The next night the idea of cooking a healthy dinner feels like a horror, call in the Beef Lo Mein!
Fast cooking, amenable to whatever vegetables are lurking in your fridge, and ultra family-friendly (Beef! Noodles! Yummy sauce!), this simple noodle stir fry is dinner tonight and lunch tomorrow… assuming you don’t polish it all off in one sitting. It’s easy to do.
Healthy stir fry recipes make an appearance at least once a week around these parts.
Keep a few staples like garlic and soy sauce on hand, along with instant flavor-makers like hoisin (the rough equivalent of Asian barbecue sauce) and sesame oil, and a nutritious dinner is never more than 30 minutes away, fewer if you are super speedy or use frozen vegetables.
When I’m in the mood for something different or want something more comforting, it’s the noodle stir fries like Vegetable Lo Mein, classic Stir Fry Noodles, and Kickin’ Black Pepper Pork Stir Fry from my cookbook that hit the spot.
We eat meatless fairly often (Tofu Stir Fry is another fave), but every now and then, it’s nice to throw beef into the mix.
Thanks to whole grain noodles and plenty of vegetables, the beef (and thus your dollar) goes a long way in this recipe.
Beef lo mein is affordable to make, and unlike the fast food lo mein that’s bad for you because of excess added sugars and oils, lack of whole grains, and a weak number of vegetables, this recipe is made of simple, nutritious ingredients.
How to Make Beef Lo Mein
Lo mein is made of noodles, a protein (usually beef or chicken), vegetables, and a sweet and savory sauce.
The recipe here is a starting point. Feel free to swap in other vegetables you have on hand and season to taste.
Beef Lo Mein v. Beef Chow Mein
These are two popular Chinese entrees that are similar in flavor and ingredients, but the preparation of the noodles differs.
- Chow mein means “fried noodles.” The noodles are cooked, then pan fried before adding the other ingredients.
- Lo mein means “tossed noodles.” You cook the noodles, then stir them into the stir fried meat and vegetables.
Since the noodles in this recipe are tossed in at the end, that makes it beef lo mein. (Wow your friends with this one!)
- Beef. Today’s lo mein protein of choice. Beef offers protein, iron, and several essential vitamins such as B6 and B12. It’s regarded to be healthy in moderation.
- Noodles. Authentic lo mein recipes call for Chinese egg noodles, which are made with wheat flour and eggs. However, any long noodles you have access to will do nicely. For a healthy spin, I prefer to use whole grain noodles, which are higher in fiber and nutrients. Soba noodles (a Japanese noodle made of buckwheat), whole grain spaghetti noodles, or whole grain fettuccine noodles all work well.
- Garlic + Ginger + Soy Sauce. The stir fry Big Three. These are the backbone of many many stir fry recipes.
- Hoisin. This sweet/savory/umami sauce is nearly all you need to make fabulously flavored stir fries. I always have a jar of it on hand.
Hoisin is widely available at just about any major grocery store. Look for it in the Asian or international food aisle. Or, use it as a reason to visit your local Asian market.
- Vegetables. My favorite combination of vegetables for stir fries is broccoli, bell pepper, and carrots for the array of colors and nutrients. That said, you can make stir fry with just about any veggie you have around.
- Water Chestnuts. While optional, I have been smitten with their crunch since I was in high school ordering Mongolian beef lo mein with my hard-earned dollars at lunch.
- Toasted Sesame Oil. While optional, this adds a professional, finished taste to the lo mein. Its intensely nutty, savory, and makes the lo mein all the harder to stop eating.
- Slice the beef and coat with the baking soda and water mixture to tenderize.
- Meanwhile, cook the noodles until al dente. Set aside.
- Stir together the sauce ingredients in a measuring cup.
- In a wok or large, nonstick skillet, cook the beef over medium high heat with 1 tablespoon of the sauce for about 3 minutes. Set aside.
- Cook the vegetables for about 4 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to medium and add the beef, noodles, and more sauce. Stir until the noodles are heated through. Serve with sesame oil and green onions. ENJOY!
- To Store. Refrigerate leftover beef lo mein in an airtight container for 4 days.
- To Reheat. Rewarm leftovers in a skillet on the stovetop over medium-low heat or gently in the microwave. Splash a little water or broth onto the nooldes to keep them from drying out.
- To Freeze. Freeze in an airtight, freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
Meal Prep Tip
Chop all vegetables up to 1 day in advance, and store them in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Cast Iron Skillet. If you prefer a cast iron skillet over a wok, this 12-inch Staub with enamel bottom is second to none!
- Knife Set. This 10-piece Zwilling set stays sharper longer than expected.
- Pasta Strainer. A 5-quart colander with large handles is perfect for noodles for the whole family.
Beef lo mein, you are my idea of using your noodle! (#hadto #sorrynotsorry).
Beef Lo Mein
- 1 pound sirloin top round steak, or flank steak
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 6 tablespoons water divided
- 6 ounces long noodles such as whole grain spaghetti or whole grain fettuccine, soba noodles, or udon noodles
- 1/4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce plus additional to taste
- 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
- 4 cloves garlic minced or grated (about 1 heaping tablespoon)
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes plus additional to taste
- 1 tablespoon canola oil or peanut or grapeseed oil
- 2 medium carrots peeled and cut into thin coins
- 1 head broccoli cut into small florets (about 3 cups), or 3 cups thinly sliced cabbage
- 1 red bell pepper cored and thinly sliced
- 1 8-ounce can sliced water chestnuts, drained
- 4 green onions thinly sliced divided
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil optional
- For easier slicing, place the beef in the freezer for 15 minutes to firm up. Cut the beef across the grain into very thin (1/4-inch or smaller) slices. Cut any long slices in half cross wise (each strip should be around 3 inches or so long).
- Place the beef in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, stir together the baking soda and 2 tablespoons of the water. Pour over the beef and toss to coat. Let sit 5 minutes (this helps to tenderize it).
- Meanwhile, in a large pot of salted water, cook the noodles just until al dente. Drain and rinse under cool water. Set aside.
- In a small bowl or larger liquid measuring cup, stir together the soy sauce, hoisin, garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes. Keep handy near the stove.
- In a wok or large, nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium high. Add the beef and cook until crisp on the outside but still pink on the inside, about 3 minutes. The beef will give off liquid, which is fine. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the sauce and let cook 30 seconds. With a large spoon, scoop the beef onto a plate (any cooking juices left behind will cook away).
- Add the carrots, broccoli, and bell pepper. Cook until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Stir in the remaining 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) of water and let the vegetables steam until the broccoli turns bright green and most of the liquid has cooked away, about 2 minutes more.
- Stir in the water chestnuts, half of the green onions, and 2 tablespoons of the soy sauce mixture and let cook 30 additional seconds.
- Reduce the heat to medium. Add the noodles and beef and pour the remaining soy sauce mixture over the top. With tongs, stir and toss until the noodles are heated through.
- Drizzle the sesame oil over the top (if using) and sprinkle on the remaining green onion. Toss to combine. Enjoy!
- TO STORE: Refrigerate leftover beef lo mein in an airtight container for 4 days.
- TO REHEAT: Rewarm leftovers in a skillet on the stovetop over medium-low heat or gently in the microwave. Splash a little water or broth onto the nooldes to keep them from drying out.
- TO FREEZE: Freeze in an airtight freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
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