We love a good “catch-all” recipe here at Budget Bytes, and a simple vegetable stir fry is the perfect example of that. Whether you’re using up leftover vegetables from your freezer or using a bag of frozen stir fry veggies, a quick and easy vegetable stir fry is an easy solution for dinner. In addition to the very simple version below, I’ve got plenty of ideas for add-ins and flavor modifications in case you want to switch it up!
What Vegetables are Good for Stir Fry?
It’s important to get a variety of colors and textures when you make a vegetable stir fry. I chose to use onions, mushrooms, red bell pepper, broccoli, and carrots to provide that variety, but here are some other vegetables that are great in stir fry:
- Green beans
- Baby corn
- Water Chestnuts
- Bean sprouts
- Green onion
- Sweet peas
Other Stir Fry Add-ins
In addition to vegetables, you can add all sorts of other ingredients, like:
- Chicken, beef, or pork
- Scrambled egg
- Peanuts or cashews
Customize the Sauce
I’ve included a very basic brown stir fry sauce below, but there are so many options for customizing the sauce to fit your taste buds. Here are some options:
- Make it spicy: add a tablespoon or so of sriracha, chili garlic sauce, or gochujang
- Make it extra rich: stir in a couple tablespoons of oyster sauce
- Make it sweet and tangy: stir in a couple tablespoons of hoisin sauce
- Give it a tropical twist: use pineapple juice instead of water (add a little less brown sugar)
The Trick to Good Stir Fry at Home
There are two important tips for making stir fry at home:
1) Use a big wok or skillet and high heat. If your pan is too small there won’t be enough surface area for the steam to evaporate and the vegetables will get soupy. Likewise, if the heat isn’t high enough the steam will not evaporate fast enough and the vegetables will also get soupy.
2) Don’t overcook the vegetables. You want the vegetables to just be tender-crisp and vibrantly colored. You can always cook them a little longer once the sauce is added at the end, but if you cook them too long in the first steps you’ll end up with limp vegetables that are drab color.
Easy Vegetable Stir Fry
Stir Fry Sauce
- 1/4 cup soy sauce ($0.24)
- 1/4 cup water ($0.00)
- 2 Tbsp brown sugar ($0.08)
- 1 tsp toasted sesame oil ($0.10)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced ($0.16)
- 1 tsp grated fresh ginger ($0.10)
- 1 Tbsp cornstarch ($0.03)
- 3/4 lb. broccoli ($1.34)
- 2 carrots ($0.33)
- 8 oz. mushrooms ($1.69)
- 8 oz. sugar snap peas ($2.99)
- 1 small onion ($0.28)
- 1 red bell pepper ($1.50)
- 2 Tbsp cooking oil ($0.16)
- 1 tsp sesame seeds ($0.06)
- Make the stir fry sauce first. Combine the soy sauce, water, brown sugar, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, and cornstarch in a small bowl. Set the sauce aside.
- Chop the vegetables into similar-sized pieces. It's up to you whether you slice, dice, or cut into any other shape you prefer.
- Add the cooking oil to a very large skillet or wok. Heat over medium-high. When the pan and oil are very hot (but not smoking), add the hardest vegetables first: carrots and broccoli. Cook and stir for about a minute, or just until the broccoli begins to turn bright green.
- Next, add the mushrooms and sugar snap peas. Continue to cook and stir for a minute or two more, or just until the mushrooms begin to soften.
- Finally, add the softest vegetables, bell pepper and onion. Continue to cook and stir just until the onion begins to soften.
- Give the stir fry sauce another brief stir, then pour it over the vegetables. Continue to cook and stir until the sauce begins to simmer, at which point it will thicken and turn glossy. Remove the vegetables from the heat, or continue to cook until they are to your desired doneness.
- Top the stir fry with sesame seeds and serve!
See how we calculate recipe costs here.
How to Make Vegetable Stir Fry – Step by Step Photos
Make the stir fry sauce first so the flavors have a little time to blend and the sauce is ready to go when you need it. Vegetable stir fry is a fast process, so you’ve got to be ready! Combine 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup water, 2 Tbsp brown sugar, 2 cloves minced garlic, 1 tsp grated fresh ginger, 1 tsp toasted sesame oil, and 1 Tbsp cornstarch in a bowl. Whisk until combined, then set aside.
For my stir fry mix, I used 1 small yellow onion, ½ lb. broccoli, 2 carrots, 8oz. mushrooms, and 8oz. sugar snap peas. You can use any mix of vegetables you’d like, just try to get a good variety of colors and textures. You’ll want about 8 cups once chopped.
Chop the vegetables into similar sized pieces. Since carrots take so long to soften, it was okay to cut them much smaller than the rest.
