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Nanjing Salted Duck (南京盐水鸭)

by Shirley
Published: Updated:
Nanjing salted duck

Nanjing salted duck is one of the popular dishes in China’s Yangtze River Delta area, home to Huai Yang cuisine. This recipe uses simple ingredients to make a heavenly delicious duck at home easily.

Nanjing Salted Duck
Nanjing Salted Duck, homenaturallymade.com

My childhood memory inspired me to make this tasty savory duck. Born and growing up in Suzhou, in the heart of the Yangtze River Delta area, duck is a quite common everyday dish.

What do you need to make Nanjing Salted Duck?

I am always fond of this naturally delicious duck dish. With this recipe, you can make this flavorful appetizing duck at home with ease. All you need is:

Nanjing Salted Duck is healthy & delicious

Duck is delicious and nutritious. Traditional Chinese Medicine theory favors duck over chicken because of its neutral to mild temperament.

Per Yin-Yang philosophy, all living things including human bodies have their inherent temperament either: Yin, i.e. cool or Yang, i.e. warm, and something in between or neutral. A neutral state is the ultimate desirable balanced state we are trying to accomplish for a healthy body.

The food we eat and the drinks we take play an important role to influence our body’s temperament. Traditional Chinese Medicine or herbs, if I dare to explain this complex topic extremely simplistically, are aiming to compensate the excess of either Yin or Yang to reach a more balanced state.

Therefore, food that has a neutral, mild temperament is golden because it is suitable for all body types and all seasons regardless of whether it is hot & humid summer or cold & dry winter. You can enjoy these types of food anytime without introducing imbalances into our body systems.

OK, enough for the Traditional Chinese Medicine Philosophy. How about some scientific facts? The below three facts about duck make it a wonderful choice of Paleo diet:

  1. Duck is an incredible source of selenium and zinc, both of which help boost metabolism.
  2. It also contains a higher amount of iron compared to other poultry.
  3. It has better quality fat. Read more here if you want to dive deep into different fats and what they do to our bodies.

Did I mention this duck tastes refreshing, this is because most of the duck oil goes into the water during the slow simmering process? This makes this duck dish super healthy too.

So how to cook Nanjing Salted Duck like a pro?

Step 1. Pick a duck at the grocery store, de-thaw, clean and prepare for cooking

If you buy a frozen whole duck, please keep it in a sealed bag or container and leave it in the refrigerator for two days to allow it to de-thaw slowly & thoroughly. After that, wash and rinse the duck well, trim the extra skin and parts, and cut open the duck rib cage area. Now you are ready to cook the duck.

Open duck rib cage, homenaturallymade.com

Step 2. Prepare wok with water and seasonings, and bring it to a boil

Fill the wok about 40% full of water, then add ginger, green onion, star anise, bay leaves, cinnamon, and black and white pepper. Then, turn on the heat to high and cook to boiling point. Once it reaches the boiling point, turn the heat to simmer.

Heat the wok with water & seasonings, homenaturallymade.com

Step 3. Add duck into the wok, slow cook for 1.5 hours

Now add the duck carefully into the hot wok, breast side up. Add soy sauce, cooking wine and vinegar into the open rib cage area.

  • Cover the wok with a lid and let it simmer for 30 minutes.
  • After 30 minutes, carefully turn or flip the duck upside down, now the duck’s back facing up and let it simmer for another 30 minutes.
  • Repeat the turn or flip and simmer for 30 minutes

Step 4. All done! Remove the duck out of the wok, let it cool on a plate.

Nanjing salted duck on a plate
Cooling Nanjing salted duck on a plate, HomeNaturallyMade.com

So how to serve this whole duck? Same way as you would serve a whole roasted chicken. I use a cleaver to chop off wings and legs first. Then I separate breasts and use a cleaver to cut the breasts into bite-size chunks.


Save the juice left in the wok. They are the perfect broth for a noodle soup. Use the duck juice and water in equal portions for a soup base.

