Orange Beef

Orange Beef bathed in a sweet and tangy orange sauce that’s easy to make and 10X better than takeout!

This Orange Beef recipe is 5 star delicious and guaranteed to land on your “top favorites” list!  It boasts crispy breaded beef (stir fry option available) tossed in the most fabulous, multidimensional orange sauce ever!  It’s bright, savory, sweet and tangy infused with orange juice and orange marmalade for plenty of citrus punch all balanced by sugar, soy sauce, hoisin, garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes. Serve this Orange Beef over a hot bed of steamed rice with stir fried vegetables for an easy weeknight meal or throw in some cream cheese wontons and ramen noodle salad when you’re feeling extra ambitious 😉.  Any way you serve it, this Orange Beef is a stunner!

Chinese Beef recipes are easy and delicious to make at home as long as you have the right recipe!  Don’t miss these favorites:  Beef and Broccoli, Crockpot Beef and Broccoli, Ginger Beef, Mongolian Beef, Szechuan Beef and Pepper Steak.

HOW TO MAKE Orange Beef VIDEo

top view of crispy orange beef in a skillet showing how crispy it is
combining orange beef and orange sauce in a stainless steel saucepan

Orange Beef Ingredients 

There are three main components to this Chinese Orange Beef recipe: 1) the beef, 2) the beef batter, and 3) the sweet and tangy orange sauce.  Let’s take a closer look at what you’ll need to make the recipe (full measurements are provided in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post): 

The Batter

  • Cornstarch: This is the base of the frying batter.  It helps coat the beef, absorb moisture and prevent gluten development, which makes the coating crispier.
  • Flour:  I use all-purpose flour but I’m sure gluten free flour, almond flour, etc. would also work.
  • Egg:  One egg is used in the batter to help the flour and cornstarch bind together and form a better moisture seal.  The egg prevents the batter from absorbing excess oil and making the beef greasy.
  • White pepper:  This is milder than black pepper with a more complex, earthy flavor and less pungent heat. 
top view of serving orange beef on a platter

THE Orange Sauce

Each orange sauce ingredient plays a specific role in weaving the sweet and tangy tapestry – and all you do is whisk the ingredients together! The sauce is my dream combination of ramped up orange flavor from sweet orange marmalade, sweetness from the sugar, multi-dimensional tanginess from the orange juice, lemon juice and red wine vinegar, umami depth from the soy sauce and hoisin and punchiness and heat from the ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes.  Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Orange juice: Use either freshly squeezed orange juice or fresh, no sugar added store-bought orange juice.  
  • Sweet orange marmalade:  This is a game changer.  It amplifies the orange flavor with multidimensional fruity sweetness and intense orange flavor with just the right amount of zip from orange peel. Sweet orange marmalade is made using Valencia, navel, or similar oranges and will be called out on the label as “SWEET Orange Marmalade.” I used Smucker’s brand. Bitter or Seville marmalade is traditional and will just be labeled “orange marmalade.” If you can only can only find orange marmalade (without the sweet), then increase the sugar to taste by a few tablespoons.
  • Sugar: Granulated (plain white sugar) is just the ticket to sweeten the sauce. As opposed to brown sugar, it lets the pure citrus flavors shine. You may need more or less depending on personal taste.
  • Red wine vinegar: A couple tablespoons adds a fruity tang which complements the orange juice. 
  • Soy sauce: Use low-sodium soy sauce so we can control the salt in the orange beef sauce.
  • Hoisin sauce:  This is like an Asian BBQ Sauce and can be found in the Asian section of any grocery store. I use it in tons of my Asian recipes, so I promise it will not go to waste! Please use only Kikkoman or Lee Kum Kee brands of hoisin sauce because they taste 1000X better!
  • Seasonings: Garlic powder, ginger powder, onion powder, salt and red pepper flakes add a punchy zip to the sauce without overpowering it.
up close of a spoonful of orange beef on a platter garnished by green onions showing how crispy it is

Ingredient Substitutions

  • All-purpose flour: I’m sure gluten-free flour, almond flour, etc. would also work.
  • White pepper: If you don’t have white pepper, you may substitute with black pepper. If you know you like heat, swap the white pepper for the equal amount of black pepper, otherwise use ¾ the amount of black pepper.
  • Orange and lemon juice: Freshly squeezed is best, but bottled works as well. Just make sure the bottled orange juice is fresh and unsweetened. 
  • Red pepper flakes: You may use Asian chili sauce instead.

