Tuesday, September 18, 2012

How To Make A Stir Fry

Making a stir fry is just about the fastest, easiest way to prepare dinner using just one pan.  I always include a protein along with a couple vegetables and sauce.  This is what a stir fry is at its core.  A "real" stir fry would be made over extremely high heat in a wok, but for our purposes, we'll call it the same thing.

If you happened to be looking for a great way to introduce tofu to your family, this is the perfect way.  By browning the tofu before throwing it in with any veggies or sauce, you give it a crunchy exterior and slightly chewy center.  This really helps in the texture factor which I think is a huge reservation a lot of people have about it.

I like to have a bottle of Trader Joe's (teriyaki) Soyaki sauce on hand for times when I want to just throw something ready made on for a quick dinner.

My favorite combination right now is asparagus, cremini mushrooms, green onion, garlic and crispy tofu topped with Soyaki sauce, sriracha hot sauce, thinly sliced green onion and a sprinkle of slivered almonds.

I'll usually make a double batch and slightly under cook the vegetables so that I can reheat it later in the week and still have crisp tender veggies.  This would be great made on Sunday and portioned out for weekday lunches.

Step One:  Choose Your Protein


  • Tofu
  • Chicken
  • Steak
  • Pork
  • Shrimp
  • Ground meat will also work here (turkey, beef)
  • Beans (black, northern, garbanzo, pinto)
  • Lentils (brown, green, yellow)

Step Two: Choose Your Vegetables


  • Bell pepper
  • Green beans
  • Broccoli
  • Asparagus
  • Snow peas
  • Spinach or other greens (kale, chard)
  • Mushrooms (button, cremini, shitake)
  • Carrots
  • Onion (brown, sweet, green, red)
  • Garlic

Step Three: Choose Your Sauce


  • Teriyaki
  • Hoisin (Asian BBQ sauce)
  • Chile Garlic Sauce
  • Peanut Sauce
  • Make Your Own (1 Tbs low sodium soy sauce, 1 Tbs maple syrup, sriracha, ginger and garlic)

Step Four: Choose What You Serve It On


  • Rice (basmati, jasmine, brown)
  • Quinoa
  • Soba Noodles
  • Rice Noodles

Now you're ready to get down to business.  Each protein is going to have a different cook time and you're going to need to adjust accordingly.  I like to prepare my protein first so that it can be added back at the very end to avoid over cooking.  No one likes dry or rubbery meat.

If I were going to use the shrimp or chicken, I would rinse, dry and cut into one inch pieces.  If I were to use steak, pork or tofu I would skip the rinse and go straight for the knife.  Obviously the other protein types don't need any prepping.

If using chicken, pork, steak or ground meat, saute over medium high heat in a teaspoon or two of oil for about 5 minutes or until barely cooked through, stirring occasionally.  If your protein is a bit "rare", not to worry, it will cook a bit more once added back to the pan during the last few minutes of cooking.  If using shrimp, you will only need to saute 2-3 minutes as it will cook extremely quickly.  The only protein that will need some extended time in the pan will be the tofu as it will take about 8-10 minutes to brown on all sides.  If using beans or lentils, use a teaspoon or two of oil and saute 2-3 minutes or until warmed.  

After your protein is ready, set aside while you cook the veggies in the same pan.  Start veggies that take longer such as broccoli, mushrooms and carrots before veggies that cook faster like snow peas, asparagus and spinach.  I start the veggies with a longer cook time about five minutes before the more delicate veggies that will only need two to three minutes.  Go ahead and toss your protein of choice in here to bring it back up to temperature as the delicate veggies saute.  Top with your sauce of choice, warm before removing pan from heat and serve over noodles or grains.

If you're looking for a more precise instruction set, you can check out my Mirepoix Tofu Stir Fry.

Bon Appetite!


Pam said...

I love a good stir fry... that bottom picture has me drooling.

What's Cookin' with Mary? said...

@ Pam: Me too! I've been making a giant one every Monday with leftovers for lunches.

Lisa @ Lisa the Vegetarian said...

I love making stir fry for dinner! I'm big on veggies and for me it's the best way to get tofu into a meal (it soaks up lots of flavor this way). Great tips!

What's Cookin' with Mary? said...

@ Lisa: Thank you! I'm glad you found this helpful. I think tofu is such a misunderstood protein. When seasoned and cooked properly, it can be very tasty.