This chicken broccoli stir fry makes a tasty and simple weeknight dinner. Customize it with your favorite vegetables and protein following the variation ideas. Serve it with steamed Jasmine rice. You’ll want to double the recipe for leftovers.
One of the most shocking things about stir frying is how easy the technique is once you get the hang of it. But it’s equally easy to screw up. Why?
Food burns quickly when you’re cooking at high heat. And when you’re stir frying, you’re cooking on heat high the whole time.
That’s why this is an excellent recipe for you to practice your mise en place. This means getting all your ingredients ready and organized before you turn on a burner.
So why should you love this recipe? 1. You get a mouthwatering meal in less than 30 minutes. 2. You get to practice your mise en place. 3. You get to practice your stir frying technique. Let’s dive in!
What kind of chicken is best for stir frying?
A lot of people like chicken breast for stir fries because it’s high in protein, cooks quickly, and low fat. Personally, I always prefer chicken thighs to breasts because thigh meat doesn’t dry out, and it’s more flavorful.
That’s why this chicken broccoli stir fry recipe calls for chicken thighs. You can buy it boneless or with the bone-in. Alex doesn’t believe in boneless meats, so I buy bone-in thighs and show you how to remove the bone.
TIP: You can save the bone for making chicken stock later.
That said, if you love chicken breast, use it. The sauce will mitigate any dryness. Since stir frying is a quick-cook technique, you’ll be spared from cooking chicken breast until it dries out.
You could also use chicken tenderloin. While a pricey cut, it will be succulent and tender in this stir fry recipe.
WARNING: I wouldn’t recommend chicken wings or drumsticks in this recipe because the bones in those cuts of chicken require more time to cook than what a typical stir fry allows. Reserve wings and drumsticks for braising, grilling, or roasting.
How to marinate chicken
In Chinese stir fries, it’s common to marinate raw meat by adding starch, soy sauce, and cooking wine. The starch absorbs the flavoring liquids and sticks to the meat. This allows the meat to become flavorful, tender, and golden.
The starch in the marinade offers the additional benefit of thickening the sauce (in addition to the cornstarch slurry at the end that will do most of the thickening work).
You can use different kinds of starches. My mum uses potato starch. I often use tapioca starch because I keep it around for baking fruit pies. Any of these starches work.
This recipe uses cornstarch because it’s the most common starch in most American kitchens. If you don’t have cornstarch and prefer not to buy it just for this recipe, you can substitute with wheat flour.
TIP: I don’t rinse raw chicken. According to the USDA, rinsing raw poultry is more likely to lead to contamination. If you rinse chicken, make sure you pat it dry before adding the marinade. You don’t want excess water to dilute your marinade.
Can I put raw broccoli in the stir fry?
Yes. This recipe calls for using raw broccoli. I recommend cutting raw broccoli into smaller pieces and ensure they are the same size. This speeds up cooking, ensures the pieces cook at the same rate, and avoids having raw broccoli that’s burnt on the outside.
Because broccoli is a sturdy vegetable, it doesn’t cook as quickly as leafy vegetables like spinach or lettuce. If you find the broccoli looks like it might be burning, add 1-2 tablespoons of water to the wok or pan and cover with a lid to steam it.
NOTE: You can blanch the broccoli for 2 minutes in salted water to parboil it. This extra step allows you to stir fry faster because the broccoli doesn’t need much cooking once it hits the wok. This is beneficial if you are stir frying for the first time or you are scaling up the recipe.
Can I use frozen broccoli?
Yes. Defrost the frozen broccoli according to the package instructions. Make sure you drain the excess water from the thawed broccoli before adding it to the hot wok. Avoid putting watery ingredients in contact with hot oil when stir frying, which causes the oil to dangerously splatter on you and your kitchen.
Stir fry variations
This recipe makes a chicken broccoli stir fry. It’s low-carb, keto-friendly, and gluten-free (check the cornstarch isn’t processed in facilities that touch ingredients containing gluten). But it’s not vegetarian, and not everybody likes chicken.
Here are stir fry variation for how you could customize this chicken broccoli recipe to meet your dietary needs and satisfy your taste buds. Try out these ideas:
- Vegan version: Use super-firm block tofu or five-spice tofu instead of chicken. Slice it into thin strips. You can marinate the tofu by adding soy sauce but you can skip the cornstarch in the marinade.
- Vegetarian version: Scramble eggs first and set aside (like in this fried rice recipe). You don’t need to marinate the eggs. Follow the rest of the stir fry instructions and add the eggs on the same step that you would add chicken.
- Beef version: Slice flank steak or a similar lean cut of beef against the grain. Marinate the beef strips in the same soy sauce-cornstarch mixture. Add 1 tablespoon of Shaoxing wine to the marinade if desired. Cook the beef the same way you would the chicken.
- Pork version: Slice pork shoulder against the grain or cut a boneless pork chop into cubes. Marinate the pork in the soy sauce-cornstarch mixture. Follow the same instructions for pork as if you were cooking chicken.
- Tamari sauce: If you can’t find a gluten-free soy sauce, substitute soy sauce with tamari sauce.
- Hoisin sauce: If you enjoy stir fries with some sweetness, add a tablespoon of hoisin sauce to the soy sauce after adding the chicken back to the pan.
- Teriyaki sauce: Teriyaki sauce is another option that offers a sweet and savory flavor to your stir fry. Mix the teriyaki sauce with the soy sauce before adding it to the chicken toward the end of the stir fry. If you’re worried about too much sodium, skip the salt as teriyaki sauce is already salty.
