Hunan Beef is a popular, spicy Chinese food take-out dish that is super easy to make at home! This savory and spicy Hunan style beef is made with thinly sliced steak that is stir-fried in a garlic and pepper sauce with colorful vegetables. The Hunan province is known to have a wide variety of produce, so an assortment of your favorite vegetables can be used! Like my Hunan Chicken and Hunan Chicken Wings, the 'heat' in these dishes is just right!!
My easy Hunan Beef dinner has just the right amount of spicy chili flavors with the tender, savory marinated beef, and fresh vegetables! I usually like to add celery and green onions, but felt the need for asparagus and carrots today. Add what you like and what your family will enjoy!!
It's one of those Chinese-American dishes that I remember enjoying as a kid, so it's one of my recipes that I have always loved to cook up for a special 'chill at home' kind of night. Thankfully our daughter enjoys hot and spicy foods, so I'm at liberty to cut up my chili peppers or not.
❔ What is Hunan Beef?
Hunan Beef is a hot and spicy stir-fried beef dish with dried chilies and garlic. Hunan cuisine (also known as Xiang cuisine) is not only known for its hot and spicy flavors but also its fresh aroma.
Additionally, Hunan cuisine is known for being bright and colorful. The province produces a large agricultural crop, so the fresh ingredients change seasonally. Since there are three regions within the Hunan province, this beef dish has many variations that could still be completely 'authentic' or 'traditional'!
Hunan beef uses fresh or dried peppers, if desired, as well as pickled yellow peppers. The beef from an authentic Hunan Beef dish would be a smoked beef that is hard to get or even find, so the beef used in this recipe is marinated to add flavor.
🤔 What's the Difference Between Hunan Beef and Szechuan Beef?
While both Hunan and Szechuan beef is known for their spicy, smoky flavor, they are from two different provinces in China that have completely separate cooking styles (two of the eight cuisines of China).
One of the easiest ways to describe the difference is the ingredients that are used to add 'heat' to each style. Hunan style beef is a dry, hot dish with the heat coming from fresh, dried, or pickled peppers or 'gan la ' which is a dry spicy.
The Szechuan beef is cooked with a spicy and numbing heat or 'ma la' that comes from Sichuan peppercorns and dried chilies. This numbing sensation can be described as 'tingly' or mouth-numbing and is paired with a slightly sweet flavor in Szechuan cooking.
Generally speaking, Szechuan beef is cooked with more oil and more dried or preserved ingredients than a Hunan style beef.
Despite this 'tingly' or numbing sensation of Szechuan cooking, you will find that Hunan Beef is still the spicier of the two cuisines.
Marinade for the Beef
- Oyster Sauce
- Flank Steak - The most commonly used beef cut, you can use other lean beef cuts. I have always had great success when using sirloin as well. Strip steak or ribeye steak can be used with tasty results. Trim the fat as needed.
- Vegetable Oil
- Thai Chile Peppers
- Fresh Ginger
- Black Pepper
- Shaoxing Wine - (See notes for substitutions.)
- Soy Sauce
Pick Your Peppers
There's a wide variety of peppers that will work for your Hunan style beef stir fry! I'm using one of my on-hand pantry items, as I always keep my Thai red chile peppers available!
You can add the Thai chile peppers whole, and the flavor will be nice but not too spicy. Slice or crush the peppers, seeds and all, for a wonderful spicy Hunan beef!!
Fresh peppers such as sweet bell peppers or the mild poblano, hatch, or Holland peppers can be sliced or chunked and added to your stir-fry. Or increase the heat and add jalapeno, serrano, fresno...or scotch bonnet or (gulp) ghost peppers. I'll pass on that last one!
🔪 Step-by-Step Instructions
Prepare the Hunan Beef
- Prepare your beef. Cut your beef into thin strips.
- Mix the marinade (2 tablespoon water, ½ teaspoon cornstarch, 1 teaspoon and oyster sauce) in a medium bowl and gently work into the meat until all of the marinade has been absorbed.
- Refrigerate and allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes.
- Lightly dredge all of the marinated beef in the second portion of cornstarch, set aside.
