My mom has been making this Fried Rice since I was a little girl, and it is absolutely delicious, with the perfect proportion of ingredients in every bite. It’s ready in less than 20 minutes, and is a great way to use up leftover rice. Enjoy this recipe on its own or as a side for Orange Beef or Kung Pao Chicken!
Fried rice is one of the most nostalgic dishes from my childhood, and one of the first recipes I learned how to make from my mom. She was known for her fried rice, and after we shared it in a class cookbook, it became dubbed the Best Fried Rice Recipe in the world.
Making fried rice is easy, though there is some skill involved in getting the proportions right. You don’t want too many or too few mix-ins, and ideally they all sort of meld together to become one flavor in every bite. You can make it as hearty as you want, adding different kinds of protein to make it good enough for dinner.
There are many renditions you can make, but this is what we’d consider the classic. It has big pieces of egg and little bits of shrimp for our proteins of choice, but you can certainly adjust it to your tastes or what you have on hand.
Why This Recipe Is The Best
Perfectly balanced – The best Fried Rice will have the right proportion of mix-ins, and this hits that note. Plus, you can actually taste the pieces of egg here, since we cook it separately.
Quick, and leftovers keep beautifully – This takes just under 20 minutes to make, and leftovers can be stored in the fridge for several days, or frozen for later.
Versatile – There are so many different ingredient combinations you can use, both with vegetables and proteins. I share variations below.
Delicious – Even with minimal ingredients, there is tons of flavor in every bite.
Even though it’s fun to play with the flavors and ingredients, just make sure you don’t stray too far from the formula for fried rice. Just as I share in my Shrimp and Sausage Jambalaya that you need to make sure you always retain andouille sausage and Cajun holy trinity, here you need to make sure you keep the proportion of vegetables and rice balanced, don’t use anything that’s too big, and don’t remove any of the soy sauce.
Tips for Best Results
Use good Asian soy sauce – I remember when I did a taste test of different brands of soy sauce side-by-side, I was absolutely astonished by how much the flavor and quality varied. Not all of them are produced in the same way. My favorite brands are San-J, Lee Kum Kee, and Kikkoman. Stay away from La Choy as well as grocery brands.
Cut the vegetables small – The most cohesive bites of fried rice have little bits of all the ingredients in them, which means that it’s best to cut the vegetables pretty finely. Make it big enough to taste, don’t mince it, but don’t have huge chunks of carrot either. The best way to think of this is to make the fresh veggies you cut not much larger than a few grains of rice.
Use leftover cold rice OR hot, fresh rice – You’ve probably heard before that leftover day-old rice is best, and it indeed works well, but you can also use a hot, fresh batch of rice if you don’t have any leftovers and get a hankering for this recipe.
Step by Step Overview:
The first thing we’re going to do is cook our egg. Cooking the egg separately is SO much better than cracking an egg straight into the rice and stirring it around, because otherwise it gets lost, and you don’t really taste it! And remember, the best fried rice is all about tasting little bits of all the ingredients. I cook my egg thick like an Omelette over medium heat, then chop it into pieces:
This way, you can really taste the egg. It makes a big difference! Set aside the egg in a small bowl for later.
Now that the skillet is nice and hot, we can keep going. Take the same pan, increase the stove to medium-high heat, and saute some chopped carrots, peas, and scallions (aka green onions), in melted butter or cooking oil, until soft:
You may cut the carrots yourself fresh, or you can use pre-bagged frozen chopped carrots and peas. If you wish to add any other types of vegetables, such as cut bell peppers, bok choy, and so on, now is the time to add them.
Now it’s time to add the rice. I like to add cold, leftover rice straight to the pan, stirring it around to break it all up. This is ideal because the grains are more dry, and less likely to stick together in the pan.
Don’t have leftover rice?
I’ve used hot, freshly cooked rice in a pinch, and it actually works well. I try to put slightly less water in the rice cooker (affiliate) so the rice grains are on the dry side.
The best variety to use
The best rice for this recipe is a long-grain white rice variety, like Jasmine rice, which will be aromatic and fluffy in texture but not sticky at all. However, you can make it successfully with virtually any kind of leftover white or brown rice, whether it’s long grain rice, short grain, or medium. I have even made it with cauliflower in Cauliflower Chicken Fried Rice, which is a great recipe for a lower carb diet, when you can’t tolerate much rice.
