Fifteen Spatulas

Crispy Orange Beef {Chinese Takeout at Home}

Crispy Chinese Orange Beef

I love Chinese food. Many of us do.

But you know what the problem is?

Many Chinese restaurants charge rock bottom prices and use low quality ingredients. Few things gross me out more than taking a bite of meat and finding that the majority of it is a big hunk of rubbery fat (gag!) and gristle.

The solution of course, is to make Chinese food at home. And today I’ll be showing you how to make one of my favorites…crispy orange beef!

Orange Beef Sauce

I saw this recipe for Crispy Orange Beef in the last issue of Cook’s Illustrated and had one of those “I have to make this NOW” moments.

This dish is one of the few instances where it seems appropriate to cook red meat with something fragrant and fruity like an orange, and I love the pairing of the two.

Crispy Orange Beef

The original Cooks Illustrated recipe says to include the white bitter pithy part to better mimic the dried tangerine peel normally used in this dish, but I found it to be too bitter. I say just get that fragrant colored orange part and julienne that, like this:

Orange Zest Crispy Orange Beef

Part of the secret to the crispiness is to coat the orange beef in cornstarch and pop the strips into the freezer for a little while.

This is a trick that works for all sorts of meat and seafood. The freezer is very dry and helps dry out the moisture that may be on the surface of the meat. Moisture is the enemy of crispiness, so the freezer is our friend!

Extra Crispy Orange Beef

When you’re ready to get everything cooked to serve, first sauté the orange strips with some jalapeño:

Orange Jalapeño Crispy Beef

Add some other fun flavors, namely garlic, freshly grated ginger, and some red pepper flakes, and deglaze the pan with a mixture of soy sauce, molasses, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and brandy.

Chinese Takeout Crispy Orange Beef

Fry the beef in batches and toss to coat in the sauce. Served with rice, it’s totally scrumptious!

Yes, I just said scrumptious. I mean look at it, don’t you agree?

Chinese Food Crispy Orange Beef

Oh, and for those people who are turned off by the deep frying, the Cooks Illustrated folks measured the amount of oil before and after frying, and the beef only absorbed 2 tbsp of oil. Not bad if you ask me. If your oil is at the proper high temperature and the beef has been properly dried, deep frying doesn’t have to be out of control oily.

Crispy Orange Beef

Yield: Serves 4


1.5 lbs sirloin steak
3 tbsp soy sauce
6 tbsp cornstarch
1 softball sized navel orange
3 tbsp molasses
2 tbsp brandy or red wine
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1.5 tsp sesame oil
1 jalapeño, inner seeds and ribs removed, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 scallions, chopped (for garnish)
vegetable oil, for frying
recommended side dish: rice


Cut the beef into thin slices, about 1/4 inch thick. Toss the beef with 1 tbsp of soy sauce. Next, sprinkle the beef evenly with the cornstarch and mix well. Evenly spread the beef out on a wire rack set atop a sheet pan, and place the beef in the freezer for 45 minutes. This will help our beef get crispy later on, because the freezer dries the surface moisture on the meat.

Use a vegetable peeler to peel off about 10 zest strips from the orange, taking care not to get any of the bitter white pithy part. Only peel off the orange colored part. Thinly slice the orange peels into long strips. Cut the orange in half and juice it, measuring out 1/4 cup of juice and placing it in a bowl. Add the other 2 tbsp of soy sauce, molasses, brandy or red wine, rice vinegar, and sesame oil to the orange juice, and whisk to combine. Set the liquid aside.

Heat up a deep fryer to 375 degrees F and set up a sheet pan lined with paper towels. Once the fryer has reached the proper temperature, fry about 1/4 to 1/3 of the beef at a time, for about 3 minutes, making sure to stir gently so the beef doesn't stick together. After 3 minutes the beef will be golden brown and crispy, and you can remove it to the paper towels to drain. Cook the remainder of the beef.

Heat up a large skillet over medium heat, and add 1 tbsp of vegetable oil. Add the orange strips and jalapeño and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes, and stir for 30 seconds (no longer, or the garlic will burn). Add the soy sauce mixture to the pan, then add all of the beef. Stir to coat in the sauce. Garnish with the chopped scallions and serve with rice or desired side dish. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from the January/February issue of Cooks Illustrated magazine.


43 comments on “Crispy Orange Beef {Chinese Takeout at Home}

  1. EAT.Style.Play

    So I just had this recently and thought OMG i have to learn how to make this, I put off looking around for the recipe but here is it! I can’t wait to try this. I’m going to use Aminos for this it’s my secret weapon for enjoying Chinese that i make at home now.

    • Have not had this in years… mid 90’s. Cant find any place that knows what it is. I will make this soon. My favorite Americanized Chinese food.

  2. Wow looks so delish~also GF if you use GF soy sauce:-)
    Thanx for the recipe.

  3. Orange beef is a favorite of mine, the orange pieces just bring the beef to a whole other level — so good! Thanks for sharing this recipe, gonna pin it now so I can try it later. :)

  4. WOW! Looks delicious!

  5. Gorgeous photos! That orange sauce sounds mouthwatering. I love Chinese takeout, and we have a place by us that is above average, but still! I would rather know what is going into the dishes. My kids love Asian flavors, would love to make this for them!