How to Make Orange Beef

While this Chinese Orange Beef recipe may look impressive, it is very easy to make in just six simple steps! Let’s take a closer look with step-by-step photos or you can watch the How To Make Video in the recipe card (printable recipe card at the bottom of the post): 

  • Step 1: Slice your beef into 1/4-inch slices across the grain.
showing how to make orange beef by slicing flank steak into thin strips against the grain
  • Step 2: To make the batter, whisk together the cornstarch and flour in a large bowl, followed by the water and egg. The batter should be quite smooth.  Add the beef and let rest while you prep the orange sauce.
a collage showing how to make crispy orange beef recipe by adding the strips of flank steak to batter before frying
  • Step 3: Prepare the orange sauce by whisking together the sauce ingredients in a large bowl. 
showing how to make orange beef by whisking the orange juice, orange marmalade, toasted sesame oil, hoisin, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, red pepper flakes ingredients together in a glass bowl
  • Step 4: Fill a large Dutch oven/pot with about 1 inch of vegetable oil. Heat the oil to 350-375ºF (177ºC). Fry the beef in batches for just a few minutes until they are lightly golden, then remove to a paper towel-lined baking sheet using a slotted spoon or strainer. 
a collage showing how to make orange beef by deep frying until crispy then removing with a strainer
  • Step 5: Add the prepared orange sauce to a large saucepan and simmer just for two minutes to concentrate the flavors-it will only reduce slightly and will not thicken.
top view showing how to make orange beef recipe by o simmering orange sauce in a sauce pan
  • Step 6: Add the cooked beef strips to the sauce. Continue cooking the beef in the sauce until it’s fully coated and the sauce is mostly absorbed by the beef.
showing how to make crispy orange beef by stirring the crispy breaded beef with the orange sauce
  • Step 7: Serve and garnish your Orange Beef as desired. I enjoy mine over a bed of rice showered with sesame seeds and chopped green onions! 
top view of making orange beef by garnishing with green onions and sesame seeds
  • Freeze the beef for easier slicing: Place your beef in the freezer 60 minutes before slicing. This will help the beef not wiggle beneath your knife so it’s much easier to slice thinly and cleanly. The frozen beef thaws quickly, so I suggest slicing the beef into thirds and working with one third at a time while the rest of the beef stays in the freezer.
  • Slice beef across the grain: When you look at your steak, you can see the muscle fibers “grain” running through the meat in one direction. You want to cut perpendicular to the muscle fibers so they become as short as possible, as opposed to parallel which will result in long muscle fibers and chewy, rubbery meat. 
  • Bring the beef to room temperature: Add the beef strips to the batter first so it has time to come to room temperature.  You don’t want cold beef added to hot oil! This also creates fluffier fried beef.
  • Use the correct oil: Vegetable oil is my go-to oil for frying because it has a smoking point comfortably above frying temperature and is very neutral. Other oils suitable for frying (although some aren’t as neutral as others) include: peanut oil, soybean oil, safflower oil, canola oil and cottonseed oil.
  • Use an instant read thermometer: I highly recommend an instant-read thermometer to ensure you have the correct oil temperature not only at the beginning of frying, but throughout the entire frying process. 
  • Test oil: If you don’t have a thermometer, medium-high heat should be about right, but every stove is different, so you will want to test the oil before adding the beef. Test the temperature with a pinch of flour or better yet, an extra piece of beef. If it boils, your oil is ready but if it boils and the test piece turns dark within a minute or so, your oil is too hot. You will have to remove it from the heat, wait a few minutes, return to heat and try again.
  • Cook the beef in batches: You will need to cook your beef in several batches in order for it to cook evenly and not clump together. 
  • Break up beef clumps: Use a fork and a knife, tongs, etc. to break up the beef once it’s added to the hot oil, then stir occasionally so it doesn’t clump together. 
  • Cook evenly: You can either use enough oil so the beef is completely submerged, in which case the strips are extremely easy to cook evenly, or use less oil and take care to flip the pieces over halfway through frying.
  • Don’t overcook beef: Overcooked beef means tough beef! Fry just until the outsides are golden, about 3-4 minutes. The batter will not turn deeply golden due to the cornstarch, just lightly golden.
  • Line on paper towels: Use a spider trainer, fine mesh sieve, or slotted spoon to transfer the crispy fried beef to a paper towel lined baking sheet in a single layer without touching. You don’t want the pieces touching or they will steam; you also don’t want them sitting in oil or they won’t be as crispy.
  • Serve immediately: The beef will become increasingly less crispy (but still delicious), the longer it sits. For the crispiest beef, serve immediately.
  • Customize! Make this YOUR Orange Beef recipe by making it sweeter, tangier, or spicier if desired.
up close of a spoonful of orange beef showing how crispy it is
  • Stir fry the beef: Instructions provided above.
  • Add broccoli florets: Cut the broccoli into bite-sized pieces. Stir fry them for about 3 minutes before adding the sauce.
  • Add carrots: Thinly slice the carrots so that they cook at the same rate as the other veggies if using. Stir fry for 3 minutes before adding the sauce.
  • Add bell pepper: Cut the bell pepper into 1” pieces so it won’t become too soft.  Stir fry for 3 minutes before adding the sauce.
  • Add snow peas: Trim the ends and add with the sauce, they only need a minute or two to simmer.
  • Sweeten it up: Add extra granulated sugar to taste.
  • Add sweet heat: Add sweet chili sauce.
  • Spice it up: Use additional red pepper flakes or chili sauce.
  • Make it tangier: Use additional red wine vinegar.
  • Amp up the orange flavor: Add orange zest.
  • Amp up the garlic and/or ginger: This will give the sauce a stronger punch of flavor. You can also swap in fresh garlic and/or ginger.
crispy orange beef over rice served with chopsticks

