Healthy Chow Mein (Panda Express Copycat)

Healthy chow mein that tastes just like Panda Express but without all the fat and calories! This recipe is so good and super easy to make.


Healthy chow mein made with noodles, cabbage, and celery in a tasty homemade sauce is an easy side inspired by your favorite Chinese takeout. Serve it with this healthy General Tso's Chicken or Mongolian Beef.

If you love Panda Express chow mein (or any fast-food chow mein, for that matter), this healthier version you can make at home is for you! Not only is it better for you, I think it tastes even better than the real thing!

I am so excited to share today's Chow Mein recipe with you. Not only is it delicious, but it is also so much healthier than the Panda Express version that I know so many people love. Plus it is so easy to make.

It takes less time to make it at home than it would take to leave your house and pick up the take-out version. And with only 140 calories per serving (compared to 490 in the real thing), it's a no-brainer when it comes to what to make for dinner-decision-making time.

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Now let's talk about the recipe. While I think it's pretty straightforward and simple there is one little ingredient you might find difficult to procure. Finding these specific noodles can be a bit of a pain, but I feel like many grocery stores now have a much better variety of international foods.

You will probably have better luck by trying a bigger chain store than a local little market. Or, if you are lucky enough to have an Asian market nearby, definitely go there. (Asian markets are so full of delicious-looking ingredients, I could spend all day in them.)

That said, you can go with either a fresh yaki-soba noodle that you can normally find in the refrigerated section (near where the tofu is) or you can go with a dried yaki-soba noodle found it the Asian section of the store.

You could also use any other dried pasta, but using yaki-soba really makes a difference in terms of texture. After you have your hands on the noodles, all that's left is to whip up a quick sauce, add lots of shredded cabbage, and give it all a quick toss in a hot pan and it's ready. So good and so much better than the unhealthy take-out version.

Healthy chow mein with cabbage, celery, and noodles in a bowl with chopsticks.

What Makes This Chow Mein Dish Healthy?

First of all, we've eliminated a lot of the unnecessary fats and oils from this dish. You need very little oil to cook this dish and anyway I much prefer it when the flavors of the veggies, noodles, and sauce shine through rather than the taste of grease. The ingredients themselves are also healthy on their own, as well.

  • While fresh yaki-soba noodles are not the lowest-calorie option, they are low in fat, cholesterol, sodium, and carbs. They are also made of buckwheat, which contains nutrients such as protein, manganese, and thiamine. They are also gluten-free.
  • Low sodium soy sauce contains a variety of antioxidants, protein, and is good for your digestive system.
  • Cooking with garlic is a no-brainer. Those pungent cloves are chock full of antioxidants, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties, and it's also good for your heart, your circulatory system, and your cholesterol.
  • While brown sugar isn't stuffed full of nutrients, it does contain a little bit of calcium, iron, potassium, and magnesium.
  • Ginger is a great food if your stomach is upset as it helps relieve symptoms of nausea. It's also great for motion sickness and loss of appetite. This tangy root also has anti-inflammatory properties and can help reduce muscle pain and soreness.
  • Spices such as pepper add lots of flavor and no extra calories, fat, or other unhealthy things.
  • Olive oil is a great oil for cooking, making dressings and marinades, and is a pantry must-have in this girl's kitchen. It's also a source of healthy fat and is good for your heart too!
  • Onions are low in calories but high in other nutrients like iron, folate, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, and potassium as well as several antioxidants. Plus, they go great with garlic!
  • Celery is a great source of water and fiber as well as vitamins K and A, folate, potassium, and vitamin C.
  • Shredded cabbage is high in fiber, and we all know fiber is necessary to keep your digestive system running smoothly. Cabbage also contains some antioxidant properties and is high in C vitamins, which help your heart, among other things.

Healthy chow mein with noodles, cabbage, celery, and carrots in two bowls.

What Is the Difference Between Lo Mein and Chow Mein?

