February 10, 2019
Are you new to plant based eating and looking for a simple recipe that everyone is sure to love? A stir fry is always a great option. Whip up a tasty blend of colorful veggies, a flavorful sauce and a pot of rice or noodles and you’re done. At the bottom of this post, I’ve compiled some of my favorite stir fry sauces. When you find a couple that you love, make up a double or triple batch and keep them in the fridge for a fast, easy and nutritious meal.
Stir fries are super easy to make and should be on everyone’s weekly meal rotation. And stir fries are easily made into Buddha bowls as well. The Buddha bowl is a great option if not everyone likes to eat the same things. You can saute a basic medley of veggies everyone likes, then add bowls of salad greens, other veggies (raw or cooked) and toppings to choose from. You can even provide a choice of sauces if you are feeling ambitious.
Choose your favorite blend of veggies, use up whatever you have in the fridge, or use a frozen veggie mix for a super easy option.
- Chop your veggies in your preferred shape and size. For a noodle stir fry, I like to slice the veggies in long thin pieces. For a rice stir fry, I like big square chunks of veggies. Or chop them smaller if you are going to mix everything together with your rice, like a fried rice dish.
- I almost always start with onion, red pepper and mushrooms in my stir fries. Then I might add carrots, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, snap peas and even green beans. Even greens like spinach, chard or kale can be added to a stir fry (add at the end, just before serving as they don’t take long to cook)
SKIP THE OIL: in a nonstick pan (any pan will do if you don’t have nonstick. You will just need to add a bit more broth to prevent sticking), add your onions and other longer cooking veggies like peppers, mushrooms, carrots, cauliflower and broccoli stems. Sauté using a small amount of veggie broth or water to keep from sticking if necessary. Once veggies are tender crisp, at chopped garlic (if desired) and your tender, fast cooking veggies like zucchini, broccoli, snap peas, green peas, greens. Saute until just done. Add your sauce and heat until hot. (If doing a Buddha Bowl, you can leave the sauce to be added individually into each bowl.)
Whole Grain Basmati Rice is a favorite of mine as it cooks up quickly (about 25 minutes) and is light and fluffy. I find even those who only eat white rice will like brown basmati (just don’t tell them its whole grain.)
- Quinoa – a great high protein option that cooks up in about 15 minutes. Choose from white, red, black or brown varieties.
- Whole Grain Couscous – another super-fast alternative. Just add boiling water to the couscous and let it stand for 5 minutes, fluff and its ready to eat. What could be easier!
Noodles or pasta – a great way to use up leftover pasta. Spaghetti, rice noodles, soba noodles, or whole grain pasta all work great. You can toss them into the cooked veggies along with the sauce and heat through. Or make the veggies extra saucy and serve over the pasta. Be sure to choose whole grain noodles. If you don’t like whole wheat noodles, try brown rice noodles. I find even my ‘white pasta’ only grandkids will eat it. Its light enough to pass for white.
- Get adventurous. Try red, black or short grain rice. Or buckwheat, pot barley, millet or farro for a change.
- When cooking grains, I like to cook up enough for 2 or 3 meals. If your grains are precooked and you’ve got a sauce in the fridge, you will have supper on the table faster than it takes to order a pizza. (For pasta, cook, drain water and run under cold water to remove excess starch and the noodles won’t stick together when stored. That way you don’t need to coat them in oil) Rice also freezes well, so if you have leftover that you don’t think you will eat up within the week, throw it in the freezer for a later date.
TOPPINGS or ADD INS:
- Sesame seeds are little powerhouses of nutrition. Toss a tablespoon or two over your stir fry. Try black sesame seeds for an oriental touch
- Cashews, sliced almonds, or peanuts can add crunch and a protein boost
- Chickpeas or beans – I recently added black and pinto beans into my Spicy Peanut Thai Stir Fry and it was fabulous.
