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Beef in Black Bean Sauce is a popular dish on UK takeaway menus and in Chinese restaurants the world over. Made with strips of beef, ginger and garlic, and plenty of savoury black bean sauce, this tasty dish is the perfect recipe if you are looking for an indulgent mid-week dinner or a weekend fakeaway.
What is it?
Black bean sauce is made from rich, umami-packed fermented black beans, soy sauce and oyster sauce. It’s a cooking sauce rather than a dipping sauce, so it’s often used tossed into stir-fries.
This recipe combines tender beef with a crunchy mixture of peppers, onion and spring onion. It’s quick to cook, although there are quite a few ingredients. But don’t be deterred – it’s extremely easy to pull together.
What type of beef should I use?
When it comes to making a great stir fry, the key is selecting the best cut of beef. Because this cooking method involves fast, high-heat frying, you need to make sure that you are using beef that can stand up to the heat and still retain its tenderness and juiciness. You also want something which is fairly lean, as there isn’t any time for the fat to render down during the process. A few great options are:
- Sirloin steak (or striploin) – While it can be a little pricier it gives super tender results
- Flank or bavette steak – Slice very thinly to make sure it doesn’t become chewy
- Rump steak – As with flank, when using rump steak for this recipe make sure to slice it very thinly
- Ribeye – Super flavoursome but fattier than sirloin which might lead to chewier pieces. However, it does work fine for this recipe.
How should I prepare the beef?
Whatever type of steak you choose to use, there are a few simple steps you can follow to ensure that your beef is perfectly prepared for a stir-fry. First, trim away any excess fat from the meat. Next, slice the beef into thin strips, no more than 0.5cm (quarter-inch) thick. If the strips are too fat, they will take longer to cook and may end up tough and chewy.
When you come to slice the beef, you can opt to place it in the freezer for 20-30 minutes beforehand. This will make it easier to slice. When slicing always cut across the grain. This means slicing so your knife goes through all the long fibres running down the meat, not parallel to them. This is particularly critical if you are using flank steak, which can be very chewy when sliced with the grain.
What kind of black beans do I need?
Picking up the right beans for this recipe is critical. You will often see large tins of black beans in the supermarket which are technically turtle beans. The type you’ll often find in Mexican dishes. This is not what you want for this recipe.
You need to find fermented black beans. Sometimes referred to as salted black beans. In China, these are often called Douchi or Tochi. You may struggle to find them in your local supermarket, but they are readily available on Amazon or in Asian supermarkets.
You can buy them both vacuum-packed or dried. If you have a choice buy the vacuum-packed variety as you’ll have to soak the dried ones for 10-20 minutes before using them. With the vacuum-packed ones, you can just give them a quick rinse first.
When you open a pack of fermented black beans for the first time you may find them a little unappealing. They have a very strong smell, like an extremely potent soy sauce. They also taste very salty and bitter when eaten alone. However, when you add a small amount to your recipe they add a huge amount of savoury flavour and texture!
Can I just use black bean sauce instead?
If you can’t find any fermented black beans (or you don’t want to wait for the delivery times online) then you can buy a ready-made bottle of black bean sauce. No one will ever know the difference!
If you want a more authentic taste then go for a concentrated paste-like sauce as these don’t contain any extra preservatives or additives. You can use this as a like-for-like substitution in the recipe.
If you want to use a bottle of stir-fry sauce then use this as a full substitution for the sauce in the recipe (skip all the below sauce ingredients, in addition to the black beans).
What can I use instead of Shaoxing wine?
Shaoxing wine is a type of Chinese wine made from fermented rice. It is typically amber in colour and has a strong, distinctive sweet flavour. You can substitute it if you can’t find it (although it is available on Amazon). The following all work instead of Shaoxing wine, although the flavour won’t be exactly the same.
- Dry sherry – cooking sherry is fine
- Mirin – Japanese rice wine. Can be bought alcohol-free also
- Apple juice – a good swap for the sweetness of the Shaoxing wine
If you are worried about adding alcohol to your food, then fear not as the alcohol completely burns off during the cooking process, leaving only the added taste of the sweet wine.
What are the secrets of a great stir fry?
Making a stir fry may seem like a daunting task, but with a few simple tips and tricks, it is actually quite easy! The most important thing to remember is that you need to start with the freshest ingredients possible. Always aim for crisp, vibrant vegetables and lean cuts of meat.
Make sure you have all your ingredients fully prepared in advance (this is called mise en place). When making a stir-fry everything cooks quickly and you need to move through the steps with ease, so advance prep is critical. Ready to go? Follow these tips:
- Slice the veg thinly and evenly – big chunks will not cook quickly enough and uneven pieces won’t cook at the same rate.
- Use a pan with a large surface area so the ingredients can spread out and get enough heat when being cooked for a short period. This is why you commonly see Woks used in Asian cooking. If you don’t have a wok then a large frying pan will also work.
