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Make this quick & simple homemade stir fry sauce on the weekend and then make a restaurant-quality Chinese stir fry within minutes as a SUPER-simple weeknight dinner. This easy recipe is made in minutes and can be used right away or stored for months. This stir fry sauce is delicious with chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, tofu, vegetables, noodles, and/or rice.
Getting rid of MSG and other unmentionables…
Chinese food in America (okay… anywhere outside China…) is some of the most notorious for being laden with MSG, preservatives, and all the junk we rail about when we're trying to eat real food.
Which is ironic, since classic Chinese cuisine uses some of the freshest ingredients available.
It's the sauces that are the problem. THAT's where all the hidden unmentionables reside.
But making homemade sauces can take a bit of time. Not that they're time-consuming, it's just that when you really want to get supper on the table, stopping to make the sauce is the longest part of the process – and often the reason I'll choose something else for dinner.
Because even ten minutes seems too long and too much work when you're tired and just want to feed your family something that will fill their bellies and hopefully nourish them in the process.
But about a year ago, it finally dawned on me:
When I worked in restaurants, we had just a few multi-purpose sauces that could be used in different dishes. Why not apply the same principle at home??? Each stir-fry doesn't need it's own sauce! Wow… what a duh moment….
So, I took my husband's favorite stir fry sauce recipe for chow mein, reworked it a bit to build flavors that would work in a multitude of dishes, and substituted in a few more nourishing ingredients.
If you're looking for more of a teriyaki stir fry sauce and dipping sauce, you'll love our Homemade Yoshida's Sauce.
And now that we've used it in dozens upon dozens of dinners, I can officially say I'm super-pleased with it! We've been eating WAAAAAY more stir-fries too. What a great way to get kids to shovel in vegetables and proteins. 🙂
Another reason I've very excited to share this recipe is that while I'm absolutely passionate about making simple, from-scratch recipes for condiments (I better be, considering I've published multiple books on the subject – check out The DIY Pantry, for one), we'll all admit there are hundreds of homemade ketchup and mustard recipes out there (although I'll still purport that my recipes for homemade ketchup and classic yellow mustard are among the best), and yet there is an absolute dearth of healthy, from-scratch Chinese sauces to be found!
So, it's time to rectify that. Start by making a batch of this basic, all-purpose Chinese stir fry sauce and transform Chinese night in your home!
Stir Fry Sauce Ingredients
Soy sauce is what lends this stir fry sauce its particular savory, salty flavor, as would be expected in an Asian sauce.
You may certainly use whatever soy sauce you already use and love, but you definitely want a soy sauce that is full-flavored and traditionally fermented.
Oyster sauce (or hoisin).
Oyster sauce provides the umami that a good stir fry sauce requires, but since it can be hard to find, hoisin is definitely an acceptable alternative.
And if even hoisin is hard to find, it's easy to make your own. We included one simple recipe for homemade hoisin in our book, Restocking the Pantry.
Yes, apple juice.
Apple juice may not seem like a likely ingredient in an Asian stir-fry sauce, but it provides both body and balance to the sauce. If you substitute with water, the sauce will lack flavor!
And rest assured, there's no apple flavor present. 🙂
Cornstarch thickens the stir fry sauce and if at all possible, find a cornstarch that is GMO-free, as corn is very commonly genetically engineered, especially in the United States.
If you can't eat corn-based products or need to avoid cornstarch for other reasons, arrowroot powder and tapioca starch are excellent alternatives.
Evaporated cane sugar.
Evaporated cane sugar – or any other granulated sugar, but preferably one that's not highly refined – is in this recipe simply to provide balance to the strong acidic, savory flavors.
It doesn't make the sauce sweet, but it definitely highlights the other flavors and makes them even better.
Sesame oil contributes to the complex depth of flavor this stir fry sauce has, and provides the decidedly Asian flavor to the sauce.
Ground black pepper.
Black pepper is an essential flavor ingredient, particularly if you're using the sauce to make a homemade beef and broccoli-style dinner.
I also think it's particularly important if your stir fry is heavy on celery. Particularly delightful. 🙂
Garlic & ginger.
This stir fry recipe calls for both fresh garlic and fresh ginger. The fresh versions definitely give a depth of flavor and keeps the sauce from being bland or one-dimensional.
The reason they're marked as “optional” is simply because grating fresh garlic and ginger is the most time-consuming part of the recipe and if you're making this as you're tired and hungry and just want to get dinner ON already, you can make a passable stir fry sauce even if you skip them.
In any other situation, however, the garlic and ginger are nearly essential.
Plus, fresh garlic and ginger pack a punch to provide immune-boosting benefits for everyone in your family.
Is this stir fry sauce made from real food ingredients?
Well, as is common when you start DIY-ing your food and making things from scratch, there's always a question of what determines whether the food is truly “from scratch” if you used tomato paste instead of starting with fresh tomatoes. (Hint: here at Nourishing Joy, yes, that definitely counts, as tomato paste doesn't contain fillers or stabilizers or preservatives. Even though you can make tomato paste from scratch, the canned stuff is real food too!)
In this stir fry sauce recipe, the possibly questionable ingredients are the oyster sauce and the soy sauce. Unless you want to make your own oyster sauce or brew your own soy sauce, you'll need to purchase ones that are free of MSG and all the other toxins we want to avoid in our food.
(And as I mentioned above, in this case, hoisin is a simple stand-in for the oyster sauce and thankfully, homemade hoisin is rather easy. There's a simple recipe in our book, Restocking the Pantry).
There are very few brands that fit this bill, but there are a few:
- Wok Mei Gluten-Free Oyster Sauce (this one does have caramel color and maltodextrin, unfortunately, but it's the closest I've found, and on the upside – tastes great!)
- Wok Mei Gluten-Free Hoisin Sauce
- Premier Japan Gluten-Free Hoisin Sauce
- Raw Soy Sauce (this one is expensive, but for flavor, ingredients, and method of production, it's unmatched – my favorite, definitely)
- Gluten-Free Soy Sauce
If you know of other MSG-free, high fructose corn syrup-free, preservative-free brands, please please let us know in the comments below!
With that, go forth and make great Chinese sauces – or at least, this one sauce that can cover all your bases. 🙂
Quick & Simple Chinese Stir Fry Sauce Recipe
- ½ cup regular soy sauce
- ½ cup oyster sauce, or hoisin
- ¼ cup apple juice
- ¼ cup GMO-free cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon evaporated cane sugar
- 2 tablespoon sesame oil
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 clove garlic, grated (optional), or 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1- inch fresh ginger, peeled and grated (optional), or 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- Combine ingredients. Place all ingredients in a pint-sized jar with a tight lid and either whisk or shake until smooth.
- Store the stir fry sauce. Store in the refrigerator for several months.
To Use the Stir Fry Sauce
- Stir fry vegetables, proteins, noodles, or rice. Prepare your favorite vegetables and proteins by stir-frying them over medium-high heat. Cook noodles in boiling water just until al dente and drain well. Cook rice according to your usual method.
- Drizzle the stir fry sauce over. When all stir-fried ingredients are ready, shake the stir fry sauce and drizzle over the stir-fried foods. Toss to coat, adding more to taste. Shake well before each use.