Kung Pao Chicken is the spicy sweet Chinese stir-fry you love, easily made at home. Better than takeout and ready in only 30 minutes!
Kung Pao Chicken is one the most recognizable Chinese-American take out dishes. The slightly spicy yet sweet sauce, dark red chili peppers, crispy tender chicken, and crunchy peanuts come together for an unforgettable, iconic stir-fry. This easy version is perfect for weeknight cravings and ready in less time than delivery!
This Kung Pao Chicken recipe tastes like the Chinese-American version you are used to, with ingredients that you can easily find at any grocery store. The most complicated ingredient in this recipe is the dried red chili peppers and those can be found in the Hispanic or Asian food sections. Look for little baggies of spices and chiles for the dried red chilies.
The biggest misconception about Kung Pao Chicken is that it’s super spicy. Yes, if you chomp down on a dried chili you may have a bad time, but the spiciness of Kung Pao Sauce isn’t that intense overall. If you prefer a mild sauce you could leave out dried chilis and the red pepper flakes all together and replace with white pepper.
Unlike a lot of stir-fry dishes, Kung Pao Chicken is marinated before you cook it. You don’t need to marinate the chicken very long, just about 15 minutes will do. The marinade locks in the moisture, keeping the chicken breast juicy while it’s fried at high heat. To cut down on prep time, make the sauce while your chicken breast is marinating.
How to Make Kung Pao Chicken
Making this recipe is actually really easy. Simply follow the 3 easy steps to make the perfect dish! Check it out!
- Step One: Prepare the marinade and mix it with the chicken getting a nice and even coat.
- Step Two: Mix the sauce together and set it to the side to thicken.
- Step Three: Cook the chicken, then add in the bell peppers once the chicken is cooked. Finally, add the peanuts to get them toasted. Mix it all together with the sauce and serve when hot!
Frequently Asked Questions
You can use chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts, or use other quick cooking cuts of meat. Try pork, baked tofu, shrimp, or even thinly sliced flank steak (like in Mongolian Beef).
Add veggies like diced zucchini, green bell pepper, carrots, or snap peas to your Kung Pao dish. Stir-fry chicken for 10 minutes, remove, and add vegetables to wok (with more oil if needed). Cook veggies until crisp-tender before adding chicken back to wok and tossing in sauce.
Pick up Sichuan pepper at an Asian market, add fresh hot chilis, or a teaspoon of sriracha to change to adjust the spiciness of this Kung Pao Chicken recipe.
Use a low-sodium soy sauce when cooking Asian dishes like Kung Pao Chicken. Asian condiments and cooking seasonings, like hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, rice wine vinegar, and fish sauce usually have some amount of salt. Using a low sodium soy sauce is one way to keep your dish from being too salty.
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Key Ingredients in Kung Pao Chicken
You can find all of the things you need to make this budget friendly dish at your local grocery store.
- Chicken: We are using boneless, skinless chicken breasts. But you can use your preferred cut of chicken.
- Peppers: There are two types of peppers in this dish. Bell peppers are sweet and crunch and the dried chili peppers are thin and add a smoky spice to the base flavor of the dish. If you can’t find Szechuan chilis, you can use the similar chile árbol found in the Latino part of the international section.
- Peanuts: The earthy flavor of dry roasted peanuts brings this dish together.
- Rice Wine: We’re using rice wine, not rice vinegar, in our recipe here.
- Soy Sauce: We like to use low sodium light soy sauce, but you can use dark soy sauce.
Alternative Cooking Methods for Kung Pao Chicken
- Slow Cooker Kung Pao Chicken: Marinate chicken pieces as usual. Make Kung Pao Sauce while chicken is marinating. In a large skillet over medium high heat, brown chicken on all sides in oil, about 3-4 minutes. Add browned chicken to slow cooker, along with bell peppers or other veggies if using. Pour sauce over chicken and stir to combine. Cover with lid and cook on low 3-4 hours. Remove chicken from slow cooker. Combine 1 tablespoon cornstarch with 3 tablespoons water. Stir cornstarch slurry into sauce to thicken. Return chicken to slow cooker with green onions and peanuts. Serve hot over rice.
- Oven Baked Kung Pao Chicken: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray. Toss chicken pieces in salt, pepper, and cornstarch. Place chicken in baking dish in a single layer. Add bell peppers, or any other vegetables, if using. In a medium bowl, whisk Kung Pao Sauce ingredients. Pour sauce over chicken and stir to combine. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes. Stir in peanuts and green onions and bake 5-10 minutes longer, until chicken is cooked and sauce is thickened. Garnish with additional crushed peanuts and scallions.
What to Serve with Kung Pao Chicken
Kung Pao Chicken is great with starchy sides like White Rice and Fried Rice to soak up all that delicious Kung Pao Sauce. In fact, we recommend doubling the sauce and serving over Roasted Broccoli, Chow Mein, or even dipping Egg Rolls in it! Since this Kung Pao recipe is mainly chicken, you can use it as a filling for lettuce wraps or over salad for a gluten-free takeout dinner! Yum!
How to Store Kung Pao Chicken
- Serve: Serve Kung Pao Chicken hot and keep at room temperature for up to 2 hours before storing.
- Store: Once cooled, store Kung Pao chicken in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up 3 days. Reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop, adding a little chicken broth if the sauce is too thick.
- Freeze: Cool Kung Pao Chicken and freeze in a sealed container for up to 2 months. For best results, freeze without green onions and add them when you reheat.
Kung Pao Sauce:
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil , divided
- 1 red bell pepper , diced
- 1/4 cup diced green onion , sliced thinly
- 1/4 cup dry roasted peanuts
Kung Pao Chicken Marinade:
- Whisk together 2 tablespoons soy sauce, rice wine and 1 teaspoon cornstarch until smooth then then add chicken and toss to coat, letting it sit for 15 minutes.
Kung Pao Chicken Sauce
- In a small bowl whisk together 3 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon cornstarch,1 tablespoon rice wine, chicken broth, sesame oil, garlic, and ginger until well combined.
- To a large skillet on medium high heat add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and chicken and cook until browned on both sides, about 8-10 minutes.
- Add the remaining tablespoon of vegetable oil and chopped bell pepper, stirring occasionally, until just softened, about 4-6 minutes.
- Add in the peanuts and cook for 1 minute until they start to sizzle.
- Pour in the sauce and cook until the sauce has thickened, about 2 minutes.
- Stir in green onions. Serve immediately.
Photos used in a previous version of this post.