Easy Cambodian Beef Jerky Recipe: Marinated & Oven-Baked

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Written By Hot Thai Restaurant

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We’ve stumbled upon a culinary gem that’s bound to ignite your taste buds and transport you straight to the bustling streets of Cambodia. It’s their beef jerky, a savory snack that’s as addictive as it is flavorful. Unlike the typical jerky you might find in your local store, Cambodian beef jerky boasts a unique blend of sweet, salty, and umami flavors, thanks to a special combination of marinade ingredients that have been passed down through generations.

Embarking on this recipe journey, we’re excited to share with you not just the steps to creating this delightful snack but also the story behind it. It’s a tale woven with tradition, family gatherings, and the joy of sharing a meal. So, grab your apron and let’s dive into the world of Cambodian cuisine together, starting with this irresistible beef jerky recipe that’s sure to become a new favorite in your home.


Embarking on this culinary journey, we’ll begin by gathering all the essential ingredients needed for our Cambodian beef jerky recipe. This recipe is a beautiful blend of flavors and traditions, ensuring every bite is a testament to Cambodian cuisine.

Beef Preparation

  • 2 pounds of lean beef (top round or flank steak works best), sliced into 1/4 inch thick strips

For the beef, we ensure it’s sliced uniformly to secure an even dehydration process. Choosing lean cuts like top round or flank steak minimizes fat, which could affect the jerky’s preservation.

Marinade Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon crushed ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon red chili flakes (adjust based on heat preference)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

The marinade is where the magic happens, transforming simple beef strips into a flavor-packed delicacy. From the umami-rich soy and fish sauces to the warmth of ginger and garlic, each ingredient plays a vital role. The brown sugar and honey introduce a subtle sweetness that balances the heat from the chili flakes, creating a harmonious blend of flavors.

  • 1 stalk lemongrass, finely minced (for an added citrusy fragrance)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds (for a nutty crunch)
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice (for a tangy kick)

These optional add-ins offer room for customization, allowing you to tailor the jerky to your taste preferences. Whether you’re seeking an extra citrus note from the lemongrass, a nutty crunch from sesame seeds, or a tangy zest from lime juice, these additions will elevate the jerky’s flavor profile.

Equipment and Tools Needed

Embarking on the exciting journey of making Cambodian beef jerky, we’re greeted with the realization that having the right equipment and tools can transform our cooking experience from good to spectacular. Here, we’ll delve into the essentials that will make preparing this delicacy not just possible but also enjoyable and hassle-free.

Meat Slicer or Sharp Knife

First and foremost, achieving those perfectly thin slices of beef is crucial for dehydrating evenly and absorbing all the rich flavors of our marinade. A meat slicer is ideal for consistency and ease, but a sharp knife will also do the job beautifully. Just remember, the sharper, the better for achieving paper-thin slices without tearing the meat.

Mixing Bowls

A set of mixing bowls will be our next pivotal ally. We’ll need at least one large bowl for mixing our beef with the marinade, ensuring each slice is evenly coated with the delicious blend of soy sauce, fish sauce, garlic, and all those aromatic spices. If incorporating optional ingredients like lemongrass or sesame seeds, additional bowls may come in handy for separating and preparing these add-ins.

Measuring Cups and Spoons

Precision is key when it comes to the perfect balance of sweet, salty, and umami in our jerky. Measuring cups and spoons will ensure we add the exact amount of each ingredient, avoiding any overpowering elements that might overshadow the subtle notes of this Cambodian delight.

Dehydrator or Oven

While a dehydrator is the gold standard for making jerky, as it allows for precise temperature control and even air circulation, don’t fret if you don’t have one. A conventional oven, equipped with wire racks for air flow, can be a great alternative. Just ensure you have the oven’s lowest setting and keep the door slightly ajar to let moisture escape.

Parchment Paper or Silicone Mats

To avoid any sticking and to ensure easy cleanup, lining your dehydrator trays or oven racks with parchment paper or silicone mats is a game-changer. This step not only saves time and effort in cleaning but also helps in the effortless removal of the jerky once dried.


Now that we’ve gathered our tools and ingredients, let’s dive into the exciting process of making Cambodian beef jerky. Join us as we guide you step-by-step through cleaning, slicing, marinating, and eventually transforming the beef into a deliciously dried snack.

