beth woolsey

mess maker • magic finder • rule breaker • kindness monger

Five Ingredient Fried Rice

If there’s something more difficult to scrape off the bottom of my sock than cooked rice, I don’t know what it is.

Really. I don’t know. Pretty please, don’t tell me. It’s probably something way more disgusting than rice, and I’ve probably had it stuck to my sock at one point or another, and I probably have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and I’ve probably blocked it from my memory. Please, as a favor to a mom of five, let it stay blocked.

Rice is one of the Top Five Messiest Foods to Feed Children. It’s listed right under spaghetti sauce in a white shirt and right above giant popsicles on a hot day.

There’s just no way to feed five children rice without accepting that my home will pay the ultimate price in the form of a massive rice infestation. I don’t want to give ideas to all the terrorists who read mom blogs, but if they ever figure out how to attach a biological weapon to a grain of rice, the world is screwed. Because those grains are an epidemic in and of themselves. I find them in hair, on clothes (often days after serving it), on toys, of course on my table and floors, and – the WORST – squished onto the bottom of my socks. They stay around forever, creating mini-hazards wherever children are found.

We serve rice at our house a lot. A lot, a lot. Alotalotalotalot. Because I do things that make sense.

I blame growing up in Asia for my ongoing devotion to rice. And, the truth is, frying rice makes me feel powerful. Taking the same grain that fed the ancient, mysterious world and mastering it so that I’m able to nourish my family? That’s power. And love. And it soothes the mommy in me.

Also, frying rice in oil, soy salt and sugar makes it better than crack. Not that I’ve ever done crack. Which kind of proves my point. Because I’ve mainlined fried rice thousands of times.

I took the pictures below weeks ago so I could continue my cooking tutorials (aka cheaterpants easy ways to make foods that otherwise seem difficult). But Zakary, of Raising Colorado fame, posted her first vlog (video blog) this week, and, you guys, she totally highlights the extraordinary need for another fried rice recipe in this world and the lengths to which a desperate mom will go to get it.

I realized that I’d better finish this post STAT. For Zakary. For moms everywhere.

I’m practically saving the world.


Five Ingredient Fried Rice

I’m telling you that this is five ingredient fried rice, and I’m only sort of lying.

To make fried rice, you need five basic ingredients.

  • 6 cups cooked rice, any type
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 1/3 c. brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. soy sauce (I call it soy salt, ’cause I like to call a spade a spade)
  • an onion

And then, you can add anything else you want. For this recipe, I added 2 cups of diced ham, ginger and sesame oil.

But you can add frozen or fresh veggies, scrambled eggs (if they don’t make you yarf – you know who you are), lunch meat, garlic, coriander, cumin… you know, whatever you have sitting around in your spice cupboard or fridge that sounds yummy.

The beauty of fried rice is the fact that, in Asia, it’s a leftovers dish. Kind of like stews and soups. You take what you have on hand, you throw it all together, and you hope to God it turns out well. Also kind of like life.


Dice your onion. I don’t care how you dice your onion. I think I’m supposed to care, though, so here’s how I dice my onion:

I cut it in half. I peel each half. I slice each half into strips.

Then I cut across the strips like this.

It’s he fastest way I can dice an onion, and that’s important to me because I’m an onion blubberer.

In a large skillet – or a wok, if you must – using 2 Tablespoons of oil over medium high heat which seems WAY too hot, but isn’t-isn’t, fry your diced onions until they turn dark brown and sorta charred.

You’re not really caramelizing onions (which is a slow release of sugars). You’re more cooking the sin right out of them and helping them find Jesus. If they’re not getting singed in the process, it’s probably not working right. (No offense, Jesus.)

Next, add your “other chunky stuff” to the skillet. In my case, that’s ham.

And then cook the hell out of it, too. Charred, black spots here and there? That’s how you know it’s working.

This really bears no reflection on my theology.

It probably bears a lot of reflection on how I think theology shouldn’t be, but we can talk about that later.

Let’s take one second to discuss rice. I always use leftover rice. Whether yours is leftover or fresh, the cooked rice you’re using should be soft. As you may know, if you store leftover rice in your fridge, it gets hard and gross. Don’t use hard, gross rice; frying it that way will make hard, gross fried rice. Making leftover rice soft again, though, is easy peasy. In a microwave-safe bowl, dump your rice and 2 Tbsp. water; cover with a plate and microwave on high for 3 minutes. As the rice steams, it reconstitutes the grains, making them soft, and, well, edible. Edible is definitely the goal.

To your rice (or to your skillet – again with me not caring), add 1/3 c. brown sugar and 1/4 c. soy salt.

And then add “other non-chunky stuff” (i.e. spices and sauces) to your rice or skillet. In my case, that’s 1 tsp. ginger and 2 tsp. sesame oil.

Dump all that stuff in the other stuff.

Sentences like that are the reason I’m not writing a cookbook. Know thyself, yes?

But really, everything should be in your skillet now, which is still on medium high, even if that makes you uncomfortable. You want to fry the rice while constantly stirring it, not steam it. And if you can’t stir constantly because that’s the dumbest direction EVER to give moms of little kids… as though you’re not going to have to stop to wipe someone’s butt or lecture a child about slamming his brother’s ear in the door… well, then, you’ll get little, yummy, crispy bits in the rice, and, I’ll be honest, the imperfect parts are my favorite.

