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This pepper steak with onion is a classic stir-fried Chinese dish of tender marinated flank steak tossed with crisp bell peppers and onions in a sweet and savory sauce. The quick, family-friendly dinner is better than takeout!

Close overhead shot of Chinese pepper steak with onion on a bed of white rice with chopsticks.
Table of Contents
  1. The Difference Between Pepper Steak and Mongolian Steak
  2. The Best Steak for Pepper Steak
  3. Ingredients for Chinese Pepper Steak
  4. How to Make Pepper Steak with Onion
  5. Serving Suggestions
  6. Storage Tips
  7. Recipe Variations
  8. Tips for the Best Chinese Pepper Steak Recipe
  9. Pepper Steak with Onion Recipe

A Chinese stir-fry is always a quick dinner winner! Whether we throw together chicken and broccoli stir-fry, “egg roll in a bowl,” or ground beef stir-fry with cabbage, these easy and healthy meals appeal to even the pickiest little eaters. Add a side of fluffy white rice and some frozen egg rolls and you’ve got a simple, affordable weeknight supper in no time!

The Difference Between Pepper Steak and Mongolian Steak

Chinese pepper steak is named for its two primary ingredients: sliced steak and sliced bell peppers. The dish typically includes seasonings such as soy sauce and ginger, and is usually thickened with cornstarch. Sliced onions and/or bean sprouts may also make an appearance.

Like pepper steak, Mongolian beef features stir-fried sliced steak. Unlike pepper steak, however, the Mongolian beef does not typically include bell peppers (or any vegetables for that matter). The sauce that coats Mongolian steak is typically sweeter than pepper steak sauce.

Side shot of a bowl of pepper steak with onion on a bed of rice.

The Best Steak for Pepper Steak

Flank steak is our top pick for this pepper steak recipe, but other good options include sirloin, skirt steak, or top round steak. Flank steak is a long and thin cut of beef that comes from the belly muscles of the cow.

It is full of intense beef flavor, takes well to marinade, and is best when sliced thin against the grain. When cooked quickly at a high temperature (as in a stir-fry recipe), flank steak stays tender and juicy.

Thinly sliced marinated flank steak on a blue and white plate.

What is pepper steak sauce made of?

This savory, umami pepper steak sauce has a hint of sweetness in the background that isn’t overpowering. It’s a flavorful combination of soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, beef broth, and brown sugar, which is thickened with cornstarch. Garlic and ginger also add nice savory flavor to the dish.

Pepper steak sauce in a glass measuring cup with whisk.

Ingredients for Chinese Pepper Steak

This is just a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for this easy pepper steak recipe. As always, specific measurements and step-by-step cooking instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Flank steak: sliced against the grain into very thin strips.
  • Low-sodium soy sauce: for salty, savory, umami flavor in the sauce.
  • Rice vinegar: an acidic component to brighten up the sauce.
  • Sesame oil: an essential ingredient for that true Asian flavor. Do not substitute with a different oil. The sesame oil has a unique nutty flavor that’s hard to replicate with other ingredients, and it truly makes the dish! You can find sesame oil in the Asian or International foods aisle at just about every grocery store these days, or order it online here.
  • Cornstarch: the thickening agent that helps the sauce cling to your meat and veggies.
  • Low-sodium beef broth: a flavorful liquid base for the steak stir fry sauce.
  • Brown sugar: for a hint of sweetness that nicely balances the salty, savory flavors in the recipe.
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper: to enhance the other ingredients.
  • Vegetable oil: a neutral-tasting oil with a high smoke point for stir-frying the meat and vegetables.
  • Sweet bell peppers: any colors will work. I use red bell peppers and green bell peppers, but orange bell peppers or yellow bell peppers will also work.
  • Onion: I use yellow onion, but any variety will work. Try sweet onions or white onions if that’s what you have on hand.
  • Garlic and ginger: for zesty, savory flavor.
Stir-frying peppers and onions in a cast iron skillet.

How to Make Pepper Steak with Onion

This recipe for pepper steak with onion comes together quickly on the stovetop. Just remember to let the steak marinate for at least an hour for the best flavor and texture! I’ve included the detailed directions in the recipe card below, but here’s the quick overview:

  • Marinate the sliced steak in soy sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil.
  • Whisk together the sauce ingredients.
  • Stir-fry the steak, and then transfer it to a plate.
  • Stir-fry the vegetables.
  • Add the steak and sauce to the pan.
  • Cook until the sauce thickens.
Process shot showing how to make pepper steak with onion.

Serving Suggestions

You can’t beat the classic combination of pepper steak and rice! Garnish each serving with your favorite toppings, like sliced green onions, toasted sesame seeds, red pepper flakes, chopped peanuts, or crunchy chow mein noodles.

To round out the pepper steak stir fry with additional side dishes, try pairing it with pasta, ramen noodles, sesame peanut noodlessesame ginger snap pea salad, ramen noodle salad, or baked store-bought egg rolls. Don’t forget fortune cookies for dessert, too!

Square overhead shot of a bowl of white rice with Chinese pepper steak with onion.

Storage Tips

Leftover pepper steak with onion will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Reheat the pepper steak and onions with the sauce in a skillet over low heat, or in the microwave until warmed through, about 1-2 minutes. Be careful not to reheat it for too long or you can dry out the meat.

You can also freeze leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 months. It’s important to note, however, that the texture of the veggies will be mushy or soft after thawing (so do this at your own risk)!

Overhead shot of the best pepper steak recipe served on white rice on a wooden table.

