My Mom's Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry

August 29, 2016
32 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
Author Notes

The velvety strips of marinated beef stir fried with tender-crisp broccoli in a flavorful brown sauce are perfect served over steamed white rice.

The best part is the marinade, which ends up becoming the sauce after it's stir-fried with the beef. It's already quite fragrant due to the soy sauce, garlic, and sesame oil, but my mom adds a secret ingredient that really brings it over the top: cinnamon! Such a tiny amount is added that you can't really taste it, but the aromatic spice somehow boosts all the other flavors in the sauce in a way you wouldn't expect. —Joy Huang | The Cooking of Joy

  • Prep time 45 minutes
  • Cook time 15 minutes
  • Serves 4
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 4 tablespoons rice wine
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 pound flank or sirloin steak, sliced thinly against the grain
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 6 cups broccoli florets
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1/2 cup water
In This Recipe
  1. Whisk together the soy sauce, cornstarch, rice wine, sesame oil, sugar, minced garlic, and cinnamon. Toss with the sliced steak and marinate for at least 30 minutes.
  2. In a large frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over high and add the broccoli florets. Season with salt and stir-fry until bright green. Add 1/2 cup water and cover. Steam until the broccoli is cooked through but still crisp and not mushy. Transfer the broccoli to a bowl, and wipe down the pan.
  3. Add remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and heat on high again. Add the steak and marinade to the pan. Rinse out the container that the beef was in with 1/2 cup water and add that liquid to the pan. Stir-fry until the beef is just done and no longer red. Add the broccoli back into the pan and continue to stir fry for another minute or two to combine. Serve hot, over steamed rice if desired.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Anita Gibbons-Jones
    Anita Gibbons-Jones
  • chevy
  • Lauren Rapp
    Lauren Rapp
  • Dave Ruckstuhl
    Dave Ruckstuhl
  • Peter Strong
    Peter Strong

    59 Reviews

    Linda D. September 6, 2020
    Thanks so much for this savory, simple dish Joy. This is better than any beef and broccoli dish I have ever had in a Chinese restaurant. I used a chuck roast and it was absolutely delicious!
    cgaar September 29, 2019
    I tried this recipe today I liked it, but I have some suggestions that I think make it better.
    First, when you saute the broccoli, instead of putting the garlic in the marinade, this is the place to first expose the garlic to the food. So I recommend removing the garlic from the marinade and adding it to the initial saute of the broccoli. When you heat the oil, include the garlic and then saute the broccoli in that.

    Second, the recipe asks you to steam the broccoli in plain water after the saute. I recommend that you replace the 1/2 cup of water with chicken or beef broth, and hold off on the steaming. Instead, take the cornstarch and instead of putting it in the marinade, mix it with the broth and instead of steaming the chicken, after you cook the beef, place the sauteed broccoli in with the beef and then slowly add the broth and cornstarch mixture. The heat will thicken the cornstarch and broth, and the flavors will mix, and the additional saute in the beef mixture will finish cooking the broccoli. So instead of having bland broccoli mixed with the beef (as in the original recipe) the broccoli will pick up more flavor from the marinade when cooking with the beef and the marinade. This will also deglaze the pan and the food will pick up all the goodies from the beef saute. Instead of cleaning all that stuff off the pan in the sink after the meal, it will go where it belongs - into the meal.

    My two cents.

    P.S. I like the cinnamon. I might try 1/8 teaspoon rather than 1/4 next time. It just needs a hint.
    Anita G. May 21, 2019
    I used a hanger steak instead of the flank steak. Needless to say it was very tender & flavourful. The sauce was perfect however, I will add fresh ginger or hot peppers next time. Again, WOW....loved it!
    Anita G. May 21, 2019
    OMG.............this recipe was a HUGE hit! WOW! Kudos to the chef! I am a very picky person & this was a hit with me & my guest! I am going to try it with fresh Ginger next time.......... Again, WOW!
    Heidi March 22, 2019
    Served this as in a lettuce wrap ~ made the broccoli smaller ~ a winner at the family dinner table! Thank you.
    chevy March 8, 2019
    Made this exactly as written for dinner tonight and it was delightful. Such a simple sauce with great charachter. Seved alongside some steamed brown rice and fried egg rolls. Thanks so much for sharing!
    Author Comment
    Joy H. March 9, 2019
    You're welcome!
    Lisa C. January 6, 2019
    This seems deceptively simple yet the flavors are complex and delightful. I added some thinly sliced red pepper and then some chiffonade Thai basil at the end....because I have to mess with every recipe (!) My SO polished off the entire pot. Will be making frequently I think. Thanks for sharing. Your mom rocks!
    Author Comment
    Joy H. March 9, 2019
    You're welcome =)
    Lauren R. December 16, 2018
    Great recipe! I made exactly as specified and loved the flavors!
    Author Comment
    Joy H. December 19, 2018
    Thanks, I'm glad you liked it!
    Diana K. September 4, 2018
    Hello! Thank you for sharing this recipe! I made it tonight and my husband loved it. The secret ingredient really adds something special to this dish. I think my mother in law also uses cinnamon when she makes this dish (and I could never figure out what that flavor was!).

