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Chop Suey vs. Chow Mein: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 16, 2023
Chop suey is a stir-fried dish with meat and vegetables in a thick sauce. Chow mein consists of stir-fried noodles with meat and vegetables.

Key Differences

Chop suey is often seen as a classic Chinese-American dish, with its origins debated but commonly attributed to Chinese immigrants adapting to American tastes. Chow mein, on the other hand, has more authentic roots in Chinese cuisine, primarily recognized for its stir-fried noodles.
When you order chop suey, you'll typically receive a dish loaded with a mix of meats and vegetables, all enveloped in a thick, starchy sauce. Chow mein, in contrast, emphasizes the noodles, either soft or crispy, combined with a mixture of meats and vegetables.
The main highlight of chop suey is its thick sauce, which blankets the ingredients, giving the dish its distinctive flavor. Chow mein, however, gets its taste from the stir-fried method applied to the noodles and the accompanying ingredients.
Though both dishes might seem similar at first glance, a keen palate can differentiate between them. Chop suey's dominant texture is saucy and meaty, while chow mein provides the unique chewiness or crunchiness (depending on preparation) of the noodles.
The sauces used in both dishes also differ. While chop suey uses a heavier starch-based sauce, chow mein often utilizes a lighter soy-based sauce, complementing the primary ingredient: the noodles.

Comparison Chart

Main Ingredient

Meat and vegetables in a thick sauce.
Stir-fried noodles with meat and vegetables.


Starch-based, thick sauce.
Lighter, often soy-based sauce.


Saucy and meaty.
Noodle dominant - either chewy or crispy.


Chinese-American with debated origins.
More traditional in Chinese cuisine.


Heavier, sauce-rich appearance.
Noodle-forward, with clear distinction of toppings.

Chop Suey and Chow Mein Definitions

Chop Suey

A Chinese-American dish of stir-fried meat and vegetables.
She ordered chop suey, eager to taste the rich sauce and varied ingredients.

Chow Mein

An iconic dish often complemented by a light soy-based sauce.
She drizzled extra soy sauce on her chow mein for added flavor.

Chop Suey

An adaptable dish accommodating different meats and vegetables.
Their vegetarian chop suey was a hit among the plant-based crowd.

Chow Mein

Noodles prepared either crispy or soft, topped with meat and veggies.
The restaurant offers both soft and crispy versions of chow mein.

Chop Suey

A representative dish of early Chinese-American cuisine.
Many believe chop suey was invented to cater to American palates.

Chow Mein

A Chinese dish of stir-fried noodles with toppings.
He chose the shrimp chow mein, savoring the perfectly cooked noodles.

Chop Suey

A concoction of various ingredients in a thick sauce.
The chef's special chop suey featured three types of meat and seasonal veggies.

Chow Mein

A flavorful mix showcasing the art of stir-frying.
The chow mein was aromatic, indicating a skilled hand at the wok.

Chop Suey

A meal option with a dominant starchy sauce texture.
If you're in the mood for a hearty, sauce-rich dish, try the chop suey.

Chow Mein

A noodle dish with origins in traditional Chinese cuisine.
Chow mein is a staple in many Chinese festivals and gatherings.


What is chop suey?

Chop suey is a stir-fried dish featuring meat and vegetables in a thick sauce.

Do all chow mein dishes have crispy noodles?

No, chow mein can have either soft or crispy noodles.

How does chow mein differ from chop suey?

Chow mein focuses on stir-fried noodles, while chop suey emphasizes its thick sauce and varied ingredients.

Is chop suey mostly served in the U.S.?

It's popular in the U.S. but can be found in other countries, often with regional variations.

What's the primary texture of chop suey?

Chop suey offers a saucy and meaty texture.

Can I get vegetarian versions of both dishes?

Absolutely, both chop suey and chow mein can be made vegetarian.

Which is spicier, chop suey or chow mein?

Traditionally, neither is overly spicy, but spice levels can be adjusted to preference.

Is chop suey always served with rice?

Often, but not always. It can be enjoyed standalone or with rice or noodles.

What meats are commonly found in chop suey?

Pork, chicken, beef, and shrimp are common, though it's adaptable to various meats.

What vegetables are found in chop suey?

Commonly, celery, bell peppers, and bean sprouts, but it can vary.

Is chow mein a noodle dish?

Yes, chow mein's primary ingredient is stir-fried noodles.

What kind of sauce is used in chow mein?

Typically a lighter, soy-based sauce.

Are chop suey and chow mein traditional Chinese dishes?

While chow mein has more traditional Chinese roots, chop suey is more Chinese-American in origin.

Can I make chow mein without meat?

Certainly! Vegetable chow mein is a popular option.

Can I use spaghetti for chow mein?

Authentic chow mein uses specific Chinese noodles, but spaghetti can be a substitute in a pinch.

How did chop suey become popular in America?

It's believed Chinese immigrants adapted the dish for American tastes.

Which has more sauce, chop suey or chow mein?

Chop suey typically has a more dominant sauce presence than chow mein.

Are chop suey and chow mein high in calories?

Like all dishes, calorie content can vary based on ingredients and preparation.

Which is more popular in takeout, chop suey or chow mein?

Both are popular, but chow mein might have a slight edge due to its noodle-centric appeal.

Is chop suey a staple in Chinese households?

While it has roots in Chinese-American cuisine, it may not be a staple in traditional Chinese households.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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