If you love Chinese food and like using quality ingredients and knowing what’s in your food, this recipe is for you. This crispy Orange Beef tastes so much better than takeout! Since it’s made fresh in your kitchen, there’s no soggy beef or MSG, and it has tons of flavor with fresh orange peel, garlic, ginger, and more.
I love Chinese food, but have grown a bit wary of most Chinese restaurants. Many charge rock bottom prices and use low quality ingredients.
The good news is that many of the Chinese restaurant dishes are actually very doable at home if you have the right ingredients. I’ve done Kung Pao Chicken, Beef and Broccoli, and Honey Walnut Shrimp on the blog, to name a few!
This crispy Orange Beef is one of my favorite Chinese food recipes. It’s incredibly fragrant with the primary flavor being orange peel, but it also has sesame oil, jalapeno, fresh garlic, and fresh ginger too. Not to mention the irresistible texture of the thin and crispy slices of beef.
I first made this recipe in 2013 after seeing it in Cook’s Illustrated, and tweaked it a bit as I made it again and again. I think it’s such a treat and worth the effort.
Tips for Best Results
Briefly freeze the beef – After slicing sirloin steak into thin strips, lay the slices out on a sheet pan and briefly place in the freezer. This will remove moisture from the meat, giving you much crispier beef later. Less moisture at your starting point means less to cook off before the beef becomes crispy.
Avoid the white pith of the orange – Unless you really enjoy adding a bitter element to the dish, I recommend only peeling off the brightly colored orange part of the peel, and not including the white pith underneath. You want a tangy orange sauce, not a bitter one.
Use good soy sauce – Make sure to use a good quality brand for the soy sauce, as there’s HUGE variability there. My favorite brands are San-J, Lee Kum Kee, and Kikkoman. Stay away from La Choy as well as grocery brands.
Step by Step Overview:
The first thing you’re going to do is prep the beef, which is going to “dry out” in the freezer while you prepare the other ingredients.
Thinly slice some sirloin steak, toss it with soy sauce and cornstarch, then lay the slices out on a wire rack in a single layer:
Placing the meat in the freezer will dry out the surface moisture on the slices, giving us even crispier orange beef later. This is a trick that works for all sorts of meat and seafood. The freezer is very dry, and helps get rid of that moisture.
Can you use other cuts of beef?
I use sirloin here because it’s a more economical cut that still has great flavor and decent tenderness. However, you may also use thinly sliced ribeye, NY strip, flank steak, flap meat, or even tenderloin.
Next whisk together the sauce in a medium bowl. Combine fresh orange juice, soy sauce, brandy, rice vinegar, and sesame oil:
For the orange part of this dish, using fresh fruit is absolutely essential since most of the flavor actually comes from the rind.
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 prefer to only use the fragrant colored orange part.
Simply remove strips from a large orange with a vegetable peeler, then thinly slice the orange peel with a knife:
That’s it for prep!
Heat a skillet over medium heat, then use tongs to sauté the orange strips with some thinly sliced jalapeño:
Then add minced garlic cloves, freshly grated ginger, and some red pepper flakes.
Briefly wake up those flavors with the heat, then deglaze the pan with the reserved soy sauce mixture from before.
Now turn off the heat and let the sauce sit while you cook the meat. Since you want the orange beef to be crispy at the time you serve it, it’s best to do this at the very end.
Fry the beef in batches straight from the freezer, draining on paper towels after cooking. Then toss the beef strips to coat in the sauce. The corn starch that was on the strips of meat will thicken the sauce slightly as you toss it all together.
A Note On Frying
Orange Beef is a dish where traditionally the beef is deep fried. If you’re 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 tablespoons of oil. Not bad if you ask me!
I prefer to fry in tallow, which is beef fat, as it’s a very stable frying fat that’s not easily prone to oxidation like vegetable oil is. It’s also the same fat that’s in the beef.
If you’ve got hot oil at the proper temperature and the beef has been properly dried, deep frying doesn’t have to be greasy.
How to Serve
Serve the orange beef promptly while the meat is still hot and crispy, with a side of steamed white rice, or another Chinese takeout classic: Fried Rice. You may also garnish with thinly sliced green onions or sesame seeds.
