Vegetable Chow Mein that tastes like your favorite takeout, but is so much healthier, and is super easy to make in under 30-minutes! Add your choice of protein / vegetables
I make Asian-style takeout meals so often at home, that I honestly cannot recall the last time we ordered takeout. This veg chow mein recipe is definitely one that doesn’t make me miss ordering takeout! The kids love it, and I certainly don’t need an excuse to make this every now and then. Our family also loves Asian-inspired meals such as Instant Pot peanut noodles and chicken and broccoli.
The Vegetable Chow Mein dish that we know and love refers to stir-fried noodles - where 'Chow' means 'fried' and 'Mein' refers to 'noodles'. There are two commonly known types of chow mein - Steamed and Crispy (aka Hong Kong-style chow mein). Crispy chow mein is made with fried, usually flat noodles, while the steamed or soft version is made with long, rounded noodles.
This recipe is inspired from the soft or steamed version of chow mein.... let's dive right in!
Here’s why you will love this recipe
- It's so much healthier than takeout
- Tastes just like (if not better!) than takeout-style chow mein
- Easy to customize – make it vegan or nonvegetarian - simply add your choice of protein or veggies that you like.
List of Chow Mein Ingredients
To make vegetable chow mein, you will need:
Chow mein noodles – Use any variety of noodles that you prefer. For an authentic chow mein, you can use classic chow mein noodles. I like to use lo mein or egg noodles as well. You can also substitute with spaghetti if you like.
Vegetables – My favorite chow mein veggies include:
Ginger and garlic – What’s a stir-fry without plenty of garlic and a hit of ginger? Use freshly chopped-up ginger and garlic or use ginger garlic paste.
Sesame oil – I highly recommend using sesame oil for most of your Asian-style meals. Olive oil is a good substitute, but sesame oil adds a unique authentic flavor to this dish.
Other seasonings – Salt (for cooking the noodles)
Cornstarch Slurry – This is optional, but helps to soak up the moisture released from the veggies and protein. I use 1 teaspoon corn starch and 1 tablespoon cold water mixed together.
For the Chow Mein Sauce
The sauce is everything in chow mein! For the sauce, you will need to mix together:
Light Soy Sauce - Use a low-sodium version of soy sauce. Dark soy sauce will also work fine but it has more of a concentrated flavor than light soy sauce - so go easy on the dark soy sauce .
Oyster Sauce - Oyster sauce is really where all the flavor lies! For a vegan option, substitute with vegan opt for a vegan oyster sauce that you can look for in your local Asian store.
Chili Sauce - Chow Mein can be made with both green chili sauce or hot sauce. I like to use Sriracha for this recipe.
Brown sugar or honey - I use honey to balance out the savory flavors
Rice Vinegar - Always a must for stir fry!
Step-by-Step Recipe Instructions
The most important rule of making stir-fry noodles is to keep all your ingredients prepped and ready before you start cooking! Also, make sure to use a wide wok - you will need enough space in your wok to move the stir fry ingredients around.
Start by cooking your chow mein noodles as per the instructions on the pack. Do not overcook, as soon as the noodles are done, rinse in cold water – this prevents them from overcooking - then keep aside to cool down.
Prep all your veggies and keep aside. Once you have prepped everything, heat your wok up and add the sesame oil. Let the sesame oil heat and once it starts to smoke, bring down the heat to medium. Add the ginger and garlic and sauté until aromatic.
Then add the carrots and turn up the heat to medium-high. Sauté the carrots for a minute, then add the rest of the veggies. Saute on medium high heat for a couple of minutes, using a spatula to keep the veggies moving.
Remember that you need to stir fry everything on a medium-high heat, quickly. Don’t let the veggies sit in the wok for too long, otherwise they will get soggy instead of staying crisp.
Add the sauces, cornstarch slurry, and the cooked noodles.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and mix everything up with kitchen tongs. Cook for 2 minutes more. Turn off the heat and serve immediately
Tips for making Veg Chow Mein
- Do you prep before you start to cook - keep all your veggies prepped and ready, your garlic and ginger finely chopped or minced. Mix the sauces and keep them ready in a bowl.
- Do not overcook the noodles - Prepare your noodles per the package instructions. Make sure you do not overcook them. Once they are just done, rinse in cold water and drain in a colander and cool the noodles before adding to the wok. This will keep them from getting soft and overcooked.
- Always keep the heat on high while stir-frying - The veggies (or meat protein, if using) will release their liquids while stir-frying, so keep the heat high, and keep moving them around in the wok so that the moisture escapes. The veggies should be tender-crisp and not soggy.
- Use a wide wok - Woks are designed for stir-frying, and they will serve you well! Make sure you are using a spatula to keep moving the stir-fry ingredients around in the wok.
FAQ's for making Veg Chowmein
Chow mein sauce is made with a mix of soy sauce (preferable light sow sauce), oyster sauce, and rice vinegar. You can also use a little brown sugar or honey to balance out the savory elements.
One key difference between chop suey and chow mein is that chow mein is usually made by mixing cooked noodles into sauces and stir-fried ingredients, while chop suey is made by serving the stir-fried vegies or meat over the cooked noodles or cooked rice. Chop suey is considered to be American-Chinese and chow mein is originally Chinese.
Vegetable Chow Mein
- 1½ tbsp Sesame oil
- 4-5 Cloves Garlic finely chopped
- ½ inch Ginger finely chopped
- 2 Carrots cut into strips
- 1 cup Sugar Snap peas
- 2 cups Cabbage shredded or cut into thin strips
- 1 cup Cremini or Button mushrooms sliced thick
- 1 cup red bell pepper cut into strips
- 1 cup Green Onion Chopped, keep the green part aside for garnish
- 250 grams Chow Mein Noodles (see notes)
For the chow mein sauce
- 2 tbsp Oyster Sauce (see notes)
- 3 tbsp Light Soy sauce
- 1 tbsp Rice Vinegar
- 1 Tbsp Sriracha sauce
- 1 tbsp honey
For the corn starch slurry
- 1 tsp Corn starch
- 1 tbsp cold water
- Start by preparing the noodles as per the package instructions. Once the noodles are cooked, rinse them in cold water and keep them in a colander to drain and cool. Keep aside for later.
- Prep all the vegetables and mix the ingredients for the sauce in a bowl and keep aside for later.
- Heat up the wok. Add the oil and once the oil is hot and starts to smoke, add the minced or chopped garlic and ginger. Quickly, with rapid strokes, saute the ginger and garlic with a spatula for a minute.
- Add the carrots and saute, for a minute. Then add the rest of the veggies. Saute for a couple of minutes until veggies are tender. Keep the heat on high-medium and make sure you are moving the veggies around with the spatula.
- Add the sauces, followed by the corn starch slurry, and mix. Then add the cooked and cooked noodles.
- Mix everything well together with kitchen tongs, cook for a couple of minutes more and turn off the heat.
- To serve, garnish with the sliced green onion and sesame seeds.
- For the chow mein noodles - Use any variety of noodles that you prefer. For an authentic chow mein, you can use classic chow mein noodles. You can also use lo mein or egg noodles. You can also substitute with spaghetti if you like.
- Oyster Sauce is a key ingredient for chow mein. For a vegan substitute, look for vegan Oyster sauce at your local Asian grocer, or use Hoisin sauce as a substitute.
- Start by cooking your chow mein noodles as per the instructions on the pack. Do not overcook, as soon as the noodles are done, rinse in cold water – this prevents them from overcooking - and keep aside to cool down.