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Best Stir-Fry Sauce EVER™. For Real.
Left to my own devices, I tend toward Mediterranean or Middle-Eastern seasonings: cumin, fresh parsley, lemon juice, garlic. I like to make dishes that taste like they’d be best enjoyed on a sun-dappled patio, overlooking an olive grove or turquoise blue waters.
But my main man Dave, he likes Asian. Every Friday afternoon, he takes himself out to lunch at Zen, and more often than not, when I just can’t bear to cook (those days do happen), he offers to pickup my standard Zen order (salmon, double karma mix, wheat-dairy-gluten-free green curry sauce, no noodles, no rice).
When we went to Penzeys Spices a few months ago, he picked up some Chinese Five Spice Powder so we could sprinkle transform veggies and protein from “ingredients” into “dinner.” Five Spice Powder includes all five essential flavors – sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, and salty – in the form of pepper, anise, cloves, cinnamon, and fennel.
The recipe below is inspired by the one printed on the back of the Penzeys label; I just decreased the amount of honey and added the chili-garlic sauce for zing.
Best Stir-Fry Sauce EVER™
Makes 1/3 cup | Prep 5 minutes | Whole30 compliant
3 tablespoons coconut aminos or homemade substitute
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
2 teaspoons Chinese Five Spice Powder
1/2 teaspoon honey (if you’re doing a strict Whole30, leave it out)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon chili garlic paste
Blend all of the above in a small bowl and set aside.
Stir fry your favorite veggies and protein in coconut oil until desired tenderness.
Add the stir-fry sauce and cook until the sauce is slightly thickened and heated through. Drizzle with a little bit of sesame oil.
Eat! Enjoy! Be sure to inhale the exotic aroma!
One of my favorite combos: ground lamb with red bell peppers, green beans, cabbage, and onions. I blanch the green beans before stir frying so they’re tender, but not mushy. The onions and red pepper can just be sauteed in oil to make them crisp-tender.
Every protein source I’ve tried—beef (ground or sliced), chicken, shrimp, and lamb—has been great with this sauce. Here are some veggies combos that I really like:
Broccoli, slivered carrot, and mushrooms
Snow peas, snap peas, and red pepper
Eggplant, red peppers, chunks of cabbage, and onion
Slivered carrot with a pepper medley: sweet green, sweet red, Anaheim, poblano – all sliced thin and sauteed with yellow onion
Okra, eggplant, snow peas, and yellow onion
Bonus Cooking Tip
The way a vegetable is sliced affects how quickly it cooks, it’s texture, and it’s mouth-feel. Try to cut all your veggies for stir-fry into approximately even-sized pieces so they cook uniformly. Chunks of peppers taste very different than slivers. Carrot coins are different than grated or matchsticks. Chunks of cabbage cook to a different texture than thin slices. Change the shape, change your dish.
I usually pick one shape for a stir fry and stick to it. Sometimes it’s all 1-inch chunks (peppers, cabbage, and eggplant, for example); other times it’s slivers (green beans, red pepper, onion).
Experiment to see which you like the best. You really can’t go wrong, especially if you use the Best Stir Fry Sauce EVER.™
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I just made stir-fry last night, I will have to try your sauce out next time.
Let me know if you like it! It really is good on just about everything.
What brand of chili garlic paste do you use and what section of the store do you find it in? The only pastes I currently keep on hand are anchovy, tomato, and Thai red curry… Thanks!
This is the one I use:
If you can’t find chile garlic sauce, you can substitute an additional garlic clove, a teaspoon of rice vinegar, and a 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes.
would this sauce work even without the OJ ?
It will work without the OJ, but adding something a little sweet helps balance the flavors. The original recipes mostly included honey, so I added fruit juice instead. If you have some unsweetened applesauce, you could add that… or pineapple juice from a can of unsweetened pineapple.
Can you make any of your sauces ahead of time? I was reading through your (amazingly, wonderfully awesome) cookbook last night and like your recommendations for prepping your food on Sundays.
Absolutely! Most of them are good for 5-7 days. Just let your nose and your tastebuds be your guide — if they smell good and a tiny taste of it tastes fresh, you’re good to go.
Can I make & freeze this sauce? I was thinking of whipping up a batch of everyone of your sauces and freezing them until I wanted to eat them that day. Your thoughts? Thank u!
I don’t see why you couldn’t — that should work just fine. Be sure to defrost it in the fridge!
I am going to try this tonight will let you know what I think of it.
Daughter has a sensitivity to coconut. Sub for aminos?
There’s no paleo substitute, but you could use gluten-free soy sauce if you’re not concerned about the soy.
You can also use fish sauce (make sure there are no added ingredients — Red Boat Fish Sauce is awesome). It will change the flavor quite a bit, but will add the salty taste the soy or coconut aminos provides.
Maybe it was my Chinese 5 spice blend, but the sauce tasted really cinnamon-heavy. The smell and taste was so overwhelming it was all I could taste. The next time I used this recipe I used all of the ingredients (except honey as i’m on whole 30), but used a dash of the chinese 5 spice and a lot of garlic and ginger powder – it came out a lot better. Again, maybe it’s just my blend.
Used this one on stir-fried onions and cabbage, with ground pork and egg. Used lemon juice instead of orange, and cinnamon and pepper instead of 5-spice. Love!
Love your modifications! So glad you liked it. Thanks for letting me know!
I just made this tonight. I used this weekend as a trial run to prep for the week but plan to officially start a whole 30 after the 4th. This was so very good! Like I could eat more than I should probably. My husband didn’t like the cinnamon in the 5 spice though. Do you know of other spices I could sub to go a different route with this sauce, yet still keep the Asian flavors?
You could just use ginger and garlic, skipping the 5-spice, and it would probably be really good, too. Best wishes for an awesome Whole30!
So we’ve made this sauce a few times. The first time I loved it! I like to use it in a breakfast scramble of spinach, browned ground beef, and egg. However, the last two times we’ve made it quickly changes consistency from a liquid to something resembling egg whites. It doesn’t seem like it has gone bad, but the weird viscid and gloppy behavior is a real turn off. the only difference from the first batch to the last two is that the first one did not have the chili-garlic paste in it. I notice this recipe doesn’t have it listed, but it is in your book (I think?). Either way I can’t see why the chili-garlic paste would cause this…weirdness.
Any thoughts as to why this is happening?
Without being in the kitchen with you while you’re cooking, there’s no way for me to know what might the issue might be. I revised the recipe to remove the chili-garlic paste because it includes non-Whole30 ingredients — so that might be it!
I’m a big fan of stir fry and Asian cuisine, but I’m not a big fan of Chinese 5 Spice. Maybe it’s the cloves and/or Anise. Can you recommend a different spice(s) for this sauce?
Leave out the Chinese five-spice and add about 1 tablespoon of freshly grated ginger instead. It will taste completely different than this recipe, but will be really good, too.
I will try this too. And, I am also going to get a new jar of 5-spice – mine is just way too heavy on the star anise flavor, so, did not love this as much as other stir fry sauces you have in Well Fed Weeknights. Thanks Mel!
I just love your blog Mel! From your recipes, to your whole30 substitutions, to your combination ideas and suggestions for how to pair things. It is the most helpful blog I’ve come across, not to mention the food is BOMB. Thank you for sharing your gifts! <3
You’re so kind! Thank you! I’m very glad your finding it all helpful.