This is my go-to beef stir-fry recipe. Made of tender beef slices, bell peppers, and onions slathered in a salty, subtly sweet black pepper sauce.
Chinese Black Pepper Beef
Here's why you'll love this beef stir-fry recipe:
- A 15-minute meal - this is one of the easiest stir-fries you can make—a perfect addition to your weekly dinner menu.
- Uses easy-to-cook beef cut and vegetables–the secret to making a quick stir-fry is using thin slices of meat (beef in this case) and vegetables that require minimal preparation and short cooking time.
- Salty, peppery, and full of flavor - this can easily be one of your favorite stir-fry recipes.
Best Cut of Beef for Stir-fry
The recommended cut of beef for stir-fry is sirloin steak. It is tender and contains a bit of fat, making the stir-fry more flavorful. I also like that it's more affordable compared to other beef steak cuts.
If you want to splurge, you can use beef cuts such as ribeye, tenderloin, and top sirloin. These are on the expensive side but make the juiciest stir-fry because of the extra fat.
Other budget-friendly beef cuts you can use are skirt steaks, flank steaks, and flat iron steaks.
How to slice the beef
Using a sharp knife, cut the beef along the grain lengthwise around 2 inches to 2 ½ inch strips, ¼ inches thick. Slicing the beef thinly makes it easier and faster to cook than using thick beef cubes.
- For convenience, you can also use pre-cut beef that has "stir-fry" labels. It will make the preparation so much easier. Just season and cook straight away!
- If you are slicing the meat yourself, freeze it for 30 minutes to 1 hour to make it easier to slice.
Black Pepper Sauce Ingredients
This is what you need for the sauce:
- Oyster Sauce - is a key ingredient in making Chinese stir-fry dishes. It gives the dish a unique umami flavor that you can't easily replicate with other seasoning ingredients.
- Soy Sauce - use regular soy sauce. My preferred brand for stir-fry recipes is Kikkoman. I don't recommend using dark soy sauce as it's too strong.
- Garlic - use fresh garlic for the best flavor.
- Shaoxing Wine - is also known as Chinese rice wine. This is the secret to making a restaurant-style stir-fry is using Shaoxing wine. It adds a nice flavor and signature Chinese dish aroma.
- Black Pepper - use FRESHLY ground black pepper, preferably coarse or large grind. This is the secret to making the best black pepper sauce.
- Sugar - just a bit is needed to balance the sauce's flavor.
How to Make It
Here's how to make beef stir fry with black pepper sauce:
- Marinate the beef in black pepper for at least 5 minutes to make it extra aromatic and "peppery". To save time, do this as the first step, and then prepare the rest of the ingredients like slicing the vegetables and making the sauce.
- Coat beef in cornstarch to help seal the juices and protect the meat from overcooking in high heat. The starch will not only help thicken the sauce but will also help bind the sauce to the meat making it deliciously flavorful.
- Stir-fry the beef in hot oil over HIGH HEAT- this will quickly cook and caramelized the slices of beef. The pan is ready when you see a wisp of smoke. If you put the meat too early, it may become watery and will not caramelize. Be careful not to overcook the meat or it will become tough and chewy.
- Cook the vegetables separately - transfer the beef to a plate after stir-frying instead of just putting it on the side of the pan. Use the same pan to cook the vegetables (use medium-high heat). This technique will prevent overcooking the meat.
💭 Before starting to cook
Allow the beef to come to room temperature before cooking. Using cold beef or frozen beef will not brown properly and can instead become watery.
Other vegetables you can use
Classic black pepper beef stir-fry uses red and green bell pepper as an add-in vegetable, but why limit yourselves to just one? You can also use these other vegetables which are equally easy to cook. These are:
- sugar snap peas
- green beans
- sliced mushrooms - use brown or white button mushrooms and even portobello mushrooms.
- broccolini - steam or boil for 1 to 2 minutes before stir-frying
- hand-torn cabbage
- green onion or scallions
- carrots - thinly sliced
Variations and substitutes
- Make it less salty - use low-sodium soy sauce. You can buy this in Asian stores and online.
- Make it extra saucy - add an extra splash of water, around 2 tablespoons.
- Make it spicy - add chopped red chilies.
More Asian recipes
- Thai Basil Beef Zucchini Stir-fry
- Spicy Squid and Pork Korean Stir-fry
- Stir-fried Chayote (Sayote Guisado)
- Pork Fried Rice
- Sweet and Sour Chicken with Pineapple
- Quick and Easy Korean Beef Bulgogi
Can I cook stir-fry in a skillet instead of a wok?
You can cook stir-fry dishes in a skillet or a frying pan. You don't need to buy a wok. There I said it. A wok works best in constant high heat which is not something you can do on a regular stovetop.
Here are a few tips on how to cook stir-fry dishes in a skillet or frying pan whether you're using chicken, beef, or pork:
- Make sure that the oil and pan are hot enough before adding the meat. A wisp of smoke and shimmering oil are good signs.
- Let the first side of the meat cook until brown before stirring. Do the same on the other side. This is the only way to char the meat in a skillet over a stovetop.
- If making a big batch, cook the meat in 2 to 3 batches to maintain the high heat of the pan. Overloading your pan with meat will cool it off, produce juices, and prevent it from browning.
Best eaten straight out of the pan while warm and fresh! Serve with rice or noodles. Do you see the beef and sauce glistening? Delicious! Make it today and I hope you enjoy it!
More Beef Recipes
Black Pepper Beef (Chinese style)
- 1 pound tender beef cut, thinly sliced (note 1)
- 1-2 teaspoons black pepper (or to taste)
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1-2 tablespoons oil for cooking
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 small yellow onion (sliced)
- ½ red bell pepper (note 2)
- ½ green bell pepper
- Season beef with half of the freshly ground black pepper. Add cornstarch and massage until all slices are coated. Set aside. Prepare and slice the vegetables.
- Combine all the sauce ingredients in a bowl. Stir until sugar is dissolved.2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons oyster sauce, 1 tablespoons Shaoxing Wine, 1 teaspoon sugar
- Heat vegetable oil in a wok or pan over high heat. When a wisp of smoke appears, add the beef slices. Sear until it turns brown. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Add all the vegetables and stir-fry until tender yet still crisp. Add more oil if needed.
- Pour the sauce and add back the beef. Add 1-2 tablespoons of water. Sprinkle more black pepper if preferred. Stir until the meat and vegetables are coated with the sauce.
- Remove from heat and serve with rice. Enjoy!
Recipe Notes and Tips:
- Recommended beef cut - sirloin, rib-eye, tenderloin, top sirloin, and flank steak are good cuts for stir-fries.
- Bell Pepper - I like using two kinds for a good contrast of flavor. You can use just one if preferred.
- Soy Sauce - use good quality soy sauce, low-sodium, or just regular soy sauce.
- Chinese cooking wine or Shaoxing Wine - substitute with dry sherry and Japanese rice wine. Skip entirely if not available.
- To save time, buy pre-cut beef from the grocery that is labeled for 'stir-frying' which are most likely tender beef cuts.
- If you are slicing the meat yourself, freeze it beforehand to make it easier to slice evenly.