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

4.91 from 30 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 have tried several chow mein recipes I have found on Pinterest and yours is by far the best! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Wow, this turns out just like at the restaurant. The family gobbles it up, even my little boy, who Doesn’t. Like. Anything. We got the sauces off Google Express, and are using “Nanka Seimen” noodles. These cheap & tasty noodles are often out of stock at the local asian market.

    I make a half recipe at a time – half a package of noodles, and half of the sauce. But I make up a full recipe of the sauce, and keep the other half in the fridge for the next time. Half a recipe fills us up just fine. Especially since I put in LOTS of cabbage. Somehow, it all disappears into the dish, and we seem to be mostly eating noodles. So my babies get their veggies :).

  3. Omg I give this recipe 5 stars!! Omg I did it exactly as shown except I added some chicken , steak and shrimp to mine to make it combination chow mein and used the precut cabbage with carrots in it ! So delicious thanks so much for this recipe !

  4. Can’t do fish my ingredients cause someone in my house is highly allergic. So no can do with the oyster sauce. Any less seafoody substitute or would it be ok to just omit it entirely?

    1. They do make a vegetarin oyster sauce that you’re able to find in most Asian markets. If not, you can just omit it knowing that it’ll adjust the flavoring of the dish. There’s really no other substitue for that particular flavor, sorry.

  5. We live in a tiny town with two awful Chinese restaurants. I’d given up hope if ever having good Chow Mein again when I found your site. Thank you so much for this recipe it’s everything I’d he’d for and more!

  6. This is without a doubt one of the MOST DELICIOUS recipes I have ever tried. So quick and easily customizable. The deep flavors of this dish are incredible and I loved the crisp, crunchy bean sprouts with the soft, chewy noodles. 10/10 thank you for sharing! Truly better than take out.

  7. Sabrina, this has become my favorite recipe, and I have been cooking for over 40 years! It’s so easy, and can be used with whatever veggies and protein one has on hand, and most importantly, it tastes authentic. To me, the beansprouts are essential, but the cabbage can be swapped for any similar vegetable; my favorite is bok choy.

    I’m loving this with chicken and lots of veggies: baby bok choy, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, yellow bell pepper, bean sprouts, and cilantro. I prep so many veggies it seems like it would overwhelm the noodles, but they all soften and complement the noodles so well. I like that I can add enough veggies that this can be the meal, and it’s not soup! My hubby likes that, too. 🙂

    I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this. Looking forward to trying other things on your site, and sharing with my family. Bless you!

  8. Sabrina! Great job!!! I need a way to look up recipes you have previously posted, by name. Also, do you have a recipe for pickled carrots with rice vinegar? LOVE your site! Chiquita

    1. So glad you’re enjoying the site! There is a search box at the top right of the site that you can use to search by name. You can also save your favorites on the site now as well.

  9. I’ve eaten Chow Mein for years and love it. The best I used to get in N.Y. and it had onions and bean sprouts in it No noodles Here in PA it’s made like your recipe minus the noodles. Rice comes on the side. I will try this recipe, adding and deleting to try for the N.Y. version. Wish me luck.

  10. I was unable to find the kecap sauce. I have all the ingredients to make the homemade version of the sauce, do you prefer the molasses version or brown sugar? Molasses is a very different taste compared to brown sugar, thats why i am asking. Thank you!

    1. I prefer the molasses version 🙂

      You can always order it from Amazon since it’s not available by you. Here’s the link to the one I use. If you love chow mein dishes, it’s great to keep on hand and it’s available with prime shipping!! Gotta love Amazon!

  11. I have started to do weekly themed meals. This week is Chinese week…so far i’ve made shrimp fried rice, Chicken teriyaki bowls and today I think i’ll make this! but adding in chicken and shrimp! Out of all of the recipes this one looks most like takeout. lol Can’t wait to try it! Thanks!

    1. I love themed weeks! Such a smart way to shop and use all the ingredients too. You’ll have to let me know what you think!

  12. This recipe is SPOT ON!!! I made it tonight and added Steamables Asian Blend and stir fried chicken breast. Didn’t have the kecap manis so took your recommendation of the substitute. I have to tell you it was just like the dish you get at a Chinese Restaurant!! Thank you! It’s going in my Go To file!!

  13. First this looks so good and can’t wait to try it. Second, where do you find the chow mein noodles and the sweet soy sauce? Can’t find either one where I live. Is there a substitute for the sweet soy sauce i can use instead?

