This easy vegan chow mein recipe is filled with vegetables, made with wholesome ingredients and done super quickly, which makes it the perfect weeknight healthy dinner!
I know you have been wanting more quick and easy vegan meal ideas, so here is an extra simple vegan chow mein recipe!
Yes, more noodles!
This dish is a vegan version of a classic Chinese recipe that's very noodley, inexpensive to make, extra veggie-packed and done within 30 minutes. Aka my favorite kind of food.
Plus, it is super easy-to-follow and pretty much fail proof as you simply have to cook the noodles, fry some veggies and add a simple 5-ingredient sauce.
Also the ultimate empty-your-veggie-drawer recipe as you can swap for any veggies you already have on hand. And such a great meal to make for picky kids as the veggies really blend within the savory noodles.
Is there more to say? Oh, and it is DELISH!
What is a chow mein
A chow mein is a Chinese noodle dish that's traditionally made with carrots, cabbage and bean sprouts. The word 'Chow' means fried in Chinese, which refers mostly in this case to the noodles being fried first to a crispy texture, then added to the fried veggies. A soy-oyster based sauce usually flavors the whole dish.
There are of course many version of a chow mein: the noodles can be pan-fried vs deep fried (or even simply steamed!), more or less veggies can be added, some chow mein recipes also contain a protein like tofu or chicken, etc.
Making a vegetable chow mein that's completely vegan
The main characteristic making a classic chow mein not vegan is the typical oyster sauce flavoring the dish. Also, although often vegan, some cantonese noodles are made using eggs.
So, instead of using oyster sauce to flavor the dish, we are using hoisin sauce. You can easily find it at most grocery stores in the Asian section.
And just make sure your noodles are completely egg-free. You can find chow mein noodles usually either dried or already fried, but carefully read on the packaging to watch for the eggs. I love ramen noodles and they somehow look alike to chow mein noodles, so I'll often simply use them for convenience.
What is Hoisin sauce
Hoisin sauce has a pronounced sweet and savory flavor, although with hints of smokiness. It is mostly made with fermented soybean paste, but also contains garlic, salt, vinegar and some spices, like five spices.
It has a dark brown color and a fairly thick texture, similar to ketchup. Adding this sauce to a chow mein recipe adds lots of flavor without having to add too many ingredients. Plus, it is used to replaced the traditional oyster sauce found in a non-vegan chow mein.
- Green cabbage
- Green onions
- Bean sprouts
Vegan chow mein sauce ingredients
- Hoisin sauce
- Soy sauce
- Rice vinegar
- Maple syrup
- Sesame oil
Why use sesame oil
I aim towards limiting the amount of oil I consume or cook with, but when cooking vegetables in a wok, oil is more difficult to avoid. I simply use a small amount, just enough to slightly coat the bottom portion of the wok and then, if the veggies start to stick to the bottom, then I add a splash of water/veggie broth instead of adding more oil.
But more importantly, try to use sesame oil! It is strong in flavor, so a little goes a long way, and adds an authentic sesame taste to this homemade chow mein.
What kind of noodles to use when making a vegan chow mein
I did mention loving ramen noodles when making a chow mein. But there are other options, such as yakisoba noodles (fresh and usually in the chilled section of your grocery store) or even regular spaghetti noodles! Typical chow mein noodles are rather on the thiner side, so look for thinner noodles if you can.
In this case, I used the Chinese noodles from China Bowl that were available at my grocery store. If you are looking for a healthier option, then I am also in love with the ramen noodles from the company Lotus. Although not cheap, they make amazingly healthy dried Asian style noodles of all sorts.
How to make this vegan chow mein
Step 1- Cook your noodles and chop your veggies
Cook the noodles accordingly to the packaging, but make sure you cook them al dente, even slightly undercooked. You will add them to the veggies in the wok later and they will keep cooking longer. Once they are al dente, then drain them and set aside.
While the noodles are cooking, then prepare all your veggies, including peeling, grating/crushing your garlic and ginger. The cooking process goes fast and you won't have time to chop your veggies once your wok is frying.
Step 2- Whisk your sauce
In a small bowl, whisk to combine the soy sauce, hoisin sauce, rice vinegar, maple syrup and sesame oil. Set aside.
Step 3- Wok time!
Now that you have your noodles, veggies and sauce ready to go, let's cook and combine everything together.
Start by warming a small amount of sesame oil in a large wok (or pan) on medium-high heat and then add the garlic, ginger, broccoli and carrot. Stir often and don't hesitate to add a splash of water or veggie broth to help steam the veggies, if needed. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the veggies are starting to be tender, yet still crunchy.
