Cumin Beef Stir-Fry with Roasted Butternut Squash
Super addictive Cumin Beef Stir-Fry with roasted butternut squash is my new favorite way with butternut squash. Extra caramelization from the roasted squash combined with the kick of Xinjiang style cumin beef. Every bite is burst of flavor, plus it’s Paleo and Whole30. I’ll happily have this dish every evening!
Cumin Beef Stir-Fry (A Xinjiang Origin Dish)
Today’s cumin beef stir-fry with roasted butternut squash is inspired by the cumin lamb stir-fry recipe from my cookbook Asian Paleo. Cumin beef (or cumin lamb) is a dish originated in Xinjian province, China. The dish features savory and slightly charred beef stir fry with cumin, chili peppers, Sichuan peppercorns, and loads of fresh herbs.
Cumin beef is not a saucy stir-fry. It uses no stir-fry sauce and the flavor of the dish completely relies on the seasoning of the protein and loads of fresh herbs, and fiery/speedy Chinese stir-fry technique. If you aren’t quite sure what I meant by saucy stir-fry, my Chinese pepper steak and sweet and sour chicken are two great examples. Most of Chinese American dishes we enjoy in the west usually comes with a sauce. In China, a stir-fry dish without the sauce often highlights a crisp texture with an intense flavor. When this dish is done right, it’s super addictive.
I highly recommend that you read the blog post on how to make beef stir-fry first before making this dish. In the post, you’ll learn how to properly preheat your skillet for the perfect stir-fry.
Savory roasted butternut squash
This part is totally my own invention. My grandma probably will think it’s a bit odd since she’s a traditional cook who prefers to follow the traditions. So why adding the roasted butternut squash? Besides that I love savory butternut squash recipes, I found that the sweet flavor from the roasted squash actually works well with the sizzling hot beef stir-fry. It helps to tone down the heat a bit and adds an extra dimension.
The first time when I make this dish I actually sautéed the squash over a stovetop. The flavor was good but I didn’t enjoy the texture. The squash turns soft and a bit mushy by the time they are cooked and it doesn’t pair well with the crisp beef stir-fry so roasting the squash is definitely the way to go!
Tips on making the best Cumin Beef Stir-Fry
1. Thinly slice the beef and season it well
2. Don’t be shy away from using scallions, garlic, and shallots.
3. Read the notes section on how to use Sichuan peppercorns.
4. Prepare all the ingredients first before stir-frying. This dish comes together in minutes!
Notes on Sichuan peppercorns
Sichuan peppercorns aren’t peppers at all. They are the dried husks of the fruit of the Chinese prickly ash tree. The flavor is citrusy and piney. There’s no perfect substitute to reproduce its numbing and tingly effect. Use a combination of whole black peppercorns and coriander seeds to mimic its flavor. The tingling and numbing effect are the characteristics of Sichuan peppercorns, which are often mistaken as spicy. You can read more information here.
If this is your first time using Sichuan peppercorns, I personally prefer to use them in whole to fragrant the oil. Some recipes call for ground Sichuan peppercorns, if you use the ground version, the flavor will be more intense. Please reduce the quantity to ½ tsp – 1 tsp.
This Cumin Beef Stir-Fry with Roasted butternut squash is perfect for the fall and winter months. You can also swap butternut squash for pumpkin. To keep it low carb, skip incorporating the roasted squash. After all, that’s how cumin beef (or cumin lamb) is made!
More Chinese/Thai/Vietnamese Stir-Fries (Paleo, Whole30, and Low Carb)
- Paleo Mongolian Beef
- Paleo Hunan Beef Stir-Fry
- Paleo Thai Basil Beef Stir-Fry
- Thai Basil Chicken Recipe
- Vietnamese Easy Garlic Shrimp Recipe
- Paleo Chicken Stir-Fry
- Paleo Chicken and Broccoli Stir-Fry
What to pair with Cumin Beef?
- Thai Peanut Sauce Cucumber Noodles
- Easy Chinese Smashed Cucumber Salad
- Asian Carrot-Celery Slaw
- Snow Pea Leaves Stir-Fry
- Easy Chinese Broccoli Stir Fry with Garlic Sauce
- Lemon Garlic Paleo Broccoli Recipe
How to make Xinjiang-style Cumin Beef
Cumin Beef Stir-Fry with Roasted Butternut Squash
- 1 lb. butternut squash, dice to ½ -inch cube shape
- ¼ tsp Coarse salt
- ⅛ tsp Ground black pepper
- 2 tbsp Olive oil
Cumin Beef Seasonings:
- 4 bulbs scallions, sliced in diagonal (reserve 1 bulb for garnish)
- 5 cloves garlic , sliced
- 1 large shallot, sliced to thin strips
- 3 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, whole, not grind. See notes
- 2-3 whole Chinese whole dry red chili peppers, optional. See notes
- Avocado or olive oil
- ½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- Preheat oven to 400F.
- Dice butternut squash to cube shape. Season and toss with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Roast them over a large sheet pan lined with parchment for 25 to 30 minutes until the squash is tender, turning once with a metal spatula.
- In the meantime, thinly slice the beef against the grain to ⅛-inch thin. Marinate the beef with ingredients from cumin to olive oil. Mix well and set aside in the fridge while preparing other ingredients. Prepare and gather the aromatics from scallions to chili peppers in one large bowl ready to use. Chop cilantro.
- When the butternut squash is about 5 minutes away from done in the oven. Preheat a large skillet over medium heat, when hot, add 1.5 tbsp oil.
- Spread the beef over the skillet in a single layer and pan sear over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes the first side without disturbing until the beef is crisp and brown. Cook the flip side about 1 minute. Pour the beef and the pan juices aside in one large bowl.
- Start the skillet dry and while it’s still hot, add 1.5 tbsp oil. Saute aromatics in the bowl with 2 pinches of salt until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add butternut squash and beef back to the skillet. Toss and taste to see if more salt is needed. Off heat, add cilantro and scallions. Toss everything together quickly while the skillet is still hot. Transfer to a large serving plate. Serve hot and immediately.
- Sichuan peppercorns aren’t peppers at all. They are the dried husks of the fruit of the Chinese prickly ash tree. The flavor is citrusy and piney. There’s no perfect substitute to reproduce its numbing and tingly effect. Use a combination of whole black peppercorns and coriander seeds to mimic its flavor.
- If this is your first time using Sichuan peppercorns, I personally prefer to use them in whole to fragrant the oil. Some recipes call for grind Sichuan peppercorns, if you use grind version, the flavor will be more intense. Please reduce the quantity to ½ tsp - 1 tsp.
- You can substitute 2-3 Chinese whole dry red chili peppers with 1-2 fresh Fresno or serrano chili peppers. Remove the seeds and slice them into thin strips, lengthwise. For a non-spice version, thin slice half of one whole red bell pepper or skip the ingredient.
- If making this dish in the winter, wrap the seared beef with a foil in the oven (unheated) to keep warm while sautéing other ingredients.
- To keep this dish lower in carb, skip the butternut squash.