Fast-cooking, amendable to whatever vegetables are lurking in your fridge, and ultra family-friendly, this easy Beef Lo Mein is dinner tonight and lunch tomorrow… assuming you don’t polish it all off in one sitting anyway!.
Why You’ll Love This Takeout-Style Recipe
- It’s Quick and Simple. 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 (like this Vegetable Lo Mein) is never more than 30 minutes away, fewer if you use frozen vegetables.
- Everyone Will Enjoy It. Healthy stir fry recipes make an appearance at least once a week around these parts. Partly because they’re nutritious and easy, but mostly because they’re incredibly delicious and crowd-pleasing.
- It’s Easy on Your Wallet. This recipe (and Tofu Stir Fry) is affordable to make. Beef lo mein is made of simple, nutritious ingredients. Thanks to noodles, the beef (and thus your dollar) goes a long way in this recipe.
- It’s Flexible. 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, season to taste, and serve with any of your favorite sides.
What’s the Difference Between Beef Chow Mein and Beef Lo Mein?
These are two popular Chinese takeout 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. (This Chicken Chow Mein is a great recipe.)
- 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!)
Whether chow mein or lo mein is better is entirely up to you!
How to Make Beef Lo Mein
- 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. Saucy, slippery noodles are a pure delight! For a healthy spin, I prefer to use whole grain noodles, which are higher in fiber and nutrients (I use this trick in my Stir Fry Noodles too).
- Garlic + Ginger + Soy Sauce. The stir fry Big Three.
- 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. Snow peas are also delicious. 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. It’s intensely nutty, savory, and makes the lo mein all the harder to stop eating.
- Prep the Beef. Slice it and coat it in the baking soda mixture.
- Cook the Noodles. Cook just until they’re al dente.
- Stir the Sauce Together. A liquid measuring cup works well for this.
- Cook the Beef With Sauce. Remove it while it’s still a little pink inside.
- Cook the Vegetables. We want them to be crisp-tender.
- Combine. Add all the ingredients back to the pan, stirring to heat and coat in the sauce. 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 noodles to keep them from drying out.
- To Freeze. You can freeze beef lo mein. Freeze in an airtight, freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
What to Serve With Beef Lo Mein
- Veggies. Pair beef lo mein with Roasted Eggplant, Sauteed Mushrooms, or Air Fryer Green Beans for extra veggies.
- Salad. Asian Cucumber Salad or Asian Cabbage Salad would both be tasty.
- Toppings. Spruce up your beef lo mein with your favorite toppings! Green onion, sesame seeds, chopped peanuts, bean sprouts, or wonton strips would all be tasty.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Cast Iron Skillet. If you prefer a large 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.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- Slice the Beef Against the Grain. This helps tenderize its fibers.
- Don’t Overcook the Beef. Tender, flavorful beef is the goal here, so make sure you don’t overdo it. When overcooked, beef can become tough and dry.
- Use the Veggies You Have. Raid the fridge or buy your favorites! Feel free to swap in the vegetables your family enjoys most. Stir fries are also an ideal place to use vegetables that are past their prime.
- Don’t Skip the Water Chestnuts. While they aren’t a critical component in this easy beef lo mein recipe per se, they add a delectable crunch that I think makes it extra tasty. Even if you don’t typically purchase them, I urge you to give them a try.
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 crosswise (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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Frequently Asked Questions
An authentic beef lo mein recipe would call for Chinese egg noodles, which are made with wheat flour and eggs. However, any long noodles you have access to will do nicely. Soba noodles (a Japanese noodle made of buckwheat), whole grain spaghetti noodles, or whole grain fettuccine noodles all work well.
While you can use frozen vegetables for this recipe in a pinch, I think fresh vegetables tend to have a better flavor and texture.
If you have trouble keeping fresh vegetables on hand, try choosing ones with a long shelf life, such as cabbage. Beef and cabbage lo mein is delicious (see this Cabbage Stir Fry for prep tips.)
If you want to turn up the heat a bit, add extra red pepper flakes or a drizzle of sriracha.
Sure! If you’d like your lo mein to have two types of protein, you can add another meat, seafood, or vegetarian option. I think shrimp, salmon, or tofu would be especially tasty with the beef.