Sunday, 13 March 2016

Pressure Cooker Beef in Black Bean Sauce (includes Instant Pot method)

This is one of my absolute favourite Chinese dishes, and now I've converted it from a wholly stir-fried dish in the wok (using expensive cuts of steak) to a dish where the beef is cooked in the sauce in the pressure cooker. This means that I can use cuts of beef suitable for braising at less than a third of the price of prime steak, and still have delicious, tender slices of beef - what's not to love?

A really tasty, popular dish – versatile too, as you can substitute pork if you don't want to use beef, and play around with the stir-fry vegetables to suit your own tastes!

Want the original recipe to make this without using a pressure cooker? It's here.

Serves five to six, 286 calories per portion (for a sixth portion depending on cut of beef used, based on 136 calories per 100g). 
I highly recommend sourcing some salted, fermented black beans to make this (oriental shops sell them, they're cheap, and they last for aaages in the fridge - the ones which have ginger in too are fine, such as the pack on the left - just pick out the odd slice of dried ginger before using) They're delicious and very versatile, and it's way nicer than the black bean sauce in jars. They are usually available in oriental supermarkets in small or large packets, such as the ones in the photo.

Although I'd urge you to use the fermented black beans in their original state to make your own sauce, you could use a pre-made black bean sauce, if you’d rather (you'll need enough for six servings, and you'll need to add extra water to ensure it doesn't burn - possibly the same volume of water as pre-made sauce, then reduce afterwards)

The trick to slicing your beef really finely is to have it pretty much partially frozen (so either half-defrosted from the freezer; or stick your cut of meat in for half an hour to an hour or so until it's really firm), use a really sharp knife, and cut against the grain for ultra-tender meat. (The cut I used here is from the heel of beef, where the muscles have been separated and trimmed of all sinew etc.).
Serve with your choice of rice, noodles, rice/beanthread noodles, cauliflower rice or courgette / zucchini /shirataki/zero noodles depending on what kind of calorie consumption you're after. [Calorie counts in square brackets]


  • 700g lean beef braising steak* (your choice, e.g. chuck, soft heel, skirt, brisket works), thinly sliced against the grain, about 3-4mm thick (easiest if you put in the freezer for half an hour or so first, to firm it up) [952 calories for lean braising steak]
  • 1 x 15ml tbsp oil in two halves (or feel free to use more if not counting calories / add extra as needed) [122]
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped, sliced or crushed (your preference) [36]
  • 3 inches ginger root, peeled and finely chopped or grated [10]
  • 1-2 large red chillies (to taste - 2 is medium spicy), de-seeded and finely chopped [6-12]
  • 2 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch) mixed with 2 tbsp water just before using [72] 

For the beef marinade

  • 2 x 15ml tbsp dark soy sauce (use tamari for gluten free) [24]
  • 2 tbsp Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry for gluten free) [42]

For the sauce

  • 1 x 15ml tbsp Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry for gluten free) [21]
  • 3 tbsp light soy sauce (use tamari for gluten free) [24]
  • 3 tbsp oyster sauce (usually contains gluten, but there are GF brands and you can get vegetarian versions, e.g. ASDA own brand) [63]
  • ½ tbsp sugar (or use honey for clean eating) [24]
  • 200ml beef stock [12]
  • 200ml water
  • 5 tbsp fermented, salted black beans, thoroughly rinsed then very roughly chopped (or black bean sauce - check for gluten if using - see ‘For the sauce’) [97]
  • Instead of using fermented, salted black beans, and the sauce ingredients, you could use a pre-made/bought black bean sauce and add extra water before pressure cooking (not as tasty, and nearly double the calories, but more convenient for some BUT they are likely to contain gluten, if you're cooking gluten free, e.g. Amoy ‘Stir Fry Sauce, Black Bean’, 120g, serves two, so you'd need three jars – check the packaging for calories if using a different brand). I haven't tried using jarred sauce in the Instant Pot though, so I can't advise on the exact amount of additional water (I'd probably use the same amount of water as sauce) - just remember it's better to add more, and reduce afterwards, than not to add enough and burn it! [480]
For the vegetables
(or use 650-750g your favourite stir-fry vegetables - you can steam / microwave them if you prefer) 
  • 1 large / 2 medium onions, halved and sliced or cut into bite-sized chunks (150g, don't use onions if steaming vegetables) [63]  
  • 1 red and 1 green medium (bell) pepper (or use two of each, if you prefer), cut into bite-sized squares (240g) [63]  
  • 300g chestnut or white mushrooms, quartered [48]  
  • 8 spring onions (scallions), chopped into 1 inch lengths on the diagonal, including green parts (washed of grit) [29]


1. Combine the ingredients for the marinade together, mix it thoroughly with the sliced beef  and set aside while you prepare the other ingredients (it's fine for a few hours if you want to prepare earlier).

