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!
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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!