Panda Express Kung Pao Chicken with zucchini, bell peppers and crunchy peanuts in an easy ginger garlic sauce, the recipe is authentically Panda Express!
Panda Express Kung Pao Chicken recipe straight from the source! A chef from Panda Express gave the recipe to a reporter in Honolulu and now I am bringing it to you with the addition of zucchini and red bell pepper just as it is served in the restaurants.
You know me, I absolutely love copycat recipes. There is just some part of me that finds something I love and then I need to figure out a way to make it at home. When I happen to land on authentic recipes that the restaurants have shared, then i feel like it is an even more exciting “get” and I move those recipes to the top of the list to test.
In fact in the list below the Spicy Cashew Chicken and the Kung Pao Chicken Spaghetti are authentic recipes released by the restaurants. Sometimes in obscure places like the Spicy Cashew Chicken that was only shared on a morning show on a local broadcast or this recipe which was shared in a local news story about a location opening up in Honolulu in 2007. Sometimes being an internet detective pays off!
Serve it up with your favorite Panda Express recipes… especially the ones you can find here on the Panda Express Recipes Index where I have EVERY SINGLE Panda Express recipe including Panda Express Orange Chicken, Panda Express Chow Mein, Panda Express Mushroom Chicken and more!
Or if you fancy additional Chinese food recipes but don’t need them to be Panda Express Copycats… check out:
- Crispy Sesame Chicken
- Chinese Honey Chicken
- PF Chang’s Orange Peel Chicken
- CPK’s Thai Chicken Peanut Pasta
You’ll love this Panda Express Kung Pao Chicken, even if you have never enjoyed it at Panda because the amount of oil per serving is just 1 tablespoon and with the addition of white meat chicken, zucchini and bell peppers, this dish is very healthy even though it is “take out.”
If you want to cut down the fat even further you can either ditch the peanuts in the pan and just sprinkle a couple of crushed peanuts on top or cut down on the oil by using half.
Tools Used in the making of this Panda Express Kung Pao Spaghetti:
Soy Sauce: Nothing much to say here except Kikkoman has the best flavor overall and I always recommend reduced sodium.
Panda Express Kung Pao Sauce: If you don’t want to make the sauce yourself you can buy the bottled variety and follow the recipe for the vegetables and chicken to complete the dish.
Wok: The best way to cook quickly and over high heat for Asian dishes, this wok is the perfect stir fry pan.
Sesame Oil: The flavor of sesame oil in this dish is unmistakeable and not really able to be substituted. Some Asian grocery stores will try and sell less expensive options that aren’t actually sesame oil, so just be sure the one you’re buying is authentic sesame oil.
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast , diced into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 large egg
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon cooking wine (I used white wine)
- 2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce (I use Kikkoman Reduced Sodium)
- 1/3 cup water
- 2 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil (divided use)
- 12 whole dry chili peppers , smaller than 3 inches; if longer, cut in half
- 1/4 cup diced green onion , white part only, in 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground garlic
- 1 teaspoon crushed red chili pepper
- 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with ½ tablespoon water
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 ounces dry roasted peanuts
- 1 red bell pepper , cut into ¾ inch cubes
- 1 large zucchini , cut into ¾ inch cubes
- Combine the chicken, ¼ cup water, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ egg, ¼ cup cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
- In a small bowl add the wine, soy sauce and water and set aside.
- Heat wok/skillet on high heat 10 seconds, you want that pan to be nice and hot!
- Add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil.
- Remove chicken from marinade and add to wok, cooking on high heat for 60 seconds.
- Remove the chicken from the pan, add another ½ tablespoon of oil and the red bell pepper and zucchini.
- Cook on high and cook for 1-2 minutes, until just caramelized and slightly cooked.
- Remove vegetables and add the chili peppers.
- Stir until they darken a bit, then add the green onions, peanuts, ginger, garlic, crushed red pepper, and sesame oil.
- Stir for 2-3 seconds and immediately add the wine/soy/water mixture.
- Bring it to a boil, then add the cornstarch and water mix and stir until it has thickened.
