This fried rice recipe combines eggs and vegetables to deliver a tasty weeknight meal in 15 minutes. Using a vegetable mix, it doesn’t require washing or chopping. Plus, 13 ideas on how to add a twist to your fried rice, including Thai, Keto-friendly, and chicken fried rice.
Despite growing up eating Cantonese food, I dislike plain rice. As a kid, I used to hold a mouthful of Jasmine rice in my mouth for an hour in protest, leaving the rest of my bowl untouched. However, I’ve never had a problem eating fried rice. Where plain rice is bland, sticky, and quotidian, fried rice is colorful, flavorful, and special (usually I only got to eat it at birthday parties or when there’s too much leftover rice).
My mum taught me to make fried rice in high school but I rarely cook it because I don’t cook rice in my kitchen. I pulled this recipe from my recipe swipe file so that I could write it up for you and include it in my learn how to stir fry email course.
Little did I know that fried rice is one of Alex’s favorite dishes. Because it’s so easy to make, fried rice is one of our go-to weeknight dinners now. Plus it’s a great way to learn how to stir fry. Let’s jump in to learn how to cook this dish.
Which rice is best for fried rice?
My favorite rice is Jasmine because it’s a fragrant, firm, and fluffy long-grain rice, which is perfect for fried rice. You can use any long-grain rice, including Basmati or American long-grain rice.
You can also use long-grain brown rice and other grains like quinoa as long as they don’t have a sticky, wet texture.
WARNING: I wouldn’t use short-grained rice because the soft and sticky texture will result in a dish more like risotto than fried rice.
Fried rice variations
This recipe makes vegetarian fried rice that contains eggs. Looking for ideas on how to add a twist? Or have food sensitivities? Try out these variations:
- Thai fried rice: Add Thai basil leaves, sliced Thai red chili (be careful, super spicy!) with the aromatics. Add canned baby corn and shrimp with the veggies. Optionally, add toasted cashews and thinly sliced kaffir lime leaf as a garnish.
- Japanese fried rice: Add 1 teaspoon of sake and 2 teaspoons of mirin along with soy sauce. Include shelled edamame in the vegetable mix. Use sliced deep-fried tofu instead of five-spice tofu. Garnish with crumbled seaweed (using the seaweed snacks that look like chips).
- Pork fried rice: Cook minced pork or bacon after cooking the eggs. Remove from the pan and add the pork back in at the same time as the eggs. Or you can add cubed ham at the same time as the tofu step.
- Chicken fried rice: Marinate cubed chicken breast or thigh in soy sauce and cornstarch. Cook it after the eggs with extra oil. You’ll need to wash out the pan before cooking the aromatics or else the cornstarch will burn.
- Seafood fried rice: Cook shrimp or calamari with the aromatics and vegetables before adding the rice.
- Vegan fried rice: Remove the eggs. Feel free to add vegan-friendly protein-rich add-ins, such as deep-fried tofu, steamed broccoli (add it with the vegetables), or sliced almonds and toasted cashews.
- Kimchi fried rice: After the eggs are cooked, add chopped kimchi to the eggs. Mix and remove both from the pan. Add the kimchi and eggs back into the pan before the sesame oil step.
- Pineapple fried rice: Add 1 tablespoon of fish sauce and 2 teaspoons of curry powder to the soy sauce mix. Add half a sliced shallot and a sliced Thai chili with the aromatics. Add 2 cups of pineapple chunks, 1/4 cup of raisins/currents, and 1/2 cup of toasted cashews with the rice. Serve with lime and chopped cilantro.
- Keto/low-carb fried rice: Skip the rice and replace it with cauliflower rice, brown rice, or another keto-friendly grain. Keep the cubed five-spice tofu and add other protein like sausages or bacon.
- Gluten-free fried rice: Check the soy sauce is gluten free. If it’s not, choose one of these substitutes double checking it’s gluten free (like tamari).
- Greasiest, meatiest fried rice: Add thinly sliced onions with the aromatics. Cook sliced bacon with the aromatics until no longer pink. Add cubed spam and sliced sausages instead of tofu.
