Spicy Asian flavours and juicy chunks of chicken come together in my take on this easy garlic chicken stir fry. This easy dish is so full of flavour, it’s insane. And the best part is it only takes minutes to make! And instead of the traditional rice or noodles, why not serve it in a crusty garlic roll.
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Easy garlic chicken stir fry
With the lockdown now in its fourth week, and shopping trips to the supermarket being heavily restricted, it’s becoming increasing difficult to come up with tasty meals using ingredients that are in the pantry. Even the fast food outlets are starting to close down as more and more people are staying isolated in their homes.
Luckily, this easy recipe for Chinese chicken stir fry helps with all of these problems.
- You can use any vegetables that you happen to have left in the fridge, so there’s no waste.
- It’s made with frozen chicken breasts that you probably have in the freezer anyway.
- Most of the sauce ingredients are pantry staples, and I’ve given substitutions for anything that you may be missing.
- It tastes better than takeaway, so it will satisfy any cravings that you might have for a fast food fix.
I call it easy garlic chicken stir fry, but it’s not a stir fry in the true sense of the word. I do stir fry the chicken, just to brown it. But then the vegetables are steamed in their own juices to retain all the flavour before the chicken is added back. Then I add loads of my favourite garlic sauce and 2 cups of chicken stock and let it simmer for 10 minutes.
The chicken is so tender and juicy, you could cut it with a fork. And the vegetables are so tasty, having been simmered in the sauce. Serve it over rice or noodles for a truly delicious meal. Or hollow out a crusty bread roll, paint the inside with garlic butter and toast in the oven. Then fill with the chicken and sauce for a meal with a difference.
The garlic sauce
This garlic sauce is the star of the show. You can use it with in so many different meals, for example roast pork in garlic sauce, made with leftover roast pork.
You will need 10 ingredients in total for the garlic sauce, but most of them are pretty standard, and I’ve given substitutions where possible in case you are missing something.
Ingredients for garlic sauce
Dark soy sauce
This should be dark soy sauce, not light. Light soy sauce is too salty for this dish. If you don’t have any soy sauce, you could substitute with 3 tablespoons worcestershire sauce and 1 tablespoon water for every 4 tablespoons soy sauce (1/4 cup).
Oyster sauce adds a delicious umami flavour to the dish. If you don’t have any you can substitute with a 1 : 1 mixture of hoisin and dark soy sauce.
Sorry – there are no substitutions here. This is called GARLIC chicken stir fry for a reason! However, if you don’t have fresh garlic, you can use garlic from a jar.
Rice wine vineger
Vinegar adds a little acidity to the sauce. You can substitute with any flavoured vinegar – apple cider / white wine / sherry vinegar. If you only have white spirit vinegar, you can use this, but add an additional 1/2 teaspoon of sugar to cut through the tartness. You could even use lemon juice if you don’t have any vinegar at all.
Brown sugar adds a touch of sweetness. If you don’t have brown sugar, you can use white sugar.
Chilli adds a little bit of heat. You can use either fresh chilli, very finely chopped, dried chilli flakes, or even chilli paste. If you don’t like chilli, you can leave it out altogether.
Sesame oil give a slight nutty taste – you could substitute with tahini, which is a sesame seed paste, or walnut oil. If you have a bottle of toasted sesame seeds, you could add a teaspoon of these. Otherwise, just leave it out altogether.
I have heard that you can substitute ginger with ground allspice, nutmeg or mace, but I haven’t tried these. Or you could use galangal which is pretty similar. If I was making this recipe and I didn’t have ginger, I would be inclined to leave it out. You can use either fresh ginger which has been finely minced, or failing that, ginger from a jar.
Garlic and tomatoes are a match made in heaven, so try your best to get some tomato puree into this dish. If you really don’t have any tomato puree, tomato ketchup would be a good substitute or even tomato passata. Failing that, add chopped tomatoes to your selection of stir fry vegetables.
Cornflour / cornstarch
This is used to thicken the sauce. If you don’t have any, substitute with regular flour, or arrowroot, potato starch, or even mashed potato granules. If you don’t have any of these, just whizz a small potato in a food processor until it is almost liquidised and add this as a thickening agent.
To make the sauce
To make the sauce, just mix all the ingredients together in a small mixing bowl and set aside until needed in the recipe.
How to make chicken stir fry
Prepare the chicken
You should allow 1 chicken breast (about 150g) per person.
- Try to get skinless chicken breast fillets. Otherwise, if your chicken still has the skin on, remove the skin and discard. If the chicken is still on the bone, use a sharp knife to get between the bone and the meat to remove the bone from the meat.
- Cut up the chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces and coat them with cornflour / cornstarch. The cornstarch helps the chicken get a nice brown colour when it is fried.
- Heat a tablespoon of sunflower or canola oil in a wok or large frying pan and fry the chicken in batches until it starts to turn brown. You may need to add extra oil for each batch.
- Don’t over-crowd the pan or the chicken will release its juices and will boil rather than sear.
- Set the chicken aside until needed.
Prepare the vegetables
- For this dish you can use whatever vegetables you have in your fridge/pantry.
- At the very least I like to use beansprouts, mushrooms, celery, shredded cabbage and broccoli. You could also add red and yellow peppers, green beans, sugarsnap peas, onions, pak choi, leeks, or carrots. Just try and get at least one cupful of chopped/shredded vegetables per person.
- Peel and chop the vegetables. Try and cut them all into similar sizes. If you are using cabbage, this should be shredded finely. If using carrots, they should be cut into julienned strips. Mushrooms can be halved or quartered, depending on the size.
