This vegan fried rice recipe is the perfect weeknight dinner! Easy, healthy and so satisfying. It’s full of plant-based protein thanks to oven-baked tofu, tons of veggies, and even whole grain brown rice—this is healthy eating at it’s tastiest!
If you have leftover rice—this is a great recipe for using it up. It’s actually better if you use leftover (cooked and chilled) rice. Tofu Fried Rice is also a great way to use up those veggies that seem to linger in the fridge.
Tips for Making the Best Tofu Fried Rice
Use cold rice
There’s a reason most classic fried rice recipes use rice that’s been cooked and thoroughly chilled (ideally overnight). Cold rice fries so much better than warm or even lukewarm rice. Using freshly cooked rice will result in sticky, clumpy fried rice—no good.
If you’re looking to make fried rice and don’t have any pre-cooked rice on hand, I recommend cooking some rice (asap, get it started!) then spreading it onto a baking sheet in an even layer. Depending on your timeline, either pop it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or in the freezer for 10–15 minutes (just don’t forget about it or you’ll have a whole other problem on your hands—been there).
Meal prep tip
If you tend to make fried rice often, cook a large batch of rice from time to time, let it cool to room temperature, then store rice in resealable zipper-lock bags. Or, every time you make a batch of fried rice, make a batch of rice on the side, let it cool and store it in the freezer for next time. This way you know you’ll always have rice at the ready!
I love using grapeseed oil in most of my Asian cooking. First of all, you can use it over high heat, which makes it ideal for fried rice. I also find, when cooked over high heat with garlic, ginger and scallions, it adds that crave-worthy flavor we love about Asian. (I talk more in-depth about this in my sizzling scallion sauce.) Check out this article for more information on cooking oils and their smoke points.
Cooking over a high heat is important for adding toasty flavor and helps to keep the veggies and rice from steaming.
Toasted sesame oil and oyster sauce/mushroom sauce
First and foremost, toasted sesame oil is a MUST here. It’s incredibly bold in flavor and absolutely essential. Be sure to use toasted sesame and to add it to the fried rice once you’ve removed the pan from heat. Toasted sesame oil is a finishing oil and shouldn’t be used for cooking.
Now, the oyster sauce. If you follow a strict vegan diet, use mushroom sauce or simply leave this ingredient out altogether. But, if you’re willing to use a splash of oyster sauce I highly, highly recommend it. You don’t need much, just a few teaspoons or so, but it adds a nice savoriness you just can’t get from anything else. And if you aren’t an oyster or seafood fan—trust me here, it’s not “fishy” once added to the rice.
We’re making a vegetarian/vegan fried rice here, the veggies are important! I tested this recipe quite a few times, and the one thing I kept coming back to was that I wanted this to be packed with veggies. Vegetarian or vegan aside, I prefer my fried rice to be generous with the veggies. This recipe keeps it simple and classic with carrots, green peas, and green onions. Simple, but perfect.
Garlic and ginger
Here’s the deal, I kept the ingredient list and process as streamlined as possible. But after a few iterations, I just couldn’t leave the ginger out. I tried this fried rice with just garlic, but it was missing the added herbal spiciness from fresh ginger. Grab a small knob of ginger (usually next to the garlic), give it a mince, and add a couple of teaspoons (or a tablespoon!), it’s worth it I promise!
Extra-firm tofu is the way to go here. Make sure you give yourself enough time to press the tofu prior to baking. Pressing out excess liquid is important for getting that nice golden brown crust on the exterior (another instance where you want to sear not steam).
Season to taste
I often finish my recipes with “season with salt and pepper to taste,” because at the end of the day, seasoning largely comes down to personal preference. For this recipe you most likely won’t need to season with salt. But I do recommend you season with additional soy sauce, oyster sauce, and toasted sesame oil to taste.
How to Make Tofu Fried Rice
If timed correctly, this recipe can come together quickly. Unlike most recipes where prepping everything up front is recommended, this recipe is best prepped in stages. Get the longer-cooking components started right away, then go back and prep some of the ingredients while things are already cooking. Sounds vague? I’ll explain.
1. Make sure you have leftover cooked rice, and if you don’t, get some rice cooking (and chilling)! As I mentioned earlier, cooked and chilled rice makes the best fried rice.
