A great stir-fry is the perfect meal any day of the week, but especially on busy weeknights when you need to get something healthy and delicious on the table quickly (and without an extra trip to the store.) We love customizing ours with our favorite ingredients and trying new combinations of proteins, grains, vegetables, and sauces—especially if it helps us use up the groceries already in the fridge or leftover from the night before.
Want to up your stir-fry game? Here’s everything you need to know for stirring up a dinner that’s fresh, tasty, and full of flavor!
Mastering the Perfect Combo
Start by picking your core ingredients, beginning with your grain base and topping your creation with a little crunch. It’s hard to go wrong when it comes to making a stir-fry, but this is our go-to guide for getting started.
- Grains: Rice, quinoa, noodles (we suggest udon, soba, or rice noodles,) are all great choices, and you can even use cauliflower rice for a grain-free option. Cook this first, or even the day before, and let sit. It’s okay if it’s a little dry— the sauce and seasonings will infuse your grain with extra flavor.
- Protein: 1 lb. of Steak, chicken, shrimp, eggs, or tofu.
- Veggies: 2 lbs. vegetables. Stick with quick-cooking veggies like sliced red peppers, zucchini, cabbage, broccoli, snap peas, string beans, asparagus, or bok choy.
- Aromatics: Add extra flavor to your stir-fry with ginger, garlic, or onions.
- Sauces: You can use your favorite store-bought stir-fry sauce, or make your own by mixing 1 cup water or broth with 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon rice wine or apple cider vinegar, and 1 tablespoon sugar.
- Thickener (optional.) Mix 1-2 tablespoons water with 1 tablespoon cornstarch until a paste is formed. You can add this thickener (sometimes called a slurry,) to your stir-fry at the end to thicken your sauce.
- Crunch: Top your finished creation with sliced green onions, cashews, sesame seeds, or peanuts.
- Do all your prep-work before you start cooking. Slice your protein, chop all your vegetables, and make your sauce beforehand. Doing this helps you cook your stir-fry quickly without burning the veggies or aromatics. When it comes to stir-fry, always cook hot and fast.
- Avoid letting juices form at the bottom of your pan by patting your ingredients dry before cooking, and resist the temptation to let your veggies sit and simmer for too long. The goal is to prevent a wet and mushy stir-fry at all costs!
- Cut your protein into small, thin, pieces or strips for fast and even cooking. Remember that seafood like shrimp or scallions tend to cook faster than chicken or steak.
- Avoid slow-cooking veggies like potatoes, squashes, cauliflower, and carrots. If you do want to add these flavors, make sure they are already fully cooked and seasoned, and at them at the end with your other ingredients— just before you add the sauce.
- Don’t over-crowd your wok with too many ingredients, it will make it difficult to cook everything evenly, and you risk of adding too much moisture to the pan.
1. Start by heating your preferred cooking oil in a large wok or pan over medium-high head. A great stir-fry cooks hot and fast, so heat oil for at least 5-10 minutes before adding your other ingredients.
2. Add your veggies and aromatics to the wok, and cook, stirring quickly, for a few minutes. Cook until you can smell the aromatics, and the veggies are slightly cooked, but still a bit raw and crunchy. Remove from heat and place veggies on a separate plate for later.
3. Next, add more oil to the pan, and reheat at the same medium-high temperature as before. Add in your meat or protein evenly across the pan, and let cook undisturbed for 2-3 minutes. Turn meat and let cook on the other side. Once your meat is finished, add the veggies back to the pan and stir everything together over high heat.
4. Rescue heat to medium or medium-low. Add your sauce, and your cornstarch thickener if desired. Stir until everything is evenly coated and the sauce is your desired consistency, then remove from heat. Remember, you don’t want to overcook your ingredients—the veggies should still be bright and crisp, and the meat should be cooked but still tender.
5. Serve over your rice or preferred grain, sprinkled with a crunchy topping.
We hope you enjoy creating your perfect stir-fry and have fun experimenting with different flavors, textures, and sauces. A stir-fry is perfect or just about everything, from introducing new foods to your family to satisfying your craving for something familiar and satisfying. Whatever way you make it, it’s sure to be a hit! Happy cooking, home chef!