Black pepper beef stir fry is an easy authentic Chinese meal that’s great for a quick weeknight meal! Juicy, tender beef is tossed in a bold-flavored black pepper sauce with crunchy veggies for a healthy and satisfying main course dish that’s ready in under 30 minutes.

Follow my simple tricks to make the best restaurant-quality stir fry at home, without a wok. You’ll master how to make tender beef stir fry every time! For another yummy recipe with black pepper sauce, try my black pepper chicken!

Photo shows black peppercorn beef stir fried with bell peppers and served with rice on a white plate
Tender beef stir fry with crisp veggies and a super delicious black pepper sauce


This black peppercorn beef recipe comes together fast with staple Asian ingredients you probably have on hand already. Here’s what you need to make this authentic beef stir fry at home.

Photo shows ingredients used to make black pepper sauce and beef

For the beef:

  • Skirt steak: Thinly slice it against the grain. Trim away extra fat before you slice if you prefer.
  • Coconut aminos: Gluten-free soy sauce substitute with a sweeter taste and less sodium.
  • Fish sauce: Adds extra savory umami flavor and pairs well with coconut aminos. If you use soy sauce instead of coconut aminos, you can skip this ingredient.
  • Toasted sesame oil: Helps add moisture to the meat.
  • Ground black pepper
  • Baking soda: Helps to tenderize or “velvet” the meat.
  • Tapioca starch: Helps seal in the moisture and gives the beef a crisp seared texture.

For the Chinese black pepper sauce:

  • Freshly ground black pepper: For the best flavor, use a pepper mill to ground the peppercorns from fresh. Pre-ground black pepper powder will have a duller taste.
  • Sichuan peppercorn powder (Optional): This powder made from ground Sichuan peppers has a lemony pop to it and gives the dish an authentic flavor.
  • Peach jam: You can also use orange jam. Jam sweetens the sauce naturally and helps to thicken it without extra starch.
  • Coconut aminos
  • Beef stock: You can also use chicken or vegetable stock.

Vegetables and others:

  • Bell pepper: I use half a red bell pepper and half a green bell pepper. You can also use yellow bell pepper or just use one color pepper.
  • Yellow onion: Adds a bit of sweetness and gives a crunchy texture to the stir fry.
  • Avocado oil and coarse sea salt

Ingredient substitutions

  • Different cuts of beef: You can also use flank steak or top sirloin steak.
  • Without Sichuan peppercorn powder: If you don’t have Sichuan peppercorn powder, use an additional teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper instead.
  • Peach jam substitute: Use coconut brown sugar as a substitute for this natural sweetener.
  • Coconut aminos substitute: Use light soy sauce instead. Start with half amount of the listed recipe quantity, as soy sauce has more salt than coconut aminos.
  • Toasted sesame oil substitute: You can use olive oil instead.
  • Alternative starch: Arrowroot starch, cornstarch, or potato starch are good substitutes for tapioca.

Recipe variations

  • Stir fry beef cubes or thin strips: For a change in texture, slice the beef into bite-sized cubes or stack a few pieces and slice them into thin strips.
  • Different vegetables: Incorporate veggies like broccoli florets, carrots, snow peas, sugar snap peas, shredded cabbage, or bean sprouts for added texture, nutrition, and flavor.
  • Black pepper sauce variations: Add grated garlic cloves, ginger, or vegan oyster sauce (contains no oysters) to the black pepper marinade for extra flavor.
  • Extra authentic: Add a splash of Chinese rice wine (has wheat) or dry sherry (gluten-free) to the hot wok at the end of cooking before turning off the heat.

