This healthy chicken stir-fry is a great one-pot dish that is easy to make and is loaded with protein and vegetables!
A stir-fry is an easy way to mix up your usual flavor palate and add some Asian flair.
Everyone will enjoy this veggie packed meal – even my toddler loves it!
While it does take some time to prep all of the vegetables, it’s totally worth it!
What Makes Regular Stir-Fry Unhealthy for You?
Some ingredients found in most homemade stir-fry sauces include soy sauce, cornstarch, and sugar.
Most recipes also call for you to use high-inflammatory oils such as safflower, sesame, peanut, or vegetable oil to sauté the vegetables.
And what do you usually serve with stir-fry? Rice!
Our family tries to avoid all of these things in order to help reduce inflammation in the body!
I will just briefly touch on each of these and include links if you want to do some further reading yourself!
Some of these topics have controversial opinions, but our family motto is to play it safe when it comes to our health.
This is why we try to eat foods that will nourish us, repair the body, and reduce inflammation.
Why We Avoid Soy Sauce
We avoid soy products, such as soy sauce, because of the hormonal effect it can have on the body.
In the body, soy can mimic estrogen, which in turn can mess with testosterone levels.
Soy is also a largely genetically modified food, which we try to avoid.
Why We Avoid Cornstarch
I want to start by saying that this is not an argument about corn.
In fact, we include small amounts of organic, non-GMO, corn in our diet.
We like to enjoy WHOLE foods (that’s part of our mission – to bring you recipes made with WHOLEsome goodness!!) and we try to limit processed foods.
And this is what takes us from corn to cornstarch – lots of processing.
Cornstarch is also usually made with genetically modified corn (unless you are looking for those labeled non-GMO).
For a more thorough look at cornstarch, check out this article by Dr. Axe, a certified doctor of natural medicine and a clinical nutritionist.
Why We Avoid Sugar
I could write a whole post on why we have eliminated sugar from our diet.
Do a Google search for “is sugar bad for you” and millions of articles will pop up.
Some notable articles that you can check out include this article by Dr. Mark Hyman, who is a functional medicine doctor.
Medical News Today also has a great article on foods that cause inflammation and it talks about not only sugar, but also oils (mentioned NEXT!).
Why We Avoid Certain Oils
I’ve already linked to a couple of articles that talk about how certain oils can cause inflammation.
But to give you a brief overview, there are two ways that oils cause inflammation in the body.
The first way oils can cause inflammation is due to the high Omega-6 levels found in some oils.
The second way oils can cause inflammation in the body is because they oxidize with heat (aka when you cook with them) and can go rancid over time, which also causes oxidation.
There are so many great articles that walk you through oils in more detail such as this one by Wellness Mama, a certified health coach.
Dr. B.J. Hardick (a chiropractic doctor and nutritional author) also has a great article explaining oils and which ones to use and avoid at different heat levels.
As a quick summary, BAD oils include vegetable, canola, corn, soybean, safflower, grapeseed, sunflower, cottonseed, and sesame oils.
GOOD oils to cook with include coconut oil, butter, avocado oil, ghee, tallow, lard, duck fat, and palm oil (try to find one that is sustainable sourced like this one).
Personally, I have narrowed our family down to just a few oils that we use for basically everything.
These include coconut oil, butter, avocado oil, and animal fats.
They have the most resounding “Yes these are okay” in the articles that I have read.
Why We Avoid Rice
Most people serve their stir-fry over rice, which is a grain and therefore is not allowed in a paleo diet.
Rice is also a very high carbohydrate food, which is not keto friendly.
Since we tend to eat a paleo/keto mix, this is reason enough for us to switch to cauli-rice.
However, if you aren’t following this style of eating, you can very easily switch out the cauli-rice for regular rice.
So What Makes This Stir-Fry Healthy?
Short answer: it doesn’t include any of the stuff we just talked about!
Okay, okay! Here’s the longer answer:
Let’s break the recipe down and talk about each ingredient.
Besides the vegetables, the only other ingredients in the recipe are avocado oil, chicken, salt, and coconut aminos.
This recipe is chock full of vegetables!!
If you make the recipe as written, you will be eating cauliflower, broccoli, onion, garlic, celery, bell pepper, and peas.
A quick note about peas since they are technically a legume. Legumes are supposed to be avoided on the paleo and Whole 30 diet, but peas have been given an exception. You can read more about it here.
But I think most of us will agree that vegetables, and a colorful rainbow of vegetables at that, are best for our diet to get a wide variety of nutrients.
