This chow mein noodles recipe is the healthier and BETTER version of take-out, made with minimal oil in less than 20 minutes! Chewy, glossy noodles, veggies and aromatics are stir fried in one skillet then lightly coated in the dynamically flavorful, sweet, savory, umami rich sauce. These chow mein noodles are ideal for busy weeknights, highly customizable, and will have the entire family slurping bowl after bowl!
Watch How to Make Chow Mein
for the stir fry:
For the Sauce
Chow Mein FAQs
The term “chow mein” comes from the Mandarin Chinese words “chao mian” (炒面), which literally translate to “stir-fried noodles.” The name accurately describes the dish’s preparation method, as chow mein consists of stir-fried noodles along with various vegetables, meats, and sauces. The name has been adopted and popularized in Western countries, particularly in Chinese-American cuisine, where it refers to a specific style of dish featuring crispy or stir-fried noodles.
Chow mein is sweet, savory, aromatic and umami rich thanks to the light yet dynamic sauce made of soy sauce, oyster sauce, rice wine, toasted sesame oil, five spice and black pepper. The chow mein noodles are delightfully chewy, laced with crunchy cabbage, celery, carrots and bean sprouts.
Panda Express serves chow mein, not lo mein. Panda’s chow mein starts with fried noodles that are stir-fried and coated lightly in oil and sauce. Lo mein, on the other hand, is another type of Chinese noodle dish where the noodles are typically boiled and then mixed with a variety of ingredients including vegetables, meat, and sauce.
Chow mein noodles don’t tend to get as sticky as Italian pasta, however, a quick rinse will stop them from continuing to cook and drizzling with a little toasted sesame oil will infuse them with flavor and keep them loose and pliable.
Chow mein can be either wet (soft chow mein) or dry (crispy chow mein), depending on the preparation:
-Crispy Chow Mein: This version features crispy noodles that are often deep-fried or pan-fried until they are crunchy. The toppings and sauce are placed on top of the crispy noodles, and the noodles retain their crunchiness. This style of chow mein is often referred to as “crispy chow mein.”
-Soft Chow Mein: In this style, the noodles are typically cooked first in boiling water, then stir-fried with the sauce and vegetables, creating a softer, chewy texture, like in this recipe.
Both types of noodles are made from wheat flour, so they have a similar flavor, but they vary in texture. Chow mein noodles tend to have a chewier and sometimes slightly crispy texture because they are cooked in boiling water, then deep fried before packaging. Ramen noodles, on the other hand, are boiled and treated with a salty, alkaline liquid that gives the noodles their signature softer, slippery, chewy, springy texture.
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Chow Mein Noodles Recipe
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- 12 ounces chow mein noodles
- 1 1/2 tbsp peanut oil (or other neutral cooking oil)
- 2 ribs celery, chopped
- 3 green onions white parts chopped into 1-inch pieces, green parts chopped 1/4-inch*
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped (don’t mince or mash)
- 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
- 4 cups finely shredded green cabbage (I use my mandoline)
- 2 carrots, cut into matchsticks
- 1 1/2 cups bean sprouts
CHOW MEIN SAUCE:
- 1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
- 3 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 1 1/2 tbsp mirin/rice wine
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 1-2 teaspoons Asian chili sauce (like sambal oelek or sriracha)
- 1/4 tsp EACH five spice powder, pepper
- Sauce: Mix the sauce ingredients together; set aside.
- Prepare noodles: Cook noodles according to package instructions then drain, and toss with 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil; set aside.
- Sauté aromatics: Heat oil in a braiser, large fry pan or wok over medium-high heat. Add the celery and WHITE parts of the green onions and sauté for 1 minute. Add the garlic and ginger and stir fry for 10-15 seconds.
- Stir fry vegetables: Add the cabbage and carrots and stir fry for 1-2 minutes, until the cabbage is mostly wilted.
- Add noodles: Add the noodles and sauce and stir fry for one minute by tossing the noodles with tongs.
- Add sprouts: Add the bean sprouts and the chopped tops of the green onions and toss to combine.
- Serve: Remove from heat and transfer to bowls. Garnish with additional green onions and sesame seeds if desired. Serve immediately.
- Chow mein: Look for dried chow mein noodles in the Asian aisle of your grocery store or I purchase my noodles on Amazon (these are the ones I use). Each package typically is 6 ounces, you will use 12 ounces for this recipe.
- Shortcut cabbage: Use a mandoline slicer if you have one to cut thin, uniform cabbage in minutes.
- Green onions: 1 green onion is the entire bunch with all of the shoots on it.
- Rice wine: I use “Kikkoman Aji-Mirin: Sweet Cooking Rice Seasoning” which is commonly found in the Asian section of most grocery stores or you can Amazon it. The best substitute for rice wine is pale dry sherry. Do NOT substitute rice wine with rice vinegar, they are NOT the same. Rice vinegar will add an acidic bite without the sweetness.
- Storage: Chow mein leftovers are still tasty and chewy! Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- To reheat: Reheat noodles gently over medium-low heat in a large skillet until warmed through, adding a splash of water or oil as needed or in the microwave until warmed through.
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