack).
Here you can buy some bean juice in the morning
Here you can buy some bean juice in the morning

When I first came to China my stomach was very upset. However, I quickly got used to the new eating habits and after a few weeks I was craving more and more dumplings each morning on top of noodle beef soups, deeply fried doughnuts and Chinese buns (until I put on weight, looked fat and couldn’t look in the mirror :P).

The street vendors can be found nearly everywhere. There is a restaurant next to a restaurant,  next to another restaurant close to a restaurant in front of a restaurant. Yes, that means you will always find a place to have your breakfast at. The food vendors are open from 5 am and the breakfast is served till 11ish.

So let’s go through a list of Chinese breakfast foods.

Chinese Breakfast Menu 

1. A plate of Baozi (dumplings)

Chinese dumplings called Baozi

Chinese dumplings (baozi) go with various fillings. They are steamed or fried. They are usually stuffed with pork, beef and vegetables, and in addition provides a variety of Asian sauces such as soy-based sauce, chili, vinegar and sesame oil.

Baozi inside
This is what you can find inside – oily mince and chives

You can find them at every food vendor. They usually have the same size, but the taste is different. Some of them are extremely oily and don’t look very appealing. Make sure they are hot when served -cold aren’t as tasty.

A plate of Baozi
A plate of Baozi

You should not pay more than RMB0,5 – RMB1 ($0.8 – $0.16) for one big Baozi and you can feel stuffed after having 1-2 (girls) and 3-4 (guys).

2. A plate of Jiaozi

A plate of Jiaozi
A plate of Jiaozi
Fried Jiaozi with some spicy chili oil sauce, yummy!
Fried Jiaozi with some spicy chili oil sauce, yummy!

Jiaozi are also Chinese dumplings crescent-shaped filled with minced stuffing and steamed, boiled or fried. Fried Jiaozi taste the best in my opinion.

Fried Jiaozi
Fried Jiaozi

They are incredibly soft and watery and their taste is so much different from baozi. Jiaozi are also served with spicy or sweet chili sauce for lunch and dinner.

A plate of Jiaozi (6-8) shouldn’t cost more than RMB3 (<$0.5).

3. A bow of rice porridge (congee) or bean juice

Some Chinese love to have a warm rice porridge for breakfast. It’s very thick and creamy. They have it with some hot bean juice.

Bean juices ready to grab
Bean juices ready to grab

A bowl of porridge costs around RMB2-3 and a cup of bean juice is not more than RMB2.

4. A bowl of noodle soup with a meat of your choice and veggies

Morning noodle soup in China
Morning noodle soup
Take away Beijing noodles with salty peanuts
Take away Beijing noodles with salty peanuts

It takes a few seconds to prepare it. Among Chinese the most popular is a beef noodle soup made of stewed or red braised beef, beef broth, vegetables and Chinese noodles perfectly spiced.

You will be served a huge bowl of it for only RMB 5-8 ($ 1 – 1.25).

One of my breakfast treats in Huayuan, Hunan province - beef noodle soup with parsley
One of my breakfast treats in Huayuan, Hunan province – beef noodle soup with parsley

5. You tiao

Morning You tiao
Morning You tiao

You tiao (oil strip) are deep fried bread sticks made of dough and served hot as an accompaniment for rice congee or soy milk. Warning – they are super oily!

You tiao in China in the street
You tiao ready to eat

1 You tiao usually costs RMB1 ($0.16) and 2 will fill you up.

6. Egg pancakes (Jian bing)

Chinese egg pancakes
Chinese egg pancakes

They are usually served with chives and some of them might be extra spiced. They are light and very filling, but certainly don’t taste like their Western cousins.

One costs around RMB3 ($0.5).

If you are not a big fan of egg pancakes you can swap it for a fried croquette filled with meat and veggies (make sure it’s well done both sides).

They are more expensive than egg pancakes (RMB5 each/ $0.8) but more filling as well.

Chinese croquettes
Chinese croquettes

7. Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes

It might be so odd to have potatoes for breakfast, but Chinese style sweet potatoes are very nutritious and yummy. They are baked in a huge barrel in the street. They are very soft and dry so make sure you get them with soy milk or tea.

