I’m not sure if I subconsciously selected my friends based on their willingness to share bites of whatever they ordered for dinner with me, but THANK GOODNESS a good girlfriend let me taste her Chinese pepper steak when we went out for Asian last week. Were it not for her generosity, this Crock Pot Pepper Steak might never have come to be, and our lives would be worse off without it.
Pepper steak is a classic Chinese American dish that’s named for its two primary ingredients: peppers (bell peppers, specifically) and strips of steak (often sirloin, flank, or round). It’s in a thick, almost gravy-like sauce made with ginger and soy sauce; the sauce coats every morsel with its rich, savory flavor. No dry grains of rice here!
Pepper steak is typically served as a fast, stir-fry style dish, but I wanted to see if I could adapt it for the slow cooker.
We absolutely love Asian crockpot recipes like Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken and Crockpot Beef and Broccoli. Since everything is prepped in advance, by the time the meal is ready, it feels a little like someone made dinner for me.
Using the slow cooker to make pepper steak gives you the immediate reward of ordering takeout (hey look! I walked into the house, and dinner is magically ready), with the nutritional and cost-saving benefits that come with cooking healthy food at home.
After sampling several bites of my friend’s pepper steak (TBD if she’ll ever go out to eat with me again), I determined we all needed an easy version of the recipe to make at home.
I tooled around with the sauce a bit, adding more ginger to give it a fresher flavor and sweetening the sauce naturally with honey instead of the brown sugar often used in restaurants.
Forever a lover of a good veggie sneak, I also packed in extra bell peppers, so you can enjoy this recipe as a healthy, all-in-one meal.
How to Make Crock Pot Pepper Steak
Once everything is in the crockpot, this is a set-it-and-forget-it meal. Your future self is already thanking you.
Key Stir Fry Ingredients
- Beef. You have options here! The best cuts of beef for the crockpot usually are tough, because the slow cooker breaks them down slowly and makes them tender, without drying them out. Chuck roast, strip steak, and round roast are all popular, and because the cuts are tougher, they are very affordable too.
- For pepper steak, I love to use sirloin. It is a bit more expensive, but it’s leaner and is easy to cut into pieces of the appropriate size.
- You can also make this crockpot pepper steak with beef stew meat, which is a mix of cuts. I don’t love stew meat in the slow cooker *as* much because the cuts will finishing cooking in different amounts of time (so some may overcook), but it’s a fast, budget-friendly option that yields decent results.
- Bell Peppers. ALL THE COLORS! Bell peppers are one of my favorite vegetables, and why I often use them in stir fries like this Teriyaki Chicken Stir Fry. They’re high in Vitamin-C, potassium, and folate.
- Sautéed Onions. Browning the onions in the same pan used to brown the beef is a major upgrade to this recipe. It’s worth it (as is the time spent browning the beef, I promise!).
- Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes. While these might seem like an odd addition, they help thicken the sauce and add a subtle smokiness. The acid in the tomatoes also helps balance the pepper steak sauce’s sweetness.
Key Pepper Steak Sauce Ingredients
- Soy Sauce. A salty, delicious umami bomb. Soy sauce is the perfect base for an Asian stir fry sauce (just check out all the recipes I’ve used it in!).
- Worcestershire Sauce. Making crockpot pepper steak with Worcestershire sauce helps to deepen the flavors of the dish. It works well with the beef and gives another umami note.
- Honey. I love to naturally sweeten my Asian recipes with honey. It provides the perfect touch of sweetness and stickiness that the dish needs.
- Ginger. Adds fresh, zippy, slightly sweet notes to the sauce.
- Toss the beef with the spices then sauté it on all sides until lightly browned. Add it to the slow cooker.
- In the same pan, sauté the onions until they are lightly browned. Hello, FLAVOR. Add them to the slow cooker too.
- Add the peppers to the slow cooker.
- Add the tomatoes to the slow cooker. Whisk together the sauce ingredients and cornstarch in a small bowl, then pour the mixture into the slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW for 6 to 7 hours, until the beef is tender.
- Whisk together the cornstarch slurry, and stir it into the slow cooker. Let cook uncovered on HIGH for 10 minutes to thicken. Serve hot with brown rice and green onions. ENJOY!
