As far as savory Chinese cuisine goes, you can’t go wrong with a classic dish of chicken chop suey. To be accurate, this dish isn’t authentic Chinese cuisine, but it is inspired by it. Chop suey is a mixture of meats and vegetables that works as a great recipe to make when you want to get rid of some miscellaneous ingredients in your refrigerator.

In principle, it might sound the same as most other stir-fry dishes, and at its core, it is, but the recipe format for chop suey is miscellaneous vegetables. We’ll pick out a few of the best vegetables and provide you with a basic recipe for chicken chop suey, a meal unto itself with a few additional ingredients and sides for that extra bit of nutritional value.

Here’s what you’ll need for four servings. Some of the ingredients for chicken chop suey are optional, but they can add a different flavor to the dish:

Chop Suey Recipe

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Meat and Marinade

  • 8 oz boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 tbsp corn starch paste (equal parts cornflour and water)
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar (optional)
  • 1 tsp mirin (rice wine)


  • 1 bell pepper, sliced or diced
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 2 tbsp ginger, finely shredded
  • 4 oz bean sprouts
  • 3 baby carrots, thinly sliced lengthwise


  • 1 tsp sesame seed oil


  • 4 cups white or brown rice – others are optional
  • 8 cups water


Place your chicken in a bowl, pour the mirin, soy sauce, and brown sugar over it, and stir well. This mixture is your marinade. We like to add a little sweetness to our dish to offset the saltiness of the soy sauce and other ingredients. However, you don’t have to have sugar. Allow the chicken to marinate for about 20 minutes.

Heat your wok to about 400 degrees, the optimal temperature for doing any kind of stir fry dish because it’s hot enough to cook vegetables quickly without making them mushy. If you can’t get an exact temperature, put the stove on high. Once the pan or wok is hot enough, pour in the oil and let it get warm.

Next, drop your onions and peppers into the wok, stirring them frequently and turning them, so they cook evenly throughout. Pay close attention and carefully poke at the vegetables with tongs or something similar to make sure they’re firm to the touch. Wait for about one minute.

These vegetables are the thickest and take longest to cook. Next, you’ll add smaller vegetables like the green onions, bean sprouts, and carrots and allow them to cook for one minute. This provides the same amount of cooking for the smaller, thinner slices, so they’re at the same level of doneness as the larger pieces.

vegetables cooked on pan
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After your vegetables are cooked, remove them from the wok and set them aside for now.

Put your cornstarch into the chicken marinade mixture. This helps to thicken the otherwise-runny sauce, so it doesn’t turn into soup. Part of the appeal of chop suey is its simplicity and relative cleanliness, from which a soupy consistency would detract

Pour the chicken marinade into the wok and heat until the mixture starts to boil. At this point, the chicken should be cooked through, but you should always check. If you can see any pink inside the meat, it’s not done and needs to cook more. Uncooked poultry carries harmful bacteria like salmonella and E. coli even more than other types of meat.

The cooking process for the chicken should take about 6 minutes at high heat. At this point, you can return the vegetables to the wok, and add the cornstarch mixture. Heat the wok and stir the mixture until it’s fully combined and boiling. Add sesame oil for flavor.

While you’re cooking the chicken chop suey main portion, you can also work on the white or brown rice. It depends on your taste. Brown rice is arguably healthier, but white rice is more filling.

Take a large pot (at least 4 quarts), and pour the water into it. Heat it to a rolling boil and add the rice. Stir frequently so the rice doesn’t stick. You can add butter or oil for flavor, but you should also add a pinch of salt and pepper. The salt helps water boil faster, as well as absorb into the rice. Continue stirring. Then, turn the stove eye to a simmer setting and cover the pot.

The steam from the boiling water, provided you have a secure cover, has the same effect as using a dedicated rice cooker that you’d find in a Chinese restaurant.

cooked white rice, a perfect partner to chicken chop suey
Image by Hans via

If you want your rice to be a little crispier, you can fry it instead. Here’s how to make a good pan of fried rice. Just as a note, it’s better to use brown rice for this part of the dish, but you can use white long-grained rice so it holds its shape better. After cooking the rice, wait for it to become cool to the touch.

Put about 2 tablespoons of oil into your rice skillet and heat. Drop the rice into the container and whisk until it is lightly browned all the way through. You can add other vegetables like peas or sprouts, but you don’t have to. Vegetables are already part of the main dish of chicken chop suey, and you don’t want to overpower the meat.

After you have your rice, chicken, and vegetables cooked, combine them. You can then serve the chicken chop suey course over a bed of rice. If you’ve prepared everything according to the recipe, the dish should need no further seasoning. However, some palates require different flavors, and you can add more soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, or even hot sauce.

Tips for Safety and Efficiency

bell pepper to be sliced on top of a chopping board and to be used on chicken chop suey
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Keep all your ingredients on hand and measured out before you start cooking. Nothing can ruin a dinner plan faster than starting a recipe and realizing you’ve forgotten a critical ingredient.

Keep your work area clean and use different utensils for cutting different foods. You don’t want to cut your vegetables with the same knife you use to cut chicken. Not only do you need a different blade, but you also run the risk of cross-contamination. Even after cooking, if you aren’t careful, you can transfer bacteria into your food with improperly-cleaned utensils or vessels.

Speaking of knives, keep your knives sharp. It doesn’t take much force to cut chicken and vegetables. A dull knife, though, is far more dangerous to you than a sharp one because a dull knife requires more force to use. More force means less control and more chance of cutting yourself.

Learn to multitask. The best way to make a meal quickly is to have multiple courses cooking at the same time. While your rice is boiling, for example, make preparations on your vegetables, or vice versa. Don’t wait for one part of your meal to get done before starting the next. This wastes time and lets your food get cold or mushy.

Keeping Healthy

olive oil to be used on a healthier chicken chop suey
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The two biggest changes you can make to the recipe for health are to use low-sodium soy sauce and to switch to olive oil instead of vegetable oil. Olive oil has a high enough smoke point, as well as containing many critical vitamins and minerals. Vitamin C is chief among these.

Just make sure that you’re not using extra-virgin olive oil because its smoke point isn’t high enough to use for stir fry. The smoke point is the temperature at which oil starts to burn. When cooking oil breaks down, it can produce chemicals that are harmful to you when ingested.

Facts About Chop Suey

Chop suey isn’t an authentic Chinese dish. It was supposedly created by Chinese-American immigrants who used the ingredients and materials they had available. At least, this is one account. Some people claim it’s a traditional dish dating to the Qing dynasty, or simply that it was a dish thrown together from leftover ingredients in California mining camps.

Final Thoughts

If you make chop suey, don’t feel like you have to confine yourself to the ingredients listed here. If you want to add other vegetables or take some out, it’s your decision. Just remember to start cooking thicker vegetables first, then add smaller ones. Rice can similarly vary. You could even add a flair of Indian cuisine to the dish by using saffron rice and spices.

The beauty of chop suey is its versatility. All you need are meat, vegetables, and an optional base of grain, and you have a meal fit for the whole family.

Featured Image by Martin Lopez via


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