If thin, tender slices of steak glazed in a sticky-spicy-sweet orange sauce served over a bed of sticky rice sounds like a meal you’d love, you need to try this easy recipe for Chinese Orange Beef Stir Fry. Simply made in just 30 minutes from start to finish, this beef with orange sauce is just as fast (and delicious!) as ordering your favorite take-out.
About this orange beef recipe
- Super Speedy – 15 minutes of prep, and a quick 15 minutes in the wok is all it takes to make this yummy beef with orange sauce. Perfect for weeknights!
- Easy As Pie – Easier, actually. (Now that I think about it, why is that the idiom? 🤔 Some pies, like these little apple pies ARE really easy, though.) Even if you’ve never tried your hand at making stir-fries or Chinese food, my step-by-step guidance guarantees a brag-worthy batch of beef and orange stir-fry, every time.
- Budget-Friendly – You know how groceries have gotten crazy expensive? Well, they’re expensive for restaurants, too. This takeout fakeout delivers all the orange-flavored beef you crave, but at a fraction of the price. Plus, you don’t have to drive to get it or tip the delivery guy!
What is orange beef?
Orange Beef is a classic Chinese dish that beautifully marries the meaty, umami flavors of steak with the sweet zestiness of orange.
It features thinly sliced beef that has been “velveted” to achieve a tender golden exterior and succulent middle, which is then coated in a vibrant orange sauce. The sticky homemade orange stir-fry sauce is the star of the show – a perfect blend of fresh orange juice and zest, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and a hint of chili for that extra kick.
In short, this beef orange stir-fry is a little sweet, a little savory, and a whole lot of delicious.
Ingredients for beef with orange sauce
- Decent-Quality Steaks – You don’t have to break the bank on Waygu. You just want to make sure to opt for a cut that is naturally tender without needing to slow cook it. I recommend flat iron beef steak, boneless ribeye steak, boneless short ribs, or top sirloin steak.
- Oranges – You’ll want both the zest and juice, so be sure to go for fresh oranges.
- Chinese Five Spice Powder – This spice blend is a favorite, so it’s always in my cabinet. If you need to make your own, The Woks of Life has you covered.
- Baking Soda – While typically used as a leavener for cakes and cookies and such, baking soda is also a fantastic meat tenderizer. The More You Know, amirite?
- Crushed Red Pepper Flakes – For just a touch of tongue-tingling heat.
- Kosher Salt and Ground White Pepper – For seasoning. While I love the mildly earthy and slightly funky flavor of white pepper, you can swap in black pepper instead.
- Cornstarch – Coating your marinated beef in cornstarch speeds along the Maillard reaction and promotes gorgeous browning.
- Peanut Oil or Vegetable Oil – Any neutral oil with a high smoke point will work.
- Garlic Cloves – Grating the garlic (as opposed to mincing or pressing it) releases the most garlic flavor. I suggest using a microplane.
- Scallions – You’ll want both the white and green part of the onion for the best balance of flavor and aesthetics.
- Grated Ginger Root – Fresh is best, but ginger paste will do in a pinch.
- Orange Marmalade – For adding extra citrus flavor and giving the stir-fry orange sauce extra viscosity.
- Low-Sodium Soy Sauce – If you don’t have low-sodium, mix a 50/50 blend of water and regular soy sauce.
- Rice Vinegar – Plain please, not seasoned.
- Fresh Basil Leaves – If possible, Thai basil is amazing. Otherwise, Italian basil will do just fine.
Recipe variations and dietary adaptations
This easy crispy orange beef recipe is, IMHO, absolutely flawless. However, I want to make sure it works for all my readers! Here are just a few ways you can make it your own:
- Gluten-Free – Unfortunately, regular soy sauce is not gluten-free. Fortunately, both Tamari and coconut aminos are. If you opt for Tamari, dilute it 50/50 with water.
- Soy-Free – If you or your loved ones can’t eat soy products, not to worry! You can swap out the soy for either coconut aminos (which are GF) or Bragg’s liquid aminos (which are not).
