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Chinese Pepper Steak Stir-Fry

This Chinese Pepper Steak Stir-Fry has tender strips of thinly-sliced flank steak along with crisp-tender bell peppers and onions in a super tasty brown sauce. It’s a quick and easy dinner that’s out-of-this-world delicious!

Okay, I’m just going to go right ahead and say it. This is, by far, the best Chinese pepper steak I have ever eaten! It’s packed with flavor and is so good that it has actually replaced my favorite take-out!

Yep, that’s right. I’d rather cook it than phone in an order and pick it up (and I really do love my occasional nights off from cooking, so that says a lot!). In less time, I can make it right in my own kitchen.

And it tastes even better!

I’m not sure if pepper steak like this is actually an authentic Chinese dish, but it’s certainly on every Chinese food menu I’ve ever seen (and I’ve see a lot of them). So let’s say that this is my homemade version of the classic Chinese-American dish.

If you’ve never had it, the pepper refers to bell peppers and not black pepper, which is a different dish. This pepper steak is a simple beef stir-fry with peppers and onions in a yummy brown sauce (which, in my opinion, is the star of the show!).

It took me a long time to perfect my stir-fry sauce, and it totally works in this dish. It’s basically the same sauce that I use in my Chinese Chicken and Broccoli Stir-Fry, except I use beef broth instead of chicken broth, and I add crushed red pepper flakes for a little kick of spice.

It’s rich and savory with hints of sweet and heat, garlicky, gingery, and so, so good.

I started making this recipe over the summer when I had a ton of peppers in my garden to use up, and it’s been in heavy rotation on our weeknight dinner menu ever since!

Chinese pepper steak stir-fry in a pan with a serving spoon with a bowl of white rice in the background

What does stir-fry mean?

When you stir-fry, you’re cooking meat and/or vegetables quickly in a small amount of oil over high heat while stirring constantly. It can be done in a large pan or wok.

Ingredients you need:

  • Flank steak
  • Light brown sugar
  • Lower-sodium soy sauce
  • Beef broth or stock (I use roasted beef base – such as Better Than Bouillon – and water)
  • Oyster sauce
  • Sesame oil
  • Mirin – See Note Below
  • Cornstarch
  • Vegetable oil
  • Bell peppers
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Ginger (fresh)
  • Crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Note: Mirin is a type of rice wine that is common in Japanese cooking and is sweeter than other rice wine. Find it in the Asian/international foods aisle at your grocery store. Regular rice wine (not rice wine vinegar…very different) or dry sherry can be substituted (the flavor will be a little different, but still very good).

Here’s a look at how to make Chinese Pepper Steak Stir-Fry:

Note: This is just a quick overview of the steps. Scroll down to the recipe card for the full recipe with detailed instructions.

2 images; one of sliced steak in a bowl with text that says marinate steak in soy sauce and brown sugar for 30 minutes; the other of a bowl of brown sauce with a whisk in it with text that says meanwhile, stir together all of the sauce ingredients
2 images; one of steak browning in a skillet with a plate of cooked steak on the side with text that says brown the steak in 2 batches, remove to a plate; the other of peppers and onions cooking in a skillet with text that says stir fry peppers and onions until crisp tender
2 images; one of garlic, ginger, and pepper flakes added to the pan of onions and peppers with text that says add garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes, stir fry one minute; the other of the finished pepper steak with text that says return steak to pan with sauce, simmer until sauce is thickened

Tips & Tidbits:

  • Prep everything before you start cooking because this dish comes together super fast.
  • I like using flank steak, but top sirloin steak works very well too. I’ve also used a tri-tip steak with great results.
    • I once made this with a flat iron steak (which was more expensive), but holy wow, the texture of the beef was amazing…sooo tender!
  • Just make sure to slice the meat thinly across the grain, as this is key to it being tender.
    • The grain are the muscle fibers and are the lines you can see in the meat (you can see them really well in flank steak). Slice perpendicular to those lines, and you’re good to go.
  • Be careful not to overcook the steak, as this can make it dry, chewy, and not-so-tender. Stir-fry it just until it is cooked through and lightly browned on both sides.
  • If you want to go the extra mile and “velvet” your beef to make it extra tender and silky, before doing anything else, combine the sliced steak with 1½ teaspoons of baking soda and mix well. Let it sit for 20 minutes (no longer). Then rinse it really well to remove all of the baking soda, pat it dry, and proceed with the recipe. Amazing!
  • Since we only use a teaspoon of minced fresh ginger in this recipe, if you don’t have an immediate use for the rest, wrap it well, place it in a freezer bag, and freeze it to use another time.
    • You can also buy bottled minced ginger, which I actually use a lot of the time, and it keeps in the fridge for quite a while.
  • The crushed red pepper flakes add just a mild heat that I really love (add more if you want it hotter), but if you’re not into spicy heat, you can leave them out.
  • Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 days.
Two bowls of Chinese pepper steak stir-fry over rice with 2 forks on the side