Price: RMB1 ($0.16) for a medium size potato or RMB4 for 500g.

8. Fermented tofu.

Sweet chili tofu
Sweet chili tofu

That is a great alternative for vegetarians. Tofu is very soft and light topped with sweet chili or spicy sauce. You can find some beans in it as well.

A bowl of tofu costs RMB3 ($0.5).

9. Sticky rice wrapped in a leaf

Sticky rice filled with beans and nuts
Sticky rice filled with beans and nuts

There are two types of sticky rice in China. One filled with beans, veggies and some salty nuts, the other one is stuffed with bananas and they taste very sweet. They are both incredibly delicious and filling. Warning: the leaf is a wrapping only – inedible :-).

A girl is eating jiaozi and smelling sticky rice
Sticky rice has a very delicate and aromatic smell

Sticky rice wrapped in a leaf usually costs RMB2,5/$0.40.

10. Toppings: salty peanuts, spicy pickled radishes, pickled mustard

Chinese toppings salty peanuts, spicy pickled radishes, pickled mustard.

 Surprise, Chinese DON”T have only RICE for their breakfast! :-)

A Chinese family on a bike holding their breakfast
That’s something we see every morning – kids going to school with their breakfast in hands

Our favorites 

I am personally a big fan of steamed Baozi and bean juice while Cez can’t get enough of fried Jiaozi and You tiao. We rarely have noodles  or tofu and have been preparing our own food – ham and salad baguettes, oatmeal with fruits and nuts or scrambled eggs.

Cez and his Jiaozi
Cez and his Jiaozi

As you can probably see, most of those breakfast treats are deep fried. So if your slimming genes are not working in your favor, you might decide to skip some Breakfast meals not pile on pounds :). But for now, let us enjoy this food with no guilt :).

Are you surprised with the breakfast food options in China? What was/would be your favorite Chinese morning treat?


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Agness Walewinder
Agness Walewinder
Travel freak, vagabond, photography passionate, blogger, life enthusiast, backpacker, adventure hunter and endless energy couchsurfer living by the rule "Pack lite, travel far and live long!"
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119 thoughts on “What the Heck are Chinese Eating for Breakfast? (Food Options and Prices)”

  1. I really loved the fried breadsticks (might explain why I gained a bit of weight). The sweet potatoes are also nice but I never had them for breakfast. The jiaozi look super tasty! And I really like your hair like that! :)

    1. Agness Walewinder

      I’ve gained 5 kg in total :), not a big deal though :P. I really enjoy sweet potatoes. It’s a great snack, not necessarily a great idea for breakfast but Chinese eat it all the time. Thanks, love my hair like that as well. Took me only 2 minutes to style them!

    1. Agness Walewinder

      They are not only filling but also so healthy and nutritious, especially the baked ones. They contain some vitamin C, they are also high in calcium, folate, potassium and beta-carotene :).

  2. There was a guy with an egg pancake cart at my bus stop in Shanghai every morning. He always put something extra inside the pancake: you could choose between a soft breadstick, a thin, hard fried bread similar to a papadam or a sausage. The sausage was disgusting, so I always got one of the breads. He also used a different sauce from other vendors–it was a spicy sichuan-style chili sauce. I loved it. I had a pancake almost every morning while waiting for my bus to work. It was only 3 Yuan, too.

    I also really like those eggs boiled in the tea mixture, despite them not looking all that appealing. They were one of my go-to snacks in China. Of course I recently read the story about the urine soaked eggs, so maybe eggs aren’t always a good idea, at least not if you’re in Dongyang. Here’s the story, but it’s really poorly written (probably a Chinese author)–lots of pictures though: https://oddstuffmagazine.com/egg-boy-horrible-chinese-cook-eggs-in-virgin-boy-urine.html

    1. Agness Walewinder

      LOL, just read the story about the urine soaked eggs, that’s pretty shocking I must admit! However, I won’t stop eating them, they are very good. As you said, it’s a nice snack choice when you are in a hurry. The story of the pancake man is great. We also have some local vendors we visit very often in the morning. What we love about Chinese is that they always put some extra fillings and some nice sauces into your food! They are never greedy when it comes to food :-).

