Healthy Vegetarian Thai Fried Rice with Red Rice

Vegetarian Thai fried rice recipe is an easy and healthy version of the typical fried rice you find at Thai restaurants. This unique red rice recipe shows step-by-step instructions on how to cook red rice and fry it without guilt.

Vegetarian Thai fried rice in a wok pan with lime wedges

FEATURED COMMENT

5 stars

A perfect recipe! I added some red cabbage and substituted grean peas with edamame.

ROB

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Why you’ll love this Thai vegetarian fried rice recipe

Hello, rice lovers! Is fried rice healthy?

Why is it that eating rice has become so difficult these days? Rice, the key ingredient in fried rice recipe has become the “villain” of a healthy diet. It doesn’t have to be.

Making small changes to the ingredients and cooking techniques can help you transform a regular vegetable Thai fried rice into healthy fried rice recipe.

  • Replace white jasmine rice with red rice.
  • Infuse authentic  flavors by adding lemon grass and lime leaves while cooking the rice. This means you can skip sauces. Oyster sauce and fish sauce taste amazing but add extra sodium and calories to the fried rice recipe.
  • Use some tricks to reduce the amount of oil used to fry the rice. (Read further to find out.)
  • Load up the fried red rice with vegetables and optionally, egg.

The fiber-rich and nutrition-rich red rice cooked with Thai flavors and stir-fried with vegetables and eggs is the answer to all your rice woes. 

This easy fried rice recipe is perfect for a weekday lunchbox or a weeknight dinner that doesn’t keep you busy in the kitchen for long.

Does the citrusy, refreshing flavor of lemongrass make you wonder why it should be called a “grass” at all? Yes, I agree, it does sound quite demeaning. 

Well, my love for the Thai herbs lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves has transformed into this flavourful vegetarian Thai fried rice recipe.

This is one of the best recipes with red rice you can ever make. Now you can eat this red fried rice without guilt!

This Thai vegetable fried rice with egg is even easier than my green curry fried rice, making it suitable for weeknight dinners. 

Red rice nutrition

Red rice is rich in minerals and fiber which makes it a lot more nutritious and more attractive in terms of taste and health than white rice. In fact, red rice is the most nutritious rice variety.

Though the calories are almost the same for all types of rice (216 calories for 1 cup of cooked red rice), the antioxidants, fiber and nutrition in red rice make it the best choice.

  • The red rice gets its rich color from an antioxidant called anthocyanins, which can reduce inflammation, allergy, prevent risks of cancer and help in weight management.
  • Recipes with red rice are rich in manganese that helps in strengthening metabolism, controlling migraine, lowers blood pressure as well as risks of heart attacks.
  • Red cargo rice is also rich in calcium that helps in maintaining healthy bones and teeth and prevents risks of arthritis and osteoporosis.
  • Selenium protects the body against infections.
  • High fiber content of red rice slows down the digestion process which leads to a strengthened digestive system.
  • Fiber also aids in slowing down the rate at which carbs are converted into blood sugar, making red rice recipes one of the foods with a low glycemic index. This means your blood glucose does not shoot up as when you eat white rice.

Video

Ingredient notes

Rice

I’ve used red Thai jasmine rice, but any red rice or brown rice can be used. Follow the same instructions (below) for cooking.

Flavoring agents

Lemongrassgalangal and kaffir lime leaves: Main ingredients required for flavoring the red rice. Lemongrass and lime leaves are the heart and soul of this fried rice recipe.

So guys, try to hunt for them if you REALLY LOVE Thai flavors. You’ll find them at any Asian store in separate packs or together as a set. 

Galangal belongs to the same family as ginger but has a very distinctive taste. If you can’t find it, substitute with ginger.

Kaffir lime leaves: Twin-lobed leaves of Kaffir lime or Thai lime, a specific kind of lime native to Southeast Asia. They have a unique flavor and can’t be substituted. If you can’t find them, the closet replacement would be lime or lemon zest.

Thai chilis: These are bird’s eye chilies used in Thai recipes like easy Thai green curry paste used to make Thai curry.