2. Press & bake the tofu. While the oven is preheating, slice the tofu and press it to release excess liquid (15 minutes or until the oven is preheated). Dice the tofu, toss with oil and salt, and bake until golden brown and slightly crispy, about 30 minutes.
3. Prep the veggies and sauce ingredients: don’t be tempted to do this before you get the tofu started! The tofu takes the longest, so save the prep work for when the tofu is baking.
4. Stir fry: cook the veggies in a sauté pan until softened; transfer to a bowl and set aside. Add the garlic and ginger and briefly cook. Add the rice, lightly pat into a single layer and let it cook, without stirring, until it starts to turn golden brown on the bottom. Give the rice a stir, scraping the pan with a wooden spoon, and stir fry until all of the rice is golden brown. Add the tofu, cooked veggies, and sauce and stir fry a few minutes more.
5. Remove from heat and season: off heat stir in the toasted sesame oil and season with additional soy sauce and oyster sauce to taste.
Vegan Fried Rice—But Add an Egg!
Similarly to the oyster sauce—if you don’t follow a super strict vegan diet, consider adding an egg to the mix. You can do this a couple of different ways.
First, you can do the classic scramble. Before you cook the veggies, heat a splash of grapeseed oil in the sauté pan and briefly scramble a few eggs just until cooked (don’t kill the egg). Transfer the scrambled eggs to a bowl and set aside. Add the scrambled eggs to the fried rice when you add the tofu and cooked vegetables.
The second option, which is my preferred method, is to top each serving of fried rice with a fried egg. Heat some oil in a nonstick skillet, add an egg or two, and cook until the whites are set and the yolks are cooked to desired doneness—though a runny yolk is heaven on fried rice.
Vegan Fried Rice Variations
- Tempeh Fried Rice—no need to press the tempeh, toss with oil and season with salt. Bake the tempeh for 20 minutes or so. use as you would tofu.
- Very Veggie Fried Rice—add more variety of veggies to the mix like mushrooms, bell peppers, and/or broccoli. Cook these veggies at the same time as the other veggies.
- Quinoa Fried Rice—check out this recipe!
- Pineapple Fried Rice—add diced pineapple at the end, right before you remove the rice from heat.
- Kimchi fried rice—add some diced kimchi to the mix right at the end of cooking.
Vegan Fried Rice with Tofu
- 1 14-ounce package extra-firm tofu
- 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon grapeseed oil divided
- 1 ¼ cup diced carrots
- 1 ¼ cup green peas
- 1 cup sliced green onions
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons minced ginger
- 3 cups cooked brown rice cooled
- 3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce gluten-free if needed
- 1 tablespoon vegan mushroom sauce or oyster sauce *
- 1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
- 1 teaspoon rice vinegar or white vinegar
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- Sesame seeds to serve, optional
- Make sure you have 3 cups cooked brown rice. If you don’t, cook 1 cup rice according to these instructions, for brown rice, or cook according to package instructions if cooking white rice.
- Heat oven to 400ºF (204º C).
- Cut tofu horizontally into 3 planks, wrap tofu in a clean absorbent kitchen towel and set something heavy on top (like a cast iron skillet), let tofu press for 15 minutes.
- Dice tofu into ½-inch cubes; toss with 1 teaspoon grapeseed oil to coat; arrange in a single layer on prepared baking sheet and season with salt. Bake tofu until golden brown and firm to touch, about 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat a 12-inch sauté pan or cast-iron skillet over medium-high. Add 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil and swirl to coat; once shimmering add carrots, peas, and half of the green onions; cook until carrots are tender, about 5 minutes; season lightly with salt and black pepper. Transfer vegetables to a bowl.
- Add remaining tablespoon grapeseed oil to now empty sauté pan over medium heat and heat until shimmering, add garlic and ginger and cook 15 seconds until fragrant. Stir in rice, breaking up any clumps, and press into an even layer; cook, without moving, for 3 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir rice, scraping bottom of pan as needed, reduce heat to medium, and stir fry until rice is golden brown, 4–5 minutes.
- Stir in tofu, cooked vegetables, soy sauce, oyster sauce, chili garlic sauce, and vinegar and fry for 2 more minutes. Off heat, stir in sesame oil and remaining scallions; season with additional soy sauce and oyster sauce to taste.
- Finish with sesame seeds and serve with extra chili garlic sauce or sriracha.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3–4 days. Reheat in a sauté pan over medium heat or in the microwave.