Craving a satisfying and healthy meal? Try my Whole30 and gluten-free version of a Chinese takeout classic, pepper steak stir-fry! Loaded with tender beef and peppers, this easy recipe uses my All-Purpose Stir-Fry sauce to make an umami-packed brown sauce!

An overhead shot of 3/4 of a skillet filled with paleo and gluten free pepper steak.

What is Chinese pepper steak?

A mainstay of Chinese-American restaurant menus, pepper steak is a delicious stir-fry dish featuring strips of beef steak sautéed with bell peppers, onions, and a variety of flavorful seasonings. It’s tossed with a savory brown sauce typically made with soy sauce, oyster sauce, shaoxing wine (or dry sherry), garlic, ginger, and thickened with corn starch for a rich, glossy finish. Often served alongside white rice or noodles, pepper steak is comfort food for many of us who grew up feasting at our local Chinese joints.

An overhead shot of a hand holding the handle of a skillet filled with paleo and gluten free pepper steak.

My Whole30, paleo, and gluten-free version!

You know I love me some Chinese-American classics—but as someone who has to eat gluten-free, it’s been super-difficult to find a restaurant-style pepper steak that I can enjoy. So that’s why I created this quick and easy pepper steak recipe! My foolproof homemade version uses zero ingredients with soy or wheat; in fact, my copycat brown sauce simply consists of a 1:1 mixture of my famous All-Purpose Stir-Fry Sauce and broth, and is flavor-boosted with ground white pepper, toasted sesame oil, minced ginger and garlic.

This dish is incredibly versatile, too: once you learn how to make this recipe, you can use it as a blueprint for your own beef stir-fries, subbing different veggies in place of the peppers (e.g., asparagus, snap peas, carrots, mushrooms, etc.).

An Asian woman is cooking paleo and gluten free pepper steak in a skillet in a kitchen.

Tips for the best Chinese pepper steak

  • Prep your ingredients ahead of time! Stir-fries cook quickly so be sure to have all of your ingredients chopped and measured out right next to your skillet or wok.
  • Prep the beef correctly! If you want tender beef that isn’t overly chewy, make sure you cut it thinly across the grain—and marinate your beef with the baking soda for at least 30 minutes.
  • Always have some of my All-Purpose Stir-Fry Sauce and Umami Stir-Fry Powder on hand! Both of these flavor boosters make this dish taste ultra-amazing, and this dynamic duo on hand can save meal time EVERY NIGHT. The sauce only takes a few minutes to shake up and you can grab my Umami Stir-Fry Powder on Amazon, iHerb (worldwide shipping), or from The Spice Lab. Or, if you prefer making the seasoning salt yourself, the recipe is on page 43 of our green cookbook!

Watch the cooking video!

Ingredients

An overhead shot of the raw ingredients to make paleo and gluten free pepper steak.
  • Flank steak or flap steak: My favorite cuts of beef for stir-frying is flank or flap steak. Why? Because it’s easy to cut the beef in bite-sized pieces against the grain. You can also use top sirloin steak or skirt steak. To make the beef even easier to cut, freeze it for about 15 minutes before you slice it.
  • Arrowroot powder: I use this grain-free starch in place of cornstarch in the beef marinade to help thicken the sauce.
  • Avocado oil: Instead of using canola oil or peanut oil, my preferred high-temperature neutral oil is avocado oil. It’s used in both the beef marinade and in the pan to sauté the dish.
  • Coconut aminos: I use this in place of soy sauce (which contains gluten) in the beef marinade.
  • Umami Stir Fry Powder: I use my flavor-packed seasoning salt to season the beef. Don’t have any? An equal amount of Diamond Crystal kosher salt can be substituted in a pinch.
  • Baking soda: This alkaline powder helps tenderize the beef while it marinates. Warning: if you leave it out, the beef won’t be as tender!
  • All-Purpose Stir Fry Sauce: I use a 1:1 mixture of my indispensable sauce and broth to make a delicious Whole30 brown sauce for this stir-fry.
  • Chicken broth or stock: Pick a stock or broth that is minimally salted or even unsalted. And yes, you can use beef broth if you don’t have chicken in your pantry.
  • Toasted sesame oil
  • Ground white pepper: Adds a distinctive Chinese restaurant flavor to your stir fry! (You can substitute black pepper if you don’t have any.)
  • Green bell pepper and red bell pepper: I like the contrasting colors of red and green bell peppers, but feel free to use any color bell pepper that you like!
  • Yellow onion
  • Minced ginger
  • Chopped garlic

How to make pepper steak

Prepare the beef

First, cut the flank steak in half or in thirds along the grain (with the muscle fibers).

An Asian woman is slicing a raw piece of flank steakin half with the grain.

Then, cut the steak pieces against the grain into thin ¼-inch strips.

Slicing raw flank steak into thin strips against the grain with a chef's knife.

In a large bowl, combine the sliced beef with 2 tablespoons water, 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder, coconut aminos…

Adding raw sliced flank steak into a bowl, along with water, arrowroot powder, and coconut aminos.

…1 tablespoon avocado oil, Umami Stir-Fry Powder, and baking soda. Toss well and marinate for at least 30 minutes or overnight in the refrigerator.

An Asian woman is adding avocado oil, Umami Stir-Fry Powder, and baking soda to a bowl of raw flanks steak. She then tosses everything with a pair of tongs.

Make the sauce

In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the chicken stock, All-Purpose Stir-Fry Sauce, 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder, toasted sesame oil, and white pepper. Set aside.

Making the sauce for paleo pepper steak by whisking together water, All-Purpose Stir-Fry Sauce. arrowroot powder, and toasted sesame oil.