Rice Options

  • Rice: I prefer jasmine rice or brown rice but any rice will work. Just pop the rice in your rice cooker for a hands’ off, easy side. You can also use microwave rice pouches if you’re making a serving for one or meal prep.  
  • Low carb: Cauliflower rice, quinoa, broccoli rice or a blend of brown rice and any of the aforementioned options. You can also use low carb noodles such as zoodles or spaghetti squash.
  • Noodles: Ramen, soba noodles, rice noodles or even linguine are a fun way to mix things up! 

Appetizers and sides 

top view showing how to serve orange beef recipe over a bed of white steamed rice
crispy orange beef over rice served with chopsticks

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top view of making orange beef by garnishing with green onions and sesame seeds

Orange Beef

This Orange Beef recipe is 5 star delicious and guaranteed to land on your “top favorites” list!  It boasts crispy breaded beef (stir fry option available) tossed in the most fabulous, multidimensional orange sauce ever!  It’s bright, savory, sweet and tangy infused with orange juice and orange marmalade for plenty of citrus punch all balanced by sugar, soy sauce, hoisin, garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes. Serve this Orange Beef over a hot bed of steamed rice with stir fried vegetables for an easy weeknight meal or throw in some cream cheese wontons and ramen noodle salad when you’re feeling extra ambitious 😉.  Any way you serve it, this Orange Beef is a stunner!
Servings: 6 servings
Total Time: 40 mins
Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 20 mins

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Ingredients

BEEF

  • 1 pound flank steak cut against the grain into ¼ inch strips, about 3 inches long
  • vegetable oil, as needed

BATTER

  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper (may sub ¾ tsp black pepper)
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 large egg

ORANGE SAUCE

  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/3 cup sweet orange marmalade (see notes for regular/not sweet)
  • 3-4 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons quality hoisin sauce like Lee Kum Kee or Kikkoman
  • 1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp EACH salt, onion powder, garlic powder, ground ginger, red pepper flakes

