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This vegetable fried rice is simple, flavorful, and a restaurant-quality recipe. Made with leftover brown rice and tender vegetables, it’s a healthy dish that can be served on the side or enjoyed as a satisfying main. Best of all? It takes just 15 minutes to cook!
Fried rice comes in many variations. The most popular, of course, is the Chinese fried rice, but then there is the Indo-Chinese version which was all the craze in India when I was growing up in the 90s.
The Indian fried rice uses a few more seasonings and sauces than the Chinese version and is spicier. It is often served without eggs to accommodate the dietary needs of vegetarians in India.
This easy fried rice recipe is my take on both versions and gives you an option to make it with or without eggs.
Reasons to love this recipe
- The perfect way to repurpose leftover cooked rice and vegetables lying in your refrigerator.
- Easily customizable – add any veggies that you like!
- Needs less than 15 minutes of cooking time.
- So much healthier than takeout fried rice.
History of the recipe
While an exact date cannot be pinpointed, fried rice is believed to have been invented during the Sui dynasty in the province of Jiangsu.
The traditional recipe can still be found today, and is called Yangzhou (pronounced Yangchow) fried rice. It is also known as “Special fried rice” in American-Chinese restaurants. It consists of rice, prawns, pork, peas, and scallions.
Many versions of the original fried rice are available, with many flavor combinations and protein sources available. Vegetarian versions include tofu, rice, and/or crisp vegetables. Chicken fried rice is also a popular variation of the traditional recipe.
There is also Indian fried rice, an Indo-Chinese recipe that uses more spices than the traditional Chinese version and is made without eggs.
Thanks to its quick and simple preparation, savory flavor, and adaptable recipe, this versatile and popular dish has stood the test of time.
Read More: All About Chinese Fried Rice – The Spruce Eats
Here’s what you need to make the recipe
- White or brown rice: I prefer brown rice for its chewy texture. Any medium or long grain white rice or jasmine rice will work. Or, you can even make this recipe with Basmati rice and for a low-carb option, try quinoa or cauliflower rice.
- Oil – You can use a flavored oil such as peanut oil or a neutral one like avocado. Butter can also be used to amp things up.
- Shredded cabbage – To save time, you can buy your cabbage pre-shredded. If you choose purple cabbage, your eggs will change color.
- Green peas – These can be fresh or frozen. I prefer frozen since they are easy to add into the blend of vegetables for fried rice without any prep work like cleaning or shelling.
- Carrots, diced – you can use julienned carrots as well.
- Green beans – frozen beans will work too!
You can use any veggies you choose. As I mentioned before, this homemade fried rice is completely customizable! I often add bell peppers, sliced green onions, edamame, and broccoli, to this dish.
Ingredients for the sauce
- Soy sauce – I prefer to use low sodium soy sauce.
- Chili garlic sauce – To give it a spicy kick. Use as little as you want.
- Rice Vinegar – to add that vinegary-zing to your fried rice.
- White pepper is commonly used in Chinese cuisine, but you can always substitute it with black pepper.
- Oyster sauce (optional) – If using, add no more than one tablespoon to the sauce mix, and also, make sure to reduce the soy sauce by one tablespoon.
- Egg – This is an optional ingredient. If you don’t like egg-fried rice, leave it out or swap it for tofu.
- Toasted sesame oil – To be used as a finishing oil for that authentic taste!
Variations to try
- For a dose of vegan protein, use pan-fried tofu instead of eggs.
- Add finely chopped pineapple after the rice is mixed to make pineapple fried rice.
- You can also add sauteed shrimp or shredded rotisserie chicken to mix it up.
- Add roasted nuts and seeds such as cashews, peanuts, and sesame seeds for added crunch and flavor.
- Give your vegetable fried rice an extra boost of veggies by adding bell pepper, edamame, and broccoli. Get creative and add whatever you like best. Note: Using purple cabbage will cause your scrambled eggs to change color.
- Add some oyster sauce for a rich, savory flavor that is big on umami. Be sure to cut back on your soy sauce by one tablespoon to ensure you don’t overwhelm the dish.
Methods to make fried rice
- Wok – If you have one available, a wok is always the best choice for stir-fried dishes like this one. It’s made out of carbon steel, meaning it heats more quickly, sticks less, and uses less oil than a traditional skillet.
- Skillet – If you don’t have a wok available, you can always use a nonstick skillet to make your Chinese fried rice.
- Instant Pot – Many recipes use Instant Pot to make fried rice, but I don’t prefer it because it doesn’t have enough surface area as a wok or skillet does. I do make the rice using Instant Pot, though.
Using fresh rice vs. day-old rice
Using chilled leftover rice is best for this dish because it is drier and less sticky. The starch changes when the rice is completely cooled down, yielding fried rice where the grains are separate and not clumpy.
Note: If using leftover rice, remove any clumps using your fingers. Also, ideally, let the refrigerated rice come to room temperature before cooking it with the veggies.