Make the stir-fry

Heat a large skillet or wok over high heat until smoking. Add 1 tablespoon avocado oil to coat the skillet.

An Asian woman adds avocado oil into a hot large stainless steel skillet.

Sear the beef on both sides, about 30 seconds per side.

An Asian woman adds marinated sliced flank steak into a hot skillet to make paleo pepper steak.

Then, stir-fry the beef until it’s about 80% cooked. Transfer it to a plate.

An Asian woman transfers cooked sliced flank steak from a skillet to a plate with a pair of tongs.

Reduce the heat to medium-high. Add the remaining tablespoon of avocado oil. Toss in the bell peppers and onions and stir-fry for 1 minute or until crisp tender.

An Asian woman in glasses and braids is adding sliced onions to a hot skillet filled with sliced red and green bell peppers.

Next, add the ginger and garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

A pair of tongs is tossing sliced onions and belle peppers in a stainless steel skillet.

Add the cooked beef along with any accumulated juices back into the pan.

Adding the cooked beef into the pan of sautéed onions and bell peppers.

Whisk the sauce and add it to the pan.

Pouring a brown sauce into a pan filled with cooked flank steak, sliced onions, and bell peppers.

Cook, tossing well, until the sauce has thickened and coats the beef and vegetables. Serve!

An overhead shot of a stainless steel skillet filled with paleo and gluten free pepper steak.
Tossing paleo and gluten free pepper steak in a skillet with a pair of tongs.

What do you serve with PEPPER STEAK?

If you’re trying to keep your meal low-carb, paleo, or Whole30-compatible, serve this dish with Simple Cauliflower Rice or with Golden Cauliflower Fried Rice!

How to save leftovers

Leftover pepper steak can be stored in a sealed airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.


Looking for more recipe ideas? Head on over to my Recipe Index. You’ll also find exclusive recipes and in my cookbooks, Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2013), Ready or Not! (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2017), and Nom Nom Paleo: Let’s Go! (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2022).


Pepper Steak (Whole30, Paleo, Gluten Free)

5 from 3 votes
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Marinating time30 minutes
Total Time55 minutes
Servings 4
Craving a satisfying and healthy meal? Try my Whole30 and gluten-free version of a Chinese takeout classic, pepper steak stir-fry! Loaded with tender beef and peppers, this easy recipe uses my All-Purpose Stir-Fry sauce to make an umami-packed brown sauce!

Ingredients  

  • pound flank steak or flap steak
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons arrowroot powder, divided
  • 3 tablespoons avocado oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon coconut aminos
  • ¾ teaspoon Umami Stir Fry Powder or Diamond Crystal kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup chicken broth low sodium or unsalted
  • ½ cup All-Purpose Stir-Fry Sauce
  • ½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 small green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and sliced into thin slices
  • 1 small red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and sliced into thin slices
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped

Instructions 

  • First, cut the flank steak in half or in thirds along the grain (with the muscle fibers). Then, cut the steak pieces against the grain into thin ¼-inch strips.
  • In a large bowl, combine the sliced beef with 2 tablespoons water, 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder, 1 tablespoon avocado oil, coconut aminos, Umami Stir-Fry Powder, and baking soda. Toss well and marinate for at least 30 minutes or overnight in the refrigerator.
  • In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the chicken broth, All-Purpose Stir-Fry Sauce, 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder, toasted sesame oil, and white pepper. Set aside.
  • Heat a large skillet or wok over high heat until smoking. Add 1 tablespoon avocado oil to coat the skillet.
  • Sear the beef on both sides, about 30 seconds per side. Then, stir-fry the beef until it’s about 80% cooked. Transfer it to a plate. 
  • Reduce the heat to medium-high. Add the remaining tablespoon of avocado oil to the empty pan. Toss in the bell peppers and onions and stir-fry for 1 minute or until crisp tender.
  • Next, add the ginger and garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  • Add the cooked beef along with any accumulated juices back into the pan. 
  • Whisk the sauce and add it to the pan. Cook, tossing well, until the sauce has thickened and coats the beef and vegetables. Serve!

Video

Notes

TIPS FOR THE BEST PEPPER STEAK
  • Prep your ingredients ahead of time! Stir-fries cook quickly so be sure to have all of your ingredients chopped and measured out right next to your skillet or wok.
  • Prep the beef correctly! If you want tender beef that isn’t overly chewy, make sure you cut it thinly across the grain—and marinate your beef with the baking soda for at least 30 minutes.
  • Always have some of my All-Purpose Stir-Fry Sauce and Umami Stir-Fry Powder on hand! Both of these flavor boosters make this dish taste ultra-amazing, and this dynamic duo on hand can save meal time EVERY NIGHT. The sauce only takes a few minutes to shake up and you can grab my Umami Stir-Fry Powder on Amazon, iHerb (worldwide shipping), or from The Spice Lab. Or, if you prefer making the seasoning salt yourself, the recipe is on page 43 of our green cookbook!

Nutrition

Calories: 390kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 34g | Fat: 20g | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 5g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Like this? Leave a comment below!

About Michelle Tam

Hello! My name is Michelle Tam, and I love to eat. I think about food all the time. It borders on obsession. I’ve always loved the sights and smells of the kitchen. My mother was (and is) an excellent cook, and as a kid, I was her little shadow as she prepared supper each night. From her, I gained a deep, abiding love for magically transforming pantry items into mouth-watering family meals.

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1 Comment

  1. 5 stars
    Wow! I am so happy to have found your website. Your stir fry sauce is spot on. Can’t wait to try your hoisin and tonkatsu sauces. Thought I would have to give up Asian cuisine. Now if only it were possible to develop a replacement for black bean sauce.. Thank you so much.