If you are a committed healthy eater (or an aspiring one!) who is as serious about enjoying their food as eating clean, then you absolutely need to know how to make a fail-proof vegetable stir fry. I have included one of my favorite vegetable stir fry recipes below, but I didn’t want to just give you the recipe without also providing some general stir-fry guidelines.
The following 10 tips on how to make a vegetable stir fry should help you feel confident when standing behind your wok—even without a recipe. And this is important because you might not always have the exact ingredients on hand to make my particular vegetable stir fry recipe below, but if you know the stir-fry basics then you can substitute other ingredients and still end up with a delicious dinner.
The idea of learning certain basics is something I remember reading over a decade ago in Nigella Lawson’s book, How to Eat: The Pleasures and Principles of Good Food and it is clearly a concept that has stuck with me all of these years. Even though Nigella is not exactly known for being the healthiest eater on the block, she knows how to cook better than just about anyone I can think of. And most importantly, Nigella knows how to teach the home cook. In the preface of How to Eat, Nigella states: “Cooking is not about just joining the dots, following one recipe slavishly and then moving on to the next. It’s about developing an understanding of food, a sense of assurance in the kitchen, about the simple desire to make yourself something to eat.” And so hopefully my 10 tips below will help you do more than just connect the dots….at least when it comes to making a vegetable stir fry anyway! If you are in pursuit of additional culinary confidence (including how to roast the perfect chicken, cooking in advance, ideas for sophisticated “fast food”, feeding babies and small children, and even how to make aromatic “temple food” that nourishes your body and soul), I would definitely suggest picking up a copy of Nigella’s book.
But for now, let’s press on with how to make a stir fry…
My 10 Tips for How to Make Vegetable Stir Fry
#1: Use the right oil (and don’t use too much!) It is always healthier to get the majority of fat in your diet from “whole” foods as opposed to oil (we talk a lot about the reasons for this in our Clean Cuisine book) but I would never suggest going to extremes by trying to make an oil-free stir-fry. Instead, you simply want to go easy on the oil and also add a little bit at a time; adding a little at a time will allow you to use less oil. It is also extremely important to use the right oil at the right temperature to avoid oxidation, which is bad because oxidized oil promotes free radical production within your body (which accelerates the aging process and contributes to disease.) The healthiest “base” oil to use for high-heat cooking and for stir-fry is organic extra virgin coconut oil because it can withstand super-high heat temperatures. And don’t worry, as long as you use a super high-quality, organic coconut oil such as Barlean’s it won’t make your food taste like coconuts! At the very end of the stir-fry you can drizzle in a tad bit of unrefined toasted sesame oil for a flavor punch. Take a look at the recipe below to see how I used these two oils
#2: The more vegetables the better! The biggest mistake most people make with both their clean eating efforts and their stir-fry recipes is that they skimp on the vegetables. Your stir-fry truly won’t even taste as good if you don’t use a lot of vegetables because the vegetables add the most flavor. You can mix and match pretty much any vegetable (bok choy, cabbage, mushrooms, carrots, green beans, snap peas, asparagus, etc.) A good rule of thumb when making a vegetable stir fry recipe is to use 3 or 4 different vegetables and then add in some mushrooms for a nice hearty “meaty” kick. In the recipe below I used shitake mushrooms, but you can also try oyster mushrooms, chestnut mushrooms, morel, etc.
#3: Use a high-quality and non-toxic wok, such as Xtrema Cookware. If you are serious about making stir-fry a regular part of your dinner menu then I can’t overstate the importance of investing in a high-quality and non-toxic wok. Not only will you notice a tremendous difference in the taste of your stir-fry, but you will also avoid exposure to toxins from non-stick cookware and the heavy metals that leach from other “green” cookware. Read more about the importance of choosing healthy cookware HERE.
#4: Dice or slice each vegetable into as nearly uniform pieces as you can.