How to make black pepper beef

Stir fried black pepper beef is such a popular takeout dish. The combination of tender and juicy beef with crunchy veggies in a simple yet bold-flavored sauce is hard to beat. Here are the simple steps to make this Chinese staple at home:

Person demos velveting beef, slice vegetables, and making black pepper sauce
  1. Slice the beef and chop the peppers and onion. Marinate the beef for 15-20 minutes and dice the vegetables to similar sizes so they cook at the same time.
  2. Prepare the black pepper sauce. Combine the freshly ground black peppercorn, Sichuan peppercorn powder, coconut aminos, stock, and peach jam in a small bowl.
Person demos pan sear the beef, saute vegetables, and adding black pepper sauce to a hot pan
  1. Pan-sear the beef over medium-high heat in a single layer. Make sure the skillet is well-heated before adding the beef.
  2. Saute the pepper and onion. Remove the beef from the pan first, and add more oil as needed. Saute the peppers and onion for 1 minute to keep them crisp.
  3. Combine and serve. Return the beef to the pan, toss with black pepper sauce, and add ground black pepper and Sichuan peppercorn powder before serving hot over rice.

How to tenderize beef (velveting beef) for stir fry

Chinese stir-fries are so delicious because they always have perfectly tender meat in a balanced and flavorful marinade. Here are some quick tips that will help you make a restaurant-quality stir fry at home!

  1. Choose the right cut of beef: In my opinion, skirt steak is the best beef for stir fry because it’s tender and doesn’t have too much moisture. Sirloin and flank steak are also great options.
  2. Tenderize: The Chinese secret of how to velvet beef (make it super tender) is to coat the meat in baking soda (1-2 tsp per pound of meat). Then marinate for 15 minutes before stir-frying.
  3. Marinade: In addition to the baking soda, the beef stir fry marinade helps to tenderize and add maximum flavor. Key marinade ingredients are soy sauce (or coconut aminos), oil, and starch.
  4. High-heat quick sear: Overcooked beef will be chewy. To avoid this, make sure your pan is sizzling hot and that it’s large enough (about 12”) to avoid overcrowding. Quickly sear the meat and then saute the vegetables separately.

How to make-ahead, store, and reheat

Stir-fried ​​steak in black pepper sauce is a great weeknight meal option because it’s so fast and easy. It works well for meal prep too! Here’s how to make ahead, store and reheat this dish.

  • Make-ahead: Slice the beef and sprinkle with baking soda. Mix the marinade (oil, starch, soy sauce) in a small bowl. Coat the beef and let it marinate for at least 10 minutes or overnight in the fridge. Store the beef and marinade separately if you’re not cooking the next day.
  • Storage: Store cooked leftovers in the fridge for 3-4 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month. Make a large batch and have frozen meals ready to go!
  • Reheat: Reheat leftovers in the microwave on medium for 2 minutes. Stir after 1 minute.

What to serve it with

Serve this sizzling beef stir fry over rice for a simple and balanced dinner the family will love. Keep an eye out for my air fryer rice recipe, coming soon! For a larger meal, serve alongside some of these other yummy Chinese dishes.

Tips for success

  • Select the right cut of beef: Using quality meat and the best beef for stir fry is essential. Skirt steak, sirloin tip, flank steak, and top sirloin are good options.
  • Slice it against the grain: This technique breaks up the muscle fibers in the beef, making it tender and easier to chew. The grain of the meat looks like parallel lines. Cut perpendicular to these lines to cut against the grain.
  • Velvet the beef: The velveting technique involves tenderizing, marinating, and a quick searing of the meat. Sprinkle the sliced beef with baking soda and add the seasonings and marinate for 15 minutes is all your need to make beef tender for stir-frying.
  • Use Freshly Ground Black Pepper: For the best Asian peppercorn sauce, use freshly ground black pepper from the pepper mill. The sauce will taste the most vivid and flavorful.
  • Get Your Pan Hot: You don’t need a wok in order to make a good stir fry. Use a large saute pan (12-inch wide) and preheat it over medium heat until it feels warm. Once the meat touches the hot pan, you should hear a sizzling sound throughout the entire stir-frying process.
  • Don’t Overcrowd the Pan: If you’re cooking a large quantity, fry the beef in batches. Overcrowding the pan can lead to steaming instead of frying, which means you’ll miss out on that desirable seared texture.
  • Prepare Ingredients in Advance: Prepare the meat, the sauce, and the vegetables before you start. Stir-frying is a quick process, and you won’t have time to chop or measure once you’ve started cooking.


What is Chinese black pepper sauce made of?

