What Is Chicken and Rice Stir-Fry?

Caitlynn Lowe

Stir-frying is a cooking technique that originated in China. Small pieces of meat and vegetables are cooked using a simple, fast method and typically are served with a sauce over rice or noodles. Chicken and rice stir-fry is any type of stir-fry that is served over rice and has chicken as the protein source. Most chicken and rice stir-fry recipes have an Asian flair, because of the dish's origins, but the stir-fry technique also can be applied to cook non-Asian-inspired meals.

Chicken breasts are a key ingredient in a chicken and rice stir-fry.
Chicken breasts are a key ingredient in a chicken and rice stir-fry.

The stir-fry cooking technique was originally designed as a way to quickly cook ingredients over a basic brick stove. Most people now cook stir-fry meals on a standard gas or electric stove, but the basic cooking principles remain the same. Hot oil quickly sears the ingredients, preventing them from drying out as they cook. Traditional stir-fry is made in a wok, but many cooks prefer using a standard skillet.

Diced bell peppers can be a good addition to a chicken and rice stir-fry.
Diced bell peppers can be a good addition to a chicken and rice stir-fry.

All stir-fries start with heating several spoonfuls of oil in a skillet or wok. As the oil heats, the cook must cut the meat and vegetables that he or she plans on using in the meal. The cook adds the meat first, moving it around rapidly with a spatula and cooking it until it is mostly done. He or she then adds the vegetables and cooks them until they are tender-crisp. Any sauce gets added last until it warms and thickens.

Cornstarch is often used to thicken stir-fry sauces.
Cornstarch is often used to thicken stir-fry sauces.

Many cooks who are making a chicken and rice stir-fry begin by cutting boneless, skinless chicken breasts into 1-inch (2.54-cm) pieces. Some add marinades or spices to the chicken before stir-frying it, but many do not. After the chicken, vegetables and sauce are fully cooked and hot, the cook serves the dish over rice that was cooked separately.

Brown rice can be used in a chicken and rice stir-fry.
Brown rice can be used in a chicken and rice stir-fry.

There are many kinds of chicken and rice stir-fry. One of the most common uses sweet-and-sour chicken. Different recipes exist according to individual tastes, but most involve sweet bell peppers. Other common additions include broccoli, carrots and pineapples. The sauce often includes sugar, vinegar and cornstarch, but it might have other ingredients as well.

Many stir-fry recipes usually call for broccoli florets.
Many stir-fry recipes usually call for broccoli florets.

Other popular variations on chicken and rice stir-fry include those made with teriyaki sauce, a slightly spicy orange sauce, or an individual cook's specially created sauce that is made with soy sauce and other ingredients. Most chicken and rice stir-fry meals have Asian-inspired flavors. Cooks usually use vegetables that are familiar to Western palates, such as onion and bell pepper, but some cooks also use vegetables that are more common to Asian cuisine, such as water chestnuts, shiitake mushrooms and bean sprouts.

Peanut oil has a high smoking point and mild taste ideal for any stir-fry.
Peanut oil has a high smoking point and mild taste ideal for any stir-fry.

Cooks also can change the type of rice used to add further variety to the dish. Many people prefer short-grain, medium-grain or long-grain white rice. Some cooks might fry the rice in oil using a separate wok or skillet. People who are interested in a healthier option might choose brown, whole-grain rice instead.

White rice is preferred when making chicken and rice stir-fry.
White rice is preferred when making chicken and rice stir-fry.

Someone who is interested in the stir-frying technique but does not enjoy Asian flavors can still make a chicken and rice stir-fry using flavors that they do enjoy. For example, after stir-frying the chicken in hot oil, the cook can add broccoli, carrots or other familiar vegetables. He or she could finish with a lemon juice sauce or a tomato-based sauce before serving the stir-fry over plain white or brown rice.

Shiitake mushrooms are a popular ingredient in stir-fries.
Shiitake mushrooms are a popular ingredient in stir-fries.

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