Easy Stir-Fry, Your Weeknight Problem-Solver

Anetta Lancaster from The Wanderlust Kitchen shares the basics behind delicious (and fast) stir-fry dinners.
chicken and vegetable stir fry
Learning how to make a super easy stir-fry is a skill that will get you through some of your biggest challenges in the kitchen.

Unexpected company?
Make a stir-fry.

Nothing in your fridge but random meat and produce?
Make a stir-fry.

Only have 60 minutes to make dinner, eat it, and get the kids to soccer practice?
Make a stir-fry.

Stir fry is quick, easy, and extremely versatile. Once you know the basics behind putting together a great stir-fry, you can easily introduce new ingredients, make a variety of sauces, or try traditional stir-fry recipes like Kung Pao Chicken or Beef with Broccoli.

A great stir-fry typically consists of three important components: protein, vegetables, and sauce. For a basic stir-fry, start with 1 pound of protein and 2 pounds of vegetables, and a basic stir-fry sauce (recipe below). Optionally, you can add in aromatics or herbs to change the flavor profile of your dish.

Ingredients

1 lb. chicken, beef, or pork cut into bite sized pieces
2 lbs. vegetables, cut into bite sized pieces
1 tbsp aromatics, such as garlic, ginger, or shallots (optional)
2 tbsp chopped fresh herbs, such as basil or cilantro (optional)
Basic Stir Fry Sauce (see below)
stir fry ingredients

Directions

  1. Set a large wok or frying pan over medium-high heat and allow it to get screaming hot. Swirl in 2 Tablespoons of oil (1 Tablespoon if using a non-stick pan).
  2. Add your meat and cook until browned on each side (and cooked through if using chicken or pork). Remove the browned meat from the pan and set aside on a plate.
  3. chicken browning for stir fry

  4. Transfer the densest vegetables (i.e., those that take the longest to cook, such as broccoli, carrots, or bell peppers) into the pan and cook for 1 minute.
  5. stir frying bell peppers

  6. Add in any quick cooking vegetables (onions, snap peas, etc.) and cook for another minute.
  7. stir frying peapods and onions

  8. Add in any aromatics, if using. Cook for 30 seconds, moving them around the pan constantly to avoid burning.
  9. garlic into the stir fry

  10. Return the meat to the pan and pour in the sauce. Toss well to coat all of the meat and vegetables. Let cook for one minute until bubbling.
  11. broth adding to chicken and vegetable stir fry cooking

  12. Turn the heat off and stir in any fresh herbs, if using.
  13. Serve hot with a side of cooked rice or noodles.

Basic Stir Fry Sauce

broth for stir fry
1 cup broth
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1 stbsp rice wine vinegar
Whisk ingredients together in a medium-bowl.
Note: To make a thick glaze (like for Sweet and Sour Chicken), whisk in 1 teaspoon corn starch and let sit for ten minutes before adding to the stir-fry.

Dos and Don’ts:

Do:

  • Prepare all of your ingredients before you begin to cook. Stir-fries cook very quickly so you will not have time to do any dicing or slicing once you have food in the pan.
  • Cut all of your ingredients into similarly-sized pieces to promote even cooking.
  • Cook items in batches as necessary to avoid crowding the pan.
  • Prepare your rice or noodles before you start your stir-fry.
  • Stir, then fry. Then stir. Then fry. If you keep stirring the entire time, your meat and vegetables will never brown!
  • Add garlic. Trust me, it should be added to every stir-fry, ever.

Don’t:

  • Add food to a cold pan. Any time you add ingredients to the pan it should make a satisfying sizzling sound.
  • Allow any excess liquid to form in the pan. If you add too many ingredients, the liquid won’t evaporate quickly so it will pool in your pan. If this happens, use a spoon to remove the liquid.
  • Use an oil with a low smoke point, such as olive oil. Canola and peanut oils are your best bet.
  • Cook the vegetables past the point of tender-crisp. They will lose their crunch and color.

Vegetables to Try:

Dense: Carrots, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Green Beans, Bell Peppers.
Quick-Cooking: Snap Peas, Onions, Celery, Baby Corn, Snow Peas, Mushrooms, Zucchini, Bok Choy.