- Buttery fried rice: Some people prefer butter in their fried rice over neutral oil. If that’s you, you can add a few slabs of butter just before adding the rice.
- Tomato sauce/ketchup fried rice: I grew up eating this stuff. The tomato sauce adds a lot of umami. Mix 1 tablespoon of tomato sauce/ketchup with the soy sauce and add to the rice.
Restaurant versus homemade fried rice
What’s the difference between restaurant-style fried rice and what you’re capable of making at home?
- Most home cooks use days-old leftover rice because fried rice is a fantastic way to repurpose rice that’s old and dried out. Fried rice from your favorite Chinese takeout place is often made with freshly cooked rice. The restaurant uses less water when cooking the rice to make it drier. The result is “al-dente” rice that gets crunchier.
- Chinese restaurants use commercial-grade gas stoves that reach over 100,000-125,00 BTU per hour (example wok sold at a restaurant supply store). Most home gas ranges reach 5,000-10,000 BTU, according to SF Gate. Even the top-of-the-line, “professional” gas ranges sold for home use only reach a limit of 20,000 BTU on the most powerful burners (for example, these GE ranges). A commercial stove is 5 times more powerful than your home stove so you can imagine restaurant-style fried rice tastes different than what you can make at home.
- Restaurants use much more oil than you typically would when cooking at home.
- Restaurants probably use MSG or MSG-free bouillon cubes if it’s an MSG-free restaurant to add umami flavor.
Understanding these differences means you can close the gap if you want to make restaurant-style fried rice. For example, you can cook the rice with less water and add a lot more oil when you fry the rice (Alex loves doubling the oil to make it taste restaurant-style). You can use your stove’s hottest burner or cook on a dedicated propane burner (our gas grill has a burner for pots and pans). You could sprinkle some MSG or add umami-rich ingredients (I use soy sauce and sometimes ketchup/tomato sauce).
NOTE: Don’t be disappointed if your first attempts at fried rice turn out differently from what you order at a restaurant. It takes a few tries to get the hang of making fried rice, and you’ll get better as you go. You also may never make the same version as your favorite restaurant’s and that’s OK because your homemade version will still be delicious.
How do you make homemade fried rice not mushy?
Keeping in mind you typically don’t have access to a commercial burner, here are some tips for avoiding mushy fried rice when you make it at home:
- Use cold, leftover, cooked rice: Use cooked rice that’s at least a day old and was stored in the fridge. Avoid using freshly cooked rice, unless you deliberately reduced the water, because the moisture in freshly steamed rice makes it mushier.
- Use the right kind of rice: Long-grain rice is the least sticky compared to short-grain and medium-grain rice.
- Use the highest heat setting: Test your wok or pan is sizzling by adding a small piece of green onion before cooking.
- Cook all the ingredients separately: This allows you to avoid crowding and steaming. My preferred order is:
- Fry the eggs.
- Fry the meat, shrimp, or tofu.
- Fry the aromatics.
- Fry the frozen vegetables.
- Fry the cooked rice
- Cook the vegetables until they’re dry: If you’re using frozen vegetables, they come with a lot of moisture. I like to fry the veggies until they’re dry. If you add frozen vegetables into the rice, it increases the chances of getting mushy rice.
- Keep stirring: Let the rice sit against the hot pan until it gets crispy. Once it has a golden color, keep things moving to avoid burning the food.
Tips for success
- 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.
- Dark soy sauce: Adding color to your dish is one of the primary reasons for using dark soy sauce. If you don’t have dark soy sauce, you can use light soy sauce for the umami taste. It just won’t have the same golden coloring. Here are other substitutes for soy sauce.
- Use toasted sesame oil: This is the secret ingredients that makes fried rice fragrant and mouthwatering! A little goes a long way so don’t add too much.
- If you want to scale the recipe: Avoid cooking double or triple the ingredient quantities at the same time even if your pan is massive. If you want to scale the recipe, cook it in batches. This avoids crowding and steaming. Unless you don’t mind mushy fried rice in which case feel free to scale it in the same pan.
