Stuck in a plain soy sauce rut? Break out with these 18 easy vegan stir fry sauce recipes, ranging from hot to spicy to sweet and sour, what better way to get your five-a-day than with a flavorful sauce-coated vibrant stir fry?
Everyone loves a good stir fry but not everyone knows how to make one. While most are better eaten fresh while the vegetables are still perfectly tender and crunchy, stir fry sauces can actually either be cooked with the vegetables or made separately ahead of time and then stirred through.
Stir-fries make the perfect quick dinners so it’s well worth your time looking into how to make them, you can even cut veggies and prep sauces ahead of time for a midweek dinner in minutes.
Not only have I put together a list of 8 delicious sauces you can use for stir-fries, but I’ve also included information on ingredients to make your own sauce, the perfect vegetables to use in stir-fries, and more. Click on the links below to get to where you want to be or scroll on down to see everything.
- Stir fry sauces
- Homemade stir fry sauce recipe ingredients
- The best vegetables for stir frying
- Vegan proteins for stir fries
- Stir fry toppings
- Serve it over:
Stir fry sauces
Use these bad boys to plan a menu full of healthful delicious vegan stir-fries.
Homemade stir fry sauce recipe ingredients
Raid your cupboard and see how many of the top most common stir fry sauce ingredients you have to hand and rejoice in the fact that many of them are vegan! We’re talking about:
- Soy sauce
- Vegetarian oyster sauce (usually mushroom based)
- Sesame oil
- Vegetable broth
- Fresh ginger
- Brown sugar, maple syrup or sweetener of choice
- Rice vinegar
- Corn starch (combine with cold water or cold stock, not hot)
- Red pepper flakes (for heat)
If you have any or most of these ingredients to hand, then you can try your hand at making your own vegetable stir fry sauce by selecting a few and adding a few tablespoons to a mason jar or any other airtight container, close it, shake it hard, and voila, your own special stir fry sauce.
Add to mostly-cooked vegetables and cook until thickened (especially important if you’ve included cornstarch, you should cook for two-three minutes to cook out the floury taste).
I find it’s best to start with a salty or sweet base like soy sauce, tamari, or even a citrus juice, and then add ingredients to taste.
The best vegetables for stir frying
Whether you’re looking in the fridge to see what you have to hand, or looking to go out to the store and buy some fresh ones, it’s a good idea to include as many vegetables as possible in your stir fry.
Try and use vegetables you wouldn’t usually eat, I know I’m particularly guilty of just using bell peppers and onions for everything. Almost as important as the vegetables you use is how you cook them. Stir-fried veggies should ideally be just barely fork-tender and brightly colored, not mushy or darkened and wilted.
Ideally use a wok or the largest pan you own and make sure it’s very hot (if using oil it should be hot enough to hiss) before you add any vegetables. Make sure the vegetables have been cut up to a similar size and add harder vegetables first for an additional minute or two (like carrots or broccoli).
Don’t overcrowd the pan either or the vegetables will steam instead of sear on the hot sides of the pan, and always cook it less time than you think it needs as the veggies will continue to cook a little from the residual heat after taking them off the stovetop.
Ideal vegetables to use in stir-fries include:
- Baby corn, cut in half.
- Bamboo, buy the canned cut shoots.
- Bean sprouts, fresh and only add at the very end for a minute as they wilt fast.
- Bell peppers, any color, sliced into thin strips.
- Bok choy, I slice the thick paler part ito strips and fry and reserve the green tips for the end of cooking.
- Broccoli, cut into very small florets.
- Cabbage, slice thinly and add near the end of cooking.
- Carrots, cut thinly on the diagonal and added at the start.
- Green onions, stir fry the whites and finely chop the greens and reserve for garnish.
- Mushrooms, I love all types in stir fries, don’t chop just slice.
- Snow peas, also called mangetout, just toss in whole.
- Sugar snap peas, toss in whole at the start of cooking.
- Water chestnuts, buy canned and peeled, slice and add at the end of cooking.
- Yellow onions, slice into thick strips and add at the start if not using the whites of green onions.
Vegan proteins for stir fries
While stir-fried veggies are great, we can’t live on vegetables alone. Popular vegan proteins that can successfully be added to stir-fries to make a more filling and nutritionally complete meal include soy curls, tofu, seitan, and tempeh.
Soy curls will often need to be rehydrated for cooking. Tofu won’t crisp up if added with the veggies, you’ll need to either fry it beforehand, bake it in the oven, or crisp it up a bit in the air fryer (my favorite option, and the easiest and quickest).
Seitan should be thinly sliced and added at the beginning of the stir fry. I love tempeh but it does tend to fall apart so I fry it separately (and cautiously) and add it at the end.
Don’t be afraid to step outside the box and add some legumes either, even though they aren’t traditional stir fry ingredients. I have bags of frozen cooked chickpeas and black beans in my freezer and will just chuck a handful into stir-fries to make them more filling, no need to defrost.
Stir fry toppings
You have your vegetables cooked, your protein ready, your rice or noodles prepped, and your delicious sauce made. You can stop here if you wish, or go that bit further by adding some of the following toppings to really make for a showstopper of a meal.
- Sesame seeds
- Sriracha sauce
- Chopped green onions/scallions
- Chopped cilantro
- Chopped peanuts
If you’re feeding a crowd, you can also just add toppings to some small bowls and place them in the center of the table so everyone can choose their own.
Serve it over:
This one I’m sure everyone knows, but stir-fries are best served over rice or noodles. I love white rice, basmati rice, and long-grain brown rice, as the rice really goes well with an extra tasty sauce.
Of course, you can also actually add the rice /make sure it’s cold, day-old rice is perfect) to the pan with veggies and let it get nice and crisp for stir-fried rice, and then top it with a sauce (my easy vegetarian Nasi Goreng is a perfect delicious example of this, just skip the egg to make it vegan).
For noodles, I definitely prefer to stir them through the ingredients and sauce in the pan instead of just serving the vegetables and sauce on top. Perfect noodles for stirfries include thin rice noodles, fat udon noodles, wheat noodles, and even spaghetti in a pinch!
Just make sure that whichever type of noodles you use, they’re cooked and well-drained before adding to the pan. I like to add them cold as I find they can get kind of gummy and absorb too much liquid if you add them hot.