Wok-fired chicken chow mein, ready in just 30-minutes! Marinated pieces of meat stir-fried until tender, then tossed with noodles, fresh vegetables, and a savory sauce.
Table of Contents
If you love chow mein but are looking to add extra protein to your meal, then this chicken chow mein recipe is for you. Sliced and marinated pieces of lean meat cook quickly in the wok, adding only a few extra minutes of prep time. I’ll show you how to assemble the main components to achieve restaurant-quality results at home.
The key to making a fast stir-fry is having everything prepped and ready to add to the hot pan. The four main components are chicken, noodles, mix-ins, and sauce. When you time everything just right, 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.
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. Dark meat is delicious but fattier. If using, trim off the excess fat so that the noodles don’t get too greasy.
Marinate the chicken
To add layers of flavor to the meat, I combine it with savory seasonings. Coat the pieces with a mixture of 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, making a crust for the chow mein sauce to stick to.
I like to marinate the chicken while preparing the rest of the ingredients to give it more time to soak.
How to make chow mein sauce
All you need is five simple 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 strong umami element. The oyster sauce is very thick and dark brown. The salty taste from the shellfish is balanced with sugar and thickened with cornstarch. It adds a characteristic flavor to the dish that shouldn’t be skipped.
A bit more cornstarch adds body to the sauce, so it clings to the ingredients. Just whisk everything together, making sure no white clumps from the starch remain. Some 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. If you like saucy noodles, simply double the recipe.
Thin Chinese egg noodles give the golden-hued strands that soak up the delicious sauce. At Asian markets, you’ll have numerous options for dried or fresh. For this version, I use a 6-ounce package of dried chow mein noodles, also labeled as 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.
Cooking dried noodles
Boil the dried noodles until they are al dente, about one minute less than the package instructions. It took about 2 minutes for the brand that I purchased. This duration helps the pasta maintain its shape and not get mushy when stir-frying. Immediately drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. The sauce will continue to cook the noodles, so don’t overcook!
Cooking fresh noodles
If you opt for fresh, par-cooked noodles, you can skip the boiling step. Gently break apart the bundle, as they are tightly compacted in the package, then place into the wok. When using raw fresh noodles, boil them first like the dried, then drain and rinse.
A wok is an ideal vessel to cook the noodles. 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 well for stir-frying.
Stir-fry the chicken
Cook the marinated chicken in a single layer in hot vegetable oil. 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 it out of the pan, so it doesn’t overcook as you add the remaining mix-ins.
How to make chicken chow mein
Now that you have the noodles and chicken cooked, it’s time to add the flavorful mix-ins! 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!
Add the boiled 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. The pre-cooked chicken, bean sprouts, and green onions just cook to warm them up and let the veggies wilt but not lose their structure.
Serve this with
A popular Chinese dish made from marinated chicken breast or thighs, egg noodles, stir-fried vegetables, and aromatics like carrots, cabbage, bean sprouts, green onions, garlic, and ginger. It’s all tossed with a savory soy and oyster sauce mixture thickened with cornstarch.
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 noodles are thicker, served soft, and coated in a sauce.
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 use thin or thick spaghetti noodles if your grocery store has limited options.
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 into the dish. 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 too hot that it burns instantly.
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Chicken Chow Mein
- 8 ounces boneless skinless chicken breast, or thighs
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon sesame oil
- ¼ cup unsalted chicken broth, or stock
- 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- Prepare the Chicken – Cut the chicken against the grain into strips, about ¼-inch thick and 2-inch long.
- Marinate the Chicken – In a medium bowl, combine chicken, soy sauce, salt, cornstarch, and sesame oil. Set aside.
- 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 wok, nonstick pan, or stainless steel pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Once hot and shimmering, carefully 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 Aromatics and Vegetables – 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, 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, stir-fry until just tender, 1 minute. Serve while still hot.
- Wok Spatula
- 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 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.
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