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Crispy Chilli Beef

Crispy Chilli Beef is one of my favorite Chinese restaurant dishes—strips of tender beef are fried until crispy and then tossed in a sticky, sweet, spicy sauce. It’s easy to make at home, and no deep fryer is needed!

Low angle shot of a plate of crispy chilli beef garnished with green onions and sliced hot red chiles.

To make Crispy Chili Beef, you simply toss marinated strips of tender steak in a light coating of potato starch and then shallow fry them on the stovetop. Finally, toss the crispy, crunchy strips beef in a clingy that balances sweet, savory, and spicy flavors.

Why you’ll love this recipe

I know I say this too often, but this is truly one of my favorite recipes. I think it will make your favorites list, too, as soon as you try it.

  • Addictive crunch—The beef strips are simply coated in potato starch before frying, which gives them a light, crackly, crispy coating. The strips are like potato chips—you can’t eat just one (or even just 10!)
  • Super flavorful—The beef is first marinated in a ginger and soy sauce marinade that gives it deep flavor. After frying, the strips are tossed in a sauce of honey, soy sauce, chilli or chile paste, and other flavorful ingredients.
  • Easy to make—This recipe is surprisingly simple. With my tips, you’ll find it’s much easier to make than you might expect.
  • Better than takeout—Don’t you hate it when you ordered foods from takeout that are supposed to be crispy but by the time they make it home, they’re just… not? Making this Crispy Chilli Beef at home means you can eat it straight away while it’s still at it’s crispy, crunchy best!
Overhead shot of the ingredients needed to make crispy chilli beef.

Ingredients you need

For the complete list of ingredients with quantities and detailed prep and cooking instructions, please see the recipe card that appears at the end of this post.

The ingredient list may seem on the long side, but they’re mostly pantry items. Here’s what you need:

  • Steak—I like to use flank steak but you can use any tender, boneless cut like skirt steak or sirloin.
  • Onion, garlic, and ginger—These are ground to a paste and used to marinate the beef, giving it flavor and tenderizing it at the same time.
  • Potato starch—I use potato starch to coat the beef before frying. You can substitute cornstarch, but the coating won’t get as crunchy. Potato starch is used frequently in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cuisine. You can find it easily in Asian markets if your supermarket doesn’t carry it.
  • Oil—You can use any neutral-flavored, high smoke point oil for frying. Peanut oil, safflower oil, sunflower seed oil, avocado oil, vegetable oil, corn oil, or canola oil are all good options.
  • Honey—This gives the sauce that sticky sweetness that clings to the crispy beef strips so enticingly.
  • Soy sauce—I use lower-sodium soy sauce. If you use regular soy sauce, reduce the amount by about 1/3 and make up the difference with water or broth.
  • Hoisin sauce—This gives added umami to the sauce. If you don’t have it, it’s fine to leave it out.
  • Shaoxing wine—Buy this Chinese rice wine in Asian markets. If you don’t have it, you can substitute mirin, dry white wine, or sake.
  • Sesame oil—Just a touch adds nice nutty undertones to the sauce.
  • Rice vinegar—The tartness of this mild vinegar balances the sweet and salty flavors in the sauce. If you don’t have rice vinegar, substitute white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar.
  • Chile paste—Also called Sambal Oelek, this adds spice to the sauce. If you don’t have it, you can substitute 2 to 4 hot red chillis, minced (take out the seeds for a milder effect).
  • Cornstarch—You’ll make a quick cornstarch-and-water slurry to thicken the sauce.
  • Fresh red chile peppers—These are optional but can be used to substitute for the chile paste in the sauce and/or for garnish. 
  • Green onions or spring onion—Slice them thinly and use as an optional garnish.
  • Sesame seeds—Toasted sesame seeds also make a nice optional garnish.

How to make Crispy Chilli Beef

For the complete list of ingredients with quantities and detailed prep and cooking instructions, please see the recipe card that appears at the end of this post.

This dish may seem a little intimidating, but it’s really quite simple.  Here’s how to make it:

  1. In a mixing bowl, combine the marinade ingredients into a paste in a food processor.
  2. Toss the marinade with the meat and let marinate for at least 20 minutes or as long as overnight.
  3. Fill a large, wide skillet, Dutch oven, or a wok with at least 2 inches of oil and heat over medium-high heat.
  4. Sprinkle the potato starch into the beef, tossing with your hands to coat each piece of meat well.
  5. Once the oil begins to shimmer, fry the coated beef strips in batches until it is golden brown and crisp.
  6. Combine all the sauce ingredients (minus the cornstarch) and then bring it to a boil. Add the cornstarch slurry to thicken the sauce.
  7. Toss the fried beef strips with the sauce to coat.
  8. Serve immediately garnished with scallions, chiles, and sesame seeds as desired.
Low angle shot of a plate of chilli crispy beef.

Tips for success

  • Use a tender beef cut like flank steak or top sirloin. The meat doesn’t cook for long, just a quick deep fry, so you want meat that will be tender with minimal cooking time.
  • To make it easy to slice the meat into nice thin strips, make sure it is very cold before slicing. You can even put it in the freezer for 20 minutes or so before you slice.
  • For deep frying, I like to use a Dutch oven because the high sides contain the oil splatters and keep my stovetop and counters cleaner, but you can use a heavy-bottomed large skillet or wok if you prefer.
  • You can use any neutral-flavored oil with a high smoke point for the frying. Safflower, avocado, peanut, sunflower seed, vegetable oil, canola oil, and corn oil are all good choices.
  • If you don’t have potato starch, you can substitute cornstarch, but know that the meat won’t be quite as crisp.
  • For the spicy element, I love to use fresh hot red chiles, but you can substitute chile paste, cayenne pepper, or green chiles if that’s what you have on hand.

