This easy lemongrass beef stir-fry recipe has got to be one of my favorite beef recipes. If you’ve been wanting to learn how to stir-fry beef perfectly, then you’ll want to learn all about velveting. This post will teach you!
This stir-fry starts with a rich, sweet, spicy marinade that you only need a few ingredients for, including:
- Lemongrass paste (I’ve written about my love of stir-in paste before here)
- Brown sugar
- Soy sauce
- Minced garlic
- Minced ginger
- Chili oil
- Rice vinegar
- Minced red Fresno (You can use crushed red pepper or a minced Thai chili)
- Cornstarch or sweet potato starch
What is velveting?
Looking over the ingredients list, you probably noticed cornstarch is part of the marinade. Have you ever wondered why many stir-fries use cornstarch in the marinade? Let’s talk velveting!
This beef stir-fry recipe uses a slightly modified technique of velveting. Velveting is a method used in Chinese cooking that helps preserve the moisture of meat and seafood. It involves adding cornstarch and egg whites to the marinade and then briefly dunking the meat or seafood into simmering water or oil. The egg whites and cornstarch act as a barrier around the protein, meaning it won’t dry out when you stir-fry it, and it’ll be extra tender and juicy.
For this beef stir-fry, I used skirt steak, which has a decent amount of fat and marbling. Because of the higher fat content, I skipped the egg whites and only added cornstarch to the marinade, and I did not add the meat to the hot oil or water. A leaner cut, like flank steak, will benefit from that protective barrier, so don’t skip those steps if you want to follow the true velveting method. I found the starch alone enough to keep my skirt steak nice and juicy.
When you add the marinated beef to the hot wok or skillet, you’ll fry it over fairly high heat. It will look like the sauce is separating, but don’t worry! Once you add a bit of water, it’ll turn into a thick, rich sauce like you see below!
How to make this lemongrass beef stir-fry:
Like any stir-fry, the beauty is in its versatility. Don’t have steak? Swap in strips of chicken breast or thighs, or use shrimp instead. Try it with any vegetable you like; broccoli florets, sliced bok choy, sugar snap peas, or asparagus would all be delicious in this.
To make it, follow these short steps:
- Make the marinade and add the beef and toss to coat. Let it marinate for 15–30 minutes.
- Fry up the veggies! You want to crank the heat and let them develop a nice char.
- Remove the veggies and add the beef and all the marinade to the hot skillet.
- Return the cooked veggies to the skillet and toss to coat in the sauce.
- Plate it up! Pile the stir-fried beef and veggies on top of cooked white rice and garnish with your favorite toppings.
If you made this recipe, let me know what you thought of it in the comments! Looking for more beef recipes? Check my archives!
Lemongrass Beef Stir-Fry
- Large skillet or wok
- 1 tablespoon lemongrass paste
- 2 teaspoons minced ginger
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 1 red Fresno chili pepper, trimmed and minced, or use a serrano pepper
- 1 teaspoon chili oil
- 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch or sweet potato starch
- 16 ounces skirt steak or flank steak
- 3 tablespoons neutral oil, divided
- 1 yellow onion, peeled and halved lengthwise and thinly sliced into wedges
- 8 ounces snow peas, tough string removed from both sides of the snow peas
- 1 red bell pepper, trimmed, seeded, and sliced into strips
- 1 teaspoon minced ginger
- ¼ cup water
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cooked white rice
- Fresh cilantro or minced scallions
- Lime wedges
- Crispy shallots
Make the rice:
- Before beginning, I recommend making a pot of rice first. Then, keep it warm as you prepare the stir-fry.
Prepare the marinade:
- Gather all of the ingredients for the marinade except the cornstarch and beef in a large bowl. Stir until completely combined. Taste and adjust the seasonings to your preference. Add the cornstarch and stir until smooth. Set aside.
- Pat the beef dry and cut (with the grain) into 4-inch long pieces to make it easier to slice into strips. Next, cut the resulting beef pieces against the grain into ½-inch wide strips. Cutting against the grain will yield the most tender beef, so be mindful of how you slice!
- Add the beef to the bowl of marinade and toss to coat. Transfer to the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
Cook the vegetables:
- Heat half the oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Once shimmering, add the onion, snow peas, and red bell pepper. Cook in batches if needed. Cook, tossing occasionally, until the pepper begins to char and the snow peas are bright green and tender, about 5–7 minutes. Stir in the ginger and cook for 1 minute until fragrant. Season with salt and pepper.
- Remove from the skillet and transfer to a bowl.
Cook the beef:
- Add the remaining oil to the skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, pour in the beef with all of the marinade. A splatter screen will help with the sputtering! Spread the beef into an even layer. Cook for 3–4 minutes until the beef begins to brown and the marinade is bubbling.
- Crank the heat during the first 3 minutes and watch it closely to develop a sear on the beef without burning the marinade. Then, adjust the heat back to medium-high. It will look like the sauce separates as it cooks, but don’t worry!
- After 3–4 minutes, flip the beef and continue cooking, often turning, for 2–4 minutes or until the beef is mostly cooked through.
- Pour in the water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and stir to develop a thick sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings. Turn off the heat and stir in the vegetables. Toss to coat.
- Arrange the cooked white rice on a serving platter and pile the stir-fried beef and vegetables on top. Garnish with cilantro, scallions, lime wedges, and crispy shallots. Enjoy!