Chinese Beef and Broccoli with Tofu (One Pan Take-Out)

This one-pan, takeout-style Chinese beef and broccoli dish is extra saucy and fast to prepare. It’s a paleo friendly meal that does not require serving with rice. {paleo-friendly, grain-free}

This one-pan, takeout-style Chinese beef and broccoli dish is extra saucy and fast to prepare. It’s a paleo friendly meal that does not require serving with rice.

After our 2-week trip in China and gaining 5 more pounds, I decided to change to a slow-carb diet (recommended by Tim Ferriss in his “4-Hour Body”) to get back in shape. My husband agreed with me because he was surprised to find out he couldn’t get into an old pair of jeans.

The problem became obvious when I was trying to cook one of our favorite Chinese takeout dishes – the classic beef and broccoli. I always love to cook extra sauce and serve this dish over steamed rice, but neither of us wanted to devour a big bowl of rice a few hours prior to bed. That’s why I developed this paleo-friendly version by using tofu.

I can’t wait to share this dish with you because…

  1. The dish is grainless, which makes it extra healthy and low in calories.
  2. You can cook everything in one pan. No blanching pot required!
  3. You can use any cut of steak and get tender results.
  4. The dish makes a very satisfying meal. No extra sides are needed.
  5. Of course, you can easily turn this dish back to the classic version if you don’t care about tofu.

This one-pan, takeout-style Chinese beef and broccoli dish is extra saucy and fast to prepare. It’s a paleo friendly meal that does not require serving with rice.

A few tips that speed up the prep and cooking times

(1) Crush the garlic with a knife before peeling. You’ll reduce the peeling time from 30 seconds to 3 seconds per clove.

(2) Use a garlic press to skip cutting and produce extra finely chopped garlic.

(3) Instead of boiling a pot of water to blanch the broccoli, use the method in the recipe below to steam the broccoli in the same pan. It’s so much faster and one less pan to clean up.

(4) Use a large heavy flat skillet instead of a wok. It is especially helpful if you do not have a gas stove at home.

Chinese Beef and Broccoli with Tofu Cooking Process

The wok vs. skillet debate

I always recommend home cooks to use a flat skillet instead of a wok. This is because you can use a skillet to create a very similar result, and sometimes an even better result if cooking with an electric stove. (I wrote about 10 reasons not to use a wok if you’d like to read more on this topic.)

Some people might argue that when using a skillet, you’re actually sautéing the food and not stir-frying. It does not create the wok air and the stir motions to cook a proper dish.

This statement is not entirely true.

The type of authentic Chinese dish that benefits the most from wok cooking is the type that uses minimum seasoning . Most of these dishes do not use a sauce at all. When you use super high heat and a wok, you can create a smoky aroma that brings out the freshness of the ingredients. When you compare two plates of fried rice prepared by wok and a skillet, you can actually taste the differences.

This one-pan, takeout-style Chinese beef and broccoli dish is extra saucy and fast to prepare. It’s a paleo friendly meal that does not require serving with rice.

However, most American Chinese takeout dishes use a very heavy sauce. Plus, in the case of home cooking, you have a less powerful stove and need to cook multiple servings at the same time. The difference from using a wok becomes much less obvious. In this situation, you will benefit from using a skillet on an electric stove because you will have a larger heat contact surface to sear the food properly.

After moving to the US, I’ve learned about how different the stoves are compared to Chinese households. Sometimes, even the gas stove is not powderful and cannot heat up a pan properly. I’ve tried many types of woks, including a cast iron wok, without being able to successfully cook a stir-fry on the electric stove. The small contact surface area takes forever to heat up the pan, and then the temperature drops immediately when you add the food. By the time the wok heats up again, the food is steamed and becomes soggy.

Thus, I highly recommend using a heavy duty skillet to cook this dish (my favorite skillet is the DeBuyer carbon steel pan). A basic Calphalon nonstick deep pan works well too.

