Kung Pao Chicken

4 servings
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Marinade Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes

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!

Everyone loves a good Chinese Food Recipe, especially when it’s homemade and delicious, like our Sweet and Sour Meatballs, the quick and simple Szechuan Chicken, and the Easy Mongolian Beef.

Kung Pao Chicken over rice in bowl with chop sticks

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.

Kung Pao Chicken Collage of cooking steps

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! 

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Frequently Asked Questions

What meats can I use for Kung Pao Stir Fry?

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). 

What vegetables can I add to Kung Pao Chicken?

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.

How can I make Kung Pao Chicken even spicier?

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.

What type of soy sauce should I use for stir fry recipes?

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.

Kung Pao Chicken Collage of cooking steps

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.
Kung Pao Chicken over rice in bowl close up

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!

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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.

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Kung Pao Chicken over rice in bowl with fork

Kung Pao Chicken

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!
Yield 4 servings
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Dinner
Cuisine Chinese
Author Sabrina Snyder

Ingredients
 

Marinade:

  • 1 pound chicken , boneless, skinless, cut into chunks
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine , or white wine
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch

Kung Pao Sauce:

Stir-Fry:

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil , divided
  • 1 red bell pepper , diced
  • 1/4 cup diced green onion , sliced thinly
  • 1/4 cup dry roasted peanuts

Instructions

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 Finish:

  • 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.

Video

Nutrition

Calories: 322kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 41mg | Sodium: 1209mg | Potassium: 473mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 1316IU | Vitamin C: 50mg | Calcium: 29mg | Iron: 2mg
Keyword: kung pao chicken
bowl of Kung Pao Chicken on white rice pin 1

Photos used in a previous version of this post.

Kung Pao Chicken Collage
Kung Pao Chicken over rice in bowl close up
White Pan with Kung Pao Chicken with Peanuts and Chilies
White Pan with Kung Pao Chicken with Peanuts and Chilies
Spoonful of Kung Pao Chicken in pan
Kung Pao Chicken in pan
Kung Pao Chicken collage
Spoonful of Kung Pao Chicken in pan

About the Author: Sabrina Snyder

Sabrina is a professionally trained Private Chef of over 10 years with ServSafe Manager certification in food safety. She creates all the recipes here on Dinner, then Dessert, fueled in no small part by her love for bacon.

Sabrina Snyder is a professionally trained personal and private chef of over 10 years who is the creator and developer of all the recipes on Dinner, then Dessert.

She is also the author of the cookbook Dinner, then Dessert – Satisfying Meals Using Only 3, 5 or 7 Ingredients, published by Harper Collins.

She started Dinner, then Dessert as a business in her office as a lunch service for her coworkers who admired her lunches before going to culinary school and becoming a full time personal chef and private chef.

As a personal chef Sabrina would cook for families one day a week and cook their entire week of dinners. All grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning was done along with instructions on reheating. As a private chef she cooked for private parties and cooked in family homes in the evenings for families on a nightly basis after working as a personal chef during the day.

Sabrina has been certified as a ServSafe Manager since 2007 and was a longstanding member of the USPCA Personal Chef Association including being on the board of the Washington DC Chapter of Chefs in the US Personal Chef Association when they won Chapter of the year.

As a member of the community of food website creators Sabrina Snyder has spoken at many conferences regarding her experiences as a food writer including the Indulge Food Conference, Everything Food Conference, Haven Food Conference and IACP Annual Food Professionals Conference.

Sabrina lives with her family in sunny California.

Dinner, then Dessert, Inc. owns the copyright on all images and text and does not allow for its original recipes and pictures to be reproduced anywhere other than at this site unless authorization is given. If you enjoyed the recipe and would like to publish it on your own site, please re-write it in your own words, and link back to my site and recipe page. Read my disclosure and copyright policy. This post may contain affiliate links.

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Comments

  1. I’m perfectly fine that it isn’t authentic when it tastes this good! I like to sprinkle extra peanuts on my serving because I love the extra crunch. So yummy!

  2. This Kung Pao Chicken was flavorful and satisfying! It makes a great weeknight dinner. I just added this to our recipe rotation, thanks Sabrina!

  3. Made this tonight for my family – absolutely loved it! Great sauce consistency and added some additional vegetables. They loved it!

  4. Delicious flavor, wayyyyy too salty tho. I substituted light soy for the marinade and sauce and it was still almost inedible. There was no sweetness, I’m thinking I’ll add in some honey or brown sugar next time.

  5. This tasted exactly like the Kung Pao chicken at our favorite Chinese restaurant. So easy to make too!

  6. USE LITE SOY SAUCE!!! The instructions in the recipe card say use soy sauce and it ended up coming out way too salty. I always skip straight to the recipe card when looking at recipes online because I don’t need to read a novel before. You should update the recipe part to say lite soy sauce. I used regular per the recipe card and it ruined it. I’m sure it would have been great otherwise!

  7. Just a comment to Sabrina: What makes this dish “sweet”? as your description indicates. I am just confused about trying to make this recipe if there is no brown sugar or sweetener in any part of the recipe. Thank you so much!

  8. Pretty simple and easy to follow. I’m gonna try to make my own marinate for it and see how it turns out.

      1. Hi Sabrina,
        Really excited to make this! But I’m a little confused by the instructions. Is it one or two table spoons of soy sauce that you add to the chicken prior to cooking? Also do you remove the chicken once it’s done cooking, cook the bell pepper and peanuts, and then add the chicken and then the sauce? I also notice it says at the very end to add peanuts- does this mean adding more peanuts than what you’ve already cooked/added to the dish?
        Would appreciate your feedback- thank you!

        1. I am so sorry, I am just seeing this tonight. I am sure the recipe has long been cooked/or not but I still want to try to help.

          The chicken marinates in the marinade that has two tablespoons of soy sauce. You do not remove the chicken before adding the stir fry veggies. And you only add the peanuts once; the recipe has been fixed, sorry about the error.

    1. The rice wine makes it sweet but it’s not sweet in the sense of “dessert sweet”, if that makes sense. I hope you enjoy it!

  9. This is my favorite recipe to order when I eat out! This was so delicious; loved making this in the comfort of my own home this time!

  10. I followed your recipe word for word, measurement for measurement and it did not look like your picture at all. I will say that it was a bit confusing. For the marinade sauce it says in the recipe to use a tablespoon of cornstarch but in your directions it says a teaspoon. I did not get the red color your picture has. Very disappointed.

    1. Sorry for the confusion. It should be a teaspoon. I’ve edited it to read correctly now. Thanks for letting me know.