Noodle Soup {Quick Easy Delicious Way}
Noodle Soup {Quick Easy Delicious Way}

You can also use the super delicious duck broth to make a boiled vegetable in broth dish such as Cauliflower with Black Fungus.

Boiled Cauliflower and Black Fungus
Boiled Cauliflower and Black Fungus

Like ducks? Make sure you check out another delicious duck dish, Braised Duck (Jiang Ya 酱鸭).

Like Huai Yang cuisine? Make sure you check out below:

Nanjing salted duck

Nanjing Salted Duck (盐水鸭)

Yield: 12 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 40 minutes

Nanjing salted duck is one of the popular duck dishes in China's Yangtze River Delta area. This recipe uses simple ingredients to make a heavenly delicious savory duck at home easy and healthy. Slow cook for 1.5 hours and then serve either warm or cold.


  • 1 Natural whole Duck, about 5lbs
  • 6 cups of water
  • 2 tbsp sea salt or pink Himalayan salt
  • 3 star anise
  • 4 Ginger roots slices
  • 1 stalk of scallions, chopped
  • 4 Bay leaves
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon powder, or 1 small nail-size piece of cinnamon bark
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper, freshly ground, or 5 black peppercorns
  • 1/8 tsp white pepper, freshly ground, or 5 white peppercorns
  • 2 tbsp Shaoxing Wine
  • 1 tbsp regular soy sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp Zhenjiang vinegar


  1. Clean the duck, trim extra skin and parts, and open the rib cage area
  2. Fill the wok with 6 cups of water, about 40% full, and then add salt, ginger roots, green onions, star anise, bay leaves, cinnamon, black and white pepper.
  3. Turn the heat to high, and bring to a boil, about 5-8 minutes. And then turn the heat to simmer.
  4. Carefully add the duck into the hot wok, breast side facing up. Add Shaoxing Wine, soy sauce, and Zhenjiang vinegar into the open rib cage area. Cover the wok and cook for 30 minutes + 30 minutes + 30 minutes intervals
  5. At each of the 30-minute mark, carefully turn or flip the duck upside down, and cook for another 30 minutes.
  6. All done! Take the duck out of the wok and cool it on a plate.


  • Soy sauce, Shaoxing Wine, and Zhenjiang vinegar are my primary Chinese cooking essential condiments
  • You can use a similar way to serve a whole roasted chicken to serve this duck.
  • This duck is equally good to eat either warm or cold.
  • This recipe uses less salt and most salt remains in the juice. The duck itself is tasty but not overly salty at all.
  • The juice left in the wok is a perfect duck broth. You can use it as a dip for the duck. It is also great for cooking duck noodle soup later.

Nutrition Information
Yield 12 Serving Size 12
Amount Per Serving Calories 654Total Fat 54gSaturated Fat 18gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 31gCholesterol 159mgSodium 1387mgCarbohydrates 3gFiber 1gSugar 0gProtein 36g

Nutrition calculation is provided by Nutritionix to the best knowledge per ingredients description and isn't always accurate.

Did you make this recipe?

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Leave a Comment


Herman February 28, 2021 - 11:47 am

Easy preparation and very tasty.
Thank you, Chef Shirley. Attractive and informative website. We’re looking forward to cooking more of your recipes.

Shirley February 28, 2021 - 4:20 pm

You are so welcome! Thank you for trying my recipe. Don’t hesitate to let me know should you have any questions, suggestions, or comments. “See” you around.

Herman February 28, 2021 - 9:07 pm

Shirley, what is the best way to add some color to the duck so that it doesn’t look raw after cooking? It scared a friend of mine.😦

Shirley February 28, 2021 - 9:52 pm

You can potentially use dark soy sauce to add color. Anyhow, the natural color is the iconic look of the Nanjing salted duck. If color is preferred, I have another “Red Braised Duck” recipe, which is colorful and flavorful. Feel free to give that a try too.


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