Pan-Fried Noodles vs. Lo Mein: A Comprehensive Guide to the Differences and Similarities

Choosing between pan-fried noodles and lo mein can be a delicious dilemma. Both dishes offer a satisfying and flavorful experience, but understanding their key differences and similarities can help you make the perfect choice for your next meal.

Understanding the Differences: Cooking Methods and Textures

Pan-fried noodles:

  • Cooking method: These noodles are cooked in two stages. First, they are par-cooked in boiling water until al dente. Then, they are transferred to a hot wok with oil and finished cooking until they achieve a crispy, chewy exterior and a tender, soft middle.
  • Texture: The result is a delightful contrast between the crispy exterior and the soft, chewy interior.

Lo mein:

  • Cooking method: Lo mein noodles are boiled until tender and then tossed with a sauce, vegetables, and protein of your choice. They are not fried, resulting in a softer texture throughout.
  • Texture: Lo mein noodles are known for their soft, chewy texture, perfectly absorbing the flavors of the sauce and other ingredients.

Nutritional Value: A Comparison

While both dishes offer similar nutritional profiles, pan-fried noodles tend to be slightly higher in fat due to the added oil used in the cooking process. However, you can make both options healthier by incorporating various vegetables and lean protein sources.

Substitutions: Exploring the Possibilities

Pan-fried noodles:

  • Noodle substitutions: You can use any type of noodle for pan-fried noodles, including chow mein, ramen, spaghetti, or udon. However, thicker noodles may require longer cooking times.
  • Lo mein substitutions: For lo mein, it’s best to stick with noodles of similar thickness, such as spaghetti, soba noodles, or pad thai noodles.

Lo mein:

  • Noodle substitutions: Lo mein noodles can be substituted with other long, medium-thick noodles like spaghetti, soba noodles, or fettuccine.

A Quick Comparison: Pan-Fried Noodles vs. Lo Mein

Feature Pan-Fried Noodles Lo Mein
Cooking method Par-cooked and then pan-fried Boiled and tossed with sauce
Texture Crispy exterior, chewy interior Soft and chewy throughout
Nutritional value Slightly higher in fat Similar to pan-fried noodles
Noodle substitutions Any type of noodle Long, medium-thick noodles

Conclusion: Choosing the Perfect Noodle Dish

Both pan-fried noodles and lo mein offer unique and delicious experiences. Pan-fried noodles provide a delightful textural contrast, while lo mein offers a comforting and flavorful experience. Ultimately, the best choice depends on your personal preferences and desired texture.

Additional Resources:

  • Best Lo Mein Recipes:
    • Beef and Broccoli Lo Mein
    • Chicken Lo Mein
    • Kung Pao Spaghetti
  • Best Pan-Fried Noodle Recipes:
    • 10-Minute Pan Fried Noodles
    • Hong-Kong Style Pan Fried Noodles

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. What is the difference between chow mein and lo mein?

Chow mein is a general term for stir-fried noodles, while lo mein specifically refers to boiled noodles tossed with sauce.

2. Can I use spaghetti for pan-fried noodles?

Yes, spaghetti is a great substitute for pan-fried noodles.

3. What is the best type of noodle for lo mein?

Lo mein is typically made with wheat noodles, but you can use other long, medium-thick noodles like spaghetti or soba noodles.

4. Is lo mein healthier than pan-fried noodles?

Lo mein is generally lower in fat than pan-fried noodles, but the nutritional value can vary depending on the ingredients used.

5. Can I make lo mein without a wok?

Yes, you can make lo mein in a large skillet or frying pan.


Pan-fried noodles and lo mein offer distinct culinary experiences, each with its unique characteristics. By understanding their differences and similarities, you can choose the perfect noodle dish for your next meal.

Wonton Noodles

what is the difference between lo mein and pan fried noodles

Use: In simple sauces or light broths where the noodles steal the show.

This is the type of wonton noodle soup noodle—thin, springy noodles. It’s ideal for light and delicate recipes like this wonton noodle soup with chicken and shiitake mushrooms. Consider wonton soups or chicken soups that combine seafood and pork. They are also excellent in very basic dishes like those made with oyster sauce, ginger, and scallions, or any other dish where the noodles truly shine. They’re typically served by draining, boiling, then drizzling with hot oil and adding a basic sauce on top.

Wide Wonton Noodles

what is the difference between lo mein and pan fried noodles

Use: In hearty braises, noodle soups, or other dishes that have stronger, oilier flavors.

Similar to thin wonton noodles but. thicker. I use these noodles for heavier, oilier-flavored dishes like braised beef, or for thicker noodle soups like this Taiwanese beef noodle soup.

Lo Mein VS Chow Mein!


What is the difference between lo mein and chow mein noodles?

The biggest difference between chow mein and lo mein lies in the translations of their names: chow mein is fried, and lo mein is tossed. The experience is somewhat different between the two. Lo mein tends to be saucier and more toothsome, with a texture some describe as “slippery” because of the noodles’ softness.

What is another name for lo mein noodles?

In American Chinese restaurants, lo mein is a popular take-out food and is sometimes considered synonymous with chow mein. The dish is distinct from both Cantonese lo mein and Cantonese crispy chow mein.

What are the crunchy Chinese noodles called?

Mein gon (面干 miàn-gān), informally referred to as crunchy noodles or crunchy chow mein, are a type of noodle-shaped cracker (or dried biscuit) used in American Chinese cuisine.

What are the skinny noodles in Chinese food?

Vermicelli. While “vermicelli” is a term used to describe thin noodles across various global cuisines, rice vermicelli specifically (also called rice sticks) is a favorite in East and Southeast Asian cooking. The noodles are pale white, nearly translucent, and are most commonly sold dried in folded, crunchy bunches.

How is lo mein different from pan fried noodles?

Different from Pan Fried noodles in history, Lo Mein was told to originate from Cantonese immigrants in the 1940s. Lo Mein noodles are made with wheat flour. In serving Lo Mein, vegetables and protein are allowed to add. The Lo Mein cooking method is different from Pan Fried noodles.

Are ramen noodles gluten free?

Ramen noodles are not gluten free as their main ingredient is wheat flour. The wheat based ramen noodles or refined wheat flour ramen noodles are cut into noodle strips from a dough of wheat. Wheat and its products contain gluten which are not suitable to ingest by individuals who have gluten intolerance. Gluten free ramen are now a days introduced into the market.

What is a lo mein noodle?

Lo mein: fat, chewy noodles that are boiled for a few minutes, then added to stir-fry after veggies and meat is cooked. Hungry For More?

What is the difference between Chow Mein and lo mein?

American Chinese lo mein is a stir fry noodle dish: thick noodles mixed with a soy sauce based sauce and toppings like beef, pork, chicken, or vegetables. Both are delicious! The main difference between lo mein and chow mein are the noodles used. Lo mein noodles are thicker and chewier and chow mein noodles are thinner and crisper.

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