Recipe Variations

  • Use other vegetables in lieu of the peppers, such as broccoli, baby corn, snap peas, asparagus, sliced mushrooms, or thinly-sliced carrots. You can also add bamboo shoots or water chestnuts.
  • For a sweeter sauce, add 1-2 more tablespoons of brown sugar. You can also stir about 1-2 tablespoons of hoisin sauce into the skillet towards the end for a richer, sweeter flavor.
  • Swap out the flank steak and use shrimp or chicken in this easy stir fry recipe.
  • Make it spicy with the addition of crushed red pepper flakes or a splash of sriracha hot sauce.
Square side shot of a bowl of pepper steak and rice.

Tips for the Best Chinese Pepper Steak Recipe

  • Place the flank steak in the freezer for up to 30 minutes before slicing. A partially frozen flank steak is much easier to slice into thin strips.
  • Slice the flank steak against the grain (perpendicular to the natural lines that you see running through the meat). This yields tender, juicy strips of steak.
  • Store fresh ginger root in the freezer so that it’s always available when you need to grate off a little bit for a recipe. You can also substitute with dried ground ginger here.
  • Make sure that your skillet is really hot when you add the steak. You want the meat to cook quickly so that it stays juicy and tender, rather than cooking longer and becoming dry and tough.
  • If your skillet or wok isn’t big enough to comfortably cook the steak in a single layer, then work in batches and cook half of the meat at a time. I use this 14-inch cast iron skillet (you can check out this collection of the best cast iron skillets, too).
  • For a thicker sauce, let it cook an extra minute or so, but remember — the sauce will continue to thicken slightly as it cools. If you find that the sauce gets too thick, you can always thin it out again by adding a splash of water or broth.
Overhead image of the best pepper steak recipe served with rice on a wooden table and garnished with green onion.

More Chinese Stir Fry Recipes to Try

Square overhead shot of a bowl of white rice with Chinese pepper steak with onion.

Pepper Steak with Onion

5 from 1 vote
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Marinating Time 1 hour
Total: 1 hour 35 minutes
Servings 4 people
Calories 262 kcal
A quick and easy Chinese pepper steak stir-fry is the perfect weeknight dinner!

Ingredients
  

  • 1 (1 lb.) flank steak, sliced ¼-inch thick against the grain
  • ¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce, divided
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon rice vinegar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sesame oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup low-sodium beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
  • 1 medium yellow onion, cut into strips
  • 1 tablespoon minced, grated, or pressed garlic (or about ½ teaspoon garlic powder)
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (or about ¼ teaspoon ground ginger)
  • Optional garnish: sliced green onion, toasted sesame seeds, crushed red pepper flakes
  • For serving: cooked white rice

Instructions

  • In a large bowl or in a large Ziploc bag, stir together the steak, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar, and 1 tablespoon of sesame oil. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour (or up to overnight).
    Sliced flank steak marinating in a large Ziploc bag.
  • In a small bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together the cornstarch and the remaining 3 tablespoons of soy sauce until smooth. Add the broth, remaining 1 teaspoon of rice vinegar, remaining 1 teaspoon of sesame oil, brown sugar, kosher salt, and black pepper. Whisk to combine. Set aside.
    Pepper steak sauce in a glass measuring cup with whisk.
  • Remove the steak from the marinade; set it on a plate. If there’s any extra marinade left in the bag or bowl, add it to the broth mixture.
    Thinly sliced marinated flank steak on a blue and white plate.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a wok or large skillet (at least 12-14 inches) over medium-high heat. Add the steak in a single layer; cook until browned, about 5-6 minutes. Remove the steak to a clean plate. Wipe out the skillet, discarding the drippings.
    Stir frying steak in a cast iron skillet.
  • Reduce the heat to medium. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. When the oil is hot, add the bell peppers and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are lightly browned, about 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger; cook, stirring constantly, for 2 more minutes.
    Stir-frying peppers and onions in a cast iron skillet.
  • Add the steak and sauce to the skillet. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
    Process shot showing how to make pepper steak with onion.
  • Serve with rice and garnish with green onion, sesame seeds, or crushed red pepper flakes.
    Close overhead shot of Chinese pepper steak with onion on a bed of white rice with chopsticks.

Notes

  • Place the flank steak in the freezer for up to 30 minutes before slicing. A partially frozen flank steak is much easier to slice into thin strips.
  • Slice the flank steak against the grain (perpendicular to the natural lines that you see running through the meat). This yields tender, juicy strips of steak.
  • Store fresh ginger root in the freezer so that it’s always available when you need to grate off a little bit for a recipe. You can also substitute with dried ground ginger here.
  • Make sure that your skillet is really hot when you add the steak. You want the meat to cook quickly so that it stays juicy and tender, rather than cooking longer and becoming dry and tough.
  • If your skillet or wok isn’t big enough to comfortably cook the steak in a single layer, then work in batches and cook half of the meat at a time. I use this 14-inch cast iron skillet (you can check out this collection of the best cast iron skillets, too).
  • For a thicker sauce, let it cook an extra minute or so, but remember — the sauce will continue to thicken slightly as it cools. If you find that the sauce gets too thick, you can always thin it out again by adding a splash of water or broth.

Nutrition

Serving: 1/4 of the pepper steakCalories: 262kcalCarbohydrates: 16gProtein: 28gFat: 9gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 68mgSodium: 1040mgPotassium: 728mgFiber: 2gSugar: 9gVitamin A: 1042IUVitamin C: 64mgCalcium: 45mgIron: 2mg
Keyword: chinese pepper steak, pepper steak recipe, pepper steak with onion, recipe for pepper steak
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Chinese
Author: Blair Lonergan
blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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Comments

  1. Scott says:

    5 stars
    made this as is tonight… well, with 3 bell peppers and snap peas… we like veggies… marinaded for 3’ish hrs, served over jasmine rice… very nice, flavors great… will make again!

    1. The Seasoned Mom says:

      Thank you, Scott! We’re so glad you enjoyed it!