Add 2 Tbsp cooking oil to a very large skillet or wok. Heat over medium-high until the pan is very hot. Once hot, add the hardest vegetables first (or the vegetables that take the longest to soften), in this case, it was carrots and broccoli. Stir briskly for about one minute, or just until you start to see the color of the broccoli turn bright green. They will continue to cook as you add more vegetables.
Next, add the vegetables that soften semi-quickly, in this case, the mushrooms and sugar snap peas. Again, stir briskly and cook only for about 1-2 minutes, or just until you see the mushrooms begin to soften. They will continue to cook further as you add more vegetables.
Lastly, add your softest vegetables, in this case, the onion and bell pepper. Stir and cook just for one minute more, or just until the onions begin to soften. They will continue to cook and soften after you add the sauce.
Give the stir fry sauce a quick stir to recombine, then pour the sauce over the vegetables in the skillet. Stir and cook until the sauce begins to simmer, at which point it will thicken and turn glossy. Remove the skillet from the heat, or continue to cook until the vegetables are cooked to your liking.
Top the stir fry with sesame seeds and enjoy!
Delicious homemade stir fry sauce, yum yum yummm! I made this with a vegetarian chik’n and steamed rice and it’s delicious. I don’t have super large pans, so I used 2 separate pans and joined them all together in a big pot, and it worked great! The veggies are perfect – just a little crunch left to them! I just put the frozen chik’n in at the very end after the sauce thickened and then let it sit for a bit. I think that actually helped the veggies cool so they didn’t get mushy. Love this, gonna make it again!
Will this be good as leftovers, or should I cut the recipe in half for the two of use?
I can’t wait to try this!
I think making a smaller batch would probably be better! This dish is definitely best when it’s served fresh! The leftovers probably wouldn’t be *awful* but reheating might overcook the veggies and make them mushy. (You could compensate by slightly undercooking them the first time.) On the other hand, I bet the leftovers would be great in our recipe for Easy Dumpling Soup, stirred in at the very end (like the spinach) just to warm them through without cooking much more. ~ Marion :)
So very good. We used a frozen stir vegetable blend, and it turned out so delicious. Thank you for another winner!
This was the best stir fry sauce I’ve ever made! Usually toasted sesame oil is too strong of a flavor in sauces for me, but I think the ingredients really balance eachother out and meld well here. I also appreciate that you gave instructions on how to customize this via what order to add vegetables to the pan.
AMAZING. Just threw in with the frozen veggies from aldi and some tofu. So delicious!!
First time making stir fry. This is my go to recipe. Thank you. Cheers.
It was delicious! I made it for the first time for an Easter dinner party, everybody ate it all up, then I made another batch for just myself the next day it was so good! I substituted one of the 2 tablespoons of brown sugar with poppyseed dressing by Brianna’s so there wouldn’t be so much straight sugar, and it was still very yummy.
We do a lot of different recipes with fresh vegetables in our house. I use this recipe for whatever leftover vegetables we have on hand at the end of the week. It tastes great and works with pretty much anything.
So yummy! Love a good stir fry
Looks wonderful as always! Can’t wait to try it!
Would vegetable oil work instead of sesame oil? And i’m thinking grilled halumi cheese as an add in. We just picked some broccoli from the garden, so thanks for this idea!
The toasted sesame oil is used for flavor here–it has a strong toasty nutty flavor, which, unfortunately, you won’t get with vegetable oil.
If someone absolutely couldn’t use sesame oil (allergy)… do you think it would be best to just leave it out and not substitute anything? Or is there anything you think could be added instead?
Hi Megan, substitute with your favorite oil. The flavor profile will change a touch, but nothing crazy.
I will definitely make this soon! I have some frozen shrimp on hand. If I were to add those to the recipe, when should I put them in? I’m sure towards the end of cooking, but I wonder if need to make any other adjustments to account for them.
Thank you for another flexible recipe, Beth!
What you’ll want to do is to cook them in the skillet first so they’re in the pan alone and can get some nice contact with the hot surface. They cook super fast, so once they’re done remove them from the skillet and do the rest as written, then just add the shrimp back in at the end. :)
How interesting to add a sauce to make the veggies more interesting. WIll def give it a go! :)
I made the stir fry sauce first–delicious–and then decided to continue with the recipe. While many of us are trying to include meatless dishes in our diets, if that doesn’t fit your family–we aren’t ready to be vegans ourselves–I would encourage you to add half a pound of thin strips of beef, pork, or chicken. Because I dislike raw onion, I added the onion–even more than the recipe suggested–with the carrots and broccoli. Like many of Beth’s recipes, this one is made for substitutions, so any veggies in the fridge, ie green beans instead of sugar snap peas, cauliflower or shredded cabbage instead of broccoli, etc. will work. I added 8 oz of shrimp, and tossed with 8 oz of zero carb shirataki noodles. We are still licking our chops.