My favorite way to serve this stir-fry is to spoon it over some hot cooked white rice to soak up all of that fabulous sauce. If you have an Instant Pot, check out my recipe for Instant Pot Long-Grain White Rice, which is my favorite way to cook rice.

You could also serve it over noodles (ramen noodles would be awesome), cauliflower rice (for a low-carb option), or it’s just delicious all on its own!

I hope you try this Chinese Pepper Steak Stir-Fry recipe and love it as much as I do. Thanks for visiting today!

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Chinese Pepper Steak Stir-Fry

This Chinese Pepper Steak Stir-Fry has tender strips of thinly-sliced flank steak along with crisp-tender bell peppers and onions in a super tasty brown sauce. It's a quick and easy dinner that's out-of-this-world delicious!
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Author: Michelle / Now Cook This!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Marinating Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Servings: 4
Estimated Calories: 471

Ingredients

  • 1 pound flank steak, thinly sliced against the grain into strips
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce, divided
  • cups beef broth, I use 1½ teaspoons roasted beef base (such as Better Than Bouillon) mixed with 1½ cups water
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 large bell peppers, any color, cut into ¼-inch-wide strips (about 2 cups total)
  • 1 large onion, peeled and cut into ¼-inch-wide strips (about 2 cups total)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
  • hot cooked white rice, for serving, optional

Instructions

  • In a medium bowl, combine the sliced meat, the light brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons of the soy sauce. Stir until the meat is evenly coated. Let marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes.
    Note: To save time, I prep the vegetables and make the sauce while the meat is marinating. I also make some white rice during this time.
  • Meanwhile, in a medium bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons soy sauce, the beef broth, oyster sauce, sesame oil, mirin, and cornstarch until well-combined; set aside (this will be the brown sauce).
  • In a large skillet or wok (I use a 12" skillet), heat 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add half of the steak and stir-fry just until cooked through and lightly browned on both sides, about 3 to 4 minutes (be careful not to overcook). Remove the steak to a plate.
  • Add another tablespoon of vegetable oil to the pan and cook the remaining steak. Remove to the plate with the first batch of steak.
    Note: Cooking the steak in batches avoids overcrowding the pan and helps the meat cook and brown quickly.
  • Add the last tablespoon of vegetable oil to the pan. Add the peppers and onions; stir-fry until crisp-tender, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and red pepper flakes to the pan; continue stir-frying for 1 minute.
  • Return the cooked beef to the pan (don't forget any juices that have accumulated on the plate). Give the sauce a quick final whisk (sometimes the cornstarch can clump at the bottom of the bowl as it sits) and add it to the pan.
  • Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until the sauce has thickened, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Serve immediately over hot cooked white rice (if desired).

Notes

  • Top sirloin steak can be used instead of flank steak.
  • If you want to go the extra mile and “velvet” your beef to make it extra tender and silky, before doing anything else, combine the sliced steak with 1½ teaspoons of baking soda and mix well. Let it sit for 20 minutes (no longer). Then rinse it really well to remove all of the baking soda, pat it dry with paper towels, and proceed with the recipe.
  • Mirin is a type of rice wine that is common in Japanese cooking and is sweeter than other rice wine. Find it in the Asian/international foods aisle at your grocery store. Regular rice wine or dry sherry can be substituted (the flavor will be a little different, but still very good).
  • You could also serve this over noodles (ramen noodles would be awesome), cauliflower rice (for a low-carb option), or it’s delicious just on its own. 
  • Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 days.
  • Estimated calories are for the stir-fry only and do not include rice.
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