- Add the chicken and vegetables back in, stir to combine.
- To make my chicken more like Panda Express I actually cut the chicken into large cubes then pulsed it twice in the food processor for just a ½ second each just to break it apart and give is the same unique look.
Here are some pictures from when the post was originally photographed in September 2015:
This is excellent! I was looking for something tasty, uncomplicated, and without oyster sauce (as we can’t have shellfish). So, I now have made your recipe twice— as described the first time but also a second time with mixed frozen stir-fry vegetables, fresh scallions, fresh bell peppers , and extra crushed red pepper instead of pepper pods. Both times it turned out to be a crowd pleaser for our entire “foodie” family! Thanks for this very easy recipe with simple ingredients!!!
Made this for dinner tonight and the husband raved that it was the best kung pao! I agree! It was delicious! Thank you
I’ve made this recipe several times and it’s always been a bit! Be careful of the salt content sometimes it can get a bit too overpowering if you tend to eyeball measurements like I do. The recipe says marinade for a minimum of one hour, but what is the longest I should let the meat marinade? Will it produce a bad side effect if I leave it for too long?
I don’t usually comment but this recipe was excellent and easy to follow. It tastes better than the Panda Express version.
Oh my gosh! I can make Kung Pao Chicken at home like Panda Express! This is a relatively easy recipe to follow. I made a couple of modifications. I added celery and used twice as many peanuts. I already had the Thai red chili peppers so I was good with the heat. I agree that the meat and veggies need to be cooked a bit longer than the recipe states. This is going into my regular rotation. Thank you so much for developing the recipe and sharing it with us.
This recipe is dead on! Amazing job, anyone reading needs to try it.
I’m a little confused ….. 1/2 egg ??? Is that One or Two eggs ?
It’s half, you could either beat and measure half of it or choose yolk or white. For this recipe I usually use the white.
I think Panda uses dark meat chicken for this, like for most Kung Pao dishes.
Hi Sabrina! I am loving your recipes, I’ve saved SO many just today :). I just wanted to mention that you have a keen sense to detect the wine in the recipe; most people don’t know that practically every Panda Express menu item has wine in it!! I know this for sure bc I called their corporate HQ and asked years ago as I have Muslim friends that assured me that they did. Sure enough, and I never knew! However, since I make a lot of Asian dishes, I’ve been turned on to Shaoxing (Shaosing) Chinese cooking wine. That is the go-to wine used in most Asian dishes everywhere and it does have a flavor that you will recognize when you taste it, even my husband said that… If you can, give it a try, I think it really adds something special to most Asian dishes and it’s not expensive at an oriental market. Thank you for so many great dishes!! <3
Thanks for the tip, Beth Ann.
Delicious. Used 10 fresh whole Thai chilies instead of dried chilies as we find panda Express too mild. Nice heat in the dish. Well sequenced recipe steps! Thank you
Great suggestion to add a bit of heat!
I used skin-on chicken thighs since it’s what I had on-hand – having used thighs, I fried the pieces a little longer to be a little bit crispy and drained any remaining excess grease from the thighs that I didn’t need.
I added canned mushrooms to bulk up the veggies in the dish.
Next time, I’ll have to double the sauce portion since we like ours saucy.
This will go into our stash of recipes! Thank you!
I just have red wine on hand can I use that or white wine vinegar which would be a good substitute
The white wine vinegar would be the better substitute. Enjoy!
This is one of my favorites at Panda. We grow a fair amount of zucchini and my Asian wife is always craving Asian food; finally found your recipe and put it together — it came out absolutely perfect! My wife kept raving at how delicious it was, so I’ll be keeping this in the rotation for sure! Looking forward to trying your other recipes. Cheers!
Reading this makes me so happy! Thanks for coming back to let me know, Andrew.
Hi, is the garlic and ginger fresh or dried in this recipe? Thanks!
I used dried for this recipe. Make sure to use more if you decide to use fresh. Good luck!
Your recipes are amazing! I have lost track of how many I have made so far, each tastes incredible and just as promised! Thank you so much!
