Chow Mein

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Chinese chow mein noodles tossed in an authentic savory sauce. The noodles are stir-fried with cabbage, carrots, bean sprouts, green onions, ginger and garlic for a flavorful vegetarian dish. A recipe ready in less than 30 minutes or less!

Chopsticks on a white bowl filled with chow mein and vegetables

Chow mein noodles are incredibly popular at Chinese restaurants and a favorite of mine when grabbing takeout on busy weeknights. I’ve also had my fair share of growing up in the Bay Area not far from Chinatown, where you can order either wet with some gravy, or crispy fried noodles served Hong Kong Style.

Noodles are especially popular to serve during celebrations like Chinese New Year. The seemingly endless strand of pasta is considered a lucky food that is symbolic of happiness and longevity. So eat up! This chow mein recipe adds crisp cabbage, carrots, bean sprouts, and green onions to the stir-fried noodles for a vegetarian version.

Once you’ve gathered and prepared all of your ingredients, it only takes 10 minutes to cook from wok to plate.

Pre-portioned chow mein ingredients on a wooden board

Chow Mein vs. Lo Mein

Here is where things get a little confusing, especially if you’re trying to decide between the two at Chinese restaurants. Over the centuries classic chow mein has evolved by region, using different types of noodles.

The traditional difference is that chow mein is a crispy fried noodle covered or tossed in sauce, while lo mein is a soft noodle lightly coated in sauce. What I’ve typically experienced is that lo mein noodles are thicker in size with more chew, and the chow mein noodles are thinner and can have a more wavy shape. Either way, it’s delicious.

The great thing about this Chinese dish is that you can choose whichever noodle type you prefer. If you’re near an Asian market, you’ll have more options for fresh egg noodles in the refrigerated section or dried egg noodles. The packages may say chow mein or lo mein, otherwise, yakisoba and ramen are acceptable substitutions. I was only able to find dried chow mein noodles at the major grocery store, so I used that for this recipe.

If your market is limited on options, you can use thin or thick spaghetti noodles, depending on your preference. You can’t go wrong so don’t let the type of noodle stop you.

Metal tongs lifting cooked chow mein noodles out of a boiling pot of water

When using dried Chinese egg noodles, boil them until just tender. You want some chew so that it holds its shape when stir-frying the noodles. Undercook them slightly, about 1 minute fewer per package instructions, taste and test the texture and continue cooking if needed. Make sure to immediately drain the noodles in a colander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.

What if you’re using fresh noodles? If they are not packed tightly together, you can add them directly to the wok. If they are a little stuck together, soak them in a bowl of cold water for 5 minutes until just loosened. Don’t soak too long or the noodles will become mushy. Drain well and add to the wok, it’s easy!

Spatula moving around chow mein noodles in a wok

Are you ready to rock the wok? It’s my favorite cooking tool to bring together ingredient components all in one pan. This chow mein dish cooks very fast. The aromatics like ginger and garlic are briefly fried in the hot oil to instantly release the fragrant smell. The cabbage and carrots go in next for a quick saute, and then the noodles and sauce.

Close up photo of chow mein noodles with pieces of carrots and cabbage

The stir-fry sauce is what makes this meal taste amazing. Just three ingredients make the flavors pop- oyster sauce, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Together the umami notes with a hint of sweetness make you grab another bite until the bowl of noodles has disappeared.

Chopsticks lifting up chow mein noodles out of a white bowl

If you’re looking for a speedy side dish that’s better than takeout, then you’re going to love this chow mein recipe. You can even add a protein like shrimp, tofu, or make my personal favorite chicken chow mein. You won’t believe how easy it is to make chow mein at home in your kitchen!

More Chinese recipes

Why is cornstarch added to the sauce?

Cornstarch is a thickening agent widely used in Chinese cuisine to add body and shine to sauces. A small amount of cornstarch is dispersed into the sauce mixture to help it adhere better to the noodles, instead of runoff. When heated in the pan, the starch swells and turns the sauce into a light gravy consistency.

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Chow Mein

Chinese chow mein noodles tossed in an authentic savory sauce. The noodles are stir-fried with cabbage, carrots, bean sprouts, green onions, ginger and garlic for a flavorful vegetarian dish.
Pin Print Review
4.27 from 30 votes
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time25 mins
Servings 4 servings
Course Side
Cuisine Chinese

Ingredients

  • 8 cups water
  • 6 ounces dried chow mein noodles
  • 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • ¼ cup unsalted vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • ½ teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1 cup green cabbage, ¼-inch thick slices
  • ½ cup carrots, shredded
  • ½ cup bean sprouts
  • ¼ cup green onions, 1 ½-inch long pieces

Instructions 

  • In a large pot bring 8 cups of water to a boil.
  • Add dried noodles and cook according to manufacturers directions until tender with some chew or al dente.
  • Drain noodles into a colander and rinse with cold water to stop cooking process. Drain well and set aside.
  • In a small bowl whisk together oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, vegetable broth, and cornstarch for chow mein sauce. Set aside.
  • Heat a large wok or saute pan over medium-high heat. Once hot add the vegetable oil.
  • Once the oil is hot and just begins to smoke, add in garlic and ginger. Stir-fry for 20 seconds being careful not to burn the aromatics.
  • Add the cabbage and carrots, stir-fry until just tender, 2 minutes.
  • Add the noodles and chow mein sauce. Toss and stir to combine, cook until sauce thickens and coats noodles, 1 minute.
  • Add bean sprouts and green onions, stir-fry until just tender, 1 minute.

