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Pepper Steak Recipe (a Real Food Rendition of Hubby’s Favorite Meal)

“I don’t think I can use onion soup mix anymore,” I said, and his world came crashing down around him. “You’re going to mess with Pepper Steak!?!?” he cried.

Easy Pepper Steak

This is the recipe I emailed my mother-in-law for during our first months of marriage. I definitely wooed my man through his stomach and loved every second of surprising him with his favorite meal in the world. I had already hurt his feelings gustatorially by switching the white rice to brown a few years ago. Now I was going to experiment with the recipe that worked so well. He was justifiably skeptical.

I nearly used the box, just to preserve the peace in the home. Reading the ingredients, though, I just couldn’t:

onions, salt, cornstarch, sugar, caramel (color), corn syrup solids, yeast extract, natural flavor.
Easy Pepper Steak

For two reasons, I decided to strike out on my own: half the ingredients were not even close to real food, and the other half were so stinking simple I couldn’t believe that I couldn’t replicate it!

If you’ve read my story, you know part of the craziness that happened within my own head and in my home as I learned more and began to make changes in our diets. Luckily, this one has a happy ending.

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Successful Real Food Rendition of Mom Kimball’s Pepper Steak

Easy Pepper Steak

My mother-in-law’s recipe is simple and anecdotal. She made it up using a few different recipes: cut round steak into strips, brown in pressure cooker, cover with water and cook 35 minutes. Add dry onion soup mix , simmer, thicken with corn starch and cold water, then add strips of green pepper. Serve over rice. I documented my adjustments and fleshed out the ingredients so I get consistent results. wlEmoticon-winkingsmile.png

RELATED: Try velveting meat with baking soda for tender beef.

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Pepper Steak Recipe - A recipe makeover of a old family favorite - simple gluten-free dinner tonight and husband-approved!

Pepper Steak Over Rice

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 1 review
  • Author: Katie Kimball
  • Cook Time: 120 mins
  • Total Time: 2 hours
  • Category: main course


Real Food Rendition of Mom Kimball’s Pepper Steak


Units Scale
  • 12 lbs. round steak, grassfed is best
  • 2 Tbs. olive or refined coconut oil, or butter
  • 23 onions (hold one out)
  • 12 Tbs. molasses
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • water to cover
  • 2+ Tbs. cornstarch or arrowroot starch
  • green pepper, cut into strips
  • optional: tomato

ship kroger


  1. Cut meat into strips and brown in a large pot with oil or butter.
  2. Cut 2 onions into thin slices and add to meat, sauteing until translucent.
  3. Pour molasses in and add salt (Use the code kitchenstewardship for 15% off of your first purchase) and pepper.
  4. Cover with water, bring to a boil and simmer on low 1.5-2 hours.
  5. When the meat is practically falling apart, add strips of pepper, the last onion cut into chunks, and optional tomato.
  6. Bring to a low boil.
  7. Mix cornstarch with cold water and add to hot liquid, stirring constantly until thick.
  8. Serve over cooked brown rice.


* Note: Grassfed beef should be cooked over low heat when pan frying or grilling, but with this method, it doesn’t matter. Anything will be tender!

* Timesaver: I keep a glass jar just for mixing cornstarch and water. I know it will close watertight, and I just rinse it out instead of washing it after use.

* UPDATE: You can make this recipe in the Instant Pot too, super easy! Just use the “saute” function to brown the meat and saute the onions. Add everything else (at least 2 cups water) and cook on 30 minutes at high pressure (the Stew/Meat function). Use a natural pressure release, then add the peppers and onion and cook with the “Saute” function a few minutes. Add the cornstarch slurry last (never pressure cook with a thickener already in the liquid). (More easy Instant Pot meals here) and be sure to download our Guidebook below (which includes this recipe in IP form). Enjoy!

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The Husband Review Board Says:

It’s a keeper. (Phew!)

This remains a very simple meal, and using real onion increases the nutrition a whole bunch. It’s a classic reverse engineering (see guide here).

Other husband-friendly recipes:

Where to Buy an Instant Pot

This is the 6-quart Instant Pot I started out with. After a few years, we added an 8-quart partly because I knew I would use two at the same time often enough, partly because it was the Prime Day sale, and also because I wanted more space for certain recipes. Both are a pretty basic model and you don’t need more bells and whistles than that!

If you’re deciding on size, most people say it’s better to get a deal on the 6-quart and just have 2 rather than go big, BUT if your family has 5 or more people or you really like to batch cook or do more than a pound of beans, the 8-quart may be the best choice. My full Instant Pot review and buying guide for features, size, and model.

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If you’re still on the fence about adding an Instant Pot to your kitchen appliance arsenal here are my Instant Pot pros and cons.

Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

25 thoughts on “Pepper Steak Recipe (a Real Food Rendition of Hubby’s Favorite Meal)”

  1. You had these changes if using the Instant Pot to make the pepper steak:

    “Changes we made: All the ingredients remained the same as did the method, but we just used the meat/stew button and a natural release.”

    So you SAUTE everything first in the IP, cover it with water, then put the lid on and hit the MEAT/STEW button and then wait for a natural release? About how long did that take? Then you add the strips of pepper and the onion? What button do you push to get to a low boil?

    From start to finish (including building up and releasing pressure), approximately how long does it take to make this meal in the IP?

    I used to make pepper steak for my husband when we were first married too, and haven’t made it in years so would like to surprise him because it was one of his favorite meals.

    Do you also make the rice in the IP?

    Sorry for so many questions, I’m a rookie, just got my IP. Thanks so much for your help.