GARNISH

  • Sliced green onions
  • Sesame seeds

Instructions

  • Batter: Whisk together the cornstarch and flour in a large bowl. Add the water and egg and whisk until the batter is smooth. Add the beef strips and stir until completely coated; set aside.
  • Sauce: Whisk together the sauce ingredients in a medium bowl; set aside.
  • Fry Beef: Fill a large Dutch oven/fryer (this is the one I use) with 1 inch of vegetable oil. Heat the oil to 350-375 degrees F (177 C). Line a baking sheet with paper towels to receive the fried beef.
  • Working in batches, use tongs to add the beef strips to the hot oil. Use a fork to stir and break them apart as they cook.
  • Fry the beef strips for 3 to 4 minutes or until golden (they will only be lighlty golden, not deeply golden due to the cornstarch). Remove the beef strips with a slotted spoon or spider strainer and let them drain in a single layer on the prepared paper towels.
  • Simmer Sauce: Add the sauce to a large saucepan and simmer for 2 minutes, (it will not thicken, we are just concentrating the flavors).
  • Combine: Reduce heat to medium-low. Add the fried beef strips and stir to coat in the sauce for about 2 minutes, until the beef absorbs the sauce. Garnish beef with the sesame seeds and green onions.

Video

Notes

Tips and Tricks

  • Sweet orange marmalade: Sweet orange marmalade is made using Valencia, navel, or similar oranges and will be called out on the label as “SWEET Orange Marmalade.” I used Smucker’s brand. Bitter or Seville marmalade is traditional and will just be labeled “orange marmalade.” If you can only can only find orange marmalade (without the sweet), then increase the sugar to taste by a few tablespoons.
  • Orange and lemon juice: Freshly squeezed is best, but bottled works as well. Just make sure it’s 100% juice and unsweetened.
  • Freeze the beef for easier slicing: Place your beef in the freezer 60 minutes before slicing. This will help the beef not wiggle beneath your knife so it’s much easier to slice thinly and cleanly. The frozen beef thaws quickly, so I suggest slicing the beef into thirds and working with one third at a time while the rest of the beef stays in the freezer.
  • Use an instant read thermometer: I highly recommend an instant-read thermometer to ensure you have the correct oil temperature not only at the beginning of frying, but throughout the entire frying process. 
  • Serve immediately: The beef will become increasingly less crispy (but still delicious), the longer it sits. For the crispiest beef, serve immediately.
  • Prep Ahead: The orange sauce can be whisked together up to 48 hours in advance and stored in the refrigerator. The steak can be sliced and refrigerated, or go one step further and add it to the batter, cover, and refrigerate for up to 24 hours before frying. Let sit at room temperature for about 60 minutes to come to room temperature before frying. 
  • To store and reheat: Although best enjoyed immediately for crispy Orange Beef, the recipe reheats well for lunches and dinners. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days.  Reheat in a microwave safe dish for one minute, then at 10 second intervals as needed, or reheat in a skillet over medium-low heat, stirring often. 

How to stir fry orange beef

I love the signature crisp of Chinese Orange Beef, but more importantly, the beading soaks up the sauce like a sponge so every bite is orange bliss. However, I also know frying is not an option for some people. To make this recipe as a stir fry in a skillet (noting that the beef won’t be crispy), follow these instructions: 
 
  1. Skip breading the beef. Instead, whisk together 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 teaspoons cornstarch, 1 teaspoon rice wine, 1 teaspoon baking soda and ½ teaspoon white pepper or ¼ teaspoon black pepper in a large bowl. Add the beef strips and stir to coat; let marinate for 30 minutes, but no more.
  1. Whisk the orange sauce ingredients together in a medium bowl and ADD 1 tablespoon cornstarch; set aside.  The original sauce does not call for cornstarch because it is not supposed to/will not thicken so it can be absorbed by the battered beef.
  2. To cook the beef, heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or peanut oil in a large heavy bottom skillet over HIGH heat until very hot and sizzling. Working in 2-3 batches, add the steak in a single layer and sear for one minute, flip over and cook one additional minute (it won’t be cooked through).  Don’t overcook or it won’t be as tender! Transfer steak to a large plate and repeat.
  3. Return all of the beef to the skillet and pour the orange sauce over top. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce is thickened and the beef is cooked, about 1-2 minutes. Dig in!

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