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How Do I Choose the Best Vegetable Stir-Fry Sauce?

By Megan Shoop
Updated May 17, 2024
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Vegetarian stir-fry style dishes can be a flavorful and visually-pleasing way to supplement a diet with extra vegetables. Stir-fry sauces come in so many different flavors that nearly everyone can find one to suit their palate. Home cooks even have a choice between homemade and pre-mixed sauces. When choosing a vegetable stir-fry sauce, it is important to consider one’s personal taste, the ingredients in the sauce, and the kinds of vegetables in the stir-fry. Certain flavor combinations may be tasty to some, but not at all pleasing to others.

The first step to choosing a vegetable stir-fry sauce is typically deciding between pre-made and homemade. Pre-made sauces may be appealing to those short on time or new to cooking. These store-bought products take a lot of guesswork out of making a stir-fry. The sauce simply goes over the sautéing vegetables and simmers until it is warm. Plus, commercially-produced sauces come in a wide array of flavors, so almost everyone can find something to please his or her palate.

Homemade vegetable stir-fry sauce may be appealing to those who find cooking relaxing, have food allergies,or simply like to know exactly what ingredients are in their meals. For instance, someone allergic to peanuts may not be able to eat commercial sauce because many of them contain, or have come into contact with, peanuts. Making homemade sauce allows the cook to substitute sesame butter and sesame or sunflower seeds for peanut butter and peanuts in some recipes. Those that dislike ginger may also prefer homemade sauces because they have the freedom to eliminate the ginger in favor of a better-liked spice.

Another factor in choosing a vegetable stir-fry sauce is to consider the ingredients in the sauce and in the stir-fry itself. Not all sauces mix with all veggie flavors and vice-versa. One of the keys to creating a successful vegetable stir-fry sauce typically involves blending sauce and veggie flavors so that they complement one another. A stir-fry that contains mainly sweet veggies, such as carrots, snow peas, and water chestnuts generally goes well with a sweeter stir-fry sauce. Apricot-infused duck sauce, a sweet teriyaki sauce, or a sauce containing ginger and sweet peanuts could all work well with such a dish.

A stir-fry full of savory or bitter vegetables usually tastes better when coupled with a less sweet sauce. Dishes that include green beans, broccoli, and bell peppers usually benefit from a sauce flavored with garlic, soy sauce, hot pepper flakes, onions, and dry sake. These savory flavors generally hide any bitterness in the vegetables and bring out the tasty undertones, like the freshness of the green beans or the acidity in the peppers.

Many stir-fries include both sweet and savory vegetables, so it is often appropriate to choose a sweet and sour vegetable stir-fry sauce for such recipes. A ginger and sesame sauce that contains hot chilies, for instance, could be delicious on a vegetable stir-fry containing carrots, green beans, and snow peas. One tip to remember is that the fresher veggies are, the greener they usually taste, especially when combined with sweet flavors.

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Discussion Comments

By Wisedly33 — On Jun 06, 2014

I start with a duck sauce and go from there. I add soy sauce, five-spice powder, rice wine, sesame oil -- you name it -- until it tastes right to me. That's kind of a flexible thing, but I really like doing it that way because I can season to my preferences that day. Some days, I might even use some Siracha or other hot sauce. But I like to do it myself, and starting with something like duck sauce makes it easier.

By Scrbblchick — On Jun 06, 2014

I like a brown sauce, regardless. A seasoning packet is helpful. Usually, all you have to do is mix the packet with soy sauce and water and you have an instant stir fry sauce. I've never seen peanuts listed as an ingredient on the seasoning packet, unless it's something that specifically calls for peanuts, like pad Thai. Most companies nowadays have notices on their labeling if their mix contains peanuts or anything like that.

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