      1. That’s true. Even people who don’t have much food themselves are always willing to share. On long train rides especially, the people around me always gave me so much to eat. I actually started buying big bags of fruit from the vendors on the platform, just so I had something to share in return, because I felt bad.

        As for the urine eggs, they’re apparently only found in Dongyang, so you’re safe where you are. The author never writes the city correctly, but there’s actually a wikipedia article about those eggs that explains it a bit better.

      2. Agness Walewinder

        That’s so true. Locals feed us on trains and buses as well. There are usually some sunflowers seeds, chicken’s feet, some packed meat and dry fruits. So kind of them. We try to share some sweets with them, but they always refuse :). They are just way too nice to us.

  3. Agness, you have a very dramatic and shocking way of making a post introduction through your photos:) Those birds on the stick and pig snouts almost made me fall on my chair! You put up a a very nice and comprehensive guide to Chinese breakfast. My husband’s Keith’s family is Chinese (but he was born and bred New Yorker) and even he was surprised with the wide array of Chinese breakfast option. When I was in China, my favorite breakfast was congee. I liked it with peanuts and tofu. You hide those pounds so well:)

    1. Agness Walewinder

      Haha, I see you like my introduction photos as much as I do. They are pretty shocking but it’s the truth. These are the photos of everyday China, no lie at all. Yes, there is a great variety of food when it comes to breakfast and it’s so cheap and easily available. I have my favourite congee vendor so I know how great it tastes with peanuts and tofu :):). I also add some extra sliced potatoes and boiled eggs to it. That made me so hungry!!

  4. Sonja @ The {Happy} Travel Bug

    I really enjoyed this post! I just find travel food posts sooo interesting. Thanks so much for the great pictures and information, including the prices. I just bought some potstickers at a local Chinese restaurant called Panda Express, they look exactly like Jiaozi and cost $3 for three of them. So much more expensive and the Jiaozi look way better!

    1. Agness Walewinder

      I also keen on reading food posts but they always make me so hungry!! :-). Those Jiaozi you bought were really expensive. We could buy two huge plates of them to feed 5 people for the same price, insane! Hope it was delicious though.

  5. Chinese breakfast is definitely different from what I’m used to back home. I love the Jiaozi, the dumplings, the sticky rice and the sweet potatoes.. need to try more.

    1. Agness Walewinder

      Yeah, there is a huge different between what I used to have for my breakfast being back home and what I have right now in China. I slowly but surely got used to it and now I keep craving more Chinese food than ever. So addictive!

  6. That’s an awesome food guide Agness, really! Me and my girlfriend are going to Beijing for our honeymoon and we were just thinking of Chinese food we could have for our breakfast. There is a plenty of options to choose from. I would go for Baozi and my wife loves porridge!

    1. Agness Walewinder

      Thank you so much! I’m happy to help and I hope you and your wife will have a life of your life. Congratulations on the wedding by the way. Don’t be afraid of experimenting with Chinese food, it can be a great fun for both of you x:)

  7. I had a million of those eggs while I was in Taiwan. For whatever reason I’ve never thought to do that at home, but I think I’ll try it sometime. And whenever I see pictures of Chinese food I get jealous.

    1. Agness Walewinder

      I don’t even know how to do these eggs at home so they can taste the same way as the ones I buy in the street :P…

  8. When I was in China I pretty much gravitated to the steamed buns. I definitely prefer the breakfast choices in China to those in Korea. Korean breakfast consists of rice, soup, and a bit of meat or fish. I have to admit even after 12 years here, its my least favorite meal of the day.

    1. Agness Walewinder

      We have been recently cooking some steamed buns at home and they are delicious, especially those filled with strawberries and blueberries (very thick and sugary). We can’t wait to visit Korea, but I guess I won’t fancy Korean breakfasts either. Although I’m a big fan of fish, I wouldn’t have it for my breakfast.

  9. Wow really, it makes you think. Its amazing what people can eat. I do not think I can eat a pigs head. Boiled eggs perhaps would be OK.

  10. I knew China was a cheap country but didn’t know the breakfast food is so cheap. How awesome!!! I wanna a plate of jiaozi right now!

    1. Agness Walewinder

      It’s incredibly cheap when it comes to local street food. We spent $1 for our breakfast last Saturday. We ordered a plate of Jiaozi with some sticky rice. 2 full and happy people for nearly $1, can you believe it?