    1. Hey Kathy, I have it in the notes of the recipe, but here’s some links to it on Amazon. I bet you can find the noodles in your grocery store though.

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

      Sweet Soy Sauce is referred to as Kecap Manis but I also wrote out a homemade version below the recipe.

      Both of those links will take you to amazon where you can order the ingredients 🙂

      1. Thanks, I finally got the sweet soy sauce. But yet to find the noodles. I did substitute them. I have looked in alot of different stores to no avail. I made this and it was really good. The only thing I’m going to try is adding shrimp and mushrooms to it. Thanks for such a great recipe

  14. looking forward to trying this but can’t find The Chow Mein noodles! The only ones i find are the crispy ones used in chicken chow mein outta the can. Where do you find them at? Also can’t find the Sweet Soy Sauce. Looked every where for it. Anything I can substitute in it’s place?

  15. Delicious! I couldn’t find bean sprouts at my local grocery store, so I made it without. But wow- this recipe is so delicious and easy! And makes for some great left-overs, too. I’ve made this twice and it definitely tastes better with the low sodium soy sauce.

  16. OH MY GOSH, my family loved this! We actually subbed the noodles for zucchini noodles, and added one stalk of thinly sliced celery. Thank you so much for the recipe, I make this once a week with either orange chicken or sweet fire chicken. We absolutely LOVE this recipe.

    1. Awww, thank you so much! The zucchini substitute is genius, especially when trying to get more veggies into the kids. Love it!

    1. You’ll cook the protein separated or like me, just reheat anything I have leftover in the refrigerator. Mix it in at the end. Enjoy!

  17. I live in a small town. We have 2 Chinese restaurants, I’ve tried both and I did not like either one. I look forward to using this recipe for Chow Mein. The next time I’m in the mood. Looks yummy.

  18. I was looking for a chinese chow mein recipe and came across your website. The Panda Express copy cat is perfect. Love it, made it and devoured it. Made more for dinner that night and my husband loved it too. I remember when I was a young 20 year old I used to go to a local Chinese resturant almost every night for dinner after work. Back then (in the 60’s) a huge bowl cost about 75 cents. I tried several times to make it at home but it never turned out right. Thanks so much for your recipe.

    1. Sorry this comment took so long to get to, it ended up in my spam filter somehow! Sorry I don’t have the nutritional facts for recipes on the site but I know there are a lot of free resources on the internet from when I’ve cooked for clients with low calorie diets.

    1. Sorry this comment took so long to get to, it ended up in my spam filter somehow! Sorry I just found a huge number of comments over the last three months that was snared in the spam filter and I am trying to follow up with each one now even though in your case I am way too late to help. Cook the chicken and remove from the pan before adding in the cabbage. Then add in at the end and toss with the noodles before serving. Sorry again for the delay.

  19. We just made this for dinner last night, and we thought it had a nice flavor. Next time we’d add chicken and maybe a scrambled egg. Our boys ate it, and asked to eat it again tonight. That’s_always a good sign <3.

  20. This may be a silly question but do you add the noodles to the soy sauce & water mixture and cook for 1 minute?

    1. No, cook for one minute before you add the noodles in. Then, add the noodles in and toss to coat until thickened and covered. Enjoy!

  21. This looks like Lo mein why is this called chow mein? I thought chow mein was the one that had the freeze dried noodles dumped in. Well that is according to my local Chinese restaurant. But what is the difference anyway?

    1. Technically, they’re the same kind of noodles, but the chow mein noodles are cooked using a method to make them more crisp. Lo mein noodles are softer and absorb sauce better, so they’re often used in dishes that use a lot of sauce. They are very similar, though, so what they decided to name it might have more to do with what they considered to be a more “popular” Chinese dish in Western culture than the difference in cooking methods.

    1. What makes you allergic? There are definitely vegetarian versions of oyster sauce if that would help. If that won’t work you could use hoisin sauce too. I’ve done that when I’ve run out of oyster sauce and it was still delicious 🙂

  22. So let me tell you, every time I crave Chinese food and thinking of take out, I just come over to your blog and make it instead. You are my guru for homemade Chinese that is easy and better than take out.

    1. I swear sometimes I just need the pantry recipe! Tonight we were out of almost everything you could be out of and a pantry pasta came to the rescue.