10 Light, Healthy Beef Dinner Recipes That Are Big on Flavor
As the winter chill begins to thaw, it’s the explosion of green in the produce aisle that signals the change of the seasons for cooks, with the vibrancy of spring vegetables at their peak. Seasonal classics like asparagus, snap peas, artichokes, green garlic, and leeks act as a foil to the richness of beef, and fresh vegetables provide a textural contrast and a bright punch of flavor to healthy beef recipes like steak stir-fry and beef tagine.
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But the trick to a healthier beef dinner is not just loading up on vegetables — it’s also important to buy high-quality meat. Look for organic, grass-fed beef, as it actually contains more omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for the prevention of cardiovascular disease. For ground beef, it’s best to ask your butcher to grind it when you buy it, but if you want to buy the prepackaged kind, it’s a good idea to ask for meat that was ground and wrapped at the store. These healthy beef recipes will help you make delicious dinners that make great use of seasonal produce and get the most out of a variety of different cuts.
1. Korean Barbecue-Inspired Steak Bowl
With colorful carrots, cucumbers, and radishes, this is a healthful, wholesome dinner that makes it easy to combine nutrient-rich vegetables with protein. The ground beef is sautéed in sesame oil, known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, then seasoned with ginger and garlic. Bulgogi translates to “fire meat” in Korean and traditionally uses more expensive cuts that are grilled over an open flame. This is a great adaption of classic Korean barbecue made for easy weeknight dining.
2. Steakhouse Salad
Probably as far away from “rabbit food” as a salad can get, this recipe reimagines classic steakhouse fare as a healthier entree. Grilled ribeye lays on a bed of spring greens — you can choose whatever lettuce mix you like, but we recommend one of those classic mixes of spinach, romaine, red and green oak leaf, and arugula, all of which contain vitamin K, which is critical for bone strength. This salad is finished with homemade croutons, but you can always sub out garlic roasted chickpeas for that same crunch factor without the refined grains.
3. Steak with Vegetables and Mustard Sauce
Enlivened with a mint-mustard sauce, this healthy beef recipe calls for a simple cooking technique that doesn’t blunt the brightness of young, fresh peas and tender asparagus. In this recipe, the steak and the vegetables are seared in bacon fat, which adds serious richness and flavor (and is great for the paleo-minded among us), but for those who’d prefer to avoid bacon fat as cooking fat, grass-fed ghee or avocado oil would both work beautifully here. Look for freshly shucked peas at Trader Joe’s and some other supermarkets; they’re rich in heart-healthy vitamins K, C, and folate, and help keep blood sugar in check.
4. Beef and Artichoke Tagine
If we had to choose a favorite spring vegetable, it might be the artichoke. If you’ve never seen one growing before, it’s the large, edible bud of a rather impressive, prehistoric-looking bush. When consumed, it’s usually dredged in tons of melted butter, blunting its myriad health benefits. This dish, however, amps up the flavor with Moroccan spices like cancer-fighting turmeric, ginger, and preserved lemons. Try cubed chuck roast in the stew, and if you don’t have an actual tagine, a heavy pot or dutch oven works well, too.
5. Beef Stir-Fry with Asparagus and Snap Peas
One of our favorite healthy beef recipes, this flavorful dinner is crunchy, savory, and sweet all at once. Stir-frying is the one of best ways to achieve that coveted crisp-tender texture of vegetables, which retains more of their vitamins and nutrients than the fully-cooked mushy method. The snow peas — a good source of fiber and protein — have anti-cancer properties, as well. Combined with the antioxidant effects of asparagus, this is a super-healthy, satisfying meal. Bonus: there’s none of the refined sugar you find in typical stir-fry sauces; simple honey provides sweetness.
6. Vietnamese Beef Bánh Mì
The bánh mì is a Franco-Vietnamese hybrid sandwich that’s frankly mind-blowing. It’s usually made with pork or rich pâté, but this version uses ground beef scented with lemongrass and aromatic Chinese Five Spice Powder. It’s also loaded with herbs and vegetables like carrots and cilantro, which support kidney function. If you’re up for it, consider playing around with different crunchy vegetables, adding julienned cucumber or daikon. We’d swap out the cornstarch for arrowroot powder as a thickening agent, and for anyone looking to avoid refined grains found in traditional baguette, this dish is also fantastic as a bowl served over a neutrally-flavored whole grain like quinoa, amaranth, or freekeh.
7. Pasta with Steak and Spinach
New York strip is the most flavorful cut of steak, with a bold flavor — the perfect candidate to jazz up plain penne. This healthy beef recipe offers a Greek twist, with spinach and feta cheese, but may sway a red sauce traditionalist or two. While spinach is a well-known nutrient powerhouse, feta has health benefits, too: it boasts more calcium than other cheeses, and is lower in fat than most. For those trying to avoid refined grains, sub out traditional penne with the kind made from chickpeas — which is surprisingly good for you.
8. Lamajoun (Armenian Pizza)
Here’s the answer to your question: “How can I make a light, delicious pizza that doesn’t take too much time?” Lamajoun is a beef-topped flatbread that eschews cheese in favor of a wildly flavorful, savory pepper-tomato spread. This recipe uses a homemade pita, but we’ve had great success swapping it out with a whole grain pita we found at the local grocery store.
9. Slow Cooker Spring Beef Stew
Swapping out rutabaga for potato is a boss move in this light take on beef stew. This root vegetable — a cross between a cabbage and a turnip — is in season July through April, and has a slightly bitter, buttery taste. Loaded up with fiber and potassium, rutabagas promote gut health and weight loss. Baby leeks, which have a mellow onion flavor, add immune-boosting vitamin A. When buying stew meat, look for round or chuck with low to medium fat content. These are tough cuts, but the long cook time breaks down the meat so it’s moist and tender.
10. Santa Maria-Style Tri-Tip with Fresh Salsa and Pinquinto Beans
This is the perfect way to kick off grilling season. Even if you can’t enjoy the location of California’s Central Coast, you can still enjoy this style of barbecue, which dates back at least 150 years to Mexican ranchers, known as vaqueros, who cooked for their whole community. A simple dry rub enhances the tri-tip, which is grilled over oak coals, an all-natural hardwood that lacks the weird fillers in charcoal. Instead of sugary BBQ sauce, it’s served with fresh tomato salsa and heirloom pinquinto beans. Round out one of our top healthy beef recipes with grilled corn and a simple side salad.
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