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    Hunan Beef

    Here’s a stir fry for my fellow spicy food lovers! Hunan Beef features thinly sliced, marinated flank steak along with bell peppers and chilis in a tasty stir fry sauce.

    Ready in under 30 minutes, it’s an easy weeknight dinner that tastes so much better than takeout.

    Hunan Beef is a spicy Chinese stir fry dish with layers of great flavor. Great weeknight dinner in about 25 minutes!

    We have a lot of stir fry nights in our kitchen, and when we want it spicy, there are plenty of options. Thai Basil Chicken, Dragon Chicken and Hunan Shrimp are some of our favorites.

    For plenty more ideas, check out our collection of favorite stir fry recipes. For now, let’s talk about this Hunan style beef…

    Why this Recipe Works

    • Balance of Flavors: Hunan cuisine is known for its hot and spicy flavors, often with a touch of sour and sweet. This recipe captures that essence perfectly with ingredients like chili peppers, soy sauce, and Shaoxing wine. The addition of white sugar balances the heat and acidity, creating a harmonious blend of flavors.
    • Marinating the Beef: Marinating the flank steak with Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, cornstarch, and baking soda tenderizes the meat and infuses it with flavor, in a process known as “velveting” the meat. This ensures that the beef remains juicy and flavorful after cooking, which is key in stir-fry dishes.
    • High-Heat Cooking: Cooking the beef quickly over high heat, a technique often used in stir-frying, helps to sear the meat, locking in juices and creating a slight caramelization that adds depth to the overall flavor.
    • Versatility: This dish is versatile and can be adjusted to suit different spice levels or dietary preferences. It pairs beautifully with white rice, which helps to temper the spiciness, but it can also be served with noodles or other grains.
    • Visual Appeal: The colorful presentation, with the red and green bell peppers and the garnishing of green scallions, makes the dish visually appealing, making it a great company meal.
    Serving of Hunan beef atop white rice.

    What is Hunan Style Cooking?

    Hunan style cooking, hailing from the Hunan Province in China, is a celebrated culinary tradition known for its vibrant and bold flavors. This cuisine, often referred to as Xiang cuisine, stands out as one of China’s eight great regional cuisines, distinguished by its enthusiastic use of chili peppers.

    Unlike Sichuan cuisine, which is famous for its numbing spiciness, Hunan cuisine emphasizes a more direct, piercing heat, predominantly employing fresh peppers. This approach results in dishes that are intensely flavorful, with a heat that is immediate and impactful.

    In Hunan cooking, there’s also a notable emphasis on sour flavors, adding a unique dimension to the overall taste profile. Ingredients like vinegar and various pickled vegetables are commonly used, providing a refreshing tartness that balances the heat.

    This blend of spiciness and sourness, combined with the liberal use of seasonings, contributes to Hunan cuisine’s reputation for being bold and assertive.

    Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

    For a complete list, along with exact measurements, see the recipe card at the end of the post. Here are the key things you’re going to need to make Hunan beef:

    • Flank Steak – If flank steak is unavailable, other tender beef cuts like sirloin or tenderloin can be used.
    • Shaoxing Wine – A key ingredient in Chinese cooking, but if it’s not available, you can use dry sherry or a mixture of white wine with a touch of sugar as a substitute.
    • Soy Sauce – If you’re looking for a gluten-free option, tamari is a great substitute. For a soy-free alternative, coconut aminos can be used.
    • Corn Starch – Arrowroot powder or potato starch can be used as alternatives to thicken the marinade.
    • Baking Soda – This is used to tenderize the meat. If omitted, the meat may not be as tender but the dish will still be flavorful.
    • Dark Soy Sauce – It’s slightly thicker and less salty than regular soy sauce, with a touch of sweetness. If unavailable, you can use regular soy sauce with a bit of molasses or brown sugar added.
    • Chili Oil – This in a chili pepper infused oil. You can generally find it in the international section of many supermarkets, or follow our easy Chili Oil Recipe.
    • Bell Peppers – Feel free to use any color of bell peppers. If you prefer different vegetables, broccoli, snow peas, or zucchini are good options.
    • Garlic and Ginger – Fresh is always best.
    • Fresh and Dried Red Chilis – Adjust the amount based on your heat preference. For a less spicy dish, you can reduce the quantity or omit the dried chilis.

