What Is Mongolian Beef Taste Like? The Complete Guide

Mongolian beef is a popular dish in Chinese-American cuisine that has captured the hearts and taste buds of many.

With its perfect balance of sweet and savory flavors, combined with a slight kick of spice, it’s no wonder why this dish has become a staple in many households.

But what exactly does Mongolian beef taste like? Is it as spicy as Szechuan beef or as mild as Hunan beef?

In this article, we’ll explore the unique taste of Mongolian beef and what sets it apart from other Chinese dishes.

So, get ready to tantalize your taste buds and discover the deliciousness that is Mongolian beef!

What Is Mongolian Beef Taste Like?

Mongolian beef has a distinct taste that sets it apart from other Chinese dishes. It’s a perfect blend of sweet and savory flavors with a slight hint of spice. The dish is loaded with delicious aromatics such as ginger, garlic, green onions, and dried red chilis, which bring a deep, fragrant flavor to the dish.

The main ingredient in Mongolian beef is flank steak, which is tender and sears up quickly in a hot cast-iron skillet. The beef is marinated in soy sauce, garlic, sesame oil, and other ingredients for up to 24 hours before being cooked with mushrooms and green onions. The result is a savory meal that’s perfect as an appetizer or side dish.

The sauce used in Mongolian beef is made from soy sauce and brown sugar, giving it a heavenly sweet-tangy taste. It’s not as spicy as Szechuan beef but has a mild and simple taste that’s perfect for those who prefer less heat in their food.

Mongolian beef is traditionally served “family-style” in a large platter with hot rice on the side or even noodles. The dish’s trademark is the stir-fry cooking method it uses, which gives the beef its thin and tender pieces.

The Origins Of Mongolian Beef

Despite its name, Mongolian beef has nothing to do with Mongolian cuisine. The dish actually originated in Taiwan in the 1950s and was heavily influenced by the Japanese style of teppanyaki, which was popular at the time. Mongolian barbecue restaurants first appeared in Taiwan, and the concept of being able to choose your own meats, vegetables, and sauces and have them all stir-fried together was a hit with diners who enjoyed the variety and power they had to create their own meal rather than having a chef do so for them.

The name “Mongolian” was attributed to the dish because it was invented at Mongolian barbecue restaurants in Taiwan. However, Mongolian barbecue isn’t Mongolian at all, and the restaurant concept was invented by a restaurateur named Wu Zhaonan in Taiwan. The ingredients and cooking methods used in Mongolian beef are actually drawn from Chinese cuisine, specifically from the Shangdong province or Xingjiang province.

The dish is typically made with sliced beef, often flank steak, mixed with onions or scallions and served over steamed rice or crispy fried cellophane noodles. The sweet flavor of dark brown sugar combined with salty soy sauce and powerful ginger and garlic flavors is quite addictive. The dish is often not spicy but can be made hotter by adding dried red chilis or other spicy ingredients.

Ingredients Used In Mongolian Beef

To make Mongolian beef, you’ll need thinly sliced beef, soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, green onions, dried red chilis, and cornstarch. Flank steak is the most commonly used cut of beef for this dish due to its tenderness and quick cooking time. To ensure the beef is tender, it’s essential to slice it thinly across the grain.

The marinade used for the beef consists of soy sauce and cornstarch, which helps tenderize the meat and add flavor. The sauce used in the dish is a combination of soy sauce, brown sugar, hoisin sauce, and water. This mixture gives the dish its sweet and savory taste while balancing out the flavors of the beef and aromatics.

To add a bit of heat to the dish, dried red chilis are added to the stir-fry along with ginger and garlic. These ingredients provide a fragrant aroma and a slight kick of spice. Green onions are also added to the stir-fry for a fresh and crisp flavor.

The Cooking Process Of Mongolian Beef

To make Mongolian beef, you’ll need to start by prepping all of your ingredients according to the recipe. Begin by slicing the flank steak into thin 1/4 inch pieces against the grain, and season with salt and pepper. Toss the steak pieces in cornstarch until they are fully and evenly coated, then set them aside.

