Vegan stir fry is full of various vegetables, all cooked in different stages to create a perfect vegan stir fry recipe drizzled with homemade stir fry sauce. Quick and easy recipe in under 30 minutes!
What makes a vegan stir fry better than another vegan stir fry? When I cook or order a stir fry, I am picky about how my vegetables are cooked. And more important than the way the vegetables are cooked is the stir fry sauce. There is nothing worse than soggy stir fry. And this vegan stir fry recipe is anything but soggy!
My cooking ability has improved since becoming plant-based, as has my taste for good food. As a result, I now consider myself a vegan foodie.
When I first became vegan, the best meal I could expect at a restaurant was a lame pasta marinara with soggy vegetables. And my cooking could have been better.
Recently, my husband, Paul, said he couldn't believe my food could improve, but it is! So, for those who think you "can't cook," you can, and I'm an example of someone who thought I couldn't cook either.
As a result, I am a food snob, so let's make a foodie vegan stir fry!
Stir Fry Ingredients
I included every rainbow color for color and nutritional benefit for this recipe. However, the trick to the perfect stir fry is to cook the vegetables in a particular order so it stays fresh.
Furthermore, I listed the vegetables in the order I plan to cook them in my stir fry. The worst stir fry recipes are soggy and swimming in sauce rather than tasting like fresh vegetables.
So, it is important to cook in layers or stages. I used a wok and cooked the vegetables in a particular order.
First, I cooked the garlic, onion, mushrooms, and ginger.
- Garlic: Garlic and onion cooked together to create a fabulous base flavor. I prefer fresh garlic over jarred garlic.
- White onion: I like using white onion for stir fry because it has a sharper and more intense flavor than yellow onions. They also tend to be more tender and have thinner, papery skin.
- Mushrooms: I consider mushrooms the meat of a great vegetable stir fry. Mushrooms have an earthy, slightly woodsy, meaty flavor and are one of the foods that contain umami flavors.
- Ginger: Fresh ginger is spicy and sweet, and while ground ginger retains some of that pepper spice and sweetness, its flavor is much milder. If you seek high-quality ground ginger, the taste is more intense and reminiscent of fresh flavor.
Next, I add broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower to the wok with the first ingredients.
- Broccoli: I love broccoli because it absorbs flavors and sauces well. It's very crunchy with a slightly sweet, and somewhat bitter taste when eaten raw. However, when it's cooked, its flavor becomes sweeter.
- Carrots: Carrots are naturally sweet and offer a beautiful color to a stir fry.
- Cauliflower: Similar to broccoli, cauliflower absorbs flavors like a sponge.
Lastly, I add the peppers, zucchini, and bok choy because they are dense and need less cooking time than other vegetables.
- Red bell pepper: The sweetest bell peppers, and red peers enhance the flavors.
- Zucchini: Zucchini has a mild flavor, slightly sweet and slightly bitter, with a rich feel. When cooked, its sweetness enhances.
- Bok Choy: For me, bok choy adds a tasty component. Its texture is firmer than other greens and absorbs flavors while maintaining crunchiness.
Stir Fry Ingredient Substitutions
- Choose vegetables such as snap peas, green beans, asparagus, or green peppers.
- Yellow summer squash is similar in texture and composition to zucchini.
- Red onions are sweeter and less intense than white onions.
- Choose any colored bell peppers, or consider using baby bell peppers.
- If you want a spicier stir fry, add jalapeno or serrano peppers.
- Portobello mushrooms are firmer in texture than white mushrooms.
How to Cook Vegan Stir Fry
For instance, the garlic, onions, and mushrooms are all sauteed together until the onions are translucent and the mushrooms are browned.
Although I did not have to use any vegetable broth in the wok, add a little broth if your vegetables stick to the bottom of the wok or pan.
Then, add the second group of vegetables: broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower, because they are of similar size and texture.
Because the carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower take the longest, cooking in layers allows every vegetable to cook perfectly so as not to get soggy or mushy.
Again, I did not need to add any vegetable broth because the vegetables have a lot of water, creating natural moisture. You do not, however, add any sauce yet!
I recommend moving the carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower to the bottom of the pan and tossing them around every few minutes for 10 minutes. Next, I add the third stage or layer of vegetables, the zucchini, red bell pepper, and bok choy.
Since red bell peppers, zucchini, and bok choy cook quickly, they get added last. And you only cook these three vegetables over the previous 5 minutes, so they stay cooked.
