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Upgrade your weeknight dinners with Kung Pao Beef. Tender beef meets crunchy peanuts and vibrant bell peppers in a sauce that's equal parts sweet, spicy, and savory—all ready in under 30 minutes.
This dish transforms simple ingredients into a restaurant-quality meal you can make at home. Better than takeout, it satisfies not just your hunger but also your craving for something extraordinary, right from your own kitchen.
Kung Pao Beef Ingredients
- Rice: Opt for Jasmine rice for its fragrant aroma or Basmati for a lighter texture.
Marinating the Beef
- Flank Steak: Look for a fresh, vibrant color without excessive marbling.
- Soy Sauce: Opt for naturally-brewed for better flavor.
- Rice Vinegar: Use an unseasoned type to avoid added sugars and salts.
- Cornstarch: Your favorite brand.
- Baking Soda: Standard baking soda will do.
To Make the Sauce
- Soy Sauce: Regular or reduced sodium; choose based on your preference and dietary needs.
- Water: Use filtered water if possible.
- Sichuan Peppercorns: Also called Szechuan Peppercorns, the tingly, spice star that brings that authentic zing.
- Rice Vinegar: Unseasoned for a balanced flavor.
- Hot Chili Paste: Opt for Sambal Oelek for authentic flavor.
- Honey: Choose raw honey for the most complex flavor.
For the Stir-Fry
- Avocado Oil: Choose cold-pressed for higher quality.
- Garlic: Fresh cloves for the best flavor.
- Fresh Ginger: Choose firm, smooth roots.
- Red Bell Pepper: Should be firm and vibrant in color.
- Green Onions: Look for onions with crisp, upright greens.
- Roasted Peanuts: Use unsalted peanuts to avoid an overly salty dish.
- Red Pepper Flakes: For added spice.
The Origins of Kung Pao as a Culinary Style
The Kung Pao style has its roots in the Chinese culinary tradition, specifically from the Sichuan province. The dish originally featured chicken and was named in honor of Ding Baozhen, a Qing Dynasty official. His nickname, "Ding Gongbao," gives the dish its name. "Gongbao" is an abbreviation of an appointment he held, known as "Taizi Shaobao," which translates roughly to "Crown Prince's Tutor," while "Ding" is his family name. Over time, the dish has been adapted to include other proteins like beef, but the essence of the dish—its sweet, spicy, and savory flavors—remains true to its origins.
Personalize Your Dish
- Nuts: Cashews or almonds work as a substitute for peanuts.
- Additional Veggies: Sliced zucchini, mushrooms, green beans or carrots can add a new dimension of flavor and texture.
- Pepper Alternatives: No Sichuan peppercorns? Use red pepper flakes instead.
- Beef Selection: Flank steak is ideal for this dish with its lean, but flavorful profile, but top sirloin or skirt steak make good substitutes.
- Be Ready: This dish cooks quickly. Prep everything in advance.
- Temperature: Don’t skimp on heat; high temperatures help sear the beef quickly.
Mistakes to Avoid
- Heat Levels: Spice cautiously. It's easier to add more heat later than to try to neutralize an overly spicy dish.
- The Right Cookware: The choice of pan matters. Using a wide skillet is crucial for this dish. The extra surface area allows the beef to sear properly, avoiding the pitfall of it simply steaming because the pan is overcrowded.
- Order of Ingredients: Failing to add ingredients in the order recommended can result in a less flavorful or unevenly cooked dish. Stick to the sequence for optimal results.
- Ingredient Preparation: Incomplete mincing of garlic and ginger or uneven slicing of beef can result in inconsistent flavors and textures. Take your time in the prep stage to ensure every bite is as good as the last.
- Essential Ingredients: If you're aiming for an authentic Kung Pao experience, avoid substituting key ingredients like Sichuan peppercorns. Their unique, tingly spice is irreplaceable for capturing the dish's true essence.
Storing & Reheating
Leftover Kung Pao Beef can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days. To reheat, sauté in a skillet over medium heat until warmed through.
More Asian-Inspired Recipes To Try
More Must Try Kung Pao Recipes
How to Make Kung Pao Beef
(Prepare rice as instructed on the package, aiming to have it ready with the beef.) Combine soy sauce, rice vinegar, cornstarch, and baking soda in a bowl. Mix in the beef slices to marinate. Set it aside.
In a separate bowl, blend soy sauce, water, chili paste, honey, rice vinegar, Sichuan peppercorns, and cornstarch. Heat avocado oil in a wide skillet on high until it's near smoking. Quickly sear the beef for about 2 minutes each side, then remove and set aside. In the same skillet, add another tablespoon of oil. Briefly sauté garlic and ginger. Toss in bell pepper and green onions, cooking until slightly soft.
Return the beef to the skillet. Re-stir the sauce mixture and pour it in, scraping any residue. Bring to a brief boil, then simmer until the sauce thickens. Divide among individual bowls, top with peanuts and optional red pepper flakes, and serve with hot rice.
Kung Pao Beef
- 1 cup rice
For the Beef
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- ⅛ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 pound flank steak thinly sliced across the grain
For the Sauce
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce or reduced sodium soy sauce
- ¼ cup water
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon hot chili paste such as sambal oelek
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns (also called Szechuan peppercorns) coarsely ground in a spice grinder or well crushed with a mortar and pestle or a rolling pin
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
For the Stir Fry
- 3 tablespoons avocado oil divided
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
- 1 red bell pepper seeds and membrane removed, diced
- 6 green onions white and green parts, cut diagonally into 2-inch pieces, plus more, sliced for garnish (optional)
- ½ cup roasted unsalted peanuts
- red pepper flakes to taste
- Cook rice according to package directions. (You'll want it to be cooked and hot at the same time that you're ready to serve the beef.)
For the Beef
- In a medium bowl, whisk together soy sauce, rice vinegar, cornstarch and baking soda; add sliced beef and toss well to coat. Set aside.1 pound flank steak, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, ⅛ teaspoon baking soda
For the Sauce
- In another medium bowl, whisk together soy sauce, water, chili paste, honey, rice vinegar, crushed Sichuan peppercorns and cornstarch until well combined. Set aside.3 tablespoons soy sauce, ¼ cup water, 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon hot chili paste, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns, 1 teaspoon cornstarch
For the Stir Fry
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the avocado oil in a large skillet over high heat until nearly smoking. Add beef in a single layer and sear, 1 ½ to 2 minutes per side. Reduce heat to medium and transfer beef to a clean plate.
- To same skillet, add remaining 1 tablespoon of avocado oil. Add garlic and ginger; cook and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add bell pepper and green onions; cook and stir 2-3 minutes until just tender.3 cloves garlic, 2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger, 1 red bell pepper, 6 green onions
- Return beef and any accumulated juices to skillet. Stir soy sauce mixture (cornstarch will have sunk to the bottom) and add to skillet, scraping up any browned bits; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring constantly until sauce is thickened and bubbly, 1-2 minutes. Transfer to serving platter or divide among 4 bowls. Sprinkle with peanuts and red pepper flakes (optional); serve with hot cooked rice.½ cup roasted unsalted peanuts, red pepper flakes