  6. I love Chinese food as well and this sounds delicious and is beautiful. Your orange peel looks perfect. Great recipe!

  7. Dude this is out of this world. I just want to run into my kitchen and make this asap. Great recipe lady!

  8. Orange flavored chicken is a favorite of my boys. The main reason I like to make my own at home is restaurants always use MSG and other additives that I am sure are not what I want our family eating. I love your idea of freezing the meat. Great little dish. Take care, BAM

  9. I feel the same way about Chinese takeout. Now, I’d rather make it myself at home. . that way, I know what ingredients are going into it! I love Cooks Illustrated! Totally going to try this one! yum!

  10. Love this! Pinned for dinner this week :)

  11. Norma-Platanos, Mangoes and Me!

    Great dish and I agree with disappointing at time when you make and order and it goes inthe garbage…this look delicious….

  12. OMG this looks so good!!!! Pinned and on my menu!

  13. I could not agree more! Cheap chinese is not worth it! This looks to die for!

  14. Wow, this looks amazing! I totally agree with you on your choice of peel over white, I can see how the peel would add such a fragrancy and depth to the flavor, whereas the white stuff would just be gross. Good call! 😀 I have to make this RIGHT now. Or, as soon as I get the ingredients…

  15. I’m so excited about this recipe…and I know Curtis will be too!! Love your photos!

  16. I don’t own a deep fryer :(

    Can I use a skillet or wok to fry the beef?

    • I don’t own a deep fryer either, but tried it last night in a skillet which was about 3-4 inches deep. It worked out just perfectly. You should try it because this recipe is great!

  17. This looks incredible! Thanks for sharing!

  18. Your photos are making me so hungry right now! That freezer tip is awesome! I am bookmarking this to make this week! Thanks so much…I just love your blog! :)

  19. Made this tonight. I did not deep fry, used tenderloin fillet and pan fried in butter–it came out really great! It will definitely be a regular meal for us! Really great citrus flavour! I didn’t use the red pepper flakes so wasn’t as hot as it was supposed to be. Only thing I would do different next time is use less molasses as my family is not big on mollasses.

  20. If you don’t like molasses, switch it with honey or something else or you’ll gag through the whole meal. The molasses is so strong and I didn’t use more than a tablespoon because I was nervous … Everything else about it was AMAZING!!!

    • Thanks for sharing your tip! I like molasses (I actually use Blackstrap molasses which has a stronger flavor lol) but if you don’t, I agree that honey would be a fantastic substitute. Happy cooking!

  21. This was so delicious! My husband absolutely loved it :) Thanks for the great recipe!

  22. How crucial is the brandy/red wine? I don’t like to use alcohol…are there any good substitutions? This recipe looks too delicious!

    • Hi Kim, for this recipe I think it’d be okay to just leave it out. There are plenty of other ingredients in the sauce and I can’t think of a good substitute that isn’t already there. Hope you enjoy it!

  23. This was my first 15 Spatulas recipe and a great introduction to your site. My family thought it was really good. Using the orange peal instead of zest made it tasty. I would like a little more spice, but my wife and son thought it was perfect. Served with Texmati rice and fresh green beans.

    • Hi Craig, I’m so glad your family enjoyed this recipe! I like that you served it with Texmati rice and green beans. Hope you get to try and enjoy more recipes!

  24. I came here because of BH’s email they just sent out but I’m much more interested in this dish right now! We’ve had Asian food every day for the last few weeks and I said that tomorrow we’d have something non-Asian but I reaaally want to make this. It looks amazing!

  25. Love the tip about freezing the meat before frying it!

  26. Wow,

    This looks insanely delicious! So happy to have found your blog.

  27. Hi Joanne–

    This recipe was awesome! We had this last night for dinner and it turned out amazing! The only thing I couldn’t find was brandy liqueur but it still turned out very well. I’m not really into alcohol and I don’t know much about it but I’m thinking of trying the moscato-poached pears soon. Apparently I am working my way through your website and trying just about everything! Thanks so much for an amazing website!

    • Wonderful, so glad you enjoyed this recipe so much!!! The moscato poached pears is one of my fav recipes on my site. Now that we’re heading into fall, they’ll be great to make sometime. Happy cooking!

  28. Thanks! This was a really great recipe! Flavors are spot on. I would recommend two things: serve the sauce over the beef to retain the crispiness instead of putting the beef into the sauce. Also make sure the beef is in bite size pieces. I used brown sugar instead of molasses because I didnt have any. I also used boneless rib meat because that looked best at the store today.

  29. When I saw the picture, I had my “I have to do it NOW!” spur of the moment too. Might whip this by next week. Yum!

  30. My favorite Chinese dish is orange beef. I will definitely be trying this soon. I will just need to modify it for one serving as that is the topic of my blog

  31. Fabulous recipe. Have tried several others and was disappointed but this is delicious. Some observations: I used low salt soy sauce which was good because the sauce was just a little salty, perhaps because I substituted Hoisin sauce for the molasses. I omitted the soy sauce from the sauce because Hoisin has soy sauce in it. Omitted the japaleno pepper and didn’t miss it. I sliced the steak (sirloin) a bit thinner than 1/4 inch and it was melt-in-your mouth tender. Also, I didn’t thin slice the orange peel but left it in pretty big pieces. Some people don’t like the taste of the peel so leaving it identifiable works for them. They can pick it out. This recipe is impressive enough for discerning company. Served steamed rice and stir-fried veggies with it and the presentation was quite nice. Good job with the hint about placing the coated meat in the freezer prior to cooking.

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