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It seems like the impossible: a quick and easy one-pan dish that brings together protein, carbs and vegetables, costs very little money, doesn’t require a lot of shopping or unusual ingredients, is beloved by kids and adults, takes less than 10 minutes to cook and is absolutely delicious.
Yet, this magic dish does exist and the fabulous food that checks all those boxes is fried rice. Although ordering Chinese food takeout is always an option, learning how to make fried rice with chicken, shrimp, pork or your favorite vegetables is actually super easy.
"The whole idea of fried rice is that it’s a great use for leftovers," Sabrina Sexton, culinary arts program director at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City, told TODAY Food. "You can whip it up in no time and if you have soy sauce and sesame oil in your pantry, you’re good to go. Also, it’s a nice balance of a lot of different flavors — savory, sweet and salty.
According to Sexton, the key to making the best homemade fried rice is to have all of the ingredients chopped and ready to go by the time your skillet is hot.
"The cooking goes quickly, so lay out everything next to the stove in the order that it will be added so you don’t have to hunt around for stuff," she said.
How to make vegetable fried rice
Cook long-grain white rice and cool it in the refrigerator ahead of time, Sexton said. Alternatively, use cooled leftover take out rice. The most important thing about the cooked rice is that it should be as dry as possible. Use 1 cup of rice per person.
In a wok or a large 10- or 12-inch skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of canola, vegetable or peanut oil over high heat. Add 1 cup of diced onion and 1 cup of chopped red peppers or another vegetable. Cook until the vegetables soften, about 4 to 5 minutes.
Add 1 tablespoon of minced garlic and 1 tablespoon of minced ginger, and cook until fragrant, about 15 to 30 seconds. Add 4 cups of cooled cooked long-grain rice. Stir the ingredients together until the rice is coated in the oil and heated throughout.
Push the rice to one side of the wok or pan. Add 2 beaten eggs to the empty side without the rice. Scramble the eggs and when they're cooked through, mix them into the rice.
Add 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of sesame oil and 2 tablespoons of dry sherry or Chinese cooking wine — water or white wine can also be substituted in a pinch, if necessary. Mix all of the ingredients and make sure the entire dish is hot. Add 4 sliced scallions, mix them in and serve.
How to make chicken fried rice and pork fried rice
"Thinly sliced chicken and pork are key because larger chunks can become chewy," said Sexton.
In a wok or a large 10- or 12-inch skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of canola, vegetable or peanut oil over high heat. Add 1/2 pound of long, thin bite-sized pieces of chicken or pork, and cook the meat until it's opaque, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove and set aside.
Follow the instructions above for how to make vegetable fried rice. Add the cooked chicken or pork back to the wok or pan at the same time as the soy sauce, sesame oil and sherry or wine are added. Mix all of the ingredients and make sure the entire dish is hot. Add 4 sliced scallions, mix them in and serve.
How to make shrimp fried rice
In a wok or a large 10- or 12-inch skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of canola, vegetable or peanut oil over high heat. Add 8 to 10 ounces of small to medium shrimp, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove and set aside.
Follow the above instructions for how to make vegetable fried rice. Add the shrimp back to the wok or pan at the same time as the soy sauce, sesame oil and sherry or wine are added. Mix all of the ingredients and cook until the shrimp is fully pink and the tail is curled. Add 4 sliced scallions, mix them in and serve.
Love fried rice? Get frying with more of TODAY Food's favorite rice recipes.
Fried Rice Recipes
"I love the flavor that tomatoes add to fried rice," chef Kathy Fang told TODAY Food. "They also add a little moisture as well. This version is a tasty and healthy upgrade from average fried rice. It's also a great way to use leftover ingredients in the fridge."
This Korean-style fried rice is packed with spicy flavor thanks to kimchi, plus it has an extra decadent ingredient mixed in: fried chicken! A perfect fried egg on top is the ultimate finishing touch.
The sky's the limit when it comes to vegetables that taste delicious in fried rice. This version has a mixture of crisp asparagus, sweet corn and earthy shiitake mushrooms, but peas, carrots and French beans are all delicious additions, too.
Skip the carbs and satisfy any fried rice craving with this easy-to-make cauliflower rice. "By swapping in healthy cauliflower for regular rice you can indulge in this stir-fried favorite without feeling weighed down," chef Elizabeth Mayhew told TODAY Food.
TODAY nutritionist Joy Bauer whips up a healthy chicken fried rice using loads of veggies, leftover steamed brown rice, whole eggs, egg whites and shredded rotisserie chicken.