Recipe Video

Notes

  • Other noodles can be used like yakisoba, ramen, lo mein and thin spaghetti.
  • If using fresh noodles skip boiling step and add directly to wok in step 8.
  • Fresh noodles can be added directly to wok as directed. If they don't easily come apart in the pan you can soak them in cold water for 5 minutes and then drain before adding.
  • Coconut aminos or tamari can be substituted for soy sauce.

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Nutrition Facts
Chow Mein
Amount Per Serving
Calories 331 Calories from Fat 198
% Daily Value*
Fat 22g34%
Saturated Fat 3g15%
Polyunsaturated Fat 12g
Monounsaturated Fat 6g
Sodium 843mg35%
Potassium 136mg4%
Carbohydrates 31g10%
Fiber 3g12%
Sugar 4g4%
Protein 4g8%
Vitamin A 1800IU36%
Vitamin C 9.9mg12%
Calcium 30mg3%
Iron 2.2mg12%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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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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16 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Kayla says

    This sounds tasty and easy 🙂 My hubs and I LOVE these kinds of recipes and load them up with tons of veggies (especially like napa cabbage or bok choy-yum!) I don’t know if you or anyone else knows but there are brands of Vegan Oyster Sauce out there to easily make this recipe vegan. I have the Wan Ja Shan Vegetarian Oyster Sauce (I get it at a local asian market but I just found out you can order it online like through Wal Mart). I personally cook without oil for health reasons but it seems like this recipe would be totally easy to skip the oil (also helps with less calories and less fat). I typically dry fry or add a touch of water or vegetable broth for cooking ginger, garlic, onions, etc. when replacing oil. I don’t mind adding a few drops of sesame oil for flavor or ground sesame seeds. I’ll keep this recipe in mind for future dinners 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing <3

    • Jessica Gavin says

      You are so welcome Kayla! Those are great tips for vegan eaters and to stir-fry without oil. Thank you for your tips!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Patti- Fish sauce is extremely potent, so you can use a very small amount until you get the flavor you are looking for to replace the oyster sauce. However you may have to balance it will a little more soy sauce, and the sauce with be less sweet and thickened.

  2. Judy says

    Hi Jessica,

    I thought I had commented on this before but I must have missed doing that.

    This is now one of our favorite recipes. In fact, I have most of the ingredients in the cupboard and this past week in WA while I was getting ready to head back to California I kept thinking I can’t wait to get home and make this for Timothy and I.

    I used oyster sauce for the first time and is it ever good. Yummy! We are so happy you introduced us to it.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      I’m so happy to hear that you tried a new ingredient Judy. I grew up eating oyster sauce, as it is a very common ingredient in Chinese cooking. So happy to hear that you enjoyed the recipe!

  3. Adel says

    Is there anything I can use as substitute for unsalted vegetable broth? I don’t think it is available where I live…

    • Jessica Gavin says

      You can use unsalted chicken stock or unsalted vegetable stock. You can also use 3 tablespoons salted vegetable broth and 1 tablespoon water.

  4. Wendy says

    The recipe looks very good but I noticed when you describing how to cook this you said that the ginger and garlic go in at the end ,so they keep their fresh flavor but in in instructions they go in first. Please clarify which is correct. I might be tempted to put the ginger in at the beginning and the end.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Please add the garlic and ginger according to the recipe instructions. The dish cooks very quickly so you won’t have to worry about losing the aromatics.

  5. JJ says

    I cooked this last night and it was INSANELY delicious. I served it with your Chicken Piccata and that was equally as good. My gosh, you’re making me look like a GREAT cook!!
    I love using the Dorot frozen, minced garlic and ginger. I put the required number of each directly into the sauce combo (by mistake, but I think I’ll do that from now on) and it worked out very well. I looked into the Lo Mein noodles, and bc I already had Angel pasta (ultra thin), I used that and it came out perfect. We’re not Chinese food connoisseurs, so we didn’t miss anything (“in the chew of the noodles”). It was great.
    I’ll be visiting this again…!

  6. Flora P Flowers says

    Excellent recipe , just tried it today , so easy specially if you cut the vegetables ahead of time …. so delicious my family felt in love with it
    Thank you very much

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