- Corn-Free – Potato starch is an excellent 1-to-1 substitute for cornstarch.
- Vegetarian/Vegan – If you’re looking for Meatless Monday inspiration, try making orange tofu instead! Press a block of firm or extra firm tofu, then cut into cubes. Marinate and coat in cornstarch as instructed above. You’ll need to do a bit more tong-work to make sure all sides get nice and crispy, but the results are worth it!
How to make Chinese orange beef
This crispy orange peel beef stir fry is pretty straightforward to prepare, just make sure you prep everything before you start cooking.
- Marinate Beef: To a large bowl, add all the marinade ingredients and whisk combine. Next, add the strips of beef to the marinade and use tongs or chopsticks to thoroughly coat the beef in the marinade. Set aside and let the steak marinate on the counter for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Make Orange Stir Fry Sauce: In a liquid measure , combine the orange juice with the marmalade, soy sauce, and rice vinegar. Then, use a whisk to thoroughly combine the sauce mixture before setting aside.
- Coat Beef in Cornstarch: Once you’re ready to cook, add all the cornstarch to the bowl with the marinating beef. Use your tongs or chopsticks to toss and coat the beef in the cornstarch.
- Brown Beef in TWO Batches: Heat the oil in a large wok. Once shimmering, add half of the beef to the pan in a single layer with minimal overlap, and let it cook, without stirring, for 45 seconds to 1 1/2 minutes. Then, stir and continue to cook the beef for 45 seconds to 1 minute. Transfer the browned beef from the pan to a large plate and season with a pinch of salt. Then, repeat the browning process with the remaining slices of steak.
- Cook Aromatics: Wipe the pan and then add the garlic, scallions, and grated ginger. Cook stirring constantly until aromatic.
- Add Sauce: Add the orange sauce to the pan and to a rapid simmer. Then, immediately reduced the heat let the sauce cook until thick.
- Add Beef Back to Pan: Add all the browned crispy beef back to the pan. Stir the beef into the orange sauce, tossing the beef to thoroughly coat.
- Garnish and Serve: Add the dark green onions, all the orange zest, and half the basil leaves; stir to combine. Serve Chinese orange beef over rice with orange wedges on the side. Enjoy!
Expert tips for the best beef and orange stir fry
- Prepare Yourself for Cooking: Once you get started, this orange beef stir-fry recipe cooks very quickly. I recommend reading the recipe all the way through and prepping your ingredients (i.e. setting up your mise en place) before starting. You won’t have time to continue prepping ingredients once the first ingredient hits the pan.
- Freeze for Ease: To make quick and easy work out of thinly slicing steaks against the grain – wrap the steaks individually in plastic wrap and place them into the freezer for 35-45 minutes, or until steaks are slightly firm. DO NOT freeze the steaks completely — that will break your knives. The idea is to make it a little less squishy and unwieldy by firming it up.
- Make it Look Pro: Slice scallion greens at a steeper angle than the whites to create beautiful oblong pieces for your garnish.
- Toast for the Most Flavor: If you’re using sesame seeds as a garnish, give them a quick toast in a dry pan over medium heat. Once they start turning golden and smelling nutty, they’re ready to go.
FAQs: frequently asked questions
What is the best beef part for stir-frying?
As I mentioned above, this steak and orange stir-fry cooks fast, so you’ll want to use a good-to-decent quality cut of beef steaks (versus a tougher cut that requires low-slow cooking and braising). If you can find it, I highly recommend flat iron (shoulder top blade). However, boneless ribeye steaks (shown here), boneless short ribs, top sirloin, tri-tip, tenderloin, Ranch steak (shoulder center), and shoulder petite tender steaks work great too. Or, you can use flank and skirt steaks, but you’ll need to be extra careful and make sure you cut those properly – against the grain – into thin strips.
What cut should I use?
Opt for boneless, well-marbled cuts like short ribs or ribeye.
What is the secret to stir-fry meat? What makes it tender?
It’s a combination of marinating the meat, using baking soda as a tenderizer, and slicing it super thinly against the grain.
