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Hunan Beef

Hunan Beef

Make restaurant-quality Hunan Beef at home for half the price! This Hunan Chinese beef recipe is the perfect balance of spicy, crunchy, and savory. Serve over rice, stir fried vegetables or next to a batch of Hunan Shrimp.

More Chinese Takeout Recipes: Chow Mei FunHoney Walnut ShrimpEmpress Chicken and Fried RiceBeef stir fry in a white skillet.

What Is Hunan Beef

Hunan style beef is a chili-laden dish commonly found on American-Chinese restaurant menus. It’s stir fried beef coated in Hunan sauce, made with chilis, garlic, rice vinegar, and soy sauce. It’s one of the spicier recipes on the menu.

Velveted beef and a medley of vegetables are pan fried and tossed in a rich soy chili sauce. Don’t be put off by the volume of ingredients as you probably already have most on hand.

Individual ingredients in bowls to show what is hunan beef.

Chinese Hunan Beef

Authentic Hunan beef is traditionally made with dried beef. As it’s hard to find here in the states, you can use your favorite cut of beef. We usually go with flank steak or skirt steak (read up on the difference between skirt steak vs flank steak).

Here are the main “non staple” ingredients to make beef Hunan style. The full list of ingredients is listed in the recipe card below.

Chili Oil Substitutions

There are a number of different chili pastes you can use for this dish. We usually stick with Huy Fong Sambal Oelek when making Chinese recipes, but it’s not the only option. Here are some other choices:

Sliced Peppers in a skillet.

Peppers 

So. Many. Peppers. We love some heat so strictly use hot peppers like Fresno chilis, Serrano or even a Thai chili. For those looking for just a tad of hit, use mild peppers like Poblano or Cubanelle.

Stir Fried Vegetables

The best part of this dish is the ability to customize the vegetables. I’m sure many of you have some vegetables in the refrigerator about to go bad (No? Just us?). Here’s a list of ideas:

  • Zucchini
  • Bok Choy
  • Snap Peas
  • Snow Peas
  • Broccoli
  • Celery
  • Mushrooms
  • Bamboo Shoots
  • Carrots
  • Water Chestnuts

Variety of vegetables in a white skillet.

How To Make

Making beef Hunan style doesn’t require much time, but it’s all hands-on time. Here’s the general steps you’re looking at when making. For the full recipe, reference the detailed recipe card below. 

Beef – Velvet the beef

Sauce – Whisk together the sauce ingredients.

Stir Fry – Get the beef in the pan and stir fry away!

Vegetables – Stir-fry the vegetables

Sauce it Up – Toss the beef, vegetables and remaining ingredients with the Hunan sauce and serve!

Hunan sauce on a wooden coaster.

Serving Recommendations

This Hunan beef recipe can be enjoyed solo or next to some other classics. As mentioned above, rice or fried rice are always a welcome addition. Throw in some extra vegetables to bulk up each serving. Any asian noodle recipe would make a great side dish…think garlic noodles, sesame noodles, etc.

The Hunanese love fermented food, so a batch of our pickled cucumbers or other pickled vegetables would pair well.

Raw meat strips in a white skillet.

Expert Tips

  • This stir-fried beef recipe is best when enjoyed immediately. 
  • Make sure the beef is 100% dry before adding to the cornstarch. You’ll find the end results will suffer as the coating won’t stick.
  • The oil should be hot (slightly popping) before adding the food. 
  • Do not overcrowd the pan. Fry in batches to avoid steaming the beef instead of browning it.
  • Cut all your vegetables into similar sized pieces so they cook in the same amount of time.

Hunan Food Variations

Chicken Hunan Style – Swap out the beef for chicken, to make a classic Hunan Chicken. 

Hunan Spicy Beef – For an extra spicy dish, add in whole dried red chilis or double up on the chili oil and red pepper flakes.

Overhead shot of meat and vegetables in a white skillet.

Hunan Beef vs Szechuan Beef

What is the difference between Hunan beef vs. Szechuan beef is a very common question. Both are traditionally made with fermented red chili paste, garlic, rice vinegar and soy sauce, however that’s where most of the similarities end.