Cleaning and Slicing the Beef

First off, start with a lean cut of beef – we recommend something like top round for its lower fat content. Fat doesn’t dry out well, and it can shorten the shelf life of your jerky. Trim away any excess fat and connective tissues to leave you with the cleanest cuts possible.

Once your beef is trimmed, partially freeze it for about an hour until it’s firm but not solid. This little trick makes slicing not just easier, but it ensures uniform thickness in your slices, which is crucial for even drying. Use a sharp knife or meat slicer to cut the beef into thin strips, aiming for 1/4 inch thickness. Consistency is key here for flavor absorption and drying time, so take your time with this step.

Making the Marinade

The marinade is where the Cambodian beef jerky really starts to take on its characteristically bold flavors. In a large mixing bowl, combine 1/2 cup of soy sauce, 1/4 cup of fish sauce for that unmissable umami punch, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar to balance the saltiness with sweetness, and 1 tablespoon each of minced garlic and ginger for a fragrant kick. Feel free to tweak these measurements based on your taste preferences or to experiment with additional spices and herbs like cilantro stems, chili flakes, or lime zest for some zing.

Once all your ingredients are in the bowl, whisk them together until the sugar is completely dissolved and everything is well combined. The goal is to create a harmonious blend where no single ingredient overpowers the others.

Marinating the Beef

With your beef sliced and marinade mixed, it’s time to bring the two together. Place the beef strips in the bowl with the marinade, ensuring each piece is well coated. For an even more flavorful jerky, layer the beef and marinade in a sealable bag, which will ensure every nook and cranny of the meat is absorbing the marinade’s flavors.

Seal the bag, removing as much air as possible, and give it a good shake to get the marinade evenly distributed. Let the beef marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, though overnight is ideal for the most robust flavor. Every few hours, give the bag a flip or a shake to make sure the marinade works its magic evenly.

Now that our beef is marinating, we can anticipate the transformation into a savory, chewy snack imbued with the rich flavors of Cambodia.

Drying the Beef Jerky

After the beef has soaked in the rich, flavorful marinade, it’s time to dry it. This crucial step transforms the marinated beef into savory, chewy Cambodian beef jerky, characteristic of its texture and concentrated flavor.

Oven Drying Method

For those of us without specialized equipment, the oven is a convenient and effective method for drying beef jerky. Start by preheating your oven to the lowest possible setting, ideally around 175°F (80°C) to ensure the beef dries slowly without cooking. Arrange the marinated beef slices on a wire rack placed over a baking sheet. This setup allows air to circulate around the beef, promoting even drying. Prop the oven door open slightly with a wooden spoon to allow moisture to escape, ensuring a dryer environment. Bake for about 3 to 4 hours, flipping the beef slices halfway through the drying process. The beef jerky is ready when it is dry to the touch and slightly pliable without being brittle. Let it cool completely before tasting or storing.

Dehydrator Drying Method

Using a dehydrator is the most foolproof method for making beef jerky, giving you precise control over temperature and drying time. Lay the marinated beef slices in single layers on the dehydrator trays, making sure they do not overlap for optimal air flow. Set your dehydrator to 160°F (71°C) and let it work its magic. The drying process can take anywhere from 4 to 8 hours, depending on the thickness of your slices and the specific dehydrator model. Start checking at the 4-hour mark for doneness—your jerky should bend slightly but should not break. Once done, remove the beef jerky and allow it to cool on the trays.

Air-Drying Method

For those seeking a traditional drying method, air-drying is an authentic way to achieve flavorful beef jerky, although it requires the right environmental conditions—low humidity and a steady breeze. Marinated beef should be hung on clean metal hooks or skewers in a well-ventilated, insect-free area away from direct sunlight. This method takes longer, typically several days, and vigilance is key to prevent spoilage. Ensure the beef dries evenly by rotating it periodically. The beef jerky is ready when it feels dry to the touch and has a leathery texture. This method engenders a deeper appreciation for the art of making beef jerky, imbuing the final product with a sense of accomplishment and tradition.

