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5 Secrets to Making Fabulous Fried Rice

October 7, 2011
fried rice 008

Leftovers come together beautifully in a delicious bowl of fried rice

Everyone loves fried rice!

I know, I know, it’s a bold statement to make. I don’t think it’s a stretch though. Just think about the infinite permutations worldwide. Examples include: Indonesian nasi goreng, Thai pineapple fried rice, Filipino garlic fried rice (siningag), and that’s only in Asia! (Don’t worry I’ll delve into these a little more in another post). Fried rice is also wildly popular at Asian restaurants, often served with lunch specials and always ordered by my friend, X, who shall go unnamed.

I have a confession to make. Fried rice is the last thing on the menu I’d order when dining out (unless it’s chicken and salted fish fried rice, yum!) for one reason—it’s so very simple to make at home. A quick dig in the fridge for cooked rice, last night’s leftovers and whatever treasures are lurking in the back, and everything comes together in the wok in less than 20 minutes!

Making fried rice is easy in theory, but getting it right does take a little know-how. I don’t know about you but I’ve dished up my fair share of burnt fried rice, clumpy fried rice, and simply not very good fried rice.

After years of experimenting and watching, however, I have to say my fried rice is pretty good.  So here are my 5 secrets anyone can pick up and you’ll soon be on your way to making fabulous fried rice.

  1. Use cold, leftover cooked rice. Left in the fridge overnight, the rice grains will firm up, making it easier to separate and decreasing the chances of your fried rice turning out mushy. If you can’t wait, air freshly-cooked rice to remove moisture and refrigerate the rice for a few hours before cooking.
  2. Use medium to long grain rice, not short grain sweet/sushi rice or glutinous rice. Medium grain jasmine rice is my choice for fluffy, sturdy grains that don’t clump or fall apart when fried. Short grain rice tends to be softer and to stick together.
  3. A blazing hot wok (a wok is ideal but a large pan, skillet, or Dutch oven will do) and an adequate amount of oil will ensure your ingredients don’t stick to the surface. That’s how restaurants achieve the smoky, “burnt” flavor in their stir-fried dishes. Your home stove probably doesn’t have the same BTU strength (unless you have a commercial Viking or Wolf range *JEALOUS*) but just remember to preheat your wok before adding ingredients.
  4. Use the biggest pan available in your kitchen and don’t crowd it with ingredients. Don’t try to cook for your spouse, son, twin daughters, and grandma and grandpa too. You’ll have rice and peas flying everywhere! Ideally, you should cook 1 to 2 servings at a time. My recipe below makes enough for 3 moderate appetites. When you have too many ingredients, the wok doesn’t get hot enough and your ingredients will get soggy causing the rice to clump together. If you prefer, cook each ingredient individually (raw vegetables or meat, egg) and remove to separate plates. Return all the ingredients to the pan at the end for the final mixing and seasoning.
  5. Don’t overdo the saucy seasonings like soy sauce or oyster sauce. I add just a few tablespoons of my chosen sauce for flavor and then add salt for saltiness and savor. Too much sauce will make your rice mushy.

It’s a lot to remember but keep your mind set on one goal: non-mushy fried rice and everything will fall into place.


Fried Rice Any Way You like It

fried rice 009

Cooking fried rice isn’t a science; you don’t need exact ingredients or measurements. And just about anything belongs in fried rice: leftover roast chicken, fried tofu, ham, frozen veggies. Just don’t use super “wet” leftovers like a curry or chap chye, or your fried rice will most likely turn to mush. As for seasonings, experiment with ginger, sesame oil, kecap manis, chili paste, etc. or add herbs like Thai basil or cilantro.

Time: 20 minutes
Makes: 3 to 4 servings

4 cups cooked long or medium grain rice, leftover from the day before or refrigerated for at least 2 hours
1 tablespoon canola or other neutral oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 medium red or yellow onion, coarsely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 cup carrots chopped into small pieces (about 2 medium)
3 eggs
1 cup chopped leftover meat or tofu
1/2 cup frozen peas, defrosted
2 tablespoons oyster sauce (or sweet soy sauce)
2 tablespoons soy sauce (or fish sauce)
White pepper powder

Break up large clumps of rice and separate the grains with wet fingers.

Preheat a 14-inch wok or 12-inch skillet over high heat for about 1 minute. Swirl in the oil and heat until it becomes runny and starts to shimmer.