- Use a hot pan and make sure the oil is smoking too – cold oil can be absorbed into some ingredients, rather than cooking them on impact. If you don’t have enough heat then you may also find that things aren’t cooked enough either.
- Use an oil with a high smoke point. Olive oil may leave you with a smokey kitchen since you need super hot oil to stir fry effectively. Certain oils are simply not as good at standing up to high heat. Opt for vegetable oil, sunflower oil or canola/rapeseed oil.
Can I make it in advance?
You can store leftovers in the fridge in a sealed container for up to 3 days. You can also freeze them for up to 3 months.
Defrost thoroughly first and then reheat in the microwave, in the oven or on the hob/stove.
What can I serve it with?
When it comes to serving up your beef in black bean sauce, there are a variety of delicious side dishes that you can choose from. Some classic options include rice, noodles, or other carbs that will help to soak up all of the delicious sauce. But if you’re looking for something a little lighter, why not try vegetables? Steamed broccoli or pak choy both taste great.
You could also try adding the following side dishes:
For a full list of ingredients with weights and measurements jump to the printable recipe card.
For the beef
- Steak – see notes above for what type of steak to choose
- Sesame oil
- Soy sauce
For the sauce
- Oyster sauce
- Dark soy sauce
- Shaoxing wine – see notes above for alternatives
For the stir-fry
- Onion, sliced into thick chunks
- Red & green peppers (capsicum), cut into thin pieces
- Fermented/salted black beans – for more information, see notes above
- Garlic, crushed
- Red chillis, finely chopped – if you prefer a totally mild dish then omit these
- Spring onions – sliced
How to make it
For more detailed steps with recipe tips jump to the printable recipe card.
- Mix all the beef ingredients together. Add the steak once the other ingredients are combined.
- Mix all the sauce ingredients together in a bowl.
- Rinse the black beans (or soak them in boiling water for 10 minutes if dried).
- Lightly mash the beans with a fork and then stir in the garlic.
- Stir fry the beef in a hot wok or large frying pan.
- Add the onions and cook for a further minute before tipping in the peppers and spring onion and cooking for a further 2 minutes.
- Add the black beans and garlic and cook for a minute before pouring in the sauce and cooking for a final 1-2 minutes.
Looking for more great Chinese recipes? Try:
Products that work well for this recipe:
Fermented Black Beans
Carbon Steel Wok
Chopstick Helper – for Adults (2 pieces)
Made with strips of beef, ginger and garlic, and plenty of savoury black bean sauce, this Beef in Black Bean Sauce is the perfect weekend fakeaway.
The default recipe serves 4.
For the beef…
- 400g sirloin steak, thinly sliced into strips
- 2 tbsp cornflour
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
For the sauce…
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 1 tbsp shaoxing wine (see note 2)
For the stir fry…
- 1 tbsp vegetable or rapeseed (canola) oil
- 1 medium onion, sliced into thick pieces around 2.5cm/1in thick
- 1 red pepper/capsicum, deseeded and sliced into strips
- 1 green pepper/capsicum, deseeded and sliced into strips
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 4 tbsp salted/fermented black beans (see note 3)
- 2 red chillis, deseeded and finely chopped (see note 4)
- 2 large spring onions, sliced
- Mix together the cornflour, sesame oil and soy sauce for the beef and then stir in the beef pieces
- In a large bowl, mix together all the sauce ingredients
- If you are using dried black beans then add them to a small bowl and pour over boiling water. Leave for 5-10 minutes and then drain in a small sieve. If not simply rinse the black beans before using.
- Place the black beans into a small bowl and lightly mash them with a fork. Mix in the garlic and set aside.
- Next, make the stir fry. Heat the oil in a large wok until smoking hot. Add the steak and cook for 1-2 minutes until sealed all over.
- Add the onion to the wok and cook for a further 2 minutes, stirring or tossing regularly.
- Add the pepper and spring onion. Continue to cook for a further 2 minutes.
- Add the black beans and the garlic to the wok. Cook for a further minute before adding the sauce and stirring to combine. Cook for a final minute.
- When cooking anything stir-fried, fast and hot is the way to go. Make sure you have everything prepped and ready before you start cooking so nothing slows you down as you go through the steps!
- You can substitute dry cooking sherry, mirin (a Japanese rice wine that can also be purchased non-alcoholic) or even a little apple juice for the Shaoxing wine.
- Make sure to buy fermented (also called salted) black beans. These are called Douchi or sometimes tochi in China. They are different to the black beans you will find in Mexican or Latin American cooking. You can buy them in tins, packets or vacuum packed. If they are dried follow step 3 to hydrate them.
- I like a little heat in the dish, but if you prefer it mild then leave the chillis out.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Sti
- Cuisine: Chinese
- Serving Size: 1
- Calories: 365
- Fat: 18g
- Carbohydrates: 18g
- Protein: 26g
Keywords: chinese, dinner, stir fry, fakeaway, indulgent, black beans