This Szechuan beef is a spicy stir fry made with tender pieces of beef and colorful vegetables, all tossed in a sweet and savory sauce. A classic Chinese style dish that is even better than what you’d get at a restaurant!
When I go to my local Chinese restaurant, I always order the Szechuan beef. It’s got the perfect blend of tender steak and veggies with sweet, savory and spicy flavors. My version uses ingredients that are available in most grocery stores which makes this recipe quick and easy!
What is Szechuan beef?
This dish is a stir fry that contains plenty of spice in the form of sichuan peppercorns and dried red chilies. Szechuan food comes from the Sichuan providence of China, which is how it got its name. Szechuan beef also typically contains vegetables such as peppers and onions, and also may contain peanuts or other nuts in some cases.
How do you make Szechuan beef?
This recipe starts with thinly sliced flank steak that is coated in corn starch and seasonings, then pan fried until crispy. Remove the steak from the pan, then add in veggies, dried red chilies and Sichuan peppercorns. While the steak and vegetables are cooking, prepare the sauce by whisking together soy sauce, hoisin sauce, sesame oil and beef broth. Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables, then let it simmer until thickened. Serve this dish immediately over steamed rice and enjoy.
Tips for the perfect stir fry
- Sichuan peppercorns are what gives this dish its authentic flavor. These peppercorns have a citrus flavor and also provide a tingly numbing type sensation in the mouth which contributes to the heat of this dish. I am able to find the peppercorns in larger grocery stores and in Asian markets. If you can’t find this spice, it’s fine to omit it. You can break open a few of the chili peppers and sprinkle the seeds into the dish to create more heat if you don’t have the peppercorns.
- Dried red chilies contribute a lot of the heat and a mild nutty flavor. While several types of dried red chilies can be used in Szechuan dishes, I use an Asian red chili or chiles de arbol. Chiles de arbol are small Mexican chili peppers that are commonly found in grocery stores. They add a lot of flavor and meld well with the sauce.
- This recipe uses hoisin sauce as part of the flavoring components. Hoisin sauce has a dark brown appearance and a slightly sweet and tangy flavor. Many Chinese dishes use hoisin sauce to provide depth of flavor to the dishes. You can find hoisin sauce in the Asian section of your local supermarket.
- Szechuan beef will stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to 4 days which makes this a great dish for meal prep.
- I recommend serving your stir fry over steamed rice to help temper the heat. Other options include quinoa, stir fry noodles or cauliflower rice.
- While I typically use flank steak because it is tender and readily available, you can use a different cut of steak such as sirloin.
This dish is great as-is, but you can also change up the ingredients to customize it to your tastes.
- Protein: Instead of steak, try cubed chicken breast, chicken thighs, shrimp or tofu.
- Vegetables: While bell peppers are commonly found in this dish, I’ve also seen it served with other vegetables including mushrooms, broccoli and carrots.
- Nuts: Some versions of Szechuan beef contain peanuts. Roasted cashews or sliced almonds would also be a good choice.
You can’t go wrong with the sweet and spicy flavors of this classic recipe. Next time you’re craving Chinese food, skip the take out and make it at home!
More Asian inspired recipes to try
Szechuan Beef Video
For the stir fry
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil or any neutral flavored oil
- 1 pound flank steak thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup corn starch
- 1/2 cup yellow onion cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 red bell pepper cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 green bell pepper cut into 1 inch pieces
- 25 small dried red chilies or more if desired
- 1 tablespoon sichuan peppercorns optional
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon minced ginger
- salt and pepper to taste
For the sauce
- 3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
- 1 1/2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon corn starch
- 1/3 cup beef broth
- Place the steak in a bowl with the corn starch and salt and pepper to taste. Toss to combine. Heat the vegetable oil in a large pan over high heat.
- Place the steak in a single layer in the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes per side until golden brown. You may have to do this step in batches.
- Remove the steak from the pan. Place on a plate and cover to keep warm.
- Add the onion and red and green bell peppers to the pan. Stir in the chilies and sichuan peppercorns. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until vegetables are softened.
- Add the garlic and ginger to the pan; cook for an additional 30 seconds. Return the beef to the pan with the vegetables.
- While the steak and vegetables are cooking, make the sauce. Whisk together all of the sauce ingredients in a small bowl until smooth.
- Add the sauce to the beef mixture and bring to a boil; cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until sauce is just thickened. Serve immediately.