    How to Make Hunan Beef

    1. Marinate the beef: Combine steak with all remaining marinade ingredients. Set aside to marinate for 30 minutes, or while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

    Beef marinating in a glass bowl.

    2. Make the Hunan sauce: In a small bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients for the Hunan sauce.

    Small bowl full of Hunan sauce.

    3. Brown the beef: Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add 2 Tbsp oil and swirl to coat. Add marinated beef in a single layer (cook in batches if you have a smaller pan). Cook undisturbed for 2-3 minutes. Toss and cook for another 3-4 minutes, tossing occasionally, till beef is cooked to your desired doneness with a slight caramelization. Remove to a plate.

    Browned beef on a plate.

    4. Stir fry veggies: If necessary, add an additional tablespoon of oil. Add in bell peppers and stir fry for 2-3 minutes. Add ginger, garlic, fresh and dried chili peppers, and the white parts of the scallions. cook for 1-2 minutes.

    Peppers and onion cooking in a wok.

    5. Finish the dish: Stir in Hunan sauce along with browned beef. Stir until well combined.

    Finished product in a wok.

    6. Serve: Garnish with green parts of scallions and serve with white rice.

    Spicy Hunan-style beef stir fry served over rice.

    Serving Suggestions

    We usually serve our Hunan beef with regular white rice, as the main dish already packs plenty of flavor. If you want to get more elaborate, try our easy takeout style Fried Rice.

    If you’re craving noodles, any of your favorite Asian varieties will work as a starchy side. You can keep the fiery theme going and cook our favorite Spicy Noodles.

    For something lighter on the side, think Asian Cucumber Salad or Wonton Soup.

    For more inspiration, check out our collection of favorite sides for stir fry!

    Expert Tips and Tricks

    • Cutting the Beef: Slice the beef thinly against the grain. This ensures the meat is tender and absorbs the marinade better. Thin slices also cook faster and more evenly.
    • Marinating Time: Allow the beef to marinate for at least 30 minutes, if not longer. This helps to tenderize the beef and infuse it with flavors. Overnight marination can yield even more flavorful results.
    • High Heat Cooking: When stir-frying, use high heat. This technique helps to sear the meat and vegetables quickly, locking in flavors and maintaining a crisp texture.
    • Avoid Overcrowding the Pan: Cook the beef in batches if necessary. Overcrowding the pan can lower the temperature, causing the meat to steam rather than fry, leading to a chewier texture and less flavorful dish.
    • Balancing Flavors: Adjust the amount of sugar and vinegar in the sauce to balance the spiciness to your liking. The key to a good Hunan dish is finding the right balance between spicy, sour, and sweet.
    • Taste as You Go: Don’t hesitate to taste your dish as you cook. Adjusting the seasoning as you go ensures the final dish is perfectly tailored to your palate.

    Leftovers and Storage

    Hunan beef is great as leftovers, making it an ideal meal prep option for the whole week. Go ahead and make a double batch, and you can serve it various different ways.

    Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. You can also freeze it for up to 3 months. Simply thaw overnight in the fridge.

    Reheat in the microwave until heated through, or in a lightly greased skillet over medium heat with a splash of extra water.

    Angled shot of the bowl of beef stir fry over rice.

    Give your stir fry night a spicy Hunan style twist with this easy beef stir fry recipe. No matter how fiery you make it, you’re in for one tasty dinner.

    Pin or bookmark this easy recipe so you always know where to find it. And be sure to subscribe to GypsyPlate, we’re always cooking up new recipes for you.