NOTE: If you want to add more oil, it’s ideal to have the stove on the highest heat. If you have a weak stove, avoid adding too much oil if you don’t want it to taste greasy.
Easy peasy fried rice with eggs and tofu
- Chopping Board
- Mixing Bowl
- 4 medium (4 medium) Eggs
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml) Canola oil, or another neutral oil, separate into 1 tablespoon portions
- 2 sprigs (2 sprigs) Green onion, sliced
- 3 cloves (3 cloves) Garlic, chopped
- 2 cups (380 g) Frozen vegetable mix, carrots, peas, corn, and optionally green beans and shelled edamame
- 1 teaspoon (5 g) Salt, add more to taste
- 2 pieces (2 pieces) five-spice tofu, optional, substitute with meat if preferred
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) Dark Soy Sauce, for color
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) Light soy sauce, for flavor and saltiness, reduce if you find it too salty
- 2 cups (370 g) Rice, cooked, days-old rice
- Gather the ingredients.
- Prepare the ingredients. Crack the eggs and discard the shells. Beat the eggs with a whisk or fork until combined. Chop the tofu into small pieces, about the size of peas. Mix the soy sauces together and any additional sauces you want to add for variations.
- Put 1 tablespoon of the oil in the wok and heat over high on the hottest burner on your stove. Put a slice of green onion in to test the oil. Once the green onion starts to bubble and sizzle, add the eggs. Allow the eggs to cook on one side until they begin to puff up. Flip the eggs once the middle is watery but the edges are cooked. It's OK if you accidentally break the eggs in the process of flipping. Cook the eggs until they are no longer runny on both sides. Remove the eggs from the pan.If you want to cook meat, you can add the meat now with more oil. Cook the meat until it is cooked through and remove from the pan. Set aside for later.
- Add 1 tablespoon of the oil to the wok. Add the aromatics. Cook for 30 seconds until the garlic begins to turn golden.
- Add the frozen vegetable mix to the aromatics in the pan. Add the salt. Allow the vegetables to cook until they look like they are no longer frozen.
- Add the chopped tofu. Cook the tofu and vegetables until the vegetables look dry. Keep stirring continuously to avoid burning the food.
- Make a well in the middle of the pan. Add the remaining oil. Add the rice. Add the soy sauces on top of the rice.
- Stir the rice, soy sauce, tofu, and vegetables until they are combined. The fried rice should be a rich golden color. Keep stirring to avoid burning the food.
- Add the eggs and any other cooked add-ins to the pan. Use the spatula to break apart the eggs into smaller pieces. Stir continuously to avoid burning the food.
- Turn off the heat. Add the sesame oil and mix thoroughly to combine.
- Enjoy your fried rice!
How is it stored? For how long?
Fried rice fresh from the pan is much tastier than leftovers reheated in the microwave. Considering it takes 15 minutes or less to make, it’s worth making from scratch. That said, I also love leftover fried rice for lunch the next day.
You can cook it in advance and store it for 3-5 days in the fridge. Store any leftovers in an airtight glass or plastic container. Reheat it in the microwave.
Can you freeze it?
The downside of freezing fried rice is that it’ll probably have a mushy texture when you defrost it. Since it’s fast to cook, consider making it fresh. If you don’t mind the risk of mushy rice, pack it once it’s cool into an airtight plastic container or a sealable plastic bag to freeze. It will last for up to 3 months before it gets freezer burned.
When you are ready to eat frozen fried rice, don’t defrost it in the fridge first. Heat it in the microwave until it’s steaming hot. Or reheat it in a hot pan or wok to reduce the chance of mushy rice.
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FAQ about fried rice
Do you have to boil rice before frying it?
Yes, you need to cook raw rice in advance before you can make fried rice. Cooking raw rice in this recipe will end up making inedible fried rice.
What can I use instead of soy sauce for fried rice?
The soy sauce has 2 purposes: add salt and umami. If you’re looking for “authentic” fried rice, you’ll want to add soy sauce. However, since not everybody can eat soy sauce, check out this list of sauces that could be used as substitutes for soy sauce (remember to add plenty of salt).