Tips to Thicken Pepper Steak Sauce
This recipe uses cornstarch to thicken the sauce, and we were happy with the resulting texture. If you’d like your sauce even thicker, here are a few tips:
- Add Time. Leave your slow cooker uncovered on HIGH for about 20 minutes instead of 10 to give the sauce additional time to reduce.
- Add Additional Cornstarch. You can add a second round of the cornstarch slurry; don’t go too crazy or you may change the flavor, but I would say you can comfortably add 1 additional tablespoon cornstarch, whisked together with 1 tablespoon water, then stir it into the slow cooker.
How to Store, Reheat, and Freeze Crock Pot Pepper Steak
- To Store. Place leftover pepper steak in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- To Reheat. Gently rewarm leftovers in a large skillet on the stove over medium-low heat. You can also reheat this dish in the microwave.
- To Freeze. Store pepper steak in an airtight freezer-safe storage container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
What to Serve with Pepper Steak
- Rice. Keep it simple and serve your pepper steak with rice. You’ll have plenty of sauce to make sure every grain is coated. I like to use brown rice for its whole-grain benefits like extra fiber and nutrients.
- Cauliflower Rice. For a more low-carb option, swap the rice for steamed cauliflower rice.
- Vegetables. Up the veggie content even more by serving this recipe with a side of Roasted Frozen Broccoli or Roasted Brussels Sprouts.
More Healthy Asian-Inspired Slow Cooker Recipes
- Crockpot Sweet and Sour Chicken
- Crock Pot Cashew Chicken
- Asian Lettuce Wraps
- Crock Pot Teriyaki Chicken
- Crockpot Orange Chicken
- Slow Cooker Asian Pulled Pork Tacos
Recommended Tools to Make Crock Pot Pepper Steak
- Slow Cooker. I love that this one is programmable, so it will switch to warm after the cooking time has ended.
- Small Whisk. This one is the ideal size for preparing sauce ingredients.
- Large Skillet. This is a great size for browning the beef.
Put down the takeout menu, and let’s make better, healthy pepper steak right in the crockpot!
Crock Pot Pepper Steak
- 2 pounds sirloin cut into 2-inch, by ½-inch strips
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon canola oil grapeseed oil, or a different neutral oil
- 1 large yellow onion
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons water, divided
- 2 green bell peppers cored and cut into ½-inch strips
- 2 red, yellow, or orange bell peppers cored and cut into ½-inch strips
- 1 15-ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes in their juices
- ¼ cup low sodium soy sauce plus additional to taste
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes plus additional to taste
- 5 tablespoons cornstarch divided
- Prepared brown rice quinoa or cauliflower rice, for serving
- Place the beef in a bowl and sprinkle with the garlic powder, salt, and black pepper. Toss to coat.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high. Add the beef and cook on all sides until the beef is lightly browned, about 5 minutes (no need to cook it all the way through). Transfer the beef and any cooking juices to a 6-quart slow cooker.
- To the skillet where you were just cooking the beef, add the onions. Increase the heat to high. Carefully pour in 1/4 cup water, stirring to scrape up any browned bits stuck on the pan. Sauté until the onions begin to soften and lightly brown and the liquid has cooked off, about 3 minutes, then transfer the onions to the slow cooker with the beef.
- To the slow cooker, add the green and red bell peppers (see recipe note) and tomatoes. In a small bowl or a large liquid measuring cup, whisk together the soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, honey, ginger, red pepper flakes, and 3 tablespoons cornstarch. Pour into the slow cooker.
- Cover and cook on LOW for 6 to 7 hours, until the beef is tender (you can also make this recipe on HIGH, cooking it for 3 to 4 hours, though I find the beef comes out more tender on low heat).
- In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons cornstarch with the remaining 2 tablespoons water to make a slurry. Stir the slurry into the slow cooker. Turn the slow cooker to HIGH and let cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes to further thicken. The pepper beef will still be saucy, but it should resemble a thick, rich gravy. Stir once more. Taste and add additional salt, soy sauce, and/or red pepper flakes to taste. Serve hot with prepared brown rice and a sprinkle of green onion.
- The bell peppers will become quite soft during cooking; if you prefer them more crisp, wait to add them a little more than halfway through the cook time.
- TO STORE: Place leftover steak in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- TO REHEAT: Gently rewarm leftovers in a large skillet on the stove over medium-low heat. You can also reheat this dish in the microwave.
- TO FREEZE: Store pepper steak in an airtight freezer-safe storage container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
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