14 Easy Stir Fry Recipes for Quick and Tasty Dinners


Stir fries really are the ultimate weekday meal. They’re fast and low-effort to throw together once you have the basic technique down. Most easy stir fry recipes follow a similar basic formula, meaning they are also super customizable to suit your tastes—as well as substitution-friendly. That makes stir fries a great dish for one of those “clean out the fridge” nights when you’ve got various ingredients you need to use up (or just don’t feel like running to the store).

Stir fries simplify your cooking in another way too, because they typically offer a nutritionally balanced, complete, and filling meal in one dish. The standard components of a stir fry usually include noodles or rice, meat (or a plant-based protein), cooking oil, and vegetables—which matches up extremely well with general expert advice on how to build a satiating and enjoyable meal. SELF columnist Jessica Jones, M.S., R.D., certified diabetes educator and cofounder of Food Heaven, has previously told SELF that the most physically and emotionally satisfying meals generally include three to four food groups: fat, protein, starch, and fruits or vegetables. “By doing this, you will not only get a variety of textures and flavors, but also nutrients that work together to provide you with a steady, stable stream of energy,” according to Jones.

Most important of all, however, is the fact that stir fries are damn delicious. You’ve got that mix of textures (crunchy veggies, chewy noodles, and tender meat) and flavors (largely from the sauce, which can hit notes that are savory, salty, tangy, and sweet). Plus, stir fries are by definition made fresh from scratch, meant to be eaten steaming hot off the stove.

Are you sold on making stir fries for dinner every night yet? If you’re looking to add some more stir fries to your weeknight rotation, we’ve got pro tips and tricks, plus a collection of easy stir fry recipes to get you cooking.

What makes a stir fry a stir fry?

A stir fry is defined not by what’s in the dish so much as how it’s made. “A stir fry is a cooking method originally from China that is characterized by cooking your food over very high heat while keeping it in constant motion, typically in a wok or skillet,” stir fry fan Mike Le, who runs I Am a Food Blog with his wife Steph, tells SELF.

In addition to high heat and continuous movement (produced by tossing or stirring), stir fries call for a relatively small amount of cooking oil with a high smoke point that can handle high heat, Le says (like canola, vegetable, avocado, or peanut oil). The method also requires cutting the ingredients (like meats and veggies) into small, uniform pieces that cook quickly and evenly, Le explains. (This also makes your bites easier to eat with chopsticks.)

The stir frying method also entails either cooking your ingredients in separate batches, or being strategic about the sequence in which you add your ingredients to make sure each is cooked for the perfect amount of time. “Stir fry masters typically either cook meats and vegetables separately, removing and recombining them at the end,” Le explains, “or they time the addition so that the longest cooking ingredient is added first and flash-fried ingredients are added last.”

As for those ingredients? While stir fries are really defined by the cooking method, a basic stir-fry recipe will commonly include these components: noodles (like udon, chow mein, rice noodles, or pasta) or rice, a protein (like chicken or beef), veggies (like broccoli or carrots), aromatics (like onion and garlic), and an umami-rich sauce. (Le’s go-to recipe for a typical, basic stir fry sauce calls for chicken stock, soy sauce, oyster sauce, toasted sesame oil, a pinch of sugar, and cornstarch.)

What’s the difference between a stir fry and a sauté?

This is a common question. Sautés and stir-fries have a few key differences when it comes to temperature, cooking fat, and technique.

Sautéeing typically entails medium-high heat, which also means you can use oils and fats with a slightly lower smoking point (like butter), Le explains. But again, for stir fries you want a cooking oil with a high smoke point.

Another difference is the amount of active cooking involved—how much you move the food around, basically. For instance, you might only stir a veggie sauté a couple of times, or flip a fish filet once. But “with stir frying, the food is in constant motion until it is cooked,” Le says.

How do you make the best stir fry?

Now that we’ve covered the basics, you’re ready to go pro. For a stir fry that is cooked most authentically, expertly, and deliciously, the details matter. Here are the top tips and tricks to remember next time you fire up the wok.

  • Prep everything first. “Stir fries cook fast, and you don’t want to be mixing up your sauce or searching for a spatula while your protein or vegetables are getting overcooked,” Le explains. “If you prep everything, including the sauce, in small bowls or plates right near the stove, once you start cooking, everything will go super smoothly.”
  • Preheat your pan. “Wait for your cooking vessel to get hot before adding the oil,” Le says, “and then immediately add your ingredients.” That will help produce the ideal browning and prevent sticking.
  • Invest in a wok. The shape of the traditional stir fry cooking vessel is ideal because “the high and deeply sloped sides will give you more confidence to move your food around,” Le says. Go for the conventional carbon steel, or cast-iron. (Skip non-stick pans because the coating is usually not intended to handle the really high heat, Le notes.)
  • Don’t crowd the pan. Stir fries turn out best when you use a smaller amount of food in a larger wok or skillet, Le says. The ingredients will fry up best, instead of steam, when they have plenty of room (another reason that cooking the ingredients in stages is a good idea).

Okay—now that you’re ready to master the art of stir-frying, it’s time to test your knowledge and give one of these fast and easy stir fry recipes a go. These creative stir fries run the gamut from the traditional to more novel interpretations, and all should result in stir fry perfection.

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