The Best Pepper Steak Recipe

5 from 15 votes
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This 15-minute Chinese pepper steak stir fry combines tender, juicy steak with bell peppers in a flavorful, homemade brown stir-fry sauce for a quick and simple restaurant-quality meal to enjoy with rice or noodles!

Pepper steak prepared in a wok

Stir-fries are already one of my favorite meals to throw together in no time and enjoy a delicious and nutritious meal. But when they double up as a healthy, cost-effective, yet restaurant-quality fakeout… even better! If you’re a fan of Chinese beef and broccoli, you’ll love this pepper steak, which is really similar, but swaps out the broccoli for bell peppers and onion. Delicious!

For this quick and easy pepper steak recipe, thinly sliced steak is lightly marinated and cooked until tender and juicy. That’s then combined with tender-crisp stir-fried onion and peppers before simmering in an aromatic, flavor-packed brown stir-fry sauce until it thickens into a mouth-watering glaze.

The entire process is really quick and, when paired with rice, noodles, and/or veg, makes for a super satisfying meal. You can even freeze the leftovers!

Looking for more simple Chinese mains? Check out my homemade versions of Chinese orange chicken, sesame chicken, and Chinese eggplant. Or you might like this steak marinade.

A serving of rice and pepper steak

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Ingredients for Pepper Steak

Not only is this steak and peppers recipe quick to prepare, but aside from the meat and veg, most of the ingredients required are likely already in your kitchen/pantry.

  • Beef: Lean cuts like flank steak, skirt steak, or flap are the best meat for pepper steak. I love using flank as it’s easy to find and packed with flavor.
  • Oil: Use neutral-flavored, high-heat oil. I.e., peanut oil, canola, grapeseed, etc.
  • Vegetables: All you need for a super flavorful and satisfying dish is onion (yellow or white) and bell peppers (any color – remember red and orange are sweetest, and green are more bitter).
  • Aromatics: Enhance the depth of flavor with the classic stir-fry duo of garlic and ginger. Fresh is best, but “lazy” purees will work, too.
  • Sesame seeds: To garnish, though cashews or peanuts (toasted) would also work.

The Stir-Fry Sauce

  • Dark soy sauce: For the most flavor depth, use a combination of regular and dark soy sauce. However, you could use low-sodium soy sauce if preferred. If you’re gluten-free, use tamari or coconut aminos.
  • Sugar: Regular white sugar is all you need, though you could use raw cane sugar, brown sugar, honey, or a sugar alternative (like erythritol) if preferred. Adjust the amount to taste, as each type will differ in flavor and sweetness.
  • Black pepper: To add subtle heat.
  • Toasted sesame oil: This will add a nutty, toasty flavor to the stir-fry sauce.
  • Cornstarch: (combined with a little water) To thicken the sauce into a glaze-like consistency. Arrowroot or tapioca starch would work for a corn-free, paleo, whole-30 sauce for pepper steak.
  • Water: To make up the sauce. For even more flavor, use low-sodium beef broth, chicken broth, or a combination of the two (for extra full-bodied flavor).
Ingredients for pepper steak

Optionally add some hot sauce or red pepper flakes to add some heat to the brown stir-fry sauce. A splash of hoisin, Worcestershire, or oyster sauce would also help to enhance the umami.

How to Make Pepper Steak

First, slice the steak against the grain into ¼-inch-thick strips and transfer them to a bowl with the baking soda, massaging it into the meat for a minute.

Freezing the meat for 30 minutes beforehand can make it easier to slice it into neat strips.

Then add the rest of the marinade ingredients (soy sauce, sugar, and cornstarch), toss to cover, and set aside. You can cook it immediately or leave it to marinate for 30 minutes on the countertop.

Steps for cutting and preparing steak

Next, core and de-seed the bell peppers and thinly slice them into ¼-inch pieces along with the onion (chopped pole to pole). Also, peel and mince the garlic and ginger.

Chopped peppers, onion, garlic, and ginger

Make the Pepper Steak Sauce

Combine all the sauce ingredients (except the cornstarch slurry ingredients) in a small bowl, whisk well, and set aside.

In a separate small bowl, combine the cornstarch and its water (1 Tbsp) and mix until lump-free.

Preparing sauce and cornstarch slurry

Then heat a wok or a high-sided, large skillet over high heat until lightly smoking, and add 1 tablespoon of oil, swirling to coat.

Add half the beef to the pan and cook, untouched, until well-seared (about 1 minute). Then continue to sauté until lightly cooked with just a few pink spots (about 1 minute). Transfer that to a bowl, wipe out the wok with paper towels, and repeat with another tablespoon of oil and the remaining beef.

Steps for cooking beef in a pan

Return the pan to the heat, add the remaining tablespoon of oil, and stir fry the peppers and onion until they’re tender-crisp and lightly charred in spots (1-2 minutes).

Then add the minced garlic and ginger, stir, and return the beef to the wok, stir-frying for 30 seconds.

Pour in the bowl of sauce ingredients and just a splash of the cornstarch slurry, stir-frying until the sauce thickens and the beef cooks through (about 30 seconds). If the sauce isn’t thick enough, add more of the cornstarch slurry. If it’s too thick, add some water (or beef broth).

Steps for cooking pepper steak

Finally, remove from the heat and enjoy garnished with sesame seeds.

What to Serve with Pepper Steak?

  • Grains: I.e., over a bed of jasmine rice, brown rice, or quinoa.
  • Noodles: Instead of rice, you may prefer to serve the beef stir fry with bell peppers over noodles – glass, ribbon, soba, lo mein, etc.

For a low-carb pairing, enjoy the steak stir fry with cauliflower rice or zucchini noodles.

