Chicken Chow Mein

4.78 from 9 votes
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Easy and delicious chicken chow mein, ready in 30 minutes! Marinated pieces of meat cooked until tender, then tossed with noodles, fresh vegetables, and a flavorful stir-fry sauce.

Chicken chow mein stir fry recipe being cooked in a wok.

Recipe Science

  • Stir-frying chicken at high temperatures quickly sears the meat, locking in juices and creating a flavorful, caramelized exterior through the Maillard reaction.
  • Cooking noodles and vegetables together with the chicken allows the starches from the noodles to absorb the savory sauce, enhancing their flavor and creating a cohesive dish.
  • Using soy sauce and oyster sauce provides umami and saltiness, which balance the dish’s flavors and enhance the overall taste profile by interacting with the natural sugars in the ingredients.

Why It Works

This recipe takes my classic chow mein side dish and adds protein. Sliced and marinated pieces of lean meat cook quickly in the wok. I’ll show you how to assemble the main components to achieve Chinese restaurant-quality results at home.

The key to making a stir-fry is having the chicken, noodles, mix-ins, and sauce prepped and ready to add to the hot pan. After that, you’ll have dinner on the table in 15 minutes. I like to pair this dish with fried rice and bok choy for a complete meal.

Ingredients You’ll Need

List of ingredients and quantities to make a chow mein with chicken.
  • Chicken: I use boneless, skinless chicken breasts and cut them against the grain into thin strips, about ¼-inch thick and 2-inches long. This size will cook the meat fast in about 2 minutes. If using chicken thighs, trim the excess fat so the dish doesn’t get too greasy.
  • Sauce: The stir-fry sauce combines chicken broth, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, and cornstarch for thickening into a glossy glaze.
  • Noodles: Thin Chinese egg noodles give the golden-hued strands that soak up the delicious sauce. At Asian markets, you’ll have numerous types of noodles to choose from, dried or fresh. For this version, I use a 6-ounce package of dried chow mein noodles, also labeled Chuka soba. I was able to find it at major grocery stores. The fresh refrigerated varieties have been par-cooked so you can add them straight to the wok.
  • Vegetables: Green cabbage, shredded carrots, green onions, bean sprouts, ginger and garlic. Added for extra fiber, aromatics, color, and crunch.

See the recipe card below for all ingredients and measurements (US and metric).

Ingredient Substitutions

Now you know how to make chicken chow mein like a pro! Switch up the flavor of the stir-fried noodles with these tasty ideas:

  • Noodles: If you can’t find chow mein noodles, make a chicken lo mein or use alternatives like yakisoba, ramen, and spaghetti.
  • Vegetables: Add sliced mushrooms, bell pepper, zucchini, or bok choy.
  • Seasoning: Some chow mein versions add Shaoxing rice wine and white pepper for a distinct taste and extra seasoning. Give it a try if you have some on hand.
  • Spicy: Add chili oil, red chili flakes, Sriracha, or sambal oelek for a hot kick!
  • Make it Gluten-Free: Purchase gluten-free oyster sauce. Gluten-free tamari or coconut aminos instead of soy sauce. Use gluten-free chow mein or spaghetti.

How to Make Chicken Chow Mein

Pieces of chicken breast in a bowl being marinated with sauce and cornstarch.

Step 1: Marinate the Chicken

Cut the breasts into small strips for fast cooking—slice against the grain, creating pieces about ¼-inch thick and 2-inch long. Coat the pieces with soy sauce, salt, sesame oil, and cornstarch. This mixture boosts the umami taste of the chicken.

The cornstarch creates a protective coating so the chicken doesn’t dry out and makes a crust for the chow mein sauce to stick to. Marinate the chicken while preparing the rest of the ingredients to give it more time to soak.

Stir fry sauce in a bowl with a whisk and clumps of white cornstarch.

