This recipe is a simple and nutritious homemade stir fry with velveted chicken, which makes it both juicy and saucy. The abundance of vegetables makes this an all in one meal, perfect for a busy weeknight. All you have to do is cook some rice or noodles on the side and everything else is done in one skillet.
I love serving stir fries for dinner. Since I’m cooking the protein and the vegetables at the same time, it’s an easy option and everything cooks at the same time. Prepping the ingredients takes the most amount of time and once you have everything sliced and chopped, the cooking goes really quickly.
This particular recipe is so good because the chicken is extra flavorful and so tender. Using boneless skinless chicken breast makes this a much healthier option but the velveting technique makes the chicken incredibly soft and tender.
Stir fries are also a great way to use all your favorite stir fry vegetables, so it can be as simple as just broccoli and carrots or add a whole assortment of vegetables. You can also mix things up and use this as a base for many different stir fry variations.
We love serving stir fry with rice, most of the time I make long grain basmati rice and other times brown rice. You can of course make some noodles instead of rice. The delicious and flavorful stir fry sauce will coat the chicken and vegetables and soak into the rice or noodles, making the perfect saucy dinner.
Ingredients For the Stir Fry and What Vegetables Are Good For Stir Fries:
Chicken – I use chicken breast, but you can also use chicken thigh meat.
Cornstarch, soy sauce, red wine and oil – Velveting ingredients. The soy sauce and the red wine marinate the chicken and give it flavor. The cornstarch and the oil (avocado, peanut or grape seed oils) are the coating for the chicken, which will make it really tender and “velvety”.
Vegetables – I use carrots, celery, onion, broccoli, cauliflower, canned baby corn, ginger and garlic for this particular stir fry. You can just pick a few vegetables, like broccoli and carrots, leaving out the rest to make it simpler.
Other vegetables that work great in stir fries: bell peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, bok choy, cabbage, green beans, snow peas, and water chestnuts (canned or frozen).
What is Velveted Chicken?
Velveting chicken is a technique where you coat the chicken in oil and cornstarch mixture before cooking it to prevent the chicken from drying out. This is a perfect technique for chicken breast, which has a tendency to overcook very quickly. Marinating the chicken also gives it a boost of flavor. The chicken has a velvety texture and is so soft, you won’t believe you’re eating chicken breast.
Not only is the chicken breast very low in fat and is a healthy option, it’s also really easy to prep. There isn’t as much to clean out and trim out the extra fat or other things as when you’re using chicken thighs. Although, you can certainly use boneless, skinless chicken thighs for this recipe as well.
Preparing the Chicken and Cooking It:
Chicken breast is usually quite thick, so I recommend cutting it in half horizontally in the thickest parts of the chicken. Slice the chicken thinly into approximately 1/4 inch thick slices. You can cut the slices longer or shorter 1-2 inches long, depending on how you like it, as long as you keep the thickness relatively the same so that they cook evenly.
Place the sliced chicken into a medium bowl and mix it with the soy sauce, red wine (this is optional – it gives extra flavor, but you can omit it if you don’t want to use it), the cornstarch and the oil. Set aside to marinate while you prep the rest of the ingredients.
Add 1/2 Tablespoon of oil to a nonstick skillet and cook the chicken in batches until golden brown on both sides. The first side usually takes 1-2 minutes, and the second side only 30 seconds to a minute.
Make sure not to crowd the skillet, keeping the chicken in one single layer, otherwise the chicken won’t get as brown and will look very pale. There should be enough oil left over from the first batch to cook the next batch or two, so you most likely won’t need additional oil, but if the skillet is dry, add a bit more. Set the chicken aside in a bowl while you cook the vegetables using the same skillet.
Prepping Chicken in Advance:
Don’t add the cornstarch and the oil earlier than 30 minutes before cooking, so if you want to marinate the chicken hours in advance or the day before, simply add the soy sauce, refrigerate and then add the cornstarch and oil right before cooking.
Cooking the Vegetables in the Stir Fry – Tips for the best stir fry.
Cooking the vegetables doesn’t take a long time and moves along pretty quickly, so it’s really important to have them all prepped before you start cooking. The great thing is that you can prep most of the vegetables up to a few days in advance, so if you do that, the actual cooking process is really quick.
I also highly recommend cooking the vegetables separately because this will give them the best texture, since some vegetables cook through faster than others. If you just throw all of them into the skillet at the same time, first of all you would need a larger skillet because they won’t fit, and second, some vegetables will be overcooked while other will still be half raw.
Another thing that I like to do that makes this homemade version much healthier that typical take out stir fries, is to use a much smaller amount of oil. I use just a teaspoon for each skillet of vegetables, which is enough to initially saute the vegetables and get that brown, caramelized flavor, but then I add a splash of water or broth to the skillet, instead of adding more oil. Cover the skillet with a lid and the water will “steam” the vegetables and cook them through this way until they are as soft as you like.
Cook the vegetables that cook at the same rate, like carrots, celery and onion together and keep the rest separate. Each time you cook each of the components, set them aside in the same prep bowls (besides the chicken, of course), or take out a large bowl and add everything to the bowl while cooking the rest of the ingredients.