Then, add the cabbage and green onion and cook for about 3-5 more minutes, stirring often.
Finally, once the veggies are cooked to your liking, then add the bean sprouts, noodles and sauce to the wok and gently combine everything. I love using tongs for that so I can move the noodles around easier. Keep cooking for a few minutes to warm up everything and finish up cooking the noodles. Remove from the heat, taste and add more soy sauce if you want it saltier. Serve warm with more green onion and a sprinkle of sesame seeds.
Watch how to make
Do I really need a wok to make a chow mein?
The answer is no, but I find it much easier to stir-fry veggies using one. A wok provides a larger space to hold on all the veggies and more room to move them around too, thanks to the wok's high walls. Also, the shape of a wok provides 2 distinct cooking zones (a searing and steaming zone, depending how close it is to the burner) that works together to cook veggies fast while keeping them crispy, yet tender.
That being said, if you do not have a stir-fry, you can obviously still make a chow mein! Simply choose your largest pan you have. If what you got won't be able to handle the volume of veggies, then you might have to work in batches, then combining everything back together once the veggies lose their volume.
Homemade vegan chow mein tips
- The order in which you add your veggies to the wok matters. Start with the tougher ones, like broccoli and carrots, then the gentler ones towards the end, like cabbage and green onion. Keep the bean sprouts from cooking too much as you want to keep them crispy!
- It is important to cook your noodles al dente before adding them to the wok. They will keep cooking a little longer and you do not want to end up with mushy noodle dish!
- This is not a super saucy kind of dish. You could double the sauce if you want more sauce, or check out my veggie stir-fry for the BEST extra saucy Asian dish.
- Julienne your vegetables whenever possible, opposed to simply chopping or slicing them. The texture of the chow mein is at its best when the vegetables blend easily with the noodles, thus slicing the veggies into a noodle-like shape.
Variations to the recipe
As mentioned before, it is such a good recipe to use up your veggies forgotten in the bottom of the fridge's veggie drawer!
A classic chow mein usually has carrots, cabbage and bean sprouts, but feel free to swap for/add mushrooms, snap peas, red peppers, bok choy, baby corn, zucchini, onion, etc.
A fun healthier twist would also be to use half noodles and half zoodles (zucchini noodles). Simply add your zoodles raw to the wok and warm them up within the sauce and veggies for about 1 minute.
Serve warm garnished with sesame seeds and extra green onion slices. If you love spicy food, than it is a very-sriracha-friendly kind of meal.
Store in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 4-5 days. Warm up leftovers in the microwave and you can revive the noodles by adding a splash of soy sauce to them (the noodles will absorb the sauce over time).
Other Asian noodle recipes you might like
I hope you enjoy this vegan chow mein as much as we do! If you try it, please leave a comment below and rate the recipe to let me know how it was. Your feedback is so helpful!
Vegan Chow Mein
- 10 oz chow mein noodles - or ramen, cooked al dente
- ½ tbsp sesame oil - optional, to cook the veggies
- 3 cloves of garlic - crushed
- 1 tsp fresh ginger - chopped small or grated
- 1 ½ cup carrots - peeled and julienned
- 1 head of broccoli - chopped in bite-size florets
- 3-4 green onion - chopped or sliced, plus more for serving
- 3-4 cups green cabbage - sliced
- 12 oz bean sprouts - or to taste, see note
- sesame seeds - optional, for serving
For the sauce
- ¼ cup soy sauce - plus more to taste
- 2 tbsp rice vinegar
- 2 tbsp hoisin sauce
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- In a wok or a large pan, start by adding the sesame oil and warm up on medium-high heat. Once warmed up, add the garlic, ginger, carrots and broccoli florets. Cook while stirring often until the veggies are tender but still slightly crispy, about 3-5 minutes.
- Then, add the cabbage and green onions and keep cooking for about 3-5 minutes while stirring. You can add a few tbsp of water or veggie broth once in a while to help steam the veggies.
- Once the veggies are cooked to your liking, then add the sauce, cooked noodles and bean sprouts. Stir to combine and keep heating until all the ingredients are warmed up, about 2 minutes. Serve immediately and garnished with sesame seeds, more green onions and sriracha, if desired. Enjoy!
- I used a lot of bean sprouts in my recipe, but feel free to add 1-2 handfuls to start with and add more as needed.
- You can use traditional chow mein noodles, but look for an egg-free brand.
- Make sure to cook your noodles al dente, even a little undercooked. They will keep cooking after added to the veggies and sauce.
- Feel free to add/swap for other veggies! Mushrooms, bok choy, baby corn, snap peas are all great ideas.