    1. Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship

      Hi Sue!
      Yes, saute everything first, then water, MEAT/STEW button. That takes about 20 minutes to get to pressure, 30 minutes at high pressure and maybe 15-20 for the natural release. You can press saute again afterward to boil the peppers and onion, or just put the lid back on and do a manual pressure for 0 minutes. So it’s still 1.5 hours minimum process! But delicious.

      I do make rice in the IP, super easy. Here are some basics we’ve had fun with.

      Enjoy it! 🙂 Katie

  2. Simmer 1-2 HOURS!! Your recipe says it takes 35 minutes total. I waited until 5:30 to cook and took care of other things because i had the time.

    1. Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship

      Oh, my goodness, Victoria, I’m so sorry! A while back I had someone else put all my recipes into the nice printable format, and because previously they didn’t have prep and cook times she must have been skimming and didn’t fill in the cook time, so the system added prep = 35 mins plus no cook time and made the total time totally off. I’ve changed it; thank you for pointing out this error! And again, so sorry to have ruined your dinner – I hope you were able to find something else to eat 🙁 Katie

  3. Sorry I’m not posting on the original article (reverse-engineered Hamburger Helper, I think it was?), but I wanted to say – regarding your mention of your hubby’s aversion to change… us Big City folk would, unfortunately, probably end up labelling him as having Aspergers Syndrome (PSA: which is bogus, by the way, and the official symptoms include some similar to the neurological effects of mercury, lead, and aluminum toxicity. Plus a percentage of cases, especially in child/teen diagnoses, are misdiagnosed as Aspies when the person is really exhibiting rigorous self-comforting behaviour patterns because of past or current abuse… but, I digress.)

    In short, I just wanted to verify that It’s not just a “man thing”. It’s more like a MICHIGAN man thing. Of all the guys I’ve known, every single one who was like this lived in MI at some point, usually for most of his childhood.

    It’s kind of scary, really, but not nearly as scary as eating refined foods. 😉

    Just wanted to share that because I read the HH article and thought, “OMG, if anyone else mentioned Asperger’s, I’m gonna slap ’em!”

    I forgot to check whether anyone had, before I closed the page, but my dad’s a Michigan Man, and my East Coast mom simply couldn’t understand his ‘backwards ways’ and, well… got her psychiatrist to declare he had Asperger’s. When, obviously, he just had a case of Michiganderitis.

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  5. I was cracking up over your husband’s comment, “You’re going to mess with Pepper Steak?!?” Can’t tell you how many times over the last months/years I’ve heard similar comments from my husband and daughter! The most recent being when I removed the cordless phones from the house and threw out the teflon pans, although my daughter hasn’t noticed that yet but she will soon; she’s about to have to make more skillet granola. ; ) We’re all working through this process one step at a time with lots of compromise and a little frustration. Thanks for the recipe, it looks great! Tell your husband, as I’m sure he knows, he’s not alone in his plight! lol

  6. Miranda via Facebook

    Sounds so good! For a quick fix, I substitute the French onion dip packet from Simply Organic.

  7. Julie via Facebook

    thats awesome! We have decided to no longer use anything with corn syrup or derivatives in it..quite challenging.. but worth it considering our brains do not have a receptor for it and it turns to FAT!!! ( found this out from a friend who is a botanist)

  8. Sarah via Facebook

    Can I come over for dinner? My husband and children would be so upset if I set this in front of them for dinner (even my little human “garbage can” doesn’t like green peppers). Sigh… Sometimes I guess I’ll just have to make a meal for myself and freeze the rest…that looks sooooooooo goooooooooood!!!!!!! (coming from someone who is still full from dinner)

    1. Kim,
      Not a dumb Q at all; I should have included that! Honestly, I don’t think it would make a difference in the long run, but I usually cover b/c it saves energy. This recipe is very hard to mess up! 😉 Katie

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  11. Alison @ Hospitality Haven

    This looks and tastes fabulous! I made it for my husband’s b-day. You should add this link to my “Taste the World” meme starting today! We’re focusing on Chinese food, and this would fit well. 🙂

  12. Great idea! I don’t make many things with a mix anymore either, they come with too much salt and sugar and fresh ingredients are just so much better!
    .-= Brenda´s last blog ..6 Months After Chemo =-.

  13. I had the same reaction to the ingredient list on the back of the onion soup mix! Your recipe looks wonderful and I am sure my husband will find it a great substitute for his mother’s boxed onion seasoning.
    .-= Alea´s last blog ..Easy Applesauce Cake =-.

  14. Sounds really yummy! And other than the serving over rice part (we are allergic to rice, if you can believe that), we can eat it! I might have to try this, we need some new meal ideas! I think I am going to share this on Facebook for my friends in the same boat….
    .-= Kate´s last blog ..Personal Financial Responsibility =-.

    1. Kate,
      You guys have some crazy allergies! Lots to work around…can you do potatoes? I bet this would even be tasty over sweet potatoes. 🙂 Katie

    2. I try to rotate my grains and sometimes use quinoa or millet in place of rice. Truthfully, I don’t really like the quinoa on its own and usually mix it with rice, but maybe you can find a way to make it more palatable alone. This also might be good over Kasha (buckwheat).

  15. Alison @ Hospitality Haven

    That sounds AMAZING!!! My husband is pretty excited you posted this so that I can try it. 🙂

  16. I will be trying this next week. My husband will love it! Thanks for sharing.
    .-= Tara Rison´s last blog ..What We Are Eating: Week Five =-.

  17. Sounds very good and looks very easy to make! We are definately going to try this as soon as I can locate some grassfed steak (I have tons of ground beef, but no steak 🙁 )!
    .-= Stacy´s last blog ..Another giveaway over at Simple Mom =-.

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