Labelled ingredients for Thai vegetarian fried rice recipe with red rice.

Veggies for red fried rice

Any vegetables used for regular fried rice can be added for this healthy Thai version: carrots, peas, yellow or red bell pepper/ capsicum along with onions, garlic and chilies. Egg can be added if you are not vegan. For protein, stir-fry firm tofu seasoned with black pepper and salt before adding the vegetables.

How to make vegetarian Thai fried rice: step by step instructions

Peel the outer layer of the lemongrass stalks, chop them into 2-inch pieces with diagonal cuts (as seen in the pictures above) and lightly smash them with the flat part of your knife.

Break the kaffir lime leaves into lobes (they are double-lobed leaves).

How to cook red rice

Rice to water ratio

The quantity of water or stock to cook rice may vary depending on the type of rice being used and the cooking method. I’ve used Thai unpolished red rice here. If you’re cooking the rice in an electric rice cooker you will require 2 cups of water for 1 cup of red rice.

If you’re not familiar with cooking rice, there is a method to cook rice perfectly EVERY SINGLE TIME.

Fool-proof method to cook red rice or any kind of rice:

This method of cooking rice is not only beginner-friendly but also healthier than the absorption methods (whether using a pot, pressure cooker or instant pot). Here we’re removing starch by draining water from the cooked rice.

Boil 4 cups of water (for each cup of rice) with flavorings if needed, in this case, lemongrass pieces and kaffir lime leaves. Vegetable stock can also be used instead of water. Once the water boils, add washed rice to the boiling water. Bring it to a boil again and then simmer for about 20 to 25 minutes until cooked. Keep a close watch after 15 minutes of simmering.

The rice grains should be cooked throughout but not mushy. (the best way to check for doneness is to test a single grain with your fingers, you should be able to squeeze it easily.)

Once the rice is cooked, drain in a colander and pick out lemongrass and lime leaves. Transfer the rice back into the pot and keep it closed for about 10 minutes. This will allow the rice to steam and get fluffy.

Allow the rice to cool by spreading it on a large plate or tray. The red rice needs to be thoroughly cooled before stir-frying so that the grains don’t stick together.

Once you’ve mastered the technique to cook red rice this way, your options for healthy fried rice recipes are endless. Replace the white rice in veg fried rice, egg, shrimp, chicken fried rice or any other rice dish.

Why this method works

I call this method of cooking the rice fool-proof (especially for fried rice recipes) because when you boil the rice and drain, the starch is removed from the rice and so the grains don’t stick together. Stir-frying the rice becomes easier.

Can I use leftover rice for red fried rice?

Yes, of course. It is common practice to use leftover rice for cooking fried rice. A day-old rice is best suited for fried rice recipe since the process of refrigeration removes extra moisture from the rice.

I use this hack to get almost the same effect with fresh rice (when I don’t have enough leftover cold rice):

  1. After the rice cools down, refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes. You can use this time to prep the veggies.
  2. If you’re fast enough to do the prep work in 10 minutes, freeze the rice for 10 to 15 minutes. Use the same tray you used to cool the rice in and leave it open in the freezer. It’s a crude method, but works!

This method works for any kind of rice: red rice, brown rice, white or even basmati rice.

How to stir-fry the vegetables and red rice

Boil the green peas and keep aside.

Stir-fry the minced galangal/ ginger and garlic in oil on a high flame until you get an aroma, but not browned. Add the onions and chili and stir-fry until translucent. Add the grated carrots, bell peppers/ capsicum, cooked peas, soy sauce and stir-fry for 5 minutes.

If you’re using eggs, beat them in a small bowl with a dash of salt and black pepper. Make space for eggs in the middle of the pan by moving the vegetables to the sides. Pour the eggs and scramble until set.

Mix in the rice and stir well. Turn off the heat.

Garnish with chopped coriander leaves or green onions and serve with lime wedges.

Now, GO AHEAD. Eat your fried red rice without guilt!

