How To Stir Fry Pepper Steak


Pepper steak is one of the easiest stir fry dishes you can make. It doesn’t require any ingredients you can’t find in just about any grocery store — except for one, maybe, if you’re really in the middle of nowhere. And it’s fairly non-exotic, compared to some of the things you see on Anthony Bourdain‘s show, so even the most timid eater (or your kids) shouldn’t be afraid to try it.

Wait, that’s a pretty back-handed compliment … “it’s ordinary and safe.” Okay, put it this way: Pepper steak is the meatloaf of stir fry cooking. It’s never going to impress a critic, but everyone else knows it’s just plain good.


1 pound flank steak
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine or dry sherry
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch (see below)
1 bell pepper
one medium onion
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
3 slices fresh ginger (see below)
oil for frying


Prepping the Meat

The butcher was out of flank steak when I went. I told them what I was making and asked what would be a good substitute and they pointed me to the steak “for swissing”. Meaning it was prepped for making swiss steak. It happened to also be the cheapest cut of steak in the store. This is why I go to a butcher instead of the grocery store for my meat.

Slice a quarter-inch thick across the grain. If you cut in the same direction as the grain, you’ll leave long fibers it will be tough and stringy.

Slice the pieces in half, if they’re longer than bite-sized.

Once it’s all sliced, transfer to a bowl with a tight lid.

Push the meat to one side, and in the other side add the sugar and cornstarch …

… and the soy sauce and rice wine.

You can substitute dry sherry for the rice wine or, like I did here, rice wine vinegar. Note that I only used two teaspoons of cornstarch, and the sauce didn’t thicken up enough. The tablespoon I listed in the ingredients above still might not be enough.

Stir the wet and dry ingredients together, then mix the meat in until it’s all covered. There should be just enough liquid to cover the meat.

Prepping the Veg

Cut the stem end off the onion and cut in half through the root.

Peel the papery outer layer or layers off. Cut off the stem.

Cut the half in half again.

Starting from the center, make a couple of slices. Once the piece you are holding is taller than it is wide, flip it down and keep slicing.

Remember to keep your fingertips tucked back away from the edge of the knife, and guide it with your knuckles.

Scoop the finished onion into a bowl.

Dice the peppers into large chunks. See my previous post for the fastest way to prep peppers.

Add the pepper to the bowl with the onion.

Peel the garlic … hmm, I didn’t take any pictures of that. Okay, so take a look at the post on making and canning spaghetti sauce to see how to peel them. Then look at the one on how to mince garlic, and do that.

Once the garlic is minced, scoop it into the bowl with the onion and pepper.

Finally, slice three pieces of fresh ginger root. If yours has gotten dark and dried out on the end, like mine, slice off about a quarter-inch first. The root should be bright, almost white.

NOTE: The preparation as shown here will lend a very slight flavor to the sauce. The next time I make this I’ll grate about a half-inch chunk of the root into the marinade with the meat. If you know you like ginger, I recommend you do the same. If this is your first try at stir-fry, you might want to do it as I’m showing here.


Add a few tablespoons of oil to a wok over high heat. (I’ve got this non-stick almost-wok that I have to use because it has a flat bottom and I have an electric stove. True woks have a round bottom and only work well over a flame.) Add the ginger to the oil.

I used olive pomace oil. You can use peanut oil or rendered bacon fat, any high-temperature oil, but definitely not extra virgin olive oil. It will burn.

Cook the ginger for just a minute or so, until the flavor infuses the oil, then add the vegetables.

Cook for two or three minutes, stirring constantly, until the onion is translucent and the pepper has softened. Scoop the finished vegetables back into the bowl you sliced them into, and return the ginger to the oil. Add a little more oil if there’s not enough to coat the bottom of the wok.

Add the meat to the wok.

Toss/stir the meat until it is cooked through — the thin slices should only take a minute or so — then remove the ginger and discard it.

Return the vegetables to the wok and toss to combine. Stir for a minute until the vegetables are warmed through again. If you’ve been working fast — and that’s the only way to do stir-fry — the veggies should have still been warm.

Turn the finished meat and vegetables out into a serving dish while you re-use the wok to fry the rice.

I’m not showing that because mine didn’t come out well at all. I need to try again until I figure out what I did wrong, then I’ll show that. Let’s just pretend that in here …

… I showed how to do fried rice. Serve a little of the pepper steak on top of about a cup of the fried rice.

And that’s it.

Alternatively, serve it on top of spaghetti and call it “lo mein”. Remember, the Chinese invented noodles.

Stir Fry Pepper Steak

Stir Fry Pepper Steak


  • 1 pound flank steak
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 bell pepper
  • one medium onion
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½-inch garlic root
  • oil for frying


Slice beef a quarter-inch thick across the grain, then into bite-sized lengths. In a bowl with a tight lid, combine sugar, cornstarch, soy sauce and rice wine / sherry. Add the meat, close the lid, and shake to coat meat with marindade. Set aside.

