vegan • plant-based • dairy-free • gluten-free • sugar-free • low-carb • paleo option • jump to the recipe

We can thank Ken Hom for revolutionising Chinese home cooking in the 80s. He’s now an OBE and the wok is a common sight in the average kitchen. In 2007, over £70 million was spent in the UK on chilled stir-fry products, and the market has more than doubled since then. [Source]

The first ingredient after water in a ready-made stir-fry sauce is usually sugar. It’ll no doubt contain wheat and some undesirable fats too, let alone other more sinister additives. If you’re following a plant-based organic diet (or even one of the two), you’ll want to know what’s in your sauce. If – like us – you’re not so picky about regional cuisines or authenticity, but just want something delicious and nutritious to complement fresh vegetables, look no further.

Making your own stir-fry sauce needn’t be complicated. It also gives you the flexibility to experiment with different flavours – adding your own secret ingredient, or substituting anything you don’t like.

Vegan Peanut Butter Stir-Fry Sauce

About the ingredients

Some of the ingredients – such as garlic, ginger and lemon – will be familiar, and you might well have them in your cupboard or fridge. Maybe you have the rest to hand as well, but in case you get stuck on any, here’s some more detail.

Coconut Oil

The health benefits of coconut oil are too numerous to list here, but it’s the only oil we recommend for cooking. Although it’s a saturated fat, it doesn’t turn to trans-fat when heated. Find out more about fats here »

Chillies

Chilli heat is a very personal preference, so find a type you like and feel free to experiment. Ours come fresh from Abel & Cole, and are generally of medium size and spiciness. We just buy a batch, rinse them and freeze them whole, so it’s easy to use one at a time. You can even grow your own in the UK – more at the RHS.

  • If you’re not used to preparing fresh chillies, be very careful – wash your hands and any utensils thoroughly before touching anything else, especially your eyes!
  • Contrary to popular belief, the hottest part of the chilli is not the seeds, but the white pith.
  • If you’re nervous of chillies, you can check the heat of different varieties on the Scoville Scale.
  • If you’d rather use chilli powder, no harm, but fresh chillies are high in vitamin C and have a lot of other nutrients. The flavour is also richer.
  • If you’re sensitive to chilli full-stop, just leave it out of the recipe, or add more fresh ginger for heat.

Peanut Butter

Organic peanut butter is readily available in most supermarkets these days, but if you want to go the extra mile and reduce antinutrients, you could consider making your own nut butter. Meanwhile, here’s more on soaking and processing nuts. Either way, if you have a peanut allergy, or you’re strictly paleo (peanuts are actually legumes), you could replace this with another nut butter – cashew certainly works well.

Apple cider vinegar

There are now raw ‘live’ versions readily available, for example by Aspall or Bragg. Cooking will affect the live stuff, but ACV is still one of the healthiest forms of vinegar, and it has a lovely fresh flavour. If you don’t have it, feel free to substitute with another vinegar, but consider trying some next time.

Tamari

This is one of the healthier types of soy sauce, as it doesn’t (usually) contain gluten. If you don’t have it, just add a little more miso – it’s better than using ordinary soy sauce, as that’ll probably be made with wheat, and maybe even sugar.

Miso

A highly nutritious fermented paste from Japan, you’ll see miso come up often in our recipes. It’s best eaten at lower temperatures, as cooking will degrade its good bacteria, but even cooked it’s a great healthy flavour-enhancer in soups and sauces. Some is made from wheat, so look out for a gluten-free version.

Tahini

A bitter-sweet paste made from sesame seeds, this is a staple ingredient of houmous and other Middle Eastern dishes. Organic versions are available in most health food stores. Sesame oil can be used as a substitute here for flavour, but tahini is more nutritious, as it uses the whole seed. Find out how to make your own tahini.

Stir-Fry Sauce Ingredients

Storage

The sauce will keep in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to a week, or it freezes really well – just defrost before use. A single serving is about 80 ml.

Vegan Stir-Fry

Peanut Butter Stir-Fry Sauce

Yields4 ServingsPrep Time20 minsCook Time5 minsTotal Time25 mins

 1 tbsp coconut oil
 1 fresh chillies, de-seeded and finely chopped (or 1 tsp powder / flakes)
 4 garlic cloves, minced
 4 tsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
 100 g peanut butter
 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
 2 tsp tamari
 2 tsp miso
 2 tsp tahini
 4 tbsp lemon juice (juice of 2 lemons)

1

Optional: if you have a pestle and mortar, grind the chilli, garlic and ginger up a bit. (This will give a smoother texture and flavour, but you can just leave it rustic if you prefer.)

2

Heat the coconut oil on medium-high in a small frying pan. Add the chilli, garlic and ginger, stirring constantly for 2 minutes. The mixture should be fragrant but not quite browning.

3

Remove from the heat. Apart from the lemon juice, stir in the rest of the ingredients thoroughly to form an even paste.

4

Once cool, stir in the lemon juice.

5

To use it right away, set the pan aside while cooking the vegetables. For later use, leave it to cool completely and divide into storage jars (preferably glass).

Ingredients

 1 tbsp coconut oil
 1 fresh chillies, de-seeded and finely chopped (or 1 tsp powder / flakes)
 4 garlic cloves, minced
 4 tsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
 100 g peanut butter
 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
 2 tsp tamari
 2 tsp miso
 2 tsp tahini
 4 tbsp lemon juice (juice of 2 lemons)

Directions

1

Optional: if you have a pestle and mortar, grind the chilli, garlic and ginger up a bit. (This will give a smoother texture and flavour, but you can just leave it rustic if you prefer.)

2

Heat the coconut oil on medium-high in a small frying pan. Add the chilli, garlic and ginger, stirring constantly for 2 minutes. The mixture should be fragrant but not quite browning.

3

Remove from the heat. Apart from the lemon juice, stir in the rest of the ingredients thoroughly to form an even paste.

4

Once cool, stir in the lemon juice.

5

To use it right away, set the pan aside while cooking the vegetables. For later use, leave it to cool completely and divide into storage jars (preferably glass).

Peanut Butter Stir-Fry Sauce

How to serve

This is a very quick meal once you have everything ready. Decide what you want to serve with your vegetables ahead of time, ideally soaking any grains or legumes beforehand, to help combat antinutrients.

You don’t need a wok for this – if you have one, great, but a large frying pan will do.

  1. Chop some vegetables finely – pretty much anything goes.
  2. Get the pan nice and hot, then add some coconut oil – enough to just coat the surface.
  3. Stirring constantly, add the vegetables according to the time they’ll take to cook – so tougher things like onion and cabbage first, followed by delicate things like spinach. This will obviously depend on how small they’re chopped, but everything will cook quickly, and will keep cooking after you take it off the heat. You want the finished dish to be al dente, allowing the vegetables to retain as many nutrients as possible, so be careful not to go too far.
  4. Just before anything delicate goes in, add the sauce and stir everything to coat. You’ll then want to add a dash of water to stop it sticking to the pan. Keep doing so as necessary – just a little at a time so it doesn’t go soggy either.
  5. Serve on the grains or legumes of your choice. Top with nuts, seeds and herbs. Cashews, pine nuts, sesame seeds and fresh coriander or chives work well.





Got any tips or questions of your own about stir-fry sauce? Leave us a comment below, we’d love to hear from you.

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