Is Fried Rice Really Fried and How Do You Make It?

Last update:
Man cooking fried rice in a pan with a text "is fried rice really fried"

Have you ever wondered why or how fried rice got its name? Is fried rice really fried? 

Well, my biggest misconception was that you have to fry rice for fried rice. By “fry,” I mean deep-frying the rice and cooking it! I only realized how wrong I was when I ordered the dish in a restaurant for the first time and saw that it was not fried.

The ultimate question in my brain was if fried rice isn’t fried, why is it named that? It turns out that there’s an entirely alternative reason for it. 

You don’t fry rice in the traditional sense; the cooking method involved is called stir-frying. You don’t have to deep-fry or pan-fry the rice. Instead, cook the rice with oil on high heat and keep sautéing it continuously for a few minutes. 

Does Fried Rice Involve Frying? 

Shiny pot's on stove!

You’ll find fried rice in almost every Asian cuisine, including Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Indonesian. The recipe is very similar across cultures, with only slight ingredient variations. 

The one thing they all have in common is that the rice isn’t actually fried, as the name suggests. You don’t deep-fry the rice or lather it in oil as you do for most fried foods. 

However, fried rice involves stir-frying, which is how the dish got its name. Below are some ways in which stir-frying differs from frying. 

  • Amount of Oil 

Unlike the large amounts of oil you need for frying foods, you only need a few tablespoons to stir-fry rice. All you have to do is coat the rice with the oil to make it slightly crunchy. 

You need to cover at least ½ or ⅓ of the food item with oil if you want to fry food because it is used for absorption and not just coating the food.  

  • Cooking Method  

Both frying and stir-frying have different cooking methods, which you can see in this video. 

To fry food, cook a food item on one side for about two to three minutes and then flip it to the other side for an additional two minutes. 

Stir-frying is a quick process where you must continuously stir and sauté the food, like rice, with other ingredients.

  • Crunchiness

Deep-fried or pan-fried items have a proper crunch and browning. However, stir-fried rice has only a slight smokiness, browning, and crunch. 

The Best Way to Cook Fried Rice 

 Yummy Chinese dish with veggies like bell peppers, beans, and carrots.

I’ve followed countless YouTube recipes for fried rice. Yet, the one I’m about to share with you has stuck with me as a comfort meal for all my bad days and nights! It’s also the one that has resulted in the most crispy, fluffy, and flavorful rice. 


  • 1 cup basmati or jasmine rice
  • 2 cups water 
  • 2 large eggs (optional) 
  • ½ cup diced carrots 
  • ½ tablespoon soy sauce 
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable (or any non-flavored oil like sunflower or canola oil)
  • Salt and pepper as per taste

Step 1: Preparing the Rice 

Remember that the magic ingredient for perfect fried rice is day-old leftover rice. It has less moisture and reaches the desired level of crunchiness when stir-frying it! Using freshly made rice can cause your stir fry to become mushy, and nobody wants that. If you don’t have any day-old rice lying around, prepare your grains for fried rice as follows:

  1. First, boil the rice by adding two cups of water for every cup of rice into a small pot. 
  2. Once it comes to a boil, drop the temperature to a simmer and let it cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until the water is absorbed.
  3. Next, transfer the rice to a bowl or plate. Let it sit until it comes to room temperature. Never put warm rice in the refrigerator.
  4. Then, refrigerate it for at least 30 to 40 minutes. The best option is to keep it in the refrigerator overnight. 

If you want to use the rice immediately, spread it evenly on the tray and keep it under the fan for 10 to 15 minutes. I don’t recommend using fresh hot rice as it has more moisture which can turn your fried rice soggy!

Step 2: Stir-Fry the Rice

This step is where the actual “frying” takes place. 

As I mentioned above, you don’t deep-fry rice in the way the name “fried rice” implies. Instead, lightly cover the wok with oil and stir-fry rice with your desired vegetables and sauces. 

Given below are the steps in detail:

  1. Heat your wok on a high flame. 
  2. Next, add one tablespoon of vegetable oil. 
  3. Once the wok is hot, add your rice. 
  4. Then, stir fry the rice in intervals of 30 seconds on the heat, then off, stirring until the rice looks slightly golden brown.
  5. Next, make a space in the center of the wok and add two teaspoons of vegetable oil. 
  6. Throw in the diced carrots and garlic and fry them for a minute. 
  7. Combine the rice with the vegetables. 
  8. Then, make another space and add one teaspoon of sesame oil and one additional teaspoon of vegetable oil. 
  9. Beat two eggs and add them to the center. Cook them until scrambled.
  10.  Mix the scrambled egg with the fried rice. 
  11.  Pour in ½ tablespoon soy sauce and remix the rice.

Once you have added all the ingredients, stir-fry on high heat for two to three minutes, and your fried rice is ready to serve! 

Note that this is just a basic recipe. You can add additional vegetables and sauces, like oyster and fish, to your taste. 

Is Fried Rice Healthy? 

Any food with the name “fried” is concerning for most health enthusiasts. However, there is good news for those who are also fried rice lovers. 

Fried rice is much healthier than other fried or deep-fried food items. You don’t technically fry it in excessive oil, so it’s a bit healthier than other fried foods. Instead, it requires just two to three tablespoons of oil.

One of the best things about fried rice is that you can reduce the amount of oil and make a healthier version of the dish. 

One major drawback, however, is fried rice’s high sodium content, so try reducing the amount of salt.

Below are the nutritional values of fried rice as per the data shared by MedicineNet.

Nutrition Amount (per one cup of fried rice)
Calories 242
Carbohydrates 41 grams
Fat 8 grams
Sodium 706 milligrams

Final Thoughts

I hope this article helped clarify the confusion about fried rice and its name. Despite the name, fried rice requires only a little bit of frying and a lot of sautéing!

If you’re health conscious, you can also eat fried rice in peace! I know, it isn’t the healthiest food option out there, but it’s also not as risky as other oily fried foods. 

Saniya Baxi Avatar


Leave a Comment