Stir Fry Sauces

Sauce is Boss

Make these basic sauces from your own pantry. Most of them have only 3 or 4 common Asian ingredients. You need only stock a few inexpensive components to inspire great stir fries.

This is the second in a two-part series on home stir frying. Refer to Brave New Stir Fry for prepping and cooking instructions.


It’s the sauce that illuminates stir fry dishes. Change out a sauce and create a different dish. One night creamy peanut sauce…another night sweet-sour. Or cook the protein portion with teriyaki sauce and the vegetables with plum sauce and then combine into one main course dish.

After watching at least fifty stir fry cooking shows on TV in the early 80’s [Wok with Yan] I began to see the common structure within stir frying. The veggies are cooked and removed, then the protein is cooked and the veggies are added back into the pan and the sauce is added, and then the thickener. In a thirty minute show the chef made three dishes, day-in and day-out. After about 80 shows it dawned on me that I can do this! Hopefully you will be inspired sooner…

Here are the sauce recipes to inspire you to a fast and easy stir fry dish or meal.

These recipes are adaptations made fresh with good ingredients. Shop for quality pantry items and watch how much you can save over the bottled varieties found in supermarkets.

From the pantry below you can make most of these sauces!

Sauce Index

  • Everyday Sauce

  • Teriyaki Sauce

  • White Sauce (Moo Goo Gai Pan)

  • Plum Sauce

  • Sweet-Sour Sauce

  • Peanut Sauce

  • Eurasian Sauce

Pantry stock

  • soy sauce or tamari sauce (gluten free)
  • rice vinegar
  • balsamic vinegar
  • sake wine or dry sherry or dry vermouth
  • mirin wine (find in Asian markets)
  • arrowroot powder, or corn starch, tapioca powder, potato starch
  • plum jam or other tart jams
  • ginger root
  • garlic
  • hoisin sauce
  • peanut butter
  • white miso (or yellow “sweet” miso)
  • hot sauce or chili flakes

Recipes

I separate the sauce from the thickener to make this a two-step finalé. This is so the sauce can easily penetrate the ingredients BEFORE the thickener sets. You can skip this and add both at the same time if desired.

EVERYDAY SAUCE   This is a standard stir fry sauce, dependable and balanced. Make a large batch. This can be stored in your pantry.

  • soy sauce, 2 TBS
  • dry sherry, 2 TBS or sake, or dry vermouth
  • water, 4 TBS

THICKENER:   arrowroot powder, 1 tsp, dissolved in 4 TBS water


TERIYAKI SAUCE  “Teri” means shiny, and “yaki” means boiled or broiled in this famous mahogany colored sauce. If you want to make an authentic sauce you will need to shop for these ingredients.  

Tofu Teriyaki
Tofu Teriyaki
  • sake, 2 TBS, or dry sherry or dry vermouth
  • mirin,* 2 TBS
  • soy sauce, 2 TBS
  • sugar, 2 TBS
  • arrowroot powder, 1 tsp

*mirin is a sweet wine found in Asian markets. To approximate without mirin double the sake and add 1 extra tsp. of sugar.


TOFU TERIYAKI – This sauce is used to glaze protein after it has been slightly undercooked and then finished in the sauce as it simmers away reducing to a thickened glaze.

  1. One package firm tofu, cut into 1/2 inch thick slabs and pressed lightly in toweling.
  2. In a non-stick or seasoned skillet, add neutral oil (peanut) and sauté tofu in single layer; leave in place for 2-3 minutes to develop a light golden texture. Then flip and repeat.
  3. Add in the teriyaki sauce and continually turn the tofu as the sauce thickens until thickened into a glaze (see photo above).
  4. Serve topped with sliced scallions, and/or toasted sesame seeds
  5. Optionally, cut tofu into 1/2 inch cubes and repeat above. Then use in a stir fry of vegetables.

Repeat this teriyaki sauce for any protein—chicken, pork, fish, mushrooms— that has been cooked until almost done. Add the teriyaki sauce to the skillet and toss the protein until sauce is thickened.

WHITE SAUCE (MOO GOO GAI PAN) This is the basic sauce found in Moo Goo Gai Pan, and other dishes that call for a clear, light sauce. But we do not produce a white colored sauce, because we use a good quality dark soy sauce, instead of the mass market light soy sauce. It’s great on shrimp, scallops, or soyfoods dishes. The sauce loves the company of several vegetables, several colors, and several textures.Moo Goo Gai Pan

  • light miso, 1 TBS (or yellow or sweet)
  • water, 4 TBS
  • soy sauce, 2 TBS
  • sake, 2 TBS or dry sherry or dry vermouth
  • maple syrup, 1 TBS

THICKENER: arrowroot powder, 1 tsp dissolved in 4 TBS water


PLUM SAUCE  or JAM SAUCE  This is a classic sauce with a mild balance of sweet and sour, not as sharp as a honey and cider vinegar base. Exchange jams as you please 

Plum Sauce

 

  • plum jam, 3 TBS
  • rice vinegar, 3 TBS
  • soy sauce, 3 TBS

THICKENER: arrowroot powder, 1 tsp, dissolved in 4 TBS water

 


SWEET & SOUR SAUCE  This is classic made with healthier based ingredients

  • apple juice, 1/4 cup
  • honey, 2 TBS or sugar
  • apple cider vinegar, 2 TBS
  • sea salt, 1 tsp

THICKENER: arrowroot powder, 1 tsp, dissolved in 4 TBS water


PEANUT SAUCE  Hoisin is China’s “catsup” that quickly melds with peanut butter to make this near-instant creamy sauce.

  • hoisin sauce, 1/4 cup
  • peanut butter, 1/4 cup
  • water, 1/4 cup

Bring hot sauce and wedges of lime to the table

This is a naturally thickened sauce. Top the stir fry with chopped scallion tops, and chopped peanuts.


EURASIAN SAUCE   I created this sauce that is part European, Middle Eastern, and Asian—a union of spice, sweet, sour, and salt rolling around your palate.

  • soy sauce, 4 TBS
  • balsamic vinegar, 4 TBS
  • cumin powder, 1 tsp
  • gingerroot, 2 tsp
  • garlic, 1 tsp, minced

THICKENER: arrowroot powder, 1 tsp, dissolved in 4 TBS water

 

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