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Can you make stir-fry in advance?

Making stir-fry is a quick and easy way to get a delicious meal on the table. The process of stir-frying involves cooking ingredients over very high heat and tossing them constantly to ensure even cooking. This means stir-fries are typically made right before serving. However, there are some tips and tricks you can use to prep parts of a stir-fry in advance.

Can you prep stir-fry ingredients ahead of time?

Yes, you can prep stir-fry ingredients ahead of time. Here are some ways to get a head start on your stir-fry:

  • Cut up vegetables like onions, carrots, broccoli, bell peppers, etc. Store them in sealable bags or containers lined with paper towels in the fridge.
  • Measure out and mix together sauce ingredients like soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, ginger, etc. Store in a jar or container in the fridge.
  • Marinate proteins like chicken, beef, shrimp or tofu in a bit of oil, corn starch, and seasoning. Store covered in the fridge.
  • Cook rice or noodles ahead of time. Allow to cool completely before storing in the fridge until needed.
  • Toast nuts like peanuts, cashews or almonds. Set aside in a bowl at room temperature.

Doing some of the prep work ahead makes it much quicker to throw everything together for the actual stir-frying. Just avoid prepping certain ingredients too far in advance, like cutting vegetables more than a day ahead.

Can you cook all the stir-fry ingredients ahead of time?

It’s not recommended to fully cook a stir-fry dish in advance. Stir-frying relies on very fast, very high heat cooking. Partially cooking ingredients ahead of time can lead to overcooked vegetables and meats later on. Here are some tips on what you can and cannot cook early:

  • Do par-cook sturdy vegetables like broccoli, carrots or cauliflower. Blanch in boiling water just until slightly softened but still crunchy.
  • Don’t fully cook more delicate veggies like spinach, bean sprouts or peppers.
  • Do partially cook proteins like chicken breast or steak. Sear until just cooked through then allow to rest.
  • Don’t fully cook proteins like shrimp or tofu. They will overcook when stir-fried.
  • Do make sauce and aromatics like garlic, ginger and green onions ahead.
  • Don’t add sauce to other ingredients until ready to serve.

In general, vegetables and proteins that take longer to cook can be par-cooked. More delicate ingredients should stay raw until stir-frying. Sauce and seasonings can be prepped ahead, but only combine them with other ingredients right before serving.

How far in advance can you make a stir-fry?

With some advance prep, stir-fries can be assembled up to 1-2 days before serving. Here are some tips for making stir-fry ahead of time:

  • Prep vegetables, proteins, sauce, aromatics etc. 1-2 days in advance.
  • Par-cook vegetables and proteins up to 1 day ahead.
  • Cook rice or noodles up to 3 days ahead. Chill thoroughly before storing.
  • Do not combine the sauce with other ingredients until ready to serve.
  • Assemble the final dish up to 2 days ahead. Store tightly covered in fridge.
  • When ready to serve, reheat stir-fry in a skillet over medium-high heat until piping hot.
  • Add a splash of water if the stir-fry seems dry, continuing to toss ingredients.

Assembling the full stir-fry more than 2 days in advance is not recommended. The textures of ingredients will start to suffer. With some strategic make-ahead strategies, you can have a quick and tasty stir-fry any night of the week!

What are the best vegetables for prepped stir-fry?

The best vegetables to prep ahead for stir-fries include:

  • Broccoli – Can be chopped and stored in fridge up to 5 days. Blanch briefly before stir-frying.
  • Carrots – Peel and slice up to 5 days ahead. Parcook before stir-frying.
  • Cauliflower – Break into florets and store up to 5 days. Blanch before stir-frying.
  • Cabbage – Shreds store up to 5 days. Quick to stir-fry as is.
  • Onions – Diced onions keep 5-7 days. Saute before stir-frying other ingredients.
  • Bell peppers – Slice and refrigerate up to 4 days ahead.

More delicate veggies like spinach, snap peas and bean sprouts are best prepped no more than 1-2 days in advance. Store prepped ingredients in airtight containers lined with paper towels to absorb excess moisture and prevent sogginess.