And look at how much color and variety is in the picture below!!
If you really need an article about why you should eat vegetables, check out this article from Mark Sisson.
As we already discussed, avocado oil is one of the few oils our family uses because it is least likely to go rancid and oxidize in storage and is also least likely to oxidize when heated.
But if you don’t have any avocado oil on hand, you could switch to a different oil, preferably coconut oil (which does taste great in stir-fry!).
If you are eating vegan, you are going to disagree with me on this point and THAT’S OKAY! This recipe is a great vegan recipe if you leave the chicken out!
For our family, we enjoy sustainable, organically raised meat from a local farm and we enjoy consuming meat or eggs with almost every meal for our protein source, since we eat a more paleo lifestyle and don’t eat most legumes.
However, the chicken in this recipe is very easy to substitute and I will discuss substitutions below!
We include chicken in our diet for more than just the protein though!
Chicken benefits include iron, zinc, copper, and B vitamins (see article here).
Our family tries to eat a variety of meat and meat cuts to get the different nutritional values out of them all.
Our approach to meat is the same as our approach to vegetables – eat a variety!
Let me start by saying that if you are eating a lot of packaged and processed foods, you are probably already getting a lot of salt in your diet and you might want to adjust the amount of salt in this recipe.
However, if you mainly eat whole foods like our family, we actually don’t get a lot of salt in our diet unless we add it!
I went through a period of time where I would get terrible leg cramps and found that I needed more electrolytes in my diet.
And it also meant that I had to increase the amount of salt in my diet!
I know, I know. We are constantly being told to lower our sodium intake, but have you considered where that sodium is coming from?
So what happens when you eliminate processed foods?
There goes most of your sodium, which is still a very important mineral for the body!!
When using salt, we like to use sea salt, which has other minerals such as magnesium, calcium, and potassium!
Keep in mind that sea salts are not fortified with iodine, which is an important element for your thyroid. Check out this article where the American Thyroid Association relates the elimination of low iodine levels with iodized table salt.
That being said, we also supplement with iodine from kelp for healthy thyroid function (we use this brand).
For an interesting look at the downsides of a LOW salt diet (also from Dr. Mark Hyman), check out this article.
Due to the reasons listed above, our family doesn’t use soy and therefore soy sauce.
So how do you enjoy stir-fry and other Asian flavored dishes without that classic soy sauce taste?
This is how we stumbled upon coconut aminos!
When looking for a paleo/low-carb soy sauce alternative, we found that coconut aminos are a well known condiment in the paleo community and are also Whole 30 compliant.
Coconut aminos are also AIP friendly!
This makes it a great alternative to use if you follow one of those diets!
Step-by-Step Directions with Pictures for Healthy Chicken Stir-Fry
Enough about ingredients, let’s make this delicious dish!!
Preparing the Ingredients
First, get the chicken started in the Instant Pot (for full Instant Pot directions read here). Alternatively, you can cube the raw chicken and set aside to pan fry.
Smash and finely chop the garlic. Set aside so that it can sit out for 10 minutes and build up great anti-cancer compounds!
Wash the head of cauliflower and cut apart the cauliflower florets to fit in a food processor. Process the cauliflower into cauli-rice and set aside. To be honest, I normally use frozen cauli-rice since it makes this dish so much faster to assemble.
Next, wash the head of broccoli and cut into bite sized florets. Set aside. Another honest moment – I normally use frozen bags of broccoli florets, again to make the prep time faster for this meal.
Cooking Your Healthy Stir-Fry
Dice the onion and add it to a skillet, along with the garlic and 2 Tablespoons of avocado oil. Sauté over low heat for 15 minutes, or until very fragrant. Skip this step if you are using the seasoning and just add the seasoning and the 2 tablespoons of avocado oil to the skillet with the carrots and celery in the next step.
Peel the carrots and cut into 3-inch strips. Dice the celery. Then, add the carrots and celery to the pan and cook for 5 minutes.
Add the broccoli and cover the pan with a lid. Cook for 5 more minutes.
Meanwhile, in a separate pot, add the remaining 2 Tablespoons of avocado oil and riced cauliflower. Sauté the cauli-rice over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Cook for 10 minutes while the stir-fry mixture finishes cooking.
At this time, if the Instant Pot is done with the chicken, release any remaining pressure and shred the chicken. Alternatively, sauté the chicken in a Tablespoon of avocado oil in a frying pan on the stove at medium heat if you are not using the Instant Pot.