Can orange juice tenderize beef?
The acidity of the orange juice does help to tenderize the meat, although adding baking soda to the orange marinade increases the pH a bit, making it slightly more alkaline.
Is orange beef like orange chicken?
The orange chicken I’ve eaten has a similar sauce to orange beef, but the preparation is quite different. Rather than stir-frying thin strips of chicken, the chicken is typically dredged, battered, and deep-fried, which is delicious but a good deal more work.
Serving chinese beef orange
- Steamed Rice: The classic companion to any stir-fry, rice is ideal for soaking up the delicious orange stir-fry sauce. Short-grain sticky rice is a classic, but the subtle fragrance of Jasmine or Basmati rice complements the zesty flavors beautifully. You can also use brown rice for an extra boost of nutrition! For a rich and hearty option, serve your orange beef over a bed of fried rice.
- Noodles: Think about serving it with some tender-chewy lo mein noodles or Yaki Udon Stir Fry. If you have a tough time scooping up saucy rice with your chopsticks, this fresh take is your friend.
- Vegetable Stir-Fry: You know what goes with stir-fry? MORE STIR-FRY! Go for a mix of colorful vegetables or try this fan-favorite recipe for cabbage stir fry. As a shortcut, remember you can use frozen veggies so you have less to prep.
- Green Salad with Sesame Dressing: A light, crisp green salad with a tangy sesame dressing might lean a bit more Japanese, but it is a stellar pairing for this beef with orange sauce. The Japanese cucumber salad known as sunomono is also an excellent choice. Go global!
- Toppings Galore: Don’t forget to garnish your gorgeous plate of beef and orange stir-fry with your favorite fixin’s. Think crushed red pepper flakes or sriracha for heat, toasted sesame seeds for crunch, thinly sliced scallion greens for freshness, orange slices for color (and a nice palate cleanser!).
Storing beef orange stir fry
- Store any leftover stir-fry orange beef in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
- Alternatively, you can store it in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- When ready to eat, defrost the chinese beef orange overnight in the fridge, then microwave or reheat it on the stovetop over medium-low heat until warmed through.
And there we have it, folks! We’ve sliced, diced, zested, and sauced our way to a sensational plate of Orange Beef Stir-Fry that’s a dupe for your favorite takeout. Orange you glad you stopped by? I hope this dish adds a slice of joy to your dinner routine and proves to be the zest decision you make all week. Remember, life is too short for bland meals, so keep stirring up fun in your kitchen. Until next time, make no mis-steak — I’m soy grateful for all of you!
More recipes for beef stir fry!
- Chinese Beef Stir Fry with Honey Hoisin Sauce
- Zucchini and Steak Stir Fry
- Chinese Pepper Steak Stir Fry
The best recipe for beef orange Chinese stir fry👇
Chinese Orange Beef: 30 minute sticky-sweet stir-fry recipe
- 1 Large Mixing Bowl (for marinating beef)
- 1 2-Cup Liquid Measure + Whisk (for mixing orange stir fry sauce)
- 1 Large Wok, Well-Seasoned Cast Iron Pan, or 12-inch Nonstick Skillet (for stir frying beef)
Chinese Orange Beef
- 1 ½ pounds Decent-Quality Steaks – sliced thinly against the grain into ¼-inch slices (SEE NOTES)
- 3 large Oranges – ¾ cup juice and 2 heaping teaspoons zest; DIVIDED
- Heaping ½ tsp Chinese Five Spice Powder
- ½ tsp Baking Soda
- 1/8 tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes - OPTIONAL
- To Taste Kosher Salt and Ground White Pepper (sub: ground black pepper)
- 1/3 Cup Cornstarch
Orange Stir Fry Sauce
- 1/3 Cup Peanut Oil or Vegetable Oil
- 3 Cloves Garlic – peeled and grated
- 3 large Scallions –thinly sliced; white/light green parts and dark green parts DIVIDED
- 2 tsp Grated Ginger Root
- 4 TBS Orange Marmalade
- 3 TBS Low-Sodium Soy Sauce
- 1 TBS Rice Vinegar (do not use seasoned rice vinegar)
- ¼ Cup Fresh Basil Leaves – chiffonade or torn
- Garnish/Serving Suggestions: Red Pepper Flakes, Sesame Seeds, White or Brown Rice, and Orange Wedges
- Marinate Beef for 15-20 minutes: To a large mixing bowl or resealable gallon storage bag, add 3 tablespoon orange juice, all the Chinese five spice powder, all the baking soda, crushed red pepper flakes (if using), 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and a scant 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper. Use a whisk to stir the ingredients completely together. Next, add the strips of beef to the marinade. The, use tongs or chopsticks to thoroughly coat the strips of beef in the marinade. Set aside and let the steak marinate on the counter for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Make Orange Stir Fry Sauce: In a 2-cup liquid measure or bowl, combine the remaining orange juice with the marmalade, soy sauce, and rice vinegar. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper before using a whisk to thoroughly combine the stir fry sauce. Then set the sauce aside.
