What Is Pepper Steak? – Ultimate Guide

what is pepper steak

Pepper steak, sometimes just called “pepper,” is a dish that originated in America in the early 20th century by using cheaper cuts of beef and creating a quick sauce to coat them in.

Nowadays there are many different variations of this dish, but it’s especially popular in Chinese restaurants.

In this post, we’re going to answer, what is pepper steak? To help you better understand this dish and where it originates.

Let’s get into it…

What Exactly Is Pepper Steak?

Pepper steak is a dish of steak that is cut into thin strips and coated in a sauce filled with green peppercorns.

It has many different variations, but the most common version consists of frying the meat in a pan with soy sauce and green peppercorn powder or black pepper, then add onions and sometimes bell peppers to finish off the dish.

The dish is usually served with white rice or fried rice.

It’s a popular dish in Chinese takeout restaurants, but it actually originates from America.

The dish was popularized there in the early 20th century by using cheaper cuts of beef and creating a quick sauce to coat them in.

In fact, many Americans may not even know pepper steak is an American-Chinese dish!

Many people assume that pepper steak is a traditional Chinese dish and this is why it’s so popular in that cuisine.

Some even believe the dish is Cantonese, but there isn’t any connection between this American-Chinese version of pepper steak and China.

How Is Pepper Steak Best Cooked?

When cooking pepper steak you have to use a wok or cast-iron skillet, anything else will simply not have enough surface area for the meat.

The first step is heating up your cooking oil then adding the cubed steak and stir-frying it over high heat until it browns.

Then you’ll pour in some soy sauce and continue to stir fry the meat until all of the liquid has evaporated.

At this point, individuals might season their dish with salt or other spices if they like certain flavors more than others.

Next is adding your broth and green peppercorn powder to the pan, then simmer it for about 20 minutes.

Individuals can alter the amount of soy sauce, peppercorn powder, and broth depending on their preferences.

After 20 minutes the sauce will thicken and it’s time to add your vegetables such as onions and green pepper.

Then let them cook with the meat for a few more minutes before plating your dish.

How Is Pepper Steak Best Served?

Pepper steak is best served with either white rice or fried rice.

In many Chinese restaurants, it is also served with a side of fortune cookies and fried wontons as well as a small bowl of hot and sour soup.

There are other versions that come with different sides, but those three dishes go hand-in-hand with pepper steak.

The dish usually comes in a square or rectangular-shaped takeout box and the meat is always cut into thin strips.

The fried rice usually has peas, carrots, and sometimes ham in it.

When eating pepper steak at a restaurant, many people like to add soy sauce to their dish (usually on the side) to add more flavor.

It’s not very common to see people adding other sauces to pepper steak, but it’s always up to the individual.

How Is Pepper Steak Best Prepared?

Preparing pepper steak is very easy.

First, you want to cut your meat into thin strips about an inch long and half-an-inch wide so they can cook quickly.

Then heat up some oil in a wok or cast-iron skillet over high heat and brown your meat before adding soy sauce.

After that is done, stir fry the ingredients as usual and add your broth, green peppercorn powder, and onions at the end.

That’s about it! It’s a very simple dish to make.

Is Pepper Steak Expensive?

The price of pepper steak is going to depend on your location and also which restaurant you decide to purchase it from.

However, it is usually only a few dollars and often less than $10 for takeout.

Of course, it can be more expensive if you have to order it from a restaurant.

For instance, some restaurants offer pepper steak on their menus as being “famous” or being served with sauteed snow peas.  

Both of these meals are a little more expensive than a traditional pepper steak.  

The “famous” version of it is usually around $13, but the snow peas one might cost you around $16 or so.

Buying the ingredients for pepper steak in a supermarket is going to be a cheaper option than ordering it from a restaurant, but it depends on whether or not you have all of the ingredients at home.

For just pepper steak, you should expect to pay somewhere between $5 and $10 for all of your ingredients.

How Did The Dish Get Its Name?

The dish is named after the green peppercorn that goes into its sauce.

This type of peppercorn is called “sichuan” or “fagara” in China and it’s probably more familiar to many people as “Szechuan” pepper.

In the United States, it’s often referred to by its Japanese name of “wasabi.”

The dish takes on a new meaning in America with a Western twist and a different cut of meat.

It becomes less popular in China and other Asian countries after being exported to the US.

Where Is Pepper Steak Commonly Found?

Pepper steak originated in China, but it has become very common in the United States.

It is usually found in Chinese restaurants and can be ordered for takeout or sometimes there are even buffet options.

In some parts of America, you can also get a Western version of pepper steak from a few different fast-food chains such as Panda Express.

In some parts of Asia, there are several different types of pepper steak dishes offered in restaurants.

There is a Japanese dish called “torisoboro” which is a lot like pepper steak and it’s often served with rice on the side.  It uses soy sauce for its flavor instead of green peppercorn powder.

In some other Asian countries, they have a version of the dish that uses chicken instead of beef.

What Is The Nutritional Value Of Pepper Steak?

As with all dishes, it’s a good idea to be aware of the nutritional value of what you’re eating.

As far as pepper steak goes, there are a fair amount of calories and fat in it, but not to the point where it should be off-limits.

Below is the nutritional breakdown of one serving of Pepper Steak:

  • Calories = 317
  • Fat = 20.48g
  • Saturated Fat = 3.8g
  • Carbohydrates = 4.95g
  • Sugars = 1.56g
  • Protein = 27.7g

As you can see, pepper steak isn’t too bad for you except for its high calorie and saturated fat content.

If you decide to eat it, just try not to indulge in the dish too frequently because of these issues.

It’s also worth mentioning that pepper steak contains a lot of sodium, which can be bad for some people.

Other Considerations

Keep in mind that pepper steak usually contains onions and sometimes it might have mushrooms in it as well.

If you’re not a fan of either of these vegetables, then just be aware that they will probably be present in some form when you order the dish.

Of course, there are always things you can do to change up a dish to suit your own preferences.

This is especially true if your dish containing onions and/or mushrooms is still too expensive to order from a restaurant.

Just remember, pepper steak is a delicious way to get some protein in your diet.

As long as you don’t eat it too often, you’ll be able to enjoy the dish without any problems or negative consequences.


In conclusion, pepper steak is a great way to enjoy a tasty dish and it can be found in various forms at Chinese restaurants.

You should definitely consider giving the dish a try if you’ve never tried it before because it’s delicious and also quite nutritious for its calorie content.

As always, remember to eat smart and to remain aware of your health as you’re enjoying pepper steak.

With that said, thanks for reading this post, and be sure to share it with others if you enjoyed it!

Other Popular Posts