Lo Mein vs Pad Thai

When it comes to Asian cuisine, two popular noodle dishes are often at the forefront of people’s minds: Lo Mein and Pad Thai. Both dishes delight taste buds with their unique flavors and textures, yet they are distinct in their origins and ingredients. Diving into the details of these beloved noodle dishes, we can appreciate the culinary artistry and rich cultural significance behind each one.

Lo Mein, a classic Chinese dish, features long, soft wheat noodles stir-fried with various vegetables and proteins, usually accompanied by a savory soy sauce-based seasoning. On the other hand, Pad Thai, hailing from Thailand, presents a delicious blend of rice noodles, proteins, and vegetables tossed in a tangy, sweet, and spicy tamarind sauce, topped with crushed peanuts. Although these dishes may share some similarities, the ingredients and flavor profiles set them uniquely apart, offering varying experiences to satisfy your cravings for flavorful noodles.

Key Takeaways

  • Lo Mein and Pad Thai are beloved Asian noodle dishes with unique flavors and ingredients.
  • While Lo Mein originates from China and features a savory soy sauce flavor, Pad Thai hails from Thailand and showcases a tangy, sweet, and spicy taste.
  • Both dishes provide a variety of vegetables, proteins, and noodles to suit different taste preferences and dietary needs.
Lo Mein

Overview of Lo Mein and Pad Thai

What is Lo Mein?

Lo Mein is a popular noodle dish in Chinese cuisine that you might have seen or tasted in many Chinese restaurants. It consists of soft, boiled egg noodles stir-fried with vegetables, protein, and a savory sauce. The sauce is typically made from soy sauce, oyster sauce, and sometimes hoisin sauce. The protein options include but are not limited to chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, or tofu. Common vegetables in Lo Mein are bell peppers, mushrooms, baby corn, bok choy, and bean sprouts.

Lo Mein can be found in many variations, depending on the region or personal preferences. It is a classic, flavorful dish that is easy to customize and enjoy. The dish is known for its richness and texture, which comes from the balance between the soft noodles and the crunchy assortment of vegetables.

What is Pad Thai?

Pad Thai is a world-famous street food from Thai cuisine that has gained international popularity. It features stir-fried rice noodles combined with a variety of ingredients, such as egg, bean sprouts, tofu, and chopped peanuts. The dish is commonly served with shrimp, chicken, or tofu as the main protein. A distinctive feature of Pad Thai is the incorporation of a tangy-sweet sauce made from tamarind, fish sauce, and palm sugar. The dish is often garnished with lime wedges, fresh cilantro, and crushed peanuts.

Pad Thai offers a delightful blend of sweet, savory, and sour flavors, with a slightly spicy kick. The combination of rice noodles, proteins, and vegetables creates an exciting and balanced taste experience that leaves your taste buds craving for more.

In summary, Lo Mein and Pad Thai are prominent Asian noodle dishes with different origins, ingredients, and flavor profiles. Lo Mein, the Chinese dish, has a rich, savory taste, while Pad Thai from Thailand offers a tantalizing balance of sweet, sour, and spicy flavors. Despite these differences, both dishes remain popular choices for Asian cuisine lovers seeking an enjoyable and satisfying noodle experience.

Ingredients Comparison

Ingredients of Lo Mein

Lo Mein is a popular Chinese dish that consists of wheat-based egg noodles stir-fried with a variety of vegetables, proteins, and a flavorful sauce. Here’s a brief overview of the key ingredients:

  • Noodles: Lo Mein traditionally uses egg noodles made from wheat flour, giving them a slightly chewy texture.
  • Vegetables: Common vegetables in Lo Mein include bok choy, carrots, onions, mushrooms, bell peppers, and green onions. You can customize your dish by adding or substituting vegetables as desired.
  • Protein: Lo Mein is typically made with chicken, beef, shrimp, or tofu, but you can also use other protein sources to suit your preferences.
  • Sauce: Lo Mein’s sauce usually contains soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, and sugar. The sauce adds a savory, slightly sweet flavor to the dish.