I also love Asian Dumplings, Chilled Tofu with Scallions and Soy Sauce, and Crisp Asian Broccoli Salad.
Also try my Orange Chicken and Pork Lettuce Wraps for another great meal. Enjoy!
Recipe Tips and FAQ
Keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Note that it will not be crispy when you reheat it, since the beef has been sitting in sauce.
Yes, it freezes well in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Note that it will not be crispy when you reheat it, since the beef has been sitting in sauce. To thaw, leave in the fridge overnight.
Stir fry in a skillet over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until warmed through. Or, microwave gently at 50% power until the meat is just warmed through. You want to be very careful not to overdo it, and time required ultimately depends on your serving size and the wattage of your microwave.
I use sirloin because it’s a more economical cut that still has great flavor and decent tenderness. However, you may also use thinly sliced ribeye, NY strip, or even tenderloin.
Did you enjoy the recipe? Please leave a 5-star rating in the recipe card below and/or a review in the comments section further down the page.
- 1.5 lbs sirloin steak
- 3 tbsp soy sauce
- 6 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 navel orange
- 3 tbsp molasses
- 2 tbsp brandy or red wine
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1.5 tsp dark 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
- tallow or vegetable oil for frying
- recommended side dish: fried rice or steamed rice
- Thinly slice the beef about 1/4 inch thick, then toss with 1 tbsp of the soy sauce.
- 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 30 minutes.
- Use a vegetable peeler to peel the orange zest 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.
- Place the juice in a bowl and add the remaining 2 tbsp of soy sauce, molasses, brandy or red wine, rice vinegar, and sesame oil, and whisk to combine.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and add a tablespoon of tallow or 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 until aromatic.
- Add the prepared sauce mixture to the pan, then turn off the heat.
- Heat a deep fryer to 375 degrees F (or simply fill a pot with a couple inches of tallow or oil) and set up a sheet pan lined with paper towels for drainage.
- Once the fat in the fryer has reached the proper temperature, fry about 1/4 to 1/3 of the beef at a time for about 2 minutes, making sure to stir gently so the beef doesn’t stick together. After 3 minutes the beef should be golden brown and crispy.
- Remove the beef to the paper towels to drain, and cook the remainder of the beef.
- Reheat the sauce over medium high heat for a minute or two until bubbling again, then add all of the beef, stirring to coat in the sauce for about 2 minutes. The cornstarch from the meat should thicken the sauce slightly.
- Serve immediately, preferably with rice. Enjoy!
Nutrition is estimated using a food database and is only intended to be used as a guideline for informational purposes.
56 Comments on “Orange Beef”
The first time making this dish, adding the garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes to sesame oil caused a terrible odor that caused breathing problems for my husband and I, and our dog (cough, cough!). We cook with all of these ingredients regularly, so I can only assume it was adding the red pepper flakes to the hot oil. Next time, we will add them towards the end when adding the meat to the sauce. On the upside, having the windows open gave us a nice breeze to enjoy dinner with! 😉
The molasses absolutely destroys this recipe. It has such a strong flavor that just completely overtakes the dish. Maybe my molasses was just bad or something? I don’t know but while tasting and cooking the meal I just couldn’t taste anything else. Followed it word for word and it just doesn’t taste anything like any orange beef I’ve had in my life and I eat a ton of Chinese food from traditional to American style . Literally the only meal I’ve prepared that I couldn’t finish. Use a recipe that doesn’t have molasses if your looking to get that restaurant orange beef flavor. I guarantee no chinese restaurant is using it in their recipes. Learn from my mistake
with minor substitutions for what i had on hand (clementines) this worked out better than perfectly. so i came back to ad-larded version of the site to post this. an EXCELLENT and easy recipe!
This is better than take out!
Delicious, family friendly weeknight dinner!
this recipe is so good!
I can’t wait to make this and also to use the freezer trick when I make Mongolian beef! I wondered how it always was so crispy from restaurants and I bet this is the reason!
Hope it goes well for that dish too!
Joanne, thank you fo this recipe.
Such an incredible meal!
I must make this 🙂
I love how crispy the beef is and the fresh orange peel makes the sauce amazing!
This has my mouth watering! It looks and sounds delicious!
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.
Thanks for your great comment Carole, glad you enjoyed and your tweaks sound great!