At our house, we prepare stir-fry meals regularly. They’re easy to fix, colorful, and they taste great. In this post and I’m providing the basic stir-fry steps, so you can add this meal to your repertoire.
With these basic steps, you can mix and match so every stir-fry meal that you prepare can be a little different.
Step 1: Gather and chop the vegetables
Our favorite vegetables are shown here but you should choose the vegetables that you like. That might seem obvious, but this isn’t the time to see if you like something that you’ve heard might be good for you. By choosing what you like, you increase your chances of success and enjoyment. After you have prepared it a couple of times, then toss in something you might like to try.
Mix up the colors for an appealing plate. For example, if you use bell peppers, choose orange, red, or yellow ones to add color. Or, if you like carrots, that orange adds some nice color. This is a great way to get all your daily vegetables and have a delicious meal. Some other vegetables that you might try include kale or spinach, cabbage, cauliflower instead of broccoli, snap peas instead of snow peas. It’s up to you. Pick your favorites and chop them up! Cut the veggies into bite-sized pieces.
Four cups of cut-up vegetables is a good amount for two people, so scale up for more people or plan on leftovers if you’re cooking for one.
Step 2: Pick your protein
To make a stir-fry a meal you’ll need some protein. Shrimp and tofu are shown below, but you can also use some type of plant-based protein such as edamame, or you can use chicken or beef. I find that about 1/2-to-3/4 cup of bite-sized protein is a good amount per person. So, if you’re cooking for two, use about a cup of cut-up shrimp, tofu, chicken, or whatever you have chosen to use for protein. Check out this post for info on cooking tofu for a stir-fry. Baked tofu is another good option. Go here to see how to prepare baked tofu.
Step 3: Decide what goes under the stir-fry
You need something that will go under the stir-fry veggies and protein. This item rounds out the meal by adding grain and texture, and it makes the meal more filling. Shown below are some typical options: brown rice, soba noodles, and bean thread. These choices are described below, but you can use white rice or other grain options if you want.
Brown rice contains more nutrients than white rice and it has a lower glycemic index, meaning that it won’t raise your blood sugar as quickly as white rice. Its chewy, nutty flavor adds an interesting texture to your meal.
Soba noodles are made from buckwheat and they contain more protein than rice or bean thread. Some versions are gluten-free, but check the label, because some brands add wheat flour to help the noodles stay together better. Cook them according to package instructions.
Bean Threads: If you haven’t ever tried bean threads, you’re in for a treat. They are also called cellophane noodles or glass noodles. You can probably find them at your local Asian market or even your grocery store, depending on where you live. Straight out of the package, bean threads are white and brittle. When they’re ready to eat, they are almost transparent, hence the name cellophane noodles. They’re not as nutritious as rice or soba noodles, but they’re easy to prepare and are fun to eat. Check out this post for info on preparing bean threads.
Step 4: Stir-fry veggies and add protein
You’re not going to cook these vegetables at super-high temperatures, so olive oil is a good choice. A small amount of sesame oil adds a nice flavor but is not essential to the recipe. Avocado oil is another good option, especially if you want to cook at higher temperatures. Traditional stir-fry techniques recommend very high temperatures, but we cook our vegetables at mid-to-high temperature. For more information about oil choices and why temperature matters, see Cooking with Oils.
Heat the oil in the skillet for a minute or so and toss in your veggie mix. Using two heat-resistant spatulas is an easy way to ensure that the vegetable bites are cooked evenly.
We use a large skillet instead of a wok. It’s fun to cook with a wok, but if you’re only cooking for one or two people, a skillet works fine. Start with a medium-to-high heat. This serves to sear the outside of the vegetables to retain moisture and keep the vegetables a little bit crunchy. Then reduce the heat to medium. Stir the vegetables constantly. Greens like spinach and kale cook fast, so add them a minute or two before you’re ready to serve. The total stir-fry time is around three-to-four minutes.
- As the veggies start heating up, add about a teaspoon each of minced garlic and minced ginger.
- When you are almost ready to serve the veggies and protein, add some seasoned salt, like Janes Krazy Mixed up salt. If you add it earlier, it takes some of the moisture out of the veggies, so make this a last step
- Add stir-fry sauce at the same time that you add the salt – right at the end of the stir-fry process.
This post assumes that the protein you have chosen is cooked ahead of time. We add the cooked protein (usually shrimp or tofu for us) after the veggies have started cooking to make sure it’s nice and hot.
Stir-fry sauce is optional, but it adds a lot of flavor. We use a sauce made by Panda Express called Mandarin Teriyaki sauce. Go easy on any sauce that you add, starting with about a tablespoon and adding more to taste. You don’t want the sauce to overpower your meal, but you want enough to add flavor. Check the Asian foods section of your grocery store for other options.
Step 5: Put veggies and protein on top of rice, noodles, or bean thread
When the stir-fry is done, spoon it over the rice, noodles, or bean threads.
Step 6: Eat and Enjoy
Now you’re ready to sit down and eat a great meal. If you make a stir-fry meal using the suggestions in this post, let me know in the comments how it turned out.
The items listed below are things that I use when making a stir-fry meal:
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