Ingredients of Pad Thai

Pad Thai is a well-known Thai dish made with flat rice noodles stir-fried with a mix of ingredients and a tangy, tamarind-based sauce. Here’s a brief overview of the main ingredients you’ll find in Pad Thai:

  • Noodles: Pad Thai uses flat rice noodles that become soft and slightly chewy when cooked.
  • Vegetables: Bean sprouts, carrots, and cabbage are common vegetables found in Pad Thai. These vegetables provide a crunchy texture that complements the soft noodles.
  • Protein: In Pad Thai, protein options include chicken, shrimp, tofu, or a mix of these. Some recipes also incorporate egg for added protein.
  • Sauce: The signature flavor of Pad Thai comes from its tamarind-based sauce, which combines tamarind paste, fish sauce, palm sugar, and lime juice. This creates a sweet, sour, and savory taste that defines the dish.
  • Toppings: Crushed peanuts, garlic, green onions, and lime juice are often added as toppings to enhance the flavors and textures of Pad Thai.

By comparing the ingredients of Lo Mein and Pad Thai, you can see that there are distinct differences in the types of noodles, vegetables, proteins, and sauces used in each dish. Whether you prefer the savory and slightly sweet flavors of Lo Mein or the sweet and tangy taste of Pad Thai, each dish offers a unique experience for your taste buds.

Origin and Cultural Significance

Origin of Lo Mein

Lo Mein is a traditional Chinese dish that has its roots in northern China. It is said that you can trace its origins back to the Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE). Unlike many other Asian dishes, Lo Mein has remained relatively unchanged over time. The dish gets its unique flavor from a combination of soy sauce, bean sprouts, and various meats such as beef or chicken.

Lo Mein gained immense popularity outside of China when Chinese immigrants started opening restaurants in various countries. As a result, it has become a staple in Chinese restaurants all around the world. Despite its worldwide presence, there are still regional variations depending on local ingredients and preferences.

Origin of Pad Thai

Pad Thai, on the other hand, is a traditional Thai dish with a relatively more recent origin. Its creation can be traced back to World War II era Thailand. Facing rice shortages, the Thai government introduced rice noodles as a substitute for traditional rice. This dish quickly became popular in Thailand due to its use of readily available local ingredients, such as tamarind paste, fish sauce, and palm sugar.

Contrary to popular belief, Pad Thai is not centuries old, but rather a modern dish that originated as a response to historical circumstances. Although it borrows flavors from other Southeast Asian cuisines, Pad Thai remains a uniquely Thai concoction. Much like Lo Mein, Pad Thai also enjoys widespread popularity in many countries around the world, continuing to evolve through regional adaptations.

Flavor and Texture Profile

Flavor and Texture of Lo Mein

When it comes to the flavor and texture of Lo Mein, you’ll notice that it has a distinct savory sauce made primarily from soy sauce, oyster sauce, and sesame oil. This gives the dish its characteristic salty and umami taste. The use of aromatics like garlic and ginger adds depth and complexity to the flavor profile.

The noodles in Lo Mein are typically made from wheat flour, resulting in a chewy and soft texture. The ingredients are cooked quickly in a wok, allowing the flavors to meld together while retaining the desired texture. The vegetables and proteins in the dish may vary, but they all contribute to the overall balance of flavors and textures in this Chinese classic.

Flavor and Texture of Pad Thai

On the other hand, Pad Thai offers a different experience in terms of flavor and texture. This popular Thai dish combines sweet, sour, and savory elements to create a unique and complex taste. The sauce is typically made with tamarind paste, fish sauce, and sugar, creating a tangy flavor that is both sweet and salty.

The noodles used in Pad Thai are made from rice flour, resulting in a softer texture compared to Lo Mein. These noodles are stir-fried with ingredients such as tofu, shrimp, bean sprouts, and crushed peanuts, which add various textures and flavors to the dish. The addition of lime juice and cilantro provides a burst of freshness and brightens up the overall flavor profile.

