My Family’s Pepper Steak Recipe

published Sep 4, 2020
Pepper Steak

This pepper steak recipe, made with fermented black soybeans and colorful bell peppers, is hearty and filling — perfect for cold weather months.

Serves2 to 4

Prep15 minutes

Cook5 minutes to 7 minutes

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Mom's pepper steak served with rice and topped with scallions.
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

This is my Chinese grandmother’s pepper steak recipe, which was handed down to my mother and now to me (and you). It’s a hearty and filling dish — perfect for adding to your rotation of chilis and stews as we enter the cold-weather months. 

The key ingredient here is the fermented black soybeans, which add salty, savory flavor. They can be found at most Asian grocers, and most commonly come vacuumed-sealed. Once you soak them, they’re best mashed using a mortar and pestle — but the back of a spoon will do too. Adjust the recipe based on how much fermented black soybean flavor you enjoy, and how much sauce you like; use fewer beans and more chicken broth, or vice versa.

For the thinnest slices of meat, pop your flank steak in the freezer for about 10 minutes before you’re ready to cut. Depending on how much time you have, you can also allow the meat to “marinate” with the beans, garlic, and cornstarch in the fridge for as little as 15 to 20 minutes or up to a few hours, which will infuse the steak with extra flavor. 

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

Pepper Steak

This pepper steak recipe, made with fermented black soybeans and colorful bell peppers, is hearty and filling — perfect for cold weather months.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 5 minutes to 7 minutes

Serves 2 to 4

Nutritional Info


  • 2 tablespoons

    fermented black soybeans

  • 2

    medium yellow, red, or orange bell peppers

  • 1

    medium scallion

  • 2 tablespoons

    microplaned or very finely chopped garlic

  • 2 tablespoons


  • 2 tablespoons

    vegetable oil

  • 1 pound

    flank steak

  • 3/4 to 1 cup

    chicken broth or stock

  • Cooked white rice, for serving


  1. Place 2 tablespoons fermented black soybeans in a small bowl and cover with water. Let soak 10 minutes. Meanwhile, trim and cut 2 medium bell peppers into 1-inch squares. Thinly slice 1 medium scallion (about 2 tablespoons). Finely chop or grate until you have 2 tablespoons garlic and place in a medium bowl. Add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and 2 tablespoons cornstarch to the bowl.

  2. Drain the soybeans and mash with a mortar and pestle, or place on the cutting board and mash with the back of a spoon. Add to the bowl with garlic and stir to combine. Cut 1 pound flank steak into 2-inch wide pieces. Thinly slice each piece across the grain, add to the garlic mixture, and toss until evenly coated.

  3. Heat a 14-inch flat bottom wok or 12-inch skillet over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Add the steak mixture and spread into a single layer. Cook undisturbed until the meat begins to sear, about 1 minute. Stir-fry until the meat is lightly browned but not cooked through, about 1 minute more.

  4. Reduce the heat to medium high. Add the bell peppers and stir-fry until starting to soften, about 1 minute. Drizzle in 3/4 cup of the chicken stock slowly, and stir-fry until the beef is just cooked through and the sauce is thickened, about 1 minute. Add 1/4 cup more stock for more sauce if desired. Garnish with the scallions and serve over cooked white rice.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The flank steak can be marinated and refrigerated a few hours before cooking.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 4 days.