  11. Argh, looks like as a veggie, I’m going to have to develop a strong stomach in China by the look of those intro photos! I also love cereal in the morning, savory dumplings are going to take some getting use too. Think I’ll ease myself in with the rice porridge when we visit. It all looks delicious; for lunch or dinner! On the other hand, my boyfriend can’t wait for savory food with chili oil for breakfast. Hmmm. Great photos btw!

    1. Agness Walewinder

      Hey Charlie, thanks for stopping by. When I came to China for the first time I was a veggie as well, but had to give it up after a month. To be honest, my life was a hell and Chinese couldn’t get the whole idea of not eating meat. They were kinda forcing me to eat meat and it felt so awkward to keep saying no. I hope you can manage it well. You can have some baked potatoes as well.

  12. Rika | Cubicle Throwdown

    I actually hate traditional Western breakfast foods… I would love Chinese breakfast, although I would gain a TON of weight!

    1. Agness Walewinder

      For some reason, only men don’t put on weight in China. They actually lose some weight in most cases, so UNFAIR!

  13. I shouldn’t have read this post on an empty stomach Agness! You should have put a warning note there :). Great guide, some decent food I can see here. I’m a big fan of Youtiao.

    1. Agness Walewinder

      I will do it next time, promise! Hahaha I know, the food looks tempting :). You are just like Cez. He craves a lot of Youtiao for his breakfast.

  14. GREAT post! I have never been to China, but I’ve heard often exactly what you wrote. That a) the Chinese will eat any part of anything that used to have a pulse and b) the food culture is a huge part of the day. Or, as you so excellently put it, “There is a restaurant next to a restaurant, next to another restaurant close to a restaurant in front of a restaurant.” LMAO. Loved that.

    And like Cez, when it comes to Chinese food, my first choice is always the Jiaozi…or “gyoza,” as they are known here in Japan. As for the more mysterious things, you won’t find them here in Japan, where food sensibility isn’t so far off of what we consider “normal” food in the West.

    Anyway, kudos on another great article, and on the super close up shot of the pig schnozes! lol

    1. Agness Walewinder

      Thanks Mike for your comment. That’s so true. Chinese would eat anything anywhere :). I want to know more about Japanese cuisine, seriously. Wondering how it differs from Chinese.

  15. Your post made me really curious because I’m a vegetarian and all those “four-legged” pictures got me worried for if I ever go to China… but the rest of the breakfast options relieved me, so, whew!

    The way the Chinese prefer savory items for breakfast reminds me of when I was visiting Ireland. My friends who were studying there said that they tried to open a Dunkin Donuts, but it failed miserably because the Irish did NOT want anything sweet for breakfast. They prefer Guinness instead ;)

    1. Agness Walewinder

      HAHAHA, I’ve heard many stories about Irish people and the Guinness and they made me laugh!! Never had a pint of Guinness for my breakfast though, must try it! :) As for your breakfast in China. being a veggie here can be a problem, but there is also a great variety of porridge, noodles and vegetables of course to choose from so DON”T WORRY! :)

  16. I’m a chinese Indonesian and everytime I travel to China, I get shocked too about what they eat for breakfast. Congee is fine for me but my stomach can’t take oily and spicy food in the morning. Anyway, this post really makes me hungry. Too many delicious pictures to stare at *drool*

    1. Agness Walewinder

      Hahahha. I got used to Chinese breakfast being so oily, but my stomach sometimes gets upset. It’s all ok when eating in moderation though.

  17. Breakfast in China was a revelation for me!! Beef noodle soup for breakfast – yes please!! I loved it!! I never thought I would, but I did!! In fact, I find that easier to stomach than some sweet Western breakfasts nowadays :)

    1. Agness Walewinder

      I’m actually starving now so reading your comment made me even more hungry! Cez finds it easier to stomach than most of Western Breakfasts as well, but not me :)

  18. Lovely photos of the food Agness – I like the look of the egg pancakes but I’m pretty sure your great photo is deceiving me and that I wouldn’t really like them. I really struggled with the food when I visited China and spent pretty much the whole month I was there being sick. I do hope to visit China again, but I just hope I have better luck next time!

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