Kung Pao Chicken is the perfect quick weeknight dinner to warm up: spicy, tangy, with a hint of sweetness, and very, very addictive.
What is kung pao chicken?
Kung Pao Chicken is a classic Chinese stir-fry with diced chicken, dried chilies, and peanuts. It comes from the land of hot and spicy Chinese cuisine, Sichuan. It is also a very popular Americanized Chinese take-out order. Everyone loves kung pao chicken with its tender chicken pieces and complex sauce of salty, sweet, spicy and spicy flavors.
This particular kung pao is not exactly how it is done in Sichuan. In Sichuan, they dry-fry it with just a touch of sauce. This kung pao is a bold riff, more in the style of American Chinese takeaway kung pao. The sauce makes it perfect to eat with rice.
How to make kung pao chicken
This stir fry is very quick and easy to make after you prepare all the ingredients. If you want to do it before the takeout arrives at your door, prepare everything before you start cooking.
- First, prepare the rice. Unless you’re smart and have prepared some rice flour in your fridge. So in this case, skip this step because you are already winning in life.
- Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Place them in a bowl with the marinade and set aside while you prepare the ingredients for the sauce.
- Prepare the ginger and garlic. Whisk all sauce ingredients together in a small bowl or liquid measuring cup. Use a garlic press for the garlic and a ginger grater for the ginger. Both are great time savers.
- It’s time to cook! It only takes a few minutes: cook the chicken, add the sauce, reduce a little and it’s ready to eat.
Kung Pao Sauce
Kung pao sauce is a magical sauce that flavors everything! It’s so delicious they sell bottles at the store (there’s even Panda Express kung pao sauce) but it’s so easy to make at home and keep in the fridge. From there, you can add it to randomly cleaned fridge stir-fry potatoes and boom, instant kung pao.
To make kung pao sauce, mix 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cornstarch, 1/4 cup hoisin sauce, 1/4 cup sambal oelek, 2 tablespoons rice vinegar, 2 tablespoons sugar, 4 minced garlic cloves, and 1 tablespoon of grated ginger. Cook in a nonstick saucepan over medium heat, stirring, until the sauce becomes thick and glossy. Cool completely, then pour into a clean container and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, tightly covered. Add to stir-fries in the last step after everything has cooked.
Kung Pao Chicken Ingredients
Most of the ingredients for this kung pao chicken can be found in your regular supermarket. You need chicken thighs, soy sauce, rice vinegar, cornstarch, sugar, garlic, ginger, scallions, and peanuts (or the nut of your choice). The other handful of ingredients can be found at your friendly Asian grocery store, online, or at places like Whole Foods.
hard to find stuff
- Duvin Shaoxing: It’s the secret ingredient that will make your Chinese cooking taste like restaurant-style Chinese cooking. Shaoxing wine is a sweet, nutty, and earthy Chinese rice wine. Learn more through our ultimate guide to Shaoxing wine.
- hoisin sauce: Hoisin is sold pretty much everywhere now, from Target to your basic grocery store. It is a thick, sweet brown sauce used in marinades and as a dipping sauce. It’s super tasty: sweet and salty, tart and full of umami. Hoisin can taste different depending on the brand, and for us the best brand for hoisin is Lee Kum Kee. As a bonus, it comes in a squeeze bottle!
- Sambal Oelek: It is not an authentic Sichuan kung pao chicken ingredient, but it has a fresh touch of chili and garlic.
- Whole dried peppers: These are completely optional, but if you want your kung pao to look authentic, you must have dried chilies! They sell whole dried Chinese chilies online and in Asian supermarkets. We use dried cara del paraíso chiles, but you can also substitute the chile de árbol you see in the Mexican aisle. Most people don’t eat the dried chiles, but some do, especially if the chiles are good quality, roasted, and good.
Peanuts are the classic kung pao nut. The key is to fry them a bit to enhance their nutty flavor. I went for a peanut free kung pao with cashews. If you want, you can add nuts or omit them entirely. To fry your nuts: Heat a little oil in a nonstick skillet or wok. Sauté stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes until they start to smell roasted and delicious. Remove from the pan and reserve. If you are not going to fry the nuts, be sure to use roasted or roasted nuts.
Chicken breast or chicken thighs?
Chicken thighs are superior in this stir fry because they are very flavorful and contain more fat than breasts. You can also use chicken breasts, just make sure you cook them for less time.
Does it taste like kung pao chicken from Panda Express?
This isn’t a hearty ingredient-for-ingredient recipe for Panda Express, but it’s pretty close!
You can also do it with:
- sliced steak
- sliced pork loin
- firm tofu
tricks and cunning
- Cut the chicken into equal pieces. Take the time to cut the chicken into small, even pieces. Cooking will be faster and more uniform.
- Cream your meat. Marinating chicken in Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, and cornstarch is called velouté. It adds flavor to the chicken, and the cornstarch protects the chicken from excess heat, making it juicier when cooking. This is what gives stir-fried meats their silky texture.
- Toast the nuts. Roasting the nuts brings out the flavors, making them crunchier and nuttier.
- Use a nonstick skillet. I like to use a nonstick pan because cornstarch tends to stick to regular pans and with a nonstick pan you have the option of not using as much oil. Some people think that anti-adhesive paints are not professional, because they don’t give you the maillard reaction (or wok hei, if you also do it deeply) that you get with a regular polish, but when you sauté, don’t have steak , this is not a problem. Also, the name of the game is easy and if you have an extremely difficult pan to wash after dinner, it’s not easy. These pans are my favorites.
What to serve with kung pao chicken
Kung Pao Chicken Recipe
Very addictive and super easy to make at home.
To serve 4
- one kg chicken thighs cut into bite-sized pieces
- one Soup soy sauce
- one Soup du vin shaoxing
- one coffee spoon cornstarch
kung pao sauce
- 2 coffee spoon cornstarch
- 2 Soup I would like
- 2 Soup oelek sambal
- one Soup rice vinegar
- one Soup sugar
- 2 cloves Afflict crushed
- 2 coffee spoon Ginger grated
- one Soup Petroleum
- 8-10 dried red peppers if desired
- 1/4 coupe Roasted Cashews or peanut
- 23 Green onions cut into 2″ lengths
Marinate chicken thighs in soy sauce, shaoxing wine, and 1 teaspoon cornstarch. Set aside time to prepare your sauce.
In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, mix the remaining 2 teaspoons cornstarch with 1/4 cup water, hoisin sauce, sambal oelek, rice vinegar, sugar, garlic, and ginger.
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet or sauté over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and cooked through.
Reduce heat to medium, add peppers and sauce, and toss to coat. Cook until the sauce begins to thicken and becomes glossy.
Add green onions and cashews.
Kung Pao Chicken Recipe
Amount per proportion
Calories from fat 147
% Daily value*
Saturated Fat 3.6g23%
Cholesterol 101mg3. 4%
The carbohydrates 13.6g5%
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.