Reduce heat to medium and add garlic and onion and stir until fragrant, about 15 to 30 seconds. Add the carrots and cook until tender, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Move all the ingredients to one side of the wok. Break the eggs into the wok, and stir to scramble until they are almost cooked through but still a little soggy, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.

Add the meat and the peas, followed by the rice, stirring and tossing between each addition. Use your spatula to break up any clumps.

Add the sauces, and salt and white pepper to taste. Stir everything swiftly around the wok until the rice is well-coated and -colored (little bits of white here and there is OK) and heated through, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add more oil if the rice begins to stick to the wok; reduce the heat if it starts to scorch. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

Divide the rice among dinner plates. Serve immediately.


To see some live fried rice action, check out the following videos:

Frugal Chef: She is clear and easy to follow

S&D Recipe Channel: Watch a professional chef at work

Do you have any tips for making amazing fried rice? Please share!

54 Comments leave one →
  1. September 29, 2014 10:23 pm

    I came here to find out what i was doing wrong. My fried rice would turn into starch slop with overcooked vegetables. Thanks for the recipe and tips.

    • December 5, 2014 10:54 am

      So glad you found me! May your fried rice never be gloppy again!

  2. April 30, 2014 5:15 pm

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  3. April 18, 2014 2:33 am

    There are hundreds of tastes you can add on to the basic fried rice.

  4. March 25, 2014 9:04 pm

    I am really enjoying to read this post because it’s too interesting and also informative. I love asian food and I am thankful to you for sharing these tips. I will try this recipe to make rice fabulous.

  5. Megan permalink
    March 15, 2014 6:47 pm

    This really is the best version ever. I made the rice and chicken another day, so making dinner tonight was super fast.

  6. March 14, 2014 11:17 pm

    I love fried rice but I have not a recipe but now, I am so much thankful for sharing your recipe with us. I will must try this delicious recipe.

  7. March 2, 2014 3:40 pm

    Helpful post. Thank! Please check out my blog when you have a chance and let me know what you think.

  8. Sandra permalink
    February 16, 2014 5:40 pm

    I’ve been looking for the perfect Chinese fried rice and this sounds like the perfect recipe….. I think I would add some mushrooms to this dish….. Thanks

  9. gonzalezhanson permalink
    February 8, 2014 7:01 pm

    Reblogged this on Artsy Devil – Web Design and Photography – Evanston, IL – Web Design.

  10. rocketman3 permalink
    January 18, 2014 6:47 pm

    My wife has been making fried rice for our family for 60 years; only once do I remember anything but delicious–that was during a diet excursion when unsalted brown rice was used. I think her secret is fry 3 pcs, smoked bacon and use the oil to scramble the eggs; sliver the carrots -not chopped-cooks faster. She throws in the frozen peas near the end because ” they stay pretty that way”.


  11. December 31, 2013 7:02 am

    Hi there! I realize this is somewhat off-topic but I had to ask.
    Does running a well-established blog such as yours
    require a lot of work? I am completely new to blogging however
    I do write in my diary on a daily basis.
    I’d like to start a blog so I can easily share my personal experience and thoughts online.
    Please let me know if you have any kind of recommendations or tips for brand new aspiring
    bloggers. Appreciate it!

  12. morna permalink
    November 15, 2013 12:53 am

    hi! I just made an awesome batch of fried rice. my things are that sweet chinese sausage, two or three of them cut small, the eggs – i mix about a tablespoon of chili garlic sauce and hoisin sauce into my eggs and fry them super hot in lots of oil and set aside until almost the end and lettuce a big double handful of shredded iceberg lettuce at the very end after the heat’s turned off. it gives a lovely soft crunch and lightens the whole thing up a bit. anyway thanks!

    • November 26, 2013 9:35 am

      Hi Morna, thanks for your fried rice tips! Always love hearing how others do it. The shredded iceberg lettuce is a great idea! Cheers, Pat

  13. November 6, 2013 12:30 am

    u r fab, thanks for such a delicious dish

  14. November 1, 2013 2:28 pm

    Hi Dan S, thanks for the tips. Most household burners don’t get that hot anyway so high heat is probably good. Careful with that water, too much might turn your fried rice soggy!

  15. November 1, 2013 2:26 pm

    Hi Don, I”m going to look for that burner right now! My mom always had an outdoor kitchen and since we just moved into a new house, perhaps I should think about setting one up.