Preparing Homemade Honey, Garlic and Soy Stir Fry Sauce:
Mix all the sauce ingredients together. A liquid measuring cup is perfect because it has a pour spout, which comes in handy when you pour the sauce into the skillet to cook.
My favorite combination of ingredients to use for homemade stir fry: chicken broth, soy sauce, honey, mirin (a sweet cooking rice wine – you can use rice vinegar instead as well) and cornstarch to thicken it up. I also use garlic and ginger, but I cook those in the skillet first for a few seconds before pouring in the rest of the ingredients.
Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for a few minutes until it starts to thicken.
You can do this 2 ways:
Cook the sauce separately in the same skillet you used for the stir fry. If all your cooked chicken and vegetables are in a big bowl, add the cooked sauce, mix everything to combine and serve. Since stir fries are cooked quickly, everything should still be warm enough and the hot sauce will warm it through even more.
You can also use a larger skillet to make the sauce and then add all the cooked chicken and vegetables into the skillet with the sauce after it thickens just enough to warm everything through. You can cook the sauce in the same skillet and only add in the canned baby corn because it will be the coldest and only add the things into the skillet that you cooked first, like the chicken, carrots, celery and onion. Since the broccoli and cauliflower are cooked last, they should still be hot enough, so add them in to the stir fry at the very end and serve.
This recipe is a simple and nutritious homemade stir fry with velveted chicken, which makes it both juicy and saucy. The abundance of vegetables makes this an all in one meal, perfect for a busy weeknight.
2 chicken breast halves
1/8 cup soy sauce
1/8 cup red wine (optional)
2 Tablespoons oil (avocado, peanut or grape seed oil)
1 1/2 Tablespoons cornstarch
For the rest of the stir fry:
oil for frying (about 2 1/2 – 3 1/2 Tablespoons, avocado, peanut or grape seed oil)
2–3 carrots, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
1 celery stalk, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
1 onion, sliced
1 broccoli crown, cut into florets
1/2 a cauliflower head, cut into florets
salt, ground black pepper to taste
1 (14 oz) can baby corn, cut each in half
1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
2–4 garlic cloves, minced
Honey, Garlic and Soy Stir Fry Sauce:
1/2 cup chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
2 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 Tablespoon mirin
1 Tablespoon honey
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon asian chili sauce, optional
Cut the chicken into thin strips, about 1/4 inch thick slices. You can cut the chicken in half horizontally if the chicken is thick. The chicken strips can be longer or shorter, depending on how you like it, 1-2 inches long, just make sure they are approximately the size thickness.
Marinate the chicken in the soy sauce, red wine (optional), the oil and cornstarch. Set it aside while you prep the rest of the ingredients. Cut all the vegetables and have them ready for the skillet.
Combine the sauce ingredients in a liquid measuring cup, using a whisk and set aside.
To cook the chicken:
Heat 1/2 Tablespoon of oil in a nonstick skillet over high heat. Add the chicken and cook, without stirring until browned on both sides, about 1-2 minutes on the first side and 30 seconds – 1 minute on the second side. Cook the chicken in batches, so that the chicken is cooking in one layer in the skillet. You should have enough oil in the skillet to use for the next batches of chicken, so you probably won’t need to add more oil, but if the skillet is dry, add a bit more oil.
Set aside in a bowl until the vegetables are cooked.
Cooking the Vegetables and the Sauce For the Stir Fry:
Using a nonstick skillet, heat up 1 teaspoon of oil on high heat.
Add the carrots, celery and onion, season with salt to taste.
Cook on medium high heat until the carrots and celery are softened, about 3-5 minutes. Add a few tablespoons of water to the skillet after the first minute, closing with a lid, so the vegetables cook through better and you don’t have to use as much oil. Set aside in a small bowl.
In the same skillet, add another teaspoon of oil and add the broccoli, season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook on high heat until the florets are starting to curl, about 1- 2 minutes.
Add 1/4 cup water or broth to the skillet. Reduce the heat to medium, cover the skillet and cook until all the liquid has been absorbed and the broccoli is tender but still vibrantly green, another 2-5 minutes, depending on how soft you like the broccoli. Set aside.
Repeat the same with the cauliflower. Set aside.
In the same skillet, add 1/2 teaspoon of oil and add the garlic and ginger, cooking for just 30 seconds until the garlic is fragrant. Pour in the stir fry ingredients, whisking it up right before pouring it into the skillet. Bring the sauce to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium low and cook for a few minutes, just until the sauce starts to thicken up.
Add the baby corn, carrots, celery and onions, as well as the chicken into the skillet with the sauce and cook for just a few minutes, until the ingredients are heated through.
Add the broccoli and cauliflower to the stir fry and mix to combine. Serve with rice.
Keywords: chicken stir fry, chicken and vegetable stir fry, chicken, broccoli, cauliflower and carrot stir fry, stir fry with baby corn, how to make homemade stir fry sauce
This is an updated version of the Velveted Chicken Stir Fry recipe that was published originally on March 9, 2012. I have updated the pictures and clarified the instructions. Enjoy!