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An authentic way to have Hunan Beef at home instead of the takeout version at your local Chinese restaurant. This dish is made with marinated slices of beef, stir-fried in a savory sauce flavored with garlic and peppers making it a spicy delight that’s very authentic to the Hunan Provence.
Whenever you take a gander at the Chinese takeout menu, you’ll likely see many classics like orange chicken, General Tso’s, and chicken and broccoli. Hunan beef is another well-known classic showing up on Chinese-American takeout menus. Typically made with thin slices of beef and stir-fried in a savory sauce with lots of chili peppers, it’s a favorite amongst the Chinese takeout community because of its bold flavors.
A rich and deep-flavored savory sauce coats the thin slices of beef, vegetables, and peppers. It’s hard not to resist such a complex dish especially when served on a bed of steaming white rice or lo-mein noodles. Don’t forget those spring rolls either!
What exactly is Hunan Beef?
Hunan beef here in the United States is a popular Americanized method for Chinese takeout. For example, majority of the restaurants here add some pepper and then have a brown stir-fry sauce to go with it. Of course, there is nothing wrong with that since they’re just trying to appeal to American tastes.
The authentic Hunan beef in China is actually made with dry smoked beef, which is a specialty in that region but pretty hard to find here, which is probably why Hunan beef got Americanized.
Why You’ll Love This
- Bold, rich, and complex flavors. The beef is quickly stir-fried and combined with fresh ingredients like bell peppers, Fresno peppers, garlic, and ginger to create a rich and flavorful dish that has a bit of spice!
- Easily customizable. Making this at home gives you the opportunity to adjust the flavors to your own taste – add more chilies or peppers for a spicier dish, or make more sauce to make it a little milder. With these simple adjustments, you can make this dish truly your own.
- Ideal dinner when you’re craving takeout. When you’re hungry, the last thing you want to do is wait for your food. You want it now! So, I typically make my meals at home and this takeout at home is the perfect meal to make. It’s fast and cheap!
Ingredients You’ll Need
Here is a list of ingredients you will need to make authentic Hunan Beef. Make sure to scroll down to view the full recipe for exact measurements.
- Flank steak
- Oyster sauce
- Shaoxing wine – this is a Chinese cooking wine that helps with tenderizing the beef. Unfortunately there really isn’t a substitute for the rice wine’s complex flavor, however, if you’re in a pinch, dry sherry can work.
- Bell peppers
- Fresno peppers
- Soy sauce
- Black vinegar – this is one of those ingredients that gives transformative flavors to a dish. Black vinegar doesn’t just season a dish. It’s fascinating and you’ll want to buy a bottle.
How To Make Hunan Beef
A quick marinade, some pan-frying, and some stir-frying and you’ll be well on your way to making Hunan beef an at-home takeout favorite in your home. Be sure to scroll to the bottom of this post for the full recipe.
Marinate the beef. In a large bowl, add your sliced flank steak then sprinkle cornstarch, oyster sauce, and shaoxing on top and using your hands or a spatula, toss to coat the beef in the mixture. Let sit for 20-30 minutes while you prepare the vegetables.
Pan-fry the beef. Heat up a skillet or wok to medium-high heat then add cooking oil to the skillet/wok. Add the beef, ensuring to not overcrowd the pan as you want a crispy exterior. I did this in two batches. Cook the beef until browned on both sides then remove and set aside. It’s ok if it’s not completely cooked through at this time.
Cook the vegetables. In the same skillet/wok, add Fresno peppers, garlic, ginger, and shallots. Cook until fragrant then add in the bell peppers and cook until tender.
Bring the rest of the dish together. Add the beef back in along with the scallions then pour the sauce on top. Bring to a gentle simmer and let cook for 5-7 minutes, or until the beef is cooked through.
Recipe Tips and Variations
- Don’t skip the marinating. This helps tenderize the beef so you don’t want to skip this step! It’s only 20-30 minutes.
- Don’t overcrowd your skillet/wok. We want a crispy exterior for the beef slices so if you overcrowd your skillet with too much beef at the same time, you’ll end up with soggy pieces and essentially steaming the beef.
- Use the right cut of beef. Flank steak works best in this as it’s leaner but also you get a lot more meat.
- Love spice? Add in some bird’s eye chili peppers or don’t completely de-seed the Fresno peppers.
Storage and Reheating Instructions
Allow leftovers to cool to room temperature then place in an airtight container for up to 5 days in the refrigerator. To reheat, I recommend stovetop on medium heat so it doesn’t dry out the beef. Alternatively, you may use the microwave as well but put a damp paper towel on top while you heat it so it creates steam to keep the meat tender.
What to Serve with Hunan Beef
There are so many side dishes you can serve with Hunan beef and make your own takeout spread. Here are some ideas:
- Make it like a dim sum spread. Serve Hunan beef with these dim sum favorites – Crispy Golden Spring Rolls, Shrimp Shumai, Crab Rangoon, or Mantou 饅頭 (Chinese Steamed Buns)!
- Pretend you’re at a Chinese restaurant at home. Alternatively, pretend you’re actually ordering takeout and make these classics: Chicken Lo Mein, Pineapple Fried Rice, or Chicken Fried Rice.
- Don’t have the time? Go the classic route. Serving with plain white rice works just as well!
- 1 pound flank steak, cut into 1" strips
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons oyster sauce
- 2 tablespoons shaoxing wine
- 2 Fresno peppers, thinly sliced and de-seeded
- 1 shallot, thinly sliced
- 2 bell peppers, cubed and de-seeded
- ½ teaspoon grated ginger
- 4 cloves garlic, smashed
For the sauce:
- 1 ½ tablespoon sweet soy sauce
- ½ tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon black vinegar
The default measuring system for this website is US Customary. Unit conversions are provided for convenience and as a courtesy only. While we strive to provide accurate unit conversions, please be aware that there may be some discrepancies.
- Add steak to a medium bowl then add cornstarch, oyster sauce, and shaoxing wine and mix together until well-incorporated. Allow to marinade for at least 20-30 minutes.
- In the meantime, prepare the vegetables.
- Once steak is done marinading, heat a wok over medium high heat and add 1-2 tablespoons of neutral cooking oil like vegetable oil or avocado oil.
- Add the steak to the wok, ensuring you are not over-crowding the wok. You may have to do it in two batches. Let the steak brown on one side before tossing and browning the other. Remove and put on a plate and set aside. Repeat for the remainder of the steak.
- In the same wok, add shallots, Fresno peppers, garlic, and ginger and cook until fragrant. Then, add in the bell peppers and cook until tender.
- Add the steak back in along with the scallions and pour the sauce over top. Stir to coat ingredients with the sauce. Remove from heat and serve!
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition information can vary for a variety of reasons. For the most precise nutritional data use your preferred nutrition calculator based on the actual ingredients you used in the recipe.
Thursday 27th of April 2023
super good and easy
Saturday 8th of April 2023
I would like to make this recipe. I see shallots mentioned as an ingredient, but they are not listed in the recipe. How much shallots should we use? Thank you.
Wednesday 12th of April 2023
@Julie Chiou, what brand is sweet soy sauce?
Sunday 9th of April 2023
hi, sorry about that! you use 1 whole shallot, thinly sliced