- When you’re ready to start cooking – Coat Beef in Cornstarch: Once you’re ready to cook, add all the cornstarch to the bowl with the marinating beef. Again, use your tongs, or chopsticks to thoroughly mix the ingredients and coat the slices of beef in the cornstarch.
- Brown Beef in TWO Batches: Heat the oil in a large wok, well-seasoned cast iron pan, or 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high to high heat. Once the oil is shimmering and almost to the point of smoking, add half of the beef to the pan, arranging the slices in an even layer with minimal overlap, and let it cook WITHOUT STIRRING for 45 seconds to 1 1/2 minutes, or until the bottom side turns golden brown. Then, stir and continue to cook the strips of beef for 45 seconds to 1 minute. Transfer the browned beef from the pan to a large plate and season with a pinch of salt. Then, repeat the browning process with the remaining slices of steak, adding more oil to the pan if necessary, and transferring the brown beef to the plate and seasoning with a pinch of salt when it’s done cooking.
- Wipe Pan: Reduce the heat to medium and use your tongs to hold a few sheets of paper towels. Use the paper towels to whip the excess oil from the bottom of the pan, reserving 1 tablespoon of oil in the pan.
- Cook Aromatics: Add the garlic, white/light green scallions, and grated ginger. Season with a ¼ teaspoon of salt and a pinch of pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until aromatic.
- Add Orange Sauce: Add the orange stir fry sauce to the pan and give the sauce a good stir. Increase heat and bring the sauce to a rapid simmer. Then, immediately reduced the heat to maintain a simmer. Let the sauce cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until the sauce is thickened.
- Add Beef Back to Pan: Add all the browned crispy beef back to the pan. Stir the beef into the orange sauce, tossing the beef to thoroughly coat. Once the beef is coated and warm, remove the pan from the heat.
- Add Remaining Scallions, Zest, and Basil: Add the dark green scallions, all the orange zest, and half the basil leaves. Stir the orange beef stir fry until combined. Taste and adjust for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper for overall flavor, basil for freshness, and orange juice or zest for acidity.
- Serve: Garnish orange stir fried beef with remaining basil, sesame seeds and crushed red pepper flakes, if using. Serve immediately over rice with orange wedges on the side. Enjoy!
- Read Recipe Before Starting: As with all stir fries, this recipe cooks very quickly. I recommend reading the recipe all the way through before starting. I’ve made notes and cues for prepping your ingredients (mis en place) to make this stir-fry recipe as smooth a process to cook as possible.
- Beef Steaks: As mentioned above, since this stir-fry cooks fast, you’ll need to use a good quality-to-decent cut of beef steaks (not a tougher cut that requires braising and low-slow cooking). I recommend flat iron beef steak, boneless ribeye steak, boneless short ribs, or top sirloin steak.
- Thinly Slicing Steaks: To make quick and easy work out of thinly slicing steaks against the grain – wrap the steaks individually in plastic wrap and place them into the freezer for 35-45 minutes, or until steaks are slightly firm – DO NOT freeze the steaks completely.
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