    For more easy weeknight dinners, check out our hand picked collection of Dinner Ideas for Tonight. Until next time…

    Hunan Beef, on our Gypsy Plate… enjoy!

    Serving of Hunan beef on the Gypsy Plate.

    Try these other great stir fry recipes!
    Ground Turkey Stir Fry
    Nasi Goreng
    Beef Bulgogi
    Orange Chicken
    Pork Stir Fry
    Beijing Beef
    Thai Basil Beef
    Easy Chicken Stir Fry

    Featured image for Hunan beef recipe.

    Hunan Beef Recipe

    Yield: 4 servings
    Prep Time: 10 minutes
    Cook Time: 15 minutes
    Total Time: 25 minutes

    Hunan Beef is a spicy Chinese stir fry dish with layers of great flavor. Great weeknight dinner in about 25 minutes!

    Ingredients

    To Marinate

    • 1.5 pounds flank steak, thinly sliced
    • 1 Tbsp Shaoxing wine
    • 2 tsp soy sauce
    • 2 tsp corn starch
    • 1 tsp baking soda
    • 1 tsp cooking oil

    Hunan Sauce

    • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
    • 1 Tbsp Shaoxing wine
    • 2 tsp rice vinegar
    • 1 tsp dark soy sauce
    • 1 Tbsp chili oil
    • 1 Tbsp white sugar
    • ½ tsp corn starch

    Stir Fry

    • 2 Tbsp cooking oil
    • 1 green bell pepper, cut into chunks
    • 1 red bell pepper, cut into chunks
    • 3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
    • 1 Tbsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
    • 1 fresh red chili pepper, sliced
    • 5-6 dried red chilis
    • 3-4 scallions, cut into 2 inch lengths.

    Instructions

    1. Combine steak with all remaining marinade ingredients. Set aside to marinate for 30 minutes, or while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
    2. In a small bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients for the Hunan sauce.
    3. Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add 2 Tbsp oil and swirl to coat. Add marinated beef in a single layer (cook in batches if you have a smaller pan). Cook undisturbed for 2-3 minutes. Toss and cook for another 3-4 minutes, tossing occasionally, till beef is cooked to your desired doneness with a slight caramelization. Remove to a plate.
    4. If necessary, add an additional tablespoon of oil. Add in bell peppers and stir fry for 2-3 minutes. Add ginger, garlic, fresh and dried chili peppers, and the white parts of the scallions. cook for 1-2 minutes.
    5. Stir in Hunan sauce along with browned beef. Stir until well combined.
    6. Garnish with green parts of scallions and serve with white rice.

    Notes

      1. If flank steak is unavailable, other tender beef cuts like sirloin or tenderloin can be used.
      2. Slice the beef thinly against the grain. This ensures the meat is tender and absorbs the marinade better. Thin slices also cook faster and more evenly.
      3. Cook the beef in batches if necessary. Overcrowding the pan can lower the temperature, causing the meat to steam rather than fry, leading to a chewier texture and less flavorful dish.
      4. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Reheat in the microwave until heated through, or in a lightly greased skillet over medium heat with a splash of extra water.

    Nutrition Information
    Yield 4 Serving Size 1
    Amount Per Serving Calories 486Total Fat 36gSaturated Fat 7gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 29gCholesterol 48mgSodium 1079mgCarbohydrates 18gFiber 4gSugar 8gProtein 33g

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

    Did you make this recipe?

    Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest

    Picture of Alpana, blogger and recipe developer at GypsyPlate

    Welcome to GypsyPlate! I'm Alpana, former wordwide tour manager and professional caterer, now full time blogger. I love exploring cuisines from around the world, and my recipes have been featured on sites such as MSN, Parade, Brit + Co, CNET and AOL. You can explore my entire collection of sortable recipes in my Recipe Index or learn more about me here.

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