In summary, both Lo Mein and Pad Thai have their distinct flavor profiles and textures that make them unique and delicious in their own ways. Lo Mein leans more towards a savory and salty taste, while Pad Thai features a harmonious blend of sweet, sour, and tangy flavors. The choice between these two dishes ultimately depends on your preferences and desire for a particular flavor and texture experience.

Health Aspects of Lo Mein vs. Pad Thai

Nutritional Value of Lo Mein

When considering the nutritional value of Lo Mein, it is essential to look at its individual components. The dish typically contains wheat noodles, vegetables, and a protein source like chicken or tofu. It is usually stir-fried and flavored with sauces containing soy, oyster, or hoisin.

  • Calories: An average serving of Lo Mein contains around 500-600 calories, depending on the ingredients used.
  • Sodium: Lo Mein can be high in sodium, often containing over 1,000 milligrams per serving. If you are watching your salt intake, you might want to opt for a low-sodium version or reduce the amount of sauce used in the dish.
  • Fat: Lo Mein usually has a moderate amount of fat, with about 12-18 grams per serving. The fat content comes from the oil used in stir-frying and the protein source included in the dish.
  • Cholesterol: This dish tends to have a moderate cholesterol level, which varies depending on the protein source. If you’re concerned about cholesterol, choose leaner proteins like chicken or tofu, or even shrimp.

Nutritional Value of Pad Thai

Pad Thai is a popular Thai dish consisting of rice noodles, vegetables, and a protein source like tofu, shrimp, or chicken. It is usually flavored with tamarind sauce, fish sauce, and sugar and garnished with peanuts and bean sprouts.

  • Calories: A serving of Pad Thai typically contains around 600-700 calories, slightly higher than Lo Mein due to its sauce and garnishes.
  • Sodium: Pad Thai also tends to be high in sodium, with over 1,200 milligrams per serving. However, you can reduce the sodium content by using low-sodium sauces or opting for a lighter sauce.
  • Fat: The fat content in Pad Thai ranges from 10-15 grams per serving. Much of the fat comes from the peanuts and protein source, so adjust your selection accordingly if monitoring your fat intake.
  • Cholesterol: Similar to Lo Mein, the cholesterol content in Pad Thai depends on the type of protein used. Opting for leaner proteins will result in lower cholesterol levels.

While these dishes have some similarities, such as a high sodium content and varying levels of cholesterol depending on protein choices, they also have some key nutritional differences. Lo Mein is typically lower in calories and fat than Pad Thai. When choosing between the two, it’s essential to consider your dietary needs and personal preference. If you have a gluten sensitivity or preference, Pad Thai’s rice noodles are a gluten-free option, whereas Lo Mein’s wheat noodles contain gluten. By understanding the nutritional aspects of these dishes, you can make an informed decision to best suit your taste and health needs.

Varieties of Lo Mein and Pad Thai

Varieties of Lo Mein

Lo Mein, a popular Chinese noodle dish, has many variations to suit your taste. It typically consists of boiled noodles stir-fried with vegetables, meats, or shrimp in a savory sauce. There are different noodle types you can choose from, such as egg noodles or rice noodles, to make your ideal meal.

Many restaurants offer customization to cater to your dietary preferences, making it possible to have a vegan Lo Mein. This can include substituting meat with tofu or fresh vegetables.

A similar Chinese noodle dish is Chow Mein, which uses fried, crispier noodles instead of the soft-boiled noodles typically used in Lo Mein.

Varieties of Pad Thai

Pad Thai is a famous Thai noodle dish that can be customized to your liking as well. It is made with rice noodles stir-fried with ingredients like shrimp, chicken, or tofu, and coated in a tangy tamarind-based sauce. Frequently garnished with lime wedges, Pad Thai combines sweet, sour, and savory flavors to create a delightful meal.

Like Lo Mein, Pad Thai has flexibility in its ingredients, allowing you to make it vegetarian or vegan if you prefer. You can replace the traditional fish sauce with soy sauce for a vegan version of this delicious Thai dish.

Another well-known Thai noodle dish is Pad See Ew, made with wide rice noodles stir-fried with soy sauce, Chinese broccoli, and your choice of protein. It offers a different taste for those who enjoy exploring Thai cuisine.

