How to Make a Simple Chicken Stir-Fry
Here's my quick, basic chicken stir-fry recipe inspired by my parents' cooking. It's easy to throw together and also customize into your own special chicken stir-fry.
“I only stir-fried leftover chicken with some broccoli,” my mother told me when as a child, I asked her how she made the delicious dish that delighted my 10-year-old taste buds. That is the magic of a dish like chicken stir-fry: It’s simple, versatile and healthy, and can be made with almost whatever you have on hand.
When my family first immigrated to the United States in 1990, we had very little. My parents left behind white-collar lives and began working in Chinese restaurants. My dad trained to be a cook (preparing countless chicken stir-fry orders a day) while my mom bussed tables. Often, our meals were stretched from what my parents brought home from work, yet those were among the most memorable meals of my life.
One particular dish was a chicken stir-fry that my mom threw together in our small apartment kitchen. I remember my 10-year-old taste buds lighting up in disbelief as soon as my chopsticks hit my lips.
Now as a busy mom myself, I treasure easy recipes like this chicken stir-fry—especially for weeknights.
Chicken Stir-Fry Recipe
This simple stir-fry recipe is easy to customize. It makes 4 servings.
- 16-ounces chicken breast, sliced about 1/8-in. thick
- Neutral cooking oil (like canola or vegetable)
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2-3 cups mixed fresh vegetables, cut into small pieces
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2-3 pinches ground white pepper
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon honey
- Ground white pepper to taste
- Salt to taste
- 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine or Chinese rice wine, optional
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
Step 1: Tenderize chicken
Mix sliced chicken with a teaspoon of salt, 2-3 pinches of ground white pepper, 2 teaspoons cornstarch and 1 teaspoon canola oil in a medium bowl and set aside.
Step 2: Prepare sauce
Mix all ingredients for the sauce and stir well.
Step 3: Cook chicken
Heat wok or large skillet to high heat. Coat pan with oil. Add chicken and cook until about half done (white on the surface, but not yet cooked through), about a minute total, flipping halfway. Take the chicken out and set aside.
Step 4: Stir-fry vegetables
On medium heat, add oil to coat skillet or wok. Add garlic and stir until light brown, careful not to burn. Add vegetables and stir-fry for about 1 minute, then turn heat back up to high.
Editor’s Tip: Overcooking vegetables will cause them to be limp, so watch the cook time.
Step 5: Combine and dish out
Add chicken and sauce to the skillet, and stir-fry for 2 more minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and vegetables are the desired tenderness. Serve hot.
Chicken Stir-Fry FAQ
Is stir-fry healthy?
A dish is as healthy as its ingredients. Because stir-fry is typically made with fresh vegetables, lean protein and minimal oil, the answer is usually yes!
What’s the best chicken for stir-fry?
Skinless chicken breast is the leanest option and easy to slice up for the wok, but if you prefer deboned, skinless chicken thighs, it works well too. Cut the pieces thin and uniformly, though, for even and fast cooking.
Can you change the vegetables in stir-fry?
Absolutely! Any vegetables you have on hand can work, especially broccoli, carrots, snow peas or sugar snap peas, cabbage or bok choy. I also love adding canned bamboo shoots or canned mushrooms, which are pantry staples for me.
What do you serve with chicken stir-fry?
Rice, of course! White, brown or go wild! You can also serve it with cooked noodles. (Make extra sauce, toss in cooked noodles and turn it into a chow mein.) Feeling ambitious or hosting? Make stir-fry as part of a multi-course meal with mapo tofu and fried rice.
How do you store chicken stir-fry?
Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container for up to three to four days in the refrigerator. The texture of the vegetables, however, will change when stored, so stir-fry is best eaten the day of.
Tips for Making Chicken Stir-Fry
Follow these tips for the perfect chicken stir-fry.
- Slice chicken thinly ahead of time. (Meat is easier to slice thinly when it is part frozen.)
- Step 1 in this recipe results in extra tender and soft chicken, but you can skip this step if you’re short on time or prefer a chewier texture.
- To use leftover cooked chicken or sliced rotisserie chicken for this recipe, skip Step 1 and Step 3.
- Prep vegetables by cutting into similar sized pieces before beginning to cook. Denser vegetables like carrots should be cut thinner.
- I like to boil an electric kettle of water during prep. Put veggies in a strainer and pour a full pot of boiling water over veggies to blanch (until colors turn bright!) before adding to stir-fry. Then cut the stir-frying time in half. This produces cooked but still crisp veggies that are perfection.
- Don’t be afraid to add the heat! If you love spicy food, add your favorite hot sauce while stir-frying.