Make an authentic Black Pepper Beef Stir Fry recipe in 15 minutes! Enjoy ultra tender steak slices seared to juicy perfection in an aromatic mouth-warming pepper sauce. Plus, learn restaurant techniques for how to velvet meat so that every bite is extra succulent.
If you love steak stir fries, try it in a salad!
The most warming side dish
When it comes to easy dinner recipes in under 20 minutes, our family’s Black Pepper Beef Stir Fry hits ALL the right notes and comes with big bold flavors. In just 15 minutes, you can dish up succulent meat and crunchy bell peppers to excite your family.
But that’s not all!
Every inch of this dish is infused with a gorgeous black pepper sauce that gently heats up in your mouth. The moist slices are crowned with bell peppers that are soft on the inside and satisfyingly crisp on the outside.
Nothing is more comforting than scooping into warm rice topped with a the meat straight out of the wok.
This is what your dinner could look like tonight: A hot rice bed under meat and vegetables glistening with a thick peppery sauce!
Which cut do I use for stir frying?
Stir frying anything involves cooking over intense heat for a short time. To make the best out of this situation, any protein used needs to be tender and free of bones so it can be cooked quickly.
Ideal cuts for our Black Pepper Beef Stir Fry include:
- Boneless short ribs
I suggest to stay clear of ribs and tails (which are more ideal for grilling or stewing), unless you plan to take the bones off. If you do go down this avenue, you can save the bones for Phở (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup).
How do you make beef strips tender?
The first step is to choose a tender cut, but if that’s not available then there are certainly ways to make meat more tender. You can:
- Physically tenderize the protein. This is a method for tenderizing meat quickly and perfect for tougher cuts like chuck and blade steaks. Grab your meat mallet and give the protein a good few thumps or the back of a cleaver like we do with pork chops.
- Marinate the meat. Using an acid such as lemon/lime juice, yogurt, buttermilk, rice wine or vinegar can help to quicken the cooking process because it breaks down proteins and partially precooks the meat. Just make sure not to leave it in the acid for too long!
- Use salt. Cover the meat in salt to draw out moisture and break down proteins without compromising on the flavor. Give it a quick rinse and pat dry, then you’re ready to go.
- Slicing against the grain. Grandma and Mum always remind me of this step before any cutting. The trick is to find the direction the fibers are going in, then turn the knife to cut across them. This will break the fibers up into shorter lengths and make it easier to chew.
- Velveting the meat. This is a popular method used in Chinese restaurants and in our favorite recipes including Grandma’s Chicken and Vegetable Stir Fry. It involves marinating the slices in baking powder or a corn or potato starch slurry.
How do Chinese restaurants get their beef so tender?
I worked in a local family-run Chinese restaurant as a waitress for 3 years during my earliest days at university.
The head chef made a phenomenal Crispy Rainbow Beef (牛柳丝), but that wasn’t the only recipe he was a master at!
His secret to a beautifully silky stir fry was velveting the meat, which involved marinating the slices in corn starch and bicarb (baking soda) for at least 30 minutes.
The starch has a way of sealing in juices along with any added seasoning so that the meat remains tender, moist and packed with flavor.
Using bicarb changes the acidity and pH levels in the meat so that the outer layer breaks down.
I had often walked into the kitchen to see meat slices soaking in large round tubs in a corn starch/bicarb marinade. The head chef would then rinse the marinade away and dry off any excess water before stir frying.
That is the secret to tender restaurant-quality meat.
So if silken meat is what you’re after, then velveting in this Black Pepper Beef Stir Fry is a must!
Why this recipe works
- Tenderizing techniques are used to ensure every slice remains silky from start to finish.
- Soaking the meat in water helps to remove excess blood and odors.
- Marinating with a variety of sauces means your Black Pepper Beef will have incredible flavor in every bite!
What you’ll need
For the marinade
About the sauces
You’ll find all the sauces available in Asian supermarkets. If you can’t find corn starch, it can be substituted for potato starch.
For the stir fry
About the meat
Go for a cut that doesn’t have too much fat but also isn’t too lean. You want each piece to have a beefy flavor and texture.
The black pepper sauce we use is from Lee Kum Kee.
How to make this recipe
Start by slicing the meat into 5 mm (0.2″) thick slices. Make sure to cut against the grain to avoid a chewy bite.
Pro Tip: If you look at the picture above, you can see the knife is perpendicular to the lines running across from left to right. That’s the direction against the grain.
Soak the slices in cold water for 1 minute to remove the blood, then squeeze all the water out by hand.
Marinate the beef with the white pepper, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, oyster sauce, Shaoxing rice wine, salt, sugar and chicken bouillon powder.
Mix in well until it is sticky to the touch. There should also be no excess water in the bowl.
