Frozen vegetables are always included in my stir fry, but I get asked sometimes about whether I thaw them out first. Does it make a difference if they are thawed or thrown into the wok or skillet frozen? Do I need to do something different with frozen vegetables when making stir fry than I would with fresh or canned vegetables?
Let’s dive into all that as we look at how to stir fry frozen vegetables.
How to Cook Frozen Stir Fry Vegetables
First, let me say right away that you can put frozen vegetables into your skillet or wok without having to thaw them out. You can stir fry frozen vegetables without the extra step of defrosting them or letting them thaw or running them under some water to get rid of the ice. They stir fry nicely from frozen, so don’t worry about that.
Frozen vegetables cook fine in a wok on your stovetop, and it’s okay if the ice melts right there in your pan. Now, you may get a little spatter if you are cooking them in oil, so be aware of that. As the ice melts, it puts water into the hot oil, which can cause oil to shoot up a little bit.
The trick to keep that from being a problem is to only lightly oil the wok or frying pan. If you use too much oil, you are going a get a very oily meal, and stir fry isn’t about the heavy oil.
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You just need enough oil to cover the bottom of the wok and no more. Then, heat up the oil on medium high heat. Once it reaches 350 degrees Fahrenheit, you can add the frozen vegetables in. The oil should be hot when you place your hand to hover over it. That’s how I usually check if it is ready for me to add the frozen veggies.
You could check the temperature with a thermometer if you wanted to, but make sure the oil is not so hot that it is smoking, burning, or spattering out of the pan on its own. It’s too hot at that point.
Add your frozen vegetables in a single layer as much as possible. One of the key bits of advice I like to share about how to cook frozen vegetables for stir fry is to not overcrowd the pan. Give the vegetables space to cook evenly. You can spread them out a bit with a spatula to give them enough room for cooking.
Let them cook long enough for the veggies to become tender but not burnt. It’s okay if they blacken just slightly, as that happens when they come into contact with the pan. Just don’t let them burn. You want them tender but not crispy. As you cook the veggies in the wok, make sure to move them around every so often. This keeps them from burning and ensures even cooking.
How to Stir Fry Frozen Vegetables without Getting Soggy
Have you ever tried to cook frozen veggies in a stir fry and had them come out limp and soggy? That can happen if there is too much water in the pan. If they are frozen, they will have ice on them, and as they cook, that turns to water and fills up the pan.
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What you can do to minimize how much water is involved and how soggy the veggies get is to pat down the frozen vegetables as much as possible. You may not get all the ice, but you can remove some of it and lessen the chance that the veggies will turn out soggy when they are done cooking.
How to Use Frozen Vegetables in Stir Fry
When do you add frozen veggies to your stir fry? Can you cook everything at once or will the frozen vegetables need extra cooking time?
You should actually cook the veggies first off or at least separately. They should be cook in the oil on their own, before you add in any noodles, meat, rice or whatever else you will be using. Cook your food in two parts- veggies and everything else. This is for frozen veggies.
If you are using fresh veggies, you could cook everything together. The reason we cook the frozen veggies separately is that the take so little time to cook, and if you overcook them, they can fall apart.
Want to know how to make chicken stir fry with frozen vegetables? Cook up the frozen veggies as I showed you above eating the oil first and patting the frozen vegetables down to dry them out. Add them to the hot oil and cook for about 3 minutes on medium heat, moving them around as they cook.
Once they are done, then you can add in the chicken, rice, and seasonings as you like. Cook all of that until the chicken has finished cooking, and then add the vegetables back in. They can heat back up in the pan for about 30 seconds to a minute, and then you need to take them off the heat. Be careful about overcooking them.
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How to make shrimp stir fry with frozen vegetables? Once again, you cook the meat separately from the frozen veggies. Shrimp cooks fast compared to beef or chicken, but even then, you should cook it apart from the frozen vegetables. Frozen shrimp doesn’t need to thaw, but you may have excess water created as you cook it that can cause the oil to spatter.
Consider patting the frozen shrimp dry before cooking it up on the stovetop, just like you would the frozen vegetables.
It is aways best to be safe with the frozen vegetables, cooking them on their own just to ensure they don’t overcook and come apart. If you do that, you will have greater control over your dish and the rate at which everything cooks. Avoid the common mistake of making stir fry by separating the foods that need to cook on their own.