The very BEST Chicken Chow Mein Recipe is made at home in just 30 minutes! Filled with crispy, tender stir-fried noodles, juicy chicken, and fresh vegetables in a delicious sweet and savory sauce, this better-than-takeout chow mein is a crave-worthy and delicious dinner the whole family will love!
My Favorite Chicken Chow Mein Recipe
Chow mein is basically the gateway for all Asian-inspired cooking. Growing up with divorced parents, I ate out a LOT and Chinese was a unanimous favorite among my siblings and me. An order of chicken chow mein was always on the table.
Not too salty, not too sweet, and never too spicy (or spicy at all), chow mein is a happy balance of salty, sweet, comforting, and crunchy. Kids love it, adults love it, and the dog is happy to clean up the tossed around noodles that make their way to the floor.
Fortunately, this chow mein recipe is incredibly EASY to make right at home and it’s just as delicious – if not even better – than your favorite take-out restaurant.
What is Chow Mein?
Chow mein is a quick and easy Chinese noodle dish made with vegetables and often meat or tofu. Translated, chow mein means “stir-fried noodles“. It is made using long and skinny yellow-colored egg noodles (wheat flour noodles with egg) that are found at regular grocery stores of specialty Chinese food markets either fresh or dried. Soaked in boiling water until al dente, chow mein noodles are then fried in oil until desired crispness is reached. How long the noodles are fried and in how much oil varies from greatly from one region to the next but in general you’ll find softer stir-fried noodles (this recipe) or extra crispy noodles (traditional Chinese/Hong Kong Noodles).
- This recipe – lightly fried egg noodles. They are soaked in boiling water until al dente then lightly fried in oil. The noodles are then tossed with remaining ingredients including vegetables, protein, and sauce.
- Crispy chow mein / Hong Kong noodles. When purchasing “Hong Kong” or pan-fried noodles” there’s no need to par-cook the noodles in boiling water. Hong Kong Noodles are fried until crispy, come served with the cooked vegetables and protein directly on top, and, in most cases, come with less sauce.
Ingredients in Chow Mein
There is some flexibility in the ingredients you choose to use when making chow main at home. Most of the ingredients are readily available at any regular grocery store, but there are a few that may be a little harder to track down. You can try purchasing these items online or support one of your local Chinese markets. Last resort? Substitute.
For the full list and amounts of ingredients, scroll down to the recipe card at the bottom of the page.
Protein (if adding) – chicken breasts, chicken thighs, thinly sliced pork or beef, shrimp, or tofu. For this recipe, I added chicken thighs.
Aromatics – garlic, ginger, or green onions.
Vegetables – The sky is the limit when it comes to vegetables and stir-fried noodles. Some of the most popular options include,
- Green cabbage
- Purple cabbage
- Green onion
- Water chestnuts
- Bean sprouts (my fav!)
Noodles – You really want to use fresh egg noodles if you can find them. If you can’t find any fresh noodles near you, simply substitute with dried chow mein noodles (adjusting cooking time as needed). As a last resort, spaghetti noodles with also get the trick done (though turning the recipe into more of a lo mein vs. a chow mein). If using spaghetti noodles, I do not recommend frying in oil.
Chow mein sauce – While having a thick and sweet sauce isn’t as important for chow main (when compared to lo mein), some sauce is still recommended to tie it all together. Ingredients include:
- Cornstarch (for thickening)
- Light soy sauce
- Dark soy sauce
- Oyster sauce
- Chinese cooking wine (also known as Shaosing / Shaoxing wine)
- Granulated sugar
If you’re new to Asian cooking then you may not be familiar with dark soy sauce, oyster sauce, or Chinese cooking wine. Fundamental ingredients to most Chinese recipes, I highly recommend purchasing all three.
Regular soy sauce vs. Dark soy sauce
Light soy sauce (生抽) – Yep, the kind you find at your fav Chinese place or the stuff you dunk your sushi rolls into. This is what I call “default soy sauce” since it’s usually just written as “soy sauce” for recipes. It’s salty and quite thin. Not to be confused with reduced-sodium soy sauce which is typically labeled “light” or “lite”.
Dark soy sauce (老抽) – Ok, you guys. It took me a long time to actually buy and start cooking with this stuff. I couldn’t possibly understand what made it so special or different from regular soy sauce. Do yourself a favor (especially if you love cooking Asian inspired recipes at home) and order a bottle from Amazon or buy a bottle from your local Asian supermarket. Dark soy sauce is aged longer and is often mixed with molasses or caramel and a bit of cornstarch. As a result, dark soy sauce is thicker, sweeter, and less salty than light soy sauce.
Chinese Cooking Wine (Shaoxing wine) – If you can’t find any Shaoxing wine, the best possible substitute is dry sherry. Second best? Mirin Japanese Cooking Wine. The problem with mirin, however, is that it is much sweeter. If you do substitute with mirin, be sure to omit the added sugar from your sauce.
Oyster Sauce – Oyster sauce is one of those things you really don’t want to mess with. I mean, yes, you can, but only if you have to. So, if you’re unsure about whether to purchase that bottle of oyster sauce, do it. You’ll use it in recipes like moo goo gai pan, pad see ew, or this easy cashew chicken. Still not convinced? Try using a 1:1 ratio of Hoisin Sauce with soy sauce (and maybe a dash of fish sauce if you’ve got it).
- I should note that I strongly disagree that soy sauce can be used to replace oyster sauce.