Tofu – sliced firm tofu will work in a stir fry, but its better to add it to the veggies before adding the sauce so it has a chance to soak up some flavor. A better bet is a marinated tofu (see my favorite recipe here) When marinating tofu I like to do up a big batch and freeze the leftovers for stir fries. You can also buy smoked tofu which is tasty just as it is and works great as a topping on stir fries or Buddha Bowls.
- Soy Curls (See Butler Soy Curls) are made from whole soy beans and work great in stir fries. (A lot of recipes recommend soaking in flavored broths, then frying with spices. I don’t bother if I am serving them with a sauce. Soak in water, squeeze out excess water and let the flavor of the sauce soak into them.) I get mine from Vegan Supply in Vancouver but you might be able to find them at your local health food store.
- Edamame beans
- Green onions, fresh parsley, chopped fresh salad greens, tomato, avocado – use your imagination.
SAUCES: As promised, here are my favorites
- ¼ cup rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon tahini (or substitute almond or peanut butter)
- 4 teaspoons maple syrup (or sweetener of choice)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely grated
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- pinch ground black pepper
Mix all ingredients together in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat and store in a glass jar in the fridge.
CHINESE BROWN SAUCE (From the Forks Over Knives Cookbook)
- 1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
- 1/3 cup vegetable stock
- ¼ cup brown rice syrup, agave, cane sugar or brown sugar
- 1 tsp fresh ginger, grated fine
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp arrowroot powder or corn starch
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until thickened. Store in fridge in a glass container. This is a great all-purpose stir fry sauce.
CHINESE FIVE SPICE SAUCE
- 1/2 cup Chinese Brown Sauce (recipe above)
- ¾ tsp Chinese Five Spice Powder
- ¼ tsp crushed red chilies
Combine all ingredients. This is great with onion, garlic, carrot, broccoli & snow peas served over noodles.
PINEAPPLE SWEET AND SOUR SAUCE
- 1 ½ cups unsweetened pineapple juice
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup soy sauce or tamari
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ¼ cup sweetener (brown rice syrup, brown sugar, coconut sugar, cane sugar) or more to taste
- 2 tbsp arrowroot powder or corn starch
Whisk all ingredients together in a small saucepan until arrowroot or corn starch is completely dissolved. Bring to a boil and simmer until thickened. Remove from heat and store leftovers in the fridge in a glass jar. This one is great in a stir fry with added pineapple chunks.
SPICY PEANUT THAI SAUCE
- ½ cup peanut butter
- ¼ cup tamari (low sodium)
- ¼ cup water
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
- To Taste – chili paste (like Sambol Olek) , crushed red chillis, hot sauce or Sriracha Sauce
Mix all ingredients except the hot stuff. Add your choice of heat. Store in the fridge in a glass jar.
PAD THAI SAUCE (from PlantPure Kitchen)
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon ginger, minced
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 1 teaspoon tamarind paste (a substitute for this would be one dried, pitted date)
- 3 tablespoons low sodium tamari or soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon sriracha
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp tahini or peanut butter
- 1/4 cup water
Mix sauce ingredients together in a blender. Store leftovers in a glass jar in the fridge. I like this one with sauted carrot, red pepper, onion, cabbage, bean sprouts and broccoli. Serve over brown rice noodles and top with peanuts.
SWEET CHILI SAUCE
I fell in love with this recipe the first time my friend Navi made it for me. Careful, it packs a punch. If you’re not a big fan of the spicy, cut the chili garlic sauce down to a teaspoon or 2.
- 2 tbsp chili garlic sauce (like Sambol Olek)
- 1 tbsp coconut sugar, brown sugar or cane sugar
- 1 tbsp white vinegar (white wine, white balsamic or plain white vinegar)
- 2 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tsp corn starch or arrowroot powder
Mix all ingredients in a small saucepan and heat until mixture begins to boil. Stir until thickened. Remove from heat and store leftovers in a glass jar in the fridge. I love this one with sautéed big chunks of onion, red pepper, mushroom, snow peas or broccoli and soy curls.