Cumin beef is a quick Chinese beef stir-fry with cumin, a wonderfully aromatic spice, and chilies. Skip the Chinese take-out or delivery, and make your own delicious stir-fry beef dinner with this easy recipe in less than 20 minutes. It is so satisfying–I’m sure you will agree!

Cumin beef is served on a blue and white plate next to a bowl of rice and chopsticks

When you think of cumin, you don’t usually link it with the idea of a Chinese stir-fry. However, this aromatic cumin beef stir fry is quite a popular dish in China.

What is Cumin beef?

Although cumin is not a typical spice in Chinese cooking, this cumin beef is influenced by the ethnic Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, the northwest region of China, who use cumin in their kebabs ands stews.

Chinese cumin beef uses pre-fried beef which is then stir fried with cumin spice with fresh chilies, garlic, and ginger to create a very aromatic beef dish.

Many parts of China, like Sichuan and Hunan, have their own version of cumin beef. While Sichuan cumin beef uses an abundance of tongue-numbing Sichuan peppercorns, Hunan cumin beef, instead, often incorporates chili pickles that provide a slightly sour taste.

Beef stir-fry with cumin and chili is in a wok with kitchen tongs

This cumin beef recipe is tasty and satisfying. The beef is very tender with a hint of smokiness from the dried red pepper flakes and cumin, without being overpowering.

You can add vegetables like sweet peppers to make it more hearty. I made it without the addition of veggies this time so that I can enjoy the savory beef all by itself.

A bowl of rice is topped with a slice of cumin beef stir-fry and chopsticks.

Cumin beef ingredients

  • Beef – Sirloin is the best cut for stir-frying, or try another tender steak cut.
  • Light soy sauce – for saltiness
  • Dark soy sauce – provides the dark color with caramelized taste.
  • Shaoxing wine – adds depth to the taste. You can substitute with dry sherry or plain rice wine
  • Potato starch (or cornstarch) – crisps up the beef and adds a sheen. It also help thicken the sauce.
  • Baking soda – tenderize the beef
  • Dried red pepper flakes – adds more spiciness and smoky flavor
  • Cumin – aromatic spice and a key ingredient. Use ground cumin powder
  • Additional aromatics – Fresh chilies (either green or red, or both), ginger, garlic, sesame oil, and cilantro (optional)

Option: Adding slices of bell pepper to the cumin beef is a common variation to make it hearty meal. Try adding either green or red peppers, or both, if you wish to do so.

How to make cumin beef

Beef slices are combined with seasoning and potato starch in a bowl

Step 1. Combine thinly sliced beef sirloin, shaoxing wine, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, baking soda, and potato starch in a bowl and toss well to coat. Let the beef marinade in the seasoning for 5 minutes.

Seasoned cumin beef slices are stir-frying gin a skillet

Step 2. Heat 3 tbsp oil in a wok or skillet over high heat. Add the beef and stir fry until slightly browned and crisp on the outside. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Fresh green and red chili, garlic, and ginger is stir-frying in a skillet

Step 3. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil, add ginger, garlic and stir-fry few seconds until fragrant. Add chilies and keep stirring for about 1 minute.

Cumin beef slices are returned to the skillet and mixed with cumin, chili and garlic.

Step 4. Add the browned beef, cumin, dried chili flakes, and continue cooking until the beef is coated with the aromatics and fragrant.

Sliced green onions are added to the cumin beef stir-fry.

Step 5. Lastly, add sesame oil, chopped green onion and cilantro (if using) and toss through. Serve cumin beef hot with rice.

Tip: If you are adding bell pepper, try stir-frying with the aromatics in step 3. Then proceed to step 4.

A plate of cumin beef is placed with a bowl of rice and chopsticks

More stir-fry ideas

If you love Chinese recipes, try my other stir-fry dinner ideas below. They are all quick and easy to prepare in 30 minutes or less.

Tried this recipe? Please take a moment to leave star rating & comment. I love to hear from you and it helps other readers, too.

Cumin beef is served on a blue and white plate next to a bowl of rice and chopsticks

Quick Cumin Beef Stir-Fry

Cumin beef is a quick Chinese beef stir-fry with cumin and chilies. This easy recipe takes less than 20 minutes to bring a delicious dinner to the table.
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Ingredients

For beef marinade

For stir-fry

  • 4 tbsp oil, divided
  • 1 tbsp finely minced fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 fresh red chili, seeded and chopped
  • 2 fresh green chili, seeded and chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp red chili flakes
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 4 tbsp chopped cilantro, optional

Instructions 

  • Combine thinly sliced beef sirloin, shaoxing wine, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, baking soda, and potato starch in a bowl and toss well to coat. Let the beef marinade in the seasoning for 5 minutes.
  • Heat 3 tbsp oil in a wok or skillet over high heat. Add the beef and stir fry until slightly browned and crisp on the outside. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
  • Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil, add ginger, garlic and stir-fry few seconds until fragrant. Add chilies and keep stirring for about 1 minute.
  • Add the browned beef, cumin, dried chili flakes and continue cooking until the beef is coated with the aromatics and fragrant.
  • Lastly, add sesame oil, chopped green onion and cilantro (if using) and toss through. Serve hot with rice.
Calories: 675kcal, Carbohydrates: 25g, Protein: 7g, Fat: 61g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 18g, Monounsaturated Fat: 38g, Trans Fat: 1g, Sodium: 2574mg, Potassium: 551mg, Fiber: 6g, Sugar: 9g, Vitamin A: 1596IU, Vitamin C: 143mg, Calcium: 70mg, Iron: 4mg
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