Step 2: Make the Chow Mein Sauce

All you need are five Chinese pantry staples for a savory stir-fry sauce that sticks to the noodles. Chicken broth or stock adds depth and a subtle meaty taste to complement the poultry. Soy sauce provides a vital umami element.

The oyster sauce is thick, and the salty taste is balanced with sugar. It adds a characteristic flavor to the dish that shouldn’t be skipped. Cornstarch adds body to the sauce, so it clings to the ingredients. Whisk everything together, making sure no white clumps from the starch remain.

Cooks Tip: If you like saucy noodles, double the recipe.

Cooking chow mein noodles in a large pot of water.

Step 3: Cook the Dried Noodles

Boil the dried noodles until al dente, about one minute less than the package instructions. It took about 2 minutes for the brand I purchased.

The shortened duration helps the chow mein noodles maintain shape and not get mushy when pan-fried. The noodles will continue to cook in the sauce, so after boiling, immediately drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.

Browned pieces of chicken stir-frying in a wok.

Step 4: Stir-fry the Chicken

Cook the marinated chicken in a single layer inside a wok or pan with hot vegetable oil over medium-high heat. I let it sit for about a minute to get a golden surface, then stir-fry for about a minute to cook all the way through. Take the chicken out of the pan so it doesn’t overcook as you add the remaining mix-ins.

A wok is an ideal vessel for stir-frying. The round shape allows heat to surround the entire bottom and sides for quick cooking. However, a nonstick pan or stainless steel skillet also works.

Slices of cabbage, carrots, garlic, and ginger cooking inside a wok.

Step 5: Add Vegetables and Aromatics

Cook the sliced green cabbage and carrots in fresh vegetable oil until crisp and tender. The minced garlic and ginger are heated until fragrant, about 20 seconds. You don’t want them to burn!

Step 6: Add Noodles and Sauce

Add the cooked chow mein noodles and sauce, tossing to coat. The cornstarch in the sauce will thicken up and coat the ingredients. The process only takes about a minute.

Slices of green onions and bean sprouts added last to the wok.

Step 7: Add the Delicate Ingredients

Return the pre-cooked chicken to the pan. Add the bean sprouts and green onions. Just cook to warm them up and let the veggies wilt but not lose their structure.

Chicken chow mein served in a white bowl.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Chinese chicken chow mein made of?

A popular Chinese dish made of marinated chicken breast or thighs, egg noodles, stir-fried vegetables, and aromatics. It’s all tossed with a savory soy and oyster sauce mixture thickened with cornstarch.

What’s the difference between chow mein and lo mein?

Typically, chow mein uses thin egg noodles that can be prepared soft and stir-fried in a savory sauce or crispy called “Hong Kong-style” with the sauce poured on top. Lo mein uses thicker noodles, served soft and coated in a sauce.

What noodles can be substituted for chow mein?

Look for fresh or dried lo mein, yakisoba, ramen, or thin wonton noodles. Fresh par-cooked noodles don’t need to be cooked before stir-frying. Dried ones require boiling. You can use thin or thick spaghetti noodles if your grocery store has limited options.

Why do you wait to stir-fry the aromatics?

When aromatics like ginger and garlic are added to the hot oil, they instantly release their fragrant aromas and fat-soluble flavor. However, if the oil is too hot, you risk scorching the minced pieces and adding a burnt taste. Instead, add the aromatics after cooking the vegetables. There is still plenty of oil to bloom the flavor compounds, but the pan won’t be so hot that it burns instantly.

