Best Culinary Staple: The Humble Stir-Fry

January 2, 2014
The Humble Stir-fry is your best friend for healthy eating in 2014

Healthy choices start with a healthy meal.

Roughly 40% of Americans make New Year’s Resolutions.  This New Year, whether you’ve resolved to become a more mindful eater, play by your own rules, or manage your finances better (ahem), you’ll be needing (affordable) healthy meals to fuel your efforts and nourish you wholly.  I always make extra stir-fry, so I’ll have leftovers for lunch—which saves time, money, and possibly calories (if your other option is eating out).

The classic stir-fry was one of the first things I learned to cook when I began living by myself.  While I was transitioning to a whole foods, plant-based diet, I relied on this simple meal of rice and veggies more than almost any other vegan food (hello, almond milk).  Once you master the basics, you can customize your stir-fry to suit your mood (feeling spicy?) and your pantry (you know those days when you’ve only got an onion and a few carrots in the fridge, and you’re famished? Stir-fry!).

In fact, the recipe below is kind of like a Choose Your Own Adventure.  Hate celery? Leave it out.  Have a abundance of insert any veggie here?  Chop it up and throw it in! You may also adjust the ratio of grain to veggie—I like it about 50/50.  On days when I’m really craving comfort food, I stir in a bit of coconut milk for a creamier dish.  The options are really endless.

Finally, aside from being my home-cooked vegan staple, I love stir-frys because there’s something quite humble about them.  The basic ingredients—brown rice, onions, garlic, carrots, and celery—are affordable and easy to find in any market. This is a very easy dish to make, yet for all of its simplicity, the stir-fry always delivers with taste, texture, and often, color.  I am reminded of the power of remaining humble while making major life changes.  Most  lifestyle transitions are the result of subtle shifts over time.  I certainly didn’t become a vegan overnight; nor do I expect to have a perfectly balanced budget within a week.  Focusing on the small changes we can make a day at a time—like perparing a healthy dinner—will eventually lead us to our desired end result. For me, making the humble stir-fry will remain one of those small steps that support a larger goal.


2  dry cups brown rice, quinoa, or other healthy grain (cooked)

1 tbl. olive or coconut oil

1 yellow onion (chopped)

2 cloves of garlic (minced)

1 inch of ginger root (minced)

2 large carrots (chopped)

2 sticks of celery (chopped)

1 cup fresh or frozen corn

1 cup chopped mushrooms (I like baby bella or shitake)

1 generous dash of low-sodium tamari (or soy sauce)

Salt and pepper to taste

Optional Variations:

You can cook your grain in water cut with low-sodium veggie broth for more flavor.

After the dish is cooked, sprinkle on a few teaspoons of unrefined apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar, and/or lime juice.

Stir in coconut milk, sesame tahini, and/or miso paste for a slightly different texture and taste.

Stir-fry may be served over lightly sautéed kale or spinach.

Basil, green onions, chopped cashews, and cilantro make excellent toppers.

Vegetables in frying pan - The Humble Stir Fry

Half the fun of preparing a stir-fry is watching the veggies accumulate in your pan.


1. Cook your grain of choice, and remember to salt the water.  For two (dry) cups of brown rice, I put  ½ teaspoon of salt into 4½ cups liquid.  You may find that you prefer more salt, however. Follow instructions on the package for cooking time.
2. While your grain is cooking, warm oil in a large frying pan or wok.  Since I don’t want to over-cook my veggies, I lightly sauté them at a low heat.  (I guess they’re not exactly “fried.”)
3. When the oil is warm, sauté yellow onion until almost translucent.
4. Add your seasoning vegetables—garlic and ginger—and cook them for about a minute, stirring frequently so they don’t burn.
5. After the minute has passed, add your next veggie, say carrots, and sauté for a few minutes.
6. Repeat step 5 until you’ve sautéed all of your veggies.  (Adding them one at a time keeps the pan warm.)
7. After your grain is fully cooked, mix it with the veggies in your wok, stirring frequently.  Add tamari and any other seasonings you wish to include. Cook your veggie and rice mixture to desired fried-ness and serve.

Also by Mary: Raw Vegan Zucchini Noodle Buffet

Savory Red Quinoa Lunch Bowl

Vegan Oatmeal Brunch Bowl


Photos: Mary Hood

Peaceful Dumpling Beauty Editor and creator of Bisou du Jour, Mary Hood Luttrell lives with her husband in Corpus Christi, Texas. Mary is a freelance writer and writing and blogging consultant. A lover of whole foods, Mary delights in learning new ways to prepare vegan dishes. Mary also enjoys reading and writing poetry, art journaling, running, and practicing yoga and ballet. Follow Mary on her blog Bisou du Jour, Instagram and Pinterest.


always stay inspired!