Classic Chinese Chow Mein

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Classic Chinese Chow Mein with authentic ingredients and easy ingredient swaps to make this a pantry meal in a pinch!

Classic Chinese Chow Mein with authentic ingredients and easy ingredient swaps to make this a pantry meal in a pinch!

Classic Chinese Chow Mein is one of those dishes that seems elusive, like there is some secret recipe that all Chinese restaurants know and no matter what we do at home it is just never the same. I won’t lie and say you can drop some spaghetti into the pot and add some regular soy sauce and make chow mein magic happen, but I can tell you with a quick trip to your local Asian grocer or you can make truly authentic Classic Chinese Chow Mein in less than 20 minutes.

And you will never go back to anything less afterwards!

Some of the sauces in this Classic Chinese Chow Mein can be a bit confusing, soy sauce and dark soy sauce are definitely different things, so if you would like to learn more about it, you can look at this post from Serious Eats. If my memory serves me correct I think even my local Vons/Safeway carries all the ingredients in the recipe, but if you have a local Asian grocery store I highly suggest making a quick trip.

Also, this is after all a recipe for Classic Chinese Chow Mein, but lets talk about the ways you can customize this dish!

  • Add the protein of your choice! Chicken, Shrimp, Beef, Tofu, etc.
  • Spiralize some zucchini and carrots! Add the carrots with the celery and add the zucchini when you add the pasta.
  • chopped peanuts or cilantro and a squeeze of lime would add a fresh dimension
  • Before adding in your noodles, in a large pan add a couple of tablespoons of oil and on a high heat add the noodles until crispy on both sides for a quick pan fried noodle option!
  • Add some heat! Sriracha, chili garlic paste or crushed red pepper would kick up this dish in a hurry

And then serve up your pasta with some other awesome Chinese recipes like Spicy Cashew Chicken, Orange Peel Chicken, Garlic Hunan Beef or any of the giant list of Panda Express recipes all over this blog!

Classic Chinese Chow Mein with authentic ingredients and easy ingredient swaps to make this a pantry meal in a pinch!



Classic Chinese Chow Mein

4.9 from 28 votes
  • Yield: 4 servings
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Course: Main Dish
  • Cuisine: Chinese
  • Author: Sabrina Snyder
Classic Chinese Chow Mein with authentic ingredients and easy ingredient swaps to make this a pantry meal in a pinch!


  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/4 head cabbage thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic , crushed and minced
  • 2 tablespoons sweet soy sauce (aka Kecap Manis)* see note for homemade substitute
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 4 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 12 ounces chow mein noodles , cooked a minute shy of the directions*
  • 6 ounces bean sprouts (optional)
  • sesame seeds for garnish (optional)


Note: click on times in the instructions to start a kitchen timer while cooking.

  1. Heat a large pan or wok on high heat.
  2. Add two tablespoons of canola oil to the pan and cook the cabbage.
  3. Cook 2-3 minutes until wilted, add the garlic and cook for an additional 30 seconds.

  4. Add the soy sauce, sweet soy sauce, oyster sauce and water and bring to a boil for 1 minute.

  5. Add in the pasta and bean sprouts and toss to coat.
  6. Serve immediately

Recipe Notes

To make homemade Kecap Manis, add 1 1/2 teaspoons of soy sauce and 1 1/2 teaspoons of molasses or dark brown sugar with a tiny pinch of ground anise. This is a decent substitute, but if you can get the original the flavor will be even deeper.

If you can't find chow mein noodles you can substitute yakisoba noodles and just toss the packet and use the noodles only.

The recipe contains affiliate links.

Nutrition Information

Yield: 4 servings, Amount per serving: 431 calories, Calories: 431g, Carbohydrates: 73g, Protein: 14g, Fat: 8g, Sodium: 1694mg, Potassium: 92mg, Fiber: 5g, Sugar: 10g, Vitamin C: 6.1g, Calcium: 14g, Iron: 3.3g

All images and text © for Dinner, then Dessert.

Keyword: Classic Chinese Chow Mein

Classic Chinese Chow Mein with authentic ingredients and easy ingredient swaps to make this a pantry meal in a pinch!

