Pepper Steak is a dish you’re likely very familiar with if you’ve ever been to your local Chinese takeout restaurant. Me, I’m a ‘chicken wings fried hard’ or ‘beef and broccoli’ type girl, so I’ve never had it but I’ve seen it on the menu! It’s comprised of thinly sliced flank steak, bell peppers, onions, and tomatoes in a stir-fry sauce that’s both sweet and savory.
When I first made this dish years and years ago I remember using a recipe from Chelsea’s Messy Apron. I’ve been unable to locate it on her site to link it directly, but I remember it was made in the slow cooker and it was really delicious.
Pepper Steak Ingredients
Feel free to jump to the full recipe, but here are useful notes about the ingredients you will need to make this Pepper Steak recipe:
- Flank steak: My steak of choice. No, it won’t be tough if you prepare it right! Good alternatives are sirloin, round, and skirt. No matter what cut, it needs to be sliced very very thin. I like to stick the steak in the freezer for about 10 minutes before slicing to make this easier to accomplish.
- Bell peppers: Each of a different color, for pizazz. I like the flavor of red bell peppers best, so I recommend you include one of those.
- Red onion: This might be the only dish where I call for cooking a red onion. These usually shine best when raw or pickled, but I enjoy them here, both in flavor and appearance.
- Beef broth: Vegetable broth or even chicken will do. This makes up a large part of the sauce we’ll simmer the flank steak in.
- Soy sauce: Our main flavoring and where most of the salt/umami in this dish comes from. We use it to marinate and in the stir-fry sauce. Use low-sodium if you’re watching your salt intake.
- Fish sauce, Shaoxing wine, rice wine vinegar: Oyster sauce can be substituted for fish sauce, and Mirin for Shaoxing wine. White vinegar can be used for rice wine vinegar. These all have very particular flavors that will bring body and depth to the dish and help tenderize the meat, too.
- Light brown sugar, honey: These both sweeten the dish and balance the flavors. Brown sugar and soy sauce go really well together, FYI.
- Cayenne pepper, ground ginger, kosher salt: You might not need any salt. I only use it to encourage the onions to release their moisture. If my vegetarian daughter decided to be a carnivore for a day I would add more salt because she loves salty food. Actually, she wouldn’t eat this because she hates food that’s both sweet and savory so never mind.
- Cornstarch: It helps tenderize the flank steak, and it thickens the sauce at the end. If you want a loose, kinda watery stir fry sauce at the end, feel free to omit it.
- Pureed garlic: Minced garlic works fine too, but I prefer pureed so it doesn’t burn or char during the sear process.
- Toasted sesame oil, chili oil: Flavor! Flavorrrrrr.
How to Make Pepper Steak
Full instructions are included in the recipe below, but here is a basic overview of what you’ll need to do, along with some important tidbits to help you make the most of this Pepper Steak recipe:
- Marinate the meat. Grab a large bowl and toss in the sliced flank steak along with everything else listed in the ‘marinade’ section of ingredients: the soy sauce, cornstarch, rice wine vinegar, pureed garlic, chili oil, and sesame oil. Stir together well, making sure all of the seasonings and sauces are evenly distributed throughout the meat. Cover and set aside for 30 minutes – if you’re marinating for longer stick it in the fridge.
- Make the stir-fry sauce. In another bowl whisk together everything listed under ‘sauce’: the beef broth, soy sauce, light brown sugar, Shaoxing wine, fish sauce, ground ginger, and cayenne pepper. Set that aside, too.
- Sear that meat! Place a large saute pan or wok over medium-high heat and drizzle in a bit of vegetable oil. Swirl it around to coat the surface and let the pan heat up for a minute or so. Add the flank steak in a single layer – you’ll need to sear it in batches – and let cook undisturbed for 2 minutes, then use tongs to flip and stir the meat around until it’s mostly browned. Remove that batch and continue to cook the steak in batches until it’s all been seared, adding more vegetable oil as needed.
- Build the Pepper Steak. Once all of the steak has been seared add the remaining vegetable oil to the pan and toss in the onion. Sprinkle over a pinch of kosher salt and cook just until they begin to soften – about 3 minutes. Add the flank steak back to the pan along with the sauce you made earlier, the fire-roasted tomatoes, honey, and crushed red pepper flakes. Stir everything together well. The steak should be pretty much submerged in the liquid – refer to the video if needed – and if it’s not, add a bit more beef broth until it is. Cover with a lid, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Make it Pepper Steak. Once the steak is tender – you should be able to break it apart with a spoon – stir in the sliced bell peppers. Cover and cook for 3-5 minutes, until the bell peppers are crisp-tender. Add the tablespoon of cornstarch to a very small bowl. Transfer two tablespoons of the cooking liquid from the pot – be careful, it’s hot! – and stir that into the cornstarch. Stir until no lumps remain, adding more cooking liquid if needed. Once you have a slurry the consistency of gravy pour it into the pot and stir it in.
- Serve it! Cover and turn off the heat, letting it rest for a couple of minutes. Stir everything well again before serving. Dassit!
What To Serve With Pepper Steak
We usually have it over mashed potatoes, but this Easy Pepper Steak is great over rice and ramen, too! It’ll also go well with rice noodles, like the ones called for in my Stir Fry Noodles recipe. Here are a few options for you:
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