Cooking the Beef Jerky

After marinating, it’s time to transform our marinated beef slices into delicious Cambodian beef jerky. This process is where the magic happens, turning our prepared beef into a savory, chewy treat.

Baking in the Oven

For oven drying, begin by preheating your oven to 175°F (80°C). It’s crucial to maintain a low temperature to slowly draw moisture out of the beef without cooking it. Arrange the marinated beef slices on a wire rack set over a baking sheet, making sure they don’t overlap. This setup allows air to circulate freely around the beef, ensuring even drying. Prop the oven door open slightly with a wooden spoon or a similar object; this trick helps to let moisture escape and aids in the drying process. Bake the beef slices for about 3 to 4 hours. Watch closely in the final hour to prevent any possibility of burning.

Using the Dehydrator

If you’re using a dehydrator, start by spreading the marinated beef slices out on the dehydrator trays, again ensuring they do not touch or overlap. This step is essential for achieving uniform drying. Set your dehydrator to 160°F (71°C), the perfect temperature for meat drying, according to safety standards. The controlled environment of a dehydrator makes it easier to maintain the right conditions for drying without risking overcooking. Dehydrate the beef slices for about 4 to 6 hours, checking periodically. Since all dehydrators are a bit different, you might need to adjust the timing based on your particular model.

Checking for Doneness

Regardless of your drying method, knowing when the beef jerky is done is crucial. The jerky should be leathery and somewhat bendable, but not brittle. A good test is to bend a piece gently; it should crack but not break in half. The outer edges might be bit dryer than the center, which is normal. Allow the finished beef jerky to cool completely before storing. Cooling is essential as it stops the drying process and allows the jerky to settle into its final texture. Once cooled, store the Cambodian beef jerky in an airtight container. If properly dried, it can last for several weeks, making it a perfect snack for any occasion.

Serving and Storage

After patiently crafting the perfect batch of Cambodian beef jerky, it’s finally time to savor and store this delicious treat. Let’s dive into the best ways to serve it and how to keep it fresh for as long as possible.

How to Serve Cambodian Beef Jerky

Serving Cambodian beef jerky is an art in itself. Ideally, you want to present it in a way that highlights its delightful texture and rich flavor. We recommend laying out the jerky on a serving platter, accompanied by a variety of dipping sauces. A tangy tamarind sauce or a spicy chili sauce can elevate the flavors and provide a satisfying contrast to the jerky’s savory notes.

For a more authentic experience, pair the jerky with steamed jasmine rice and crisp, fresh vegetables like cucumber slices or quick-pickled carrots and daikon. These sides will not only complement the jerky’s robust flavors but also balance its saltiness with their fresh, light tastes.

Storage Tips

Ensuring your Cambodian beef jerky lasts is all about proper storage. Here are our tried-and-true tips for keeping it as fresh as possible:

  • Let It Cool Completely: Before storing, make sure the jerky has cooled to room temperature. Warm jerky can create condensation when packed, leading to mold.
  • Airtight Containers Are Key: Store your jerky in airtight containers or zip-lock bags. Removing as much air as possible will prevent oxidation and moisture from spoiling the jerky.
  • Refrigerate for Longer Shelf Life: While Cambodian beef jerky can be kept at room temperature for a couple of weeks, refrigerating it can extend its shelf life to about a month. For even longer storage, consider freezing the jerky. Frozen jerky can last for several months without losing quality. Just be sure to thaw it properly in the fridge before enjoying.
  • Check Regularly: Although drying and seasoning help preserve the jerky, it’s still a good idea to check your stored jerky regularly for any signs of spoilage like mold or off odors.


We’ve walked you through the delightful journey of making Cambodian beef jerky, a process that marries the rich flavors of soy sauce, fish sauce, garlic, and ginger with the simplicity of lean beef. Remember, the key to perfect jerky lies in the thin slicing, thorough marinating, and patient drying. Whether you choose to bake or dehydrate, watching for that perfect leathery texture ensures your jerky hits the mark every time. Once you’ve mastered the art of storage, you’ll enjoy this savory snack for weeks. So grab your dipping sauces, a side of jasmine rice, and some fresh veggies, and get ready to impress with this uniquely flavorful treat. Let’s keep making culinary magic together, one recipe at a time.

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