Dinner, Faster

A 15-Minute, Chef-Approved Meal You'll Never Be Too Tired to Make

January 12, 2017

This stir-fried rice isn't based on authentic Asian recipes—although those that I have followed in the past all share the same spirit of improvisation. Rather, this is what I have come to rely on in my own home kitchen when I want a delicious dinner with very little effort.

At least once—and sometimes twice—a week, it's my tried-and-true, easy-peasy, deeply satisfying, super quick dinner. If you have leftover rice (brown or white) in the fridge, along with some roast chicken or a few slices of last night’s steak or fish dinner, this dish can be made swiftly and easily. Get everything prepped and laid out on the counter next to the stove and it’ll come together in as quickly as 15 minutes.

But even if you do have to cook the rice first (this is why I love my rice cooker) and/or sauté a raw protein, the meal is still a relatively painless.

Here's my basic template:

(There are loads of other things that can be added to gussy it up and build it out.)

  • I start by browning shallots and garlic. I often like to add a little cured dried pork to the pan when sautéing the garlic and shallot; my favorite is Chinese dry sausage, but I have been known to use ham or even large lardons of very dry, aged prosciutto di Parma.
  • Then, I add the rice to get as much of the seared flavor and texture as I can. Next, I cook minced ginger and chile with greens—I like to use napa cabbage, bok choy, gai lan (a.k.a. Chinese broccoli), or plain spinach—and some protein. I most often use leftover fish or meat, but there is no reason not to make the meal completely vegetarian by using a slab of firm tofu, browned in the pan and then cut into cubes. You could have a very tasty vegan dish that no non-vegetarian would complain about.
  • Once the greens and protein are cooked, I add the rice back to the pan and mix everything together. Sometimes a beaten egg is a good thing to add at this point: Let it barely set, then stir into the rice so that it coats the grains.
  • I'll then season with soy or fish sauce, lime juice, and vinegar (black Chinese, sherry, or red wine).
  • Lastly, I garnish it all with bright green cilantro and one of my favorite pantry basics, toasted sesame seeds, along with roasted peanuts for a satisfying crunch.

What dishes, if any, do you make more than once a week? Tell us in the comments below.

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Claudine (Into the Dish)
    Claudine (Into the Dish)
  • Nik Nick
    Nik Nick
  • David Allan Feller
    David Allan Feller
  • Penny Hammack
    Penny Hammack
  • SophieL
chef/owner of Nina June Restaurant,


Claudine (. June 8, 2017
I made something similar last night! It's the perfect meal for kids as well - throw in their favourite veggies along with the rice, egg and protein and you've got a fast, perfectly balanced meal. Also work great with CAULIFLOWER RICE (aka Cauliflower snow) for a low carb version.
Nik N. March 20, 2017
The recipe does look look delicious, assuming Italian parsley instead of [blech!] cilantro. But, first of all, there are 15 ingredients to be located from the dark recesses of the refrigerator or cupboard. For a recipe advertised as "you'll never be too tired to make this", we've passed the "too tired" point already. Now nine of these ingredients are peeled, grated, diced, smashed, minced, sliced, destemmed, or juiced. For me, the 15-minute mark will have been exceeded sometime pretty early during the preceding exercise. Proceeding ever onwards, six ingredients are measured by the spoonful or cupful. Then there are three cooking phases: one to brown shallots and garlic and then heat the rice; a second, separate phase to cook meat and spinach; then finally combining the two parts, seasoning them, and ensuring all is piping hot.
As I say, it looks delicious. But it's not so fast or easy for a tired cook, and, as the author said in her earlier comment, it assumes having stocked up on the right ingredients ahead of time.
Lainey October 16, 2018
So there's this place called Macdonald's where I hear that you can just place an order and food (almost) instantly appears, Nik N. Then, with all the time you've saved, you can rearrange your refrigerator or cupboard so that you don't have PB, Cheetos, and Miracle Whip at the forefront. Measuring, while essential for something like baking or sewing, can easily be eyeballed when it comes to cooking. In the end, a bit of prep work (and time) will easily equal a delicious meal. Since you seem to be put off by both, I'm not quite sure why you're bothering to read recipes at all. Regardless, whatever you decide to eat, bon appétit.
David A. January 17, 2017
This is a superb recipe. We used leftover duck and kale for the protein/green combination.
Penny H. January 15, 2017
I try not to be negative but it would take me more than 15 minutes just to gather all the suggested ingredients, even if I had them on hand and didn't need to make a trip to the store. I live alone, cook for one and almost never have leftovers. I also try to save money and food by cooking only what I can eat in one meal. Please try to cut down on the number of ingredients and be sure of they are available without going to many different grocery stores. A fifteen minute meal shouldn't take hours of shopping and preparation.
Susie January 16, 2017
Hey Penny! If you really want to save money (and time) when cooking for one, leftovers are your friend! Make recipes for 4 that you can enjoy for a few dinners/lunches or re-purpose for recipes like this one. Waaaaay more efficient (and fun!)
Sara J. January 16, 2017
I am sorry you feel that way, this is really a dish about using up leftovers, if you don't have leftovers it is of course a longer and more complicated dish. i also tend to hoard in my pantry certain things like toasted sesame seeds and toasted sesame oil, various nuts, dry ingredients that won't go bad if I don't use them. For me having a well stocked pantry of dry ingredients and condiments makes it easy for me to spice up some plain rice and spinach I would pick up at any grocery store or deli. And because I do frequently have small bits of cooked left over protein for me its a great way to use up something delicious and valuable. We all cook differently just like we all eat differently so sometimes we must agree to disagree!
SophieL January 15, 2017
And if you have leftover leftovers, you can reheat the fried rice for breakfast and top with a fried egg. The dish that keeps on giving! So good.
Sue W. January 12, 2017
In the U.K. We can buy 2/3portion packs of various types of rice ( and lentils) to cook in the microwave for 2 mins excellent for quick suppers and would be good for this!
olivia.k January 15, 2017
These are available in endless varieties in the US also.