Pour in the egg white and mix, then add the corn starch and stir until combined.
Add in 3 tbsp oil and mix until well incorporated. This will prevent the beef slices from sticking to each other when cooking.
Add 3 tbsp oil into a hot wok and fry the beef for 1-2 minutes or until roughly 80% cooked. You’ll be tossing it in with the vegetables later, so there’s no need to overcook it.
Transfer the beef onto a plate.
Replace the wok with 2 tbsp new oil (or reuse the same one) and cook the garlic, onion, ginger and bell peppers for 2 minutes or until fragrant then mix in the black pepper paste.
Pour the cooked beef in and stir fry for another 2 minutes, then plate.
Serve immediately with rice or noodles!
Tips for the best results
- Marinate the protein overnight. We also do this with Bò Kho (Beef Stew) and Chicken Curry (Cà Ri Gà) so the meat soaks in as much marinade as it can.
- Take the beef out at least 20 minutes prior to cooking. Let it to come back to room temperature. Doing so will ensure every piece is tender because the muscles aren’t tight from the cold.
- Mix the meat in a circular motion. You’ll get an even marinade.
- Make sure the wok is hot. The beef will release its juices and end up being boiled if it isn’t!
Dive into more delicious stir fries!
- Crispy Pork Belly Stir Fried with Asian Greens – An exciting family must-have that we cook at least once a fortnight!
- Eggplant and Pork Mince Stir Fry – This is a classic Cantonese recipe where the vegetable soaks up every drop of flavor and becomes the star.
- Stir Fried Pea Shoots with Garlic – Simple, delicious and easy. You’ll love how this can be made in just 15 minutes.
- Stir Fried Water Spinach with Fermented Bean Curd (炒腐乳空心菜) – Another favorite that is made often in our household. Earthy flavors are combined with the cruchy vegetable freshness for the most enjoyable side dish.
- Bò Lúc Lắc (Vietnamese Shaking Beef) – Juicy, tender beef cubes bursting with flavor is what you’ll get with this classic!
Black Pepper Beef Stir Fry (黑椒牛柳)
For The Marinade
- 1/2 tbsp white pepper
- 1/2 tbsp light soy sauce
- 1/2 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce (or a vegetarian substitute)
- 1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine (or dry sherry)
- 1/2 tsp salt (or the taste)
- 1 tsp sugar (or the taste)
- 1/2 tsp chicken bouillon powder
- 1 egg white
- 1 tbsp corn starch
- 3 tbsp cooking oil
For The Stir Fry
- 500 g / 1 lb beef (sirloin, flank, skirt, scotch, tenderloin or boneless short ribs)
- 2 tbsp black pepper sauce (we use Lee Kum Kee's one)
- 2 bell peppers/capsicum (sliced)
- 1 onion (sliced)
- 5 ginger slices
- 2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
- 5 tbsp cooking oil (3 tbsp for the beef and 2 tbsp for the vegetables)
- Start by slicing the meat into 5 mm (0.2") thick slices. Make sure to cut against the grain to avoid a chewy bite.
- Soak the slices in cold water for 1 minute to remove the blood, then squeeze all the water out by hand.
- Marinate the beef with the white pepper, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, oyster sauce, Shaoxing rice wine, salt, sugar and chicken bouillon powder. Mix in well for until it is sticky to the touch. There also should be no excess water in the bowl.
- Pour in the egg white and mix, then add the corn starch and stir until combined.
- Add in 3 tbsp oil and mix until well incorporated. This will prevent the beef slices from sticking to each other when cooking.
- Add 3 tbsp oil into a hot wok and fry the beef for 1-2 minutes or until roughly 80% cooked. You'll be tossing it in with the vegetables later, so there's no need to overcook it.
- Replace the wok with 2 tbsp new oil (or reuse the same one) and stir fry the garlic, onion, ginger and bell peppers for 2 minutes or until fragrant then mix in the black pepper paste.
- Pour the cooked beef in and stir fry for another 2 minutes, then plate.
- Serve immediately with rice or noodles!
- Marinate the protein overnight. For the deepest flavor, make sure to give it time to soak in the marinade.
- Take the beef out at least 20 minutes prior to cooking. Let it to come back to room temperature. Doing so will ensure every piece is tender because the muscles aren't tight from the cold.
- Mix the meat in a circular motion. You'll get an even marinade.
- Make sure the wok is hot. The beef will release its juices and end up being boiled if it isn't.
- You'll find all of the sauces available in Asian supermarkets. If you can't find corn starch, it can be substituted for potato starch.
- Go for a cut that doesn't have too much fat but also isn't too lean. You want each piece to have a beefy flavor and texture.
This post was originally published on 9/3/20 and updated with new photos in April 2022.