What proteins work best for prepped stir-fry?

These proteins hold up well when partially cooked ahead of time for stir-fries:

  • Chicken breast – Slice or cube and parcook up to 2 days ahead.
  • Beef flank steak – Thinly slice across the grain. Parcook then store up to 2 days.
  • Shrimp – Peel, devein and coat in cornstarch. Cook just until pink when stir-frying.
  • Firm tofu – Cube or slice. Will stay fresh immersed in water for up to 5 days.
  • Tempeh – Can be cooked fully up to 5 days ahead then reheated in stir-fry.

Delicate proteins like egg, seafood and ground meats are best added raw when ready to stir-fry. Allow parcooked meats to rest before refrigerating to prevent overcooking later.

What ingredients can’t be prepped ahead for stir-fry?

Some ingredients don’t hold up well when prepped in advance for stir-fries. For best results, add these fresh when ready to stir-fry:

  • Tender leafy greens like baby spinach or bok choy
  • Herbs like basil, cilantro or mint
  • Finely chopped aromatics like garlic, ginger and shallots
  • Wet ingredients like oyster sauce, fish sauce or sesame oil
  • Dairy products like cheese, cream or coconut milk
  • Uncooked eggs or seafood like squid, scallops or oysters
  • Pre-cooked ingredients like roasted nuts or fried tofu

The fresh flavors and textures of ingredients like herbs, greens and aromatics will suffer if prepped too far ahead. Delicate proteins are also best cooked right before serving. Keep sauces and dairy products separate from other ingredients when prepping components ahead of time.

What are the best stir-fry recipes for meal prep?

Here are some great stir-fry recipes that hold up well when made in advance:

Chicken and Broccoli Stir-Fry

Tender chicken and broccoli florets with classic Asian flavors. Blanch broccoli ahead of time.

Beef and Bell Pepper Stir-Fry

Flank steak and colorful peppers in a ginger soy sauce. Parcook beef up to 2 days ahead.

Shrimp and Asparagus Stir-Fry

Quick cooking shrimp pairs well with fresh asparagus. Store prepped asparagus in ice water.

Tofu Vegetable Stir-Fry

Marinated tofu and mixed vegetables in a tangy sauce. Tofu holds up well when marinated ahead.

Singapore Noodle Stir-Fry

Curried rice noodles with chicken or shrimp. Cook noodles up to 3 days ahead.

Focus on more durable vegetables like broccoli, bell peppers and carrots over delicate greens for the best make-ahead meals. Parcook chicken and steak so they don’t overcook. Store prepped ingredients properly to preserve freshness and texture.

What are the best tips for reheating a prepped stir-fry?

Here are some tips for reheating a stir-fry that was prepped in advance:

  • Reheat in a skillet or wok over medium-high heat on the stovetop. Avoid microwaving.
  • Use a small amount of oil or broth to prevent sticking and add moisture.
  • Toss ingredients frequently to ensure even reheating.
  • Add a splash of water or sauce if the stir-fry seems dry.
  • Cook until piping hot throughout, about 5-7 minutes.
  • Taste and adjust seasoning as needed, adding extra sauce or spices.
  • If reheating rice or noodles, add a splash of water to rehydrate.
  • Don’t overcook proteins like shrimp or chicken that were prepped ahead.
  • Stir in delicate greens or fresh herbs right at the end.

The key is to reheat at a high enough temperature to ensure food safety without overcooking the ingredients. Tossing frequently helps distribute heat evenly. Adding a bit of liquid prevents drying out.


With some simple preparation, it is possible to make stir-fry in advance. Ingredients like proteins and hardy vegetables can be prepped up to 2 days ahead through par-cooking or marinating. More delicate ingredients should be prepped as close to cooking as possible. Assemble the full stir-fry up to 2 days in advance, then reheat over high heat while tossing frequently. Use the proper make-ahead techniques for ingredients and recipes to ensure your prepped stir-fry delivers maximum fresh flavor and texture.