What to serve with it

Crispy Chilli Beef is perfect with just a bowl of steamed rice or Instant Pot Coconut Rice and maybe some green beans or broccoli on the side—and of course, an ice cold beer never hurts!

If you’re feeling adventurous and want to put out a spread, try serving it along with Dry Fried Green Beans with Bacon, Har Gow, Pork and Shrimp Wontons, Wonton Soup, or Singapore Noodles.

low angle shot of a plate of crispy chilli beef.

More Chinese recipes you’ll love

If you love cooking and eating Chinese food, try my Mongolian Chicken, Sesame Chicken, Sesame Noodles, Vegetarian Dan Dan Noodles, Salt & Pepper Chicken Wings, Char Siu, Fried Rice, and Char Siu Bao.

Yield: Serves 4

Crispy Chilli Beef

Close up shot of a plate of crispy chilli beef.

This crispy chilli beef recipe is surprisingly easy to make and you won't believe the results. Just marinate strips of beef, toss them in potato starch, fry them in oil and then toss them with a sticky, sweet, spicy sauce mix. Add a bowl of rice and some steamed broccoli and you're good to go!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Additional Time 20 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes

Ingredients

For the beef

  • 1 ½ pounds steak (I used flank steak, but you could use top sirloin, skirt), sliced against the grain into thin strips
  • ½ onion
  • 2 garlic cloves 
  • 2-inch piece peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon lower-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 cup potato starch, divided
  • Neutral oil, for frying

For the sauce

  • 6 tablespoons honey
  • ¼ cup lower-sodium soy sauce
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine (or use dry white wine or sake)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch mixed with 1 tablespoon cold  water
  • 1 to 2 fresh hot red chile peppers, thinly sliced (remove seeds for less heat)

For garnish

  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Instructions

  1. To make the marinade, in a food processor, combine the onion, garlic, ginger, and soy sauce and process to a paste.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the beef and marinade and toss to coat the meat well. Let marinate at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes or cover and refrigerate for longer marinating time (you can marinate as long as overnight).
  3. Fill a large, wide skillet, Dutch oven, or a wok with at least 2 inches of oil and heat over medium-high heat.
  4. Sprinkle the potato starch into the beef, tossing with your hands to coat each piece of meat well.
  5. Once the oil begins to shimmer, deep fry the beef strips. Add the meat in batches so as to not crowd the pan. Cook the meat, turning once or twice, until nice and golden brown on all sides. This should take about 4 minutes or so per batch.
  6. Transfer the meat to a plate lined with paper towels to drain while you fry the remaining batches.
  7. Once all of the meat is cooked, make the sauce. In a medium bowl, combine the
  8. Honey, ¼ cup soy sauce, water, hoisin sauce, Shaoxing wine, sesame oil, and vinegar.
  9. Drain the oil from the pot or skillet you cooked the meat in or use a new pan. Heat the pan over medium-high heat and add the sauce mixture. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture comes to a boil.
  10. Meanwhile, mix the cornstarch and water.
  11. Once the sauce boils, stir in the cornstarch slurry and cook, stirring, just until the mixture thickens. This will happen quickly—about 30 seconds or so. Remove from the heat and then immediately add the beef. Toss to coat the beef completely in the sauce.
  12. Serve immediately, garnished with chile peppers, scallions, and/or sesame seeds as desired.

Notes

1. For deep frying, I like to use a Dutch oven because the high sides contain the oil splatters and keep my stovetop and counters cleaner, but you can use a heavy-bottomed skillet or wok if you prefer.

2. You can use any neutral flavored oil with a high smoke point for the frying. Safflower, avocado, peanut, canola, sunflower seed, or corn oil are all good choices.

3. If you don’t have potato starch, you can substitute cornstarch, but know that the meat won’t be quite as crisp.

4. If you don’t have fresh red chile peppers, you can substitute 1 tablespoon of chile paste (sambal oelek) or 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper mixed with the other sauce ingredients.

Nutrition Information

Yield

4

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 862Total Fat 39gSaturated Fat 13gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 21gCholesterol 165mgSodium 1282mgCarbohydrates 77gFiber 5gSugar 31gProtein 51g

Nutrient values are estimates only. Variations may occur due to product availability and manner of food preparation. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin, freshness of ingredients, and other factors.

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pinterest pin for crispy chilli beef
By on April 24th, 2022

ABOUT ROBIN DONOVAN

Hi, I’m Robin! I am a full-time food blogger, recipe developer, and cookbook author. I spend my days cooking, writing about, and photographing food.

I’m the author of more than 50 cookbooks, including Ramen for Beginners5 Ingredient Cooking for TwoSushi at HomeThe Baking Cookbook for Teens, and the bestselling Campfire Cuisine.

My food writing has also been featured in major print and online pubications including Cooking Light, Fitness, San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle, and others. → More about Robin

5 thoughts on “Crispy Chilli Beef”

  1. This is my FAVORITE takeaway dish, but I have always been too scared to try it at home, until now!

    I had never even heard of potato starch, but it made such a difference!! THANK YOU

    Reply

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