- Oyster sauce: This delivers additional umami. Mix a tablespoon of soy sauce with the soy sauce (omit the salt) and add at the end before the cornstarch slurry.
- Honey: If you enjoy chicken broccoli that’s more similar to what you’d find at your local Chinese takeout restaurant, you’ll want to add honey or brown sugar to make the sauce sweet. Add 1/4 cup of honey to the soy sauce-sesame oil mixture.
NOTE: You can make this stir fry with your favorite vegetables. Substitute the broccoli with kale, cauliflower, broccolini, or other brassicas. Omit the bell pepper. Replace the carrots with zucchini/courgette or green beans.
Tips for success
- Stir fry in a wok or a pan with high sides: A wok is ideal for tossing and cooking at a high heat. If you don’t have a wok, you can use a pan with high sides, which prevent the food from falling out of the pan when you’re stirring and tossing.
- Use a neutral oil: Add more oil than the recipe’s instructions if you want it to taste like what you get at a restaurant.
- Use toasted sesame oil: This is the secret ingredient that makes any stir fry fragrant. A little goes a long way so just add 1/2 teaspoon or less.
How to scale the recipe
Because this recipe is so tasty, it’s a great idea to scale it up for leftovers. Here are my top tips for scaling up the recipe to feed more people:
- Use the biggest pan or wok you have: Avoid crowding the chicken or vegetables.
- Cook the chicken in batches: This avoids crowding and steaming, so that the chicken can get golden brown.
- If you’re doubling or tripling the recipe: Parboil the carrots and broccoli before adding them to the pan. This allows you to keep the stir fry cooking evenly so that you don’t have burned broccoli at the bottom of the pan, and raw broccoli on top. This can happen if your pan is too full to toss the vegetables.
One-pot chicken broccoli stir fry with aromatic sauce
- Chopping Board
- Mixing Bowl
Stir fry meat & vegetables
- 2 pounds (1 kg) Chicken, thigh meat, boneless or bone-in
- 2 tablespoon (30 ml) Canola oil, divide in half
- 3 cloves (3 cloves) Garlic, chopped
- 2 sprigs (2 sprigs) Green onion, sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon (3 g) Ginger, grated
- 1/4 small (1/4 small) Onion, sliced
- 1 medium head (1 medium head) Broccoli, about 1 pound
- 2 large (2 large) Carrots
- 1 medium (1 medium) Bell Pepper, optional, for color
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml) Light soy sauce, reduce if you find it too salty, divide into 1 tablespoon and 2 tablespoons
- 2 tablespoons (30 g) Cornstarch, substitute with potato or tapioca starch, divide into half
- 1 teaspoon (5 g) Salt, optional
- 1/2 teaspoon (3 ml) Sesame oil, toasted sesame oil
- 1/2 teaspoon (3 g) sugar, omit if adding honey for a sweeter sauce
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) Water, for the slurry
- Gather the ingredients.
Marinate the meat
- If you have bone-in chicken thighs, cut around the bone to remove it. Discard the bones or save them for making chicken stock later (you can freeze the bones).
- Chop the chicken thighs into 1 inch/2.5 cm cubes.
- Add 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and 1 tablespoon of cornstarch to the cubed chicken meat. Mix until combined and the chicken is evenly coated with the marinade. Set aside while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Prepare the sauce
- Mix the remaining soy sauce, salt, sesame oil, and sugar in a bowl. Combine the water and the cornstarch in a separate bowl to make a cornstarch slurry.
Chop the vegetables
- Chop all the vegetables into similarly sized pieces. Cut the carrots and the bell pepper into thin strips, like thick julienne pieces.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil in a wok or a pan over high heat.Once the oil starts to simmer, add the marinated chicken. Stir continuously until the chicken begins to turn golden on the outside, about 2 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside for later.If you want to cook with a clean pan, rinse out the pan for the next steps.
- Add the remaining canola oil to the pan over high heat. When the oil simmers, add the aromatics. Continuously toss the aromatics with a spatula to avoid burning them. Cook for about 30 seconds.
- Add the broccoli florets to the pan. Stir the broccoli continuously and allow to cook for 2 minutes. If you have a lot of broccoli, you may need to add 1-2 tablespoons of water and cover with a lid to steam the broccoli.
- Add the sliced carrots and bell peppers. Toss the vegetables with your spatula by pushing them to the side of your pan and folding them over. Continue to stir the vegetables until they are softened but still crunchy, about 3 minutes.
- Add the cooked chicken back into the pan with the vegetables. Add the soy sauce-sesame oil mixture into the pan. Stir to combine.
- Stir the cornstarch slurry in case the cornstarch has settled to the bottom of the bowl.
- Make a well in the middle of the pan. Pour the cornstarch slurry into the pan.
- Stir the vegetables into the cornstarch slurry mixture.
- Continuously stir the vegetables until the cornstarch slurry thickens into a sauce that's about the consistency of gravy. The stir fry is ready when the gravy coats the back of a spoon.
- Remove the stir fry from the heat and plate it. Serve it with rice or noodles.
- Enjoy your chicken and broccoli stir fry!
How to store leftovers
Leftover chicken broccoli stir fry can be stored in a sealed container once cooled. Keep it refrigerated and eat within 3 days. Reheat it in the microwave.
Can you freeze it?
Yes, you can cook this stir fry in advance. Freeze leftovers in an airtight plastic container and eat within 3 months. Defrost it overnight in the fridge and reheat in the microwave.