You’re so sweet, Amit. Thanks so much.
Using the food processor to get the texture right is pure genius, I must try it.
Even more important for chicken thigh meat which is so difficult to get a good texture since it that has a smooth outer layer, and many restaurants (and Panda Express) use thigh meat.
never seen the idea before, nice original idea!!
Thanks for this recipe Sabrina. Love this recipe!—I’ve made it 3x now. The only thing I did differently from the first time is I add 1 T. peanut butter to the sauce. This recipe, served along with your copycat Panda lo mein and brown rice, is now a regular in our menu rotation.
You’re welcome! Adding PB sounds delicious – so happy you have found some favorite recipes to go to!
This was absolutely fantastic! Made it as-is for the first try and it was wonderful. And now that I know the recipe works I can make changes to my own family’s tastes. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe.
You’re welcome, Kit.
Thank you. I am not a chef or a cook. I made this as a surprise for my wife who was returning from a long day out.
It was fun for me to make (I had most of the mess cleaned up before she walked in) and she loved it.
It even worked in a hot frying pan instead of a wok, and making some nominal changes due to what was on hand (celery in place of zuchini, for example). It took me several minutes to sear the chicken versus 60 seconds. I didn’t want any pink showing on the chicken at this stage. I didn’t know how much more cooking it would get.
The recipe was very mild (a “1” , not spicy at all). We added more crushed red chili peppers to our individual servings. I would increase the amount of red crushed chili peppers to make it a 2 or 3 on the spiciness level (on 1-5 scale). My taste is to have it a noticeable warm glow, but not burning.
We will have this again. Thank you.
Thanks for dropping by to let me know! I’m so glad you guys enjoyed it!
I love Kung Pao so I was excited to try this recipe. But I’m guessing I used the wrong dried peppers?? My store only had “Oriental hot chilies”. I googled it to see if they were the same and couldn’t find any info that they were not the right ones…but they were soooo hot! Even after picking them all out, my kids couldn’t eat the dinner. Are they the wrong peppers? Maybe I will attempt it again if you can help. Thanks.
Oh no!! Those are so spicy!! I’m so sorry but those are the wrong peppers. You want to choose a mild version of these peppers.
Here’s a link to help you for next time: https://amzn.to/2GCqKna
I’d love to see you copycat their veggie spring rolls and plum sauce!
To make it closer to the actual recipe you’ll need to cook the marinaded meat in enough oil to submerge at 275 for about 50 seconds. The veggies are blanched in boiling water for 10 seconds. then once those are done you add oil to a hot wok, then hot chili peppers, cook till just brown, not red or black. Immediately add green onions, garlic and ginger, then meat. Next cooking wine and soy sauce mixture with cornstarch. The sauce should thicken before adding the veggies. At the very end once it is tossed together, add the sesame oil THEN the peanuts. This is an important step because the peanuts will become soggy if they are not added at the end. You will know it is done when the sauce is almost a solid.
Thanks for your suggestion!
To be truly “authentic” this recipe must use chicken thigh meat rather than breast meat. Other than that it is a great recipe.
That’s what I thought! That it is made with thighs.
Please tell me a substitute for the white wine (or do i just skip it?)
You can always use white grape juice as a substitute.
Made this and it was delicious.
The marinade came out like a thick batter on the chicken. Do you shake the excess before frying to omit this?
You want the chicken to be evenly coated.
This recipe is amazing. I’m too novice to know better, so I did make some substitutions and alterations (clearly watching cooking shows has made me perhaps a little too confident). Used pre-cooked chicken, which didn’t take to the marinade as much as fresh probably would but still good. All spice for ginger. And I added baby corn (with the zucchini) and celery (with the onions). I also didn’t have Thai chilies at my local market so I substituted sweet chili garlic sauce and a splash of Sriracha and it turned out BETTER than the PE version (which is saying something because before I made this today was obsessed). Thank you so much for sharing!
You’re welcome, Jen!
How much sweet chili garlic sauce did you use?
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