Pepper steak prepared in a wok

FAQs

What cut of meat is used for pepper steak?

When making a stir fry, I recommend using a tender, lean cut of beef like flank steak, skirt steak, or sirloin. Hanger or flap will also work.

What is the secret to making tender pepper steak?

If you plan to use tough cuts of beef (specifically like chuck or round roast), marinating the meat either within an acidic medium – like lemon/lime juice or vinegar – or adding ½ teaspoon of baking soda to the marinade can help to break down tough fibers and tenderize the meat.

Is it better to marinate the beef before cooking for pepper steak?

Marinating will not only enhance the flavor but also helps to add moisture and tenderize the beef. I like quickly marinating the meat for 30 minutes, adding baking soda to the marinade for super tender, flavorful beef. If you don’t have time to marinate, use baking soda as a rub (refer to recipe).

A serving of rice and pepper steak

More Asian Dinner Recipes

If you try this pepper steak with onions, let me know how it goes in the comments below. I’d appreciate a recipe card rating and would love to see your recipe recreations – tag me on Instagram @Alphafoodie!

The Best Pepper Steak Recipe

5 from 15 votes
By: Samira
This 15-minute Chinese pepper steak stir-fry combines tender, juicy steak with bell peppers in a flavorful, homemade brown stir-fry sauce for a quick and simple restaurant-quality meal to enjoy with rice or noodles!
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 6

Ingredients 
 

  • 1.2 lb beef steak flank, skirt or flap

For the Marinade

  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce dark or reduced-sodium; use tamari/coconut aminos if gluten-free
  • ½ tsp sugar white, brown, raw cane, honey, sugar substitute (adjust the amount to taste)
  • ½ tsp cornstarch

For the Sauce

  • cup water or low-sodium beef and/or chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce dark, light (or a mix of the two), or reduced-sodium; use tamari/coconut aminos if gluten-free
  • 1 Tbsp roasted sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp sugar white, brown, raw cane, honey, sugar substitute (adjust the amount to taste)
  • 1/2 Tbsp black pepper freshly ground

For the Cornstarch Slurry

  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 Tbsp water

For the Stir Fry

  • 3 Tbsp oil peanut, rice bran, or other neutral oil; divided
  • 1 lb bell peppers 3, can be same or different color
  • 5.3 oz onion 2 small
  • 2 cloves garlic medium
  • 1/2 Tbsp fresh grated ginger

Instructions 

  • Chef's Tip: Freezing the meat for 30 minutes beforehand can make it easier to slice it into neat strips.
    Slice the steak against the grain into ¼-inch-thick strips and transfer them to a bowl with the baking soda, massaging it into the meat for a minute.
  • Add the rest of the marinade ingredients (soy sauce, sugar, and cornstarch), toss to cover, and set aside. You can cook it immediately or leave it to marinate for 30 minutes on the countertop.
  • Core and de-seed the bell peppers and thinly slice them into ¼-inch pieces along with the onion (chopped pole to pole).
    Also, peel and mince the garlic and ginger.
  • Combine all the sauce ingredients (except the cornstarch slurry ingredients) in a small bowl, whisk well, and set aside.
    In a separate small bowl, combine the cornstarch and 1 Tbsp water and mix until lump-free.
  • Heat a wok or a high-sided, large skillet over high heat until lightly smoking, and add 1 tablespoon of oil, swirling to coat.
  • Add half the beef to the pan and cook, untouched, until well-seared (about 1 minute). Then continue to sauté until lightly cooked with just a few pink spots (about 1 minute). Transfer that to a bowl.
  • Wipe out the wok with paper towels, and repeat with another tablespoon of oil and the remaining beef.
  • Once all the beef is cooked and set aside, add the remaining tablespoon of oil and stir-fry the peppers and onion until they're tender-crisp and lightly charred in spots (1-2 minutes).
  • Add the minced garlic and ginger, stir, and return the beef to the wok, stir-frying for 30 seconds.
  • Pour in the bowl of sauce ingredients and just a splash of the cornstarch slurry, stir-frying until the sauce thickens and the beef cooks through (about 30 seconds).
    If the sauce isn’t thick enough, add more of the cornstarch slurry. If it’s too thick, add some water (or beef broth).
  • Remove from the heat and enjoy garnished with sesame seeds.

Notes

  • Slice against the grain: This produces really tender cuts that aren’t chewy/tough.
  • For super tender beef: Leave it to marinate for at least 30 minutes and/or use the baking soda method.  
  • Ensure the skillet is HOT: That way, the meat sears quickly to lock in the juices.
  • Cook in batches: If you overcrowd the pan, the meat will steam rather than sear and form a delicious brown crust.
  • Adapt the sauce: Increase/decrease any sauce ingredients to your liking.
  • Add more veggies: Beansprouts are a popular addition to beef and peppers. However, baby corn, sugar snap peas, shredded carrots, pre-sauteed mushrooms, shredded cabbage, or even diced tomatoes work too.
Storage Instructions
You can prepare the sauce two weeks in advance, storing it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Shake/stir it well before heating and using it.
Allow the leftovers to cool and then store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Leave it to thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating it on the stove over low heat or in the microwave at 50%. Microwave in 30-second increments, stirring between.
Check the blog post for serving suggestions and answers to top FAQs!
Course: Main
Cuisine: Asian, Chinese
Freezer friendly: 3 Months
Shelf life: 3-4 Days

Nutrition

Calories: 259kcal, Carbohydrates: 11g, Protein: 22g, Fat: 14g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 8g, Cholesterol: 54mg, Sodium: 656mg, Potassium: 536mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 7g, Vitamin A: 2370IU, Vitamin C: 99mg, Calcium: 37mg, Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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