Hunan Beef

Sharing is caring!

This post contains affiliate links. Click here to read my affiliate policy.

Last Updated on January 3, 2024

Chinese cuisine has a wide array of culinary wonders that are, as opposed to many other cuisines, mostly healthy. It cancels the media-driven idea that healthy foods are supposed to be bland with its explosive flavors and delicious aromas.

Today, I’ve picked a dish that comes from the Hunan province to share with you, Hunan beef. It’s a spicy stir-fried dish made from thinly sliced beef and fresh vegetables, and it won’t take you more than 30 minutes to make.

So, without further ado, let’s cook an authentic Hunan beef dish! We always service this with fried rice.


closeup photo of Hunan Beef in a white bowl

Before jumping right into cooking, you should prepare the ingredients you’ll need to cook Hunan beef stir fry.

Beef Ingredients

ingredients to make Hunan beef
  • One pound of thinly sliced steak
  • One tablespoon of garlic
  • Two fresh peppers
  • Two red onions
  • One tablespoon of ginger
  • One fresh chili pepper
  • Two tablespoons of water
  • 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
  • One teaspoon of oyster sauce
  • 1/3 cup of cornstarch
  • Two green onions
  • Vegetable oil

Hunan Sauce Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup of beef broth
  • One tablespoon of honey
  • Two tablespoons of low sodium soy sauce
  • Two teaspoons of cornstarch
  • One tablespoon of rice vinegar
  • One tablespoon of spicy chili bean sauce
  • Two tablespoons of oyster sauce
  • One tablespoon of Sambal Oelek (chili paste)

How to Make Hunan Beef

Level: Easy

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes

Servings: 3-4 servings

Now that you have all your ingredients ready, it’s time to make a delicious Chinese dish. Here’s my Hunan beef recipe.

1. Marinate the Beef Slices

marinating beef in bowl

Start by putting your beef into a bowl, along with baking soda, oyster sauce, and water. I use tender flank steak for this recipe and cut it into thin slices before cooking.

Mix the tender beef with the ingredients till it absorbs all liquids, then put the cornstarch on the meat. Leave the sliced flank steak to marinate while you complete the rest of the recipe.

2. Prepare Your Vegetables

Chopped vegetables on a cutting board

While the meat marinates, you should start preparing your vegetables. First, cut the bell peppers into thin slices and the scallions and chili pepper into small circles. Then, mince the garlic and ginger.

3. Prepare the Hunan Sauce

hunan beef sauce in a bowl

Making a spicy sauce for your Hunan beef plate might be the easiest step in my recipe. All you have to do is pour the beef broth into a large bowl, add the rest of the Hunan sauce ingredients, and mix.

I must warn you, though; my spicy sauce isn’t for everybody. If you have even the slightest dislike toward spicy food, I advise you to ditch the chili paste or the chili bean sauce. The red chili pepper will already add a dash of spiciness to the dish, so you don’t need to go all extra unless you love spicy foods.

4. Cook the Tender Beef

close up of cooked beef in a saucepan

First, line a large plate with paper towels. Then, put three tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large wok and heat it on high heat. You can also use safflower or all-purpose oil, whichever is ready in your pantry.

Once the oil is sizzling, put a small amount of the thinly sliced flank steak. Fry each slice on each side till they’re both brown and crispy, then put another batch of beef. Take each slice out on the paper towel to eliminate any excess oil.

Make sure not to overcrowd the wok with beef because you want each slice to cook well.

If the beef you just fried left burnt residues in the wok, clean them because you’ll need it to cook the vegetables. Make sure not to wash it, though. You want the beef flavor from the wok to complement your vegetables, believe me!

5. Cook the Vegetables

overhead shot of mixed vegetables in a sauce pan

Put two tablespoons of vegetable oil into the wok and heat over medium heat. Add the ginger and fry it for about half a minute or till it’s caramelized. Next, add the onions and fry them for another 30 seconds before adding the fresh peppers.

Turn the heat up to cook the bell pepper well and stir-fry them for two minutes. Then, add the garlic and the red chili pepper and stir-fry them for one or two minutes.

6. Add the Beef and the Sauce

Hunan beef and vegetable mixture cooking together in a saucepan

Once your vegetables look stir-fried enough, you can add the fried beef and sauce to the wok. Keep the heat high under the wok and stir-fry the food for another 30 seconds. Next, add the scallions and stir till the sauce is all dry.

I prefer for the sauce to disappear completely like most authentic beef stir-fry dishes. But you’re free to do what you prefer. If you like sauce in your food, turn the heat off early.

You can taste the beef now and see if it’s spicy enough for your liking. If it isn’t, add another teaspoon of chili paste and stir.

7. Serve the Hunan Beef Stir-Fry

overhead shot of hunan beef in a bowl with a fork and spoon on the side.

Hunan beef is best served with a plate of steamed rice. So after it cooks for one or two minutes on high heat and the sauce thickens or disappears, put it over some rice on a large plate. And voila! You just cooked an authentic plate of Chinese food.

On a side note, you can replace the white rice with noodles if you prefer.

Tips and Tricks

While cooking the beef stir fry is pretty easy, there are a few tips and tricks that can make your plate exceptional.