- Heat 1 tablespoon sunflower or canola oil to the pan in which the chicken was cooked. We want to get all the flavour possible into this dish. Stir well to coat the vegetables, then turn down the heat as much as possible, add 2 tablespoons water (just to start the steaming process), cover the pan with a lid and leave to steam for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened.
- Don’t allow the vegetables to burn, they should just steam gently, so that they release their juices, which will create sufficient liquid for them to steam in.
Add the sauce and browned chicken
- Once the vegetables have steamed, pour in the sauce ingredients, and then add 2 cups of chicken stock. Stir well.
- Bring to the boil then turn the heat down to a simmer. Add the chicken pieces and cover with a lid.
- Allow to simmer for 10 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has thickened.
- To make sure the chicken is cooked all the way through, cut one of the larger pieces in half. It should be completely white, with no pink showing. If the chicken still has traces of pink, allow to simmer for a few minutes longer.
- Serve immediately with rice or noodles. Spicy mushroom rice would go really well with this dish.
- See my other recipes for how to cook rice in the microwave or how to cook rice in the oven. You may also like this recipe for Chinese egg fried rice.
For a dish with a difference, why not serve the chicken stir fry in a hollowed-out bread roll (see below for instructions).
Why not serve in a bread roll
Instead of serving garlic chicken stir fry with rice, why not try serving it inside a hollowed out garlic breadroll?
- Carefully remove the inside from a bread roll. I find it easiest to use my fingers to just pull the inside out. Try to keep the sides of the roll to a consistent thickness all around.
- Brush the inside of the bread roll with melted garlic butter.
- Bake the bread rolls in a hot oven at 220C for 10 minutes until browned and crispy.
- Fill with the chicken stir fry and serve.
Can I freeze garlic chicken stir fry?
If you have made this dish with pre-frozen chicken, I would not re-freeze it. Instead, it can be stored for 2 to 3 days in a covered container in the refrigerator.
If you used fresh chicken, you can freeze the leftovers for another meal. Just pack into a rigid freezer container, label and seal. This chicken can be frozen for up to 3 months.
To use, allow it to defrost in the fridge and then heat either in a saucepan or in the microwave until piping hot.
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Recipe – Easy Garlic Chicken Stir fry
Easy Garlic Chicken Stir fry
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- 1¼ lb (600g) skinless chicken fillets allow 1 breast (approx 150g / 5oz) per person
- 2 tablespoons cornflour / cornstarch for coating
- 2 – 4 tablespoons sunflower / canola oil for frying the chicken
- 4 tablespoons dark soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 2 tablespoons tomato puree
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 small chilli very finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- ½ teaspoon ginger paste or the equivalent of fresh, finely minced
- 1 tablespoon cornflour / cornstarch for thickening
- 1 large onion quartered and petals separated
- 1 red pepper de-veined, seeds removed and cut into slices
- 1 yellow pepper de-veined, seeds removed and cut into slices
- 2 stalks celery cut into 1cm pieces
- ¼ small white cabbage finely shredded
- 100 g white mushrooms halved or quartered
- ¼ head broccoli broken into florets
- 1 cup beansprouts
- 1 tablespoon sunflower or canola oil
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 cups chicken stock dissolve 2 stock cubes in 2 cups boiling water
Prepare and brown the chicken
- Rinse the chicken in cold water then pat dry with paper towel.
- Cut the chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces.
- Coat in 2 tablespoons cornflour / cornstarch.
- Heat 2 tablespoons sunflower oil in a wok or large frying pan and stir fry in batches until the chicken is browned. Set aside while you mix the sauce prepare the vegetables.
Make the sauce
- Mix all the ingredients and set aside
Prepare and steam the vegetables
- Peel and chop the vegetables
- Heat 1 tablespoon oil in the same pan that the chicken was browned in.
- Add the vegetables and stir well to coat.
- Turn down the heat to the lowest setting, add 2 tablespoons water then cover the pan with a lid and leave to steam for 6 to 8 minutes until the vegetables start to soften. Stir occasionally.
Add the sauce and chicken
- Add the sauce and 2 cups chicken stock to the vegetables. Bring to the boil stirring occasionally.
- Turn the heat down to a simmer and add the chicken
- Cover the pan with a lid and allow to simmer for approximately 10 minutes to allow the chicken to cook through.
- Cut one of largest chicken pieces in half and check that it cooked through (it should be completely white with no pink showing). If the chicken still shows pink, simmer for a few minutes longer.
- Once the chicken is cooked through, remove from the heat and serve with rice or noodles.
- substitute dark soy sauce with 3 tablespoons worcestershire sauce and 1 tablespoon water for each 4 tablespoons soy sauce
- mix equal quantities of hoisin and soy sauce and substitute the equivalent amount of this for the oyster sauce
- you can use either fresh or bottled garlic.
- use white sugar if you don’t have brown sugar.
- use either fresh or bottled chilli.
- substitute tahini paste or walnut oil for the sesame oil, or leave out altogther if you don’t have any.
- you can use fresh or bottled ginger or itcan be substituted with ground allspice, nutmeg or mace.
- if you don’t have tomato puree, substitute with tomato ketchup or fresh tomatoes.
- cornsflour / cornstarch can be substituted with regular flour / arrowroot or potato starch.
I am not a nutritionist. The nutrition information has been calculated using an on-line calculator, and is intended for information and guidance purposes only. If the nutrition information is important to you, you should consider calculating it yourself, using your preferred tool.
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