While both Lo Mein and Pad Thai have their unique flavors and characteristics, they share the versatility and customization options that cater to a variety of tastes and dietary preferences.

Frequently Asked Questions

What sets Lo Mein and Pad Thai apart?

Lo Mein is a Chinese dish that focuses on soft, stir-fried noodles mixed with vegetables and a protein of your choice, like chicken or shrimp, and flavored with soy sauce. Pad Thai, on the other hand, is a Thai dish featuring rice noodles stir-fried with vegetables, a protein such as tofu or shrimp, and a tangy-sweet sauce made with tamarind paste, fish sauce, or lime juice.

Which dish has fewer calories: Lo Mein or Pad Thai?

The calorie content of these two dishes can vary depending on the specific ingredients and cooking techniques used. Generally, a serving of vegetable Lo Mein has around 250-400 calories, while a serving of vegetable Pad Thai has around 300-500 calories. However, adding extra proteins, oils, or sauces can increase the calorie count, so it’s essential to pay attention to portion sizes and what goes into your meal.

How do Lo Mein noodles differ from Pad Thai noodles?

Lo Mein noodles are wheat-based noodles that come in various thicknesses. They’re often found soft and pliable due to being boiled before stir-frying. In contrast, Pad Thai noodles are made of rice flour and are usually thinner and slightly chewier. Pad Thai noodles are often soaked in water to soften before being stir-fried.

Are there different health benefits between Lo Mein and Pad Thai?

Both dishes can be part of a nutritious meal, but their healthiness depends on the ingredients and preparation methods used. Lo Mein is often made with more vegetables than Pad Thai, which could contribute more nutrients and fiber. However, Pad Thai’s rice noodles are gluten-free, making the dish a suitable option for those with gluten sensitivities or allergies. Opting for lean proteins and using minimal oil can help make both dishes healthier.

Which dish is generally easier to prepare: Lo Mein or Pad Thai?

Both dishes are relatively easy to prepare, but Lo Mein might be slightly simpler to make. Since the noodles are boiled before stir-frying, the cooking process is more straightforward. Pad Thai requires soaking the noodles, preparing the tangy sauce, and managing different textures simultaneously. Ultimately, your familiarity with the ingredients and techniques will dictate which dish is easier for you to create.

What are the main ingredients in Lo Mein and Pad Thai?

For Lo Mein, the primary ingredients include wheat noodles, various sautéed vegetables (such as bell peppers, onions, and carrots), a protein (like chicken, shrimp, or tofu), and a sauce made from soy sauce, garlic, and sometimes oyster sauce or hoisin sauce.

In Pad Thai, the main components are rice noodles, vegetables (like bean sprouts and scallions), a protein (such as tofu, shrimp, or chicken), and a tangy sauce made with tamarind paste, fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, and often garnished with crushed peanuts.

Lo Mein

Lo Mein vs Pad Thai + Recipe

Here's a recipe for Pad Thai:
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Chinese, Thai
Servings 4
Calories 303 kcal


  • 8 oz. rice noodles
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup chopped peanuts
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • 1 cup chopped tofu
  • 1 cup cooked shrimp optional


  • Cook the rice noodles according to the package instructions, then rinse with cold water and set aside.
  • In a large skillet or wok, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat.
  • Add the garlic, green onions, and cilantro and stir-fry for 1-2 minutes.
  • Push the vegetables to the side of the pan and crack the eggs into the empty space. Scramble the eggs until cooked through, then mix with the vegetables.
  • Add the fish sauce, brown sugar, lime juice, and red pepper flakes to the pan and stir to combine.
  • Add the cooked rice noodles, bean sprouts, tofu, and shrimp (if using) to the pan and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes, until everything is heated through and well combined.
  • Serve the Pad Thai hot, garnished with chopped peanuts and additional cilantro if desired.


Calories: 303kcal
Keyword lo mein vs pad thai
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
Follow Us
Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
Cassie Marshall
Follow Us
Latest posts by Cassie Marshall (see all)