Metastable structural polymorphs can have superior properties and applications to their thermodynamically stable phases, but the rational synthesis of metastable phases is a challenge. Here, a new strategy for stabilizing metastable phases using surface functionalization is demonstrated using the example of formamidinium lead iodide (FAPbI3) perovskite, which is metastable at room temperature (RT) but holds great promises in solar and light-emitting applications. We show that, through surface ligand functionalization during direct solution growth at RT, pure FAPbI3 in the cubic perovskite phase can be stabilized in nanostructures and thin films at RT without cation or anion alloying. Surface characterizations reveal that long-chain alkyl or aromatic ammonium (LA) cations bind to the surface of perovskite structure. Calculations show that such functionalization reduces the surface energy and plays a dominant role in stabilizing the metastable perovskite phase. Excellent photophysics and optically pumped lasing from the stabilized single-crystal FAPbI3 nanoplates with low thresholds were demonstrated. High-performance solar cells can be fabricated with such directly synthesized stabilized phase-pure FAPbI3 with a lower bandgap. Our results offer new insights on the surface chemistry of perovskite materials and provide a new strategy for stabilizing metastable perovskites and metastable polymorphs of solid materials in general.