Dark soy sauce – Aside from being somewhat sweeter and thicker, dark soy sauce is largely used for color. If you don’t mind your noodles being lighter in color, simply substitute with additional soy sauce with the option of adding a teaspoon or two of molasses (which will also sweeten and color).
How to Make Chicken Chow Mein
1. Marinate the chicken – Chop your chicken into small bite-size pieces approximately equal in size and whisk together the cornstarch, soy sauce, and Chinese cooking wine in a medium mixing bowl. Combine the chicken with the marinade and set aside as you prepare the remaining ingredients.
2. Prepare the sauce – Combine the corn starch, soy sauce, dark soy sauce, oyster sauce, Chinese cooking wine, and sugar. Whisk well to combine and set aside.
- Tip – If you love a lot of sauce, I recommend doubling the sauce recipe.
3. Prepare the noodles – Cook the noodles according to package instructions. For me, this meant boiling my noodles in water for 2-3 minutes max. Do not overcook, you want them to remain slightly undercooked (we want a little spring in our noodles!) Drain well.
4. Fry the noodles – Heat a large wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add enough oil to coat the entire surface of your pan or skillet and then add the noodles. Stir fry for 4-5 minutes, or until golden and starting to turn crispy. Remove from the skillet and set aside.
- Tip – This step is optional for all noodle types, but should be skipped if you are not using egg noodles.
5. Cook the chicken – In the same pan add some more oil set over high heat. Once hot, add the chicken and cook for 5-6 minutes, mixing frequently, to ensure even cooking. Once fully cooked, remove to a clean plate and set aside.
- Tip – The smaller you chop your chicken, the faster it will cook.
6. Saute the aromatics and vegetables – Once again, return your pan, wok, or skillet to high heat. Add an additional tablespoon of oil and the minced garlic, immediately add the shredded cabbage, celery, carrots, and green onion. Mix thoroughly and cook, stirring continuously for 1-2 minutes.
7. Add the sauce – Finally, add the sauce and return the noodles and the chicken back to the pan. Stir fry, mixing and tossing continuously for 1-2 minutes. Mix in the bean sprouts. Mix thoroughly and cook for an additional 30-60 seconds.
Serve immediately and store any leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Helpful Tips and Tricks
- Slice your veggies nice and thin and chop your chicken nice and small. Chow mein is not meant to take a long time to cook. Having everything chopped nice and small is helpful in expediting the process.
- Make sure everything is prepared before you start cooking. Again, we’re working fast here, you won’t have time to shred your cabbage if you’ve already added the garlic to your skillet.
- Cook the meat (chicken, beef, shrimp) before stir-frying the vegetables then remove them.
- This recipe works great in a large skillet or great big wok. Even a cast-iron skillet would work if that’s all you have available.
More Asian Favorites,
If you try making this Chicken Chow Mein Recipe, please leave me a comment and let me know! I always love to hear your thoughts.
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Chicken Chow Mein Recipe (How to Make Chow Mein)
- 1 pound Fresh chow mein noodles
- 5 tbsp canola oil
- 4 cloves garlic (minced)
- 3 cups green cabbage (shredded)
- 1 cup purple cabbage (shredded)
- 1 rib celery (chopped)
- 1 carrot (julienned)
- 4 green onions (chopped)
- 3 cups bean sprouts
- Marinate the chicken - In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the cornstarch, soy sauce, and Chinese cooking wine. Add the chopped chicken to the bowl and thoroughly mix to coat the chicken in the marinade. Set aside.
- Prepare the sauce - As the chicken marinates, combine the corn starch, soy sauce, dark soy sauce, oyster sauce, Chinese cooking wine, and sugar. Stir well to combine and set aside.
- Prepare the noodles - Cook the noodles according to package instructions. For me, this meant boiling my noodles in water for 2-3 minutes max. Do not overcook, you want them to remain slightly undercooked. Drain well.
- Fry the noodles - Heat a large wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the oil, swirl to coat the entire surface of the skillet. Add the noodles. Stir fry for 4-5 minutes, or until golden and starting to turn crispy. Remove from the skillet and set aside.
- Cook the chicken - Add an additional tablespoon of oil to a large wok or heavy-bottomed skillet set over high heat. Once hot, add the chicken and cook for 5-6 minutes, mixing frequently, to ensure even cooking. Once cooked, remove to a clean plate and set aside.
- Saute the aromatics and vegetables - Return the wok or skillet to high heat. Add an additional tablespoon of oil and the minced garlic, immediately add the shredded cabbage, celery, carrots, and green onion. Thoroughly mix to combine and cook, stirring continuously for 1-2 minutes.
- Add the sauce - Add the noodles, sauce, and return the chicken to the pan. Stir fry for 1 minute, tossing continuously. Finally, stir in the bean sprouts. Mix thoroughly and cook for an additional 30-60 seconds.
- Remove from heat and serve immediately.
- Regular soy sauce. Yep, the kind you find at your fav Chinese place or the stuff you dunk your sushi rolls into. You can go with low-sodium or regular.
- Dark soy sauce. Ok, you guys. It took me a long time to actually buy and start cooking with this stuff. I couldn't possibly understand what made it so special or different from regular soy sauce. Do yourself a favor (especially if you love cooking Asian inspired recipes at home) and order a bottle from Amazon or buy a bottle from your local Asian supermarket. Dark soy sauce is sweeter than regular soy sauce with a completely different taste.
- Note - these are not chow mein noodles (though they are quite tasty).
- If you can't find Chinese cooking wine or you choose to cook without alcohol, substitute with chicken or vegetable broth.
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.)