Don’t worry; you can achieve similar results with freshly cooked rice. Spread the rice over a baking sheet to cool it down and make it clump-free.
- Don’t have time to chop veggies? Use a bag of frozen veggies.
- Use julienned carrots instead of chopping them.
- Cut the veggies roughly the same size.
- Always rinse the rice before using it to remove dirt and excess starch.
- Cook on medium-high heat will help you get that nice brown finish to your veggies and rice.
- Lightly brown the rice to get a slightly crispy finish.
How to prep ahead
You can make rice a day in advance. You can also chop the veggies the previous night or use frozen veggies.
Refrigerator: Keep your vegetable fried rice with eggs in an airtight storage container for 5-7 days in the fridge.
Freezer: Place your completed cooled egg fried rice into freezer bags and remove excess air. Place them in the freezer for up to 2 months. When you’re ready to eat, reheat the rice with an ice cube or 1-2 tablespoons of water to prevent it from being too dry.
Frequently asked questions
You can use whatever veggies you like with your home-cooked fried rice! A few standards include peas, carrots, beans, shredded cabbage, and onion, but you can add whatever flavor combinations you like best.
You can go for a flavorful fat like ghee, unsalted butter, and peanut oil. The other choices are using a neutral oil like avocado or vegetable oil and finishing it with toasted sesame oil.
If you would like to make your fried rice low carb, try making it with quinoa or cauliflower rice instead of brown or white rice.
The best rice to make Chinese fried rice would be classic brown or white rice. Use non-sticky varieties of rice like medium-grain white, brown, Basmati, and jasmine. Note: For restaurant-like results, use chilled leftover cooked rice since it is dryer and less sticky. This will prevent your fried rice from becoming mushy.
Yes, you can freeze fried rice, but note that it will be somewhat dry when it comes time to reheat your rice. To prevent the rice from being too dry, add an ice cube or 1-2 tablespoons of water to your rice when reheating.
Many flavors come together to make Chinese fried rice, but the signature flavors come from soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil. Crisp veggies, garlic, ginger, and onion are all very important ingredients as well.
Yes, you do need to cook rice before frying it. For the best results, use leftover rice. If you do not have leftover rice but still want restaurant-style fried rice, spread your freshly cooked rice over a baking sheet to dry out before adding it to a hot wok or skillet.
In terms of calories, fried rice does have more calories than white rice, but it can also be filled with vegetables and protein-rich eggs. While white rice is lower in calories, it is also less filling and thus can’t be a complete meal. Using healthier oils and lots of vegetables can make fried rice a filling, satisfying, and nutritious meal on its own.
Other healthy lunch/dinner options to try
If you like this Chinese brown fried rice recipe, you’ll love these healthy recipes with big flavor:
- Thai basil chicken – This better than take-out recipe is loaded with flavor and vegetables for a dish that will satisfy your cravings for Thai food in a pinch.
- Lettuce wraps – This flavorful Indian take on the classic chicken lettuce wrap recipe will have you clamoring for seconds. Ready in just 20 minutes!
- Quinoa salad – A filling salad made with fresh vegetables, a blend of quinoa and rice, and tossed in a lemony dressing.
- Spinach rice – This filling and flavorful Spinach Rice is packed with warm spices and fresh vegetables for a gluten-free dish everyone will enjoy!
- Veg biryani – A flavorful one-pot vegetarian meal that comes together in under 30 minutes!
Easy Vegetable Fried Rice Recipe (better than takeout!)
For the sauce
- 3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 2-3 tablespoons chili-garlic sauce
- 1 teaspoon salt, or as needed
- ½ teaspoon white pepper, to taste
To make scrambled eggs (optional)
- 2 eggs, well beaten
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- Add a tablespoon of avocado oil to a wok placed over medium-heat.
- Once heated, add chopped onions along with ginger garlic paste.
- Fry the onions till they turn soft and translucent (approximately 5 minutes).
- Add the veggies (cabbage, beans, carrots and green peas). Stir it and fry for another 5 minutes or so till slightly softened.
- Add soy sauce, vinegar, and red chili-garlic sauce to a small bowl. Mix well.
- Pour the sauce into the wok and stir it in.
- Add the cooked rice and fold in gently. Let cook for 2-3 minutes to allow the flavors to meld in.
- Do a taste test and add salt, as neede along with white pepper. Stir it in.
- Turn off the heat and serve it with scrambled eggs (recipe below). For added flavor, drizzle toasted sesame oil and mix well.
Make scrambled eggs
- Whisk eggs with salt till they are well beaten.
- Add oil to a non-stick pan and heat it.
- Add the eggs. When they are about halfway cooked, scramble them. Transfer the eggs to the fried rice and mix well.
Disclosure: This recipe contains affiliate links to products we love and recommend. As an affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Disclaimer: Approximate Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy and can vary depending on the exact ingredients/brands used. If you have health issues, please work with a registered dietician or nutritionist.