My latest batch of “anything” fried rice. I apologize for the terrible photo quality. 😂
I will be the first to admit that I am not good at A LOT of things. Sports (both team and individual) using my Skip-It on the left foot, math, sugar-coating anything, being detail-oriented, organizing…the list goes on. But one thing I’m REALLY good at? “Chopped: Fried Rice Edition.” I VOLUNTEER AS TRIBUTE, FOOD NETWORK!! 💁🏻
Neal would say this talent of creating delicious fried rice out of anything we have at a given time is one of my greatest magic tricks, and I thought to myself (after whipping up a batch last week), “why haven’t I turned this into a blog post yet!?”
Perhaps it’s because the universe was waiting for the right time…which is clearly now. 😂Never has the ability to create a delicious meal from pantry/freezer/fridge staples been more relevant.
So, I present to you––Jess’ methodology to making “Anything fried rice.” Nope, it’s not a recipe––it’s a methodology! (If you have my Trader Joe’s Hacks e-Book, you’re already familiar with this methodology.) I consider it a “life skill.” 😉
The decision-making –– what to put in your fried rice?
First, what’s your “rice”?
In my case, I usually like to combine TJ’s cauli rice stir fry (one full package–I like it because it comes with veggies in it already and is pre-seasoned, but regular plain cauli rice works fine too!) combined with regular brown rice (one full package TJ’s frozen brown rice), because I like to make things that ARE healthy without TASTING healthy and also that’s the easiest for me to grab and cook. 😂
Don’t have either of these? That’s totally fine!! I bet you have SOMETHING on hand you can fry up! Try the below:
Raid the pantry (or in my instance, “the one cupboard”). Scrounge around to see what you’ve got In there. I bet you’ve got some white or brown rice. Or some quinoa. Or even some farro. All make DELICIOUS versions of “fried rice”––even if you aren’t even technically “frying rice.”
The trick: Cook whatever it is according to package instructions, and make sure it fully cools before cooking. If you don’t have much time, spread it out on a thin layer on a cookie sheet or a plate and then throw it in the freezer for a while to make sure it dries out. Or you can throw it in the fridge overnight. Or you can spread it on a cookie sheet and toast under the broiler. You just want all the moisture gone before you fry it, because if you don’t, it will steam the rice instead of crisping it up.
Choose your protein:
What do you have in the fridge? Whatever it is, it’ll probably taste good with fried rice. I usually have three things in my freezer: 1. Bulk turkey sausage 2. Ground chicken 3. Chicken breasts or thighs.
Sounds weird, but believe it or not, I think sausage makes the BEST fried rice. (Bulk sausage––meaning, it’s not encased in links–whether that’s pork or turkey. Think from the butcher counter or Jimmy Dean. Although chopped up sausage links would also totally work too!)
I discovered this on accident earlier this week when we had no other proteins on hand, and Neal said it was the best fried rice I ever made. (I agreed!)
If you’re using sausage, you won’t need any extra seasoning, but if you’re using something else, you’ll likely want to impart some extra flavor.
So here’s what I’d do:
For ground chicken/turkey/beef: Drizzle in some TJ’s Soyaki sauce while cooking, or if you don’t have that, soy sauce, garlic, Chinese five-spice, garlic powder, a bit of ground mustard, some Terriyaki sauce, some Sriracha, fish sauce, or Worcestershire, would all be great. Any and/or all of the above. Any Asian spices or sauces are fair game here. Salt and pepper too, of course. You don’t need to measure––just adjust to taste!
What does that mean? It means add a little of each seasoning at a time, cook it until it’s done enough to taste, and then taste a little bit.
Does it need more soy sauce? Add more! Need more spice? Add some spice! Need more depth? Add some fish sauce or Worcestershire sauce.
I do this with everything I cook. I probably taste something twenty times while I’m cooking it before it’s done. Ask yourself– “what else does this need?” When you do this, you don’t need recipes!
For chicken breast/thighs or steak:
I always think these can benefit from some marinade ahead of time, so if you can plan ahead and do that, great! Again, Trader Joe’s Soyaki sauce is my go-to, but if you don’t have that, I love all of the above for a marinade, OR, try this one:
Another easy Asian marinade:
Salt and pepper the meat first, then in a bowl, combine soy sauce, garlic (a couple cloves or some garlic powder), a liberal drizzle of honey (don’t have honey? You can use sugar–brown or regular) and some rice wine vinegar. (Don’t have rice wine vinegar? You can use lemon juice or lime juice. Or red wine vinegar. Or just nix the acid altogether). Taste it! Does it taste good? Adjust as you need, then pour it into a bag or container with the meat and let it sit in the fridge for an hour up to overnight.
