• Home
  • Guides
  • Is Fried Rice Healthy? How To Make A Healthier Vegan Version

Is Fried Rice Healthy? How To Make A Healthier Vegan Version

In this article, we will discuss the health risks of fried rice and how to make it healthier.
Zeynep Ozdemir, RDN

Written by Zeynep Ozdemir, RDN. Updated on December 13, 2022.

Fried rice is one of the popular dishes of Asian cuisine. It is made by frying boiled rice and various vegetables in a wok, usually with eggs, meat, and soy sauce.

Although its content is rich in vegetables and looks healthy, it can become quite unhealthy with excess fat, high heat, and excess sodium.

In this article, we will discuss the health risks of fried rice and how to make it healthy.

About Fried Rice

Fried rice is a dish that was originally found to evaluate leftover foods and is very popular in Asian countries.

The main sources of the dish are rice and various chopped vegetables. However, it is mostly not vegan.

Generally, scrambled eggs, meat, shrimp, chicken, and bacon are also used with these ingredients.

Boiled rice and vegetables are fried in a wok over high heat, usually by blending them with the main ingredients.

Vegetables such as white onions, green onions, carrots, peas, and red peppers are generally preferred for fried rice.

In addition, soy sauce and roasted sesame oil are among the materials used.

Nutritional Value of Fried Rice

Fried rice is a carbohydrate-heavy food. In addition, since it is fried in oil, the oil content increases according to the amount of oil used.

According to the USDA, the nutritional values ​​for 100 grams of meatless fried rice ordered from a Chinese restaurant are as follows:

Energy: 174 kcal
Carbs: 32.5 g
Protein: 3.84 g
Fat: 3.19 g
Sodium: 361mg

One serving of fried rice sold in Chinese restaurants is approximately 150 grams, about 261 calories, and contains 49 grams of carbohydrates.

Of course, these nutritional values ​​may vary depending on the extra ingredients used, and vegan versions can be quite poor in protein if not supplemented with an alternative protein source.

White rice is a food poor in fiber content, and using it in fried rice causes this food to remain low in fiber. An adult individual should consume 25 to 30 grams of fiber daily, and most individuals stay below this amount.

In addition, the amount and type of oil used in frying also affect the content of saturated fat, unsaturated fat, and trans fat.

Its protein content is about 5-6 grams per serving. The protein amount of the food can be increased by using vegan protein sources.

One point to consider in fried rice is the sodium content. Currently, a serving of fried rice can contain approximately 542 mg of sodium based on the added salt content.

In addition, the use of soy sauce increases the sodium content even more, and even the daily sodium intake (<2300 mg) can be exceeded.

Health Concerns of Fried Rice

When we see the content of fried rice or look at the ingredients, we can see it as a food that can be considered healthy and rich in vegetables.

However, this can be misleading, and things are not always as they seem. With high temperatures, excess fat, and sodium, it can become quite unhealthy.

High Heat and Excess Fat

The first health threat we face when we buy ready-made fried rice from a restaurant is the excess fat content. Oils give flavor to the food it is added to, but too much of it is risky for any food.

Especially frying in oil causes the rice to absorb a lot of oil and increases its calories. Also, when making fried rice, rice and vegetables are fried in oil that has been exposed to very high temperatures.

High temperature causes some changes in the oil. With the oxidation of fatty acids, the taste and smell of the oil begin to change.

Especially if the same oil is exposed to high heat for a long time or more than once, it turns into a form of trans fat.

Fried rice prepared in such a modified oil also carries health risks due to both excess fat and trans fat content.

Consuming such foods for a long time causes the development of diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, vascular occlusion, and fatty liver.

Also, many people on a plant-based diet avoid consuming oil at all.

High Sodium Content

The daily sodium intake of an adult individual should be below 2300 milligrams.

Excess sodium intake retains water in the body and causes edema. It can also increase blood pressure, which can lead to many diseases.

Soy sauce is very high in sodium content. One tablespoon of soy sauce contains approximately 1010 mg of sodium. (100 g of soy sauce contains 5590 mg of sodium.)

Considering that an average of 2 tablespoons of soy sauce is used in a serving of fried rice, it is possible to say that a single serving of fried rice contains quite a lot of sodium.

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) is a food additive that leaves a good taste – referred to as “umami” in the literature – in the mouths of people who consume it, especially by adding it to ready-made products such as bouillon, noodles, chips, instant soup, and ready-made sauces.

It may appear on the labels with the code E621. Also commonly used in Chinese restaurants, this ingredient is high in fat and sodium.

It is frequently used in order to increase the flavor of fried rice bought from restaurants.

People who consume too much MSG may experience headaches, shortness of breath, facial flushing, sweating, and edema formation.

It has been suggested that long-term use may cause diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and epilepsy in advanced ages.

The Risk of Roasted Sesame Oil

Sesame oil is generally used in fried rice, and oil obtained from roasted seeds also threatens health when consumed in large quantities.

As a result of the roasting process, besides the loss of nutritional value of sesame, the healthy fats in their content turn into forms of unhealthy trans fats.

Unroasted/raw sesame oil can be preferred instead, and the cooking process is carried out by paying attention to the smoke point.

How Vegan Fried Rice Can Be Made Healthier

Fried rice bought from restaurants becomes unhealthy with its high carbohydrate, fat, and sodium content.

However, it is, of course, possible to make a healthy version at home.

You can follow these suggestions for healthy fried rice:

  1. Limit the amount of oil. A maximum of two tablespoons of oil will suffice.
  2. Sesame oil can be a good choice for flavor. Choose unroasted oil.
  3. Do not fry vegetables for too long. A little softening will suffice.
  4. Try using brown rice instead of white rice to increase the fiber content. Also, don’t forget to use more vegetables to balance the carbs and increase the fiber.
  5. Do not fry the rice for too long. A light color will suffice.
  6. Choose low-sodium soy sauce. Normally, one tablespoon of soy sauce has 950 mg of sodium, while low-sodium soy sauce has between 500 and 600 mg. However, be careful not to use more than two tablespoons.
  7. Increase protein content. Fried rice is prepared with only vegetables, and rice is poor in protein. Adding vegan protein sources can help you have a more balanced meal.

Alternative Vegan Protein Sources

A preferred way to increase the protein content of fried rice is to add non-melting and soft cheeses.

Cheeses such as Paneer are preferred options, but they are not suitable for a plant-based diet as they are not vegan. However, there are vegan alternatives you can use instead, such as:

  1. Firm or extra-firm tofu
  2. Tempeh
  3. Seitan

You can also check out our Can Vegans Eat Paneers? article to learn more about these types of cheese and to see cheese comparisons with paneer.


Thanks to the vegetables it contains, fried rice may seem quite healthy. As a matter of fact, if some conditions are not taken into account, it can be quite unhealthy.

The amount of fat it contains, the low protein content, the high sodium content, and the risk of containing trans fatty acids are some of these conditions.

Still, there are ways to make your own fried rice healthy. These ways include choosing the right fat, increasing the amount of fiber, and adding a source of protein.

How we ensure this article is accurate?
  1. It's written and or reviewed by an expert.
  2. We cite relevant studies and trusted sources.
  3. It's regularly updated.

Read more about our process and team.