Easy to make homemade fried rice, just like your favorite Chinese restaurant. A simple stir-fry transforms plain white rice into a flavorful dish seasoned with soy sauce and tossed with colorful vegetables.
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In Asian cuisine, a serving or two of fried rice is always a must-have to complete your meal. It’s hard not to eat every light and fluffy morsel. The stir-frying technique that’s easy to tackle at home makes this dish so tasty. Once you get the base recipe down, it’s easy to customize with additional mix-ins or proteins.
Growing up in a big Chinese family not far from Oakland Chinatown, homemade fried rice at our house was a “clean-out-the-fridge” type dish, no recipe needed. My mom would use leftover rice from a previous meal and then add meat like diced chicken, shrimp, ham, spam (yes, I said it!), or char siu.
Long grain white rice is the best to use as it holds its shape and stays separate when stir-fried. Plus, it’s less sticky compared to short-grain rice. Jasmine is my top choice because it has a light floral aroma, is not too sticky when cooked, and is slightly dry in texture. This selection also makes it easy to maneuver in the pan.
You can use other types of rice, but just avoid short grains like Japanese sticky rice. My family often uses leftover medium-grain Calrose, nutty basmati, or brown rice for a high fiber option.
Fresh rice vs. leftover rice
Cold, leftover rice is ideal to use because the starches in the grains harden when refrigerated, making it easier to separate and cook in the wok. You’ll need about 3 cups. That doesn’t mean you can’t use a fresh pot of rice, especially when the craving hits. It only takes about an extra 20 minutes to prepare.
Wash the grains
To prevent the rice from becoming super sticky when stir-frying, wash it with cool water. Rinsing washes away the residual starches on the surface of the grain that could cause sticking.
My grandma would scrub the rice with her hands to speed up the process and make sure it was clean. Washing is complete when the water changes from opaque white to transparent.
Cooking fresh rice
I use my easy stovetop method for making freshly cooked rice. However, you can also use the Instant Pot. One cup of Jasmine rice should yield about 3 cups of cooked rice. Once the water is absorbed, keep the pot covered off the heat for 10 minutes to finish cooking.
Cool before using
The key to preventing excessive clumping and sticking in the pan is to allow the rice to cool before using it. This process can quickly be done by spreading the rice on a sheet pan at room temperature or chilling it in the refrigerator for 5 to 10 minutes.
Chilling is my preferred method. The rice should be cool to the touch before adding it to the pan.
Frying the rice
Grab a cast iron wok or a large nonstick skillet to fry the rice. The rounded shape heats the bottom and side of the pan for better browning and quicker cooking. Many people think fried rice gets all of its flavors from the sauce, but it starts with cooking in oil first before adding other ingredients.
Allowing the rice to lightly brown in the hot wok adds flavor to the surface of the grains. This process takes about 5 minutes, stirring every 30-seconds.
Stir-fry the vegetables
It’s a delight to find colorful little pieces of diced carrots and sweet green peas in your rice. The carrots are briefly stir-fried with onions and minced garlic to infuse their intense flavors. I wait to add the peas in at the end because they are delicate. Frying them later keeps their spheres intact and prevents them from getting mushy.
Scramble the egg
The rice gets an extra boost of protein with scrambled egg. You’ll pour them into the center of the pan with sesame oil, then break them into smaller pieces once the curds form. I like to mix some of the liquid egg into the rice to cook and coat the grains for extra richness.
If you like big, fluffy curds, cook them entirely in the pan, transfer them to a plate, and then add them back later, so they don’t get broken down further.
To elevate the savory taste of the dish, add soy sauce. Just enough to lightly season the grains, not overwhelm the palate. It’s easy to make the dish gluten-free with tamari or coconut aminos (this gives a sweeter flavor). Always taste, and add more salt to your liking.
In Chinese cuisine, white pepper is used instead of black pepper. It has an exciting ginger-like flavor with a slightly numbing effect. I enjoy using it, plus it doesn’t leave tiny dark speckles on the food. A little goes a long way. Start with an ⅛ of a teaspoon, then add more. Before serving, sprinkle on green onions for a mild allium taste and freshness to the dish.
Make this an entree
- Shrimp fried rice for a seafood twist. Add dried pieces if you like it salty.
- Chicken fried rice for a poultry spin. Cut into small chunks for quick cooking.
- Chinese barbecue pork, chop up small pieces for a sweet and savory flavor.
- Stir-fry small cubes of firm tofu for a vegetarian protein option.
Serve this with
Add soy sauce to enhance the savory, umami taste, but use a small amount. It shouldn’t be overly salty. Too much will turn the rice dark brown.
Use a high smoke point oil that is neutral in flavor like vegetable oil or peanut oil. Sesame seed oil is added towards the end to add a toasted flavor.
Why long-grain rice is less sticky
Stickiness is caused by the release of starch molecules amylose and amylopectin when cooking. Amylose causes more sticking, but there is less of it in long-grain varieties. To further keep those grains separated, always rinse before cooking to wash off any lingering starches on the surface, and let it cool down to harden the grains.
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- 1 cup jasmine rice, uncooked, or long-grain white rice
- 2 cups water
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- ¼ cup minced white onion
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- ½ cup diced carrots, ¼-inch dice
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- ½ cup peas, frozen, defrosted
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅛ teaspoon white pepper
- 2 tablespoons green onions, thinly sliced
Cook the Rice
- Add uncooked rice to a fine-mesh strainer. Rinse and wash under running cool water until it runs clear, scrubbing the rice in between your hands several times, about 1 minute. Shake and lightly press to drain.
- In a medium pot, add rice and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring a few times. Cover and reduce to low heat and simmer. Cook until the rice absorbs the water and becomes tender, about 10 to 15 minutes, or according to the manufacturer’s directions. Turn off the heat and keep covered for 10 minutes.
- Fluff the rice with a fork. Transfer to a small sheet pan and spread into a thin layer to cool to room temperature. Alternatively, place uncovered in the refrigerator for quicker cooling, about 5 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the other ingredients.
Make the Stir Fry
- Heat a wok or large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Once hot, add in cooled rice. Stir-fry to evenly coat with oil. Spread into an even layer, lightly pressing around the pan. Cook for 30-seconds, then stir. Repeat the spreading and moving process every 30-seconds for 5 minutes total to encourage light browning on the surface.
- In the center of the wok, make a large well. Add in 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil. Add onion, garlic, and carrots, stir-fry in the center of the pan for 1 minute, then mix with the rice to combine.
- Make another large well in the center, add in 1 teaspoon vegetable oil and 1 teaspoon sesame oil.
- Pour in beaten eggs. Allow it to sit for about 30 seconds, then gradually stir to create small scrambled egg pieces, stir to combine with the rice.
- Add in soy sauce, stir to combine. Add peas, stir and cook until warmed through, about 2 minutes.
- Stir in the salt and white pepper. Taste and season as desired. Garnish with green onions and serve immediately.
- Recipe Yield: About 4 cups
- Serving Size: About 1 cup
- Using Other Types of Rice: Any long-grain variety makes less sticky grains. Medium-grain Calrose or brown rice can be used. Just make sure that it yields 3 cups, as each cooks up to different volumes.
- Substituting Cooked Rice: Use 3 cups cooked rice for 1 cup of uncooked jasmine rice. It’s best to use it when cool or leftover. Skip the uncooked rice steps in the directions and go straight to stir-frying.
- Bigger Pieces of Egg: Cook in the pan, breaking into the desired size. Transfer to a plate and reserve, then add back with the peas.
- Make It Gluten-Free: Use gluten-free tamari or coconut aminos instead of soy sauce.
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