For an easy, flavorful stir-fry, combine chicken breasts, bell peppers and umami-rich hoisin

Stir-fries are easy to cook, but getting the flavors just right can require a long list of aromatics and seasonings. Relying on high-impact ingredients cuts down on cost and time, while still delivering big flavor.

In this case, we create an easy, great-tasting stir-fry that leans on savory-sweet, umami-rich hoisin sauce to drive the flavor of the dish.

The recipe, from our book “Cook What You Have,” which draws on pantry staples to assemble easy, weeknight meals, pairs tender chicken breasts and snappy bell peppers with a mixture of hoisin, soy sauce, sherry and a few common aromatics. It’s cooked in a single skillet and takes just 25 minutes to prepare.

First, we cook the bell peppers in a little oil until softened and beginning to brown. Garlic, ginger and pepper flakes are added and sauteed until fragrant, giving the dish a complex, slightly spicy backbone. We slice the chicken crosswise, or against the grain, so the muscle fibers are short rather than stringy, which helps keep it tender while cooking. The sticky, savory-sweet glaze is briefly thickened in the pan before serving.

The cooking goes quickly, so be sure the ingredients are prepped and at the ready before you head to the stove. Serve with steamed rice for a substantial and filling supper that doesn’t skimp on flavor.


Start to finish: 25 minutes

Servings: 4 to 6

¼ cup hoisin sauce

2 tablespoons dry sherry OR sake

1 tablespoon soy sauce, plus more if needed

3 tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral oil

2 medium green OR red OR orange OR yellow bell peppers OR a combination, stemmed, seeded and sliced about ¼ inch thick

2 medium garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced crosswise ¼ inch thick

In a small bowl, stir together the hoisin, sherry and soy sauce; set aside. In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the bell peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger and pepper flakes, then cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 to 60 seconds.

Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and opaque throughout, 7 to 8 minutes. Add the hoisin mixture and cook, stirring, until the sauce slightly thickens, 1 to 2 minutes. Off heat, taste and season with additional soy sauce, if needed.

Optional garnish: Thinly sliced scallions

EDITOR’S NOTE: For more recipes, go to Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street at