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This vegetable fried rice recipe is a fast and easy dinner recipe to use up any vegetables you have on hand in your refrigerator and freezer!

Vegetable fried rice
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“How do I take a recipe and adapt it to fit what’s in my refrigerator?” Alex and I get asked this a lot. The hard part is, there is no simple answer. A list of “rules,” like pair this with that, doesn’t mean a lot out of context. So here’s a recipe to practice: this easy vegetable fried rice! Fried rice is a perfect clean out the fridge meal that you can customize based on what you have on hand. The best part? It’s seriously delicious! The chewy eggs, ginger and garlic-scented veggies, and savory grains of rice make it taste just like takeout. Ready to get started?

Love fried rice? Also try our Fried Rice (Takeout Style!) and Shrimp Fried Rice.

How to make vegetable fried rice: a tutorial

With fried rice, almost anything goes! It’s a forgiving recipe concept that’s perfect for using up veggies you have on hand. That makes it great for reducing food waste, too! Here are the basic steps for how to make vegetable fried rice with any vegetables you have on hand.

Step 1: Start with day old rice (or dry out the rice).

The most basic adage for this recipe: use day old rice. Why do you need to use day old rice for fried rice? Freshly cooked rice retains a lot of moisture. So if you use fresh rice in fried rice, it clumps together and turns out soggy. Day old rice has dried out, so it forms the distinct grains that make that signature fried rice texture. So, it’s easiest to make this recipe if you have leftover rice or make it the night before. But if not…

What if you don’t have day old rice? Can you dry out rice for fried rice? Actually, yes! Here’s what to do to use freshly cooked rice in your fried rice: 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.

What’s the best rice to use for fried rice? Medium or long grain rice works best, since short grain rice can become clumpy. You can use either brown or white rice. Basmati rice is a nice long-grain rice to use: here’s How to Cook Basmati Rice. Or you could use our Instant Pot Brown Rice or Instant Pot White Rice methods.

How to Cook Basmati Rice

Step 2: Saute the veggies.

Once you’ve figured out your rice situation, you’ll saute the veggies! Use a large skillet and drizzle in sesame oil. Then you’ll saute the veggies. Here’s the key to the saute: Start with the hardest veggies first because they take the longest to cook. Then add the thinner vegetables gradually. If you happen to have fresh ginger root, it brings in the signature “fried rice” flavor. Here’s what we did for this recipe:

  • Start with harder veggies like minced onion and carrot. Saute them for 5 minutes total.
  • Add softer veggies like greens and cabbage. Saute them for 3 minutes total.
  • Add flavorings like minced garlic and ginger. We like to add these with the greens.

Vegetables to use in fried rice

There are lots of different vegetables you can use in vegetable fried rice. Here’s what we used, and some additional ideas to riff on:

  • Onion (red, white, yellow or green)
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Carrots
  • Peas
  • Edamame
  • Cabbage (green or red)
  • Spinach
  • Bok choy
  • Broccoli
Vegetable fried rice

Step 3: Add the egg and scramble.

The signature part of vegetable fried rice: the egg! Once you’ve quickly sauteed the veggies, stir in the egg and let it scramble. Break it up into pieces using your spatula, so that it will evenly distribute throughout the rice. For vegan vegetable fried rice, scroll down.

Step 4: Add the rice and final flavorings.

Then, you’re ready for the rice! Add the dried out rice: we’ve also added frozen peas in this step, which bring a lovely green color. Since they’ve already been cooked before frozen, they just need to be heated through. At this point, we add soy sauce and a little more sesame oil for the final flavoring.

There you have it! This vegetable fried rice is a tried and true clean out the refrigerator meal that we eat time and time again. Let us know if you try it out in the comments below, and what vegetables you use.

Vegetable fried rice

Variation 1: vegetable fried rice…without the rice!

Even better, you can even make vegetable fried rice without the rice! Here are a few options:

Variation 2: vegan vegetable fried rice!

The egg is an integral part of vegetable fried rice…but what if you want it to be totally plant based? Here’s what you can do:

  • 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 fried rice without the egg, then stir in the tofu at the end.

This vegetable fried rice recipe is…

Vegetarian and gluten free.

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Vegetable fried rice

Easy Vegetable Fried Rice

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  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
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This vegetable fried rice recipe is a fast and easy dinner recipe to use up any vegetables you have on hand in your refrigerator and freezer!


  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger (optional)
  • 3 carrots
  • 1/4 small green cabbage
  • 4 baby bok choy heads or 4 cups baby spinach (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 4 eggs
  • ½ cup frozen peas
  • 4 cups cooked white rice or brown rice, at least one day old (use How to Cook Rice or Instant Pot method)
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Black pepper


  1. Mince the onion. Mince the garlic. Mince the ginger, if using. Peel the carrots, then dice them. Shred the cabbage. Chop off the bottoms of the bok choy, then thinly slice the leaves (chiffonade).
  2. In a large skillet or wok, heat 2 tablespoons sesame oil. Saute the carrots and onion for 2 minutes. Add the bok choy, cabbage, garlic and ginger (if using) and saute for 2 minutes.
  3. Push the vegetables 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.
  4. Add the peas, rice, soy sauce, kosher salt, and fresh ground pepper. Stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon sesame oil. Heat for a minute or two, stirring, until all rice is coated. Taste and add more soy sauce if desired. Serve hot.
  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Asian Inspired

Looking for more fast and easy dinner recipes?

In addition to this vegetable fried rice, here a few more of our favorite fast and easy dinner recipes:

Last updated: June 2020

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes and the joy of cooking! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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  1. o says:

    Great recipe

  2. angela @ another bite please says:

    this looks so fresh…love all the vegetables.

  3. Lindsey @ Pas de Deux says:

    I have a meeting on Sunday afternoon, but otherwise I would TOTALLY join you for the eHang out. I was given a terrific book, Culinary Artistry, as a wedding gift by a family friend who had just completed culinary school. It has a whole section on good ingredient/flavor pairings–it’s a great reference tool!

    1. Sonja says:

      Maybe next time on the hangout! Culinary Artistry sounds like a great resource! We’ll have to check that out.

  4. sandra says:

    I have a real hard time adapting recipes to fit what I have. I try it all the time but most of the time it doesn’t work out. I suppose I just need to give it more attention/practice and some day I will be able to whip anything up and have it taste great.

    1. Sonja says:

      Yes, we have found that adapting recipes takes practice, practice, practice! And several failures no matter how experienced you are. But it gets easier the more you do it! Good luck giving it a try — and fried rice is a good place to start!

  5. Courtney Jones says:

    Funny! On the weekend I had a craving for fried rice. This looks great! Thank you for the great recipe. I have some veggies to use up in the fridge :)

  6. Jess says:

    Fried rice (or sometimes quinoa) is a staple in our kitchen. It’s so true that it’s one of the best ways I’ve found for using up lots of vegetables just throwing a few things together at the last minute. I’ll be sad to miss the hangout this weekend (time difference being what it is), but sounds like a lot of fun!

    1. Sonja says:

      Thanks, Jess! We missed you but will have to chat some other time! :)

  7. Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar says:

    Rice is perfect for adapting, but I love all the ingredients you added to this. Yum!