Easy Szechuan Beef
Low Carb Crispy Szechuan Beef?
If you’ve ever order crispy Szechuan beef at a restaurant, breaded, deep-fried, and kissed with a spicy sticky-sweet glaze… You might be wondering how it could possibly be low carb.
You’re right. This isn’t that Szechuan beef.
I mean it is, and it isn’t.
It isn’t breaded. It isn’t deep-fried. And the stir fry sauce isn’t quite that sweet.
However this Szechuan Beef Recipe is low in carbs, compared to most recipes. It is packed with authentic Szechuan flavor. And it is super quick and easy to make!
Easy Szechuan Beef Recipe
Easy is the keyword here.
So often making traditional ethnic cuisine requires:
- Ingredients we can’t get our hands on
- Equipment we don’t have
- And lots and lots of time
Many authentic Szechuan style dishes are this way, involving endless lists of ingredients and hours of prep time.
Today I’m sharing a condensed (and leaner) version of Szechuan Beef, so you can experience these exciting flavors without all the fuss.
Does that make it less authentic? Maybe.
Yet in my humble opinion, you still get the show-stopper ingredients that make Szechuan cuisine special, so that’s what counts.
What Is Szechuan Flavor?
You may be wondering exactly what is Szechuan style cooking…
Szechuan (or Sichuan) cuisine comes from the Sichuan Province of China.
It is one of the most popular styles of Chinese cooking, outside of China, due to its bold unapologetic use of spices and contrasting flavors.
We are using the most iconic Szechuan ingredients in our beef stir fry today, Szechuan peppercorns and Szechuan chile peppers.
Szechuan peppercorns create a mild tingling (or even slightly numbing) sensation in your mouth. However, they are not extremely hot on their own. Yet they do amplify the spicy notes in other ingredients, giving them depth and intrigue.
Szechuan chiles peppers bring on the heat! The combination of the chiles and peppercorns together gives many Sichuan recipes their unique flavor.
What Does Szechuan Beef Taste Like?
With the generous use of tingling Szechuan peppercorns and spicy dried chiles, Authentic Sichuan Beef offers vibrant contrasting flavors.
- It’s rich and beefy.
- It’s salty.
- It’s sweet.
- It’s tangy, from the addition of rice wine.
- And best of all, it’s layered with unique spicy qualities you aren’t used to experiencing in western cuisine.
P.S. If for some reason you had to pick just Szechuan peppercorns or chiles, I would go with Sichuan peppercorns. Their effects on the palate are really what make Szechuan cuisine.
If you can’t find Szechuan chile peppers you can always substitute another small hot dried chile variety, or use crushed red pepper instead.
Szechuan Beef Ingredients
- Soy sauce – I always buy low sodium and gluten-free.
- Hoisin sauce – A sweet soybean and vinegar sauce. You can find this gluten-free as well!
- Rice wine – You can use Shaoxing, Mirin, or even dry sherry.
- Brown sugar – Just a little. Or use your favorite sugar substitute.
- Ginger – Freshly grated.
- Garlic – Freshly minced.
- Szechuan peppercorns – You’ve got to have them if you want your stir fry to taste authentic.
- Flat iron steak – Or flank steak. Slice thin against the grain.
- Cornstarch – Or arrowroot powder for thickening.
- Sesame oil – And peanut oil to stir fry the beef.
- Szechuan chile peppers – Or another small dried Asian chile. Or crushed red pepper will do in a pinch!
- Scallions – A fresh garnish at the end makes all the difference.
- Sesame seeds – AKA Asian sprinkles!
What Is The Difference Between Hunan Beef, Ginger Beef, Mongolian Beef, and Szechuan Beef?
Let me break this down to the basics…
- Szechuan Beef – This dish is usually breaded and crispy. Then coated in a very spicy-sweet sauce. It is often topped with fresh scallions or bean sprouts to contrast the spicy flavor.
- Ginger Beef – Is a westernized version of Szechuan Beef, with the addition of carrots, and a little less spice.
- Mongolian Beef – Is not typically spicy. It involves flank steak, scallions, brown sauce, and sometimes other vegetables like broccoli and mushrooms.
- Hunan Beef – Can be just as spicy as Szechuan Beef, yet without the Szechuan peppercorns and chiles it hits your throat and palate in a different way. Hunan Beef sometimes includes more vegetables.
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Easy Szechuan Beef
For the Stir Fry Sauce:
- In a liquid measuring cup, add all the ingredients for the stir fry sauce. Slice the scallions and set aside. Allow the ginger, garlic, and Szechuan peppercorns to soak while you slice the beef.
- Lay the flat iron steak on a cutting board. Cut the beef against the grain into thin slivers. Then toss the beef strips with the corn starch.
- Set a wok (or XL skillet) over high heat. Add both oils. When the oil starts to smoke, carefully toss in the beef strips and Szechuan chiles. Quickly move them around the wok to stir fry the beef on both sides.
- Once the beef is mostly cooked (2-4 minutes) stir in the sauce. Allow the sauce to simmer and thicken. Once it reaches your desired consistency, turn off the heat. Serve warm, sprinkled with chopped scallions and sesame seeds.
- You can find Szechuan peppercorns and chile peppers at a grocery stores with good international sections, at Asian markets, and online.
- Although Szechuan chile peppers are traditionally served in the stir fry, they are not meant to eat. You can take them out before serving if you like.
- If you are very sensitive to heat, skip the Szechuan chile peppers and use a small amount of crushed red pepper instead.
- Shaoxing wine is Chinese, yet Mirin is Japanese and often much easier to find. You can use either.
Making this recipe? Follow us on Instagram and tag @ASpicyPerspective so we can share what you’re cooking!