Next, heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add some oil. Sauté the ginger and garlic until fragrant, then add soy sauce, water, and sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil until the sugar dissolves, then pour the sauce into a measuring cup and set it aside.

Place the skillet back over heat and add more oil. Add the steak and sear it until it is evenly browned on both sides. Once the beef is cooked through, pour the sauce back into the skillet and stir it together with the meat. Allow the sauce to thicken, then add green onions and continue to simmer until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.

Finally, serve your Mongolian beef hot over rice or noodles. The dish is best enjoyed family-style in a large platter with hot rice on the side. Optionally, you can garnish your dish with green onions or sesame seeds for added flavor and texture.

The Flavor Profile Of Mongolian Beef

Mongolian beef is a dish that’s known for its unique flavor profile. The dish is not too spicy, but it has a rich, savory taste that’s complemented by a touch of sweetness. The combination of soy sauce and brown sugar in the sauce gives Mongolian beef its signature sweet-tangy taste.

The use of ginger and garlic in the recipe adds depth and complexity to the dish, while the dried red chilis provide a subtle hint of spiciness. The green onions add freshness and crunch to the dish, making it a well-rounded meal.

The flank steak used in Mongolian beef is sliced thinly, which allows it to cook quickly and absorb all the flavors of the sauce. The beef is marinated in soy sauce, garlic, and other ingredients to tenderize it and infuse it with flavor.

How To Make Mongolian Beef At Home

Making Mongolian beef at home is easier than you might think. Here’s a step-by-step guide to making this delicious dish:


– 1 pound flank steak, sliced thinly against the grain

– 1/4 cup cornstarch

– Salt and black pepper to taste

– 6 dried red chilis

– 2 tablespoons grated ginger

– 3 cloves garlic, minced

– 4 green onions, sliced

– 1/4 cup hoisin sauce

– 1/4 cup soy sauce

– 1/4 cup brown sugar

– 1/4 cup water

– 6 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided


1. In a large bowl, mix together the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, and water to make the sauce. Set aside.

2. Toss the sliced flank steak with cornstarch, salt, and black pepper until coated. Set aside.

3. Heat a wok or cast-iron skillet over high heat and add 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Once smoking hot, add in some of the flank steak in an even layer and sear for a couple of minutes on each side until browned. Remove and set aside on a plate.

4. Repeat step 3 with the rest of the steak.

5. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil to the pan.

6. Add in dried red chilis and stir-fry for about 30 seconds.

7. Add in the grated ginger and minced garlic and stir-fry for another 30 seconds until fragrant.

8. Add in the beef and stir-fry for about 30 seconds until coated in the mixture.

9. Add in the sliced green onions and the sauce mixture and toss everything together for about 30 seconds until hot.

10. Serve over hot rice or noodles.

By following these simple steps, you can enjoy restaurant-quality Mongolian beef at home anytime you want!

Variations Of Mongolian Beef In Chinese Cuisine

While Mongolian beef is a popular dish in American Chinese restaurants, it also has variations in Chinese cuisine. In China, the dish is made with different ingredients and cooking methods depending on the region.

In Shandong province, where the dish is believed to have originated, Mongolian beef is made with beef that is stir-fried with scallions and ginger. The dish is known as “cong bao niu rou” and has a milder taste compared to the American version. The use of scallions in this version of the dish adds a fresh and slightly sweet flavor to the beef.

In Xinjiang province, the dish is made with lamb instead of beef and is known as “yang rou chuan.” The lamb is marinated in a mixture of cumin, chili powder, and other spices before being grilled on skewers. This version of the dish has a smoky and spicy flavor that’s perfect for those who love bold flavors.

Another variation of Mongolian beef in China is known as “Hong Shao Niu Rou,” which translates to “red-braised beef.” This version of the dish is made by braising beef in a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, and spices until it becomes tender and flavorful. The sauce used in this version of the dish has a rich and complex taste that’s perfect for those who love bold flavors.