Not feelin’ it today? Don’t have much else? You could also just use teriyaki sauce!
Have eggs? All the protein you need! We’ll get into how to cook the eggs below.
Tofu? As much as I’ve tried to like it, I hate tofu, so I’m not experienced in preparing it BUT, I’ve heard you can marinate tofu, so see above for marinade ideas!
Choose your veggies:
What veggies do you have in the fridge and freezer?
For me, I always have big carrots (not the baby ones. Those are flavorless and get slimy very fast. Big carrots have amazing flavor and can last in your crisper drawer for WEEKS). I also always have onion and usually celery. Got all three? Great! Chop those up and throw them in the pan! I’ve used leftover cabbage or brussels sprouts too––that is especially delicious!
What else you got? Frozen peas? Corn? Broccoli? Frozen edamame? Peppers? Kale? Awesome–throw that in there too! Leftover asparagus from dinner the night before? SURE! The more the merrier!! There is no wrong answer here, my friends!
Oh, and don’t forget the garlic, if you’ve got it! (I love Dorit frozen garlic cubes if you can find them––buy many at once and always have them in your freezer!)
Got an egg?
Eggs are a delicious addition to fried rice. They are also a great protein, so you don’t even NEED any other protein. There are two ways you can do this:
The lazy way: Scramble them in the pan. Nothing fancy. Once the rice is finished cooking, move it over to the side of the pan, crack an egg or two and scramble it right there in the same pan. Mix it all together and serve!
The fancy way: Fry them sunnyside up in another pan, and serve them on top of the rice.
Got any kimchi?
Kimchi is definitely a staple to always keep in the fridge. It is DELICIOUS in Asian food and especially in fried rice. Throw this in as you’re cooking your veggies. If you had no veggies and only had rice and kimchi, it would still be delicious!
What oil should you use?
I prefer using sesame oil because I love the flavor, but if you don’t have sesame oil, any oil will do! Avocado, olive, whatever! Tip: Store sesame oil in the fridge once opened!
How to cook it:
First, cook your protein, and then remove from pan and set aside. (I just keep a big “dumping bowl” next to the stove and throw everything into it as I remove from the pan.)
If you’re cooking pieces of chicken or steak, you want to make sure you’re not crowding the pan and steaming the meat rather than browning it. If you find that your meat isn’t getting brown, remove some pieces from the pan and cook in batches. I like to cook mine using my cast-iron skillet, but whatever you use, you want it to be your biggest frying pan!
Second, sautee your veggies and/or cauli rice if using, season with salt and pepper. Remove from the pan and add it to your dump bowl.
Third, add your rice drizzle in a bit more oil to the pan, make sure it’s good and hot (but not TOO hot) and throw in the brown rice, sizzle for a couple minutes until it starts getting nicely toasty.
Fourth: Sauce it up!
Drizzle in some soy sauce. (SIZZLE n DRIZZLE!) I also love using Aardvark Drunken Black Bean Stir Fry Sauce––it’s delicious and you can get it on Amazon! If you have it, stir in some Chili Paste (I love Sambal Oelek) or Sriracha. Have some fish sauce? Drizzle some of that in too! Again, the trick is to add little by little of each and taste and adjust until you get it perfect.
To finish: Add your egg (see methods above). Dish it up, and serve with a drizzle of Sriracha and, if you have ’em, chopped scallions!
One last note: When in doubt, google it!
If you are just starting out cooking and aren’t sure what to do at a given time––ALL the answers you need are always found on google.
First of all, in cooking, there are almost always MANY “right” ways to do things, so you’ll find a lot of variation. However, if you’re thinking to yourself, for example, “would tomatoes be weird in fried rice?” google “fried rice with tomatoes” for example––see if recipes out there exist for it already. If they do, great! Read them! See what they say, and do that!
Not sure how to cook something? Google “how to cook chicken in a cast-iron skillet” for example. You’ll find a lot of tutorials. You could also look at a couple different “Chicken fried rice” recipes and if you need specific step by step instructions, use those, and just substitute the ingredients for what you have on hand. You’ve got this––cooking intuitively is much easier than you think!
There you have it! How to make fried rice with literally anything you have on hand! May you implement this new life skill many times over with great success. (I know you will. 😜) xo