Now, for the essential part of cooking a perfect stir-fry, wait to add the sauce! Also, less sauce is more! So, even though the sauce recipe below makes 1 ¼ cups of sauce, I only use ¼-1/2 cups of sauce.
Stir Fry Sauce Ingredients
If you choose to add the teriyaki tofu, you can use the rest of the sauce for the tofu marinade. Or, you can serve additional sauce on the side for people who want more.
The first goal, for instance, in making a homemade vegan stir-fry sauce, is to use fresh ingredients and avoid refined sugar.
No matter what kind of jarred sauce you buy at the store, it has too many ingredients, which all translate to sugar.
- Soy sauce: Soy sauce gives the sauce an umami flavor. Choose low-sodium soy sauce if trying to reduce sodium intake.
- Water: Water thins the sauce but also helps balance the ingredients.
- Fresh Pineapple: Fresh is best. It brings natural sweetness to the stir-fry sauce.
- Garlic: Fresh garlic is always best when available.
- Ginger: Spicy and naturally sweet, ginger is essential to a great stir-fry sauce.
- Rice vinegar: Rice vinegar is sweet with an acidic base, making it for stir fry.
- Arrowroot powder: Arrowroot powder is a thickener. When heated with the blended ingredients, the sauce gets thick and sticky.
Stir Fry Sauce Substitutions
If you cannot access fresh ingredients, here are some substitutions for swapping ingredients.
- Replace fresh pineapple with pineapple juice.
- No pineapple or pineapple juice? How about using ¼ cup agave or maple syrup instead?
- Substitute cornstarch for arrowroot powder.
- Use 1 teaspoon of ginger spice instead of fresh ginger.
- Use 1 ½ teaspoons of garlic powder instead of fresh garlic cloves.
- Substitute Tamari for soy sauce for a gluten-free option.
Even though I always try to use fresh, sometimes fresh isn't an option, so there is always a way to substitute ingredients.
Brown Rice vs. Quinoa
Recently, I posted two different posts about how to cook brown rice and how to cook quinoa to make meal prep easier. When I meal prep, I always make brown rice and quinoa to use in dishes throughout the week.
For example, I used brown rice. But if you prefer quinoa, it works just as well with vegetables and sauce.
Since Paul and I are the only ones eating today, I made rice using the stovetop directions. But sometimes, I combine quinoa and brown rice for a unique texture.
Whenever I make a small amount of rice, I use the stovetop version because it takes less time.
Or, if you don't like rice or quinoa, try using ramen noodles used in ramen noodle salad or stir fry ramen noodles.
If you are trying to lose weight, you want to add twice the amount of vegetables to your bowl than brown rice.
- Add a small amount of rice to the bottom of the plate or bowl.
- Scoop large amounts of vegetable stir fry on top of the rice.
- Sprinkle with black sesame seeds (optional).
- Top with teriyaki tofu (optional).
- Serve with extra sauce.
And the leftovers make a great lunch that reheats well in just a few minutes.
Instead of meat, you can opt for healthy substitutes, including tofu, tempeh, edamame, and beans.
The spices that go well with a vegan stir fry are basil, cilantro, oregano, coriander, cumin, and cardamom. You can also use the citrus zest, ginger, lemongrass, and lower-sodium soy sauce.
I only suggest blanching vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, and carrots, but only if in a hurry. If you cook in stages, blanching is optional.
- To avoid soggy vegetables, cook the vegetables in stages.
- Do not add sauce to the vegetables while cooking. Instead, add it in the last few minutes, preventing the vegetables from getting soggy.
- Keep the rice or quinoa separate; do not add the rice to the wok to cook with the vegetables.
- Use a wok or large skillet for cooking vegetables evenly.
If you are a vegetable lover, you must try this vegan stir fry recipe. You will love the sauce and the perfectly cooked vegetables.
Try These Tasty Recipes
Do you love this vegan stir fry recipe? If so, please give us a 5-star review and comment below. We would love to hear from you!
Vegan Stir Fry
- 1 cup short-grain brown rice
- 1 ¼ cup water
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
Vegetables (Grouped in stages of cooking)
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 large white onion sliced thin
- 16 ounces sliced mushrooms
- 1 head broccoli cut into bite-sized florets
- ½ head cauliflower cut into bite-sized florets
- 1 red bell pepper sliced thin
- 2 heads bok choy
- 2 carrots cut into coins
- 1 zucchini cut into coins
- 1 inch fresh ginger grated
- Black sesame seeds optional garnish
Stir Fry Sauce (Makes 1 ½ cup; I only used ¼ -½ cup)
- ½ cup Tamari or soy sauce
- ¼ cup water
- ½ cup fresh pineapple
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon arrowroot powder
- Follow the directions provided on How to Cook Brown Rice.
