Fried rice is one of those satisfying comfort foods beloved by many for its soft yet crispy rice with tender chicken and snappy vegetables all wrapped up in a garlicky, sesame-soy sauce. Because it's so convenient, chicken fried rice gets added to the end of every takeout order of moo-shu pork and pan-fried dumplings that comes through our door, where it becomes quick lunches and lazy dinners the rest of the week.
Intent on replacing a weekly takeout order of fried rice with an equally delicious dinner at home, I set out to master chicken fried rice. The result is a recipe that includes everything from cooking the rice (because we don't all have leftovers on hand when the craving strikes) to the best way to cook the egg while only dirtying one pan. Here's how you can make chicken fried rice at home without a wok in under an hour.
Making Better Chicken Fried Rice at Home
A takeout staple, fried rice is comfort food at its finest. You can quickly pull leftovers into a dish of crispy rice studded with crisp vegetables and tender chicken. Making chicken fried rice at home is as simple as memorizing the order of ingredients and using the right pan for the job.
Learn more basics here: How To Make Fried Rice
For Your Information
- This recipe calls for cooking and cooling rice, but if you've got leftover rice already, use it up! You'll need 3 cups of cooked rice.
- Chicken breast or thighs cut into one-inch pieces cook evenly and quickly for stir-fry. You'll need 3/4 of a pound.
- You can use fresh, frozen, or even leftover vegetables for this recipe, but be sure to grab fresh ginger and green onions at the market.
Fried Rice at Home, No Wok Necessary
The best fried rice is stir-fried in a wok where the ingredients cook quickly and evenly along the sides of a seasoned wok, but you can make delicious fried rice at home without one. Use a large, straight-sided skillet that's 12 inches or larger. Expect some sticking to the bottom of pan despite the use of oil, as the pan is not nonstick like a wok or a nonstick pan. That doesn't mean you'll want your nonstick pan for this recipe: Nonstick pans are not suitable to the high heat of stir-frying.
The Chicken Stir-Fry Step by Step
- Cook and cool the rice. The recipe below gives instructions for cooking and cooling the rice, as you don't always have rice in the fridge when the craving for fried rice strikes. If you already have cooked and cooled rice, you'll need 3 cups for this fried rice.
- Prepare ingredients. While the rice cools, marinate the chicken, mince your garlic, cut the carrot, and measure out soy sauce and sesame oil. Once you start stir-frying, there will be no time for slicing or dicing so get everything ready ahead of time.
- Stir-frying moves quickly. After the chicken is cooked through, the vegetables will all be added in quick succession and stir-fried for less than a minute. The rice goes in toward the very end and requires a little more oil to become crisp in the pan.
- Cook the egg at the very end. Many fried rice recipes call for cooking the egg in a separate pan, but you can skip dirtying an extra pan if you add the egg at the very end of cooking.
Serving and Storing Chicken Fried Rice
Chicken fried rice is what my family affectionately calls bowl food, meaning it's served in a bowl tucked close to our mouths for shoveling in while hot. It really is a complete meal all on its own, and since it only requires one pan, it makes the most of an hour of weeknight cooking.
How To Make the Best Chicken Fried Rice Without a Wok
What You Need
For the rice:
1 cup long-grain white rice
1 3/4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter or vegetable oil (optional)
For the chicken:
12 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
For the stir-fry:
4 tablespoons canola or other neutral-flavored oil, divided
2 teaspoons minced (not grated) fresh peeled ginger (from a 1-inch piece)
Pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 cup diced carrot
1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 cup roasted peanuts or cashews (optional)
Measuring cups and spoons
2-quart saucepan with a lid
Knife and cutting board
12-inch or larger stainless steel skillet
Fish spatula or other thin, flexible metal spatula
- Rinse the rice. Rinse the rice in a fine-mesh strainer under cold running water to remove any starch on the outside of the rice; set aside to drain.
- Add the rice, salt, and butter to boiling water. Bring the water to a boil in a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the rice, salt, and butter or oil if using, and return to a simmer. Cover and reduce the heat to low. Do not remove the lid while the rice cooks because steam escapes and this will change the cooking time.
- Check the rice after 18 minutes. Check the rice after about 18 minutes. The rice is finished when firm but not crunchy. The grains may stick together but should not be gummy. If there is any excess water in the bottom of the pan, tilt the pan to drain it off. Turn off the heat, cover again, and let stand for 3 minutes.
- Fluff the rice with fork and spread on a baking sheet. Uncover and fluff the rice with a fork. Transfer to a baking sheet, spread it out into an even layer, and refrigerate while you prepare the rest of the ingredients, at least 30 minutes. (Alternatively, if you prefer chewier fried rice, refrigerate overnight.)
- Measure and set out the ingredients. Before beginning to stir-fry, cut and measure all of the ingredients. Use your fingers or a fork to break up any large clumps of rice. Arrange ingredients in order of use next to the stovetop.
- Marinate the chicken in soy sauce, rice vinegar, black pepper, and sesame oil for 5 to 10 minutes. Combine all the ingredients for the chicken together in a medium bowl. Set aside to marinate for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Cook the chicken for 6 to 8 minutes. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a 12-inch or larger stainless steel skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the chicken and cook until browned and cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove chicken to a plate.
- Increase the heat. Increase the heat to high and return the skillet to the burner.
- Add another 1 tablespoon of oil. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil, pick up the pan, and carefully swirl it to coat the bottom and sides. (If the oil smokes immediately when added, your pan is too hot. Take the pan off of the burner and let it cool for a few minutes. Once cool enough to handle, wipe the oil out with paper towels and start again.)
- Stir-fry the ginger and red pepper flakes for 10 seconds. Add the ginger and red pepper flakes and stir-fry until fragrant, about 10 seconds.
- Stir-fry the carrots for 1 minute. Add the carrots and stir-fry until bright orange, about 1 minute.
- Stir-fry the peas and corn for 30 seconds. Add the peas and corn and stir-fry until heated through, about 30 seconds.
- Add the last of the oil. Drizzle in the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil.
- Stir-fry the rice and green onions for 2 minutes. Add the rice and scallions, then stir-fry for 2 minutes. Break up the rice with the spatula until the rice is heated through and combined with the vegetables. Stirring with a thin metal spatula will help, but expect some of the rice to stick to the pan since you are not using a wok or nonstick pan.
- Season the rice with soy sauce, sesame oil, salt, and pepper and stir-fry 10 seconds. Drizzle the tamari or soy sauce and sesame oil around the edge of the skillet. Sprinkle the salt and pepper over the rice and stir-fry until the seasonings are completely incorporated, about 10 seconds.
- Lower the heat, push the rice to one side, and scramble the egg. Lower the heat to medium. Use the spatula to push the fried rice to one side of the skillet. Pour the beaten egg into the empty space and scramble until cooked. Toss the egg with the rice.
Add the chicken and nuts. Return the cooked chicken to the rice, add the nuts if using, and stir to combine.
- Storage: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
- Make ahead: The rice can be made and vegetables can be cut and measured up to 2 days in advance. Refrigerate until ready to stir-fry.