Now add soy sauce, stirring everything around for a few minutes afterward to distribute the flavor:
I recommend using a quality soy sauce. I like San-J, Lee Kum Kee, and Kikkoman.
Also, note that I intentionally do not add oyster sauce to this dish. I’ve noticed recipes across the web starting to include it, but it’s traditionally not used in this dish, and I don’t think it’s a beneficial flavor to add on net. If you are avoiding soy for dietary reasons, you may try using coconut aminos, but it’s not quite the same.
Time to add our protein! Stir in cooked baby shrimp and the pre-cooked egg pieces from before.
What size shrimp should you use?
This is actually an occasion where you shouldn’t bother using big shrimp, because smaller shrimp will blend better into the rice, and that’s very important for the dish.
Tiny baby shrimp work best here. They usually come already cooked, and they’re very economical!
Other Proteins You Can Substitute
If you’re not a fan of shrimp, you can either leave it out altogether, or change it out for some kind of meat. Here are a few meat additions I’ve tried and enjoyed, but I’ll note that the best things to pick here are typically the more flavorful meats:
- Ground pork or ground chicken – Brown and break up the meat and cook completely, the step after you cook the egg.
- Bacon – Cook completely and crumble (see How to Cook Bacon in the Oven), then stir into the rice after the vegetables are cooked.
- Ham – After I make a big spiral ham for holidays like Easter, I chop up the remaining ham and put it into the freezer. Then add the ham bits to the fried rice. You can even reheat it straight from frozen, cooking it with the vegetables.
Add a little more soy sauce, and toss for another minute or two in the hot pan. Make sure to stir constantly and keep things moving so nothing scorches on the bottom of the pan.
That’s it! Give the fried rice a taste and see if it needs any adjustments. If you enjoy it, you might consider adding a teaspoon of sesame oil, but I prefer mine without it. With sesame oil, a little bit goes a long way.
How to Serve It
Fried rice recipes are definitely best enjoyed while piping hot, when the grains are at their fluffiest. This can be served as the main dish, or you can pair it with most Asian entrees as a side dish.
Ingredient Variations to Try
This recipe is the classic that I enjoy the most, but it can be fun to play with variations over time. Here are some other combinations that I’ve enjoyed.
Kimchi – Chop up into little bits and use in addition to OR instead of the carrots and peas.
Ham + Pineapple – If using the ham as specified above, add bits of pineapple for a great addition to compliment the flavor.
Green Curry Fried Rice – This gives it more of a Thai feel, and the flavor is amazing!
Recipe FAQ and Tips:
Keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Let it cool, then store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 2 months. I recommend letting it thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating/serving again.
The microwave is easiest, just make sure you have some sort of lid or plate on top of it to trap the moisture and steam the rice, otherwise you’ll get hard and dried out grains instead of fluffy grains. Microwave in 1 minute intervals until warm. Or, reheat in a skillet, stir frying it to rewarm, about 5 minutes on medium high heat.
Healthy means different things to different people, but I eat this during keto for my carb-ups. It’s gluten-free if you use tamari.
- 3 large eggs
- 4 tbsp butter or other cooking fat of choice*
- 1 cup chopped carrots
- 1 cup frozen peas thawed**
- 1/2 cup sliced scallions
- 4 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
- 4 cups cooked leftover rice preferably a day old***
- 1 cup cooked baby shrimp thawed from frozen
- Whisk the eggs in a bowl with a tablespoon of water and 1/4 teaspoon salt, until blended.
- Heat one tablespoon of butter in a large nonstick skillet set over medium heat, and add the beaten eggs. Let the eggs cook for a couple minutes, not moving the egg around the pan, but just letting it sit until it sets into an Omelette.
- Remove the egg to a cutting board, and chop into big pieces.
- Add two tablespoons of butter to the same skillet, set over medium high heat, and add the carrots, peas, and scallions.
- Add 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, and cook for about 5 minutes, until the carrots soften slightly.
- Add the leftover rice, and toss around for 1 minute, breaking up any clumps with your spatula.
- Add 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and the remaining tablespoon of butter, frying and tossing the rice for 3-4 minutes.
- Add the shrimp, egg, and remaining tablespoon of soy sauce, and toss for 2 more minutes, until the rice looks evenly brown. Enjoy!
Nutrition is estimated using a food database and is only intended to be used as a guideline for informational purposes.
Post updated in August 2020. Originally published March 2012.