Recipe tips

  • Wok: Use a large wok to stir-fry. This helps crisp up the fried rice and vegetables.
  • Stir-frying: You can use medium heat to fry the aromatics (ginger, garlic and onions). Vegetables and rice have to be stir fried on high or medium-high heat. 
  • Stir-frying preserves the nutrients of vegetables and keeps them crisp. That’s also the reason why Singapore fried bee hoon is so healthy and crunchy!
  • Eggs: You can also serve this red fried rice alongside fried eggs instead of mixing them in. Or you can skip the eggs to make this a vegan Thai fried rice.
  • Variations: Add a few Thai basil leaves instead of coriander leaves/green onions to make it a vegetarian Thai basil fried rice. Skip the eggs for a vegan version.
  • Storage: This healthy fried rice stays fresh in the refrigerator for a week. Store in a dry airtight container. If you want to store it longer, freeze it. It can be frozen for upto 2 months.

Common questions about vegetarian Thai fried rice

Is Thai red rice healthy?

Red rice is a healthier alternative to white rice since it is unpolished rice and has more nutrients like antioxidants, minerals and vitamins along with fibre that keeps you full longer and hence reduces your intake. The glycemic index (rate at which it increases the blood glucose levels) is also lower than white rice.

Do you need to soak rice before cooking?

If you have the time, soak the red rice for about 30 minutes. This results in fluffier rice and also helps speed up the cooking process.

Why is my fried rice soggy?

1. To make fried rice, the rice should be cooked with the right amount of water. It gets soggy if the quantity of water used is more than necessary. Use the cook and drain method as above: cooking in a lot of water and draining removes starch from the rice, making it fluffy. This ensures that the grains don’t stick to each other.
2. The rice has to be cold and dry before frying. Leaving cooked rice in the fridge overnight or at least for 30 minutes dries it up.
3. The rice should be stir-fried quickly on high flame with enough oil so that they don’t get mushy.

Can cooked rice be frozen?

Cooked rice (and also fried rice) can be frozen for up to a couple of months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
Use this small reheating trick for best results: Before you reheat in the microwave, toss the rice with a few spoons (about 1 tablespoon for every cup of cooked rice) of hot water. This steams the rice and makes it as fluffy as freshly cooked rice.

Healthy fried rice with red rice in a wok pan  with lime wedges in a bowl next to it.

What to serve with healthy fried rice

You can eat fried red rice as a main dish for a vegetarian dinner and/or pair it with a protein of your choice.

Do you love Thai flavors? Try the keto Thai green curry chicken.

If you’re a Thai food lover, you wouldn’t want to miss the Thai basil pesto recipe, too.

Like this fried rice? Asian stir-fried chicken with red rice and red beans is another red rice recipe you might love.

In search of brown rice recipes? Try these healthy recipes:

If you’re looking for low-carb rice options, try these:

More rice recipes

close up view of red fried rice in a pan with lime wedges

Easy Vegetarian Thai Fried Rice Recipe

Vegetarian Thai fried rice recipe is an easy and healthy version of the typical fried rice you find at Thai restaurants. This unique red rice recipe shows step-by-step instructions on how to cook red rice and fry it without guilt.
Author: Sheeba
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course dinner, LUNCH, Main Course
Cuisine Asian, Thai
Servings 4 people
Calories 241 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup red rice
  • 4 cups water or stock to cook rice
  • 1/2 cup bell peppers/ capsicum thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup green peas frozen or fresh
  • 2 onions thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons galangal or ginger minced (note 4)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic minced
  • 3 Thai green chilies finely chopped
  • 3 stalks lemongrass
  • 5 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sunflower oil/ peanut oil or any neutral oil with a high smoke point
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce or more to taste
  • 3 eggs optional, can be skipped for a vegan recipe
  • cilantro for garnish
  • lime wedges to serve

Instructions
 

Prepare the flavoring

  • Peel the outer layer of the lemongrass stalks. Chop them into 2-inch pieces with diagonal cuts.
    Lightly smash them with the flat part of your knife.
  • Break the kaffir lime leaves into individual lobes (they are double-lobed leaves).

