home made Chow Mein

Classic Midwestern Chow Mein with Rice

There’s Chow Mein, the authentic dish of stewed vegetables and meat served over noodles, and then there’s the Chow Mein I grew up with, beloved by Midwesterners: Chicken and Vegetables in a thick sauce served over rice.

Chicken Chow Mein home made

Chicken Chow Mein home made

Strange as it sounds, this dish is “comfort” food by many; a classic in the same way our Goulash is made of hamburger and macaroni and our Swedish Meatballs are served in a sour cream sauce.

My recipe passed on to my Mom in the 60’s by my Aunt, started out with stewing chicken as an ingredient. I’ve simplified it enough to whip out on a weeknight – and I’ve kept it as I’ve always known it, served over rice as our family always did.

Oddly enough, we never served it over noodles as the name implied, nor did we serve it with the dry, fried bags of noodles sold in the store…add them as you wish. They’ll add to the price, though – I’m figuring about $2.80 for the Chow Mein in the photo on the top and another 15 cents or so for the rice – making this truly a budget dish!

home made Chow Mein

Chow Mein; this is a fresher take with a lighter sauce

Chow Mein

  • Servings: 4-6 generous
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 2 Chicken Breasts, about 12 ounces
  • 4 stalks celery, leaves included, sliced into 1/3″ pieces
  • 4 carrots, sliced diagonally into 1/3″ pieces
  • 1 small onion, sliced pole to pole, 1/3 inches
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced into 1/3 inch pieces, then cut into thirds
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups of water
  • Your choice of other vegetables, mix or match, to measure about 2 cups: A small can of Chinese “fancy” vegetables, well-drained, a can of sliced water chestnuts, a can or bottle of mushrooms, or fresh mushrooms, sliced and sautéed in oil or butter, bamboo shoots or baby corn.
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce (or to taste)
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch (or more, to desired thickness)
  • thinly sliced green onion for garnish, if desired.

In a saucepan, add chicken breasts, celery, carrots, bell pepper and onion and garlic salt. (see note, below, on controlling the degree of doneness for the vegetables.) Cover with the water and bring to a boil then reduce to a gentle simmer. Cover the pan partially with a lid, and cook for about 10 to 15 minutes. Cook until chicken is done and vegetables tender, but still have some body. Remove chicken and shred, set aside.

In a small cup, place the cornstarch and add the soy sauce, slowly, stirring to form a slurry. Add a small amount of water, if needed.

Bring vegetables up to a gentle boil and add the cornstarch slurry, stirring constantly. Cook for about a minute until sauce thickens. If you prefer a thicker sauce, simply make a bit of additional slurry and add. If you feel the sauce is too thick, add a little water. Make a note of this so you can make it just as you wish in the future.

Add the shredded chicken back in, along with the two cups of the vegetables you’ve picked as your choice. Taste and adjust the amount of Soy Sauce to your liking. Turn down the heat and simmer a moment to warm through the chicken and additional vegetables. Serve over rice, noodles, or store-bought fried Chow Mein noodles.


  • I often add the peppers a few minutes later than the carrots and celery as I prefer them a little more crisp.
  • If you prefer, you may cook the chicken and remove, then add the vegetables so it is easier to control to what degree of crisp/tender they are cooked.
  • Depending on whom I’m serving, I adjust the thickness of the sauce and the types of vegetables, as well as how long the vegetables are cooked. Below, the same recipe, but the sauce is a bit thinner as I prefer it.

Let’s talk about how to save money/time on this recipe:

  • Use a coupon matching site! Every store has a group of enthusiastic Coupon Matchers.
  • Follow my 12 Strategies – You’ll see them on the upper drop down menu of every page and how I apply them, below.
  • Don’t get discouraged if your prices don’t match mine! Keep shopping at the best prices and your fridge/freezer and pantry will be stocked with sales priced ingredients.
  • Read strategies applied for additional tips as well as throughout the recipe, for saving time and managing food.

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Recipe made and priced February 2014 for under $4.00.

Chicken Chow Mein - so easy to make at home!


4 thoughts on “Classic Midwestern Chow Mein with Rice

  1. Sherry

    The recipe doesn’t say when to add the sugar or if you drain the vegetables before you add the slurry; so I added the sugar with the garlic salt. Also I drained off all but a cup of the water. My husband had it over Ramen noodles and I used the fried Chinese noodles it was DELICIOUS!!

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Hi Sherry, so glad you caught this. You appear to be the only one that did! It blows me away that this recipe has been on my site since 2014 and has 1,600 shares and no-one, especially me, caught the oversight. I proof read and proof read but I think it’s easier to miss your own errors! Want a job, btw?

      I personally only drain the canned veggies (but I only mentioned the Chinese ones!) and the sugar des go right in with the garlic salt so your instincts were spot on! I’m glad you guys enjoyed it! Thanks again!


  2. Kimberly

    Very excited to try this. Most restaurant chow mein is a gloppy mess with entirely too much soy sauce. This looks just like the fresh kind I love from Peking Garden (formerly by the U of M, now in St. Paul). I love it with both rice and chow mein noodles.

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