Black Pepper Beef

The floral kick of freshly ground black pepper permeates each bite of this aromatic stir-fry.

Black Pepper Beef

Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling by Christine Keely

Active Time:
15 mins
Total Time:
50 mins
4 servings

Black pepper may seem like such an everyday seasoning in the kitchen — it is the most popular spice on the planet — but a dish like this one really shows off what this go-to ingredient found on dining tables and pepper grinders all over the place can really do. Black pepper takes a starring role in this beautifully simple dish highlighting the complex flavor of the common spice in this recipe adapted from Cynthia Shanmugalingam’s cookbook, Rambutan: Recipes from Sri Lanka. Thin slices of beef tenderloin are simply seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper before being quickly sautéed with piquant green Thai chiles, citrusy and floral lemongrass, sweet red onion, and ginger. Bruising the lemongrass before cooking releases the aroma and flavor from their tough, woody stalks.


  • 12 ounces beef tenderloin, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch-thick x 1-inch-wide x 2 1/2- to 3-inch-long strips

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

  • 2 (2-ounce) lemongrass stalks, trimmed and cut into 4-inch pieces

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil

  • 10 fresh curry leaves

  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced (about 1 3/4 cups)

  • 1 (3/4-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and crushed

  • 2 small fresh green Thai chiles, thinly sliced (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)

  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar


  1. Stir together beef, pepper, and salt in a large bowl. Let stand, uncovered, at room temperature for 30 minutes.

  2. Using back of a chef’s knife or a cleaver, pound lemongrass lightly to bruise; set aside. Heat oil in a large cast-iron or heavy-bottomed skillet over high. Add beef in an even layer; cook until browned, about 2 minutes per side, flipping once. Add lemongrass, curry leaves, onion, ginger, and chiles; cook, stirring often, until onion is tender, 1 minute and 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Stir in vinegar. Remove from heat, and let stand at room temperature 4 minutes before serving.

Suggested Pairing

Moderately tannic, full-bodied Sonoma Cabernet: Simi Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon


Fresh curry leaves can be found at most Asian markets or online at

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