Looking for a quick and easy dinner to add to your weekly rotation? One that’s loaded with tons of veggies? This spicy vegetable stir fry is the perfect answer to add to your weekly meal plan. It’s crazy easy to make but tastes delicious and makes a great addition as a main meal or even as a side dish. My secret ingredient in this recipe is sambal oelek. I find that cooking with sambal oelek is a great way to add spiciness and flavor to your stir fries.
Stir fry basics
Stir fry cooking is most commonly associated with Asian cooking and it is said that it originated in China as a cooking technique. In this method, small pieces of meat and veggies are cooked over high heat in a small amount of oil for a short period of time while continuously moving the food around.
Chinese immigrants introduced Americans to this type of cooking. And ever since, it has been adapted to uses in other types of Cuisines.
The key points to making a GREAT spicy vegetable stir fry include:
- Small pieces of food
- Cooking over high heat
- Using a small amount of oil
- Continuously moving the food around
- Cooking for a short period of time
You will find it’s a super easy and quick way to prepare veggies with tons of flavor. You can use a wok but if you don’t have one, a large saute or fry pan will work just fine.
Why stir fry?
Some of my favorite reasons to use stir fry to prepare meals are these!
#1 It’s a quick method of cooking.
#2 Cooking by stir fry uses only a small amount of oil.
#3 It’s an easy method of cooking for any cook to utilize.
#4 Stir frying leaves veggies crisp and crunchy with tons of color.
#5 It’s easy to prep ahead for stir-fries.
#6 Leftovers pack up great to use again for another meal.
Tips to create the perfect spicy vegetable stir fry
Hot pan-Cold oil
Start by heating a pan or wok on high heat until just before the pan begins to smoke and then add oil.
Cook seasonings first
The first ingredients you want to cook are those that add flavor such as onions, ginger and garlic. These ingredients cook long enough to ONLY release their fragrance, 1-2 minutes. Plus since you added them first, they will continue to cook as you add the other ingredients.
Add ingredients to the pan in the order of those that need to cook the longest. First, start with any proteins you are cooking with first and then add veggies that take longer to cook. Generally firmer veggies such as carrots, broccoli and cauliflower will take longer to cook than less dense vegetables such as mushrooms and zucchini. Delicate veggies such as bean sprouts go last and cook just long enough to heat.
Cut your veggies in the right size
Veggies that will take longer to cook such as carrots and broccoli should be cut into smaller pieces. That way they will cook a bit more quickly. Veggies that fall in the same cooking time category should also be cut in similar sizes so they all cook in about the same amount of time.
The sauce is added when most of the veggies are just about cooked, close to end of the cooking process.
Choosing your veggies
The best thing about this recipe for spicy vegetable stir fry is that you can definitely choose veggies that you enjoy. My choices were based on ingredients that would cook quickly and would also create a nice mix of colors.
Here’s a list of my favorite vegetables to cook using this method. Mixing and matching allows you to change up in your stir fries using ingredients you have on-hand (less waste) and choosing flavors you really enjoy.
Longer cooking time
Moderate cooking time
- Red bell pepper
- Green beans
Less cooking time
- Snow peas
Least cooking time
- Bean sprouts
- Green onions
Cooking with Sambal oelek
Sambal oelek is an Indonesian chili paste and a condiment that I consider a pantry staple. It doesn’t have a ton of ingredients, simply some vinegar, chilies and salt. It’s a great way to cook with chilies especially when you want a quick and easy dish to serve. In addition to cooking with sambal oelek in recipes, I find that it also makes a great condiment. Worried that if you buy a bottle to cook this recipe you won’t know how else to use it?
My top 6 ways for cooking with sambal oelek:
Spice up your breakfast by using it a as a condiment on your eggs or avocado toast.
Mix it with some mayonnaise to create a spicy sauce for a vegetarian sandwich or veggie burger.
Kick up the spice in your dressings by adding some sambal oelek.
Add a spoonful to your veggie burger recipe to spice it up.
A spoonful in your guacamole recipe adds some spiciness.
Transform your basic hummus easily by mixing in some sambal oelek and topping it off with some chopped cilantro, sesame oil and chopped peanuts!
NOTE: This post includes affiliate links which means that if you click through and purchase, I do receive some small financial benefit at no additional cost to you which helps me to continue to provide you with free content.
Buy sambal oelek here!!
It’s super simple and fast to order your sambal oelek for your spicy vegetable stir fry from Amazon. This brand is definitely my favorite and what I always buy in the US.
Other options for finding sambal oelek is to check your local grocery store — it’s usually on the aisle with ethnic foods or stop by an Asian food mart to see if they carry it.
Shop this post
These are some of my favorite tools that will help you when cooking this spicy vegetable stir fry recipe. They aren’t necessary but they’re a nice addition to our kitchen tools and if you cook this way often, they are likely worth the investment.
Spicy vegetable stir fry with Sambal Olek
- 2 T tamari or soy sauce
- 1 T miso
- ½-1 tsp sambal olek. adjust to preferred spiciness
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 2 limes, juiced
- 1 T canola oil
- 4-6 cloves garlic minced
- 1 T fresh ginger grated
- 1 red onion cut into medium squares (about 1 cup)
- 2 cups snow peas trimmed
- 1 large carrots peeled and thinly sliced into rounds (about 1 cup)
- 3 cups cabbage shredded
- 1 red bell pepper cut into squares
- 2 cups bean sprouts
- 3 cups white or brown rice cooked
- Sesame seeds
- Chopped peanuts
- Chopped cilantro
- Lime wedges
- Combine the tamari, sambal olek, honey, sesame oil and lime juice in a small bowl and whisk to combine.
- Assemble all your cut veggies prior to beginning to cook.
- Heat a wok or large skillet. When hot, almost smoking the oil. First cook the garlic and ginger just long enough to release the flavor.
- Add the carrots and onion and cook, stirring constantly until crispy tender about 2-3 minutes. Next add the snow peas and bell pepper strips, cook 2 minutes stirring constantly. Next add the cabbage and cook until slightly wilted. Last add marinade and bean sprouts. Continue to stir vegetables in the pan, cooking until the sauce is heated.
- Serve the stir-fried veggies over hot, cooked rice and
What are your favorite veggies to use in stir fries? Tell me in the comments below.
Did you try this recipe? Leave me a comment and be sure to rate the recipe with 5-stars if you enjoyed it! Tag @cookeatlivelove in your photos so I can see your creations!
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