Serve This With

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Chicken Chow Mein

Flavorful chicken chow mein, ready in just 30-minutes! The marinated meat is stir-fried with noodles, fresh vegetables, and a savory sauce.
4.78 from 9 votes
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Total Time30 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Course Entree
Cuisine Chinese

Ingredients 
 

Chicken Marinade

  • 8 ounces boneless skinless chicken breast, or thighs
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil

Stir-fry Sauce

  • ¼ cup unsalted chicken broth, or stock
  • 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch

Chow Mein

  • 8 cups water
  • 6 ounces dried chow mein noodles, or fresh (see notes)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 cup green cabbage, ¼" thick slices
  • ½ cup shredded carrots
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • ½ teaspoon minced ginger
  • ½ cup bean sprouts
  • ½ cup green onions, 1 ½" long pieces

Instructions 

  • Marinate the Chicken – Cut the chicken against the grain into strips, about ¼-inch thick and 2-inch long. In a medium bowl, combine chicken, soy sauce, salt, cornstarch, and sesame oil. Set aside to marinate.
  • Make the Stir-fry Sauce – In a small bowl, whisk together the chicken broth, oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, and cornstarch. Set aside.
  • Boil the Noodles – In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Add dried noodles and cook according to the manufacturer’s directions until tender with some chew (al dente), about 2 to 3 minutes. Alternatively, if using fresh noodles, skip this boiling step. Drain into a colander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain well and set aside.
  • Stir-fry the Chicken – Heat a large wok, nonstick pan, or stainless steel pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Once hot and shimmering, add the chicken in a single layer. Sear without moving until browned, about 30 seconds. Stir-fry until no longer pink, about 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a clean plate.
  • Add the Vegetables and Aromatics – Heat the wok over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Once hot and shimmering, add the cabbage and carrots, and stir-fry until just tender, about 1 minute. Add in garlic and ginger, and stir-fry until fragrant, 20 seconds.
  • Add the Noodles and Sauce – Add the noodles and sauce. Toss and stir to combine. Cook until the sauce thickens and coats the noodles, about 1 minute. If using fresh noodles, cook until softened and tender, which may require a few additional minutes.
  • Add the Chicken and Bean Sprouts – Add the chicken, bean sprouts, and green onions, and stir-fry until just tender, 1 minute. Serve while still hot.

Recipe Video

YouTube video

Notes

  • Noodle Substitution: Yakisoba, ramen, lo mein, thin wonton noodles, thin or regular spaghetti.
  • Using Fresh Noodles: Skip the boiling step and add directly to the wok for par-cooked fresh noodles. Raw fresh noodles need a few minutes of cooking, then drain well before adding. Toss in oil if sticking together too much.
  • Soy Sauce Substitutions: Use coconut aminos or tamari.
  • Oyster Sauce Substitutions: Hoisin sauce or teriyaki sauce. Alternatively, ¼ cup soy sauce and sugar (add 1 teaspoon of sweetener at a time, increasing to taste). A small amount of fish sauce can enhance the missing seafood taste, but use it sparingly, a ¼ teaspoon to start.
  • For Saucier Noodles: Double the sauce ingredients.
  • Storing: Cool completely and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Reheat in the microwave, covered, in 30-second intervals until hot.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 4 servings
Calories 260kcal (13%)Carbohydrates 37g (12%)Protein 20g (40%)Fat 3g (5%)Saturated Fat 0.5g (3%)Polyunsaturated Fat 1gMonounsaturated Fat 1gTrans Fat 0.01gCholesterol 36mg (12%)Sodium 1426mg (59%)Potassium 369mg (11%)Fiber 4g (16%)Sugar 3g (3%)Vitamin A 2866IU (57%)Vitamin C 12mg (15%)Calcium 47mg (5%)Iron 2mg (11%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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10 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Ann-Marie says

    Made this last night but overcooked the noodles. It was still so good that there were no leftovers! Followed the recipe exactly. Thank you for all the recipes, techniques and inspiration.

  2. Diane Gilch says

    Jessica,
    I love your recipes and have tried many. They get rave reviews from my family and friends! Want to try this, but I have a question. Can I substitute rice noodles? (I have a lot in my pantry!)

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thanks for cooking along with me! Yes, you can substitute rice noodles. But make sure when you cook them they are al dente before adding them to the stir-fry. If it’s mushy and overcooked, it could be very sticky and break apart when trying to mix. Let me know how it taste, I’m very curious!