Chinese Pepper Beef Stir Fry is a takeout favorite! But it is so quick and easy to make at home you’ll forget where you put the takeaway menu!
The tender flank steak is cooked with bell peppers and onions in a savory peppery Chinese brown sauce - the whole dish can be made in under 30 minutes! Plus get my top tip for the most tender stir fry beef EVER!
Serve the stir fry over rice or noodles or make it even more healthy and serve with stir-fried veggies. If Chinese Pepper Steak is your favorite PF Changs order then this Pepper Steak Stir Fry is going to be your new favorite simple dinner.
Chinese Pepper Steak (Chinese Pepper Beef)
We LOVE Chinese Pepper Steak, the pepper-garlic sauce, the tender strips of flank steak, cooked yet still crisp onion, bright bell pepper. Oh it is a family favorite for sure!
But grabbing takeout whenever the urge for Chinese hits (which is often in my house!) can be expensive and not altogether healthy. Now you know I am not a lean mean foodie 😉 I love my cheese, my pasta, my bread, and my red meat. So Sprinkles and Sprouts healthy doesn't mean eating a salad and calling it dinner! Nor does it mean food that is lacking in flavor!
Here healthy just means, ingredients you know, ingredients you can buy in the grocery store and ingredients that you already love! No nasties, just delicious food. That is my kind of healthy!
How to get tender Chinese beef
Firstly you must cut the steak across the grain, this allows the meat to break apart more easily. The grains in a piece of flank steak are very visible so this makes it nice and easy (see photo before)
But there is more to it than how you cut it. We have all eaten the sliced beef from the takeout, it is melt in the mouth tender, even when you reheat it for breakfast (just me?)
The key to the most tender beef you have ever cooked is Baking Soda (also known as Bi-Carb or Bicarbonate of Soda)
Baking soda has the magical ability to tenderize any meat! It is a trick I use in most of my takeout style meals. It is wonderful used on steak or chicken.
Baking soda tastes disgusting! So once it has worked it's magic we need to really wash it off well. Pat the steak strips dry. And you are ready to use them in your stir fry. Be prepared for the most tender beef ever!
A question of bell peppers
Bell peppers, or capsicums as they are known in Australia, add a great crunch to this pepper beef stir fry.
You can use whichever colors you like, I find the red and yellow to be sweeter, but the mixture of all three colors gives the dish so much pop! Use whichever you have or whichever you like.
Don't overcook the veg
The onions and peppers in this dish should still have a nice crunch to them, you don't want them raw, but they want to have a bite. They are cooked for just 3 minutes in the hot frying pan.
What to use when you don't have a wok.
If you don't have a wok, don't worry. Wok cooking is fast and fun, but with a large bottom skillet, you can get the same effect. In fact, I often recommend a skillet or frying pan over a wok as the base sits closer to the flame allowing you to get the pan hotter. Perfect for stir fry dishes. You can read more about wok vs frying pan here.
Whichever pan you use, you want to ensure that you keep the heat as high as possible. Chinese cooking is quick cooking, everything should be done quickly and over high heat.
Do you need any Chinese special ingredients?
I said above that this was made with ingredients you can find in the grocery store, which is true. But it might be ingredients that you aren't familiar with. You can find both of these in the Asian section of your grocery store, they last for a long time in the pantry/cupboard and will give your stir fy the authentic flavor. Alternatively, they are easy to buy on Amazon.
- Oyster Sauce - this is a thick brown sauce that adds a wonderful glossiness to your finished stir fry. It has a slight saltiness to it that works so well with the beef.
- Chinese Cooking Wine - This adds that takeout flavor to your dish! It is also known as Chinese Rice Wine, Shaohsing Rice Cooking Wine, Shaoxing wine or Shaoxing Cooking Wine. Don’t get it confused with rice wine vinegar though!!! If you can’t find Chinese Cooking Wine, just use dry sherry.
For more delicious takeout ideas why not try:
- Beef and Broccoli
- Ginger Shrimp Stir Fry
- Happy Family Stir Fry
- Beef and Tomato
- Wandering Dragon Stir Fry
- Chicken and Snow Peas
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Chinese Pepper Beef Stir Fry Recipe
To tenderize the beef
- 1 lb flank steak
- 1 tablespoon baking soda – see note 1
For the sauce:
- ¾ cup cold beef broth - see note 2
- 2 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine – see note 3
- 2 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 3 garlic cloves – crushed
- 2 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper - see note 4&5
- 2 tablespoon cornflour
For the Stir Fry
- 2 tablespoon oil
- 1 onion – peeled and chopped
- 3 garlic cloves - minced
- 1 cup sliced red bell pepper
- 1 cup sliced yellow bell pepper
- 1 cup sliced green bell pepper
Start with tenderizing the beef
- Cut the beef into thin strips across the grain. (see the bulk of post for more about the grain of the beef)
- Place in a bowl and sprinkle with the baking soda.
- Let the beef marinade for 15 minutes then wash off the baking soda and rinsing it several times. (See note 3)
- Pat dry with kitchen paper and set to one side.
Make the sauce.
- Combine the ingredients for the sauce together in a measuring cup or jug.
- Set to one side.
To make the pepper beef stir fry
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large frying pan over high heat, once the oil starts to shimmer add the beef and cook for 1 minute until almost cooked through. Remove from the pan.
- Add the remaining oil to the pan
- Keeping the heat high add the onion and fry for 1 minute.
- Add the bell peppers to the pan and cook for a further 2 minutes.
- Return the beef to the pan along with the minced garlic and stir to combine.
- Give the sauce another stir and then add it to the skillet and bring to a simmer, the sauce will start to thicken.
- Cook for 1-2 minutes until everything is cooked through and the sauce just coats the meat and veg.
- Remove from the heat and serve immediately.
- Chinese Cooking Wine/Chinese Rice Wine – not to be mistaken for rice wine vinegar!!! You can sub in dry sherry if you like.
- Baking Soda is also called Bicarb, Bicarbonate of Soda and Sodium Bicarbonate.
- Make sure you wash the beef well to remove any traces of baking soda. It is amazing at tenderizing meat but has a terrible taste so you want to remove it.
- If you can, try and use freshly ground black pepper rather than the pepper dust. It will have a better flavor. If you don't have any and have to use the powdered pepper, reduce the amount down to ½ teaspoon and taste.
- If you like your pepper beef very peppery then you can add another teaspoon of black pepper. As the recipe is written it has a mild kick of pepper but isn't too spicy for the kids.
Sandi Rapp says
I made this last night and it was absolutely delicious! I loved the trick of using the baking soda to tenderize the beef. I only had about 5 oz of beef but used the full amount of everything else. I don't do a lot of Chinese food cooking but I have been dabbling for years and I think this is one of the very best recipes I have tried and once the preparations are done I is extremely easy and quick. Thank you!
Claire McEwen says
So happy you enjoyed it Sandi 🙂
Jackie P says
Fabulous. I made this yesterday but added julienned carrots to the onion and peppers. The sauce was wonderful but will slightly reduce the amount of sugar next time. The prep time was much longer that the stated 10 minutes, so glad I got prepped much earlier. Tenderising the beef with bicarb is a must, the end result was superb served with basmati rice.
Jack T Calhoun says
Simply better than going out to eat. Thanks
Hello Claire; Wow... this is a great recipe. Made it last night for the first time and we loved it. Thanks for your detailed instructions and notes on substitutions. I didn't have Chinese cooking wine so I subbed regular wine which worked just as well in my opinion. This recipe is a keeper!
Claire McEwen says
Thank you so much for coming back to comment Eve.
Great to know that regular white wine works!!!