Nom Nom Paleo + Whole30 by Michelle Tam

One of the easiest and quickest Whole30 meals you can cook with scraps from your fridge is a healthy stir-fry. Those of you who follow me on Instagram know that I practice what I preach, because the most common weeknight meal I prep for my family is a stir-fry packed with protein and veggies.

A collage of Nom Nom Paleo stir-fry recipes

I love cooking stir-fries because I’ve always got a bottle of my All-Purpose Stir-Fry Sauce ready to go. Besides, a stir-fry is the best way to use up odds and ends in the fridge. I literally have zero excuse not to make a fast and tasty dinner!

You guys have asked me lots of questions on how to make a perfect stir-fry, so I’ve listed tips and answers to common questions below!

Tips and Tricks for a Perfect Stir-Fry

Prep All Your Ingredients

My number one tip for a perfect stir-fry is to prep all your ingredients before you start cooking. Although it might seem tedious to chop up all your ingredients ahead of time and measure everything out, you’ll thank yourself (and me!) later.

An important ingredient to prep ahead of time and to always have in your fridge is a bottle of my All-Purpose Stir-Fry Sauce. It takes less than 5 minutes to shake together in a mason jar, and it’s super-versatile— you can use it in tons of things besides stir-fry!

Shaking a jar of All-Purpose Stir-Fry Sauce

Size Matters

Make sure you chop your ingredients that you are cooking at the same time into roughly the same shape so they’ll be done at the same time. Also, the smaller something is, the faster it will cook. I like to thinly slice hard vegetables and keep leafy greens on the bigger side so they cook at the rate that I want them to.

The whole point of stir-frying is quickly cooking protein and vegetables that have been cut into bite-sized pieces in a hot pan with a flavorful sauce. If everything is ready to go as soon when the pot is hot, the process will be done lickety-split.

Use A Large Pan

Always use a larger pan than you think is necessary. If your pan is too small, your ingredients will crowd together and steam. Plus, the bigger the pan, the more stuff you can add to your stir-fry! If you don’t have a large pan, cook your ingredients in batches to achieve the same results.

Photo of ingredients being placed in a hot skillet.

No Wok Necessary

People always ask if I make my stir-fries in a wok, but I just use a large cast-iron skillet or a 12-inch stainless steel frying pan. If you have a wok, definitely use it because they’re designed to make perfect stir-fries.

Preferred Cooking Fats

When I make stir-fries at home, I usually use avocado oil or ghee as my cooking fat. Both are pretty neutral tasting and have a high smoke point. If I have lard, duck fat, or schmaltz on hand, I’ll use those as well. One thing I always do when cooking anything (but especially with stir-fries) is to get the pan nice and hot before adding the fat because you don’t want the fat to start breaking down before you start adding the stir-fry ingredients.

What Do I Put In A Stir-Fry?

This is my general formula for stir-fries: I start with aromatics (e.g. onion/shallots, minced ginger, and minced garlic), then add protein (e.g. sliced flank or flap steak, sliced chicken thighs, shrimp, ground meat, etc.), crunchy vegetables (e.g. carrots, bell peppers, or green beans) and/or leafy greens (e.g. baby bok choy, komatsuna, sliced napa cabbage, baby kale, spinach, etc.), and flavor boosters (e.g. All-Purpose Stir-Fry Sauce). If I have some scallions or cilantro in the fridge, I’ll mince them and sprinkle them on top of the stir-fry when I’m ready to serve the dish.

Photo of ingredients being placed in a hot skillet.

There isn’t any hard-and-fast rule about what to put in stir-fries. If I have mushrooms in the fridge, I’ll slice them up and sauté them at the beginning along with the aromatics. Also, because carrots and onions take longer to cook, I toss them in the pan early so they soften by the time I add the other ingredients in the pan. Leafy greens always go in near the end because they take almost no time to cook and wilt pretty quickly at high heat.

How Do I Cook A Stir-Fry?

If you’ve never cooked a stir-fry before, follow one of my step-by-step recipes below to get an idea of the order of how to cook things. Remember: there is no “right” way to cook it! Practice makes perfect and if your family loves they way you make it, you’re doing it right!

Here are some great recipes to try:

  • Potsticker Stir-Fry:  This Whole30-friendly dish consists of the very best part of the dumpling: the umami-rich filling of pork, cabbage, and mushrooms!

An overhead closeup shot of Potsticker Stir-Fry in a frying pan.

  • Spicy Pork & Asparagus Stir-Fry: This one-pan, family-friendly weeknight supper is simple, delicious, and inexpensive. So yeah, all of your excuses for why you can’t cook dinner tonight have been busted.

An overhead shot of Spicy Pork and Asparagus Stir-Fry in a bowl.

A side view of Asparagus Beef Stir-Fry in a cream serving bowl surrounded by bowls of cauliflower rice.

How Do I Get A Thicker Sauce?

I’m actually not a fan of thick gravy in my stir-fries because I don’t think it really adds anything to the dish other than added starch so I don’t normally thicken mine.

But if you prefer a thicker sauce, make an arrowroot powder slurry: whisk together ½ cup of All-Purpose Stir-Fry Sauce and 1 teaspoon arrowroot powder. Then, stir the slurry into your stir-fry when you are seasoning it at the end. The sauce will thicken as it simmers.

What do I serve with stir-fry?

The easiest thing I serve with stir-fry is just heated cauliflower rice. Sometimes I don’t serve anything with my stir-fry and just pack it full of vegetables!

Inspired to make a stir-fry? Great! Go peek in your fridge, find some tasty ingredients that need to be cooked, and start chopping!

Want more inspiration from my past January Whole30s? Check out my Day 27 post from 2018!

A note to my Nomsters: This is one of a series of daily blog posts I’m writing in the month of January 2019 to help those doing a Whole30 to kick off the New Year. Not sure what the Whole30 is, or want info on how to get started? Read my Whole30 prep post—and then come back to Nom Nom Paleo every single day for recipes to inspire, delight, and sustain you on your Whole30!

Looking for more recipe ideas? Head on over to my Recipe Index. You’ll also find exclusive recipes on my iPhone and iPad app, and in my cookbooks, Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2013) and Ready or Not! (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2017)!

About Michelle Tam

Hello! My name is Michelle Tam, and I love to eat. I think about food all the time. It borders on obsession. I’ve always loved the sights and smells of the kitchen. My mother was (and is) an excellent cook, and as a kid, I was her little shadow as she prepared supper each night. From her, I gained a deep, abiding love for magically transforming pantry items into mouth-watering family meals.

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