Hunan beef is made by tossing thinly sliced beef and an assortment of colorful veggies in a hot and spicy Hunan sauce. It’s addictive and made in one pan!

Hunan beef in a pan

Love chicken? Do you love the taste of Hunan beef but prefer chicken instead? Try this version of this recipe!

What Is Hunan Beef?

Hunan beef is a Chinese dish made from thinly sliced beef flank steak and a variety of veggies tossed in a spicy Hunan sauce. The sauce has a sweet, savory, and fiery taste with umami flavor. The origin of this dish comes from the Hunan province of China, which is known for its richly spicy food.

Now — as delicious as authentic Hunan beef is, it is traditionally made with dry smoked beef which is hard to find in America. So, we’ve made an “Americanized” version with easy-to-find ingredients that still have that delicious Hunan-like flavor.

Hunan vs Szechuan Flavors

Hunan beef and Szechuan beef are two Asian dishes made with many of the same ingredients. The main difference lies in the spice. Hunan cuisine tends to utilize chili paste, whereas Szechuan cooking uses dried chili peppers, which are spicier and have a more intense “numbing heat.” The chili paste in Hunan cooking also gives spice, but it is more evenly distributed throughout the dish and gives a “dry” heat.

beef and veggies on a counter

How To Make Hunan Beef

Hunan beef might already be one of your go-to dishes when ordering takeout — now it’ll be one of your go-to dishes to make at home, too. All you need is 20 minutes of prep, 20 minutes to cook, and an appetite!

  • Make the Hunan sauce: In a small bowl, whisk together the beef broth, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, chili paste (we love sambal oelek), and cornstarch. Set aside.
  • Cut the veggies and meat: Cut all the veggies into bite-sized pieces, mince the garlic, and slice the beef into thin strips.
  • Cook the beef: Preheat a large oiled pan over medium-high heat. Add the beef and cook until it is golden-brown (about seven minutes). Remove from the pan and set aside.
  • Sauté the veggies: Add the bell peppers, onions, green onions, broccoli, and garlic into the pan. Cook until the veggies are soft (about seven minutes).
  • Add in the beef: Return the beef to the veggie skillet.
  • Pour in the sauce: Pour the Hunan sauce into the skillet and toss with the veggie and beef mixture. Cook for another five minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Serve: Serve with a grain side dish or on its own.

Hot tip: Freeze the beef for 30 minutes beforehand to make it crazy easy to slice thinly!

Tips for The Best Hunan Beef

Sure, takeout is an easy way to satisfy your Chinese food cravings, but follow these tips for a delicious and quick homemade Hunan beef, and you’ll be even more satisfied!

  • Slice the beef thinly against the grain. This makes for the most tender strips of beef.
  • Opt for flank steak. The flash cooking over high heat makes it come out delectably tender.
  • Prep the ingredients before you start cooking. Pre-sliced meat and veggies make the cooking process so much easier! Stir fry cooks extra fast, so having all your ingredients prepped and ready helps prevent burning and overcooking.
  • Get creative with your veggies. Switch out the ones you don’t like, and add more of the ones you prefer! Baby corn, bok choy, carrots, celery, and mushrooms are all great options.
  • Cut evenly. Cut all the vegetables and beef into similar sizes to ensure even cooking.
  • Use a large 10-inch pan or a wok. Avoid overcrowding the pan when cooking beef, as this may inhibit proper searing. Each slice should develop a nice, golden brown color and outer crust.
  • Adjust the spice as needed. Add more or less chili paste according to how much heat you want in your dish.
  • Lower the sodium as needed. Make the beef a lower sodium dish by using low-sodium beef broth and soy sauce.
Hunan beef over the rice

How To Serve Hunan Beef

Imagine what else you get on your typical Asian takeout order — whip it up at home to serve with your Hunan beef! Make young chow fried rice with white rice, veggie lo mein, or if you prefer a less carb-dense side, opt for cauliflower rice. Add a lighter side such as spring rolls with salmon, shrimp spring rolls, or gyoza, and you’ve got a feast!

Storing & Reheating Tips

There’s only one way to describe Hunan beef leftovers — amazing. As always, we love making larger batches of meals so there are tasty leftovers to enjoy for lunch the next day.

  • Refrigerator: To store for up to five days, place the cooled leftovers into an airtight container in the fridge.
  • Reheating: Reheat leftovers on the stovetop over medium-high heat. Or, reheat in the microwave for an uber quick reheat.

Hot tip: We don’t recommend freezing to store the dish long-term, as the vegetables tend to change texture and become mushy.

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About Author

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Natalya Drozhzhin

Natalya founded Momsdish to demonstrate that placing a homemade meal on the table is not hard at all. Natalya makes cooking easier and approachable, by simplifying the ingredients, while still producing the same great taste.