Keep frying and stirring until any liquid is fully absorbed by the rice, creating a nice coating. This usually takes 5 minutes or so.

Then serve it hot. With a side of veggies if you have guilty-mama syndrome.

Try to keep grubby kid mitts out of the rice until it’s eating time. Kids are very, very sneaky, so good luck.

Now, I can’t claim that this fried rice recipe is authentically Asian in any way other than the fact that I use, you know, rice. But that’s the beauty of fried rice, really. It’s a creative endeavor that lends itself to improvisation. And that’s why it works for my family. There’s no one right way.

For an authentic, Indonesian twist, though, and one that I love, put an egg on it. The fried rice “special” always came with a fried egg draped over the rice. Almost like putting a bird on it, except, you know, not.



Five Ingredient Fried Rice:
the short, boring directions


  • 6 cups cooked rice, any type
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 1/3 c. brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. soy sauce (I call it soy salt, ’cause I like to call a spade a spade)
  • a diced onion
  • whatever else you want – ham, diced lunchmeat, scrambled eggs, garlic, coriander, cumin, chicken, fresh or frozen veggies, etc.


  • In 2 Tbsp oil, over medium high heat, fry onions in a large skillet or wok. Let them get dark brown and charred-ish.
  • Add other chunky ingredients (i.e. ham) and fry ’til there’s also some golden brown char here, too.
  • Make sure your cooked rice is soft.
  • Dump in everything else and continue frying and stirring on medium high ’til everything is combined, coated, and absorbed.
  • Serve hot.
  • Put a bird fried egg on it.


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28 responses to “Five Ingredient Fried Rice”

  1. I read this when you posted it, but today is the first I’ve had leftover rice… ummmm… mine looks like vomit. I don’t think my hubs will even try it and the kids are gonna give me some trouble. But, it smells GREAT! Yes, I know the MANY things I did wrong. But, you’re supposed to mess up a dish the first time, right??! Thanks for the recipe 🙂

  2. I’ve been meaning to post that we have now made this three times in my house. My husband loves it, me too! We have put ham, left over pork chops and chicken in it so far. Peas, carrots, any other veggies lying around. One night my husband tried to make it from memory and forgot the brown sugar. He brought me a spoon and said, why doesn’t it taste yummy like it did last time? Mmmmm… brown sugar. Thanks for the recipe.

  3. I love, love, LOVE rice this way. I normally add cooked diced bacon, scrambled eggs, cooked ground turkey, green onions and soy sauce to mine. It’s kind of a comfort food for me! Haven’t made it in forever … my kids and hubby won’t touch it. Seems they just don’t know whats good for ’em. Dangit.

  4. I have been thinking of this recipe all day. I’m making it tonight.
    I’ve made fried rice before, but I’m always a fail. I’m really hoping it’s the brown sugar that makes it!

  5. THANKS!!! I am always looking for something quick to fix. I don’t have 5 kids – only two but that includes one very ADHD kid – so it feels like more.

    I have had fried rice in restaurants that include fried egg in it. So I think I will like this. So my vote for egg is YES – because I try to get protein into the ADHD brain whenever I can.

  6. Hey, I love fried rice, but have always been to scared to make my own. This sounds like something I could actually do… since I do NOT have mad cooking skills, much to the detriment of my husband and his foodie family… ;P
    And since I’m really running out of the creative lately I’m thinking this will be on the menu this week. Also, as long as I use my gluten free soy sauce… my boys can eat it. Double score! 😉

  7. this sounds delicious. thanks for sharing! i also make fried rice frequently with leftover rice. yours sounds like it’s based on teriyaki, with the soy sauce/sugar combo. yum!

    i am definitely going to try your way! and if you ever get in a rut and want a different method (not sure why you would, because yours sounds like it could be eaten every day without anyone getting tired of it lol) – here is what i do.

    i put some butter and a little oil in first. start heating/frying the rice in the fat. throw in some soy sauce and a splash of japanese rice vinegar (not rice wine vinegar, though that would probably be good too). i always throw either frozen peas or broccoli in and i usually fry an egg into the rice – crack it in, let it partially cook, flip, then break the yolk a little and let cook a bit, then flip again and then chop up the egg into the rice and let it finish off with the rice. i occasionally chop some tofu in too.

    very easy and quick. and everyone scarfs it down, including our 22-month-old. 🙂

  8. “like putting a bird on it” lol! Oh, and thanks–I did a ‘wing it’ version once, but was not impressed. ‘Course I never would have thought of brown sugar….. Really, sugar? I guess I better wait to try this after gestational diabetes is in the past.

    • I know. My aunt, who was born in Taiwan, instant messaged me the SAME THING. “Really? Sugar? WHY?”

      me: because it’s awesome!
      aunt: isn’t there enough sugar in soy sauce/salt and converted sugar from rice?
      me: nope! then it’s not crack
      aunt: no wonder your kids bounce off the walls! 😉

      So that “not an authentic Asian recipe” claim I made? VERIFIED! 😀

      Also, yes. Please don’t risk your gestational diabetic life for rice. That would be unwise!

  9. As a mother of five kids…Reading your post makes me feels somewhat normal and sane. You make feel like I can just be myself!! Thanks Also we are having fried rice with chicken tonight!

  10. Amazingly brief and to the point. I have a 2 page version from your dad. Every detail you could consider. Anyone surprised?

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