Classic Chinese Chow Mein with authentic ingredients and easy ingredient swaps to make this a pantry meal in a pinch!
Classic Chinese Chow Mein with authentic ingredients and easy ingredient swaps to make this a pantry meal in a pinch!

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  1. I’m trying to get the word out, but it doesn’t seem to be spreading very quickly… Except in Chinese restaurants. THIS RECIPE IS NOT FOR CHOW MEIN. THIS IS LO MEIN. Chow mein is a vegetable dish. Lo mein is what you have pictured here and is a noodle dish.

    1. They call it chow mein at Panda Express and this recipe is similar to her copycat Panda Express Chow Mein recipe. But go ahead and correct her Karen.

    2. Linda a quick google came up with the definition of Chow Mein which means “fried noodles”, Lo Mein means “Tossed Noodles” sooooo I believe the vegetable dish you are referring to to is Chop Suey not Chow Mein which is a fried noodle dish. Anyway Karen

    3. On the west coast, chow mein is this kind, and the term lo mein is not commonly used. The fried kind is usually just called Hong Kong style. The terminology just differs depending on which region you’re from.

  2. in regards to the substitution for sweet soy sauce. The recipe calls for 2T. of sweet soy sauce but the substitution is only equal to 1T…should this be doubled?

    1. You can store in the fridge up to 3 days and in the freezer up to 3 months. Store in an airtight container and allow to cool completely before freezing. Hope this helps 🙂

    1. I’m sorry to hear that it didn’t come out to your taste. If you try it again, I would reduce the oyster and regular soy sauce to cut the saltiness and use Chow Mein noodles to keep it from getting sticky. Hope this helps!

  3. Hi! Where do I find chow mien noodles? Are they different from lo mien noodles? Are lo mien noodles an ok substitute if I can’t find chow mien? Thank you!

    1. Lo Mein noodles are a bit thicker. My recommendation would be to get the Yakisoba packages and use the noodles in that if you’re having a hard time finding them. They work as a great substitue. Enjoy!

  4. So I made this tonight and it looks so soupy! I followed the recipe exactly so I’m not sure why I got soup instead of thickly coated noodles. Any thoughts?

    1. I’m not sure why it would be soupy. Maybe your heat wasn’t high enough and didn’t allow the mixture to come to a full boil??

  5. I made this last week. It didnt turn out quite how I was hoping, but then again I had to use spaghetti noodles and the sweet soy substitute. (Its what I had on hand) But my husband actually asked for it again and he doesnt do that often so I’m happy Thanks for sharing this! I’ll keep working on it til I’m happy with it too

  6. Hi Sabrina ?
    Looks so yummy and I can’t wait to make it! (I’ll upgrade my review afterwards). Question – would angel hair pasta work for the chow mien noodles? I’ve read the difference between chow mien & lo mein noodles is both are boiled, but chow mien noodles are then pan fried, after boiling. I didn’t notice that instruction in your recipe. Does it affect the flavor if it’s not pan fried after boiling? Thanks so much for sharing your recipes!

    1. The texture will be different using angel hair pasta instead but if you’re ok with that, go ahead and use them.

  7. Congratulations Sabrina! your recipes seem to be a real hit! i recorded a few of them and looking forward realize them…

    i whish we could get your version of “Singapore Noodles”

    thank’s for your attention,

    Louis, Montreal

  8. Thanks so much for this recipe. I cooked this the other night and the flavor was delicious. However, I couldn’t get my sauce to thicken (how long should that take?) so it didn’t seem to coat the noodles very well. Any suggestions?

    1. You’ll want to bring your sauce to a boil and let it boil for 1 minutes to thicken. So glad you enjoyed it and hope this helps for next time.

  9. This was so good I had no problem finishing off the leftovers. I did have a little trouble finding the chow mein noodles so I used lo mein noodles and I think they worked out great. Oyster sauce is not one of my fav’s so I did use the hoison sauce and also a bag of cole slaw mix for the cabbage. Our favorite take out place is good in a pinch but cant compare to the fresh flavors of this chow mein. Thank you for sharing! Made and reviewed for the Alphabet recipe tag game.

  10. Made this for dinner, my family swears that I bought it, I’m also amazed just how authentic it came out. Thank you…. Now on to orange chicken