#5: Cut all of your vegetables before you start cooking and arrange your vegetables in order of their cooking time, with the longest cooking vegetables closest to your wok.
#6: Use meat as a condiment or try tofu or tempeh instead! The best traditional stir-fries are skimpy on the animal protein and heavy on the vegetables, so model your stir-fry creation after the best.
#7: Whatever protein you decide to add in, be sure to cook it first and then remove it from your wok while you cook the vegetables. Take a look at the recipe below and you’ll see I add the tofu back in at the very end. You would do the same thing if you were cooking shrimp, chicken, beef, etc.
#8: Make your sauce first. Again, take a look at the recipe below: I prepare the sauce before I start cooking the vegetables and then I add the sauce in at the very end. The great thing about a stir-fry sauce is that it doesn’t need to be “exact”. You can experiment with all types of Far East condiments (rice wine vinegar, oyster sauce, fish sauce, chili paste, tahini, etc.
#9: Use unpasteurized Namu Shoyu as your soy sauce. You know how you don’t want to use “cooking wine” when you cook? Same thing goes for soy sauce. Most stir-fry sauces will use soy sauce and just like cooking with wine, if you don’t use a good wine in your recipes you can mess up the whole dish. If you buy the cheap soy sauce that is chemically made and sold by the gallon at Sam’s Club and put that stuff in your vegetable stir-fry you are sure to ruin the whole thing. The best-tasting (and healthiest!) soy sauce is unpasteurized and has been traditionally fermented, so it is also a good source of probiotics. Cook’s magazine rated Ohsawa Organic Namu Shoyu Unpasteurized Soy Sauce the best-tasting and I would have to agree, it is super good.
#10: Serve your perfect stir-fry over a healthy whole grain such as short grain brown rice (in my opinion, short grain always works better for a stir-fry than long grain), black rice or 100% buckwheat soba noodles, which are gluten-free by the way.
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And after all that, if you still need a recipe, here you go…Print
- 2 tablespoons Nama Shoyu (unpasteurized soy sauce— such as Ohsawa Organic)
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 2 teaspoons raw honey
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 4 teaspoons organic extra virgin coconut oil (such as Barlean’s), divided
- 8 ounces organic extra-firm tofu, cut into small cubes and patted as dry as possible with paper towels
- 1 medium red onion, quartered and sliced thin
- 2 red bell peppers, thinly sliced
- 3 cups shredded carrot
- 7 ounces shitake mushrooms, cut into bite-sized pieces (note: kitchen shears are good for cutting shitake mushrooms)
- 1/4 pound snow peas
- 2 tablespoons minced scallions, white parts only
- 1 tablespoon crushed garlic
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger root, minced
- 1 teaspoon unrefined toasted sesame oil
- Prepare the sauce by mixing together the Nama Shoyu, lime juice, honey and red pepper flakes. Set sauce aside.
- Have all your ingredients prepped and within arms reach of the stove. Heat one teaspoon of the coconut oil in a non-toxic wok (such as Xtrema Cookware) or large skillet over medium high heat. When wok is hot, add the tofu, and cook until golden – a few minutes. Remove the tofu from the wok and set aside.
- Add 2 teaspoons of the coconut oil to the wok and heat over medium-high; as soon the oil is hot add the onions and bell pepper and stir-fry, keeping the food moving, for 1 minute. Add the remaining teaspoon of coconut oil and then add the carrots and shitake mushrooms; stir-fry for a minute or two. Add in the snow peas and continue stir-frying until all of the vegetables are tender.
- Clear the center of the wok and add minced scallions, garlic and ginger; drizzle with 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil and mash the scallions, garlic and ginger onto the hot surface with the back of a spatula or fork. Allow to cook for 30-seconds. Remove the wok from the heat and stir scallions, garlic and ginger mixture in with the vegetables.
- Return wok to the heat and add in the cooked tofu and reserved sauce; stir-fry for 1 minute, or until vegetables are hot. Serve over soba noodles or short grain brown rice.