Hunan Beef Garlic Sauce
- Gather your garlic sauce ingredients. 2 tablespoon garlic, 1 tablespoon ginger, ½ tablespoon fresh coarse ground black pepper, ¼ cup Shaoxing wine, and 2 tablespoon soy sauce. Do not use already ground black pepper (or use a drastically reduced amount like a ¼ tsp).
- Combine the sauce ingredients and set aside until after the meat has been fried.
Stir Fry Your Hunan Beef Ingredients
- Bring a wok to high heat with your cooking oil, until the wok is smoking. *You will need to cook the thinly sliced beef in small batches.
- Carefully place sliced beef in heated oil and cook until browned and starting to get slightly crispy. It won't take long, so don't turn your back on it!
- When the beef is ready to transfer out of the wok, pull it up the side of the wok and allow the cooking oil to drain back to the well of the wok. Then transfer to a plate or a sheet pan. Repeat until all of the thin-sliced steak is cooked.
- Clean any debris out of your oil, but leave about 2 tablespoons worth of oil in your wok to continue cooking. Bring the remaining oil to medium heat.
- Add the dried Thai chile peppers to the heated oil, cook for about 30 seconds.
- Then add the sliced asparagus, fry for about one minute.
- Stir in the Hunan beef garlic sauce, stir-frying with the asparagus for about one minute.
- Return the cooked beef slices to the wok and increase the heat to high.
- Continue to stir fry for 1 - 2 minutes, or until the asparagus has reached your desired level of tenderness. Most of the sauce should have thickened and cooked off.
- Remove from heat and serve over steamed rice.
💭 Tips & Recipe Notes
- Whatever beef you choose cut against the grain to yield tender cooked portions of beef.
- If you don't have Shaoxing wine, you can use rice wine but the flavor will end up being a bit lighter. The Shaoxing wine has a deep, rich flavor that will add to the salty, bold flavor of the Hunan beef.
🥡 Tasty Homemade Take-out Dishes
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Marinade for the Beef
- 2 tablespoon water
- ½ teaspoon cornstarch
- 2 teaspoon oyster sauce
- 1 lb flank steak
- ⅓ cup cornstarch
- ⅓ cup vegetable oil
- 1 large carrot (washed and grated)
- 1 lb asparagus (cut)
- 8 Thai chile peppers (whole, sliced, or crushed)
- 2 tablespoon garlic (finely minced)
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger (grated)
- ½ tablespoon fresh ground black pepper (do not use already ground black pepper)
- ¼ cup Shaoxing wine
- 2 tablespoon soy sauce
- Combine water, cornstarch and oyster sauce in a medium bowl. Add the cut beef strips and gently work the marinade into beef. Marinade in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.2 tablespoon water, ½ teaspoon cornstarch, 2 teaspoon oyster sauce
- Dredge your marinated beef in the second portion of cornstarch. Set lightly coated beef aside.1 lb flank steak, ⅓ cup cornstarch
- Combine the garlic, ginger, fresh ground black pepper, soy sauce, and Shaoxing wine. Set aside.2 tablespoon garlic, 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, ¼ cup Shaoxing wine, 2 tablespoon soy sauce, ½ tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
- Add the oil to your wok and bring to high heat, until smoking. Sear the beef in small batches. Cook until browned and beginning to get crispy, then push up out of the well of the wok onto the sides to drain excess oil. Transfer to a plate or sheet pan, repeat until all of the beef is cooked.⅓ cup vegetable oil
- After the beef has been cooked, remove any residue from the remaining oil. Reserve about 2 tablespoons worth of cooking oil in the wok for stir-frying the rest of the ingredients.
- Heat the wok and oil over medium heat. Add the dried Thai chile peppers and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the sliced asparagus and fry for about one minute.8 Thai chile peppers, 1 lb asparagus
- Add the garlic sauce, stir and fry for about 1 minute. Return cooked beef and add the grated carrot to the wok and cook over high heat for 1-2 minutes, or until asparagus is your desired level of tenderness and most of the sauce has cooked off.1 large carrot
Angela is an at home chef that developed a passion for all things cooking and baking at a young age in her Grandma's kitchen. After many years in the food service industry, she now enjoys sharing all of her family favorite recipes and creating tasty dinner and amazing dessert recipes here at Bake It With Love!