I kept this stir-fry sauce recipe very simple because truly, three ingredients are truly all you need for a remarkably tasty result, and I think of this as a weeknight lifesaver when there’s nothing in the house. The simplicity might prompt skepticism but I did not sacrifice tastiness for ease, trust me.
It can, however, absolutely be as a jumping-off point, and I’ll give you suggestions on what (and how much) to add if you’ve got a few extra minutes and a well-stocked kitchen.
What is Stir-Fry Sauce Made of?
- Broth: in a simple recipe like this, you want to have a flavourful base. Choose chicken, beef or veggie broth, something that you like. HOT TIP: try the concentrated bouillon that comes in a jar and dilute it with water per manufacturer’s instructions instead of opening a carton of broth. You only need 1 1/2 cups, and this will save you finding a purpose for leftovers.
- Soy sauce: this both seasons the dish (adds salt) and offers a nuanced umami flavour and slight sweetness from the glutamate-rich fermented soybeans. If you’re using an unsalted broth, keep adding more soy sauce to taste until the stir-fry sauce tastes sparkling and savoury like a good potato chip.
- Cornstarch: this is the sauce thickener. It produces a clear, glossy sauce that coats the stir fry beautifully with lustre and deliciousness.
- OPTIONAL flavourings: add some totally-supplementary but welcome flavour-boosters like garlic, ginger, chile, scallions, etc. if you like. See below for exact measurements.
How to Make Stir-Fry Sauce From Scratch:
- Pour the soy sauce in a large glass measuring cup and whisk in the cornstarch until smooth. It is truly key to stir the cornstarch into the soy sauce to make a smooth slurry before adding heat or more liquid. Starch needs to be dissolved cold or else the heat will make it start to hydrate and swell. When that happens, lumps are inevitable. And whisking it smoothly into a small volume to start is way easier than whisking it straight into the whole thing.
- Whisk the broth into the soy sauce/cornstarch mixture until smooth. It’ll be cloudy, that’s normal.
- OPTION 1, cook the sauce separately: Add the sauce to a medium saucepan, turn heat to high and bring to a boil. The sauce is done once it goes from a thin consistency and muddy opaque colour to a glossy, clear caramel colour and thicker consistency.
- OPTION 2, cook the sauce in the same pan: once your stir fry is 90% done (veggies are crisp-tender, meat, if using) is cooked nearly to desired doneness), simply pour the sauce over everything and the hot food will thicken the sauce in less than a minute.
This recipe makes 1 3/4 cups of stir-fry sauce, which is enough to nicely coat 8 cups of chopped veggies plus one pound of protein. If you’re cooking less than that, don’t fret – too much spoon-licking sauce is never a bad thing. Just make sure to cook plenty of rice or noodles to soak it up.
What Can I Add to Stir Fry For Flavour?
Add any or all of these flavour boosters to the basic stir-fry sauce recipe.
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp minced ginger
- 2 tbsp minced scallions
- 2 tbsp Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
- 1/2-1 tsp crushed red chili flakes
- 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
What Can I Use Instead of Soy Sauce in Stir Fry?
Tamari is the perfect gluten-free alternative to soy sauce if you are avoiding wheat for whatever reason. If you simply don’t have soy sauce on hand, use a tablespoon or two of miso paste for a similar effect.
A few favourite Foodess stir fry recipes:
Easy, 3-Ingredient Stir-Fry Sauce
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 ½ cups broth (chicken, veggie, or beef are all excellent)
- Measure soy sauce into a large spouted measuring cup and whisk in the corn starch until completely dissolved. Gradually pour in the broth until combined. It'll be cloudy, this is normal.
TO COOK STIR-FRY SAUCE SEPARATELY
- Pour the sauce to a medium saucepan, turn heat to high and bring to a boil. The sauce is done once it goes from a thin consistency and muddy opaque colour to a glossy, clear caramel colour and thicker consistency.
TO COOK THE SAUCE IN THE STIR-FRY
- Once your stir fry is 90% done (veggies are crisp-tender, meat, if using) is cooked nearly to desired doneness, pour the sauce over everything. The hot food will thicken the sauce in less than a minute. The sauce is done once it goes from a thin consistency and muddy opaque colour to a glossy, clear caramel colour and thicker consistency.