Here’s how to make the very best fried rice: takeout style! Egg, veggies, garlic and ginger bring aromatic flavor to this homemade comfort food.
What’s your favorite comfort food? Mac and cheese and pizza can do the trick, but here’s our ultimate: Fried Rice! There’s something about the chewy clumps of eggs and the savory ginger and soy-infused bites that feels positively life giving. Usually we make fried rice on the fly without a recipe. But after years of tinkering, we wanted to share our master method. Here’s how to make the very best fried rice: it tastes just like takeout from your favorite restaurant!
Start with day old rice, if possible!
The most basic adage for this classic recipe is: use day old rice. Why use day old rice for fried rice?
- Freshly cooked rice has a lot of moisture. If you use fresh rice, it clumps together and turns out soggy.
- Day old rice dries out. When you cook it, the grains stay separate and form that signature texture. For the best fried rice, make it using leftovers (stored up to 5 days in the refrigerator) or boil a pot the night before.
- What if you don’t have day old rice? Keep reading for a shortcut…
No day old rice for fried rice? Here’s a trick!
Sometimes we don’t think ahead enough to have rice made up the night before. While that’s the primary path to fried rice, we’ve got a little shortcut. If you want to make fried rice the same day, here’s our shortcut.
- Make the rice. Once it’s finished steaming, proceed to the next step.
- Spread on a tray and freeze 15 minutes: Spread the freshly cooked rice onto a rimmed sheet pan or tray: you’ll notice lots of steam since it’s still hot. Place the tray in the freezer and freeze for about 15 to 20 minutes until the grains become cool to the touch. Some might even become frozen: that’s ok! They’ll heat right back up once they hit the pan.
Ingredients for the best fried rice
The very best fried rice, the kind that tastes like takeout, has very specific ingredients to get that signature flavor. Here are the ingredients for fried rice:
- Rice: Medium or long grain rice is best, because short grain rice can become clumpy. Basmati rice is a nice option. You can use either white rice or brown rice.
- Sesame oil: For cooking; use the standard variety, not toasted sesame oil.
- Onion and garlic: These aromatic veggies form the base.
- Fresh ginger: Very important for the very best flavor. Find fresh ginger root in the produce section in your grocery.
- Carrots, peas, and green cabbage (optional): Carrots and peas are classic. Green cabbage is optional, but it adds a nice contrasting texture.
- Eggs: Eggs are a must and add protein to make the recipe filling.
- Soy sauce: Essential for the final flavoring.
- Fish sauce (optional): It really amps the flavors to the next level, if you have it on hand. But it’s not necessary!
Fried rice variations
With a recipe as time-honored as this, there’s bound to be endless variations on the theme. Here are some of our favorite ways to change up fried rice, in order of preference:
- Shrimp Fried Rice: Add sauteed shrimp to make an incredibly flavorful and filling main dish. Our family favorite!
- Other Protein: Cook up some chicken, beef or pork to add to the mix.
- Quinoa Fried Rice: Use quinoa instead of rice for a unique spin.
- Three Onion Fried Rice: Use onions, shallots, and green onions to enhance the savory flavor.
- Cauliflower Fried Rice: Go grain free! Use cauliflower rice in place of the standard whole grain.
Make it a meal! What to serve with fried rice
Confession: in the past we’ve floundered when it comes to what to serve with egg fried rice. But take note: you’ve got to add some side dishes to make it a healthy meal. (Or make the shrimp version and it’s a full meal!) Here are some of our favorite sides to go with fried rice:
- Edamame: This veggie adds protein and is just plain fun to eat. Try our Easy Edamame or Spicy Edamame. (You could also try 5-Minute Shelled Edamame, but it’s most fun to serve them in the pods.)
- Tofu: A side of Pan Fried Tofu or Easy Marinated Tofu add a hit of plant-based protein.
- Broccoli: Try Simple Sauteed Broccoli or Pan Fried Broccoli with soy sauce. If you have ample prep time and stove space, serve with Broccoli Stir Fry.
- Cabbage: This Fried Cabbage would use up the rest of that green cabbage.
Vegan fried rice variation!
Love eating plant based? The egg is integral to the texture: but we’ve got a substitute for you that makes vegan fried rice:
- Make a tofu scramble! Go to Easy Tofu Scramble. Make sure to get the pieces fairly small so they’ll integrate into the texture like an egg would.
- Make the recipe without the egg, then stir in the tofu at the end.
This fried rice recipe is…
Vegetarian and gluten-free. For vegan, plant-based, and dairy-free, see the notes in the recipe.Print
Here’s how to make the very best fried rice: takeout style! Egg, veggies, garlic and ginger bring aromatic flavor to this homemade comfort food. Variation: Try Shrimp Fried Rice for additional protein.
- 1/2 yellow or white onion
- 2 large garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger (about 1 inch nub)
- 2 large carrots
- 2 cups chopped green cabbage (optional)
- 3 tablespoons sesame oil, divided
- 4 eggs*
- 1/2 cup frozen peas
- 4 cups cooked rice, at least 1 day old (use How to Cook Rice or Instant Pot Rice), or use shortcut**
- 3 to 4 tablespoons soy sauce (or liquid aminos)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce (optional)
- Green onion, for garnish (optional)
- Mince the onion. Mince the garlic. Mince the ginger. Peel the carrots, then dice them. If using, chop the cabbage.
- In a large skillet or wok, heat 2 tablespoons of the sesame oil medium high. Saute the carrots and onion for 2 minutes. Add the cabbage, garlic and ginger and saute for 2 minutes. Stir in the rice, peas and salt for 1 minute.
- Push the rice to the side. Add 1 tablespoon more oil. Add the eggs and pinch of salt, and scramble them in for 1 to 2 minutes until cooked through.
- Add the soy sauce and fish sauce, if using. Taste and add additional soy sauce if necessary. Heat for a minute or two, stirring, until all rice is coated. Serve hot.
*For a vegan variation, make a Tofu Scramble first, keeping the pieces fairly small. Make the rice without the egg, then stir in the scrambled tofu in the last step.
**Trick: If you don’t have day old rice, here’s a shortcut. Make the rice. Then spread it onto a rimmed sheet pan and put it into the freezer. Freeze for about 15 to 20 minutes until the grains become cool to the touch. Some might even become frozen: that’s ok! They’ll heat right back up once they hit the pan.
- Category: Main Dish
- Method: Stir Fried
- Cuisine: Asian
Keywords: Fried Rice, Egg Fried Rice, How to Make Fried Rice
More rice recipes
- Spanish Rice and Beans A pantry-staple sort of meal that works as a healthy vegan and vegetarian dinner or a hearty side.
- Black Beans and Rice Long-grain rice is jumbled with black beans and green bell pepper, and seasoned with cumin, lime and cilantro.
- Asparagus Risotto This flavor-packed risotto pairs creamy arborio rice with Parmesan and lemony roasted asparagus.
- Easy Spanish Paella A traditional Spanish dish that looks simply stunning.
About the Authors
Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.