If you still plan to use a wok over a gas stove, reduce the ingredients to half to guarantee a proper stir-fry.

This one-pan, takeout-style Chinese beef and broccoli dish is extra saucy and fast to prepare. It’s a paleo friendly meal that does not require serving with rice.

Cooking video

I recorded a short video to show you how easy it is to cook this dish. Find more videos to learn Chinese cooking on my YouTube channel!

What’s your favorite takeout dish? What setup do you use to cook stir-fry? Drop a comment to share your thoughts!
Chinese Beef and Broccoli with Tofu (One Pan Take-Out)   Print Prep time 15 mins Cook time 15 mins Total time 30 mins   This recipe yields two large servings as a full meal. It will be enough for four people if you serve the dish over rice and another small appetizer. Author: Maggie Zhu Recipe type: Main Cuisine: Chinese Serves: 2 to 4 Ingredients Marinade

  • 450 grams (1 pound) beef boneless short ribs, flank steak, or other cut (*see footnote 1)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch


  • 1 cup chicken stock (or beef stock, or water) (*footnote 2)
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce (*footnote 3)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper


  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 head broccoli
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 1 (400-g / 14-oz) block tofu, cut to 1/2-inch squares (*footnote 4)


  1. Slice the beef against the grain into 0.5cm (1/8 inch) thick slices. Transfer to a small bowl. Add soy sauce and peanut oil. Mix well. Add cornstarch. Gently mix well by hand until all the slices are coated with a thin layer of sauce.
  2. Combine all the ingredients of the sauce in a bowl. Mix well.
  3. Add 2 teaspoons cornstarch and 2 tablespoons water into a small bowl. Mix well.
  4. Heat a large heavy-duty skillet over medium high heat until hot. Add 1/2 tablespoon oil and the broccoli. Cook and stir until the broccoli is evenly coated with oil. Add 2 tablespoons water and cover immediately. Cook until the broccoli just turns tender and the water evaporates, after about 40 to 50 seconds. Transfer broccoli onto a plate. Quickly wipe the wok with a paper towel with a pair of tongs (or chopsticks) if there’s any water left.
  5. Add the rest 1 and 1/2 tablespoon oil and swirl to coat the bottom. Spread the steak into a single layer. Let cook without touching for 30 seconds, or until the bottom sides have browned. Flip to cook the other side for a few seconds. Stir and cook until the surface is lightly charred and the inside is still pink. Turn to medium low heat and transfer steak onto a plate immediately.
  6. You should still have some oil left in the wok. If not, add 2 teaspoons oil.
  7. Add the garlic and ginger. Stir a few times to release the flavor and fragrance. Stir the sauce again and pour into the skillet.
  8. When bringing to a boil, carefully add tofu. Cover and cook, 2 to 3 minutes for soft and medium-firm tofu, 4 to 5 minutes for extra firm tofu.
  9. Transfer the tofu by using a slotted spoon onto a big plate. Set aside.
  10. Stir the cornstarch slurry to let it dissolve completely. Pour into the skillet. Stir and cook until the sauce thickens. Add back beef and broccoli. Stir a few times to let everything become coated well with sauce. Transfer everything into the plate with tofu.
  11. Serve immediately.

Notes 1. A well marbled cut will generate a more tender steak once cooked than a lean cut. I like to use boneless short ribs for stir fry. It is much cheaper than premium steak and has a perfect fat ratio.

2. A good stock will make this dish really different. Homemade stock is highly recommended. For a more convenient alternative, I also love using high-quality organic beef bone broth from Kettle and Fire.

3. If you want the dish to have an appetizing dark color, use 1 and 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce and 1/2 tablespoon dark soy sauce.

4. Any type of tofu works in this recipe. I used medium-firm tofu while cooking. 3.5.3218

The nutrition facts are calculated based on 1 of the 2 servings generated by this recipe.

Chinese Beef and Broccoli with Tofu Nutrition Facts