Slice onion into shreds, root to tip, not rings. Dice pepper into large pieces. Mince garlic. Grate garlic root.

Heat oil and ginger in wok over high heat. Add vegetables, and cook for two or three minutes, stirring constantly, until the onion is translucent and the pepper has softened. Push vegetables up onto sides of wok, or remove to bowl.

Add steak and marinade to wok, add more oil if needed, and cook meat for 1-2 minutes after marinade comes to a boil. Stir vegetables back in.

Serve over fried rice.


  1. Yum. This is one of my favorite childhood dinners! Only Mom used to put cherry tomatos in it to. Delicious!

  2. I really wish I had a butcher. This place sucks.

  3. I love that stuff, I’m going to try this. I am also jealous that you can go to a butcher. We’ve already established that my local grocery store sucks, but the real kick in the teeth is I have a local butcher. And it is as sketchy a place as you would never want to buy meat from. We think its a front for… something. We don’t know what, but it can’t be making it’s money off its meat.

  4. I assume you meant “ginger root” in the pictorial, not garlic root? :) I usually skip over the ingredients list, so I was confused for a second. Now I just gotta see how the fried rice is done! I love me so fried rice from the local chinese place, I would love to know how to do my own.

  5. Lalycairn, I can’t remember ever seeing tomatoes in stir-fry. I assume you’d have to throw them in at the last second or they’d just break down into sauce.

    Sweet Bird, not even a butcher? Wow, that does suck. And here I was complaining that I can’t find grass-fed local meat.

    Bob, you’ve got to post some pics of your butcher. That sounds awesome.

    Erin, oops! Thanks for catching that. Yes, I’ve updated it to say “ginger” like it’s supposed to. (I wonder why the spell-checker didn’t catch that.) As for the fried rice, that makes two of who want to know the trick. Don’t worry, as soon as I get it right I’ll be back to show it off.

  6. Really great stuff. Love the photos. Big help!

  7. I LOVE LOVE LOVE pepper steak.. it’s one of my comfort foods. I sometimes don’t have green peppers on hand so I just have beef and onions with TONS of cracked black pepper. That usually does the trick for me..

    I’m curious to see what you did to the fried rice. From the picture, it seems that you cracked the egg into the rice while it was in the pan? I usually do it that way, and that is how it usually turns out. Other people though would cook the eggs separately first, slice it up, then add it to the fried rice.. I think it just depends on how you want it.

  8. jacq~*, yes I did the egg right in the pan with the rice. That’s how they do it at all the Chinese take-out places I’ve ever been to. (I’m a big fan of watching how people make the stuff I like.) I can’t imagine frying it first and cutting it up. That’s just dirtying an extra pan for no good reason.

  9. Fried Rice… ooooo scary! But once you try it, you discover it’s really easy! Recipes call for frying the egg like a pancake and cutting it up to add at the end… but I make it first, in the same pan I’m going to use for the stir frying, and I make it scrambled and not completely cooked. Then set it aside until the end.
    I think this might be my next stir fry… looks yummy!

  10. Okay, I think I’ve found what I did wrong. It seems you can’t use freshly-cooked rice. It should be day old at least, and cold when you start frying it. I had all the right ingredients, but started with just-made rice. I better cook some tonight so I can try again this weekend.

  11. elspeth says:


    Yes, the rice must be cold, and it seems the longer number of days old, the better.

    What I do is yummy enough for my 7-year-old daughter to ask for more! And, she likes to do the egg separate, so I fry the egg on the side while the rice is going, scrambled or sliced depending on how busy I am with the wok ;-).

    Eggs (2 to 4, as you like)
    Cooking spray
    Choice of meat, sliced bite-size and uniform
    Frozen peas, if you like more, use more
    Frozen carrots, if you like less, use less
    at least 2 cups of rice, more is better
    Soy sauce
    Classic stir-fry sauce
    Hot mustard
    Corn Oil
    (I've heard Coca-cola has to be used, but I haven't been that brave — maybe in place of the classic stir-fry sauce?)

    Melt butter in bottom of wok (high heat, work fast), and oil to form a good size pool in the bottom, enough to coat the meat and frozen vegetables.

    If the meat is leftover and already cooked, I put the frozen vegetables in first, and then add the meat to heat it through. If raw, cook the meat and then add the frozen vegetables.

    When the meat and vegetables are done to your liking, add the rice, and sauces as you like. I generally put in more classic stir-fry sauce than soy sauce, and only add the hot mustard a little at a time. You want to know the mustard is there, but you don't want its flavor overbearing on the whole meal.

    Stir in the eggs, and it is ready to serve.

  12. elspeth, I need to add the hot mustard after it's cooked. The girls would never go for that.

  13. elspeth says:


    You got to get a little hot mustard in there or you'll miss the dish. And just a little, they won't notice! Really!

    It's just not the same, and I think it's because it enhances the other flavors.

    What I like best about making fried rice is how versatile it is. Always, basically the same, but not quite the same way twice!

    I should have left the meat out since the recipe post was for Pepper Steak. Guess I got carried away!

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