    I do have a question...when I stir fried the beef, I feel like it released a lot of blood that made the sauce seem foamy and congealed in a weird way. You know that brown foamy stuff that comes out when you boil shabu shabu meat? Well that was in the sauce. What did I do wrong and what do you suggest I do to prevent this next time? Thank you!
    Author Comment
    Joy H. September 5, 2018
    Sorry, I've never had that happen before! Is it something you can skim off when you're cooking?
    Diana K. September 5, 2018
    Thanks for replying!!! No its like in the whole sauce. I think what happened could be I didn't use hot enough heat and ended up steaming instead of searing. I'm going to try hotter heat next time and hopefully it will turn out better. Thank you again for this amazing recipe!
    Dave R. November 19, 2017
    I made a batch of seitan last night and was looking for something to do other than just slice and pan fry it (not that there's anything wrong with that). This sounds great. Marinading now. I substituted five-spice for the cinnamon. I'll report back with results later.
    Peter S. November 6, 2017
    Just made it with chicken, added ginger to the marinade, and added bok choi at the end to have more greens. Turned out great. Thanks for a wonderful, easy dinner!
    Author Comment
    Joy H. November 6, 2017
    You're welcome! I'm glad you were able to adapt it!
    Amy October 28, 2017
    I just made this...and the cinnamon seemed a bit strong...I would do this again, but do less cinnamon. I also used sherry...but think rice wine would be better. It was easy, the marniade was not difficult, andit had a good flavour.
    Amylynn M. October 20, 2017
    I dint have sake or rice wine. I used rice wine vinegar and it worked out fabulous and family said it was a keeper. Next time I will use the sake. Great recipe!
    mick October 4, 2017
    It was fabulous. Thanks!
    By the way Japanese sake worked fine.
    Whats4Dinner July 24, 2017
    A definite keeper!!! Used sherry instead of rice wine. I also doubled it since I'm feeding a pack of wolves here but only had leftovers for two lunches. This will definitely go into the rotation ;-)
    Author Comment
    Joy H. July 24, 2017
    Thanks for your comment; I'm glad you liked it!
    Laura July 21, 2017
    I asked for rice wine at whole foods and was informed that all sake is rice wine. Now I'm getting the sense this isn't right but you didn't specify a kind of rice wine... Can I use the sake?
    Author Comment
    Joy H. July 21, 2017
    I usually substitute rice cooking wine whenever I see sake in a recipe so it would probably work! For what it's worth, I found this article about rice wines:

    Apparently the type of rice wine I use is Taiwanese michiu. I learn something new every day!
    Laura July 22, 2017
    I trusted my gut on not using the sake and instead got mirin rice wine. Followed the recipe exactly and it was perfect! Thanks so much!
    ReeceAmy July 14, 2017
    Yum! This was fab - many thanks Joy. I made a few tweaks to accommodate allergies (no cornstarch, no sugar and used avocado oil.) Served on top of cauliflower fried "rice." Lovely meal.
    Author Comment
    Joy H. July 15, 2017
    Yay, I'm glad you liked it!
    Heather July 10, 2017
    Just to clarify, when you cook the meat, you're not really searing it, right? Like mine was kind of boiling in the liquid. (??)
    Author Comment
    Joy H. July 11, 2017
    The beef should be cut thin enough that you wouldn't want to sear it (since that would make it too dry). If you use a large enough pan, you shouldn't get the "meat boiling in sauce" effect, but it is, essentially, thin strips of beef being stir fried with sauce.
    teresa A. July 10, 2017
    Ooops, just realized that the recipe calls for rice wine, NOT rice wine vinegar. I don't have rice wine, so the vinegar will just have to do.
    Author Comment
    Joy H. July 10, 2017
    I would use sherry or just more water instead of vinegar; vinegar would add an unwanted flavor to the marinade.
    nutcakes July 11, 2017
    Is Mirin what you mean or do you mean the plain Chinese type of rice wine in the large bottles?
    Author Comment
    Joy H. July 11, 2017
    I mean the plain Chinese type of rice wine in large bottles. Mirin would be way too sweet for this application.
    Tameka July 10, 2017
    Gratitude to you and your mother for such a great recipe. I really enjoyed reading the story behind this dish--thank you for sharing this gift with all of us!
    I made the dish last night, subbing seitan for the beef and sodium-free homemade veggie broth for the water and it was a delight. My husband raved and my two small children gobbled it up. Thanks again!!!
    Author Comment
    Joy H. July 10, 2017
    Ooh, I've wanted to make a vegan version of this. Did you buy the seitan or make it yourself? If you bought it, what kind did you get? I don't have much experience with it, but I'd love to try it!
    Tameka July 17, 2017
    I have been experimenting with making my own seitan for years, but still haven't got it the way I want it yet. So...I used Ray's Seitan ("Wheat Meat") for this recipe. Comes in a refrigerated tub. Had a great texture and took the flavor on quite nicely. I marinated it for about 5 hours though, as I prepped the meal when I had spare time earlier in the day, so dinner would be quick. Could very well work with the 30 minutes you suggested. Thanks Again and good luck with your seitan experiment!