This easy Kung Pao Beef is a simple, homemade version of a classic take-out dish. The juicy flank steak is cooked in a rich and savory sauce with crisp bell peppers and crunchy roasted peanuts for an incredible blend of flavors. Serve this delicious meat and veggie stir fry on its own or with a side of rice or noodles for a total meal.
What Makes This Kung Pao Beef So Good
- It’s full of incredible, intense flavors! There’s a little heat from the dried red Thai chiles, but it’s balanced beautifully by the sweet and savory sauce, the juicy steak, and the mild bell peppers.
- Kung pao beef is super easy to make, and super easy to make your own! One of my favorite things about recreating my favorite restaurant meals at home is that I can control what goes into them and how much of each ingredient I use, so I know it’ll taste just the way I like it. This recipe may not use all the same ingredients as an authentic kung pao beef, but it’s a convincing, easy-to-make, at-home version that’s absolutely delicious.
- You can enjoy this beef dish on its own or with simple sides, like fried rice, white rice, or noodles. If you’re watching your carbs, use palmini pasta or cauliflower fried rice.
- Make this kung pao beef ahead of time for your weekly meal prep! Leftovers will keep for 5 days as long as you refrigerate them in an airtight container. Reheat it in a large skillet over low heat until warmed through.
Key Ingredients for Kung Pao Beef
Flank Steak – We love flank steak recipes around here! The trick to really, really incredible steak in your kung pao beef is cornstarch. Yup! The strips of steak are lightly coated in cornstarch, both to tenderize the meat and to protect it from the heat of the skillet. This step helps the steak stay really tender and juicy, so don’t skip it!
Chinese Black Vinegar – This inky black vinegar is a little sweet and a little smokey. You may be able to find it in your grocery store or international market, or you can order it online. Just be sure to look for unsweetened Chinese black vinegar – it might be labelled Chinkiang vinegar or Zhenjiang vinegar. If you can’t find Chinese black vinegar, you can substitute an equal amount of rice wine vinegar or even plain white vinegar, though the flavors won’t be quite the same.
Dried Red Thai Chiles – If you’re very heat sensitive, cook with the red Thai chiles, but don’t actually eat them. Just remove them from the kung pao beef mixture right before you serve it. That way you get their flavor without the intensity of eating the actual pepper. You can also cut the number of chiles you use from 6 down to 3 or 4.
- Using a very sharp knife, cut your steak against the grain (meaning perpendicular to the muscle fibers running through the meat) to prevent it from being tough and chewy. Cutting the steak while it’s cold may make it easier to cut.
- You can use other veggies in your stir fry if you want! Snap peas, broccoli, onion, or even asparagus would go well in kung pao beef.
- Not a big steak fan? You could also use chicken, for an easy at-home kung pao chicken.
- The actual cooking process goes pretty quickly, so don’t wander away from the stove! I like to make sure I start my sides ahead of time so I’m not waiting on anything once the kung pao beef is ready.
Other Asian-Inspired Recipes You’ll Love
- Miso Salmon
- Beef Negimaki
- Chicken Chop Suey
- Asian Salad Dressing
- Keto Ramen
- Slow Cooker Tom Kha Soup (Thai Coconut Chicken Soup)
- Beef Chow Mein
- Japanese Curry in the Instant Pot
- Hunan Beef
- Beef Lo Mein
Hey – you’ve made it this far, and now we’re best friends! If you make this recipe, I’d love for you to give it a star rating ★ below. Make sure you follow me on Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook, too!
Kung Pao Beef
- Large bowl
- Medium bowl
- Large skillet
- 1 pound flank steak thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- salt and pepper to taste
For the Sauce
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons chili sauce
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar
- 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
For the Stir Fry
- 3 tablespoons neutral cooking oil
- 6 dried red Thai chiles
- ½ teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
- 4 scallions white and green parts divided, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 1-inch piece fresh ginger grated
- 1 bell pepper core and seeds removed, chopped
- ½ cup roasted peanuts
- Place beef in large bowl and add cornstarch, salt, and pepper. Toss or stir to coat beef completely.
- In separate bowl, mix together all sauce ingredients. Set aside.
- In large skillet over medium-high heat, cook beef 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally until brown.
- Transfer beef to plate or bowl and set aside. Add cooking oil to skillet and heat. When hot, add Thai chilis and Sichuan peppercorns. Cook approximately 1 minute.
- Add white parts of scallions, garlic, and ginger to skillet. Cook until fragrant, approximately 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add chopped bell pepper and peanuts to skillet and cook 1 additional minute.
- Return beef to skillet, then pour in sauce mixture. Cook until sauce thickens. Garnish with green parts of scallions and serve.
- Soy Sauce: Use low sodium soy sauce if you’re watching your sodium intake.
- Chinese Black Vinegar: Make sure to use Chinese black vinegar, and don’t use a sweetened version. If you can’t find it, you can use an equal amount of rice wine vinegar or plain white vinegar, but the flavor will be slightly different. Balsamic vinegar would also work in a pinch, as long as it’s not syrupy and sweet.
- Dried Red Thai Chiles: If you’re sensitive to heat, cut the number of chiles from 6 down to 3 or 4. You can also cook with the chiles, then take them out before serving so you don’t actually eat them, which will give you their flavor without as much of their intensity.
- To Serve: Enjoy kung pao beef on its own or with a side of white rice, cauliflower fried rice, or noodles.
- Make it Added-Sugar Free: Use granular Swerve in place of the granulated sugar in the sauce.
If you enjoyed this recipe, be sure to check out 40 Aprons Premium! 40 Aprons Premium offers exclusive recipes, monthly meal plans, grocery lists, and more – all completely ad free!
Jasmine Comer is a food photographer and recipe developer from North Carolina. She grew up in the kitchen watching her mom cook all types of delicious meals. In 2016 she established Lively Meals, a food blog where she creates healthy recipes. This led to creating recipes for other blogs as well. In her free time she enjoys exploring new places and spending time in nature. Ultimately she’s grateful to be doing work she loves—cooking good food and sharing it with people.