- I used the stovetop method, but you can cook to order using your own chosen method.
Stir Fry Sauce
- Combine all the ingredients in a high-speed blender.
- Transfer the contents of the blender to a small saucepan.
- Heat on low heat, stirring occasionally.
- The sauce will thicken as it heats through.
- Although this recipe makes 1 ½ cups of sauce, I only used ¼-1/2 cups for the stir fry and reserved the sauce for another recipe.
- Do not add the stir-fry sauce until you are done cooking the vegetables.
Prepare Vegetables into Groups for Different Stages of Cooking
- Saute garlic, mushrooms, and onions together over medium-high heat in a wok until onions are translucent and mushrooms are browned.
- Then, add carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower and cook for 10 minutes, moving these vegetables to the wok's bottom, stirring occasionally.
- Next, add the red bell peppers, zucchini, and bok choy last, cooking for an additional 5 minutes, stirring in the last group of vegetables.
- Last, add a small amount of sauce, tossing it lightly into the cooked vegetables.
- Add a small amount of cooked brown rice (or quinoa) into the bowl or plate base.
- Then, add large scoops of vegetables on top of the brown rice.
- Sprinkle with black sesame seeds (optional)
- If you do not have access to fresh ingredients, here are some substitutions for swapping out ingredients.
- Replace fresh pineapple with pineapple juice
- No pineapple or pineapple juice? How about using ¼ cup agave or maple syrup instead
- Cornstarch can be swapped for arrowroot powder.
- Use 1 teaspoon of ginger spice instead of fresh ginger
- Use 1 ½ teaspoon garlic powder instead of fresh garlic cloves
- Use fresh instead of frozen vegetables to avoid soggy stir-fries.
- Cook brown rice or quinoa in advance and reheat as needed.
- Do not add the stir fry sauce while cooking the vegetables. Instead, wait until right before serving to add the sauce.
- For a gluten-free option, choose Tamari or liquid aminos instead of soy sauce.
Hi! My name is Kathy, I am a retired high school English teacher & vegan enthusiast and blogger. My entire blog is fully plant-based vegan. I truly believe what we eat & how we live determines our health & the preservation of our planet! 🙂
Just heads up this makes enough to feed a small army and I had some trouble fitting all the ingredients into the wok. Very good though.
Hi James, I'm glad you liked the stir fry. I'm sorry you found it to be too much food. The number of servings is noted on the recipe card. I have never had difficulty fitting it in the wok. Maybe I have a larger wok?
Pam in Sacramento
Very tasty! It's the sauce that does it. I've made this a few times now with different veggies, depending on what's in the fridge or the garden. We enjoyed it.
I used frozen pineapple tidbits from Trader Joes for the fresh pineapple in the sauce. I also add about 1/3 cup of pineapple tidbits into the stirfry with the last veggies I add. Hubby loves pineapple fried rice (the greasy restaurant version) and this lets him have his pineapple fix in a much healthier manner. He loves it.
Thank you for another keeper.
Hi Pam, I'm so glad you like the stir fry. I love sauce too, so I understand. Have you tried my pineapple fried rice recipe? The hubby may approve 🙂
Can you use frozen vegetables? If yes, how do you cook so that they are not soggy? I cook without oil but they always seem to be soggy in the end.
Hi Beem, I sometimes use frozen vegetables that aren't in season but only a few added in. The problem with frozen vegetables is their water content from being frozen. Try thawing them first on a paper towel or a kitchen towel to absorb some of the water. However, using fresh is best to avoid soggy veggies.
I’m thinking of making this for my lunches at work I noticed it said about 172 calories per serving is that close to accurate because that would be perfect for my diet.
Hi Jessica, based on the amount of servings sizes in the recipe, a calorie and nutritional calculator figures out the calories and the other components using the specific ingredients. So, yes, it is accurate.
Excited to try this recipe! When you use carrots, looks like you cut them into coins, but how much do you use?
Hi Laurel, 2 carrots were cut into equal-sized coins. Sorry about that; it looks like I left the carrots out of the ingredients.
I see the ingredients for the stir fry sauce, but how do you actually make it? Is it all blended up in a blender?
Hi JC, the instructions are in the recipe card at the bottom of the blog post. I hope you enjoy the recipe.
This stir fry was very easy to make and so very delicious! Thank you for the recipe.