2. Combine the sauce ingredients together also, stirring until the sugar dissolves and set aside. Prepare all of the vegetables etc.

3. If you only want to use your pressure cooker for making this dish, you can stir-fry (or steam, if you prefer) your vegetables first
, in 1/2 tbsp of oil on saute mode (see step 8 for the best order - onions, peppers, mushrooms and spring onions) very lightly for a few minutes, then set them aside before cooking your beef. Otherwise, you can use a large wok (or deep frying pan), with a good non-stick coating/seasoning and cook them in it separately just after cooking your beef. My personal preference is to use a large wok and add the beef from the pot to the vegetables in the wok, once they are just cooked, as my wok is enormous and it's easier to combine them together.
4. Pre-heat your pressure cooker (Instant Pot - use the saute mode) or wok, until really hot,  add 1/2 tbsp oil (or more if you're not counting calories and need it), then add the marinated sliced beef in small batches to it, turning once until outsides are browned, then remove each batch with tongs or a slotted spoon to a separate dish. Don't overcrowd the pan otherwise you'll boil it, and don't worry about any pink bits remaining. Set the beef aside.

5. Add the garlic, ginger and chilli to the pressure cooker (with any remaining oil from the beef) and stir fry for a further minute or two until fragrant, making sure it doesn't burn. Turn off the heat.

6. Add the sauce mixture to the pan, scraping any bits off the bottom, then add the browned beef and any juices, give it a good stir, lock the lid on, set to seal, and cook at high pressure for 12 minutes (Instant Pot, press manual and reduce the time from 30 to 12). Once the timer goes off, turn off the pressure cooker, leave it for 5 minutes, and then use quick release to let out the remaining pressure.

7. Check the beef is tender, then set to 'keep warm' while you cook the vegetables in a large wok, or steam / microwave (if you haven't done so already - if you have, then mix the cornflour and water, and stir into the pot. Select the browning / sautee function, and simmer until the sauce thickens, add your cooked vegetables and heat through then serve).

8. Lightly stir-fry the vegetables if cooking separately in a wok - use the other 1/2 tsp of oil, add the onions first for a minute or two, then the peppers and mushrooms for 2 or 3 minutes, and finally the spring onions for 1 or 2 minutes. Then, you can either add the beef and sauce to the wok; or add the stir-fried vegetables to the beef and sauce in the pressure cooker (turn back onto saute). Combine everything together, mix the cornflour and water into a thin paste, stir in and cook out until the sauce thickens (add a splash of extra water if it seems too thick or too salty - your sauce might have reduced too much) then serve over hot rice or noodles and enjoy!

If you want to freeze this, it's best to do so before adding the stir-fried (or steamed) vegetables, as they will lose their crunch and freshness upon defrosting and re-heating - you could thicken the sauce at the stage before adding the vegetables, then freeze the meat in sauce in portions. Add stir-fried or steamed vegetables to it once re-heated.

Different brands of soy sauce and stocks can vary in saltiness. If you should find the sauce is too salty once cooked, don't worry, just add more water to it, then add a little more cornflour/cornstarch mixed with cold water to thicken it up again if needed. You could also add a little extra sugar / honey to taste if desired.


  1. We made this with chicken and mushrooms. Reduced time to 10 minutes. SO GOOD! Turned out great! Thank you!

  2. I have just made this, I had to use a bottle of black bean sauce because I couldn't get fermented black beans. It was salty but I love salt so not a problem for me. It was also spicy because I used 2 birds eye chillies, again not a problem for me I love spice and I loved this meal. Thank you Andrea.

    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed it, Marie - thank you for stopping by and leaving me a comment! :)

  3. Really tasty, lots of compliments from the family, which is a bonus ��

    1. Brilliant - so glad you all enjoyed it, it's one of my favourite beef dishes! Thanks for leaving me a comment. :)


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