Is Chop Suey Chinese Food?

Last Updated on April 9, 2023 by Lauren Beck

When it comes to Chinese cuisine, chop suey is a dish that often comes to mind. However, there is a longstanding debate on whether chop suey is truly Chinese food. 

In this article, we’ll explore the history and characteristics of chop suey, its ingredients, how it’s made, and some of the differences between chop suey and other similar dishes.

Is Chop Suey Chinese Food?

Chop suey is not a traditional Chinese dish, but rather an Americanized version of Chinese cuisine that was developed by Chinese immigrants in the US.

What is Chop Suey?

Chop suey is a stir-fried dish consisting of meat (usually chicken, pork, or beef), vegetables (such as bean sprouts, celery, onions, and cabbage), and a starchy sauce thickened with cornstarch or arrowroot. It’s usually served over rice but can also be served with noodles. The dish has a mild flavor and is often seasoned with soy sauce and garlic.

History of Chop Suey

There are different versions of the origin story of chop suey. One of the most popular stories traces its roots back to the late 19th century in the United States. 

It’s believed that Chinese immigrants who worked as cooks in the American West were tasked with creating a dish that would appeal to American tastes. 

They combined ingredients they had on hand, such as leftover meat and vegetables, and came up with chop suey. 

Another story suggests that chop suey was a dish created by Chinese Americans for other homesick Chinese Americans who wanted to eat something that reminded them of home.

Do Chinese Eat Chop Suey?

Despite its popularity in the US, chop suey is not a traditional Chinese dish. In fact, many Chinese people have never heard of it. 

However, there are similar dishes in Chinese cuisines, such as chow mein, which also consists of stir-fried meat and vegetables served with noodles.

How To Make Chop Suey?

To make chop suey, you will need:

  • Meat (chicken, pork, or beef)
  • Vegetables (bean sprouts, celery, onions, and cabbage)
  • Cornstarch or arrowroot
  • Soy sauce
  • Garlic
  • Rice or noodles

Here’s how to make it:

  1. Cut the meat into small pieces and marinate in soy sauce and garlic for about 30 minutes.
  2. Heat oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the meat and stir-fry until browned.
  3. Add the vegetables and continue to stir-fry until they’re tender but still crispy.
  4. Mix cornstarch or arrowroot with water and add to the wok or skillet. Stir well until the sauce thickens.
  5. Serve hot over rice or noodles.

Tips for Making Chop Suey

home made cooked chop suey
  • Use a high smoke points oil like peanut oil or vegetable oil for stir-frying.
  • Cut the meat and vegetables into uniform sizes to ensure even cooking.
  • Marinate the meat to add flavor and tenderness.
  • Use fresh and crispy vegetables for the best texture.
  • Use a wok or large skillet for better heat distribution and easy stirring.

Is Chop Suey Healthy?

Chop suey can be a healthy dish if it’s made with lean protein and lots of vegetables [1]. However, the sauce can add a lot of calories and sodium, so it’s important to use it in moderation. You can also make a healthier version of chop suey by using low-sodium soy sauce and reducing the amount of cornstarch or arrowroot.

Is Chop Suey Better With Rice or Noodles?

This is a matter of personal preference. Chop suey is traditionally served with rice but can also be served with noodles. Rice is a better option if you want a lighter meal, while noodles add more texture and flavor.

What’s the Difference Between Chop Suey and Goulash?

Goulash is a Hungarian dish made with meat (usually beef or pork), onions, paprika, and tomatoes. It’s usually served as a stew over noodles or potatoes. 

The main difference between chop suey and goulash is the seasoning and the cooking method. Goulash has a more robust and spicy flavor, while chop suey is mild and usually stir-fried.

What Is the Difference Between American Chop Suey and Chicken Chop Suey?

American chop suey is a completely different dish from traditional chop suey. It’s an American pasta dish made with elbow macaroni, ground beef, onions, and tomato sauce. 

It’s also known as “goulash” or “macaroni and beef.” On the other hand, chicken chop suey is a variation of chop suey made with chicken instead of beef, pork, or shrimp.

Is Chicken Chow Mein the Same as Chop Suey?

Chicken chow mein is not the same as chop suey. Chow mein is a Chinese noodle dish made with stir-fried meat (usually chicken, beef, or shrimp), vegetables (such as celery, onions, and carrots), and egg noodles. 

The main difference between chow mein and chop suey is the noodle type and the cooking method. Chow mein uses egg noodles, while chop suey is usually served with rice.

Does Chop Suey Come With Crispy Noodles?

In some American Chinese restaurants, chop suey is served with crispy noodles. These noodles are deep-fried until golden brown and crispy and are used as a garnish on top of the dish. However, crispy noodles are not a traditional part of chop suey.


Chop suey is not a traditional Chinese dish, but rather an Americanized version of Chinese cuisine that was developed by Chinese immigrants in the US. Despite its origins, it has become a popular dish in many parts of the world. While it may not be the healthiest option due to its high sodium and calorie content, chop suey can be made healthier by using lean protein and lots of vegetables. Whether you prefer it with rice or noodles, chop suey is a tasty and easy-to-make dish that you can enjoy at home.


Lauren Beck
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