Hunan dishes use minimal sweeteners and are hotter than Szechuan dishes as they use fresh chilis and/or chili paste. You won’t get the same numbing sensation as Szechuan peppercorns aren’t utilized. Hunan recipes also tend to be “drier” than Sichuan dishes as there isn’t much sauce to be found. 

Szechuan beef dishes include dried chilis and a bit of honey or sugar to simmer down the spice level. These dishes also include a heavy dose of Sichuan peppercorns, to add a numbing effect when eaten, and have more sauce.

Bowl of hunan beef on a wooden tray.

Hunan Chinese Food

There are 8 regional cuisines of Chinese cooking, with Hunan (湘菜; Xiāngcài) being represented in this dish. To read up on each region, head over here>> Wikipedia for a fascinating history lesson.

Click For More Asian Recipes:

Pad Woon Sen
Egg Drop Soup
Korean Beef Bulgogi
Instant Pot Chicken Adobo

Drink Pairings

Stick with an off-dry Riesling or Pinot Grigio when serving Hunan beef.

Hunan Beef in a large white bowl.

Hunan Beef

Make restaurant-quality Hunan Beef and Hunan Sauce in just 20 minutes! This Hunan Chinese beef recipe is the perfect balance of spicy, crunchy, and savory.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Course: Dinner, Lunch, Main Course
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: Asian Recipes, Beef Recipes, Stir Fry Recipe
Servings: 2 servings
Calories: 432kcal
Author: Darcey Olson
Cost: $20

Ingredients

BEEF

  • 1 tsp Cornstarch
  • 1 tsp Light Soy Sauce
  • 1 tsp Sesame Oil
  • 1 tsp Sugar
  • ½ tsp Baking Soda
  • 8 oz Flank Steak, Thinly Sliced

SAUCE

  • 2 tsp Shaoxing Wine (*Note 1)
  • 2 tsp Rice Vinegar
  • 2 tsp Sugar
  • 1 tsp Light Soy Sauce
  • 1 tsp Chili Oil (*Note 2)
  • ¼ tsp Corn Starch

STIR FRY

  • 2-3 Tbsp Vegetable or Canola Oil
  • 1 Bell Pepper, Thinly Sliced
  • 1 Red Chili, Thinly Sliced
  • 1 Tbsp Fermented Black Beans (*Note 3)
  • 3 stalks Green Onions, Cut into 2" Pieces
  • ¼ cup Thinly Sliced Shallot
  • 1 Tbsp Minced Garlic
  • 1 tsp Minced Ginger
  • 1 tsp Red Chili Flakes
  • Optional: Serve over Rice

Instructions
 

  • Mix together the cornstarch, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, and baking soda in a small mixing cup. Pour over the sliced beef and toss until evenly coated. Set aside for 30 minutes.
  • Add all the sauce ingredients to a small bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.
  • Pre-heat a wok or large skillet over high heat and add half the oil. Swirl the pan so the oil coats the interior.
  • Add the sliced beef to the skillet and sear for 1-2 minutes. Flip the beef slices and stir fry for another 1-2 minutes, until no longer pink. Transfer to a large plate and set aside in a warm place.
  • Turn the heat down to medium and add the remaining oil. Add the bell pepper, chili and stir fry for 2-3 minutes, until soft. Add the Fermented Black Beans, green onions, shallot, ginger, garlic and red chili flakes and stir fry for approx. 1 minute.
  • Add the reserved beef and sauce to the skillet and gently toss to combine. Cook for 2 minutes, continuously stirring, until the sauce is thick.
  • Serve immediately over rice and garnish with extra green onions.

Notes

Note 1 - Mirin is a great substitute if you don't have Shaoxing Wine. Just cut back the sugar to 1 tsp vs 2 tsp.
Note 2 - Replace with your favorite chili paste if you don't have chili oil.
Note 3 - Black bean garlic sauce is a great substitute. 

Nutrition

Calories: 432kcal | Carbohydrates: 23g | Protein: 30g | Fat: 25g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 13g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 68mg | Sodium: 698mg | Potassium: 787mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 13g | Vitamin A: 2555IU | Vitamin C: 116mg | Calcium: 69mg | Iron: 3mg
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