My Mom's Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry

Test Kitchen-Approved

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

Serves: 4
Prep time: 45 min
Cook time: 15 min


  • 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.

More Great Recipes:
Chinese|Beef|Broccoli|Meat|Soy Sauce|Vegetable|Sesame Oil|Stir-Fry|Entree

Reviews (51) Questions (0)

51 Reviews

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!
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!).<br /><br />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!<br />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:<br /><br />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! <br />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!
Yulia July 10, 2017
This was slightly underwhelming, maybe because I only marinated the beef for thirty minutes. I also found it a little hard to tell when the beef was done because the brown sauce camouflaged the meat, so maybe the problem is also that I accidentally overcooked the beef a little. I followed the recipe as written, though I used a big cast iron wok instead of a large flat-bottomed pan. I can see myself cooking the beef more easily in a large pan with the strips laying in the sauce instead of bubbling in it at the bottom of a wok. I didn’t think it would make that much of a difference though! Oh well.
Yulia July 10, 2017
Not hating though. Joy's recipe for scallion rolls looks DELECTABLE and I trust her recipes enough to try that next. :)
Author Comment
Joy H. July 10, 2017
=) No worries; not every recipe will work for everyone. I hope you have better luck with the hua juan!
Suen July 9, 2017
Wow! My dad does almost exactly the same stir fry but with gailan (芥蘭). The tip made me smile as that's the same thing mom taught me too! We're from Malaysia. I guess the cooking techniques and recipes spread with the diaspora.
Author Comment
Joy H. July 9, 2017
charity July 8, 2017
Any thoughts on how this would taste with salmon?<br />
Author Comment
Joy H. July 9, 2017
I know my mom has cooked salmon with a soy-based sauce before, but I think she usually roasts it instead of stir-frying it. Not sure how well salmon would hold up in a stir fry.... Have you tried it before?
charity July 10, 2017
I have- i usually remove the skin then marinate it whole. When it comes time to cook it i toss it in the skillet and crumble it a little as it cooks. Kind of like ground beef. I hate to modify the recipe in the first go but this sounds delicious and the only thing I have on hand is salmon. I'll give it a try with this sauce and let you know how it turns out.
Sophia July 8, 2017
This is wonderful! I substituted Worcestershire sauce for the soy sauce, baking soda for the corn starch, lamb for the beef, and coriander for the cinnamon and added some barbecue sauce to the marinade! It was amazing, and I can't wait to make this again!
Author Comment
Joy H. July 8, 2017
Sigh, my cousin, the troll =P
Whats4Dinner July 8, 2017
You're such a good sport :-)
Tasha July 6, 2017
looks delicious. would this work with chicken? any adjustments that need to be made?<br />
Author Comment
Joy H. July 6, 2017
Usually when I think of a traditional chicken and broccoli stir fry there isn't any soy sauce in it so maybe you could try this without the soy (but up the salt). Or just try as is and just sub the chicken for the beef; it would probably still be quite good! Please let me know how it turns out!
Author Comment
Joy H. July 6, 2017
Oh, and if you're going to make it without the soy sauce, I'd substitute some fresh ginger for the cinnamon, too.
Katelinlee May 21, 2017
This turned out great, thank you!
Author Comment
Joy H. May 22, 2017
You're welcome!