Beef Marinade for a Chinese Stir-Fry

Beef Marinade for a Chinese Stir-Fry

The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

Prep: 2 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Marinate: 15 mins
Total: 17 mins
Servings: 3 to 4 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
305 Calories
19g Fat
2g Carbs
30g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 3 to 4
Amount per serving
Calories 305
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 19g 24%
Saturated Fat 8g 38%
Cholesterol 99mg 33%
Sodium 1050mg 46%
Total Carbohydrate 2g 1%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 1g
Protein 30g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 20mg 2%
Iron 3mg 14%
Potassium 331mg 7%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

You might think of stir-fries as a quick-cooking method over very high heat, but there is actually another step before the ingredients hit the wok. The best Chinese stir-fries begin with a marinade, allowing the meat, chicken, or seafood to absorb a bit of flavor before it is cooked with the vegetables. You will notice most stir-fry recipe ingredient lists can be broken down into a marinade, a sauce, and meat and vegetables. If you have this marinade under your belt, you can toss together an authentic Chinese stir-fry in no time—perfect for a busy weeknight.

This easy marinade recipe is great with a beef stir-fry and works well with 3/4 to 1 pound of sirloin or ​round beef, cut into thin slices. The combination of oyster sauce and sugar goes nicely with several recipes.

"This was an easy marinade and flavored the beef perfectly. I used top sirloin and used the marinated beef to make a simple stir-fry with some garlic, ginger, mushrooms, and green onions. It was an excellent main dish and went well with rice noodles." —Diana Rattray

Beef Marinade for Chinese Stir-Fry Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 1 pound sirloin or round beef, cut into thin slices

  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce

  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce

  • 1 teaspoon granulated white sugar, or soft brown sugar

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Beef Marinade ingredients for a Chinese Stir-Fry

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  2. Place the thinly sliced beef in a bowl.

    Sliced beef in a bowl

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  3. Add the ingredients—oyster sauce, soy sauce, sugar, salt, and pepper—one at a time.

    Geef and marinade in a bowl

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  4. Gently mix to combine and let marinate for 15 minutes, or as the recipe instructs.

    Beef Marinade for a Chinese Stir-Fry

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga


  • This marinade will definitely make for a better stir-fry, but if you don't cut the beef properly, the meat could ruin the dish. There are a few tips when slicing beef for stir-fry. First, when cutting the beef, it is important to slice it across the grain, which helps tenderize it. To determine which direction the grain is, look at the top of the piece of meat and see if the muscle fibers are running vertically or horizontally. Then cut perpendicular to that line.
  • Second, you want to be sure to slice the meat thinly and into uniform-size pieces. This can be challenging if the beef is room temperature, so you might want to pop it in the freezer for 20 to 30 minutes first. This will make it much easier to create thin pieces of beef that are all the same size.
  • Once you have your beef marinating, you can prep the rest of the recipe's ingredients. When you are all set and ready to cook, remove the meat and discard the marinade.

How to Use Chinese Marinated Beef

Create a stir-fry with your favorite aromatics and vegetables or take a look at these recipes to get some ideas:

What is dark soy sauce?

Light soy sauce—sometimes labeled "thin" or "superior"— does not mean low sodium—it is salty tasting, thin, and light reddish-brown in color. Dark soy sauce is thicker and tastes less salty than light soy sauce.

Is oyster sauce made with oysters?

Yes, oyster sauce is made from oysters. The sauce is a combination of juices from cooking oysters—it is sweet and briny and an excellent addition to stir-fry dishes.