This popular Chinese dish features incredibly tender slices of beef cooked with chili peppers, garlic, and cumin. It’s a spicy and flavorful dish. This version tastes just like the one served at restaurants.
Hunan beef is a dish we order at restaurants quite a bit, but it’s actually easy to make at home. Like other Chinese recipes it has a quick cooking time and it’s ready to serve in less than 30 minutes. I’ve shared a lot of Chinese recipes lately and this spicy Hunan beef is one of my favorites.
What is the difference between Hunan Beef and Szechuan Beef?
These two dishes are often confused since they both feature spicy beef and both regions use a lot of chilis in their dishes. Hunan cuisine tends to use a lot of fresh peppers and garlic in their dishes. The spice is more straightforward and Hunan province dishes are often spicier than Szechuan dishes. Szechuan dishes are often a combination of spicy and sweet, and they use their mouth-tingling Sichuan peppercorns in a lot of their dishes.
The beef stir fry Szechuan Beef I previously shared has some spice but also uses a little sugar to counteract the spice. The spice factor comes from a variety of chili oils rather than from fresh chili peppers.
Hunan beef is a dry beef dish in that it isn’t coated in sauce like many other Chinese beef dishes. The thin strips of beef cook directly with fresh chili peppers and garlic, which pack a lot of flavors but also more heat. There is no sugar added to the dish either.
- Thinly-sliced flank steak or top sirloin
- Shaoxing wine – If you can’t find it you can use dry sherry.
- Low-sodium soy sauce
- Dark soy sauce
- Potato starch
- Peanut oil or canola oil
- Minced garlic
- Finely chopped small red Thai chili peppers
- Dried chili flakes
- Ground cumin
- Thinly sliced green scallions
How to Make Hunan Beef
The beef is cooked twice in this dish. First, combine the thin slices of beef with the wine, soy sauces, and potato starch. Mix until beef in the marinade until it is evenly coated. Let it marinate for 10 minutes.
Heat the peanut oil in a large wok or pan over medium-high heat. Place the beef in the wok in an even layer. Briefly fry each side for about 30 seconds so that beef is mostly cooked but still pink in the center.
Remove beef and drain the excess oil. I put the beef in a colander to drain and shake off all the oil on the beef.
Discard all but one tablespoon of the oil from the wok. Add the garlic and chili peppers and cook them for about 30 seconds over medium-high heat or until they are aromatic.
Add the beef and sprinkle the cumin and chili flakes over the top. Stir fry the beef with garlic and peppers for about one to two minutes or until the beef is fully cooked.
Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Garnish the Hunan beef with scallions and serve warm with cooked vegetables, rice, cauliflower rice, lettuce wraps, etc.
You can store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for several days.
More Recipes to Try
- Crispy Sesame Tofu
- Steamed Fish with Ginger and Scallions
- Pepper Steak
- Instant Pot Orange Chicken
- Mongolian Beef
- 12 oz flank steak or top sirloin thinly sliced against the grain
- 1/2 tbsp Shaoxing rice cooking wine
- 1 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
- 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 1 tbsp potato starch
- 1/2 cup peanut oil
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 small red thai chili peppers seeded and finely chopped
- 1 tsp dried chili flakes (or more if desired)
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 green scallions thinly sliced
- In a large bowl, add beef, wine, soy sauces, and potato starch. Mix until beef is evenly coated. Let stand for about 10 minutes. While beef is marinating, prep your remaining ingredients.
- Add peanut oil to large wok and bring to medium-high heat. Add in beef, making sure to keep slices to a single layer so they do not overlap. Briefly fry each side about 30 seconds so that beef is mostly cooked but still pink in the center.
- Remove beef and thoroughly drain from oil. I put the beef in a colander to drain and shake off all the oil on the beef.
- Pour out all but 1 tbsp of oil from wok. Add in garlic and chili peppers. Cook briefly over medium-high heat, about 30 seconds, or until the aroma of the garlic and peppers come out.
- Add beef back into the wok. Sprinkle with cumin and chili flakes. Stir fry with garlic and peppers for about 1-2 minutes until beef is fully cooked. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Garnish with scallions. Serve warm with rice, rice substitute, lettuce wraps, etc.
- Adapted from recipe features in NYT Cooking.
- Shaoxing wine is a Chinese rice cooking wine often used in Chinese dishes. If you cannot find it, you can replace with dry sherry.
- Peanut oil can be replaced with canola oil.
- No nutrition information is provided because it is difficult to determine the amount of oil asborbed by the beef during frying.
The nutrition information provided are only estimates based on an online nutritional calculator. I am not a certified nutritionist. Please consult a professional nutritionist or doctor for accurate information and any dietary restrictions and concerns you may have.