Chinese black pepper sauce is usually made of freshly ground black pepper, light or dark soy sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, and a bit of corn starch for thickening. Some versions may also include chicken or beef broth and garlic and ginger for added depth. The sauce is added to a hot pan with a protein of choice and it tastes savory and peppery delicious.

Does black pepper tenderize meat?

No, black pepper does not tenderize meat. While it adds flavor and a spicy kick, it doesn’t have the enzymes or acids that break down meat fibers. Tenderizing in Chinese stir-frying is typically achieved with a small amount of baking soda. Baking soda raises the pH level of meat, making it more alkaline. This reduces the ability of meat proteins to bond tightly, resulting in a softer texture when cooked. Black pepper is primarily used for seasoning.

What is black pepper steak made of?

Black peppered steak is a Chinese take on Western-style steak with peppercorn sauce. The dish focuses on tender beef stir-fried with bell peppers, yellow onions, and lots of freshly ground black pepper. The sauce tastes savory and peppery with soy sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, and beef stock, or a splash of Chinese rice wine.

More Chinese beef stir fry recipes you might like

If you love this hot pepper beef recipe, be sure to give some of my other Chinese stir-fries with beef a try. You can’t beat making restaurant-quality takeout at home!

A side image shows beef stir fried with black pepper sauce marinade and served on a white plate
A recipe image shows black pepper stir fry beef served on a white plate with rice.
5 from 1 vote

Black pepper beef recipe

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Author: ChihYu Smith
Black pepper beef with tender velvet beef stir-fried in a delicious black pepper sauce. Learn to make Chinese peppercorn beef ready in 30 mins!
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For the beef:

For the vegetables:

  • Half one whole red bell pepper, dice to 1-inch cubes
  • Half one whole green bell pepper, dice to 1-inch cubes
  • 3.5 oz yellow onion, diced, half of one medium

For the black pepper sauce:


  • 1.5 tbsp avocado oil, divided
  • to taste Coarse sea salt


  • Thinly slice the beef against the grain to a little thinner than ¼ thin slices. In a bowl, marinade the beef from coconut aminos to starch. Stir-well. Set them aside in the fridge for 10-15 minutes while you prepare the vegetables.
  • Prepare the bell peppers and onion in one bowl. In a separate small bowl, combine the black pepper sauce.
  • In a well-heated large saute pan or wok, add 1 tbsp avocado oil. Pan sear the beef over medium-high heat in one layer without disturbing for about 2 minutes or until the beef is in golden brown color. Use a spatula with a firm tip to flip and cook the other side for about 30 seconds. Off heat, set the beef aside in one bowl along with the pan juices.
  • You should have some oil left in the skillet, if not, add 0.5 more tbsp of oil and reheat the skill until it feels warm. Add the peppers and onion with a pinch of salt over medium-high heat, saute for 1 minute.
  • Return the beef to the pan and add the black pepper sauce. Toss to coat the sauce over for 1 min.
  • Turn off the heat.Taste and season with a touch more ground black pepper and Sichuan peppercorn powder, if using. Serve hot or warm rice, if desired.


Ingredient substitutions:
  • Different cuts of beef: You can also use flank steak or top sirloin steak.
  • Without Sichuan peppercorn powder: If you don’t have Sichuan peppercorn powder, use an additional teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper instead.
  • Peach jam substitute: Use coconut brown sugar as a substitute for this natural sweetener.
  • Coconut aminos substitute: Use light soy sauce instead. Start with half amount of the listed recipe quantity, as soy sauce has more salt than coconut aminos.
  • Toasted sesame oil substitute: You can use olive oil instead.
  • Alternative starch: Arrowroot starch, cornstarch, or potato starch are good substitutes for tapioca.


Serving: 1serving, Calories: 273kcal, Carbohydrates: 11g, Protein: 25g, Fat: 15g, Saturated Fat: 4g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 8g, Trans Fat: 0.4g, Cholesterol: 71mg, Sodium: 504mg, Potassium: 404mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 3g, Vitamin A: 19IU, Vitamin C: 2mg, Calcium: 18mg, Iron: 2mg
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: Black pepper beef, black pepper beef stir fry
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