Cook red rice

  • Add the lemongrass pieces and the kaffir lime leaves to water in a deep stock pot and bring it to a boil.
  • Add the red rice and bring it to a boil again on high heat. Simmer for 20 to 25 minutes until cooked thoroughly but not mushy (note 3).
  • Drain the rice in a colander. Remove the lemongrass stalks and the lime leaves.

Chill the rice

  • Spread the drained red rice on a large tray or plate and allow it to cool.
  • Once cooled, keep the tray of rice in the refrigerator for 20 minutes or freezer for 10 minutes.
    This will help remove extra moisture from the rice to give you the best fried rice.

Stir-fry red rice and vegetables

  • Mince galangal (or ginger) and garlic. Slice the onions, bell peppers and carrot. Boil the green peas and keep aside.
  • Heat the oil in a large pan or wok on high flame, add the minced galangal and garlic and stir-fry until you get an aroma, but not browned.
  • Add the onions and chili. Stir-fry until translucent.
  • Stir in the grated carrots, cooked peas and soy sauce. Stir-fry for 5 minutes before adding the rice.
    Fry for 5 more minutes and turn off the heat.
  • If you're using eggs, beat them with a few dashes of salt and pepper.
  • Make space in the middle of the pan by moving the vegetables to the sides. Add the eggs and scramble them until set.
  • Mix in the rice when the eggs are done and stir well. Turn off the heat.
  • Garnish with chopped cilantro or green onions and serve with lime wedges.

Video

Notes

  1. Rice to water ratio for cooking red rice is about 1:4.
  2. Brown rice can also be used for this recipe. Follow the same cooking instructions.
  3. To check for doneness, take a grain of rice and press with your fingers. You should be able to squeeze it easily. 
  4. Once cooked, the red rice needs to be thoroughly cooled before stir-frying, else it may become sticky. Use my hack mentioned above in the post.
  5. Another option is to use leftover rice from the fridge. A day-old rice is ideal.
  6. Galangal belongs to the same family as ginger and has a unique flavor. If you can’t find it, you can substitute with ginger.
  7. Wok: Use a large wok to stir-fry. This helps crisp up the fried rice and vegetables.
  8. Stir-frying: You can use medium heat to fry the aromatics (ginger, garlic and onions). Vegetables and rice have to be stir fried on high or medium-high heat.
  9. Eggs: You can also serve this red fried rice alongside fried eggs instead of mixing them in. Or you can skip the eggs to make this a vegan Thai fried rice.
  10. Storage: This healthy fried rice stays fresh in the refrigerator for a week. Store in a dry airtight container. If you want to store it longer, freeze it. It can be frozen for upto 2 months.
  11. Variations: Add a few Thai basil leaves instead of coriander leaves/green onions to make it a vegetarian Thai basil fried rice. Skip the eggs for a vegan version.
Healthy Vegetarian Thai Fried Rice with Red Rice

★★★★★Did you try this recipe? Please give a star rating in the comments below ★★★★★

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Author profile photo

Hi! I’m Sheeba, welcome to Go Healthy ever after!

I have a passion for cooking delicious nourishing food that’s easy to cook with fresh natural ingredients free from additives or preservatives. The easy healthy recipes you find here will inspire you to cook with creativity.

This post was originally published in 2018 and has been updated with new photos to give you an awesome experience.

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14 thoughts on “Healthy Vegetarian Thai Fried Rice with Red Rice”

  1. 4 stars
    It took two hours because of the sautéing and prep. It turned out very well but I wouldn’t recommend it for cooks who aren’t well familiar with wok frying.

    1. Hi Michelle, thanks for taking the time to review and give feedback. The cooking time depends on the type of rice used. I use Thai brown Jasmine rice which takes about 25 minutes. You can save some time by doing all the prep work when the rice is cooking. Cooking rice in the rice cooker also saves time, but yes, you need to be familiar with it.
      Hope that helps.

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