Hunan Beef


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This fast and flavorful Hunan beef recipe needs just 15 minutes and simple ingredients to create a fast weeknight meal that rivals your favorite takeout! Serve with an Asian cabbage salad, and dinner is ready in a flash.

What Is Hunan Beef?

Hunan beef is a smoky, spicy stir fry dish that pairs wok-fried slices of beef with a spicy chili garlic sauce. Although it originated in the Hunan province of China, it’s easy to make right in your own kitchen.

Having never been to China, I’ll admit I’ve never had the real thing. But I did try Hunan style beef at several family-owned restaurants, some of them claiming to be authentic. My recipe is based on those, along with hours of research about the ingredients and spices that are prevalent in the region.

Why You’ll Love This Hunan Beef Recipe

  • Spicy, beefy flavor
  • Tender meat with rich sauce
  • Done in 15 minutes
  • No oyster sauce, honey, or other ingredients with added sugar or cornstarch
  • Gluten-free and low carb
  • Easy to pair with noodles, rice, or a variety of vegetables
Beef hunan style in a wok with wooden spoon.

Ingredients & Substitutions

This section explains how to choose the best ingredients for beef Hunan style, what each one does in the recipe, and substitution options. For measurements, see the recipe card below.

  • Coconut Aminos – This is a soy-free alternative to soy sauce — feel free to use conventional low-sodium soy sauce instead.
  • Shaoxing Cooking Wine – The most authentic choice for Hunan beef sauce, but you can also substitute sherry cooking wine if you want a grain-free option or can’t find Shaoxing. Although I highly recommend using wine for the right flavor, you can use beef broth instead if you prefer to avoid using wine in your cooking.
  • Arrowroot Powder – This is my favorite clean-ingredient cornstarch substitute for thickening the sauce. You can also substitute the same amount of cornstarch, or xanthan gum in a smaller amount (see recipe card below).
  • Flank Steak – This dish traditionally uses flank steak. Sirloin steak or skirt steak would be good substitutes.
  • Avocado Oil – Or use any neutral, high-heat cooking oil you like.
  • Dried Thai Chile Peppers – These add a distinctive flavor to the recipe, but if you can’t find them, try fresh chilies (like serrano peppers or fresnos), chili paste, or any dried chili you prefer (keeping in mind that some may be hotter than others!). Thai chilies are very spicy, so you may want to reduce the amount if you don’t want a lot of heat.
  • Garlic – Since it makes up one of the primary flavors in this dish, I recommend fresh garlic.
  • Spices – Ground ginger, sea salt, and black pepper.
Hunan beef ingredients in bowls.

How To Make Hunan Beef

This section shows how to make Hunan style beef, with step-by-step photos and details about the technique. For full instructions, see the recipe card below.

  1. Slice. Cut steak as thinly as you can, against the grain.
TIP: Quickly freeze beef for easier slicing.

TIP: Quickly freeze beef for easier slicing.

Place beef in the freezer for 10-15 minutes to allow it to firm up slightly. It will be easier to cut into thin slices.

  1. Marinate. In a medium bowl, whisk together coconut aminos, cooking wine, and arrowroot powder. Add beef, toss to coat, and set aside to marinate for 30 minutes.
Beef sliced against the grain.
Beef marinating in a bowl.
  1. Cook beef. Heat oil in a hot wok on high heat. Add beef with marinade and stir fry for about 1 minute. (It will not be cooked through yet.)
TIP: Make sure your wok is very hot before adding the beef.

TIP: Make sure your wok is very hot before adding the beef.

If the wok is not hot enough, the beef will take longer to cook and become tough.

  1. Season. Add peppers, garlic, ginger, and pepper. Cook for 1-2 minutes, until beef has finished cooking and sauce has thickened. Season with salt to taste.
Beef cooking with marinade in a pan.
Beef with additional garlic and pepper added.
  1. Serve. I like to garnish Hunan beef with fresh chives (green onions also work), and sometimes a sprinkle of sesame seeds. Find more serving ideas below.
Finished hunan beef recipe in a wok.

Hunan Beef vs. Szechuan Beef: What’s The Difference?

The main difference between Hunan beef and Szechuan beef (sometimes called Sichuan beef) is the spices, because the two originated from different regions of China. Both use garlic and chili peppers generously as the primary flavors, but Hunan cuisine (also known as Xiang cuisine) is more spicy and less sweet. It’s also a more purely spicy taste with less complexity.

Storage Instructions

  • Store: Keep leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 4-5 days.
  • Reheat: Warm up Hunan beef in a hot skillet, on low power in the microwave, or in a warm oven, until heated through.
  • Freeze: Cool completely and store in an airtight container (with as much air removed as possible). Freeze for up to 6 months, then thaw overnight before reheating.
Hunan beef over a bed of cauliflower rice with broccoli.

What To Serve With Hunan Beef Stir Fry

Hunan beef ingredients pair perfectly with Asian style side dishes, rice, and more!

More Easy Asian Inspired Recipes

I have lots of healthy Asian recipes (and a guide on keto Chinese food if you’re looking to cut carbs while dining out)! Plus, try these easy Asian-inspired dishes.

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Ingredients

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Instructions

Tap on the times in the instructions below to start a kitchen timer while you cook.

  1. Slice the flank steak very thinly against the grain. (If you have time, it can help to place it in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes, which makes it more firm and easier to slice thinly. Don’t let it freeze solid.)

  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the coconut aminos, cooking wine, and arrowroot powder. Add the sliced beef and toss to coat. Set aside to marinate for 30 minutes.

  3. Heat avocado oil in a large wok over high heat. Add the beef and stir fry for about 1 minute.

  4. Add the crushed Thai chile peppers, minced garlic, ground ginger, and black pepper. Stir fry for about another 1-2 minutes, until the beef is cooked through and the sauce is thick and glossy. If needed, add sea salt to taste.

Recipe Notes

Serving size: 1/4 lb

Note: This recipe is spicy! If you prefer less spice, you may want to reduce the amount of dried Thai chile peppers from two to one.

Nutrition Facts

Amount per serving. Serving size in recipe notes above.

Calories 317

Fat 21g

Protein 24g

Total Carbs 6g

Net Carbs 4g

Fiber 2g

Sugar 1g

Nutrition facts are provided as a courtesy. Have questions about calculations or why you got a different result? Please see our nutrition policy.

© Copyright Maya Krampf for Wholesome Yum. Please DO NOT SCREENSHOT OR COPY/PASTE recipes to social media or websites. We’d LOVE for you to share a link with photo instead. 🙂

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