First, when cutting the meat, always cut against the grain. Doing so will give you tender slices and make it easier to chew the meat as the cutting process will break up the muscle fibers in the steak. Also, cut your meat thin so the slices can soak all the spicy flavors.

As for cutting the vegetables, make sure to cut them evenly into thin strips so that they cook equally. Cutting them in different shapes will make some pieces mushy, and other pieces crunchy, which will affect the overall taste of the plate.

For this recipe, you can go all fancy and use ribeye or sirloin steak. I use flank meat because it’s more budget-friendly, but you’re free to use any steak you like.

Beware that you must cook your meat on very high heat for a short amount of time. Cooking on medium heat might lead to overcooking, leaving you with dry and hard-to-chew slices of meat.

A final advice is to put the beef into the wok when the vegetables are only partially cooked. If you wait till they’re fully cooked and soft, they’ll turn mushy once you add the sauce and stir with the meat.

Other Vegetables to Cook With Hunan Beef

Hunan beef is all about its flavorful sauce and colorful veggies. So here’s a list of other vegetables that you can add to your plate:

  • Zucchinis
  • Canned baby corn
  • Bok choy
  • Celery
  • Dried chili peppers
  • Green peas
  • Mushrooms
  • Fermented black beans
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Bamboo shoots
Hunan Beef in a bowl
Yield: 6 servings

Hunan Beef

Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes

It only takes 30 minutes to make Hunan beef! It’s a spicy stir-fried dish made from thinly sliced beef and fresh vegetables. Check out the recipe on my website



  • 1 pound beef, sliced
  • 1⁄3 cup vegetable or canola oil (for frying)
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1 small green bell pepper
  • 1 small yellow bell pepper
  • 2 serrano chillies, deseeded
  • 5 Thai chilis
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock

Marinate sauce:

  • 1⁄4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon oyster sauce
  • 1 1⁄2 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 1⁄2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce

Pouring sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Shaoxing rice wine
  • 2 tablespoons hot water
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1⁄2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp chili paste


Combine the sliced beef with baking soda, vegetable oil, oyster sauce, corn starch, light soy sauce, and dark soy sauce. Marinated for 30 minutes

Pouring sauce: In a separate bowl, mix 2 tablespoons light soy sauce, 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce, 1 teaspoon Shaoxing rice wine, 2 tablespoons hot water, 1⁄4 teaspoon white pepper, 1⁄2
tsp cumin powder, 1⁄2 teaspoon granulated sugar, and 1 tbsp chili paste.

Cut the bell peppers into bite sizes. Slice the chilies.

Over medium to high heat, cook the beef until brown using 1⁄3 cup vegetable oil. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Turn the heat to low then sauté garlic until transparent, add the onion and ginger. Cook until fragrant then add chiles and bell pepper.

Add the cooked beef and pouring sauce then cook over high heat. You may add sugar, salt, and pepper as you like. Lastly, add the chicken stock and wait ll it boils. Voila, it’s done!

Enjoy your Hunan beef. 

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 309Total Fat: 18gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 66mgSodium: 1313mgCarbohydrates: 14gFiber: 2gSugar: 5gProtein: 23g

Did you make this recipe?

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

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Difference Between Hunan and Szechuan Beef?

Szechuan and Hunan beef come from different regions in China. The most famous difference is that Hunan beef is spicy, while Szechuan beef is sweet and spicy. Other than that, Hunan beef largely depends on fresh ingredients and vegetables, while Szechuan cooking depends on dried ingredients.

What Does Hunan Beef Taste Like?

Hunan beef has a rich smoked beef flavor with overpowering spiciness and a dash of sweetness. You can control the level of spiciness by customizing the amounts of spicy ingredients to taste.

Can I Replace Beef with Chicken for This Recipe?

Yes, you can. Hunan chicken is also a famous plate in China, and you can cook it the same way you cook Hunan beef. But don’t cut the chicken into slices. Instead, cut it into small pieces and serve it with noodles. Also, use chicken broth instead of beef broth for the savory sauce.

Is Light or Dark Soy Sauce Better for Hunan Beef?

It depends on your personal preference. Light soy sauce is thinner and has a saltier taste than dark sauce. Meanwhile, the darker soy sauce is thick with a rich, sweet flavor that might overpower the other ingredients. I personally use low-sodium sauce for Chinese recipes to avoid saltiness.

Is Spicy Hunan Beef Healthy?

Yes, Hunan beef is a healthy plate mostly made from fresh vegetables. Also, it doesn’t require a large amount of oil to cook, so it’s all good if you’re on a diet.

To Wrap Up

Indulging in Chinese takeout is a guilty pleasure for many of us, but cooking Chinese food at home turned out to be a pretty easy and enjoyable process. Instead of spending fortunes on takeout, you can make a delicious, spicy Hunan beef plate. It’ll take only 30 minutes to cook, and you won’t have to do more than some chopping and frying.

So what are you waiting for? Try my Hunan beef recipe today!

Leave a Comment

Get Your Free Gift
Get my ebook "Set it and Forget it: Budget Instant Pot Recipes" and exclusive content to your email inbox.


* indicates required
Give it a try, you can unsubscribe anytime.
Skip to Recipe
Skip to content