  16. November 1, 2013 12:29 pm

    Nice post and Great tips!
    I agree that high fire is better, but actually I would suggest using medium heat, overnight rice, and add a little bit of water for those not as experienced. Doesn’t taste as good, but increase the success rate quite a bit🙂

  17. October 30, 2013 5:23 pm

    Love your recipe ideas. I bought a 100,000 BTU burner from Thai Imports that gets me that char flavor (I just have to use it outside). Like you I prefer Jasmine rice if I am frying or short grain Japanese if I just want steamed rice. One thing that helps me is I will turn the rice cooker off after my jasmine is done and let it sit an hour. Then when I take it out I break the rice up with my fingers before putting it in a container to refrigerate. That way the next day, I just dump the rice into a smoking hot wok and the grains are already separated.

  18. Stefanie permalink
    September 3, 2013 8:33 pm

    Rice vinegar is key if you like it have a little extra flavor!

    • September 4, 2013 12:36 pm

      Thanks for the tip, Stefanie. I put vinegar in fried noodles sometimes and it gives the dish a nice tang. Will try it with rice too.

  19. May 25, 2013 4:05 am

    Yes! Finally something about Tips For Cooking Rice.

  20. April 4, 2013 5:06 am

    i was looking for long to this one.useful recipe.Thank you for sharing.

  21. October 4, 2012 1:00 am

    OMG, Dick Lee! Heh heh, thx for the video, Mo, brings back memories🙂.

  22. September 27, 2012 1:47 pm

    Fried Rice Paradise!

  23. August 6, 2012 6:02 am

    Aye to 1,2,3,4 and 5.

    i keep it simple with the sauces, kicap manis (sweet and dark), light soy sauce (salty) and white pepper. I hv never tried with oyster sauce… I hv always found it too heavy.

    • August 6, 2012 5:11 pm

      Hi Su Chin, you must be Indonesian! My mum always uses kecap manis in her fried rice. I alternate between that and oyster/soy sauces depending on my mood. Thx for stopping by!

  24. Christine permalink
    July 24, 2012 9:29 pm

    This recipe was fabulous – thanks for sharing all of your helpful tips. We followed this recipe exactly, using poached chicken as the meat and peanut oil. It was great and will definitely stay in our rotation. Can’t wait to try out more of your recipes.

  25. -mo- permalink
    October 9, 2011 12:10 am

    Nice to see you’re blogging again!🙂

    • October 9, 2011 8:37 pm

      Hi Mo Mo,
      Thanks, it’s great to be back!!

  26. October 8, 2011 3:25 pm

    Love the post. I wrote how miserably I’ve failed at making rice dishes including fried rice in the past. But I’m on the road to recovery in regards to making great rice dishes and your blog post should help.

    I found a great Vietnamese recipe that eats like fried rice but is in a bit of a different method. You heat the raw rice in oil then add broth (as if you were making a risotto) and then add the marinated and cooked chopped vegetables.

    Check it out here.

    Again great post and beautiful blog.


    • October 9, 2011 8:42 pm

      Thanks, Francis! Fried rice can be a little tricky but practice does make perfect. Sounds like a very interesting recipe. I’ll have to try it out too, and if it’s Andrea’s, it has to be good! Cheers,

  27. October 8, 2011 1:04 pm

    I’m with you on not ordering fried rice, but my in-laws love it. I went to a excellent Chinese restaurant recently, and looked on Yelp afterwards to see what people said. Most of the comments were about takeout fried rice and whether it was too greasy. Sometimes I wonder how far we’ve come!

    • October 9, 2011 8:52 pm

      Hi Dianne, I hear ya. Fried rice seems to be a perennial favorite at Chinese restaurants. I always prefer to order one of the many other dishes on the menu but I guess it’s the one standard dish everyone knows and is comfortable with. Cheers, Pat

  28. October 8, 2011 3:42 am

    Thanks for this. I’ve never tried fried rice but I’ve heard it can be a little tricky so it;s nice to have such an informative post to read. Good stuff.

    • October 10, 2011 8:53 pm

      Thanks, FrugalFeeding. Fried rice comes in all sorts of guises–pilaf, pulao, jambalaya, etc. Give it a go sometime!

  29. October 7, 2011 9:09 pm

    Good tips on fried rice. I agree, all of these are very much needed to have a perfect fried rice.
    Thanks for Sharing!! http:\\


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