Egg Roll in a Bowl
This easy one-pan meal combines all the delicious flavors of your favorite Chinese appetizer minus the wheat, soy, and inflammatory fryer oils. A few secret spices add aroma and complexity to this otherwise simple dish that can be on the table in less than 30 minutes.
This thyroid-friendly version of Egg Roll in a Bowl is gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, Paleo-friendly, and low-carb. It's also colorful, nutrient-dense, and whole-food based. Most importantly, it's doable and delicious.
This recipe is just right as-is, but for those who eat grains or the heartier eaters at your table, feel free to bulk up the meal by serving this over rice. I've also wrapped it in rice paper rolls and sizzled them in avocado oil for a more traditional egg-roll-type experience. For breakfast, you could top it with a fried egg. Sometimes I like to sprinkle it with toasted almonds for crunch. Truly, creativity is encouraged (but not required).
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This is a staple recipe on my own family table and one that everyone, including my kiddo, heartily enjoys. My original edited and scribbled-upon recipe sheet (my recipes always start on a blank 8 1/2 x 11-inch piece of paper) is now well-splattered and hasn't changed in a couple of years. I've got it right where I want it, so I'm thrilled to share it with you today! I hope you love it as much as we do.
I'm far from the first person to post a recipe for Egg Roll in a Bowl but I decided to add my own Hypothyroid Chef thumbprint to the towering pile of internet recipes for Egg Roll in a Bowl because this is a one-pan dinner that just makes sense. It's quick, kid-friendly, and nutritious. And who doesn't love those yummy egg roll flavors? Plus, a lot of versions out there include ingredients we don't eat.
What's different about this version is that it is free of the wheat-based wrapper and inflammatory fryer oils that traditional egg rolls include and is also free of soy. You may be surprised to learn that soy sauce is usually made with wheat and contains gluten. Both wheat and soy can be problematic for us Thyroid Thrivers. but the good news is that today there are solid replacement options. More on that below...
Is it okay to eat cabbage with hypothyroidism?
That cabbage you may have been worried about eating with hypothyroidism or Hashimoto's? Don't be. Any thyroid-inhibiting properties in cruciferous veggies, like cabbage, broccoli, or cauliflower, are greatly diminished by cooking. This recipe takes care of that.
Although Thyroid Thrivers were once cautioned against eating these nutritional powerhouse foods, most functional thyroid experts now encourage the consumption of crucifers as long as they're cooked or fermented whenever possible and eaten in reasonable amounts.
What are Coconut Aminos?
Coconut aminos is a dark brown sauce that is salty, umami, and slightly sweet. Despite the name, it's not actually made from coconuts but from the highly nutritious sap of the coconut palm, known as Neera. Once harvested, neera ferments easily, which is how coconut aminos are made.
For our thyroid-friendly cooking purposes, coconut aminos provide us with a gluten, grain, and soy-free alternative to soy sauce. Typically, soy sauce is made by fermenting wheat and soy, and contains gluten. Tamari, which tastes nearly identical to soy sauce, is made using only soy, and is typically gluten-free.
For those of us who wish to avoid gluten and soy, both of which pose concerns for Thyroid Thrivers, coconut aminos is our best replacement option for soy sauce.
Soy sauce epitomizes that beguiling fifth flavor that makes many recipes so irresistible: Umami. This Japanese term defies description somewhat, but synonyms include savory, meaty, and complex. Life without umami is not an option for this Thyroid Thriver, so coconut aminos are something I always have on hand.
In most recipes, coconut aminos make a great substitute for soy sauce or tamari. Coconut aminos have that salty, umami taste and are very similar to soy sauce, albeit with a slight sweetness. That touch of sweetness makes coconut aminos preferable (in my opinion) in this Egg Roll in a Bowl recipe, bringing out all those sweet, savory, and aromatic flavors from the other ingredients, like Chinese 5-spice powder.
Comparing Brands of Coconut Aminos
One thing to note when shopping for coconut aminos is that there can be significant variation in flavor across brands. Coconut Secret and Big Tree Farms are two of the main organic brands I see here in the states.
Coconut Secret contains 270 mg of sodium per tablespoon, whereas Big Tree Farms contains 500 mg of sodium per tablespoon. The difference is nearly double! Consequently, so is the flavor. It's kind of like the difference between regular and low-sodium soy sauce, and it makes my job as a recipe developer a little tricky. When calling for coconut aminos, I always feel the need to clarify which brand I use because the finished product can be quite different, depending.
As a chef who likes big flavor, Big Tree Farms is my go-to brand. I find that the umami saltiness of Big Tree more closely mirrors that of regular soy sauce or tamari and therefore makes a more reliable substitute. When using Coconut Secret, I find the sweetness more prominent and the saltiness lacking. In my opinion, recipes made with this brand don't taste like they were made with soy sauce but with...something else.