I always thought "lo" and "chow" were different kinds of noodles or different kinds of meats that you'd put into the noodles. But it turns out the differences lie in the way the noodles are prepared. Lo mein is made by tossing the noodles and chow mein is made by frying the noodles. "Mein" just means "noodle."

Of course, in this dish, we are not frying anything but rather giving it that "fried taste." While not actually using any unhealthy oils and instead of using a little olive oil and a hot pan to crisp up the noodles. All the taste, none of the bad stuff.

The Recipe
Chinese Chow mein with cabbage, noodles, and celery in soy sauce in a pan.

Healthy Chow Mein (Panda Express Copycat)

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  • 4 oz. fresh yaki-soba noodles
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce (GF if needed)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. ginger, minced
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 4 cups shredded cabbage

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Prepare the yaki-soba noodles according to the package directions. Do not use a seasoning packing if included. For fresh noodles, just add them to boiling water for 1-2 minutes until they separate and become tender. Dried noodles usually need to be boiled for 4-5 minutes.


Meanwhile, mix together the soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, and pepper.


Heat the olive oil over medium high heat, Add the onion and celery and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the cabbage and cook for 2 minutes until just tender. Add the noodles and the sauce. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring often. Taste and season if needed with additional soy sauce or pepper.

Nutritional Facts
Serving Size: 1.5 cups
Amount Per Serving
Calories 141
Calories from Fat 38
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 4g
Saturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 723mg
Total Carbohydrate 23g
Dietary Fiber 5g
Sugars 8g
Protein 4g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.

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About the author Meet Kristen McCaffrey
Hi, I’m the cookbook author, recipe developer, and food enthusiast behind Slender Kitchen. I am obsessed with making healthy food that is easy to prepare and absolutely delicious. Meal planning is my secret weapon and I hope I can make meal time easier for you with our tried and tested recipes and foolproof meal plans. Learn More
On Healthy Chow Mein (Panda Express Copycat)
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Callie Taylor
December 26, 2023 - 08:39
Is there a way to remove the brown sugar without messing up your dish? I'm trying to cut out as much sugar out of my diet as possible. Looks and sounds really good!
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January 2, 2024 - 11:05
It will still taste delicious without the brown sugar! Panda Express uses sugar in their lo mein to add a sweeter flavor, but it still tastes great without it.
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March 10, 2022 - 20:24
what kind of pepper?
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March 28, 2022 - 16:51
Normally I use regular black pepper but white pepper would work as well.
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Melissa C.
January 31, 2019 - 13:22
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I used spaghetti instead of the yakisoba noodles, and I subbed a container of Trader Joe's 'Mirepoix' for the celery and onion. Added a can of chicken (next time will add rotisserie chicken). My hubs cleaned his plate! My suuuper picky 5-yo tried the 'spaghetti with soy sauce' and liked it! I took leftovers to work and everyone wanted to know what was smelling so good!
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Jayne Domogalla
November 18, 2016 - 18:06
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Once again a recipe we both loved! Delicious and very easy. I did add some rotisserie chicken also. I will definitely make this again!
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Emma Thompson
May 25, 2016 - 10:03
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This was absolutely delicious! It was low in fat already but I made it even lower by using just a few sprays of the Olive Oil in a can and used a wok. I also added a couple of pieces of rotisserie chicken for more protein. Even my husband who hates eating "healthy" ate several bowls of this and raved about it. Thank you so much!!
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May 25, 2016 - 08:38
Hope you enjoy it! It's one of my favorites for healthy Asian at home.
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June 1, 2020 - 16:15
How many cups of noodles should I put cause 4 3/4 oz seems like too little
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August 20, 2020 - 11:55
The recipe doesn't have as many noodles as a traditional chow mein, which is why it may feel like less. To keep it lighter, many of the noodles are replaced with cabbage. This is the traditional package size for chow mein noodles, I am not sure exactly what the measurements in cups would be, but probably about 1 -1 1/4 cups.
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