Back to the stir-fry mixture, after the 5 minutes have passed for the broccoli, add the yellow bell pepper and peas.
Heat until the mixture returns to a simmer and the vegetables are cooked to your desired level of “crunch”.
Remove the stir-fry mixture and the cauli-rice from the stove.
Now put it all together!
Add the cauli-rice, stir-fry veggies, and the shredded chicken (or other protein source – see below!) into bowls.
Top with additional coconut aminos if desired.
What Other Vegetables Can be Used For a Healthy Chicken Stir-Fry?
This recipe already has LOADS of vegetables in it, but if you are looking for other substitutions so you can shop grocery sales or swap out a vegetable that your family doesn’t like, try one of these instead!
- zucchini (a great fall option when everyone has zucchini out their ears!) – add at the end with the peas
- sugar snap peas – add at the end with the other peas
- asparagus (a great option in the spring when it’s on sale!) – add with the broccoli for soft, or with the peas for crunchy
- brussel sprouts (we usually cut ours in quarters for stir-frys) – add with the broccoli
- green beans – add with the broccoli
- mushrooms – add with the broccoli
Let me know in the comments below if there are any other vegetables your family enjoys in stir-frys!
What Other Meat/Proteins Can be Used For a Healthy Stir-Fry?
As I mentioned above, our family likes to eat a variety of meat types!
And we enjoy stir-fry A LOT.
So to get in some of that meat variety, I have made this recipe with other ground meats and ground meat combinations!
Our favorite substitution is to use ground pork instead.
Other ground meat options include ground chicken, ground turkey, and ground beef.
And you can also use a combination of these meats.
I have done ground beef/ground pork as well as ground beef/ground turkey and we loved them both!
Another common stir-fry meat is to use thinly sliced beef flank.
For vegans, use a high protein legume source such as chickpeas.
You could also use tofu or edamame for protein replacement!
This healthy chicken stir-fry is a great one-pot dish that is easy to make and is loaded with protein and vegetables!
- 1 head of cauliflower (or use frozen cauli-rice for faster prep!)
- 1 large head of broccoli (or use a bag of broccoli florets – fresh or frozen – for faster prep!)
- ¼ cup avocado oil, divided
- 4 garlic cloves (or 1 teaspoon garlic powder)
- 1 medium onion (or 1 teaspoon onion powder)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup coconut aminos
- 3 stalks of celery
- ½ pound of carrots (optional for strict keto)
- 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped (omit for AIP)
- ½ cup frozen peas (optional for keto and omit for AIP elimination phase)
- 1 pound Instant Pot shredded chicken (omit for vegan or replace with a different protein – options above!)
- TOPPING: Coconut aminos
- Add the chicken to the Instant Pot and set it to pressure cook.
- Smash and finely chop the garlic, set aside.
- Take the head of cauliflower, wash and cut apart the cauliflower to fit in a food processor. Process the cauliflower into cauli-rice and set aside.
- Take the head of broccoli, wash and cut into bite-sized florets. Set aside.
- Dice the onion and add it to a skillet along with the garlic and 2 Tablespoons of avocado oil. Sauté over low heat for 15 minutes, or until very fragrant. Skip this step if you are using the seasoning and just add the seasoning and the 2 tablespoons of avocado oil to the skillet with the carrots and celery in the next step.
- Peel the carrots and cut into 3-inch strips. Dice the celery. Add the prepared carrots and celery to the pan and cook for 5 minutes. Add the broccoli and cover the pan with a lid. Cook for 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a separate pot, add the remaining 2 Tablespoons of avocado oil and riced cauliflower. Sauté the cauli-rice over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Cook for 10 minutes while the stir-fry mixture finishes cooking.
- If the chicken is done in the Instant Pot, release the pressure (if it hasn’t naturally released) and shred the chicken. If you are cooking the chicken on the stove top, start cooking the chicken now (or other type of meat as listed above).
- Back to the stir-fry mixture, after the 5 minutes has passed for the broccoli, add the yellow bell pepper and peas. Heat until the mixture returns to a simmer and the vegetables are cooked to your desired level of “crunch”.
- Remove the stir-fry mixture and the cauli-rice from the stove. Serve in bowls with the cauli-rice on the bottom and then add the stir-fry vegetables and the shredded chicken on top. Add extra coconut aminos if desired.
Storage: Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Freezing: This dish freezes really well! I love making a double batch and then freezing some lunch portions to have the following week. Freeze in airtight containers. Let thaw in the fridge overnight to make it easier to reheat.