That said, Coconut Secret is the way to go for those who prefer lower sodium, perhaps due to high blood pressure or another medical condition. Otherwise, Big Tree Farms gets my vote for flavor as a more accurate soy sauce substitute.
Why is soy problematic for the thyroid?
I want to preface this by saying that every body is different. That said, most of the functional/holistic thyroid experts I follow agree that soy as a dietary staple is OUT for Thyroid Thrivers.
This legume, once revered for its supposed health benefits, has become a cautionary food choice due to its estrogenic and goitrogenic effects on the body. It has also become one of the top food allergens, especially in children.
Here are a few reasons soy is specifically problematic for Thyroid Thrivers, according to holistic nutritionist Adrienne Klein:
- Soy can inhibit thyroid function by blocking the activity of the TPO enzyme, which is critical to the production of thyroid hormones.
- The goitrogenic properties of soy cannot be cooked out, unlike goitrogenic vegetables (like broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, etc.).
- Soy is an estrogenic food, which means that soy and soy isoflavone mimic estrogen in the body.
- Too much estrogen in the body can lead to estrogen dominance, ovarian and breast cancer, autoimmune issues, and hypothyroidism.
- Soy has been linked to the development of Hashimoto's.
Common sources of soy include:
- Soy milk
- Salad dressings
- Processed foods
- Infant formula
- Protein powders
- Chocolate (soy lecithin)
- Vegetarian/vegan meat alternatives
- Dairy-free products
- Edamame (soybeans)
- Hydrolyzed vegetable or soy protein
- Skin and beauty products
Even mainstream canned tuna brands that advertise "packed in water" are actually packed in soy-based vegetable broth.
Further Reading: Is Tuna Thyroid-Safe?
Label-reading becomes very important when trying to avoid soy. All the more reason to avoid processed foods and prepare your own, colorful whole-foods-based meals, which is exactly what we're going to do with this Egg Roll in a Bowl recipe!
What is Chinese 5-Spice Powder?
Chinese 5-Spice is one of my favorite culinary flavor boosters. There are several formulas for this spice blend, which is said to have been created to represent the 5 elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, and water) with the 5 flavors (bitter, sour, salty, sweet, and umami). The 5 main spices included are cloves, fennel, star anise, cinnamon, and Szechwan pepper. Together, these flavors are said to balance and harmonize a person's yin and yang.
If you're hesitant to add another bottle to your spice collection, don't be. Chinese 5-Spice can take simple ingredients, like the ones in this recipe, or in my Mashed Winter Squash, for example, and turn them into something sultry, spicy, sweet, and intoxicatingly aromatic.
If you don't have any on hand, making your own is pretty easy if you have a spice grinder. You could also use pre-ground spices, but grinding your own will create a far-superior tasting 5-spice.
Credit for this formula goes to NYT recipe developer David Tanis and is included in his absolutely to-die-for Roast Duck with Orange and Ginger. His 5-spice formula is a bullseye, so I wouldn't change a thing.
In a spice grinder, combine:
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon fennel seed
- 1 teaspoon whole cloves
- 6 star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick (broken into pieces)
- 12 allspice berries
Grind to a fine powder and store in a glass jar for up to 1 year. Makes 3 tablespoons.
Thyroid Healthy Recipe Highlights
- Pastured Pork: A 3-ounce serving of pork contains 103% DV of tyrosine, 63% DV of selenium, and 17% DV of Zinc—3 key nutrients for thyroid health.
- Cabbage is an exceptionally nutrient-dense food with a low caloric price tag of just 22 per cup. Packed with antioxidants like vitamin C, phytonutrients, and fiber, cabbage can help lower chronic inflammation, protect the immune system, boost collagen production, support gut health, and improve digestion.
- Carrots: 1 cup of carrots provides 428% DV of Vitamin A, which can activate thyroid-hormone receptors and reduce chronic inflammation.
- Ginger aids in relieving both the inflammation and the sensitivity to cold sometimes caused by thyroid disease. It can also boost metabolism, improve digestion, and speed up slow gut motility often associated with an underactive thyroid.
- Garlic has many powerful healing properties and can aid or alleviate some of the symptoms of thyroid disease, such as inflammation, cardiovascular issues, decreased immunity, and increased infection. It can also support the liver in its detoxification efforts.
Happy cooking, happy thriving, and enjoy the recipe (below)!
P.S. Need more thyroid-friendly recipe inspiration? I’ve got you covered. My Thyroid-friendly Everyday eCookbook features over 50 quick and easy, thyroid-friendly recipes your whole family will love. To take a peek at what’s inside, CLICK HERE.
More Low-Carb Meals to Try:
- Chilled Avocado Soup
- Broth-poached Chicken with Summer Tabbouleh
- Avocado and Grapefruit Salad with Broiled Salmon
- Ginger Basil Chicken Salad
- Hearty AIP Breakfast Bowl
- Lemon Chicken Broccoli Sheet Pan Meal
- Thai Beef Salad