Pepper Steak with Onion and Tomatoes is a stir fry recipe for marinated beef and crisp vegetables in tangy ginger-garlic sauce. You can make in 20 minutes!
Stir fry dinners are an easy way to put a delicious and healthy meal on the table. Even better, it takes less than 30 minutes to whip up dinner in a wok!
Plus, making a stir fry is easy and economical, especially when you can use the odds and ends of vegetables already in your fridge. All you really need to make a quick Chinese stir fry are a few basic pantry staples for a sauce, plus your favorite protein and some veggies.
Speaking of protein, many people say that beef stir fry meat is tough. Honestly, it can be, but the key is using the right cut of meat and preparing it properly. I’ll cover those things for you in a minute.
Pepper Steak with Onion + Tomatoes
If you travel to China, the chances of finding beef and bell pepper stir fry on a restaurant menu are slim to none. This is because the pepper steak recipe really isn’t Chinese at all!
It’s what some people call American-Asian, or Americanized Asian. Other foods like this are chop suey, General Tso’s chicken, and crab rangoon. They are Asian-style foods recreated by Westerners.
Steak and peppers, beef and pepper stir fry, pepper beef
Difficulty: Easy 🥄
Beef or steak, tenderized quickly in a simple steak marinade, then stir fried with bell peppers and covered in savory ginger-garlic sauce.
Traditional versions of this dish are made just with beef or steak, and of course, green bell peppers.
To incorporate more vegetables into the dish (and because my garden was exploding), my recipe is for pepper steak with onion and tomatoes.
Ingredient notes and substitutions
What’s the best cut of beef for a stir fry?
Because the meat is cooked quickly and over high heat, it’s important to use a lean cut of beef. Good choices are flank steak and top sirloin.
Unfortunately, many packages of “stir fry meat” in U.S. grocery stores include beef with connective tissue. These cuts require braising to break down the collagen, so they aren’t a good choice for stir fry recipes.
- Dark soy sauce- This ingredient is much different than traditional light, all-purpose soy sauce. It's very thick, almost black in color, and is fermented/aged rather than being chemically processed like all-purpose soy sauce.
If you can't find dark soy sauce, hoisin sauce or oyster sauce could be used instead. For more info, Epicurious has a nice article about the different types of soy sauce and how they're made.
- Bell peppers- It may be obvious, but a pepper steak recipe without bell peppers is just a steak stir fry. I like to use green peppers but for a sweeter flavor, feel free to use red, yellow, and/or orange peppers.
Frozen bell peppers are great for adding to soups and casseroles, but they do not work well in a stir fry. They don’t have a crispy crunchy consistency like fresh peppers do. Besides, they become mushy when you try to stir fry them.
- Onion and tomato- As mentioned earlier, I prefer pepper steak with onion, and fresh tomatoes add a nice pop of color, plus another layer of flavor to the beef and peppers.
White onion is the variety I use. It isn’t as sweet as yellow or red onion are, which is why I prefer it. However, either of those are fine to use if you’d like.
If you don’t care for onions or tomatoes, feel free to leave one or both of them out.
Beef Stir Fry FAQ
If you’re using a cut of steak or beef with too much connective tissue, the quick cooking method for stir frying won’t be long enough to tenderize the meat, leaving it very chewy.
Other reasons for a chewy steak stir fry include over cooking the meat, and/or not using a high enough heat.
There are several different names for pepper steak stir fry, including pepper beef. However, there is another Asian stir fry called black pepper beef, which is completely different from the steak and bell pepper stir fry.
Serving suggestions for pepper steak with onion and tomatoes
I think that beef and bell pepper stir fry goes really well with rice, but some people like to serve it over Asian rice noodles or lo mein.
Because there are already vegetables in the stir fry, you really don’t have to serve a veggie on the side. That being said, a crisp, cool sunomono salad (without the shrimp) or Chinese cucumber salad would compliment the meal.
For an appetizer, something like a light broth soup, vegetable egg rolls or spring rolls would be a great addition.
Pepper Steak with Onion and Tomatoes
- 1 ½ lbs boneless top sirloin steak or flank steak
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 tsp cornstarch
- 1 tsp dark soy sauce See NOTE 1
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp white pepper
- 3 bell peppers
- 2 roma tomatoes or plum tomatoes
- 1 medium white onion
- ⅔ cup beef broth
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 2 tbsp dark soy sauce See NOTE 1
- 2 tsp sugar
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tsp ginger paste
- Cut steak(s) with the grain into 2-inch strips, then cut across the grain into ¼-inch pieces.
- Add beef to a bowl with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, cornstarch, soy sauce, salt and white pepper. Stir to coat, cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
- While steak is marinating, trim tops off bell peppers and remove seeds. Cut peppers into 1-inch pieces. Peel and cut onion into 1-inch pieces. Cut each tomato into 8 pieces. Place all veggies in large bowl or on plate and set aside.
- In small bowl, whisk together beef broth, cornstarch, soy sauce and sugar. Set aside.
- Heat a wok over high heat. Once hot, add 2 tablespoons oil, the onion, garlic and ginger. Stir fry one minute, then add the beef. Continue stir frying for 3 minutes, tossing occasionally until beef is no longer pink. Remove from wok and set aside.
- Add more oil to wok if needed, then stir fry tomatoes for 1 minute. Pour broth and cornstarch mixture, toss to coat tomatoes, and cook until sauce thickens. Add bell peppers and beef (with accumulated juices) to wok and stir fry 1 minute more.
- Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and cilantro sprigs (optional). Serve as is, over noodles or with steamed rice.
- Dark soy sauce is much different than traditional light, all-purpose soy sauce. It's very thick, with a rich umami flavor and is fermented/aged rather than being chemically processed like all purpose soy sauce. The color is very dark, almost black. If you can't find dark soy sauce, hoisin sauce or oyster sauce could be used instead.
*The information shown below is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.